Disarmament - Pathway to Peace
"We [Sinn Fein] believe that the Irish people have the right to use armed struggle in the context of seeking Irish independence"! ...Gerry Adams, 15 November, 1990.
"The causes of conflict are still on-going. Every so often there will be a spectacular to remind the world"! ...Gerry Adams, March, 1994.
"Bring back the IRA" & "The IRA hasn’t gone away, you know"! ...interaction between Sinn Fein crowd and Gerry Adams outside Belfast City Hall, 13 August, 1995.
"I have always assumed that Sinn Fein is the political wing of the republican movement, the IRA is the military wing of that movement, as far as I am concerned, if you are a member of Sinn Fein or a member of the IRA, in both you support the strategy and tactics of the whole movement ...my whole approach to strategy is that Sinn Fein are the political voice of a movement which has a military voice called the IRA, and that they speak with the same voice when it comes to the politics of our situation"!
...John Hume, 2 January, 1997.
"We said that we want the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations... Meanwhile it would obviously be a travesty of democracy if parties associated with paramilitary organisations held Executive office in the Assembly while they continue to be engaged in or threaten violence"! ...Prime Minister Blair, 22 April, 1998 (Hansard Vol. 310, col. 811/2).
"A vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for the IRA and the IRA’s campaign of killing and murder"! ...ex-Taoiseach John Bruton, April, 1997.
"Everybody knows that Sinn Fein and the IRA belong to the one movement and as long as they are committed to what they call ‘armed struggle’ a vote for them is a vote for that strategy"! ...John Hume, April, 1997.
"I have always made it clear that we regard Sinn Fein and the IRA as inextricably linked"! ...P.M. Blair, 3 June, 1998 (Hansard Vol. 313, Col. 366).
"You couldn’t have a genuine peace, at the end of the day, if there were still guns around" ...ex-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in 1997 (reflecting on 1994 meetings with terror groups).
"All the way through they [Sinn Fein leadership] had said to us, ‘decommissioning is no problem to us because, when we reach agreement it will happen. We don’t need modalities because it will happen like that when the time comes for it to happen'" . . .Michael Ancram in 1997 (reflecting on 1994/5 meetings with Sinn Fein).
"The process of decommissioning should begin straight away" ...P.M. Blair - letter to David Trimble, 10 April, 1998.
"...it is essential that organ isations that want to benefit from the early release of prisoners should give up violence. Decommissioning is part of that...."!
P.M. Blair, 6 May, 1998 (Hansard Vol. 311, Col. 711).
"I think voluntary decommissioning would be the natural development of the peace process once we get a sense that the arrangements envisaged in the Agreement are beginning to function"!
…Padraig Wilson, IRA commander, HMP Maze. Financial Times 16 June, 1998.
"There is a political requirement that decommissioning takes place.
Republicans have a political and moral imperative and responsibility to the agreement, to remove illegal guns"
Seamus Mallon, Deputy 1st Minister, November, 1998.
"The Taoiseach told me Martin McGuinness spoke frankly of the need to dispose of armaments. I took a note of what they quoted McGuinness as saying - ‘We know the guns will have to be banjaxed"’! ...Sean Duignan, Albert Reynolds Press Secretary, November 1998.
"There is no distinction between the IRA’S political wing, Sinn Fein, and the IRA And now is the time for them to decommission I do not accept the distinction between the two organisations"!
...Mary Harney, Irish Republic’s Tanaiste, 4 January, 1999.
"This phase of negotiations may fall apart; it may not succeed and whenever that does happen then we simply go back to what we know best - for those who want there’s certainly a role for them to play, as volunteers"! ...Senior Sinn Fein talks negotiator, Councillor Francis Molloy.
"Everyone needs to understand clearly that an armed peace is not what any of us signed up to" ...Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, 25 November, 1998.
Guns being 'decommisioned'
Requirement to Disarm
That only the Ulster Unionist Party actually understands how and why the Stormont Agreement of 10 April, 1998 requires not only the Provisional IRA, but all paramilitary parties, to disarm, is perhaps less strange than first appears to be the case. When one recalls that the DUP and the now dismembered UKUP parties deserted the Talks Process and that the PUP and UDP are paramilitary-linked, then the reason for the inconsistency of their position should be self-evident.
It was never going to be any easier for the paramilitary-linked Loyalist parties to achieve support for disarmament from among their activists, than it was going to be for traditional Unionists to accept either power-sharing, actual cross-frontier cooperation with the longtime aggressive and irredentist Irish Republic or, particularly, the premature release of terrorist prisoners.
For Ian Paisley and Bob McCartney it was always going to be electorally impossible to publicly acknowledge that the basis for a new beginning to cross-traditional relationships was achieved without their participation. As always, they had been content to languish in the comfort of cynical opposition, just as they had done previously when Ulster was being salami-sliced, by successive governments, in order to placate militant Republicanism.
Incapable of undertaking the only viable alternative to the erosion of Ulster’s place within the Union by hammering out a workable agreement and assuming responsibility for Northern Ireland’s future, they evaded the issue. Hence, it is against that background that these parties shamelessly enhance the Provisionals’ efforts to wreck the deal - albeit a deal which withdrew the Republic’s territorial claim, revoked the Anglo-Irish Agreement and removed the autonomous Maryfield.
‘Letter & Spirit’
‘Letter & Spirit’
Negotiated agreements are never solely about the actual ‘letter’ - they depend to a large extent on what is the background - the ‘spirit’ of the accord reached. In fact, the Agreement itself (para 35) explicitly states that besides confirming "their commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means AND their OPPOSITION to any USE OR THREAT of force by others for any political purpose", those who aspire to being in a Northern Ireland Executive should "observe the SPIRIT of the Pledge of Office applying to appointed Ministers
It is on this basis that First Minister Designate, David Trimble, correctly argues that those who represent a Party which is ambivalent, either by word or deed, about "the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations", must be excluded from Executive Office.
