Five Words Making Headlines In The Security Sphere You Need To Know This April

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16923 Views 36 Comments
Five Words Making Headlines In The Security Sphere You Need To Know This April


The year thus far has been heated, leaders across the globe have been rather careless with their words and a definite rise in the nationalism and the need to identify with one’s own. Social media’s role has taken a new bold stance in international diplomacy and twitter has become the new therapists couch- no filter, speak your mind.

Here on the other hand is a list of words that have been controversial to the international security scene that might deserve a good twitter debate. You have probably seen them and will continue seeing them being flung around a major part of this year:


Probably the most obvious on our list. Most states swear by it and believe to live under its guiding principles but few know what it really means. However, its use has been abused by totalitarian and military regimes alike over centuries. The word came to in the late 16th century and is Greek in origin stemming from the word demokratia – Demos which means the people and kratia- which implies power /rule Democracy therefore means the government by people. That implies that all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. Democracy as such can be thought to have four guiding principles:

  • A belief in the individual: since the individual is believed to be both moral and rational;
  • A belief in reason and progress: based on the belief that growth and development is the natural condition of mankind and politics the art of compromise;
  • A belief in a society that is consensual: based on a desire for order and co-operation not disorder and conflict;
  • A belief in shared power: based on a suspicion of concentrated power (whether by individuals, groups or governments).

` (Retrieved from Museum of Democracy)


Mass Murder/Massacre, Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide:

Like many of the words on this list, if you are an ardent reader and news enthusiasts then you have come across these words one too many times in your readings. These words are often used interchangeably not just by you, but also by scholars across the board.

Mass Murder/ Massacre

It is mass murder which means killing enmasse also known as massacre. According to A. Aggarwal, it is the act of murdering several people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity. Massacre makes for a crime but not necessarily a crime against humanity; if it does not target anyone in specific but is random. The continent has countless cases showing the mass murder of people for various reasons, most have been for political motives but some show traces of deep historical strife. Terrorist groups have been using this as a strategy to spread fear and as a matter of fact a trend that has been on the rise over the last few years.

Examples of massacres in Africa:

Boko Haram massacre in 2015

Tunisian Beach in 2015

Garissa University Massacre

Ethnic cleansing

To keep their societies or beliefs pure, many groups have performed ethnic cleansing over centuries from the Greeks to the Americas traces of this can be found all over. Ethnic cleansing has been defined by scholar Andrew Bell-Fiallkof as the expulsion of a population from a given territory. He argues that the term defies simple definition and can be associated with other terms such as forced emigration and population exchange while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide which aim to create a distinctly “homogenous group”.

Central Africa Republic Fulani ethnic cleansing

Ethnic cleansing in South Sudan


In understanding the meaning of genocide, not much progress has been seen since the 1990s. Its definition muddles scholars’ experts and laypersons alike. Coined by Raphael Lemkin in the 1944 during in bid to explain the holocaust.  The word which is a combination of geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with –cide, from the Latin word for killing. According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide under resolution 260 it is defined as:

[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There have been 2 distinct occurrences in history that have brought the term to focus – Rwandan Genocide and the Holocaust. I remember while in university a speaker once argued that the genocide in Rwanda was against both the Hutu and the Tutsi’s- obviously, this question sparked a lot of controversy and debate but perhaps one can share the opinions on the same from the findings on this word list…In an article by Zachariah Mamphily on Aljazeera he mentioned that the mere mention of genocide perpetuates  gory violence spectacular in nature however it blinds us from the planned much slower incidences that happen over decades such as the New Papua Guinea Genocide that took nearly 30 years and has not been mentioned on the wire much. He continues to say that because of this ignorance we then take this slow violence as the norm and fail to pay attention to it.

” But talk of genocide simultaneously insulates us from the more protracted, and often bewilderingly complex, low-level violence that has already destroyed much of the country…”

There have been allegations and cases of the rise of genocide in some countries over the last few years in Africa most of them not well known; Ethiopia and  South Sudan.


Racism versus Xenophobia


Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another. Most of you have heard of the #blacklivesmatter movement which fights for the recognition


In the modern world, xenophobia is generally seen as the “fear of strangers”. Like the words on this list the word stems from two Greek terms: xenos, which can be translated as either “stranger” or “guest,” and phobos, which means either “fear” or “flight.” Xenophobia according to oxford dictionary is deep rooted fear towards foreigners. Fear can have several causes such as differences in ideologies, stereotypes and prejudices but also past experiences that render one biased towards a particular peoples’. The thing that stand out comes to the differences between the other and one’s self. South Africa has been at the centre of xenophobic attacks the last few years with attacks on Zimbabweans in 2015 and I rise of attacks on Nigerians this year but this does not dismiss the attacks being carried out against the rest of the African communities.


Radicalisation versus Extremism

In a rather riveting and controversial forum last week, i sat through immense disagreements between academia and laymen alike on what it means to be radicalised vis a vi an extremist. The one thing I picked was the note that both is good if channelled in the right direction. In plea to understand terrorism one cannot dissociate radicalisation from extremism- perhaps the order with which they come is of contention.


According to Alex and Winer,  is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice. In this light, radicalisation is then best understood in a subjective process where one adopts extreme political, social or religious ideals and aspirations because of some sort of discriminatory background, feel justified in their actions especially the use of violence as the only means out. Scholars however differ over the due process to radicalisation while some see it as a sequence of events, with terrorism as the end result some like Sageman argue that it is not like so.


Merriam Webster defines extremism as the state of being extreme; or advocacy of extreme measures or views. The latter, if viewed from the definition given above can also mean radicalism.

The continent has had its fair share of radicalisation, perhaps while reading this you had your own light bulb moment perhaps based on some groupings within your locality. However, these are top making waves in the scene this last decade.

Boko Haram in West and North Africa

Al Shabaab in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lord’s resistance Army of East Africa

Al-Qaeda In the Islamic Maghreb


Autocracy versus dictatorship

Perhaps unintentionally this list shed light on the nexus between leadership and widespread security threats and an impending misunderstanding caused by paradigm and ideological views. The next 2 words are thus based on leadership styles that perhaps might be thrown around this year as most states have either had elections this year or on the way to.


Stemming from the Greek work, autos which means self and kratos meaning government or power, it’s a political term that refers to the system of Government whose authority rests with one person without any limits: the autocrat (the one that governs itself). Autocratic governments in turn limit the participation of other individuals in the overall decision making process in governance. It should be noted that although the most common type of leadership universally right now is democracy there are a lot of states that exhibit autocratic tendencies from the leaders at hand. Autocratic states rely heavily on the leader whom more often than not is strong and decisive character, whose plans or decisions are imposed with firmness. There is also zero tolerance and repression towards opposition as vilifies the leader. This form of governance is also known as dictatorship

Dictator-a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force. Also see autocrat/tyrant/oppressor/despot.

According to Forbes Magazine – the following make for the worst leaders in Africa for their autocratic tendencies, id really love to know if others share the same sentiments.

King Mswati III, King of Swaziland

Robert Mugabe, President Republic of Zimbabwe

José Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea

Omar Al-Bashir, President of Sudan


Crimes against humanity

Massive chemical attacks carried against Syria this last week has revived the use of the term “crimes against humanity”. Employed first in 1915 after the massive attacks carried out against the Turkish government that was widely condemned by Great Britain, Russia and France. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute defines “crimes against humanity” as the means any of the following acts:

murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the law of the country where perpetrated when committed or as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”




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