The Self-Defense in Valuing Human Life

1 Comment(s) | Posted | by Anne Celestine Achieng Oyier Ondigo |

Key words: Citizen security units, human life, self-defense

The question of the value of human life is imperative in emerging democracies and fragile societies. However, during conflicts in Africa, human life that is the highest good, the summum bonum given us by God is at stake. As a gift from the creator, a human person has naturally high value and dignity. Correspondingly, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.[1] This belief is the foundation of all the principles of the social teaching of the Church. Contrariwise, human life is becoming susceptible because violence is emerging as the strategy in winning elections in emerging democracies. Electoral violence is becoming a threat to the very moral worth of human life. Many lives are lost during this democratic process. I examine here how citizens form security units to defend the worth of human life.

Introduction

The militia accounts originate from the trepidations of contemporary African environment during violence. Currently the main source of violence is electoral violence. Contestation for political power in Africa has become more often than not a violent process.[2] Political struggle for power is gradually becoming systemically synonymous with violence during the electoral process. Political campaigns are marred with atrocities, loss of lives, hate speeches and language that incite the citizens against each other as ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ assassinations, rigging by theft of votes, disrupting election processes, chasing away voters using weapons and the malicious and wanton destruction of property and arson.[3] For instance, since the early 1990s, after the introduction of multiparty politics in Africa, elections have turned violent leaving many civilians dead in forty-five of the fifty-six countries.[4] 

Arguments advanced by John Locke justify that a state’s main function is to protect natural rights by ensuring equal human rights within a governed society and that every government’s purpose is to secure these natural rights of humanity that include right to life, liberty and property.[5] He also promoted identity toleration and impartiality.[6] In this regard, it is clearly articulated that the government has the noble duty among others to take care of the security needs of its people as part of the common good.

But when people’s lives are at risk as a matter of government sponsored militias, when it assists militia, works with militia and create a climate for militia to thrive. The worst scenario is where the government uses militia to tamper on the rights of its citizens during elections. What are the people expected to do? Since the early 1990s, governments have been known to use militia to fight perceived opposition identity groups so as to manipulate election decisions.[7] Human life becomes a target for political elites to ascend to power. The sacredness of human life and its sanctity is trivialized.[8]

During this period of election, militia pacts becomes a lucrative opportunity for youth to earn, consequently, militia organize themselves into a variety of militia fighters known as economic pro-government militias. Manipulated election outcome is for the convenience of the political elites who pay cheaply to use the youthful militia for suppression, repression and to displace voters stopping them from voting. The militia target perceived opposition groups.

The civilians are therefore intentionally targeted for harm without regard for the sacredness their lives. Though many scholars (Gwenya George, Neil Mitchell, Sabine Carey and Christopher Butler) have written on electoral violence and the militias that annihilate civilians, little has been written on how civilians struggle to self-defend the sacredness of their lives, their family members and the targeted identity groups in a bid to survive these attacks. This paper therefore looks at the militia in electoral violence in Africa and narrows down to how civilians defend human life against the militia in Kenya. The description is based on who they are, their characteristics, how they organize themselves and some of the tactics they use to protect human life and to defend themselves. Lastly, the paper proposes virtues that the defense team can use during the noble duty of protecting the sanctity of human life.

Types of Militias during electoral violence

Different people call militia differently according to their functions and types. The functions include security for, political elites, for economic purposes and for identity groups.

Economic militia

Economic militias are created in lieu of cash payment.[9] They are private non-state actors, recruited, hired by politicians, driven by economic motives. The economic militias develop because of the government failure to generate jobs for its citizens particularly the bulging youth in Africa. Youth unemployment level in Africa is at 50 % for graduates while the non-degree rate is at 12 percent.[10] The unemployed youth seeking for jobs become prey to the militia and they see this as an easy to get job. With their militia job, they are able to feed, educate and provide healthcare to their families during the one and a half year of election campaign and voting.  Militia use during elections is a lucrative business that has proliferated in frequency in Africa.  They have targets, membership, and characteristics and hold little technics. They are not professionals. Their duties range from being hired by the single political elites or political parties to cause chaos to their opponents during campaigns or give security to politicians during campaigns as they traverse the country. An ethnic group can also hire militia to settle large-scale disputes between conflicting communities over resources. There are times when they are hired by the government during campaigns to cause chaos, oppress a community in the opposition and to fight along with the police.

