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ABOUT Africa

The post-decolonization and Cold War era in Africa has seen the emergence of new types of conflicts on the continent that demand a rethinking of the “Concept of Security.” While there are now fewer wars in contemporary Africa, many other types of conflicts have emerged. The world is now witnessing the emergence of multi polar political and economic order with the rise of China as second largest economy and Russia as the second military might, and the alliance and determination of the two powers to work together and “move towards a multi polar, just, democratic order.” The foreign minister of Russia Mr.  Sergei Lavrov made comments that Russia and China were standing together and that “the world is living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations. We, together with you, (China) and with our sympathizers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order…. Our striving for peace has no limits, our upholding of security has no limits, our opposition towards hegemony has no limits.”1. This fierce competition for supremacy, influence and dominance of strategic areas, will have direct impact on global security  as seen most recently in the Ukraine war. 

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin  told reporters that Moscow and Beijing will continue efforts to “advance global multipolarity and the democratization of international relations.” ibid. The war in Ukraine has certainly pushed Russia to Asia, notably to India and China  as demonstrated by the postilions they took on the international sanctions on Russia. Reports coming out of the middle east countries indicate that they too: “have no interest in abandoning relations with China, the leading trading partner for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or breaking with Russia, which established itself as a force to be reckoned with when it saved Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through its military intervention in his war. Beyond that, our Mideast partners have lost confidence in America’s commitment to global leadership…. They are also experiencing whiplash from a Trump administration  that frustrated the nuclear deal with Iran to a Biden administration, they feel is pursuing it  without sufficiently factoring in Tehran’s regiona  aggression.” 3

In early March the United Nation’s General Assembly voted on a resolution demanding Russia to immediately stop its military operations in Ukraine. Out of 193 member states, 141 voted in support of the resolution, five voted against, 35 abstained and 12 didn’t vote at all. Of the 54 African member states, Eritrea voted against the resolution, 16 African countries including South Africa abstained, while nine other countries did not vote at all. In all about half (26) of the 54 member states in Africa chose the path of neutrality in some form. So why did African countries not vote overwhelmingly to support the resolution?  AFRICOM Army general Stephen Townsend testified “It was troubling to me that half of the continent” did not vote to condemn the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine in a March 2 U.N. vote. Many African nations abstained from the vote, which Townsend described as “biding their time.” 4

Henry Kissinger wrote in his book  ‘’World Order’’: ‘’No truly  ‘global world order’ has ever existed….What passes for order in our time was devised in Western Europe nearly four centuries ago, at a peace conference in the German region of Westphalia, conducted without the involvement or even the awareness of most other continents or civilizations.” 5

As Kissinger rightfully stated the rest of the world outside Europe and America including Africa needs to be involved in the establishment of a new global economic, security and political order and it seems that this decade provides that opportunity for Africa to have its rightful place in having a say in establishing and sustaining global order.   Africans see themselves better positioned to make choices in the emerging multi polar political and economic order. This period of shifting alliances and erratic behavior of the losers in the emergence of a multi polar world order has a direct effect on human security in Africa. How does this transitional period affect Africa? How Africa should navigate in these troubled waters without further turmoil in the continent will be a subject that needs to be discussed during this most critical time since the struggle for decolonization for Africa and since the 2nd World War for Europe and America.

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of security

In 1994 the UN (UNDP Human Development Report, 1994) redefined security to embrace human rights and developmental perspectives. While the traditional definition was limited to physical threats, the new concept is broader, embracing the well-being of the population. Thus, the concept of security has moved from threat-centric to people-centric. The UN report stated that the concept of human security “has been related more to nation-state than to people ….in the final analysis human security is a concern with human life and dignity.”  The people-centered concept of human security is different from the notion of state security, or from the security of the political elite. If economic growth does not improve the lives of the ordinary people, it is a violation of the security of the population and is to be considered either bad governance or at worse a criminal act.

The AISSS takes this approach in it’s  entirety to discuss the contemporary security challenges of the continent. Surveying the current state of the peace and security landscape in Africa is a complex task. However, the primary drivers of conflict and threats to peace and security in Africa are well known poverty, weak state institutions, and weak governance. The changing unfavorable international economic and political order, youth population, high unemployment, health, food and environmental security have contributed to the security situation in the continent.

