[in] focus

Dr Dlamini Zuma’s win does not herald smooth sailing for South African foreign policy

After what seemed like an uphill battle against incumbent African Union (AU) Commission chair Jean Ping of Gabon, former minister for Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has secured the confidence of 37 out of 51 states in Africa to become the newest leader of the AU’s executive arm. While her victory is undoubtedly a triumph for the country, and indeed women everywhere, South Africa should not expect plain sailing in the months and years ahead, as this success will only catalyse more scrutiny of its foreign policy from its African neighbours.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has received much criticism for what many believed were over-ambitious tactics in attempting to secure Dlamini-Zuma’s election. After a failed attempt at winning the contest in January – as well as what must have been some incredibly robust negotiation behind the scenes – South African diplomats managed to secure enough votes to ensure Dlamini-Zuma would take up the reins at the AU with a view to revitalising a moribund and floundering organisation. Her experience in the former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and more recently her time improving the appalling performance of the Department of Home Affairs, meant that Dlamini-Zuma was touted as the candidate to bring about a new era for the AU – one in which the body could perhaps legitimately escape comparisons with its corrupt, ineffective predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) or so-called “Dictators’ Club”.


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Can Rwanda be a sincere peace broker in eastern DRC?

A new rebellion in eastern DRC

In March 2012, a group of disgruntled ex-soldiers formed a new rebel group including remnant of Laurent Nkunda’s now defunct National Council for the Protection of the People (CNDP) and called it the March 23 Movement or M23, thus adding yet another layer to an already complicated conflict complex in eastern DRC. This began as a mere mutiny against inhumane treatment of what we have known to be dispirited, poorly paid and battle-fatigued soldiers by their officers. It became a rebel movement after the mutineers insisted on the full implementation of the 2009 peace accord, which was intended to end a devastating insurgency by the CNDP in the eastern DRC. As was the case with the CNDP, the Congolese government and some international actors accuse Rwanda of sponsoring this new round of rebellion, which the Rwandan government has vehemently denied, arguing that its only interest in the troubled region is to bring about peace and stability. This piece provides a preliminary assessment of the new spark of conflict in a region already infested with many armed groups involved in low-intensity conflict and the role of Rwanda.

A complicated theatre of conflict

The M23 rebellion is part of what has become a common trend in resource-rich eastern DRC where armed groups mushroom out of either defections of the badly-organised DRC army or emerge out of group rivalries in this war zone. The last terrible rebellion involved the CNDP, which was formed in 2007 by Laurent Nkunda, a former general in the Congolese army who also was associated with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)’s efforts to contain the Rwandan genocide. This led to suspicions that the CNDP like a number of its predecessors was a creation of the Rwandan government to be used as a proxy in the battle to control natural resources and to protect the Banyamulenge, who are Congolese Tutsis of Rwandan origin residing in the Kivus. The rebellion ended when Rwanda arrested Nkunda in 2009 and his successor, Bosco Ntaganda, signed a peace accord with the Congolese government which saw CNDP fighters integrated into the Congolese army. But given the poor state of affairs in this army, the integration was never successful in minimising underlying tensions that had caused soldiers to defect in the first place.

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What does the row between the AU and Malawi say about the arrest warrant for al-Bashir?

Recently, a disagreement between the Malawian Government and the African Union (AU) over the guest list for the upcoming bi-annual summit of the AU resulted in the former rescinding its decision to host the meeting. Malawi declined from hosting the July 2012 meeting after the insistence of the AU on the participation of the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. More than just straining relations between Malawi and the AU family, and prompting the relocation of the AU summit from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa, the disagreement between the AU and the Malawian Government further underscores the weakness in the decision to indict al-Bashir.

It should be recalled that following a referral by the UN Security Council, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in March 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur. In July 2010, the crime of genocide was added to the Sudanese president's charge sheet. As a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Malawi is under obligation to cooperate with the court to arrest al-Bashir, a responsibility that sits uncomfortably with the AU’s hostile attitude towards the ICC in general and its disapproval of the indictment of al-Bashir in particular.

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BRICS partnership: A case of South-South Cooperation? Exploring the roles of South Africa and Africa


The BRICS partnership is developing rapidly. Current global events, such as economic crisis in the advanced industrialised economies, and hand-wringing over the crisis in Syria, have brought the group, and its individual members, to the forefront of international decision-making. BRICS is no longer simply an economic and historical phenomenon; it is increasingly becoming an actor with agency in the current international milieu. This was most recently evident in the pledge of BRICS – along with other emerging markets - in mid-June 2012, of more than USD 90 billion to boost IMF reserves. This serves as an indicator both of these states’ ability to affect international outcomes, and their intentions to do so.

However, serious questions need to be asked about the extent to which BRICS can agree on common positions, and claim its agency in international affairs. With each successive summit, BRICS have enunciated additional plans for future action, as well as core areas of interest and areas of commonality. The objectives of this policy brief are to examine the concept of ‘South-South cooperation’ in relation to BRICS; to analyse South Africa’s role within BRICS; and, to situate Africa within the context of BRICS’ growing global significance and activity.

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But what of Bahrain?

While the world witnesses the results of the Syrian government crushing dissent within its borders, the international spotlight has faded almost entirely from the small island state of Bahrain. Although comparatively tiny to other states in the Middle East, both in terms of geography and population, inconsequential it is not. Indeed, major international players ignore the stratified political dynamic in Bahrain at their peril, as the possibility of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran could further destabilise the world’s most volatile region.

Since February 2011, Bahrain has experienced civil and political unrest characterised by mass demonstrations and protest. These events can be contextualised within the broader remit of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, which has seen a wave of socio-political unrest spread over the Middle East, triggering instability in states that were once considered stable by virtue of their authoritarian governments.


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