Pro-Government Militia

Pro-Government Militias (PGM (s)) are an informal group officially sanctioned by the state and given simple training such as weapon use and communication.[11] This practice substantively increases the risks for citizens because it has a higher level of human rights abuses, including murders, tortures, assassinations and disappearances.[12] The PGMs have three characteristics according to Sabine, Neil and Lowe.[13] First, they are identified with the government or sponsored by it. As such, they are sometimes seen being part of the security agents of a government. Whether seen together with state police or apart from them, they still have secret links between the group and the government, including information sharing, financing, equipping, training, and an operational link. Secondly, they are usually armed and seen or transported using government vehicles; their relationship with the regular forces might include sharing of personnel, security attire and joint operations. Lastly, they have some organizational structure that includes a name, an identifiable leader, a geographical region, ethnic, religious or political basis.[14]  Though some may have an unofficial link to the government such as the Janjaweed of Sudan, many of them have official links like the green bombers of Zimbabwe, Mungiki of Kenya and the Ethiopian tadaaqi (meaning Riflemen).[15] Their main aim is offensive with a design to take out perceived opponents of the regime and to spread fear and terror among civilians supporting opposition during elections. 

 In some instances, as in Uganda they are called auxiliary forces and have provisions in the law as crime preventers.[16] Bubulo George states that the Ugandan law allows for auxiliary forces like ‘Arrow boys’ and ‘Crime Preventers’ in addition to the armed force. He argues that their presence is well spelt out in the constitution that qualifies auxiliary forces as home guards, local defense forces, and vigilantes to support the police in their work.

Pro-government militias come to the action with private interests, which make it difficult for the government to monitor and oversee.[17] The use of these militias who are often ill-trained and poorly monitored is likely to produce more opportunistic violence and contribute to higher levels of human rights violations. In addition to these simple agency problems, governments may take advantage of these informal armed groups in order to shift responsibility for the violence they commit.[18] As such, they have been used vastly in electoral violence with the government having room to blame the very victims of the violence.

The use of militia is intentional to reduce government accountability about electoral violence. Neil Mitchel findings corroborate this when he asserts that:

Government outsource security tasks to irregular forces because they provide efficiency gains when leaders perceive themselves to be under threat in an uncertain environment. PGMs are attractive to governments because they are cheaper, more flexible…. They complicate lines of accountability for the violence committed, and therefore lower the political costs for governments when there is controversial use of violence…. These aspects make PGMs particularly attractive to governments that intend to use violence against domestic opponent but fear repercussions for excessive human rights violations.[19] 

As usual, most government will try to deny any links they have with any militia for as long as they can hide it.[20] Another reason why they deny connections to the militia is because of the fear of punishment by the international community particularly the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. These take place because of weak institutions, which are easily manipulated by the political elites for their interested ends. Militias are generally linked to state failure and violence for example, Bates Robert highlights the extreme impact that these groups can have on human rights in specific countries due to weak institutions.[21] New data shows that between 1982 and 2007, in over 60 countries governments were linked to and cooperated with informal armed groups within their own borders to destroy civilian human life.[22] In Darfur, approximately 2 million people were displaced and at least 180,000 died, reportedly due to the actions of Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed militia in 2005.[23] In the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo relied on the violence of the Young Patriots to stay in power and to fight opposing voices during elections. They violate human rights. The PGMs are not professionals, they lack adequate expert training and it is difficult to control their activities since they adhere to no rules.[24] 

Thus human rights violations and other issues of demeaning the sacredness of human life increase unabated. It is in this context that scholars have linked militias with increased violence and the risk of harm for civilians.[25] Sustained pressure from international communities for accountability may reduce repression during electoral violence.[26] But that has failed lately as many will denounce the violence but not act beyond their simple condemnation. As such, the human life is traumatized and sometimes destroyed by the very government that is mandated to care for it. The government has an obligation to defend, maintain and preserve human life. Where it fails, the precious gift of human life must be defended by other means.

The principle of self-defense

The Church has perspicuously maintained its moral tradition on self-defense. In fact, while the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith Donum Vitae vividly describes human life as sacred:

Because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: No one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.[27]

The church teaches the uniqueness of the gift of human life and that only God has the right to take away human life. The sacredness of human life originates from God and ends with God. This sacredness should be respected. After the First World War, Peter Brock and Thomas Soknat described how certain Christians advocated for radical pacifism and rejected every kind of violence including self-defense and saw in Pacifism the sacredness of human life and the absolute inviolability.[28] Pacifists argue that in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill."[29] Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.[30] In another text, Jesus did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.[31] In the same way, Pope John Paul II spoke of peace via nonviolence, with specific declaration that “violence is evil” since it fails to defend human dignity. He pointed out that “violence is the enemy of justice,” and “only peace can lead the way to true justice.” His counterpart Pope Benedict proclaimed that violence was a degrader of both the perpetrator and the victim’s life. Correspondingly, in 1993, the United States (US) Catholic Bishops acknowledged the nonviolent ethic as plausible for the public order even as they raised increasing questions about “just war.” Though pacifism is many a times a moral option, however, in an environment where the lives of the whole identity group is at stake, I am uncertain that pacifism would be ethically wise.