The world believed that Africa has achieved  unprecedented economic growth and peace in a number of countries in the last few decades.  The realities on the ground tell a different story. Africa remains the poorest and most unstable continent. The world wrongly took GDP as a measurement of human progress without considering human security as defined above.   GDP does not measure the wealth of the people. It only measures the income that the state gets.   It tells you the value of goods and services produced yesterday in a particular country not about tomorrow and not how the people benefited from it.

At present there are no clear signs of security situations getting better in most of Africa.  According to world forum, among the main dimensions characterising the continent’s peace and security landscape, “seven in particular stand out as critical for leaders in government, business and civil society to understand and act on, not least the interconnections between them.” Theese are economic security, food security, health security environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security.
(World Economic Forum 2016)

  1. Poverty vs. inclusive growth. Poverty and social injustice have long been drivers of insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries this is further exacerbated by armed insurgencies and terrorist groups who feed off widespread frustration, especially among young people.”
    “Exclusion or perceived exclusion from the political process for reasons of personal, ethnic or value differences, lack of socio-political unity, lack of genuine access to national institutions of governance, reliance on centralized and highly personalized form of governance, perception of inequality and discrimination” 6  are the push factors for increasing number of the young population of Africa to join violent and criminal organizations or be involved in confronting their respective governments through violence. Social injustice occurs where there is a denial or violation of rights of certain groups within society. This occurs most commonly among impoverished populations  around the world.

  2. Sustainably managing resources. Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources and land, but they have often been exploited irresponsibly. This has damaged the environment, widened wealth inequality and fuelled resentment and conflict. Increasingly, serious problems with the distribution of water and population growth has put greater pressure on the need to modernise subsistence agriculture. Will Africa manage its water, mineral, and agricultural resources sustainably, so as to avoid the resources curse or future resource conflicts? Will Africa get ahead of climate change impacts, so as to reduce their negative impacts on security?”

    Scientists across the globe have repeatedly warned that if global temperatures continue to rise at current levels, the threat to human security will increase correspondingly. Rising sea levels will lead to more coastal erosion, flooding during storms, and permanent inundation; and severe stress on natural ecosystems like forests and wetlands. Climate security acknowledges that climate change can undermine peace and increase levels of violence by affecting the drivers of conflict. Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic(CAR) and Mali are all exposed to climate change, face complex security challenges and as a result host large international peacekeeping forces. Although climate change may not always be a direct cause of conflict, it can multiply and amplify existing risks to peace and development. It can obstruct access to water, food, health and housing.

  3. Closing the “grey zones” in governance. Perhaps the most important driver of violence and conflict in Africa today is weak and unconsolidated governance. Bad governance and corruption don’t just undermine development; they also drive violence. Yet the moral and financial investment in fighting downstream consequences of corruption - including terror, drug trafficking and organised crime - is much greater than the investment in stopping graft. In addition, too many developed countries tolerate the export and enabling of corruption by their corporate and individual citizens. Good governance requires political will, and business must be an activist partner in Africa’s development.”

The growing nexus between organized criminal gangs and terrorist groups has turned Africa into a new theatre of violence and terrorism and disrupted attempts to improve the lives of the majority.  The crisis created by the activities of organized criminal groups is one of the most serious challenges to regional and global peace, stability, economic development, and peaceful co-existence. Weak governance and the absence of the rule of law breed corruption and dysfunctional institutions, a vulnerable civil society, poverty, and horizontal and vertical inequalities.  In many parts of Africa, the absence of hope for a better future has created an uncontested environment for recruitment and indoctrination.

The fate of several African countries (West Africa, Central Africa, Northeast Africa, The Gulf of Guinea, The Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden) hangs in the balance as conflicts ravage the continent and the threat is steadily spreads southwards. (i.e. Mozambique)

The security threats posed by natural resources and the extractive industries, by climate change and by criminals and terrorists have the potential to destroy the integrity and legitimacy of the states and undermine their capacity to protect their citizens and implement sustainable economic development programs. Economic and social instability has created fertile ground for criminal gangs and violent extremism to grow and caused millions of people to flee their homes.