The Sinn Fein defence that the Agreement does not specifically require a commitment to ‘ACHIEVE’ disarmament is invalid. A comparable argument would be that, since the basis on which prisoners would be released was not precisely defined, it required no action by the two responsible governments to do anything practical about that either. Yet that process is more than 50% complete. Similarly, the specific terms for the promised Bill of Rights were not detailed but left for determination by the Assembly. And that, too, will be done!
If it is incumbent upon governments and non-paramilitary-linked parties to honour the 'spirit' of the Agreement in respect of these latter issues, there can be no justification for the evasive attitude of Sinn Fein. It cannot be permitted to ignore the reality of the ‘inextricable link’ between itself and the Provisional IRA; the validity of Unionists’ rights; the findings of the Mitchell Commission; the existence of the de Chastelain Disarmament Commission or the Referendum vote on 22 May.
Conditions, Obligations & Linkages
Conditions, Obligations & Linkages
Disarmament, and verification of that process, has from the outset been acknowledged nationally and internationally as an indivisible part of any new democratic process in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein/IRA may have successfully argued that disarmament could not be a ‘pre-condition’ for entry to negotiations; the International Commission may have endorsed this view but neither Senator Mitchell nor any of his team has ever suggested that it is not a ‘post-condition’ to the Agreement.
The present Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, Bertie Ahern, encapsulated the view of most observers when he declared, "…an armed peace is not what any of us signed up to".
When Senator Mitchell posed the specific question (I.C.Report paras. 24 & 25) "... whether there is a clear commitment on the part of THOSE IN POSSESSION of such arms to work constructively TO ACHIEVE full and verifiable decommissioning" he concluded that this was the case, conditional only upon it being, "...as part of the process of all-party negotiations...".
Now, who but Sinn Fein could have given the International Commission that assurance on behalf of the Provisional IRA?
Now, who but Sinn Fein could have given the International Commission that assurance on behalf of the Provisional IRA?
Crucial to the Ulster Unionist case, it cannot be overlooked that Sinn Fein accepted the Mitchell Commission Report in its entirety and subsequently entered all-party negotiations on the basis that they subscribed to it. One of the six core Principles states, "... we recommend that the parties to such negotiations affirm their TOTAL and ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations"!
Senator Mitchell would not have indulged in the nonsense of proposing that any party commit itself ‘TO ACHIEVE’ on a matter beyond that party’s competence!
The well-chronicled sequence of events up to and including the negotiations confirms both the ‘inextricable linkage’ between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA and the obligation on all paramilitary-linked parties to ‘ACHIEVE’ disarmament.
Understanding the Nature of Political Agreements
Understanding the Nature of Political Agreements
No treaty exists in ‘limbo’ ... each is predicated on a set of circumstances and understandings. To comprehend the brief and non-aggressive terms in which "DECOMMISSIONING" is addressed in the Stormont Agreement one must carefully consider the provisions of Mitchell Report. It places a clear obligation on David Trimble and Ulster Unionists to ensure that society in Northern Ireland can never again be held hostage to the bombs and bullets of political terrorists.
Again and again Senator Mitchell’s International Commission, while adopting a practical attitude in terms of what could, or could not, happen prior to negotiations, was unanimous (para 4) about the absolute necessity of disarmament as part of any process of ‘Confidence Building’.
The Commission considered (para 9), "... the need for the people to be reassured that their democratic and moral expectations can be realised", and (para 10) that, "They want lasting peace in a just society in which paramilitary violence plays no part".
Hence the three Commissioners (para 11) made their judgement and brought forward recommendations giving "... due weight in assessing the commitment of the paramilitaries to ‘work constructively to ACHIEVE’ full and verifiable decommissioning".
After the, albeit cautious, acceptance by Ulster Unionists under David Trimble’s leadership of an overwhelming desire among society to make political progress on the basis of assurances given by both the International Commission and the two Governments, there is now absolute justification in maintaining the attitude that those who have deceived before are bound to deceive again!
David Trimble and Ulster Unionists are not compelled by external pressures to adjust their current stance on this issue; the Party has never been influenced by those who criticise without having either alternatives nor the courage to be more than ‘fireside generals. Rather, they are obligated to those who, in Mitchell’s words (para 17), provide the "... nearly universal support which exists for the total and verifiable disarmament of all paramilitary organisations".
Conclusion Only by representing itself as the political vehicle for the Provisional IRA could Sinn Fein have led the Mitchell Commission to this conclusion. Likewise, the Loyalist parties with their terrorist links. Neither can justifiably seek to re-write those relationships or the ground rules which brought them to a place at the negotiating table. Disarmament cannot be ‘fudged’.
Only by representing itself as the political vehicle for the Provisional IRA could Sinn Fein have led the Mitchell Commission to this conclusion. Likewise, the Loyalist parties with their terrorist links. Neither can justifiably seek to re-write those relationships or the ground rules which brought them to a place at the negotiating table. Disarmament cannot be ‘fudged’.
Commissioners identify arms before destruction
Sinn Fein, a party which has gone to considerable lengths to promote itself internationally, has done so with little regard for the truth. It is increasingly recognised that it presents its case in Europe, the United States and Australia, arguing from the specific to the general, so that single incidents which are considered to reflect badly on Government or political opponents are represented as common occurrences.