There is righteous violence with the use of weapons.[32] Jesus used a whip to drive out the confusion that was at the temple.[33] Defense is morally accepted in cases where one is defending other innocent civilians, their children, state officers and security officers defending their territory. In electoral violence  where militia are targeting you, your identity community, do civilians give their other cheeks, what about those of their wives, mothers and children? This becomes a moral dilemma where waiting to be killed and killing the aggressor may both be morally inadequate.

The gift of life which God the creator entrusts to people calls humanity to appreciate the inestimable value of what they have been given and take responsibility for it.[34]   All people must adhere to this fundamental moral principle. It has to be at the centre of our moral answers and to clarify the problematic dilemmas and questions about the defense human life and human dignity.  The Church’s intervention on defense of human life helps people respect and love human life drawing from the fount of Christ’s love for the dignity of man that he came down to save human life. What moral criteria must we apply in electoral violence? The human life cannot be a sacrifice each election year for certain politicians to ascend to a political seat. The direct targeting of human life for political gain is unacceptable.

The natural moral law respects and states clearly the rights, purposes and duties of the human person. Each human person, in his absolutely unique singularity, is constituted not only by his spirit, but by his body as well, thus, in the body and through the body, one touches the person himself in his concrete reality.[35] To respect the dignity of man consequently amounts to safeguarding this identity of the man corpore et anima unus, (body and soul).[36] To this end, one can find the basic anthropological focus during electoral violence for decision-making about human life and its sacredness.

Intentional killing of the human person is therefore prohibited. The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful, a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.[37] For this reason, every person has a right to defend the sacred human life. The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the premeditated murder of the innocent citizens in Africa. The legitimate defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life and those of others; and the subduing, injuring, threatening, wounding, or killing of the aggressor…. that is the intended and the other is not.[38] Love towards oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality; hence, one who defends his life and those of others is not guilty of murder even if they are forced to deal their aggressors lethal blows.[39] In fact, the Catholic doctrine notes that if a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.

However, in their defense, proportionality is important. The self and social defense must be proportionate to the violence doing the least harm. To justify taking away of another life, the victim must act proportionately since all human life has a basic right to life including that of the aggressor. Proportionality requires that a victim only inflict necessary and balanced harm.[40] Thus, the force used should be necessary to prevent the harm. Use of lethal force for conditional threats by the militia is legitimate in defense only if it is proportionate. If lesser force can prevent the harm, this would be acceptable.[41] Shooting to wound rather than to kill will be advised. A wounded attacker who no longer threatens should not be killed. Consequently, any unnecessary force is uncalled for and exceeding the limits of self-defense ceases to be proportional. Kadish Sanford’s theory of right to resist aggression reinvigorates this concern.[42] He postulates that everyone has a right against the state for protection from wrongful aggression.[43] Hence, self-defense is primarily legitimate as a rise to the challenge by an attacker including the state sponsored ones with ill motives that particularly threaten social life and the common good welfare. The justification promotes the need for each life in the contribution of the common good and the autonomy for all. Proportionate self-defense is concerned with the guarding, securing and protecting human life other than punitive illegitimate aggression on the aggressor.

Self-defense could be likened to the virtue of self-care where self-defense values the human life, and self-care invites the reflection of what Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler describe as replication on self as a gift of God, precious and unique.[44] According to James Keenan, using the virtue of self-care asserts that humans care for themselves affectively, mentally, physically and spiritually.[45] It is a unique relationship one has with self as a moral agent.[46] Avoiding self-defense would be suicidal. Thomas Aquinas argues that suicide is offensive as it upsets justice by depriving the common good of one’s life of charity.[47] For a society to nurture its people and have its full emancipation, it needs self-care. Self-care cannot be obtained within a security lapse. Defense is therefore not only a human right but also a grave duty and virtue for one who is responsible for the lives of the others.

Militias who target specific groups to kill are unjust aggressors. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause any harm.[48] In this way, making it legitimate for elders of an identity group who hold authority to have the right to defend the lives of those entrusted to their identity group.  This goes hand in hand with respecting the common good. When it comes to defense, the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on self-protection has been consistent.[49] The church stresses that individuals with responsibility to defend others have the right to protect human life. It is done to preserve the lives of all in the spirit of the common good. If police (seen here as the first force) and other militia (second force) turn against an identity group, the citizens have a right to defend themselves.

In a study I carried out in Kenya in 2015, a third force has emerged that seeks to preserve the human life in self-defense during electoral violence.  They are ordinary citizens, usually the ones targeted, who collectively try to resist the threats, harm and attacks by militia actions.

Citizen Security Defense Units

Citizen Security Defense Units known in Swahili local language as vitengo raia wa ulinzi refers to citizens of an identity group who collectively collaborate for security. The bearers of the unit are symbolically united by their specific cultural identity and have a mutually intelligible language. They form security units with obligations that work towards defending, protecting and guarding the group against any aggressive militia groups from invading.[50] In self-defense, the community can develop, flourish and be sustained as dignified persons.[51] Their sole purpose is to defend their lives, those of their identity group and sometimes their neighbors when called upon.

