Peacekeeping: Corruption Kills Peace Deals

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March 4, 2014: Peacekeeping often involves lots of problems with former rebels who have officially given up the fight. This process is often accompanied by amnesty programs that are supposed to ease the transition of these irregular warriors from combat (or terrorism) to some legal employment. This rarely works out as expected. There are several reasons for this, most of which the peacekeepers have no solution for.

The biggest problem is corruption, which tends to wreck the local economy and create lots of poverty and unemployment. Peacekeeping forces are more adept at dealing with random violence and disorder than with the social problems that make peacekeepers necessary in the first place. The corruption usually cripples the amnesty programs which, on paper, are supposed to solve so many problems. The armed men who accept amnesty often find that they still cannot get a job and even if they do the money isn’t as good as what they were making bandits (or rebels). In a common pattern the world over, and throughout history, defeated rebels find themselves with few post-rebellion options.

This is especially the case with rebels who are wanted for murder, rape and other serious crimes. Amnesty programs often do not cover these offenses. There is an easy way out for these guys. They simply keep up their fund raising activities and keep the money for themselves rather than for the cause. This works especially well for those rebels who were very good at typical rebel fund raising techniques like extortion, kidnapping and smuggling. This is what has happened in many parts of the world and is the beginning of another cycle of unrest and violence. The reality is that many politicians see amnesty programs as an opportunity to do some more stealing. That’s what happens time and again in places like Africa, the Middle East and South America.

Corruption often exists on the rebel side as well. Usually far more people show up asking for amnesty than the government (or peacekeepers) expected. This is especially suspicious when many of those seeking amnesty come in without weapons and are unable to provide many details (especially verifiable ones) of their rebel activities. In many cases only about a third of those surrendering brings along a weapon, indicating that many of the amnesty seekers are very recent recruits for the rebels or simply out to snag the benefits and then go home and continue whatever they had been doing all along.

In some cases amnesty programs are only for those who come in with a firearm and a cash benefit is paid for the weapon depending on what type it is (an AK-47, machine-gun, or locally made single shot pistol or shotgun). If nothing else these programs get a lot of weapons out of circulation. But not always, sometimes the corruption means that the weapons are reported as destroyed but are actually sold by the officials in charge of the amnesty program.

Another big problem with amnesty is that training programs to give the former rebels marketable skills ignore the fact that there are not a lot of local employers who are hiring. And those that are hiring are often reluctant to take on former rebels. These retrained rebels tend to be poor workers and yearn for the good old days when you could take what you wanted and shoot anyone who objected.

Of course many rebels are glad to give it up. The gangster life is often uncomfortable and very dangerous. Those former rebels who have families to go back to can rely on kin to help them get an honest occupation. But too many former rebels go back to being bad guys and that misbehavior tends to taint all former rebels.

 

 


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