There is obviously no obligation in such circumstances to set events in context. Hence, we are harangued with, for example, the story of eight Republicans having been ruthlessly gunned down outside Loughgall Police Station without any mercy. The proven facts of the case are that the Provisional IRA Active Service Unit (ASU) involved was comprised of the most ruthless and committed terrorists ever assembled during the recent campaign. Some were ‘on-the-run’ killers while others were currently unit commanders - together they had literally dozens of murders to their ‘collective credit’.
Just as the ‘exported’ messages are grossly distorted, so are those which are ‘imported’. Carefully avoided by Sinn Fein/IRA is any reference to international criteria for ‘Conflict Resolution’ and there is, invariably, the false assertion that no serious democrat should really expect disarmament and the disbandment of illegal organisations since there is no international precedent for this.
South Africa is frequently cited by the Pro-Sinn Fein/IRA lobby as example of successful political change and accommodation where disarmament was not required. This is not only a superficial evaluation; it is one that would not find popular acceptance in South African itself.
It is important to understand that Ulster Unionists have not conjured up a spectre in order to exclude anyone from the democratic process - they are committed to the Agreement they made and only too conscious that the eyes of the world are on them.
Ulster Unionists are equally aware that, as they move to secure a peaceful future for Northern Ireland, society is seized by the one outstanding issue of ‘disarmament’ and will not accept "an armed peace". They take comfort from the fact that the principle of disarmament is a central pillar of international thinking in dealing with conflict resolution for decades.
In seeking to establish Northern Ireland’s case for the disarmament of terrorists within a ‘global context’ I have examined the other peace processes’ which have recently been conducted in the Middle East, Africa and Central America. In each instance society was riven by sectarian conflict or civil war; in each instance the main protagonists have moved substantially from waging war to delivering peace.
Lebanese society has always been forced to take account of its communal divisions. Three main sects - Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shi'a Muslims - dominated political life, but none constituted a majority. Nonetheless, for around thirty years after Lebanon became independent in 1946 the communities existed in relative harmony. A political system which acknowledged the sectarian divide in the distribution of executive offices - the President was expected to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and Speaker a Shi’ite Muslim - enabled each side to tolerate the others.
It was the Arab-Israeli conflict which dramatically changed this. Following the creation of the state of Israel, over 300,000 displaced Palestinians encamped in southern Lebanon which soon became the centre of anti-Israeli resistance. Military training took place and bombing attacks were directed at Israel from the south Lebanese camps. As Israel retaliated across its northern frontier, Muslims throughout Lebanon pledged themselves to the Palestinian cause while the Maronite Christians, concerned that the influx of Palestinian immigrants into Lebanon would distort the delicate sectarian balance, came out as broadly supportive of Israel.
Soon, the whole of Lebanon, particularly Beirut, was separated along sectarian lines and the ghettos were patrolled by a multiplicity of emergent militia representing various factions. The Lebanese security forces were powerless to reverse this trend as outside powers - mainly Syria, Israel and Iran - supplied the regional militias with arms and explosives. A civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990, claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.
The Peace Process and Ta’if Accord
The Peace Process and Ta’if Accord
In an attempt to address the underlying causes of the conflict, the Arab League put forward its plans for peace in Lebanon in September 1989. The plan called for an "immediate and comprehensive ceasefire" and for the convening of a Chamber of Deputies to discuss a ‘Charter for Reconciliation’ drafted by Arab League representatives. The plan was subsequently endorsed by Syria, France, the U.K., the U.S. and the Soviet Union. A ceasefire came into effect on 23 September and the ‘Ta'if Accord’ was signed a week later by the 62 members of the Lebanese Parliament - 31 Christians and 31 Muslims.
The Accord had broadly two components. The first dealt with ‘political’ issues. It was agreed that some executive power would be shifted from the Christian President to the Muslim Prime Minister and Cabinet. This reflected the demographic shift in Lebanon where Muslims now constituted about 57% of the population. That said, the distribution of Cabinet and legislative seats was to be shared equally between Christian and Muslim.
The second component of the Accord dealt with the ‘military’ issues. Here, the Lebanese parties and outside interests - mainly Syria -agreed to the disbandment and disarmament of both the internal and external militia, and the phased withdrawal of the Syrian army. The Lebanese police and armed forces would be built up and would eventually assume responsibility for security throughout the country, replacing the local militia. Once all the militia were disbanded and the Lebanese armed forces were in control, the sovereignty of the Lebanese state would, it was hoped, be recognised by Muslim and Christian alike.
The "disbandment of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militia" and the "transfer of weapons in their possession to the Lebanese government" were to take place within six months of the Presidential election and the establishment of a new government.
The Implementation of the Accord
The Implementation of the Accord
Initially the Ta’if Accord ran into trouble. While the Muslim leaders were broadly supportive, the same was not true of the Christian leaders, for whom 1990 became a year of bloodletting. The main opponent of the Accord was Michael Aoun who was dissatisfied by the tardiness of the withdrawal of the 35,000 Syrian troops massed on Lebanese soil. On the other hand Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces - the largest Christian militia - were prepared to support the Accord.
By March 1990 over 800 Christians had been killed in inter-Christian fighting. But as 1990 progressed the supporters of the Accord gained the upper hand when Aoun was expelled from east Beirut. By December, the new Ministry of National Unity had been formed. More significantly, the reconstituted Lebanese security forces had reclaimed Beirut and soon after that the most of the lawless southern towns. The time, therefore, had come to deal with the most intractable problem: the disarmament of militia.
To get some grasp of the enormity of this problem it may be helpful to list the main militia, and their respective membership: -
The Lebanese Forces (LF). A 10,000 strong Christian hard-line militia which controlled 540 square kilometres north-west of Beirut. It was supplied by arms from Israel and Iraq.