Additionally, citizen security defense units protect the community territory, property, and culture. In some contexts, they operate outside the constitution. For this reason, Kiwawulo Chris defines them as a paramilitary group organized by the people within the system, but outside the law.[52]

From the study findings, the citizen security defense units are non-professional in the academic sense but highly professional in the traditional wisdom. In this regard, they are often victims of militia activity due to inferior weapons and unskilled formal training especially during electoral violence. Sanctioned by community elders and leaders, they act on behalf of the ethnic nations. Community elders are leaders of the community given the highest status in African culture having lived a life of purpose and having been role models.[53] Pragmatically, they are sanctioned with authority to administer social norms and practices. With this authority, the identity nation looked up to them for leadership, guidance, security, sacredness of life, hospitality, respect, discerned decisions, language and proverbs, instructions, unity, values and social ethics among others that make up the very social fabric of the community. Elders in short organise the community and spell out social roles. They are behind the creation of security units for the survival of their groups. In this setting, the security defense unit’s first total command is to obey and respect its identity group through its elders.  The elder voices carry more weight to them than the government voice.

The remarkable image of these citizen security defense units is that they admitted they had four characteristics that distinguished them from militias. The intricate characteristics performed incorporate surveillance, fortification of security, pledging loyalty and fidelity to their group are identity based and found within certain geographic territorial areas.

First they carry out surveillance. Surveillance is a critical duty for the citizen security defense units in Kenya. It is through surveillance that they monitor and share information. Partly serving as vigilantes, since during electoral violence there is a lot of hooliganism and anarchy, they watch over their communities at night and during the day providing safety to its members. With a lot of patience, care and serenity they go about their duties of watching for intruders. They do not start bloodshed, but their primary goal would be to defend themselves if the aggressive militia attacks them. Most basically, they are not assailants or aggressors. They fight for certain community principles infringed on by the aggressor. However, they strongly oppose injustices and organize communities for demonstrations and peaceful objections.

Secondly, they are identity based and as a result are found within the identity groups’ geographic regions. The Luo citizen security defense unit will be within Luoland in Western Kenya and so are the Kisii and Kuria. The Taita, defense group will be found in Mombasa and the Kalenjins in the Rift Valley. Kikuyu are placed in Central Kenya neighboring Kambas to the East. These are territories that are protected. In these territories, social lives of the identity groups go on smoothly. Youth are socialized into the many moral and social ethics of the group. Once the youth are aged 17 and above, they are ready to protect their people, community and territory. While real threats to security exist in Kenya that include terrorism from Al Shabaab, armed robbery and electoral violence that takes place each election year, the systemic electoral violence has the largest mass killings of civilians and the main reason why these defense units exist. They justify their existence due to the systemic electoral violence that they witness each term.

Thirdly, their duties are various but revolve around security fortification and survival tactics for the identity group, mediation, noise-making, calling for media attention and internationalization of their situation. Running battles are also a tactic to direct the police and militia away from the community. Elders do traditional evaluation of the battle and if they consider that the battle is getting closer to the community, they organize to relocate their members for a period of time as the violence continues. If they have intelligence that an armed group would attack them beforehand with sophisticated weapons, they relocate before the arrival of these invaders.

Relocation has a variety of strategies. The Turkana in North Eastern Kenya relocate in hiding underground tunnels or move away deeper into the interior land. The Turkana were a target in 2012. Turkana South Constituency, an opposition stronghold, had over 100, 000 people eligible voters who live here but who could not vote because they had fled the area in anticipation of an army raid and invasion.[54] However, when the army arrived there was no one in the houses, in the bushes or nearby, all had been evacuated to safer grounds.[55] The violence was meant to disrupt the electoral process by displacing the voters and rendering them unable to vote. As was anticipated, the Turkana did not vote as they were displaced. The displacement forced the people out of their houses and homes, disrupted the voter registration process that was ongoing and those who had registered to vote could not come back to vote because of the presence of the army. The opposition votes were lessened by this act of attack on the Turkana. 

Progressive Government regimes have always marginalized those perceived to be in the opposition areas. Some of these areas are semi-arid and have basically been defined by backwardness, disdain, mutual distrust and disgruntledness. The opposition populace feels sidelined, marginalized and left behind in development, jobs and view themselves as victims of unjust distribution of resources. Hence, Turkanas view deployment of security forces by the government as an invasion by rivals. This prompts retaliation. Thus in 2012, in a dramatic turn, the Turkana killed over 100-armed police officers and took away their weapons The Turkana militia argues that they know their terrain so well that even the army cannot win. The attack cast a doubt on the government’s ability to provide adequate security at any time leave alone during elections. In 2007 to 2008 over 1500 people died during an electoral violence in Kenya.[56]

The Maasai move ahead to distant areas away from the attackers, the other identity groups may move into a church, move to the nearest urban centers where identity groups are pluralistic so that they are not a target.

