Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil War

By Summaryhub.com

This article focuses on how to end an ethnic civil wars and reviews alternative solutions. The author defends partition as the most favorable and practical solution to ethnic civil wars after briefly considering other alternatives. Kaufmann argues that international community tends to exert effort to restore multi-ethnic states and pave the way for politics in an ethnically diverse societies. Instead, he suggests, in case of an ethnic civil war international community must exert effort to “facilitate and protect population movements to create true national homelands”. He believes that rival ethnic groups should not live within the same political entity because grievances during the conflict can cause resumption of violence. Thefore, separation of fighting groups demographically into defensible enclaves is the only stable resolution. Separation, he argues, eliminates both incentives and opportunity for further combat and reduces the risk of ethnic cleansing.   He also argues that partition after ethnic civil wars and creating ethnically homogenous new territories will eliminate the security dilemma which is considered an important cause of ethnic conflict. Armed forces of an ethnic group can defend people. Since they will be in a defensive position, offensive dimension of the forces will disappear. Hence, security dilemma will fade away. According to him, separation of groups should not necessarily mean creation of ethnically homogenous states. He notes that remaining minorities must be small in number so that they do not consitute a threat for the host group. He also defends that inter-group boundaries should be drawn along the best defensive terrain, such as rivers and mountain ranges. Lines should also be as short as possible to allow the heaviest manning of defensive fronts.  Kaufman admits that ethnic separation does not guarantee peace. With separation, possibility of ethnic cleansing and rescue imperative disappear. Once the ethnic groups are moved to new regions and homogenous states are created, the conflict changes from civil war to interstate war. Both side will have deterrent power to deter each other. Therefore, probability of a war between the state and the newly formed ethnic state is not zero, but very low.  He reviews four alternative solution to ethnic civil wars and shows why these are not feasible. 
1. Suppresion. Ethnic civil wars can be suppressed by one side with a total victory. Kaufman argues that this may be a temporary solution because suppression may reduce violence in the short  run but the suppressed groups are likely to rebel again in the future when they conditions are ripe. 
2. Reconstruction of ethnic identities. According to Kaufmann, this is the most ambitious program. If ethnic conflicts are caused by exlusive and pernicious identities, people can be encouraged to adopt more inclusive identities. In this case, elite rivalries within a community is the key factor. Leaders can redefine, reinterpret and invent facts to suit their arguments, including alleged atrocities and exaggerated or imagined threats. But when individuals are encouraged to adopt a larger supra-identity, antagonism among ethnic groups will fade away over time. 
3. Power-sharing. Another alternative solution to ethnic civil wars is establishment of a political system that is based on power-sharing. In such a system, peoples’ political demands can be mobilized along ethnic lines, government is run jointly, minority group has veto power. However, according to Kaufmann, we cannot know whether such systems can bring peace under the conditions of violence and extreme ethnic mobilization. Kaufmann argues that power-sharing cannot be a good solution because it is voluntaristic. Its success highly relies on concious decisions and coopeartion of the elites. Under conditions of hypernationalist mobilization and real security threats, leaders of ethnic groups are unlikely to act with benign intentions and compromise easily.
4. State-building. This proposes rescue of failed states by the international community through creation of “conservatorship” in the states where governments do not function. Application of this solution requires occupation of the country and coercion all sides to accept democratic system. Kaufman argues that unless the electoral outcome protects all parties’ interests and safety, whether conservatorship costs less, create a functioning government does not matter. He believes that power-sharing agreement will still be necessary. 
 Finally, Kaufmann discusses objections to ethnic separation and partition. He reviews them briefly and shows why these objections cannot be valid. 
 1. Partition encourages splintering of states. Some argue that partition will have domino effect and more states will be encouraged to rebel against their government to follow the pattern that leads to seccession. Kaufmann argues that people know that secessionist movements cost much. Otherwise, he argues, any expectation that the international community will never intervene, encourages repression of minorities.
 2. Population transfers cause suffering. This is articulated mostly by humanitarian organizations because it leads to huge waves of refugees. Kaufmann suggests that planned population transfers are safer. He notes that populatione exchange took place between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey in the 1920s and these countries have not fought since. 
 3. Separation merely substitutes international for civil wars. The article mentions arguments that partitions will lead to inter-state wars instead of intra-state wars. However, Kaufman argues that ethnic partitions in the 20th century doesn not prove such a contention. He also makes a hard-to-prove contention that civilian deaths would almost certainly have been higher without partition as in the Israel-Palestine case. 
4. Rump states will not be viable. In response to this objection, Kaufmann argues that there is not a single example of a partitioned state that failed for economic reasons. If what is questioned is military viability, then international cummunity can help the separated group by providing security. 
5. Partition does not resolve ethnic hatreds. He notes that it is quite difficult to resolve ethnic hatred once ethnic violence occurs. But in the long run, separation may help reduce inter-ethnic antagonism and hypernationalist appeals will fall on deafer ears.  In conclusion, the article presents a sound and detailed argument about why separation of ethnic groups is a good solution and other alternatives are not. 

Author: Warsame Digital Media WDM

About the blogger: This blog is associated with the former Chief of Staff in Puntland State Presidency, 1998-2005. He also worked with the UN and World Bank Joint Secretariat for Somalia’s Re-construction and Development Program (RDP), 2005-2006, as a Zonal Technical Coordinator for Puntland and later as National Aid Technical Coordinator with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and European Union. He is now an independent political analyst and commentator on current issues and occasionally gives historical perspective on modern Somalia’s politics. He lives and works in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at: ismailwarsame@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s