The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), a 10,000 strong Druze-Muslim militia was led by Walid Jamblatt and dominated an area around Druze mountains.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and other associated Palestinian militia comprised. 10,000 fighters from refugee camps across Lebanon and were particularly strong in Sidon.
The Amal Movement was a Shia Muslim militia with 5,000 members. Led by Nahib Berri and backed and armed by Syria, it controlled much of southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah was a Shi'a faction of 5,000 fighters centred in the eastern Beka’a Valley and the south.
Marada was a Christian militia numbering 2,000 members.
al Wa’ad, yet another Christian militia with 2,000 members was led by ex-LF chief, Elie Hobeika.
The South Lebanon Army (SLA), led by Antoine Lahd was 3,000 strong and established by Israel in 1985 to patrol Israel’s nine mile ‘security zone’ in the south.
The Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) was a 2,000-man militia, based in north Beirut and the Beka’a Valley.
The Lebanese government successfully implemented the disbandment and disarmament of the vast bulk of these militia with the backing of Syria, in particular, and the international community in general. Syria’s tangible support for the Accord made it difficult for any Muslim militia to resist the demand for disarmament - an example for the Irish Republic in respect of the IRA, perhaps.
It was altogether trickier for the government to persuade Christian militia to disband and disarm. However once the LF and Phalange - another notorious Christian militia - agreed to abide by the Accord other smaller Christian groups were swept along with the flow.
In March 1991 the government announced that as of 20 March all armed units and militia were considered disbanded and set 30 April as a deadline for the hand-over of heavy and medium calibre weapons and ammunition. On 2 May 1991 the Lebanese Defence Minister announced that 80% of weapons had been handed over.
The Israeli-backed Phalange militia alone gave up some 50 battle tanks, 200 artillery pieces and five helicopters. In July 1991 it was reported that the LF had sold weapons worth $330 million to the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. The 27,000 ton consignment contained Gazelle helicopters, gunships, patrol boats, various types of artillery, multi-barrelled rocket launchers and ammunition. Likewise, the main Muslim militia, the PSP and Shi'a Amal, returned their heavy weapons to Syria.
It would be misleading to claim that Lebanon has shed all the problems of its past. The Ta’if Accord, whilst bringing some relief to the country has not been a panacea to cure all ills. With the Arab-Israeli peace process foundering, the fallout has ominous reverberations for Lebanon, not least because the Ta'if Accord did not deliver Hezbollah and SLA disarmament. Hence, in the nine mile Israeli-occupied ‘security zone’ of southern Lebanon, the Lebanese peace has brought no discernible change and violence and lawlessness continues unabated.
However this cannot detract from the magnitude of what has been achieved in Lebanon as a whole. A government in Beirut contemplates how to reinvigorate the economy, improve communications and infrastructure, and meet social deprivation. In short, it is dealing with normal political and social issues of the day. The cycle of violence has been broken.
The symbolic Green Line - which ran for five miles and separated Christian from Muslim - has been removed. It is significant that the Ta’if Accord, which brought about this successful political reform, insisted on disbandment and disarmament of all militia.
That has brought new hope to the citizens of Lebanon which is summed up in a report published by the Associated Press,
"These days hospital wards are filled with ordinary accident victims and soccer players with broken ankles, not wounded militiamen or civilians hit by shell splinters. Beirut is rising from the ashes once again".
In Lebanon it has been accepted that peace and armed militia are incompatible; it is recognised that as long as society is under the threat of guns and bombs there cannot be true peace nor confidence in the process.
The success of the Lebanese in ridding themselves of illegal arms, and the willingness of militiamen to disband in furtherance of a political process and a peaceful future, leads us to question why those engaged in a similar process in Northern Ireland are so determined to hold on to vast quantities of illegal armaments!
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Mozambique’s fight for independence from Portugal began in 1962 when three militia groups combined to form the Frente da Libertacao de Mocambique (FRELIMO). However, it was not until 1975, following a military coup at home, that the Portuguese government relinquished power in Mozambique and a FRELIMO-dominated national government took control.
The FRELIMO government strenuously opposed minority rule in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa; declared itself to be a Marxist-Leninist state and, in 1977, signed aid agreements with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Alarmed by events, both South Africa and Southern Rhodesia began to supply armaments and training to the anti-government elements within Mozambique. These forces became known as the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (RENAMO).
By the late 1980s RENAMO controlled wide areas of the countryside and Mozambique was plunged into a full civil war which lasted for the next 16 years. Exceptionally violent, it resulted in over one million casualties, an even larger number of refugees and an economy comprehensively devastated by war.
The Peace Process
The Peace Process
Movement towards national reconciliation in Mozambique began in 1988, concurrent with the peace agreements being negotiated in Angola and Namibia. Eventually, on 4 October 1992 both sides agreed a General Peace Agreement. RENAMO agreed to respect the authority and institutions of government; to renounce the use of force and to conduct its "political struggle in conformity with the laws in force", after the enactment of a cease-fire.
In return the FRELIMO government promised to delay legislation on any issue under consideration until multi-party elections were held. It was agreed that the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) would provide assistance during the peace process, including monitoring the cease-fire; organising disarmament and militia demobilisation and verifying the elections.
The military aspects of the Agreement were to begin with the establishment of a cease-fire - the United Nations peacekeeping troops monitoring the separation of the respective FRELIMO and RENAMO forces, jointly estimated to be around 100,000. Both forces were to be assembled in pre-designated areas where they were to be immediately demobilised and their weapons handed over to the ONUMOZ inspectors - the whole process to be completed within six months of the General Peace Agreement coming into force. Concurrently, ONUMOZ were to be responsible for the formation of a new Mozambique Defence Force.
