Entrepreneurship Insecurity, Smuggling And Cross-Border Dynamics In Central Africa

Hans De Marie HEUNGOUP* and Isidore Collins NGUEULEU DJEUGA**

Central Africa, as a geopolitical complex1 and security complex, is plagued since independences to the dynamics of insecurity and border smuggling, structured around the mechanic of networks and the entrepreneurship system. This is especially true in the CEMAC zone, where the permeability of intra-regional and interregional borders has become a commonplace. Entrepreneurs of insecurity here are rebel groups, militias and armed gangs, bandits and urban gangs. These cliques are enterprises in the sense of liberal capitalism. They seek to minimize their costs and maximize their profits. Based on various trafficking and smuggling networks and taking advantage of the porous borders, they are able to acquire the necessary equipment to generate insecurity and instability. These insecurities and instabilities are used at different scales as an investment whose benefits can be beneficiaries enrichment (case of Bandits), the control of an urban or rural area (gang case), the control of a sub-state territory (case of militias and armed bands) or to coup d’état within a state (in the case of rebellion). It is important to identify and highlight their relationship with the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) insecurity in the subregion. The theoretical blueprint of this article focuses on the following questions: is there a correlation between smuggling and insecurity in Central Africa? To what extent the entrepreneurship of insecurity fits into trans-border dynamics of the regional economy of crime? How smuggling networks and entrepreneurs of insecurity organize themselves for the control of territories and the taking of State powers? This article is in the interstices of political geography and geopolitics, and draws on the sociology of territories and sociology of networks. The theoretical challenge is to show how entrepreneurship of insecurity is characterized by the triptych network, territory and power. It is also shown that in the absence of cooperation and pooling of efforts between Member States in Central Africa, the fight against insecurity, SME networks and smugglers will continue to be a zero -sum game.2 The hypothesis is formulated as follows: the permeability of borders in the subregion promotes the proliferation of smuggling, which in turn catalyzes the transnationalization of companies of insecurity. These entrepreneurs are on a quest for the control of territories and the taking of power of State. This text is organized around a binary motion. The first movement constitutes the typography of entrepreneurs of insecurity and smuggling networks in the region. The second movement is an alignment of datas of the research with the theoretical problematic.