After discussing at length, the security situation in Africa the 1040th meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the AU held on 22 October 2021, issued the following communique on violent extremism: 

  1. Expresses deep concern over the worsening scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, including the influx of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), as well as the growing linkages between terrorism, violent extremism and transnational organized crime, and the attendant social, economic and humanitarian impact;

  2. Strongly condemns all acts of terrorism and violent extremism in the Continent, particularly the indiscriminant killing of innocent people, wanton destruction of infrastructure and property, including the symbols of the State, abductions and kidnapping for ransom, economic sabotage, killing of peacekeepers, recruitment and use of rape and sexual abuse against women and children; expresses condolences to the affected Member States for the lives lost and pays tribute to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives due to terrorist attacks and, in this context,

  3. Strongly warns the perpetrators that they shall be brought to account for their heinous act.

    The major groups operating in Africa are the following: 
    The Ansar al-Sunna Wa Jamma insurgency in Mozambique; The Islamic State in Sinai (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis); Islamic State in Egypt (IS-Misr); IS in Algeria (ISAP); Islamic State in Libya; Boko Haram in Nigeria; Boko Haram in Cameroon; National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in Mali; Islamic State in Somalia; al-Shabab; IS in Tunisia; Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP); Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania; Islamic State in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

    But the reaction of governments to real or perceived threats (i.e., terrorism) can also undermine the security of its citizens in the form of human rights abuse and denial of constitutional rights. This fine line between the rule of law and authoritarian rule in the name of protecting the citizens has become the subject of great concern and debate in contemporary Africa. Contemporary security concern includes the repeated attempts of leaders to overstay in power by changing the constitution violating democratic norms and creating anger among the population wracked by poverty and corruption that the same leaders have been unable to abate or are part of. This has created a cycle of violence and instability opening the gates wide open for others who take such situations as opportunities to implement their political and criminal agendas.

  4. Addressing the “democratic deficit”. The (growing) imbalance between levels of human development and economic growth and political and social inclusion remains a key threat to stability. In settings where democracy has not been entrenched, there is a lack of transparency and trust in the process, or where the government has been actively factional in benefiting one ethnic group above others, election-related violence often occurs.”

    Increasing numbers of African leaders have evaded constitutional term limit restrictions. If  African countries are to use elections to consolidate and entrench democracy, “they must make certain that incumbent leaders are not able to (i) change national constitutions to eliminate term and age limits for presidents (as noted above) and other protections that guard the president against various forms of opportunism  (ii) mandate registration fees for candidates seeking to stand for political office, including the presidency, that are beyond the reach of many citizens; (iii) interfere with freedom of the press in ways that make it very difficult for the press to check on the government, provide citizens information about elections, and serve as a platform for the opposition to bring their message to voters; and (iv) use security forces to intimidate and strangle the opposition. These constitutional coups weaken the role of elections as a democratizing tool. Worse, in some countries, this circumvention of term limit have  contributed significantly to the rise of violent and destructive mobilization by marginalized ethnocultural groups.” 7

  5. Regionalism that delivers on regional solutions. After years of talking about it, African regional organisations are finally starting to provide solutions to African problems. These institutions must further improve their ability to positively influence national politics, monitor internal behaviours of member states and prevent human rights violations.

    African Union (AU)

    The AU was established in 2002 to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founded in 1963.

    “The AU has emerged as a key peace and security actor in Africa and is an indispensable partner in global peace and security governance. It enjoys considerable political legitimacy among African states, has a permissive peacekeeping doctrine, and has developed technical and bureaucratic mechanisms for conflict prevention and management through APSA. This has allowed the AU to take on roles that were previously within the sole remit of the UN. The AU recognises its comparative advantages over the UN and increasingly seeks to be the primary decision-making body on Africa. However, the UN maintains legal legitimacy over the AU, especially when it comes to authorising the use of force, and has considerably greater financial resources than the AU. In as much as the two organisations complement each other, and work towards better cooperation and effective peace and security partnership, they also compete with each other for primacy and power. The latter is particularly pronounced with regards to the hierarchy between the UNSC and the PSC, the representation of Africa at the UNSC, as well as financing of African PSOs authorised by the UN. These add a political layer to the AU-UN peace and security partnership which already experiences coordination, capacity and bureaucratic setback” 8

    African Governments have made a landmark decision to solve African Security Problems by Africans themselves. It was a high moment for Africa. To this end the AU member states established the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) as a shift from non-interfering in the internal affairs of member states to a more robust approach that sanctions direct intervention to create some sense of stability.  It was a clear departure from the long held polices of OAU/AU of nonintervention in the framework of the magnificent motto of finding: African Solutions to African Problems. But to be able to implement such an agenda Africa needed enormous resources which it does not have.  Indeed,  Africa suffers from a serious financial dependence, which leads to a complex relationship with its external partners, regional and global institutions,  which have great interest in Africa particularly  in the strategic locations of some countries ( i.e. Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea ) and the extractive industry ( i.e. DRC, CAR and Mali).

