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Keywords:

  • state building;
  • transnational governance;
  • violence;
  • security;
  • peacekeeping

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

As the “war on terror” expands across the African continent, multilateral institutions assume key roles in the deployment of newly militarized sociopolitical formations to physically and militarily occupy ‘ungoverned’ spaces. Focusing on the African Union Peacekeeping Operation in Somalia (AMISOM), this article explores the everyday legitimating work required to operationalize the demand for reserve armies, offering insights into the relationship between transnational governance, political economy, and the making of security states.

The solution to terrorism in the region is a long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all our partners. It is not solved just by military operations. … It is about economic development, it is about the improvement in governance, it is about the rule of law and law enforcement. [Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Commander, United States Africa Command 2013.2

Petty sovereigns abound, reigning in the midst of bureaucratic army institutions mobilized by aims and tactics of power they do not inaugurate or fully control. And yet such figures are delegated with the power to render unilateral decisions, accountable to no law and without legitimate authority. [Judith Butler 20063

Over coffee, a parliamentarian from one of the six African states with troops serving in the African Union Peacekeeping Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) remarked to me, “Government has just allocated 20 billion shillings ($236 million USD) to our military for its work in Somalia. They justified it as a supplementary allocation for food and other necessary items. Without explanation, they classified this as a national security initiative not subject to parliamentary oversight. We know nothing more. So who is making money here?”

The more I asked about the role his government was playing in Somalia, the less he seemed to know. “It is impossible to get reliable information, even on the number of our own troops that have been killed. The army issues announcements celebrating their victories over Al-Shabaab, and the media reports it verbatim. We have no idea what's actually going on.”

While I had of course hoped to learn more from our conversation, the dearth of substantive information about the daily workings of this transnational peacekeeping apparatus—even from an elected official of a state with contributing troops—was itself instructive. My initial research on AMISOM, which began its work in 2007, led me from one institutional document to another: from UN Security Council resolutions, to AMISOM's flashy monthly magazine celebrating the opening of Mogadishu's FIFA-refurbished soccer stadium, to mind-numbing European Union funding reports. I found myself drowning in empty rhetoric and budgetary log frames, with little sense of what this operation looks like in practice. But, the sheer mass of paraphernalia and imagery that frame AMISOM as a critical component of peace and state-building strategies—coupled with my own observations during eight years of work with international organizations—led me to think about the legitimating work required to enable these operations, both as a form of labor and as colonization of space.

In this article, I use AMISOM as a window into the daily occupation of transnational governance. By “occupation,” I refer both to the professional work of bureaucrats, state officials, military commanders, and troops and to the physical presence of these actors in specific locations. Building on rich ethnographic and theoretical work in political anthropology (Allen 2013; Clarke 2009; Coutin et al. 2002; Elyachar 2005; Englund 2006; Feldman 2012; Ferguson 2006; Ferguson and Gupta 2002; Hoffman 2011; James 2012; Malkki 1994; Riles 2001; Tsing 2005), I define transnational governance as a conglomeration of state officials, national and international organizations, multilateral donors, corporations, bureaucrats, and activists that formulate modes of governing and craft social imaginaries on issues of “global” concern. Transnational governance is hardly a new phenomenon; its roots are imbricated in imperial civilizing missions, discourses, and law-making practices that rationalized the use of force in the name of humanity and the accumulation of capital (Anghie 2005; Asad 2010; Thomas 2013).

To understand the nature of transnational governance, we need to study the daily micropractices of its political, military, corporate, and administrative actors—who Butler (2006) might refer to as “petty sovereigns.” The United Nations and regional bodies like the African Union, among others, sit at the heart of these practices: the actors employed by these institutions work to produce information, law, and procedure to channel attention to particular issues in particular ways, while crafting imaginaries of global governance as a moral and democratic sphere (Clarke 2009; Malkki 1994). From security sector reform trainings, to “standard operating procedures” about the treatment of detainees, to “civilian casualty tracking and analysis,” I suggest that the peacekeeping operation in Somalia offers initial insights into the relationship between transnational governance and the making of security states.