Typography of entrepreneurs of insecurity and smuggling networks
Making the typography of entrepreneurs of insecurity and smuggling networks returns to identify, and typing them out, in order to build graphs.
SMEs of insecurity
Central Africa is worked by five types of entrepreneurs of insecurity: gangs, armed gangs, militias, terrorist groups, roadblocks and rebellions. The expression entrepreneurship of insecurity here refers to a group of armed persons unlawfully constituted, with clear objectives and a strategy that puts peoples and states into insecurity, and proceeds by using violence and / or terror.
The security landscape of Central Africa is dotted with urban gangs, which mainly contribute to the de-securitization of populations and having enrichment as main goal. These gangs are usually lightly armed: Kalashnikov rifles, machetes and other weapons. They come in two variances: urban gangs and rural gangs. Gangsterism, as a social and cultural fact, is not new in central Africa. As shown by SAÏBOU Issa, gangsterism in several regions of Central Africa, especially in the periphery of the Lake Chad Basin, was a cultural fact. In many cultures, the phenomenon of raids for example was considered as normal. Poliorcetics was taught very early to boys. In northern Cameroon, several Haoussa tales are apologists of bandits. The semiotic study of these stories shows that these great bandits remained in the collective memory of war, considered as heroes.3 However, the cross-border banditry, as rampant today is different from that of yesteryear, to the extent that he had known a polemological mutation. Between 1990 and 2013, one has shifted from the era of raids, rezzous and campaigns to the era of ambushes and transmigration of armed gangs, and lastly to the current era, which is that of the military criminal gang.4 This change is even more visible that it is accompanied by the professionalization of bandits5.
The situation is also the case of urban gangs. In Douala, Yaoundé, Bangui, Libreville, Bata, Brazzaville, N’djamena, urban gangs are numerous. The situation was such so much so that in Cameroon, the country has created in 2001 within the framework of keeping and reinforcement of security, an operational center of the gendarmerie, called operational command to fight against banditry and organized crime. The Operational command was a mixed force composed of police, gendarmerie and military. Similarly, faced with the inability of the regular armed forces to eradicate the phenomenon of highway bandits in the three northern Cameroon regions, the country has created the Light Intervention Battalion (BIL), a special unit of the Cameroonian army. In 2003, BIL has been transformed into Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR). To date, the bandits are rampant in Cameroon, Chad (Zaraguinas) and CAR.
Gangs and militias are many in Central Africa, including Chad (Djendjawids), Congo Brazzaville (Militiamen Nsisulu Pastor TUMI) in CAR and DRC (Mayi-Mayi militia). These armed groups that invest in de-securitization of the people, and whose aim is the control of territories, often rich in minerals and precious metals, for personal enrichment. It should be noted that many groups in these countries also have a political character. If the leaders of these cliques often know they cannot reach to seize power militarily, the armed gang or militia is an investment for them to negotiate access to government or to seek autonomy for their region. Hence, gangs, militias and armed groups can have serious military equipments. In Central Africa, militias and armed gangs pursue a fourfold objective: enrichment, control of a territory rich in natural resources, political calculation and irredentism. There are nearly 30 militias and armed gangs in Central Africa. They have a total of some 28,000 fighters, equipped with small arms, pick-up, RPG7 rocket, missile type Graad, Sam7 and Sam14, and some have heavy weapons.
Among entrepreneurs of insecurity, the most dangerous for the stability of the state and human security are rebellions and terrorist groups. With regard to training rebel armies, they are heavily armed, and in many cases better equipped, trained and determined than regular armies. They are particularly threatening the stability of States insofar as they are formed for the explicit purpose of conquering political power. The situation is particularly glaring in Central Africa. In CAR one can identify in the north and north-east regions: the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD), the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and now the rebel coalition Seleka. Except Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in each of ECCAS countries, almost all presidents have come to power through rebellion. In Chad, Hissen Habré (1982) and Idriss Deby Itno (1990) came to power through rebellion. In 2009, had it not been for the intervention of the Hawk Force (the French troops based in Ndjamena), a rebellion would have ousted the current president of this country. In Congo Brazzaville, Dennis Sassou Nguesso returned to power (1997) by the rebellion of Cobra, after a bitter struggle against the Ninjas, Aubevillois, Zulu, and Cocoyes Mamba. In DRC, Laurent Désiré Kabila came to power through the AFDL rebellion in 1996. In CAR, Jean Bedel Bokassa (1965), David Dacko II (1979), André Kolingba (1981) and François Bozizé (2003) came to power through rebellion. Power in RCA is currently threatened by the rebel coalition Seleka. In fact, the peace agreement signed in Libreville between the rebel coalition and power would not have occurred without the interposition of the 760 men of the Multinational Force in Central Africa (FOMAC), the presence of 600 French soldiers and 400 soldiers intervention in South Africa. In Angola, the FLEC, UNITA and the MPLA were committed between 1975 and 2002 in a long civil war for control of power.
The situation is just as garish as regards terrorism. Since 2001, in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, there is an exponential rise of terrorist groups and piracy in Central Africa. If terrorism is always associated with political, ideological or religious goals6, it is different from piracy, which pursues a mercantile objective. The kidnapping of hostages, at the edges of Bakassi in October 2008, the hold-up of several banks in Limbe, on September 28, 2008, the Ecobank robbery in Douala in 2012, even better those at regular intervals to Bata (February 17, 2009, Island Bioko) are all signs that maritime, river and lake piracy is a real phenomenon in Central Africa. If we take into account only the coasts of Cameroon, there are between January and October 2009, 36 acts of piracy. In ECCAS countries, piracy was committed in lakes (Chad, Tangayika, Albert, Mweru) and along rivers (Ubangi, Sangha, Chari, Wouri, Benue, Congo, Ogooué)7. In terms of maritime insecurity, the Zone D of Gulf of Guinea (Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe) appears as the most worrying8. In ECCAS, there are more terrorist acts in general. In addition, the various terrorist groups on the edge of Cameroon, BFF, BOKO HARAM, MOSOP, MEND, are many companies of insecurity that may un-secure countries of ECCAS.
Smuggling networks
Central Africa is marked by several types of smuggling, organized in networks. The flowering of the contraband market is mainly due to the permeability of borders between states.
In Central Africa, there are traffic of small arms and light weapons, drug trafficking, smuggling of drugs and smuggling of precious metals and minerals. Illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons is a real threat to security in the ECCAS. According to estimations of the GRIP, there would be about 20 millions of small arms in circulation in the central African countries. These weapons are divided between individual gangs and militia gangs. Within Central Africa, the most affected countries are: Chad, DRC and CAR. This smuggling has several sources and borrows several distribution channels. There are first internal sources. It should be noticed that the illicit arms trade in Central Africa is in part fueled by military rank. There are also the results of several years of civil war in some states. Despite DDR policies, there is a large number of weapons in circulation in countries that have experienced civil wars like Congo, DRC, Chad, CAR and Angola. To this is added the external factors, including international arms smugglers and foreign states (Russia, France, China, United States, South Africa, etc.) that maintain those wars and rebellions in Africa. Thus, the involvement of the United States has been demonstrated in the Angolan civil war. Similarly, the involvement of France has been demonstrated in various coups d’état in RCA9.
Drug trafficking and smuggling of precious metals are equally important in terms of volume in Central Africa. One and the other are often used to purchase weapons and financing rebellions and armed militias. Thus, in the Angolan civil war the control of diamond territory allowed UNITA to finance itself. Similarly, during the Biafra war in Nigeria (1967-1970), oil controlled territories allowed separatist Biafra to finance their rebellion.