Only when the demobilisation and disarmament process had taken place, and been verified by ONUMOZ, were preparations for holding multi-party elections to be put in place. It was made clear by the then UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali that, "Mozambique’s planned elections will not take place until military aspects of the Agreement have been implemented".
This condition was vindicated by the events subsequent to Angola’s elections in the preceding weeks. There failure to complete demobilisation had enabled the losing faction in the election to launch an all-out war. It was hoped the entire operation would be completed by October 1993, just one year after the General Peace Agreement was signed.
Implementation of the Agreement and Disarmament
Implementation of the Agreement and Disarmament
The cease-fire in Mozambique took effect on 15 October 1992, and from this moment all eyes focused on the Cease-fire Commission empowered by ONUMOZ to verify the cease-fire, and establish procedures for the cantonment, assembly and demobilisation of both sets of troops.
RENAMO was particularly reluctant to begin demobilisation and disarmament. On 25 September 1993 its leader, Alfonso Dhlakama, proposed that elections should be held without the demobilisation process being completed. But Boutros-Ghali strenuously rejected this, reasserting ONUMOZ’ s determination, "to hold elections only after full demobilisation had taken place". RENAMO was also cautioned that it could no longer to preserve both a political and a military option - the equivalent of ‘an Armalite and Ballot Box strategy’.
Despite a general dragging of feet, by November 1994 (about one year behind schedule) ONUMOZ had demobilised 57,540 FRELIMO troops and 20,538 RENAMO soldiers. In total 189,827 weapons were collected, some of which were destroyed, others of which were transferred for use by the new army. ONUMOZ also uncovered tanks, anti-aircraft guns, mines, armoured personnel carriers and mortar bombs. Over seven hundred military positions were also discovered by ONUMOZ.
After 16 years and 1 million casualties, it is understandable that the peace in Mozambique has been somewhat fragile. Yet the Agreement has made a huge difference to everyday life. As in Lebanon, the Mozambican people had become conditioned to accepting warfare and violence as part of the political process. However, as weapons were handed over for destruction and paramilitary parties turned to constitutional politics and democracy, the Mozambicans were presented with a new reality.
It clearly proved that weapons only escalated the problems. By creating conditions whereby peace could flourish through the disarmament of the militias it has become clear that a process of ‘psychological disarmament’ has followed - those who talk about ‘first decommissioning mind-sets’ have got the order of things reversed. Only when people are able to overcome their ingrained fears and suspicions can they begin to think less of resolving conflict by the ‘traditional’ means and build on dialogue and inclusive political participation.
Mozambique demonstrates the importance of disarmament in securing a viable peace. It was generally believed, and ultimately proven that failure to ensure decommissioning would hinder long-term efforts to maintain the General Peace Agreement. Hence, Dhlakama’s attempts to maintain an ‘armed peace’ were totally rejected.
The United Nations operation was predicated on the principle that, "Without disarmament it was believed that there could be no reconciliation, and thus no re-creation of social cohesion and economic well-being within Mozambican society".
Northern Ireland cannot hope to engender confidence among society in general, nor among many of those who would be willing to invest in its future, until there is solid evidence that this self-same principle being applied and accepted.
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The seeds of El Salvador’s civil war were sown in 1979 when right-wing officers of the Salvadoran army seized power in order to thwart the progressive policies of the Government - particularly in respect of its proposed agrarian reform. Military forces, in an attempt to exclude popular left-wing movements from political participation, engaged in a ferociously repressive campaign against those who supported the deposed Salvadoran government.
In response five armed communist revolutionary groups came together in October 1980, vowing to overthrow the military junta by force of arms and to establish a ‘true socialist republic’. They formed the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN). In early 1981 it optimistically launched a ‘final offensive’ - twelve years later bloody civil war continued to rage.
As in Lebanon, El Salvador became a geo-political battlefield. Each side was sustained by vested interests - the United States backing the Government side, the Soviet Union supporting the FMLN. By 1984 the US government was providing the Salvadoran military government $1.2 million a day. For their part the FMLN received massive subventions and military aid via Cuba.
Predictably, when the Cold War ended both US and Soviet governments’ strategic interests waned and each looked for ways of ending the conflict. The 1989 FMLN offensive had demonstrated that, while the FMLN could not win the war, they could not be militarily defeated. Therefore, as the subventions from global patrons began to dry up and stalemate occurred, both sides looked for a way out. A temporary ceasefire was declared in February 1990, ending a twelve year civil war which had claimed over 75,000 dead and seen over one million people displaced from their homes.
The Peace Process
The Peace Process
Peace negotiations finally got underway in April 1990. By May the parties had agreed the Caracas Accord, which established a "General Agenda and Schedule for the Complete Negotiation Process". This identified key areas for discussion - naturally focusing on disarmament and military reform, the holding of free and fair elections and a general basis for UN verification of the process.
From this point, however, progress was slow and violence resurfaced. Breakthrough finally occurred in Mexico City about a year later when the parties put together the "April Accord". This time the Government made concessions, particularly in the military field where it was agreed that the army would be subordinate to the incoming President, and advances were made towards establishing the independence of the judiciary.
Thereafter, the parties made fairly rapid progress and a Peace Accord was signed in January 1992. There was to be legislative action to enable the FMLN to participate in elections. Specific interlocking steps to be fulfilled by both Government and FMLN for ending the conflict and for dismantling the FMLN structure were put in place. Terms of reference for the United Nations Observer Mission (ONUSAL) to be the guarantor of the Agreement, to verify the maintenance of the ceasefire and to oversee the disarmament of the Salvadoran paramilitaries were defined.