The Market for Violence

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

In The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia (2011), Danny Hoffman suggests that we think of violence as a mode of work. As he explores the conscription of urban youth into disposable reserve armies in West Africa, Hoffman turns to Mbembe's (2003) notion of “necropolitics”: sovereign authority in Africa today consists of the instrumentalization and material destruction of human bodies and in the exercise of power outside the law. Violent authority on the continent rests not with states alone but with a range of actors: from transnational mining companies, to private security, to rag-tag militias, and at times, the state itself. Military manpower is bought and sold in an increasingly competitive market permeated by fear and insecurity, both real and perceived. In this context, politics in Africa today is, according to Hoffman, “not the rational exercise of collective decision making through institutions in the public sphere” (Hoffman 2011), but the power and means to determine who may live or die (Agamben 1998). Yet, building on Deleuze and Guattari, Hoffman also points to the fact that, as states work to retain sovereignty in the face of deterritorialized acts of violence, they necessarily draw upon not only other deterritorializing forces but also upon territorialized actors like NGOs and international organizations (Deleuze and Guattari 1987; see also Reid 2005; Duffield 2007). As the “war on terror” expands across the African continent, these institutions are assuming key roles in legitimizing the deployment of newly militarized sociopolitical formations in the name of peace and security. A closer look at the relationship between the “who” and the “how” of brokering certain forms of violent labor can therefore shed light on the entanglement of rule of law, state building, and security sector reform projects in transnational economies of violence and militarization. The parliamentarian I spoke to may not have had many details on his military's role in Somalia, but he was fully aware of the ways in which a range of elite interests worked to represent their presence as vital to national, regional, and international security, making possible the movement of troops, arms, and capital to occupy designated “security vacuums” inside Somalia.

AMISOM

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

In December 2006, 50,000 U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia with the declared intention of unseating the Islamic Courts Union—the first stable government Somalia had seen in years (Hagmann and Hoehne 2009; Lindley 2010; Williams 2013; Scahill 2013). Despite the illegality of the Ethiopian intervention and the ensuing loss of life, the UN Security Council discouraged their immediate withdrawal, amending a 1992 arms embargo to allow the supply of arms, training, and military assistance for a planned African-led peacekeeping mission to Somalia.4 In just one document, (Security Council Resolution 1744), the UN simultaneously affirmed its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia and rendered legal the illegal presence of foreign troops.5

Formally operated by the African Union, AMISOM was launched in January 2007 and mandated to support dialog and reconciliation; to protect the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and assist in the re-establishment of the national Somali security forces; to provide security for key infrastructure, the repatriation of refugees and IDPs, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Noticeably absent was a mandate to protect civilians (Williams 2013).

AMISOM is now staffed by 22,000 armed personnel (roughly equal in number to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo), but its physical presence is limited mainly to urban areas. Because the troops come entirely from African states (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda), the UN and African Union tout the operation as an example of enhanced governing capacities on the continent. Yet, the involvement of a range of external actors complicates this projected imagery to reflect what is referred to as “international hybridity par excellence.” With an approximate annual budget of $700 million, the United States, UN, European Union, NATO, China, Turkey, Qatar, and Pakistan provide funds for arms, “logistical” materials, trainings, maritime security, and salaries for troops.6 It is the injection of transnational funds that makes this market for violent labor especially attractive for African nationals, as troops are promised monthly wages that dwarf the salaries of most national armies—including that of Somalia itself.7

Transnational funds also pay the salaries of governance professionals who remain relatively invisible in contrast to the African troops that constitute the operation's public face. These petty sovereigns constitute a class of elite cosmopolitan actors whose liberal sensibilities ensure continued mobility and access to institutions of power and capital (Clarke 2009; Englund 2006; Ferguson 2006; Galtung 1986). Operating in securitized enclaves in Mogadishu, Nairobi, and New York, they are employed by the UN Support Office for AMISOM, the Joint Security Committee, the Joint Financial Management Board, the Technical Selection Committee, the National Security and Stabilization Plan, the Somali Reconstruction and Development Plan, the International Contact Group on Somalia, the UN Trust Fund for AMISOM, the African Peace Support Operations, the AU commission for African Peace Facility, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, and the Restructuring and Rebuilding Fund for Somali Security Sector Reform. The list is endless, but significant: it is this dizzying web of committees, commissions, and support offices that connects the “who” with the “how” of transnational governance and violent labor, as dozens of bureaucrats work to codify and legitimize the movement of money, arms, and troops into specific spaces.