    ​“For example, African Peace Support Operations have been traditionally funded through the African Peace Facility, which was established by the European Union (EU) at the request of the AU. AU–EU relations reflect how complex it is for the former to achieve its ambitions without strong autonomy. Even if both organisations attempt to break free from the traditional donor-recipient model and promote genuine partnership, the issue of funding would undoubtedly generate inequalities between the two institutions. Certainly, the financial relations of the AU with its external partners call into question the reality of the very idea of African ownership put forward during the creation of the APSA. At the AU Summit in July 2016, the rule of 0.2% levy on all acceptable imported goods on the continent was agreed upon, so that the AU could finance 100% of its operational budget from 2017 onwards.”

    ​Unfortunately, this objective remains a theoretical ambition. This inability of African governments to provide the necessary financial support stands out as the main weakness of the APSA.  Otherwise APSA is the only way that peace and security can be sustained across Africa. The  AU has to  be able to translate this vision into concrete policies and feasible projects backed up by commitments and time lines and sanctioning those governments who fail to abide by their commitments. Agenda 2063 (The Africa We Want) notably identifies the main goals to be achieved:​ 9

    AGENDA 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”It has highlighted peace and security as the most necessary element in achieving the vision of a united prosperous and united Africa. These will be a hollow promise without commitment, without resources and leadership with vision abiding by the principles of proper governance.

    ​The regional organization working in tandem with AU are: IGAD; East African Community (EAC) ; Southern African Development Community (SADC) ; Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) ; Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

    ​While the four above have not directly been involved in the direct maintenance of peace and security in their respective regions, ECOWAS has directly intervened in the crisis in Mali, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau with some success.  ECOWAS faces similar problems like the AU. AU does not have the capacity to provide resources to ECOWAS. Much of the support to ECWAS comes from EU, particularly from countries who have a vested interest in the region (i.e., France). Despite this, little progress has been made in the urgently required internal capacity building process to improve the institutional implementation of ECOWAS. The EU and ECOWAS are negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement on the basis of the Cotonou Agreement of the year 2000.​

    The surprising insurgency in Mozambique could not be handled by the AU or regional organizations. Rwanda and some SADC forces have come to the help of the Mozambican government in its fight with a radical insurgency movement inspired or supported by ISS with the capacity to spread across transnational borders to Tanzania and other neighboring countries. 

  6. Youth, as a stabilizing or destabilizing factor. Africa is a young continent, with the median age at just 19 years. The protruding youth population could become an important economic boost to the region. Alternatively, it could further increase the risk of instability and violence if young people are deprived of a quality education, stable employment and a political voice”.

    ​Over 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age. Youth poverty is higher than in any other region. It has become chronic and is rising.  As young people are driven to desperation, many are resorting to crime or become involved with organized crime.   It is generally believed by many close observers that Africa’s vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening. Half of the continent’s population lives below the poverty line, and many of its young people are chronically underemployed, making them vulnerable to recruitment. One attractive sector is joining extremist organizations.  Members of violent extremist groups are disproportionally young men, and they are geographically dispersed.

    Recruitment efforts by extremist groups are focused mainly on youth. They make it easy to join. One does not have to belong to a particular country or ethnic group or belong to a certain religion or region to become a member. Extremist groups are motivated either by money or religious beliefs. In order to sustain themselves, financing often comes through illicit drug trafficking, arms trafficking human trafficking, bank robberies, kidnappings (ransom), and maritime hijacking. The difference between organized crime and violent extremism is at times difficult to discern.

    In their 2017 study based on interviews with hundreds of voluntary recruits to Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) found that the journey to violent extremism is one marked by exclusion and marginalization, lack of opportunities, and grievances with the state. About 71% of those interviewed cited government action — the murder or arrest of a family member or friend — as the tipping point for joining a violent extremist group, indicating the limits of militarized counter-terrorism responses by governments.
  7. Technology as a game-changer. Technological changes are raising the security stakes and enabling self-organization of individuals for both negative (terrorism/extremism) and positive (social change/transparency). However, protecting millions of newly connected Africans from cyber security threats is a major concern, as is the usefulness of the internet as a recruitment tool for extremist groups operating in the region.”