February 1st, 1992 was set for a formal ceasefire to come into effect, and from that moment onwards ONUSAL inspectors were to compile an arms inventory and prepare for the destruction of all insurgents’ weapons. By 31 October the demobilisation of FMLN and their transformation into a legal political party was to be completed.
Implementation of the Agreement and Disarmament
Implementation of the Agreement and Disarmament
The Agreement set out in detail how the demobilisation process was to proceed. The FMLN forces were to gather in fifteen ‘ONUSAL supervised concentration zones’ where they would turn over their weapons to UN officials. This was to happen over a period of eight months during which they were to be stored under lock and key until the last two weeks of October when they would be destroyed. Running parallel to this, the military Government’s National Guard and Treasury Police were to be disbanded, and the armed forces were to be generally reduced in size.
Again, suspicions and mutual recriminations forced the UN to reset the deadlines. By October only about 40-50% of FMLN combatants had been demobilised and disarmed. A new deadline date of 15 December was then agreed. This helped smooth the way for further progress and FMLN immediately authorised a third phase of demobilisation.
Yet, even at this stage complete FMLN disarmament appeared unlikely as they sought to retain a hard core of fighters to protect their last military guarantee of security. It was only when the US stepped in to provide third party assurances that the final stage of demobilisation took place. On 14 December 1992 the last 2,000 FMLN guerrillas were demobilised and their arms handed over. Simultaneously the FMLN were formally registered with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal as a legal political party and the following day a formal ceremony marked the end of war.
On 17 December 1992 the UN Secretary-General noted that the final number of demobilised combatants was 8,876, with 3,486 injured combatants also demobilised. Half the total FMLN weapons had been destroyed, with the rest ready for destruction at the end of the year. In August 1993 ONUSAL finally issued a communiqué announcing the total destruction of FMLN arsenals.
The El Salvador peace process, yet again, demonstrates the value of decommissioning illegally-held weaponry in the pursuit of peace. The UN has taken particular pride in the role it played in El Salvador. It regards the implementation of the Agreement in this particularly difficult area as one of its major success stories insofar as there was no ambiguity as FMLN handed over its guns - there was no real impression that anything of significance was held back.
The lesson to be applied in the context of Northern Ireland is that, as in El Salvador, no faction is actually capable of winning a military campaign. For paramilitaries the choice is either to meet their obligations as defined within the Stormont Agreement and move unequivocally into the democratic process or to resume their violence for the sake of violence. There is no third alternative.
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In February 1990 the ban on the African National Congress was lifted signalling the end of apartheid rule and demonstrating a new commitment by the white minority government to a proper democratic system in South Africa.
Ironically from that moment until the first democratic elections in 1994 there was a marked upsurge in political violence. While 1,403 people died as a result of political violence in 1989, there were 1,591 deaths in 1990 and that trend has yet to be reversed. Without any clear vision of what the future might hold for them, political groups began stockpiling weapons, reasoning that violence would inevitably escalate.
Despite the near certainty of the civil chaos that could ensue, the main protagonists in the South African negotiations failed to exploit the ground-swell in support of peace. Disarmament was, unbelievably, not firmed up in the programme of obligations when the way forward which was being thrashed out at that time.
As representatives of the majority tradition who had achieved a democratic breakthrough, many Umkhonto we Sizwe guerrillas (MK - the military wing of the ANC) were absorbed into the ranks of the South African security forces. However others were left behind, demobilised, but with access to weaponry. No longer under the direction of a disciplined militia, many were embittered by the process which saw them abandoned while their superiors reaped the rewards of ‘peace’. Unsurprisingly, many moved from being ‘freedom fighters’ to ‘care ers' in banditry. Immediate access to huge quantities of armaments facilitated this progression.
As a consequence of poor forward planning an abnormally high proportion of crime in South Africa involves the threat or use of firearms. While the use knives and clubs is common in the lawless townships, there were 5,872 (32%) gun-related killings out of an astonishing 18,312 murders in 1994. During the first six months of 1995, the proportion of murders involving the use of firearms had risen to 40% of the 8,407 reported by the South African Police.
Since 1989, murder in South Africa has increased by 61%, armed robbery by 119% - and this in a ‘new era of peace’.
Violence touches upon almost every aspect of life there. One of the more brutal and indiscriminate developments has been the so-called ‘taxi wars’. Increasingly, taxi firms have employed ‘hitmen’ to target both drivers and passengers of rival taxi firms. Police in Gauteng province (previously The Transvaal) claim these ‘hitmen’ can earn R1000 for the deaths of passengers, R2000 for the deaths of drivers and R4000 for the deaths of owners. Criminal activity such as this is estimated to cost South Africa R31.3 billions per annum, or 5.6% of GDP.
The failure to remove the guns between 1990 and 1994 has not only resulted in an escalation of ‘ordinary’ crime - it has also perpetuated ‘political’ crime. This manifests itself in the continuing faction-fighting between ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) supporters in townships across South Africa. The violence has intensified to such an extent that the ANC has permitted the establishment of Self-Defence Units (SDUs) to protect ANC enclaves; in response the IFP has established Self-Protection Units (SPUs) to fulfil a comparable function in IFP districts.
However, both the SDU’s and SPU’s have increasingly become ‘vehicles’ for criminals and local bandits. Areas such as Phola Park (Winnie Mandela’s constituency) are now being designated ‘no-go’ zones by the security forces. Here, armed robberies are committed with impunity and vigilantes demand ‘protection money’. The upshot is a society acquiescent through fear.
