The threat of private armies and militia to peacemaking

Private militia and armies are a common feature in contemporary violent conflicts and pose a major challenge in the search for peace internationally. Yet, very little research and analysis have been dedicated to those groups so far. A new study entitled Armed Violence in Mindanao: Militia and private armies, seeks to contribute to closing this research gap, and suggests how the prevalence of private armies, militias, and vigilante forces can be curbed.

Focusing on the case of militia and private armies active in Mindanao in the southern Philippines, the report, produced by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, provides an in-depth analysis of those groups and the underlying reasons for their proliferation in the region. It calls for the disbanding of all organised armed civilian militia through a phased approach.

“In places such as Mindanao, militia have emerged to fill the vacuum left by ineffective state security services and the weak rule of law,” said Michael Vatikiotis, HD Centre Regional Director for Asia. “If we are to tackle these groups effectively, underlying issues such as security sector reform, the black market for arms and even the education system must all be addressed”.

The study notes the weak public security in Mindanao as a key reason for the proliferation of these groups in the region. It also demonstrates that strong economic and educational reasons further drive the existence of such militia.

The study addresses these issues as well as others common to militia-related problems internationally. These include institutional reform, as well as civil society efforts to aid development and improve the capacity of local dispute resolution methods.

This publication is the last in a series of three produced as a result of the HD Centre’s project, Comparative Perspectives on Conflict Management in Asia, which sought to analyse conflict management and resolution approaches in Asia. The previous two publications focused on conflict resolution approaches in India and Indonesia.

The HD Centre wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the MacArthur Foundation (Asia Security Initiative) for its financial support for this study.

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Tags: Bansamoro, Centre, Dialogue, Humanitarian, Institute, Mindanao, Philippines, Studies, for, of

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Comment by William Tayeebwa on August 13, 2011 at 8:58pm

You have a point, Mr.Okeny. The problem is a very complicated one; particularly with the thousands of arms in the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine all ending up in wrong arms in the South. I think Western governments can do more since they have better control mechanisms, but there is lack of will. I guess for them, it is better to get some money from these obsolete arms than destroying them. The other problem for especially Africa are the poor control systems and the porous borders. In the case of the African Great Lakes region for instance, arms come in aboard Ukranian Antinovs or often through failed states e.g. Somalia from where they make it into the jungles and then onto the streets! African governments ought to engage in more Diplomacy with originating countries to curb the trade.

Comment by Francis Okeny Silvio on July 29, 2011 at 3:35pm

Private armies and militias sounds fascinating, but the other side of the same coin would read "Nations involve in selling weapons and other arms equipment should stop shipping weapons to developing nations. We cannot speak about one interest and intentionally skip another, both responsibilities are part of the solution to permanent peace. Access to arms strengthen conflict motive, making it hard and difficult to initiate peaceful solution. We can not blame the private armies and militias and leave out those who provide them with weapons.

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