Fourthly, the citizen security defense units are not likely to desert, betray or disobey their elders and unit since they have an advantage of familiarity, identity and a common cause. Other than being committed to the cause of their loyalty through rituals, vows and prayers, they also have the advantage of being well concealed once in the community. They remain an identity groups secret. They are highly motivated by survival of their group and their territory. They fight to not necessarily win but to ensure protection through a variety of schemes.  

Unlike the other PGMs or the economic militias, the citizen security persons are not mobile, but are sedentarily fixed within the geographic area of the identity group. Being among the people they know very well, they are not overtly offensive in nature, but wait for delegation by the traditional elders for any coordinated action. Hence, they do not seek to engage, are tolerant and rarely neutralize except in defense. Their aim is to let the opponent know that they are present and that any attack of their identity group will be countered. They are autonomous of state activities. They work along a simple timeline. However, there were times when they had to force out all able-bodied youth to assist in the overnight surveillance.

Because of these groups, a decrease in the number of deaths during the 2013 electoral violence was noted. They are able to mitigate to certain degree the ethnic cleansing and genocidal motives. The groups were well coordinated and controlled with active support of the community members. They solidify their coordination through traditional intelligence and communication skills. These skills include coded whistles, claps, mobile phone codes inter alia. Essentially, they are able to identify insurgent militias and take appropriate actions since they know each other well in their neighborhood. This structure has played a great role in the mitigation of the violence during each election year. The remarkable zeal and a strong mind set make them more focused on the value of human life and safeguarding of their identity group such that they worry little about the limitations of their inferior weapons. With the pro-government militia and other militia launching attacks, the Citizen Security Defense Units organize themselves to resist attacks and counteract threats. In this sense, the threat of further militia activity by invaders is reduced.

The Kalenjins are usually trained during the transition to adulthood process on community defense and warfare tactics.[57] They learn warfare languages at this time and other communication codes as part of the community cultural practices. They are then well prepared for any invaders. They were very active in protecting not only their community in the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya but also the communities that were in the opposition. This included sending food to other identity groups of their coalition. Nicholas affirms this when he writes that there were credible reports of the armed Kalenjin groups preparing to protect themselves in the next electoral violence across Kenya in 2013. Groups like Mungiki, a lethal militia from central Kenya were armed by the political elites and allegedly killed 50 people in Central and Rift valley areas of Kenya in the 2007-2008 electoral crisis.[58] In 2007-2008, Kalenjin militia allegedly attacked opponents in a Church, kicked out heterogeneous groups from Bomet and killed those who did not heed the warning to leave.

The notion of organized identity and political militias is always refuted by the government.[59] The unconstrained behavior of the attacking militia need not be tolerated. They pursue a policy of brutal pressure against its own citizens so as to weaken their numbers, reduce their economic strength, and to politically shut them down during elections. For citizens to stop the aggressors’ effects, they have to defend themselves. In this way, they are able to de-escalate the violence, massive human rights abuse and crimes against humanity.

This type of security units bridge the security gap left by the state’s incapacity and helplessness in responding to and managing widespread election crises. This particular ethnic security unit’s presence reduces the chances of full-blown civil war as they defend ethnic territories. Intrinsically, they stabilise the community security dynamics and demands. They also serve to reduce collective ethnic identity emotions caused by fear of being arbitrarily attacked by others as the citizen security units usually create a wall-like fence, keeping day patrols and night vigils. 

 Many may think of traditional practices as only an outdated and unnecessary in the contemporary world. But in Africa, there are these units that are sorely protecting the people without whom the ethnic or identity cleansing would have soared and genocide would be a common business. Though these citizen security units in many constitutions of the African states are not authorised, they have been the backbone of defence for minority groups or majority groups that are marginalised.

Benefits of Citizen Security Defense Units

Citizen Security Defense Units keep peace and hasten the return to normalcy within the country. They assist lost children find parents. They also welcome home ejected community members from other geographic urban centers that are not homogenous. They put up simple structures for the displaced to settle and ensure they are settling in well. They mobilize the community for food and other needs for these groups.   It is a well-regulated militia. According to Sabine Carey, Neil Mitchell and Will Lowe, there are militias that reduce the monopoly of state forces over the communities perceived as in the opposition.[60] They also strengthen the entire civilian regime thwarting dictatorship to a lesser limited triviality.