Other, smaller, well-organised groups are now getting into the act and stockpiling weapons. In July 1997 a deadly arms cache of 107 AK47 rifles, 17,000 rounds of Tokarev 7.62 ammunition and two RPG7’s was discovered in Kruger Park. The Pan African Congress (PAC), the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA) and an APLA-splinter group called "The People’s Concern" are known to maintain stockpiles of weapons. Ultra-right groups and ex-security force personnel also possess arms caches. The Afrikaner Volksfront, which was responsible for 30 bombings in the run-up to the 1994 elections, is still believed to pose a threat.
An indication of the extent to which ‘gun culture’ has taken hold in South Africa is reflected in the vast quantities of illegal guns and ammunition being seized by the police. Whereas the police recovered 2,227 illegal pistols in 1991, that figure had risen to 9,200 in 1996. Similarly, where 1991 saw 60,918 rounds of ammunition uncovered, 1996 produced 154,838 rounds seized.
Sadly, these dramatically increased seizures are not deemed attributable to increased police efficiency but, almost exclusively, to the proliferation of guns and ammunition in South African society.
Furthermore, it is conceded by all that those armaments uncovered represent a mere ‘drop in the ocean’. The natural and only response for many law-abiding citizens is to acquire ‘personal protection weapons’. By 1996 there were 3,503,573 licensed firearms in South Africa held by 1,932,222 citizens - a 60% increase over figures for 1986. Thus the ‘gun culture’ flourishes.
The South African peace-makers, by missing the opportunity to consider practical disarmament, during negotiations have found themselves facing what is, in many ways, a more dangerous society than existed before 1990. Although its citizens should have benefited as political liberty finally took hold, South African society has been tarnished by the enveloping violence which threatens to undermine its hard-won freedoms.
Academics Chris Smith and Alex Vines have noted:
"South Africa is in the midst of an internal arms race which the security forces are almost powerless to prevent or stop; either legally or illegally more South Africans are armed than ever before. Criminals now have access to an array of relatively sophisticated and most certainly powerful, automatic firearms..." (Light Weapons Proliferation in Southern Africa, November 1997).
The lesson of South Africa is unmistakable. Without a tangible commitment to disarmament of illegal weapons it will be virtually impossible to resolve the conflict of the past 30 years. Until both Loyalist and Republican terrorist effectively disarm, the potential for destabilisation will remain, the fear which pervades our society will continue and fundamental freedoms will be jeopardised.
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Hope & Suspicion
The reality facing Northern Ireland, post-Stormont Agreement, is little short of a political enigma. Despite energetic, almost frenzied, opposition to the underlying concepts of the Agreement, when almost half of traditional Unionists voted in the referendum that those things which had been conceded weighed more heavily than those gained, over 70% of the voters still said "Yes".
But given that a majority of Ulster Unionist voters are ‘electorally disciplined’ and ultimately loyal to the ‘party line’ the real potential for the Agreement to succeed was probably over 80% and since at least half of the remainder would totally repudiate any notion of violent opposition, the likelihood of success was promising.
The euphoria generated by the news media, however, belied the watchful concern of many, including "YES" voters, that either governments would renege on assurances given or that terrorist-related parties would be allowed to benefit without making any tangible commitment to needs and hopes of society. Hope and suspicion are a volatile mixture!
Where there has been a ‘culture of violence’ for almost 30 years a mere ‘cessation of military operations’ on a temporary basis does not allow things to radically change. While mainstream politicians elected to the new Stormont Assembly strive to build on the framework of the April 10 Agreement those with paramilitary links are busy ensuring that their physical and psychological control over their ‘turf’ is retained and strengthened.
What can be dismissed as ‘non-military’ activity is pursued with renewed commitment - heists, robberies, drug trafficking and protection rackets flourish - and in order to control local communities there are the ritual beatings, maimings, shootings and murders which are necessary if people are to be kept ‘on their knees’! Terrorism is being sustained, even reinforced, but it is conveniently deemed mere criminality.
Yet everyone knows that where the terrorist has held sway for almost 30 years, such activity can only happen if it is ‘officially’ sanctioned.
One can recall that, a few years ago when the IRA wanted to create a good impression during a visit to Northern Ireland by President Clinton, there was an edict that no ‘enforcement activity’ would occur for a period before, during and after the event. Even the INLA bowed to the wishes of the IRA at that time - if there was a will to achieve Peace the Sinn Fein/IRA could do the same again. So too, perhaps to a lesser extent, could Loyalist leaders in their areas.
Instead, the level of ‘enforcement’ in areas dominated by paramilitaries has escalated to an all-time high and yet the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland doesn’t know who is responsible, believing that such lawlessness does not constitute a breach of the ceasefires. One wonders whether she has posed herself the simple question, "Who else could it possibly be?"
RUC ‘Under Fire’
RUC ‘Under Fire’Under such dire circumstances one might well ponder what the police are doing to deal with those who perpetrate such Human Rights violations, let alone other crime, and who those who are able to hold local communities to ransom.
The crass stupidity and inflexibility emanating from the Northern Ireland Office has virtually neutered the capability of the Police. Instead of, as the Agreement required, producing a balanced strategy for security and policing adjustments which would properly reflect the level of terrorists’ influence and de-escalation of their activity, the NIO embarked on a programme of unilateral measures which has played into terrorists’ hands and humiliated constitutional politicians.
While many are bewildered by the expedition with which terrorist prisoners have been freed, that is not the absolute epitome of NIO folly. There are precedents throughout the world where, at the end of a conflict, prisoners are released. It might not have been unreasonable, though, to at least have required a declaration from each qualifying terrorist organisation that, "The War is Over"!
