The future of hybrid wars in Africa after the Ukraine crisis – the world thinks

Posted in: Saturday, April 23, 2022 – 19:35 | Last updated: Saturday, 23 April 2022 – 19:35

The Future Center for Research and Advanced Studies published an article by Hamdi Abdel Rahman on April 19, in which he addressed the threats posed by hybrid wars on Africa … we show the following:
Digital wars and media wars are the mainstays of the “hybrid threats” that have increased in frequency, especially after the intensification of the international conflict between Western countries and Russia and China, which reached its climax and was embodied by the current Ukrainian crisis. . The theaters of hybrid wars have expanded to include the entire world, with Africa at its heart.
The Institute for Security Studies in South Africa has confirmed that Africa has become the scene of hybrid threats, the most important examples of which are allegations of campaigns and media narratives, supported by foreign countries, and carefully designed to bring about political division in African countries. led by Mali, Central Africa and Burkina Faso, which are countries suffering from The growing dangers of violent terrorist groups are among the unconventional threats arising from hybrid wars. These include targeting cyber attacks on humanitarian relief organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The use of drones as effective weapons in conflict zones in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and Mozambique, by both violent armed groups, government agencies or their proxies, also indicates the dangers of this emerging trend represented by hybrid warfare in African reality. word.
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The Ukrainian-Russian war reconsidered the debate in the field of international relations on the concept of hybrid wars, which has been used in multiple meanings since the turn of the century. A concept that gained momentum after the United States and Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow, and spread conflicting stories on social media about alleged war crimes in Ukraine, at a time when the African position on the war remains deeply divided , as revealed in the UN vote. on a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hybrid warfare has become a preferred option for managing state capture, which includes malicious, immoral targets in the gray zone between peace and war. Attacking the vulnerabilities of opponents, especially those linked to national energy networks and critical infrastructure, has become an increasing international trend.
Hybrid attack refers to the use of unconventional tactics as part of a multi-domain approach to warfare aimed at immobilizing an adversary without engaging in overt hostilities. To contribute to the seriousness of these mixed threats, they are commonly associated with terrorism, organized crime and extremist forces within society.
Many view hybrid warfare as adopted by international actors, in response to Western traditional military superiority. Hybrid warfare has already achieved great successes in the field of politics. This has led analysts to talk about the emergence of a large group of new “hybrid threats” that have emerged in the worlds of multiple conflicts, including the use of cyberspace as a tool of conflict, which means the digitization of wars.
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Three main areas of hybrid threat can be identified in the African reality
Problematic access to information and social media: Practice experience shows that many websites and social media platforms act as sources for broadcasting false news and conspiracy theories, misleading users through false information, preconceptions and misconceptions that spread with astonishing speed.
The civil wars in Libya and Ethiopia, for example, have shown the role of disinformation and the dissemination of false information on social media in spreading the spirit of division and societal division.
In February 2022, the Atlantic Council unveiled a closely coordinated, Russian-backed online campaign aimed at Mali, whose aim, according to the researchers, was to foster anti-Western sentiment and undermine democracy building through popular support for the government of interim to mobilize president. , Asimi Guetta, and the Malian army in Following the coup in May 2021. This coincided with the time when France was preparing to announce the withdrawal of its forces from Mali. Posts on social media promoted populist rhetoric in support of Mali’s Military Transitional Council, and also supported the arrival of the Kremlin – backed Wagner group before it was published in Mali.
In turn, Western powers also used hybrid tactics to influence the region. In 2020, Facebook removed postings of fake accounts in France that promoted hostile rhetoric against Russia. Mali was not the only victim of these hybrid information wars, but other countries such as Burkina Faso and Central Africa were dragged along in the proxy war between East and West.
Exploitation of gaps in state capabilities: It is likely that the lack of specific state functions opens up broad opportunities for influence and intervention. In the Central African Republic, the weakness of the security services has enabled Russia to exert significant influence in the country through the intelligence, security and defense sectors.
These gaps exist in expertise in various sectors, at a time when there is an urgent need to develop infrastructure, energy networks, information technology and telecommunications, providing multiple inputs to access important information and infrastructure for government agencies through external forces obtain.
An example of this is the attack in mid-November 2021, which targeted two strategic power stations in South Africa, which led to renewed episodes of power outages in the country. Following investigations, the CEO of Ascom has issued a statement stating that there is evidence of sabotage, and accordingly, this incident can be classified within the scope of hybrid threats, or more appropriately, hybrid attacks.
Some explanations equate mismanagement with corruption and domestic terrorism. Another potential source of attack could therefore be those who pursue large commercial interests in South Africa’s growing market for renewable energy. A country like China, which is the largest manufacturer and maker of solar panels, for example, will benefit greatly from the booming market for renewable energy in South Africa after it has destabilized the electricity production company Ascom.
Corruption and counterfeit brokers. Mega-infrastructure projects in Africa — mainly financed and implemented by foreign companies and foreign borrowing — are highly vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement, but because of their scale, they pose a direct challenge to African countries and hold them in debt. Some believe, for example, that China has deliberately offered large loans to Zambia, knowing that Lusaka will not be able to repay it, which will allow Beijing to take over the management of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the event of a default. Similar cases can be noticed in the case of the Kenyan port of Mombasa, which is the main trading port to East Africa. And the monopoly of telecommunications sectors – such as the exclusive role of ZTE Corporation, Huawei and China Telecom in Ethiopia’s Ethio Telecom – leads these outside actors (China) to exert almost unlimited influence in the affected countries.
In addition to the above, access to advanced technologies, the proliferation of weapons and the innovative use of conventional weapons (such as drones), along with the difficulty of assigning responsibility when an attack occurs, are the biggest challenge in future conflicts, and make it difficult to identify appropriate responses against a non-opponent. The development of the information technology sector and the increasing penetration of telecommunications in management and finance have made the online world of African actors more vulnerable than ever before. With all of the above, hybrid threats are not just a negative phenomenon on the African continent.
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The fact that many actors use hybrid warfare as part of their asymmetric instruments as effective operations, rather than an open military conflict, helps reduce the level of violence and casualties – at least in the short term – and leaves more room for negotiations and room for maneuver for the various actors. It may seem clearer if we compare this approach to the different historical stages of violent wars and conflicts in Africa, while external interventions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to protracted violence and the deaths of millions, the conflicts in recent decades were fairly low in intensity, more developed and less bloody. However, the long-term effects of hybrid warfare can be even more devastating by undermining the ability of government and society to resist these challenges posed by a post-truth world.
Hybrid warfare has become a combination of traditional forms of armed conflict and other strategic tools that include intelligence operations to influence, sabotage, or retaliate. It also involves cyberattacks that directly target computers or use the internet to commit traditional crimes, such as extortion and fraud. Across Africa, hybrid weapons are being deployed in times of conflict and peace, undermining ideas of the state of law and order. They are also used to raise funds for terrorists or criminal organizations. In any case, the emerging threat on the continent of the use of cyberattacks and false information warfare by state entities, proxies and opponents to gain geostrategic advantages makes future conflicts extremely complex and intertwined. The spread of drone technology across Africa, for example, is an important aspect of the hybrid threat. Remote control in places like Ethiopia and the Sahel countries can be used to resolve local disputes in the absence of strict controls.
African countries must study and learn from these events and developments. These hybrid threats may seem far-fetched or represent an intellectual luxury in the eyes of some given the continent’s urgent humanitarian needs, but the consequences for human security are very serious, and policymakers can ignore them. Awareness of this development in fourth-generation wars and hybrid threats will enable African countries to formulate appropriate responses based on international practices in building resilience.
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