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Priority Issues


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

August 3, 2015  Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup
    Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries, including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the beginning of the end for coal.

July 29, 2015  USA/Africa: Obama Visit Roundup
    In analyzing high-profile presidential visits, it is difficult to sort out symbolism from substance in the sheer volume of news coverage and commentary. And despite the flurry of announcement of "deals" at each stop, the main lines of policy are rarely altered and often reflect continuity not only within one presidential administration but also from one administration to another. The content of private conversations of lower-level officials as well as others involved in the visits may be just as significant as the formal meetings of presidents. Even more significant may be the issues not discussed because common assumptions go unquestioned on both sides.

July 21, 2015  Africa/Global: "Stop The Bleeding"
    With the exception of inclusion of a statement promising to address "illicit financial flows," the outcome document of the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa (July 13-16) broke little new ground. Significantly, rich countries vetoed action on a greater role for the United Nations in setting international tax standards, preserving that role for the club of the OECD countries dominated by the United States and Europe. But civil society momentum for more significant action is continuing to grow, as was marked by the launch of the "Stop The Bleeding" campaign at a continent-wide gathering in Nairobi in June.

July 14, 2015  Burundi: Diplomacy Falling Short
    As Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni travels to Burundi for yet another attempt to mediate in the crisis caused by the determination of President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in the elections now scheduled for July 21, it is clear that international diplomatic efforts are still failing to reverse increasing repression and escalation of violence. Despite multiple mediators and international declarations of concern, most recently calling for disarmament of the pro-government militias and commitment to a government of national unity, the incumbent president has good reason to conclude that he can continue to resist the pleas of his international critics as well as to repress internal opposition.

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

AfricaFocus Archive: by date | by place | by topic

July 6, 2015  
    Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate
June 30, 2015  
    South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 2
June 30, 2015  
    South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 1
June 22, 2015  
    Africa: AIDS Struggle Continues
June 15, 2015  
    Eritrea: "Rule of Fear, Not Law"
June 2, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Capital Flows in Context
June 2, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Tax Justice & Inequality
May 25, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Africa, Race, and World Order
May 18, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development?
May 11, 2015  
    West Africa: Ebola Down But Not Out
May   5, 2015  
    Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground
April 27, 2015  
    Burundi: On the Brink?
April 22, 2015  
    South Africa: Saying No to Xenophobia
April 14, 2015  
    Europe/Africa: Deaths at Sea
April 8, 2015  
    Garissa: Not Just Numbers
March 30, 2015  
    South Africa: Energy Futures Contested

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