Why African leaders need to prirotise solving the continent’s insecurity crises

Africa, the world’s second largest continent, has been plagued with insecurity. And its effect has been reflected in deepening poverty, food and nutritional insufficiency, health and educational crisis, bad governance, violent and intractable conflicts, rising number of refugees and internally displaced persons and environmental bankruptcy among other things.

This insecurity often leads to a struggle for resources, leaving most African governments with no roadmaps to economic recovery. Crises are often attributed to internal causes and external forces that exert pressure on Africa and attenuate the governments’ capacity to keep their people safe. And nation states have made little progress in averting the pressure, let alone reversing the effects of security within their borders.

Terrorism and Insurgency

African countries have now become terror havens. Policymakers regularly cite statistics that show terrorist attacks in Africa have spiked from around 400 annually in 2007 to over 2 000 by 2016. For instance, Somalia’s worst terrorist attack in 2016 claimed the lives of at least 300 people, while hundreds were seriously injured in the attack that was blamed on militant group al-Shabaab.

Kenya in 2016 experienced multiple terrorist incidents, including small‑scale, but high-profile, attacks in Mombasa on September 11 and in Nairobi on October 27, the first terrorist incidents in Kenya’s two largest cities in more than a year.

In the past five years, terrorist attacks have killed nearly 20,000 people across Africa. Two groups—Boko Haram and al-Shabab—accounted for 71 percent of reported incidents and 91 percent of fatalities.

Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy combats terror from extremist groups that include the aforementioned Boko Haram Islamic Sect, rampaging Fulani herdsmen, cattle rustlers, oil thieves and pipeline vandalism, armed robbers and kidnappers. The invasion of Nigeria’s territories by foreign terrors to many patriots calls for more serious approach than is presently adopted by the country’s political class.

“In Nigeria … a potent mix of communal tensions, radical Islamism, and anti-Americanism has produced a fertile breeding ground for militancy and threatens to tear the country apart,” noted foreign affairs analysts Lyman and Morrison in a Council on Foreign Relations report.

Identifying peace and stable security as the panacea for the country’s development and progress, Former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo believes “if one state is peaceful, secured and safe in Nigeria, it is an example to others and it goes a long way because the aggregate peacefulness and security is what makes for peace, security and stability of our country.”

African countries including Angola, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe have all had their fair share of  terrorist attacks.

Conflict and Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is on the rise across Africa, particularly in conflict zones such as Nigeria, Sudan, and Somalia. In Nigeria, an estimated five million people face acute food shortages and famine. Somalia also has to deal with Islamist militancy in addition to drought and famine. 224 million people are now reportedly under-nourished on the continent, an increase of over 20 million in recent years.

“East Africa has suffered insufficient rainfall, army-worm infestations and local conflicts, leaving in the sub-region a record 26.5 million people in need humanitarian assistance. An estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a recent report noted that these African countries require external assistance for food, namely Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

In West Africa Mali, over 150 000 children are without formal education due the terrible state of security in northern and central parts of the country. Mali is faced with an unending conflict that has led to horrific abuses in its northern and central parts, with the increase of the number of attacks by armed groups in these parts of the country since 2017.

Attacks on imams, village chiefs and state representatives in the West African country have resulted in numerous human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law such as killings, torture and looting, especially when committed in the context of the conflict. As a result, victims and their families are deprived of truth, justice and reparation.

Perhaps global economy and economy expert Richard Joseph is right when he noted that “discordant development—deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress— is often one of the root causes of uncertainty, insecurity and violent conflict in Africa.”

Welcoming contributions from developed nations of the west to alleviate human insecurity won’t put an end to the problem. Africans need to develop homegrown, integrated solutions. And bad governance, policies that create conditions for conflict to thrive, marginalization of minority groups, and the constant escalation of tribal differences for political gain all need to be addressed from the inside as a matter of urgency.