    “In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in destructive technologies using a variety of techniques. For example, deep-fake technologies employing deep learning creates synthetic media, including videos and voices. Other techniques use Generative Adversarial Network to manipulate images, videos, and sounds and then superimpose them onto source files so that the latter is altered in a very subtle manner.” 10

    As in other parts of the world, social media plays an important role in the election dynamics in Africa. They raise the level of anxiety and fear among civilians and have succeeded in decreasing the level of trust between the population and the authorities. Other cases show the major role of disinformation or misinformation in situations involving killing and community conflict.

    Such technologies have also been used to propagate extremist ideologies, violence and hate as seen in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Nigeria. As the number of followers of such programs increase and people share and discuss these extremists’ views; “the more ideas and news become deeply anchored in people’s mind.” ibid Many articles and images are edited resulting in fakes for those who consume without checking the sources and truthfulness. People irresponsibly share these fakes with friends and the more they circulate the more likely that they are accepted as the truth.
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As far as violence and criminal acts are concerned there is no one holistic solution because the conditions that bring all the perpetrators together are different.  Several leaders are focused on staying in power through whatever means, the religious zealots are after state power, the criminal gangs are after money, the ethnic lords are after controlling resources and protecting their turf and the senseless internal physical boundaries which divide people of one country along ethnic lines.

To be able to defend Africa from this looming catastrophe, AU member states will have to agree on a common strategic doctrine that addresses the root causes of human insecurity. The need for a common regional and international strategy has never been as critical as it is now. Arms manufacturers and smugglers and human traffickers have never been as busy as in this decade in Africa. There is a desperate need in Africa for strong, selfless educated leaders with visions like their forefathers. No country can solve the problem on its own. Violence in one country is violence next door. Such crimes like the ones Africans are facing do not have a country or a boundary.  They have become   regional, continental, and global and have the capacity to corrupt governments and be a proxy to external agendas. 

Poverty, population displacement, hunger, disease, environmental degradation, and social exclusion all directly affect human security.   People live their daily lives based on people-centered, human concerns: their hopes and their aspirations for tomorrow, the desire to live in peace, dignity, and freedom and to exercise their choices freely within the bounds of internationally accepted domestic laws, to live with opportunities and feeling confident of not losing them.  In most of Africa these do not exist.  Africa is at war with itself, but it was not brought on by itself. If the conflicts, we see today are the results of poverty then African countries should ask why they have become so poor when they own the resources now?   If we are fighting because of lack of justice, equality, and freedom then African countries should ask themselves why did we create a political system that mis-governs, exploits, and oppresses its own people? If we are fighting because of ethnic and religious differences we have to ask ourselves today is how did the 2000 ethnic groups of Africa live together relatively peacefully amongst themselves before and during the times of the colonizers? Something must have happened to make Africa today the continent with the largest number of conflicts. The answer could partly be found in “the second scramble for Africa” which Julius Nyerere of Tanzania predicted.


From a speech delivered at the opening of a World Assembly of Youth seminar in Dar es Salaam in 1961 - Julius K. Nyerere.

“I am a firm advocate of African Unity. I am convinced that, just as unity was necessary for the achievement of independence in Tanganyika, or in any other nation, unity is equally necessary for the whole of Africa to achieve and maintain her independence.

I believe that, left to ourselves, we can achieve unity on the African Continent. But I don't believe that we are going to be left to ourselves! I believe that the phase from which we are now emerging successfully is the phase of the First Scramble for Africa, and Africa's reaction to it.

We are now entering a new phase - the phase of the Second Scramble for Africa. And just as, in the First Scramble for Africa, one tribe was divided against another tribe to make the division of Africa easier, in the Second Scramble for Africa one nation is going to be divided against another nation to make it easier to control Africa by making her weak and divided against herself.

Poverty, migration, and the   rise of transnational crimes and insurgencies and civil wars that led to continuous political crisis and regional instability on the African continent lie heavily on the shoulders of the African elites and the leaders. How then can we explain the fact that 94% of the UN peacekeeping missions, the largest and most expensive, are all in Africa?


The activities of AISSS will revolve around multi-disciplinary research, training, seminars and international conferences and global partnerships with institutions and governments that share common interests with the vision, mission and mandate of AISSS. Researchers from all African countries and other continents with interest and expertise on the subject will be identified and requested to contribute and participate in the activities of AISSS

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