By Augustine Ekitela (2015)
State stability is increasingly becoming a concern. Some of the elements that make up a state, namely a legitimate government, a people, a territory, a defence system, and sovereignty, are struggling. As they do so, they predispose states and nation-states to crumpling from within. Unless adaptive means are pursued to strengthen these state elements and make them significantly relevant, the concept of state and its practice is doomed in posterity.
The existing security machinery would not be adequate to break the will and drive of a determined revolutionary people. This has been witnessed in the Arab Spring, which was basically the expression of deep-seated resentment by a people.
Of the five elements of a state, two of them, namely a people and the defence system, are notably the main weaknesses threatening the stability of many African states and nation-states.
It is agreeable that the social fabric of many African states has weakened progressively since independence. The threshold of social disintegration, based on perceived exclusion of nations in state affairs, has fed the negative ethnicity for regimes, exponentially contributing to social intolerance and making a case for rationalised growth of ethno-political and religious revolutionary groups by quarters feeling as subjects of historical social injustices.
Notably, the people are the source of civil power and authority to the elected, the case of representative democracy as the alternative to popular exercise of direct democracy. In the context of gross abuse of the power and authority vested on the elected, and state programmes propagating negative ethnicity, social intolerance precipitate with a corresponding social order breakdown to the extent that law and order will be maintained with a lot more difficulty.
Therefore, the people’s sense of oneness in the body of state citizenry long waned off. Patriotism has not survived the ethnic intolerance and the negative social re-engineering that immediately replaced the pre-independence rhetoric of emancipation of the people from colonial rule for self-rule and socio-development for independent African nation-sates. That pre-independence strong sense of purpose resulted in betrayal occasioning the withdrawal of sections of the populace that felt short-changed and excluded. Today, therefore, the state has a greater potential to come down from the interior than from the exterior because of the character of the social fabric evident in most African states.
The second element contributing to African states weakening stability is the traditional and conservative security systems, predominantly the military and the police. African states are very vulnerable to amorphous threats, such as bandits, terrorists cells, criminal organisations, etc because the security agencies capacity to deter, prevent, detect, delay, and manage security and disaster risks, has not grown to be commensurate to the existing risks against the state.
The conservative doctrine prepares defence systems for conventional threats from neighbours. Thus, there has been marked slowness towards institutionalising change towards adapting to combating insurgency and amorphous threats from organised terrorist groups.
The political socialisation of African military institutions has turned them a lot more into being enablers of power protection and preservation of the governments of the day than protecting the citizenry and their property. All this is happening at a time the state is characterised by social apathy, exclusionist governance, resource exploitation at the expense of host communities, rapidly spreading transnational terrorism and organised crime, etc.
Maybe little if not less upgrade has happened to give most African military systems the modern means to match the contemporary third and fourth generation calibre of threats faced throughout the world, especially in countries directly involved in the fight against terrorism. Military budgets have continued to be run, but the military has been unsuccessful in rescue and recovery operations against the Boko Haram, for example, who are wont to kidnapping school girls in their hundreds in remote Nigeria.
The rise of internal criminal groups ambitious to establish links for cooperation with international criminal organisations, geopolitical funding, and a supportive media component threatens the stability and existence of the state.
Look at the case example of Boko Haram (Nigeria), and Al Shabaab (Horn of Africa) that work in links with Al Qaeda etc. The growth and spread of such worrisome relationships focused on long-term geostrategic goals supported by short-term motivating success goals rapidly manifesting, certainly means the African nation state must review its socio-economic, political, security, and governance programmes to forestall the imminent threats to national stability.
The defence systems of most African states are a weakness that if not addressed, will only provide a false sense of security, while the states progressively grind to a halt.
Social cohesion and integration commissions have not served the state and the tax payer value for their existence, while security sector reforms (SSRs) have not seriously been given a chance to add value to improve our security institutions. For the much-sought change to happen, there must be political commitment and realistic independent systems and processes that focus on the long term.
From holistic and best practice, international organisations such as the UN working in conflict regions have broadened the perspective to security. The UN modus operandi, for instance, is premised on the concept of human security, a thinking defining UN different lines of operations jointly coordinated to realise sustainable peace and security, development, governance and the rule of law, humanitarian assistance, among others, in operations in conflict regions.
Analysts such as Mutahi Ngunyi and Prof Katumanga strongly argue that SSRs must address the distance between the state and the population, and must appreciate that security is not a monopoly of the central government, but an oligopoly that has seen the rise of private security firms, consultancies, international partners all geared towards fighting threats against humanity.
Action-focused social cohesion and integration and security sector reforms (SSR) remain the realistic options African states must pursue in time to alleviate the furtherance of state instability. Most importantly, the private-public partnership arrangement should be exploited by security agencies by initiating an atmosphere conducive for cooperation and closely work with private security firms in the furtherance of national security.