Many government forces in Africa have never hesitated to mow down hundreds of defenseless citizens as was the cases in Cameroun 2008, Ethiopia 2015, Guinea in 2009, Libya in 2011 and in Darfur Sudan in 2010. The forces always do so with impunity knowing that the international community are not policing in the world.[61]

Their objective is apolitical. Though they are known to defend the narrow interests of the identity jurisdiction within the larger country, without them, electoral violence in Kenya would be dangerous to human life. The citizen security militia defends the human dignity within their identity group. Primarily, these groups have assisted people to belong together, vote together and suffer together. Though electoral violence is the contemporary evil of a democratic process in fragile states, the violence has in disguise acted to improve the cohesion of the identity groups and their resolve against a corrupt government. The local identity groups prefer to remain among the marginalized than support a government that steals from its own people.

The Moral Obligation to Defend Human Life

Tasked with the moral obligation to save life, the Citizen Security Defense Units requires the virtue of fidelity that they treat each other in the group as a relational team with loyalty to each other and to their identity group protecting with special care their nation. The virtue of justice is important for this group so that they practice impartiality even in defense where the protector will treat the aggressor as a human person. Man is called to a fullness of life and one cannot want to enjoy his life by eliminating another because both lives in the eyes of God are equal. The virtues of courage in the face of attack and suffering is imperative and the virtues of hope for a peaceful state and prudence that in their discernments as they struggle to save the human lives recognizing the dignity and sacredness of the human person.

It is important to note that those who use their political power and potency to employ, hire and train militia to arbitrarily kill civilians in order to gain political mileage is guilty. Such a person is guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that they have directly or indirectly committed or encouraged by use of their paid militia.[62] Whatever is opposed to human life through murder, assassinations, ethnic cleansing and genocides that impedes the integrity of human dignity are all infamies.[63] Correspondingly, the human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world with all church’s work out to protect it through its justice and peace pursuits.[64] The lust to win a political power by any means is wrongly advised. Sanity must return to the democratic process of elections for political seats in Africa. Human dignity and life must be respected and protected by all because essentially, human life given to us by God is a more precious gift than a political seat. Conflicts should be prevented before they escalate to violence by replacing structures that produce violence with those that generate peace. 

Conclusion

Many youth in Africa are idle including those that have degrees. The political system has not organized itself to generate employment so that youth can have meaningful lives. As such, youth militancy becomes an optional tool used by the political elites during campaigns and elections. For the youth in Africa to be focused, youth militancy will require new innovative and serious focus on these groups as individual persons. Each youth that has no employment becomes an easy prey for ploy to cause chaos at a very little fee. This coupled with the fact that electoral violence perpetrators have never gone through a judicial system leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for the victims. A judicial process to probe electoral violence in the Counties and justice for the victims could mitigate the practice. Without judicial remedy, these militias will continue to grow to unprecedented heights and continue their criminal acts with impunity.


[1] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Life and Dignity of the Human Person, 2016.

[2] Biegon Japheth, The Use of Militia in Electoral Violence, Pretoria: KYN Press, p. 23, 2009.

[3] Genyi George Akwaya, ‘Democracy and Electoral Violence in Africa: The Militia Experience in Nigeria,’ International Journal of History and Research (IJHR), Vol. 3, (2), 23-36, 2013.

[4] Achieng Anne Ondigo, The Role of Transformative Mediation in Electoral Violence, 2016,

[5] John Locke, Treatise 69.

[6] John Locke, Toleration 2.

[7] Korwa G. Adar and Isaac M. Munyae 2001. "Human Rights Abuse in Kenya under Daniel Arap Moi 1978-2001. African Studies Quarterly 5(1): 1. [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i1a1.htm  

[8] The Jerusalem Bible, Genesis 1: 26-27 clearly articulates the fact that we are created in the image of God. In verse 26, God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.' And in verse 27, God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.

[9] Hynes Bridget, Children f the Borderlands: Young Soldiers in the Reproduction of Warfare, Unpublished Dissertation, Denver University, P. 175, 2008.

[10] African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) Africa, Unemployment in Africa: No Jobs for 50% of Graduates, 2016 Report.

[11]Dara Kay Cohen and Ragnhild Nordas, ‘Do States Delegate Shameful Violence to Militias? Patterns of Sexual Violence in Recent Armed Conflicts,’ Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59 (5), 877-898, 2015.

[12] Sabine Carey and Neil Mitchel, ‘Pro-Government Militias, Human Rights Abuses and the Ambiguous Role of Foreign Aid,’ German Development Institute, Briefing Paper 4, p. 1, 2016.

[13] Sabine Carey, Neil Mitchel and Will Lowe, ‘States, the Security Sector, and the Monopoly of Violence: A New Database on Pro-Government Militias,’ Journal of Peace Research, 50 (2), 249-58, p. 5, 2013.

[14] See also Neil Mitchell, Sabine Carey and Christopher Butler, Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, International Interactions, Empirical and Theoretical research in International Relations, (40) 5, 250, 2014.