Building Capacities, Building States

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

One aspect of this work includes the rationalization and funding of “capacity building” programs to strengthen and reform the Somali national security forces. With contracts from troop-contributing states (who obtain the necessary funds from donor governments), U.S. military officers and the private security firm Dyncorp train Ugandan troops in Kampala prior to their deployment to Somalia; Bancroft Global conducts further trainings of the Ugandan and Burundian troops in Somalia. Ugandan troops then train Somalis, but the Somalis also fly to Kigali and Djibouti City for (re)-training by Rwandan and Djiboutian forces, who themselves are trained by U.S. or private security actors. Between the U.S. State Department's ACOTA program and the Defense Department's Africa Command (AFIRCOM), the United States has been a key player, providing over $355 million in “specialized counterterrorism training and equipment,” including unmanned drones.8 Inherent in the liberal commitment to “strengthen” states is an investment in building their capacity for violence. As Ralph (N.d.) observes, the graduation ceremonies for security actors constitute ritual acts that “confer privileged moral standing in a Christian genealogy of sanction” (Ralph, N.d. 204). AMISOM celebrates the graduates of its training programs accordingly:

The 1071 men and women of the SPF (Somali Police Force) successfully finished the course which was conducted by AMISOM Police Trainers. The training included Rescue Operations and dealing with kidnappings, VIP protection exercise, riot and crowd control, handcuffing, and the use of tear gas. The acquired training will help fill a key gap in the Somali Police Force capabilities, after years of civil war and armed conflict, while at the same time, increase the SPF's ability to enforce the rule of law and protect the communities they serve.9

With new trainees now back in Mogadishu and widely deployed across the capital, the Somali Police Force focus highly on maintaining security and building law and order building law and order throughout Mogadishu. Night and day police patrols as well as vigorous stop and search procedures in many parts of the fragile city have changed the lives of local citizens, letting people walk freely at night without fear of crime.10

These captions are the product of the daily work of bureaucratic officials whose portfolios require that they articulate a symbiotic relationship between freedom and the policing of the everyday: they are tasked with crafting particular understandings of law and order (that it requires a large police presence), of security (that it requires “crowd control” and stop and search procedures), and of the Somali people (that they require external tutelage to live “freely”). At the same time, these materials illustrate the role of petty sovereigns in the (often farcical) production of state sovereignty, as the Somali Police Force performs for the camera its budding authority over the use of force (Allen 2013:152). It is to this bureaucratic aspect of the market for violent labor that we now turn.

Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

As peacekeepers move from one site to another for trainings and frontline operations, AMISOM professionals produce and manage information about violence, engaging in what Talal Asad (2007) refers to as “the etiquette of death dealing.” A recent job advertisement offers insights into death dealing as an informational practice. Posted by an organization called Civilians in Conflict, the terms of reference outline the responsibilities for a “Civilian Casualty Tracking, Analysis, and Response Cell” (CCTARC) senior advisor, to be posted with AMISOM in Mogadishu.11 The incumbent's primary duty would be to establish a Civilian Casualty Tracking, Analysis, and Response Cell. For this position, building relationships with “relevant stakeholders” is key: included in this category are the Somali government, bilateral and multilateral aid institutions, NGOs, and the UN. The incumbent would draft “legally compliant” civilian casualty standard operating procedures; he or she would utilize web-based and traditional media “to ensure that AMISOM can publicize its response to civilian harm and counter misinformation or deliberate propaganda.” The candidate is expected to possess expertise “in all aspects of civilian casualty issues; including investigation and/or response,” and to have experience “with or in a military organization.”12

At least four things are striking about this job description, each of which highlights the convergence between transnational governance and the making of security states. First, the prospective employee learns at the outset who he or she is accountable to (“relevant stakeholders” rather than the Somali people) and, relatedly, that legitimate political actors operate only in the realm of bureaucratic institutions, in what Arendt terms “respectable society” (Arendt 2006).13 Second is the stated preference for someone with experience in or with a military entity, suggesting that AMISOM seeks someone capable of prioritizing institutional directives over political or ethical considerations.14 Third is the reference to misinformation and “deliberate propaganda,” pointing to a mode of governing in which knowledge is rendered suspect and in which petty sovereigns are tasked with regulating its consumption (Masco 2010). Finally, the employee will be enmeshed in the disciplinary realm of biopolitics, tasked with managing understandings of life/death and civilian/terrorist. While there appear to be no existing procedures for “handling” the loss of life, the employee will be tasked with producing them. The broad objective, reflective of AMISOM's overall mission, is the management of violence not its elimination. In this vein, for transnational governing organs like AMISOM and the institutions it cultivates, violence is not an exception but a key organizing principle of governance.

