Security in Africa: perspectives for 2016!

The past year, had its “crop” of crises and victims on the African continent. The security balance sheet of year 2015 is thus mitigated enough. If we trust the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), published by Institute for Economics and Peace, insecurity globally stagnated from a point of view of its intensity. According to the GPI, we count among the most secure countries : Ghana, Botswana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Tanzania and Gabon. It should be noted, that Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, demonstrated the most remarkable national security level improvements. On the other hand, we notice among the “bad pupils” : South Sudan, CAR, Somalia, DRC, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, South Africa and Burundi.

Several factors allow to estimate the level of safety on the continent. The threats are multiple and strike the African countries in diverse ways and with a relative intensity. Terrorism remains the major threat affecting countries as Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Mali. Politico-military crises (political instability) also affects countries such as Burundi, DRC, South Sudan and CAR. A high level of criminality also strikes Nigeria, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Libya. The small weapons illicit traffic affects all the regions of the continent, given the conflicts which occurred there and which continue (Libya, Mali, CAR, etc.). Maritime piracy, also continues to weaken exchanges in the African waters, especially in the Gulf of Guinea and Gulf of Aden (Somalia, etc.). Finally, the questions of the security sector governance, remain a concern, because the security systems of several African states, are failing and require in-depth reforms. We do not pretend, to cover all the issues which threaten those states, but this brief assessment allows us to realize the urgency, to take into account very quickly all these challenges by building a strong security sector governance and reinforcing the regional and international cooperation.

In 2015, we made a few recommendations based on a 2014 security assessment in Africa. Today, it seems  crucial to assess if those recommendations have been carried out and if so, how effective they have been?

1/ With regard to the issue of political violence and political crises generally, it should be noted, that several elections were positively conducted on the continent in 2015. Ivory Coast moreover surprised the international community by its political maturity. On the other hand, countries as Burkina Faso which finally held calmed elections at the end of the year, endured military coups, bringing disorder. The Year 2016 will be too, rich in presidential elections in particular in Gabon, DRC,  Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Benin. The conditions around some of these elections remain shady and conflicting. We thus recommend, in order to prevent pre-electoral, electoral and post-election tensions, the following : a) the signature of a charter of acceptance of democratic alternation by all political parties, to reiterate their respect for the democratic game; b) the signature of a charter of inviolability of the constitution by all political actors, to avoid any unconstitutional violence; c) the UN and AU support in the follow-up of the pre-electoral and electoral process by the installation of surveillance missions. These missions could include nationals of countries which had successful elections in 2015, such as Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso; d) a strong mobilization of the civil society following the example of the ” Balai Citoyen” in Burkina Faso. Indeed, citizen mobilization so as to ensure transparent and democratic elections is more than necessary in Africa. Citizen watch has to express itself in the respect for the law and be taken into account by national leaders.

2/ Concerning the fight against terrorism, the continent mobilized militarily speaking. Indeed, several initiatives were taken or are in the course of execution, both at the coordination and operational levels, in particular the creation of a multinational mixed force ( 8700 men) by the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the G5 Sahel which organizes the installation of a joint integrated general staff. In a pragmatic way, all the current initiatives are essentially military, in regard to regional cooperation or combat equipment assistance or intelligence support or still in terms of capacity building of the African armies by the western armies. The civil dimensions of this merciless fight against terror spread by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, el Shabbab or Aqmi, remains neglected. Thus we recommend for 2016 the following measures: a) a regional and national mobilization for the implementation of sensitization and awareness politics, towards populations to thwart the psychological warfare engaged by these terrorist groups; b) the actual setting up at the national level, of watch groups in all the communities, to alert the authorities in case of threats; c) the increase of the Human Development Index (HDI), in every African country to break the link “ignorance-poverty-terrorism”; d) a greater commitment of the Muslim communities, in the fight against terror, by creating watch committees in order to foster awareness and sensitization; e) the effective creation of elite units specialized in counter terrorism, would be a main advantage; f) the formulation and implementation of national policies aimed at preventing and repressing any religious radicalisation!

3/ Concerning the post-crisis tensions which affect few countries, such as Burkina Faso, we suggest the following : a) the pursuit of any Security Sector Reforms (SSR) national program, in countries such as Mali and Ivory Coast. The formulation and implementation of a SSR national policy in countries as Burkina Faso, enduring a paralysis of its security systems is necessary. The SSR must be regularly monitored, by an independent mechanism, to ensure its coherence and its efficiency; b) the institution of viable mechanisms of human development, allowing to fight against the impoverishment of the African societies and so to reduce their vulnerability; c) the acceptance of the rules of good governance is critical for these countries, which in a context of recovery also have to create a mechanism in charge of promoting on one hand, integrity, transparency, ethics and accountability and on the other hand, sanctioning any breach in these principles.

4/ Regarding training and capacity building, the creation of civilian think tanks dedicated to strategic thinking, is on the agenda more than ever. Indeed, reflection remains the heart of anticipation and prevention. Several centres or institutes already exist regarding security on the continent in particular, The Institute for Security Studies (ISS, South Africa), the Moroccan Centre of Strategic Studies (CMES, Morocco) or still the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC, Ghana) and the Institute for Strategic Studies and Defence (IESD, Ivory Coast). The interaction between these centres and states, is critical to enrich research on the highly strategic matters. However, it is crucial that these centres are not just the consequence of a trend. Indeed, the example of the IESD is edifying, because since the launch of its activities in June, 2015, no activity was organized. Worse, the IESD does not have a management team, no recruitment was made, it has no headquarters and no training program. It is almost an empty shell.

5/ Finally, with regard to borders control, the African states are more than ever vulnerable, because having excessively permeable borders. Indeed, this porosity favors the traffics of every type from drug trafficking, to human trafficking. It is time for the African countries to consider borders control as an absolute priority. Sound national borders control policies must be formulated and implemented. The cross-border cooperation owes, too to be reconsidered and improved in particular in the monitoring of migration flows! Moreover, a better control of the borders contributes widely to the fight against several plagues of which terrorism.

So as to conclude, we have in a few words, covered critical issues to be addressed in 2016. It is up to African states, to welcome the strategic reflection with open arms, in order to enrich the existing state capacities. Besides it is urgent that the resolutions stemming from various meetings on security held in 2014 and 2015 (Dakar Forum , Tana Forum, etc.), see a beginning of implementation. To finish, the task can seem extremely difficult, however to reflect Antonio Gramsci’s famous quote,  ” even if we are pessimists because of intelligence, we have to be optimists because of will “.


3 thoughts on “Security in Africa: perspectives for 2016!

  1. mpmoon

    Thank you for sharing this. I have one question regarding your suggestion of independent monitors for the SSR initiative you reference. Specifically, do you believe it might be beneficial (or even possible) to potentially institute additional redundancy into the independent monitoring mechanism itself? Given the mistrust on the ground in certain regions, I sometimes wonder if this might build additional goodwill toward SSR by serving as an ‘indicator’ that the monitors are, in truly sufficient to the task at hand, and shall be held accountable for their integrity as well. This might help mitigate distrust concerning possible corruption if the monitors are themselves seen as ‘friendly’ to the regimes who have accepted them.


  2. jfcurtis Post author

    Redundancy would be possible and beneficial to foster more confidence in the monitoring mechanism! So yes your point is valid! Distrust is a concern especially where SSR is coordinated, implemented and monitored by the same government body! Monitoring is to serious to be left in the hands of a national mechanism!

    Liked by 1 person


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