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Focus on African Countries


Talking Points on Peace and Security

  • Despite the image of a conflict-ridden continent, most African countries are at peace. They are afflicted not by war and warlords but by the less-visible kinds of "everyday" structural violence that prevail around the world: violence against women or migrants, for example, as well as abuses in police and prison systems, street crime that disproportionately affects the poor, or, more generally, systematic inequalities in access to basic social rights.

  • African civil conflicts, where they are occurring, are most often interpreted in terms of simplistic narratives applied to the entire continent. But each country is distinct. When there is open war, as in Somalia, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, or the Central African Republic, the causes are complex. Using explanations such as "age-old hostilities" or "tribalism" is wrong. But so is seeing external powers such as the United States or France as the primary contributors to violence, although colonial and Cold War histories, as well as current arms sales, have decisively influenced the context of today's conflicts.

  • In responding to internal conflict, terrorism, and criminal violence, leaders in Africa and around the world most often rely on militarized responses that are ineffective and abusive of human rights. Although leaders give lip service to addressing the root causes, it is standard formulas of repression and funding for security forces that take priority in practice.

  • In those countries where violent Islamic extremism is present, standard global counter-terrorism strategies are almost certain to further inflame the situation. "Wars" on drugs and crime, as well as higher walls and deportations against migrants and refugees, have likewise been consistently ineffective and counterproductive, producing more rather than less violence.

  • Security forces, both of African governments and of multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations, are needed to protect civilians from violence carried out by non-state actors. But peacekeeping actions are often underfunded, misdirected, or both. The responsibility for funding and accountable management of such missions should be global as well as regional and national.

People internally displaced by conflict in South Sudan find only vulnerable shelter - UN Photo/Isaac Billy

  • There are no simple or "one-size-fits-all" solutions to violence and terrorism. Greater efforts are needed to address long-term causes and exercise preventive diplomacy. But people affected by conflict also need immediate help, both humanitarian assistance and accountable, adequately funded protection from violence.

Recent bulletins on peace and security


AfricaFocus Bulletin

April 27, 2016  Nigeria: Shapes of Violence, 2
    "It has been two years since the world's deadliest terrorist organization – Boko Haram – abducted 271 girls from their high school in the town of Chibok – a tragedy that would shine much needed international attention on conflict in northeastern Nigeria. Sadly, the Chibok girls are only one part of a much larger story of violence against women and girls in the northeast. ... the needs of all those whom the Chibok girls symbolize – thousands upon thousands who have suffered gender-based violence at Boko Haram's hands – are being unaddressed." - Refugees International

April 27, 2016  Nigeria: Shapes of Violence, 1
    The realities of violence, whether in Nigeria, other African countries, or indeed in rich countries such as the United States as well, are often far more complicated than the stereotypes that often prevail among those observing them from a distance. Thus, violence in Nigeria is often simplistically characterized as "religious conflict" between Muslims and Christians. A new collection of empirical studies released this year by Nigeria Watch, based in Ibadan, Nigeria, provides a more complex perspective, documenting, for instance, that intra-Muslim conflict is more common that conflicts between Muslims and Christians, and that much of the conflict involving both Muslims and Christians is based on secular rather than religious motives.

April 11, 2016  Africa/Global: Panama Papers Tip of Iceberg
    "In other words, the leaks reveal just how the planet's wealthiest and most powerful citizens hide their money - trillions of it - in offshore tax shelters like the British Virgin Islands or the Seychelles with the help of law firms in swampy backwaters like Panama. Over 11-million horribly incriminating documents, and this is just one - if one of the more prominent - of the many law firms specialising in this line of work." - Daily Maverick, South Africa

Apr 5, 2016  USA/Global: When Elephants Fight
    "Watching the Trump phenomenon from outside the United States is a strange spectacle. I am often asked to explain by puzzled observers how such a bombastic, obnoxious, moronic, misogynistic, chauvinistic, racist, and hustler businessman with a record of serial bankruptcies could ever be a serious candidate. ... Trump articulates and represents with frightening clarity the Republican underbelly that same establishment has nurtured for generations, the party's enduring values—the incurable racism, bigotry, and intolerance, the reflexive jingoism, nativism, and imperial aggression. In Trump, therefore, the chickens of age-old white supremacy and modern neo-conservatism are coming home to roost." - Paul Tiyambe Zeleza

More on: politics&human rights|peace&security|health|economy|ict

AfricaFocus Archive: by date | by place | by topic

March 23, 2016  
    Namibia: Meeting Expectations?
March 16, 2016  
    Africa: Tolerance and Intolerance in Perspective
March 9, 2016  
    Africa/Global: Making Choices on Climate Future
February 29, 2016  
    USA/Africa: Rising Opposition to Tax Evasion
February 16, 2016  
    Africa: Ghosts at the African Union Summit
February 1, 2016  
    Africa/Global: Accounting Tricks with Coca-Cola
January 25, 2016  
    Africa: Charting the Digital Gender Gap
January 19, 2016  
    Africa: Stealth Assault on African Seeds
December 10, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Beyond the Paris Climate Talks
December 1, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Changing "the Media"
November 19, 2015  
    Africa: Boosting ICTs
November 11, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Follow the Money
November 5, 2015  
    Europe/Africa: Dialogue Unlikely at Migration Summit
October 28, 2015  
    South Sudan: Hard-Hitting Report from African Union
October 20, 2015  
    Africa: Tax Tricks, Mobile Phones, and Beer
October 13, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Health Challenges & Threats

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