This is evident in a November 2013 UN Security Council Resolution (2124) requesting that AMISOM establish standard operating procedures for the handover of detainees who come into its custody during military operations. Aware of the use of secret prisons and black sites by some of its most powerful member states,15 the UN and its partners are compelled to bureaucratize the use of force through the production of rules, laws, and procedures, and where necessary, to replace legal procedures with administrative ones (Agamben 1998, Hussain 2003; Johns 2005; Butler 2006; Goede 2012; Khalili 2012).

Petty sovereigns are thus tasked with glossing over the uneven power relationships and political wrangling that animate the crafting and implementing of policies16 (Clarke 2009; Li 2007; Subramanian 2009), catering to the desires of AMISOM's state and intergovernmental backers who expect scrupulous financial reports and esthetically pleasing images of grateful Somalis. The information they produce—and the very process of producing it—works to simplify complexity and to cultivate particular dispositions (Clarke 2009; Feldman 2012) that simultaneously dull the senses to violence while creating the technological and administrative architectures for its replication elsewhere (Benjamin 2009 (1936), Arendt 1969; Masco 2006). To produce a more complex narrative is to risk one's job or, more likely, to invite more work. As Feldman illustrates in his ethnography of the European Union's migration apparatus, the mundane rituals of report, speech, and guideline writing become an “agreed upon set of lenses” (Feldman 2012) designed to “make everything palatable,” (Arendt 2006) in much the same way Adolf Eichmann characterized his profession in WWII Germany.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography

While the machinations of transnational governance work to legitimate the movement of bureaucrats, troops and arms into Somalia in the name of security and the rule of law, competing interests and actors make for a messy reality. According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, some of the private security contractors tasked with training the Somali security forces are not registered as legal businesses in Somalia and regularly flaunt UN requests for cargo manifests. Others, like the Dubai-based Australian private security company Tacforce International, offer their protection to UN, AU, and Somali officials while violating the terms of the arms embargo.17

Among troop-contributing states, the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) have reportedly struck deals with local militias to circumvent the UN-banned lucrative export of charcoal from the port of Kismayo: “with the changeover of power in Kismayo, the shareholding of the charcoal trade at the port was divided into three between Al-Shabaab, Ras Kamboni and Somali Kenyan businessmen cooperating with the KDF.”18 Fellow troops from Uganda have protested delayed payments of their salaries, in some cases by selling their arms to militias and private buyers. Their commanders, just slightly higher up the food chain, have exercised what leverage they have to restrict the use of armored vehicles, knowing that the less frequently they are driven, the more fuel is available to siphon off and sell.19 In 2008, the UN Monitoring Group estimated that as much as 80% of the arms, ammunition, and other material supplied to support the TFG had been diverted for private purposes, to the Somali arms market, or to opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab (Wezeman 2010). Human Rights Watch reports of indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks by AMISOM in civilian areas, leading not only to loss of life but also repeated displacement.20

If and when these cracks are exposed, it is the job of petty sovereigns to frame them as evidence of the need for more trainings, more arms, and more troops. In sum, their job is to ensure that violence, in the public imaginary, occupies a realm distinct from that of politics (Asad 2007; Clarke 2009; Mamdani 2009; Mullin 2014). To understand the dynamics as they are unfolding requires consideration of the political economy of state building, the histories of intervention in Somalia, and the politics generated by the influx of a range of external actors with competing political and economic interests. Further still, it requires attention to, and analysis of, the ways in which the troops negotiate the uncertainties and vulnerabilities created by their location in this particular market for violent labor.