The insecurity entrepreneurship’s encapsulation in the triptych: network, territory and power
The insecurity businesses are pegged to smuggling networks, which allows them to control territories, and eventually take over the power of the fragile states of Central Africa. It exudes a correlation between smuggling networks and continuous streams that violate the borders of Central African States.

Sociography of “no man’s land” and takeovers
The proliferation of insecurity businesses consequently generates the creation of “no man’s land “(territory without control and islands of insecurity) and takeovers by force in Central Africa. Between 1960 and 2012, there have been 70 coups d’état and attempted coups d’état in Africa, of which 20 in ECCAS.
The East border of Cameroon shared with the CAR is a real gateway. Despite the presence of officers of the BIR in this region, hostile elements belonging to the militia and sometimes to the Central African armed forces often cross the border to ransom the Cameroonian population. On the 24th of November 2011, the Central African soldiers penetrated the Garoua Boulai region. They fired shots, burned the Cameroonian flag and vandalized public buildings. The North and Far North border of Cameroon shared with Chad has been source of bellicosity. In addition, these regions are riddled with road blocks, which are paradoxically supported by the local traditional leaders. North-west border shared with Nigeria also the presence of many gateways.
The issue is even more sensitive in the Northwest Cameroon, since it is adjacent to the Nigerian Delta, which is the breeding ground for groups like MEND and MOSOP. To this must be added the Bakassi factor, because despite the recovered sovereignty of Cameroon on the island, it remains a conflict generating area.
In fact, almost all ECCAS countries are struggling to control their borders and thus to maintain peace in frontier villages. In the instance of Chad, its border with Libya, Sudan and the CAR are porous. This porosity gave the possibility to Sudan to destabilize Chad by supporting the Chadian rebels. In the same instance, Chad hosted Sudanese rebels. Similarly when Muammar Gaddafi decided to invade Chad in 1973, he took advantage of the porosity of the border between Chad and Libya. The borders between Chad and Niger are not better protected. Almost the entire Aozou band is considered a “no man’s land”.
In CAR, the permeability of the borders with Chad facilitated the coup d’état of François Bozizé against Ange Félix PATASSE. Without the support of reinforcements from southern Chad and entered the northern CAR, Bozizé’s coup d’état would have never succeeded. Even within the RCA, the North is not controlled by the Central African government. That is another “no-man’s” land. In addition, the border between CAR and Sudan, while also permeable, is an important link in the stream of weapons in Central Africa. The East DRC is under the control of the M23, and before the M23 it was controlled by the CNDP of the General Laurent KUNDA. If the eastern DRC is a no man’s land, the eastern borders of the DRC are an additional source of instability in the country. Indeed, the borders with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are permeable. Similarly, the border with Angola is fragile and insecure. In observation one of the characteristics of ECCAS countries is their inability to control flows that violate their borders. This situation facilitates the undemocratic takeovers.
Evidence of correlation Borders – Networking – Insecurity

There is a correlation between the permeability of borders, trans-nationalization of smuggling networks and the growth of the insecurity industry. Without the porosity of borders and corruption in the customs offices, the different weapons, drugs and precious metals networks trafficking could not acquire a transnational character. The trans-state traffic and mobility of traffickers increase the difficulty to fight smuggling in Central Africa. The borders between Cameroon and Nigeria, Chad and CAR are the topotypes of small weapons trafficking, drugs and stolen cars.
In addition, it is difficult to imagine how the various rebellions that have destabilized Chad could have erected if they had not had a rear base in neighbouring Sudan. As can be seen currently in West Africa with the case of Mali, the success of rebellions in Africa in general and in Central Africa in particular, would not have been possible if the sub-region and the continent did not have borders so porous. Therefore, there’s a double causal link between the slumping of borders in Central Africa and the development of transnational smuggling, between tangibility of borders and development of the insecurity SME. Identically, there’s a close relationship between the development of smuggling networks and the proliferation of companies of insecurity. As we have noted, weapon and drug trafficking, smuggling of precious metals and oil have been used in several countries of ECCAS to arm and finance militias and armed rebellions. Central Africa appears to be sick of his wealth.
The political economy of conflict in Central Africa, allows us to see the link almost umbilical between natural resources, annuitants systems and Entrepreneurship of insecurity. The Dutch Syndrome was fashionable in the last decade, which finally wears and tarnishes the paradigm. And yet, one cannot refrain to notice that natural resources are sources of conflict and maintain militias, armed gangs and rebellions in Central Africa11. As shown in the table below, most of the conflicts in central Africa and most rebellions are funded and maintained by natural resources. What makes Central Africa not any more a geological scandal, but a political scandal which combines, mingle and intertwine insecurity, civil wars, dictatorships, “petrocraties” and “gemmocraties”.