[15] Human Rights Watch, Pro-Government Militias,’ Human Rights Watch Publications, Nairobi, June 2008.

[16] Ugandan Constitution, Part 1 Preliminary interpretation 2 e.

[17] Neil Mitchel, The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, International Interactions, 40 (5) 2014.

[18] Fiorina P. Morris, ‘Group Concentration and delegation of legislative Authority,’ Regulatory policy and the Social Sciences, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

[19] Neil Mitchel, The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, German Development Institute Briefing Paper 4, p. 1, 2016,

[20] Neil Mitchel, The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, p. 1

[21] Bates, Robert H. Probing the Sources of Political Order. In Order, Conflict, and Violence, edited by S. N. Kalyvas, I. Shapiro, and T. E. Masoud. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

[22] Sabine Carey, Neil Mitchell and Christopher Butler, ‘The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, 2015.

[23] Guha Sapir, ‘Darfur: Counting the Deaths,’ Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster, p. 6, 2005.

[24] Sabine Carey, Neil Mitchell and Christopher Butler, ‘The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations, 2015.

[25] Osita Agbu, Ethnic Militia and the Threat to Democracy in Post-Transit Nigeria, Oslo: Nordic Africa Institute (127), P. 12, 2004. See also Neil Mitchell, Sabine Carey and Christopher Butler, Impact f Por0government Militias on Human Rights Violations, International Interactions, Empirical and Theoretical research in International Relations, (40) 5, 2014.

[26] Demeritt, Jacqueline H. R. Delegating Death: Military Intervention and Government Killing. Journal of Conflict Resolution, (59) 3, 428-454, 2015.

[27] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, Instruction on respect for human life in its original and on the dignity of procreation Replies to certain questions of the day, February 22nd 1987. See also Catechism 2258.

[28] Peter Brock and Thomas Soknat, Challenge to Mass: Essays on Pacifism form 1918-1945, Toronto: university of Toronto Press, P. 71, 1999

[29] Jerusalem Bible, Exodus 20:13.

[30] Jerusalem Bible, Mathew 5: 39.

[31] Jerusalem Bible, Mathew 26: 52

[32] Jerusalem Bible, John 2: 15.

[33] Jerusalem Bible, Mathew 21: 22.

[34] Respect for Human Life Donum Vitae Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith 1987, Replies to Certain Questions of the Day.

[35] Pope John Paul II, Discourse to the members of the 35th General Assembly of the World Medical Association, October 29, 1983: AAS 76 (1984), 393.

[36] Gaudium et spes, no. 14, par. 1

[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2268, see also John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 56. 69 Cf. Genesis 4: 10.

[38] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2263, see also St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64, 7, Corp. art.

[39] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2264

[40] David Mapel, Moral Liability to Defensive Killing and Symmetrical Self-Defense, Journal of Political Philosophy, vol 18 (2), 2010, 198-217.

[41] Whitley Kaufman, Justified Killing: The Paradox of Self-defense, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, p. 22, 2009.

[42] Kardish Sanford, Respect for Life and Regard for Rights in the Criminal Law. California Law Review 64 (4) 1976, 871-901.

[43] Kardish Sanford, Respect for Life and Regard for Rights in the Criminal Law. California Law Review 64 (4) 1976, 871-901.

[44] Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, Catholic Theological Ethics: Ancient Questions Contemporary Responses, New York: UPA, p. 181, 2015.

[45] James Keenan, ‘Proposing Cardinal Virtues,’ Theological Studies, 56, 709-729, 1995.

[46] James Keenan, ‘Proposing Cardinal Virtues,’ Theological Studies, 56, 709-729, 1995.

[47] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 2-2.64.5.1.

[48] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2265

[49] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258 to 2230 has the teachings of the Church on Human dignity, sacredness of life and the self-defense. It outlines the historical past of the original sin when Cain murdered his brother Abel confirming that only God has the power to take life. It goes up to the contemporary issues of health, euthanasia, homicide, respect for health during scientific researches, safeguarding peace, avoiding war and legitimate defense when aggressors attack. Self-defense and its justification in the Catholic Church teachings is also discussed as a right and a grave duty by Sam Guzman in The Catholic Gentlemen in the 2014 issue.  Charles Curran in his book, Change in Official Moral Teachings, 2003, page 149, where death is only legitimate in ‘necessary defense’ expressing that the harm done must be unintended, making the primary reason for the behavior is assessed by intention. In equal assertion, Maurice Nyunt Wai writes comparing Budhism and Christian Virtues in the book ‪Pañcasila and Catholic Moral Teaching: Moral Principles as Expression of Spiritual Experience in Theravada Buddhism and Christianity, page 53-86, 2002, Gregorian Biblical Bookshop, in which both teachings not only condemn the killing of the extremely precious human life but also the preservation of life.