The entanglement of state-building projects in counterterrorism strategies across the continent ensures that multilateral governing bodies like the UN and AMISOM assume a prominent role not only in the temporary contracting of violence but also in building the infrastructure of security states, all the while reaffirming their right “to grant or deny formal sovereignty,” and to “expand the informal zone where their own sovereign powers can be exercised” (Cubukçu 2013: 49). As the transnational elites who manage these operations are more often the beneficiaries (Pingeot 2012) rather than the targets of securitized spaces and policies, they become invested in particular understandings of law, peace, and security. Indeed, the rationalization of AMISOM's work seems to serve not only the purpose of public legitimation but also a kind of self-hypnosis though which transnationally mobile elites persuade themselves of their high moral purpose (Scott 1992). In this sense, the contracting and management of violent labor is as much about crafting the sensibilities of petty sovereigns as it is about the armed occupation of a given territory. While it is on the streets of Kismayo that violence is made real, it is in the bureaucratic offices of Mogadishu, Nairobi, and New York that it is imagined—as necessary, as legal, as civilizing, and as peace keeping.

Notes
  1. 1

    This paper was presented originally as a talk given as part of a collective presentation, “Spaces and Times of Occupation,” by the Yale Working Group on Globalization and Culture. The author wishes to thank the members of the working group, the anonymous reviewers, as well as Sahana Ghosh and Ian Patel for their helpful feedback.

  2. 2

    Donna Miles, “AFRICOM Helps Partners Stand Up to Violent Extremism,” http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120996

  3. 3

    Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2006: 56.

  4. 4

    UN Security Council Resolution 1725, 6 December 2006.

  5. 5

    United Nations, “Security Council Authorizes Six-Month African Union Mission in Somalia,” Security Council Resolution 1744, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sc8960.doc.htm.

  6. 6
  7. 7

    See Abukar Arman, “Somalia, Sovereignty in Catch 22.” Foreign Policy Blogs, 3 May 2012. See also Mary Harper, Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State. New York: Zed Books, 2012.

  8. 8

    “U.S. Supports Development of Peacekeeping Capacity in Africa,” http://www.africom.mil/Newsroom/Article/9171/us-supports-development-of-peacekeeping-capacity-i.

  9. 9

    “AMISOM Police Provide Specialist Public Order Management Training to the Somali Police Force,” accessed on 26 January 2014 at http://amisom-au.org/2013/06/amisom-police-provide-specialist-public-order-management-training-to-the-somali-police-force/

  10. 10

    “A Day in the Life of an IPO,” Amisom Review Issue 10 (2013): 14-15.

  11. 11

    See Center for Civilians in Conflict, http://civiliansinconflict.org/who-we-are/our-team/join-our-team/cctarc-senior-advisor/last accessed 26 January 2014.

  12. 12

    Ibid.

  13. 13

    See Orford (2011) and Cubukçu (2013) for further discussion on the identification and recognition of ‘legitimate’ actors by international administrators.

  14. 14

    See Bernstein (2013) for a discussion on the connection of ethics and politics, and on the ways violence has been considered by Benjamin, Arendt, and Fanon.

  15. 15

    Jeremy Scahill, “The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia,” The Nation. July 2011. Accessed on 26 January 2014 at http://www.thenation.com/article/161936/cias-secret-sites-somalia#

  16. 16

    For examples of political challenges, see International Crisis Group, “Security and Governance in Somalia: Consolidating Gains, Confronting Challenges, and Charting the Path Forward” 8 October 2013. Accessed on 5 February 2014 at http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/speeches/2013/hogendoorn-security-and-governance-in-somalia.aspx

  17. 17

    Letter dated 19 June 2013 from the members of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea addressed to the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, p. 30–31.

  18. 18

    Ibid., p. 39.

  19. 19

    Chris Obore, “Our Bosses Sold Guns, Soldiers Tell Museveni,” The Monitor, 20 October 2013, http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Our-bosses-sold-guns-soldiers-tell-Museveni/-/688334/2039758/-/item/0/-/3yd0i7/-/index.html

  20. 20

    Human Rights Watch, “Somalia: Stop War Crimes in Mogadishu,” (2011b). See also Human Rights Watch, “Harsh War, Harsh Peace,” (2011a).

References Cited

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography
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Biography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. The Market for Violence
  4. AMISOM
  5. Building Capacities, Building States
  6. Bureaucracy and the Management of Violence
  7. Conclusion
  8. References Cited
  9. Biography
  • Samar Al-Bulushi is a doctoral student in anthropology at Yale University. Her research is focused on, transnational governance, militarism, and the security state in East Africa. Previously, Samar worked with the International Center for Transitional Justice, among other organizations. She has published in The Guardian, Jadaliyya, Pambazuka, Africa is a Country, and the Arab Studies Journal.