However, the greater foolishness was to implement, so soon, the enquiry into policing in Northern Ireland, the Patten Commission. Fundamental criticism is certainly not of the personnel involved within the Commission nor, indeed, of the usefulness of considering how the RUC, which has always had to police terrorism, might adjust to policing ‘normality’, once achieved.
The injustice is that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is effectively being offered as part of a political equation at the very moment when it should have been insulated from any ‘political horse-trading’. It is not difficult to understand why the IRA, in particular, see the police as a target. What could be more challenging to them than to seek to destroy those who for thirty awful years stood between their terrorism and the most vulnerable members of society.
It is under these circumstances that the RUC, seeing itself more closely analysed than its terrorist enemy, feels itself obliged to embark on a 1-year Public Relations exercise. It is de-moralised by its inability to do its job and by the impossible task it faces. Its hands are tied insofar as it cannot, nor does not want to, enter the political arena and yet any steps taken to counter criminality in terrorist-dominated areas will be politically mis-represented.
To fully comprehend this dilemma, it is important to remember that the military back-up for the RUC has gone - another gesture to the terrorists. Now, if the police venture in strength into those local areas where the paramilitaries dominate they will find themselves confronted by skilfully organised opposition who will allege ‘police harassment’ - a black mark with the Commission.
Unintentionally, the Commission is inhibiting the effectiveness of the police. It may be necessary, if the situation continues to deteriorate for the Patten Commission to consider suspending itself until, at least, it can be free to make its judgements against a realistically ‘normal’ background.
It is so easy, while ordinary people in these areas are being subjugated to the indigenous and endemic violence of the IRA, and/or Loyalists, for a damaging and misleading campaign to be orchestrated. The IRA, in particular, actively and ruthlessly prevents local communities from daring to accept the police and then propounds that self-fulfilling prophesy that, ‘the RUC will never be acceptable in republican areas’.
That is only right if we can convince ourselves that people actually want to live under a yoke of barbarism and arbitrary justice of the sort described earlier in this chapter. But then, it is not easy to lift ones head under such circumstances, as the Kearney, Collins and other families could confirm.
The time is rapidly approaching where the level of terrorist-sponsored criminality will necessitate incisive Government intervention. Since few are being brought to justice for the anti-personnel activity of the paramilitary bully-boys even a reluctant Secretary of State may eventually be forced into action.
Then the military support which has been withdrawn will have to be re-instated and the proposed reform of policing will become meaningless. That is the legacy of illegal armaments remaining in the hands of illegal organisations.
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Paramilitary 'enforcement' brutality
Disarmament has occurred - in the last decade - in Mozambique, Lebanon and El Salvador. The principle, now firmly established by the United Nations, is truly global in scope, and has transcended continental barriers. The fact that we live in Europe cannot somehow preclude us from its logic. Furthermore, our three case studies are not isolated examples. For Mozambique one may read Namibia; for El Salvador read Nicaragua, Guatemala or Colombia.
When we project Northern Ireland’s situation against the background that can be El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Lebanon compared to Angola, Cambodia and South Africa, then it can be better understood what constitutes the difference between success and failure in ‘conflict resolution’ situations.
Where there has been success there has been a process of disarmament and opposing militia have been demobilised; failure and unworkable agreements are derived from a refusal to do so. The United Nations certainly judge success against these criteria.
Considering the overall sophistication which exists within Northern Ireland in social, economic and political terms compared with some of those countries listed above and the comparatively easy access that exists within the western democracy to which we belong, there can be no justification for failing to adopt those ‘internationally applied principles" which have been employed in other much less favoured parts of the world.
Whatever its shortcomings we are fortunate to live in a reasonably open society where the ‘eye of the camera’ and the overall power of the free press can scrutinise our every move. Unionists are aware that we live in a veritable ‘goldfish bowl’ and must earn respect for Northern Ireland on the open market.
No argument that Unionists would be able to default on the Agreement, or on the obligations that would derive from a Bill of Rights, can be taken seriously. The inter-relationships which exist locally, nationally and internationally would, quite simply, preclude any ‘sleight of hand’ and the IRA must know this.
Their motivation for insistence on the retention of illegal weapons and organisations can only be to do with domination of our society through fear, intimidation and, where considered necessary, the use of force. Their oppressive activities among members of their own tradition, under current circumstances, bode ill for all of us in the days ahead.
It is worthy of note that senior personnel from within the new South African administration - with whose leader, Nelson Mandela, there is an eagerness by Sinn Fein/IRA to identify - have consistently cautioned against, "Northern Ireland allowing the same mistake that we have made over disarmament".
Concluding ThoughtsA journey along the Falls Road takes one past republican murals which purport to convey to the passer-by the truly ‘internationalist’ outlook of the republican movement. Images of republicans seek to co-exist with those of Gandhi and Mandela. A movement claiming such an international perspective, one would have thought, would have been well versed in those precedents that have been established in dealing with conflict resolution across the world.
How then can such precedents have been conveniently ignored for so long by the likes of Adams and McGuinness? How is it that all we have is an ‘armed peace’?
Perhaps the leadership of Sinn Fein is in error when it perceives itself in the mode of Mandela. Could it be projecting itself into the wrong part of the world where there has existed for decades another band of so-called ‘freedom fighters’ - the Kymer Rouge who brought down the Cambodian peace process by their refusal to disarm.
To remain recalcitrant, to rebuff the electorate’s will as it was expressed on 22 May, to make no gesture to peace is to create a new image - Gerry Adams and his colleagues as a modern day Pol Pot and his bloody henchmen. In time, perhaps, even the ex-Cambodian dictator will find his face emblazoned on a West Belfast wall.
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Community intimidation by wall mural
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