[50] Cohen P. Antony, The Symbolic Construction of Community, London: Rutledge, p. 119, 1985.

[51] Cohen P. Antony, The Symbolic Construction of Community, London: Routeldge, p. 119, 1985.

[52] Kiwawulo Chris, Uganda Militia in Electoral Violence 2015, 2.

[53] Manu Ampim, Five major African Initiation Rites, African Studies, 2003. To read further on African elders and their role and influence during elections particularly when elections are stolen in Africa, See David Bigman’s book poverty Hunger and Democracy in Africa: Potential Limitations of Democracy in Cementing Multi-ethnic Societies, New York: Springer, 255-290, 2010.

[54] Tristan McConnell ‘After Massacre of Police, Army Moves into North Eastern Kenya,’ PRI Conflict and Justice, November Issue 2012.

[55] Tristan McConnell ‘After Massacre of Police, Army Moves into North Eastern Kenya,’ PRI Conflict and Justice, November Issue 2012.

[56] Odhiambo Maureen Achieng, Multiple Mediation And Conflict Resolution: The Case Of Kenya’s Post-Electoral Conflict (2007/2008), Unpublished Thesis, University of Nairobi.  p. 25. 2014.

 

[57] This is a symbolic initiation process called circumcision. It’s a spiritual purity when young people transition to adulthood. They are taught how to be adults, the do’s and don’ts and the community social roles. At this time they also go through rituals of identification that have binding ties. Though handling of traditional weapons starts at an early age of between 6-14 years, at this stage they are taught use of traditional weapons for safety and defense.

[58] Peter Kagwanja and Roger Southall, Kenya’s Uncertain Democracy: The Electoral Crisi of 2008, New York: Routledge, p. 112, 2013.

[59] Nicholas Daniels, 2009.

[60] Sabine C. Carey, Neil J. Mitchell and Will Lowe, ‘States, The Security Sector and the Monopoly of Violence: A New Database on Pro-Government Militias, ‘Journal of Peace Research, 50 (2) 249-258, New York: Sage Publications, 2012.

[61] Carlson Anyangwe, Revolutionary Overthrow of Constitutional Orders in Africa, Bamenda: Langaa, RPCIG publishers, p. 107, 2012.

[62] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2287

[63] Evangelium Vitae – The Gospel of Life: ‘On the Value and Inviolability of human Life,’ Paragraph 34, 1995.

[64]United States of America Catholic Bishops, ‘The Challenge of Peace,’ Paragraph 15, 1983.

Comments

  1. Eli McCarthy's avatar
    Eli McCarthy
    | Permalink
    Thank you Anne for a very thorough article and concrete example to reflect on. Some of the reflections coming up for me are the following:

    1) In conversations with Teresa Wamuyu Wachira, a professor at St. Paul's Univ. in Kenya, she has shared stories of effective nonviolent approaches to security. She spoke about the "Nyumba kumi" (10 households) approach of building neighborhood cohesion, as well as the local unarmed, non-uniformed policing groups. I wonder if you've heard about these and your thoughts?

    2) I've also learned about the organizations effectively doing Unarmed Civilian Protection, such as the Nonviolent Peaceforce which works in South Sudan and other countries. There is a story of them directly protecting 14 women and children during an armed militia attack in S. Sudan. Because they refused to leave them, the militia let them be. https://mettacenter.org/shanti-sena/about-the-shanti-sena-network/ I wonder if they could be a model to draw from and scale-up in your area.

    3) I'm not sure the example of Jesus using a whip is a way to justify "righteous violence." Physical force is not always the same as violence. For example, I can push someone out of the street who is about to get hit by a car, and I would not describe that as violence. Jesus' teaching and practice are pretty clearly about nonviolent love of friends and enemies. Even Pope Benedict and Francis have confirmed this.

    4) I would suggest clarifying a bit more that nonviolent resistance to injustice or violence is not the same as "waiting to be killed" (passivity), and is also a type of force or power.

    5) I think one of the key questions is about human dignity. Can violence/killing in self-defense be consistent with human dignity? It seems to me that we act in accord with dignity, when we live in the logic of gift and empathy rather than possessiveness and de-humanization. When I kill another, it appears that I am ignoring their sacred giftedness, lacking empathy, and being possessive of earthly life. I may even need to de-humanize them to kill them. So, I'm not sure killing is actually consistent with our dignity, and thus, consistent with self-care. We know of the trauma experienced even by those who kill. Pope John Paul said violence is against our dignity. This claim of course does not require or call us to condemn people in really difficult situations who may resort to killing. However, I think it might invite us as church to be careful about how we speak about dignity, to better uplift the potential for nonviolent strategies, and to acknowledge the responsibility we have to enter into these situations taking on some of the risk to defuse the violence as best we can.

    Open to your thoughts on this...

    With Hope,
    Eli

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