Africa's Fragile States: Empowering Extremists, Exporting Terrorism (Africa Security Brief, Number 6, August 2010)
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Twelve of the 20 states deemed by the Failed States Index FSI to be at greatest risk of collapse in 2010 are in Africa. These fragile and failed states account for much of the continents ongoing conflict, instability, and humanitarian catastrophes. State failure raises the risk of personal insecurity, lawlessness, and armed conflict. Such persistent and randomized insecurity undermines all aspects of ordinary life, forcing people to stay in their homes and close their businesses for fear of violence. Under such circumstances, residents become willing to support or accept virtually any groups that are able to restore order -- be they warlords, local gangs, or organized criminal syndicates. Among the violent actors that fill the power vacuums of Africas fragile and failed states are Islamist extremists. By providing security and basic services, they hope to gain greater public acceptance of their ideological agendas. A states failure to assert a monopoly on legitimate force accordingly opens the door for extremists to build their bases of political power. Of the 12 high-risk states in Africa, 8 have populations that are one-third or more Muslim, a feature that more than doubles a states risk of instability and provides fertile ground for Islamist extremists. Africas fragile states create political and security environments that enhance the leverage of Islamist extremists in their ongoing struggle with moderates for influence. Countering extremism in Africa, therefore, cannot be separated from building stronger, more legitimate states. Robust state security operations can neutralize extremists in the short term. However, they are an insufficient long-term counterextremism strategy unless coupled with opportunities for moderates to engage in the political process. In fragile states, maintaining moderate Islamist support for the state should be a central stabilization objective.
- Government and Political Science
- Sociology and Law
- Unconventional Warfare