The fundamental challenge of this discussion was to demonstrate a correlation between entrepreneurship insecurity, smuggling and cross-border dynamics in Central Africa. It shows that there’s indeed a causal link between the porous borders of Central African countries and the rise of smuggling, on the one hand, between the growth of smuggling and flowering companies of insecurity, on the other hand. Entrepreneurship of insecurity in question encapsulates the triptych network – territory – power and irrigates the sub-regional economy of crime. None of the Central African States has the means to fight individually and effectively against crime and sub-regional networks smugglers. Fight against these “evils” requires a sub-regional cooperation and the pooling of efforts between Member States. To do this, the Central African States must realize that their region is a complex of security12. To switch from complex to security community13, they must harmonize their policies in the fight against smuggling, insecurity and SMEs in securing their borders. The perfect balance of NASH is the efficient cooperation between Member States taking part in the security of the sub-region14.
This article makes five recommendations to the Heads of States of ECCAS:

  • Each state of ECCAS can develop a doctrine to fight against asymmetrical threats, particularly SMEs insecurity.
  • Harmonize policies against smuggling networks, in particular the trafficking of arms.
  • Adopt the principle of smart security by pooling efforts and sharing logistical challenges capability.
  •  Create a brigade within ECCAS in partnership with the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime (UNODC), for an efficient sub-regional fight against drug trafficking.

 Better cooperation between the police, the gendarmerie and the armed forces of Central African States with the sub-regional office of Interpol and Europol. PR
* Hans De Marie Heungoup is a Political Scientist, Researcher at the Paul ANGO ELA foundation of geopolitics in Central Africa (FPAE). His recent book is “Le BIR, la GP et le pouvoir au Cameroun”, Berlin, Editions Universitaires Européennes, 2011, 152 pages.
E-mail : hans.heungoup@yahoo.com
** Isidore Collins Ngueuleu Djeuga is a Human Rights Law Specialist, Ph.D Candidate on Business and Human Rights at the University of Paris V René Descartes.
E-mail: collisidore@yahoo.fr
1. ANGO ELA Paul, Espace et sécurité dans les régions frontalières du Cameroun méridional, Mémoire DEA Paris I Sorbonne, 1987.
2. NEUMANN John Von, MORGENSTERN Oskar, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Princeton University Press, 1953. SCHELLING Thomas, Stratégie du conflit, Paris, PUF, 1986. NASH John, « Equilibrium points in n-person games », PNAS, vol. 36, No 1, 1950. NASH John, « Non-cooperative games », Annals of Mathematics, vol. 54, 1951, p. 286–295.
3. SAÏBOU ISSA, Les coupeurs de route. Histoire du grand banditisme rural et transfrontalier dans le bassin du lac Tchad, Paris, Karthala, 2010.
4. SAÏBOU ISSA, « Les mutations polémologiques du banditisme transfrontalier en Afrique centrale » in ENJEUX N°33, Octobre-Décembre 2007, p.p. 10-15.
5. FOGUE TEDOM Alain, « Approche géopolitique des coupeurs de route au Cameroun », in ENJEUX N°33, Octobre-Décembre 2007, p.p. 33-36.
6. HOFFMAN Bruce, La mécanique terroriste, Paris, Nouveaux horizons, 2002.
7. NTUDA EBODE Joseph Vincent (CREPS, FES), Terrorisme et piraterie. De nouveaux défis sécuritaires en Afrique centrale, Yaoundé, Presses Universitaires d’Afrique, 2010, pp. 13-24.
8. NTUDA EBODE Joseph Vincent, art. cit.
9. VERSCHAVE François Xavier, La Françafrique : le plus long scandale de la république, Paris, Stock, 1998.
10. Legend: this table summarizes the SME insecurity and smuggling in Central Africa, ECCAS. The stars represent the level of prevalence of the phenomenon in a given country. In the absence of a star, there is no threat. 3 stars means the threat is at the maximum. Green means that there is no star and red that there are 3 stars.
11. AVOM Désiré, « L’Afrique centrale malade de ses richesses : une économie politique des conflits », in ENJEUX N°33, Octobre-Décembre 2007, p.p. 16-19.
12. BUZAN Barry, People, states and fear: the national security problem in international relations, Brighton: Sussex, Wheatsheaf Books, 1983.
13. DEUTSCH Karl, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area, Princeton University Press, 1957.
14. NASH John, « Equilibrium points in n-person games », PNAS, vol. 36, No 1, 1950.

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