«Rien n'est plus facile que de dénoncer un malfaiteur; rien n'est plus difficile que de le comprendre» ---Fédor Dostoïevski

vendredi 22 août 2008

Série Spéciale (4/7): Insurrection Moro aux Philippines

Ajourd'hui, dans la série spéciale sur l'insurrection philippine, j'adresse l'environnement. Par là, j'entends l'environnement au sens large, c'est-à-dire la géographie, les ressources et la démographie.

Précédemment: 1- Background, 2- La nature de l'insurrection, 3- La stratégie
Aujourd'hui: 4- L'environnement
Demain: 5- Le soutien populaire

The MILF guerrilla takes place on islands and archipelagos. Hence, their operations are highly restricted to local areas. At first glance, this might look as an advantage for a separatist movement. Nevertheless, the geography has become a concern for the MILF. Indeed, their relative disregard for non-Maguindanao Moros, did not only cost them the support of other ethnies, but it also cost them support from some entire islands. The group is essentially composed of Maguindanao ethnics, as opposed to the MNLF which was mainly Tausung but had a broader nationalistic approach and tried to unify the Moros.

Concerning the geography of the islands, it is essentially made of jungle and mountains; a terrain very favorable for guerrilla operation. Most of the freed areas are in the countryside. The Abu Bakar camp, for instance, enjoyed an ideal situation, protected from the AFP by the mountains, and from the Air Force by the thick forest. The guerrillas take advantage of the jungle for their hit-and-run operations.

The Environmental factor

It should be mentioned here that the environment itself exacerbate the tensions in southern Philippines. Mindanao is the country’s richest region in oil and gas. It has also very fertile soils that provide food for the entire country. The strategic importance of Mindanao explains partly why Manila does not accept Muslim separatism.

The exploitation of Mindanao’s resources increases tensions between Muslims and Christians. As the region depends almost exclusively on agriculture, environmental degradation (mainly due to energy exploitation and deforestation) causes loss of livelihoods among the poor rural Muslim population and eventually exacerbates grievances against the central government.

Human environment

Muslims represent only 20% of the total population of Mindanao, and are a majority in only five provinces. Moreover, Muslims do not constitute one single unified group. Instead, Moros are divided along 13 different ethnolinguistic groups . Another characteristic of the demography in Mindanao is that Muslim population is essentially rural and very scattered, separated by Christian communities. The Sulu Archipelago is mainly Muslim. Nevertheless, it is almost exclusively populated by Tausung Moros, which were closer to the MNLF. Hence, MILF group finds only a relative support in Sulu.

Southern Philippines’ human environment favored a rural insurgency with very local bases. However, the divisions among a slight and scattered Muslim community restrict the mobilization’s capacity and appear to be an obstacle for reaching the last phase of guerrilla: conventional warfare.

The Muslim areas are the poorest in the Philippines. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) ranks in last position according to the regional GDP and GDP/capita . The economic disparities are even more striking when taking into account that the GDP also reflects the incomes of the richest Christian community leaving in the region.

In fact, the inequalities between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao go back to the 1950s when Mindanao and the surrounding islands were seen as a new Eldorado and attracted a massive influx of new migrants. The population in Mindanao grew from 0.7 million in 1948 to 2.3 million in 1970 . Competition for the land turned in favor of Christian Filipinos, backed by the state. The demographic change provoked a tightening of clanic, ethnic and religious ties. As the migrations accelerated in the 1960s, growing inequalities triggered interconfessional tensions, unknown until then, between Christians and Muslims.

However, no separatist Muslim movement was created until the press and politicians made public some summary executions of Muslim (Tausung) soldiers within the Filipino army. Those revelations produced massive indignation among the Muslim community and gave birth to the MNLF.

Regarding the political system, MILF widely enjoyed the democratic transition after Marcos left power in the 1980s to get stronger . It is well-known that transition regime are very fertile for terrorism and insurgencies . Until recently, the Philippines were a country very unstable with no counterinsurgency strategy. Moreover, the South remains largely lawless and out of the control of Manila .

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