UK Africa Policy after Labour - ESRC Seminar Series
28 October 2014, University of Warwick
This was the third seminar in an ESRC-funded series of events exploring contemporary UK Africa policy. Discussions of African security are shaped by two key developments: broadening and deepening of understandings of security and the rise of non-state actors and non-traditional security threats on international policy agendas. This seminar explored how narratives on African security and stability underpin justifications for, and shape substance of, UK Africa relations under Labour (1997-2010) and the coalition. Key questions included: why has the UK become a leading advocate of engagement with African security issues; what international responses are advocated; how have UK government systems evolved to engage with complex security challenges in Africa, and what assumptions underpin UK efforts in this area?
Please note that this session was held under Chatham House rules, we are unable to provide podcasts of the presentations for this seminar.
Richard's presentation focused on the 'old' and 'new' challenges in UK Africa security relationships. He explored the importance of helping states to achieve 'effective control' over their territory and the challenges of pursuing broader principles when faced with immediate security concerns. The presentation considered the prospects and challenges for UK engagement through three crises: the 'M23 rebellion' in Eastern Congo; kidnappings and insecurity in Northern Nigeria; and the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Knox sought to offer the seminar 'an African perspective on UK-Africa security relations.' He explored the impact of the UK's Building Stability Overseas Strategy and the Conflict Prevention Pools, a mechanism aimed in part at developing more joined up approaches to UK policy in Africa. Knox identified mismatch between the often grand ambitions of UK security relationships in Africa and a relatively light diplomatic footprint on the ground in the region. His presentation also considered the prospects for African agency in UK-Africa security relationships and finally the democratic deficit which may result from building of closer ties between the UK and African Union at the expense of bilateral relationships.
This presentation discussed the nature and dynamics of the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria, considering Nigerian and international responses to recent events. It sought to put the crisis into perspective by setting it in light of trends in Nigerian politics and civil-military relations. The analysis concluded that efforts to deal with Boko Haram have over-emphasised 'hard security' while failing to deal with the structural underlying drivers of violence, which Eka identified as rooted in inequality and development challenges.
Zoe's presentation outlined the ways in which gender has become a central focus of UK policy and discourse on international security. It argued that some elements of security, particularly sexual violence during wartime, have become focal points for UK engagement with African security. This has however served to obscure other gendered security issues including domestic violence. Zoe also highlighted the lack of evidence to suggest that prosecutions for sexual violence committed by members of fighting forces has any deterrent effect on others.
The presentation explored changing UK perspectives on intervention in East Africa. Presenting preliminary research findings, Jonathan argued that the language of UK policy has shifted since the 1990s and now favours greater national responsibility in resolving crises in Africa. The example of recent violence in South Sudan and an initial discussion of UK responses to this, which have centred largely on working with regional partner states, was considered. The presentation suggests that we could be seeing a shift to 'post-interventionist' British security policy in Africa and, if so, that this raises questions about the appetite, means and mechanisms for promoting UK security interests and priorities whilst maintaining a relatively light footprint.
David's presentation focused on a bilateral relationship – between the UK and Kenya. It traced the development, and deterioration, of this relationship over time, going back to its basis in the UK designation of Kenya as an anchor state in 1965. David showed how the ties which bound the UK and Kenya together have become frayed by the failure of the UK to offer security assistance to Kenya at crucial times, including during the Shifta war and in relation to the more recent Kenyan intervention in Somalia. It also considered how civil-military rerlations within Kenya have shifted in recent years and the implications of this for Kenya's foreign and security policy, its 'anchor' status, and its continued relationship with the UK.