The underlying structural causes of state weakness in sub-Saharan Africa – relatively low
population densities, problematic population distribution and poor infrastructure will remain
ubiquitous through 2015 and beyond, impeding the prospects of significant gains in broad
based institution building and development. Much will depend upon two external drivers of
development and growth – foreign direct investment (FDI) and aid flows – whose distribution
across the continent will continue to be uneven, maintaining a situation in which nodes of
promise sit side by side with zones of weak governance and in which some other countries
stubbornly refuse to respond to external efforts to stimulate growth and development.

While it is relatively easy to forecast which countries will fall into these different areas,
Africa’s experience over the past decade underlines the extent to which there is no room for
complacency. Likewise many of the new generation of African leaders hailed in the mid1990s – those from Ruanda, Uganda and Ethiopia, in particular – have since become a source
for disappointment, instinctively reverting to methods of authoritarian political and economic
control provoked by weak institutions . Others such as Mozambique and Liberia have
exceeded expectations and others such as Botswana, Ghana and Tanzania have quietly got on
with the business of reforms.

The failures are most likely to include those countries in historically-rooted zones of weak
governance such as the Central African Republic (CAR) or the Congo (DRC). Improved
mechanisms for managing intra-state conflict should prevent the re-emergence of top-down
conflict. However, social transformations connected to globalisation and local demographic
pressures will continue to favour violence as the principle means for resolving disputes at a
local level. This will be most felt in the Sahelian region, reaching from the Sudanese
province of Darfur in the east, across the CAR, southern Chad, northern Cameroon, Mali and
Niger. The tri-border area between Sudan, Uganda and Kenya is also at risk of developing
into a zone of entrenched social conflict.

While certain continental trends, such as rapid urbanisation and the deepening of the
HIV/AIDS crisis seem to imply a homogenisation of the African continent south of the Sahara,
the assessment is that Africa will in fact become less homogenous in the medium term. The
differences between countries will become more entrenched, despite enduring risks of crossborder destabilisation. The economic and political pre-eminence of Nigeria and South Africa will persist, though both seem set to undergo significant change. Nigeria will seek to
strengthen institutions and mediate secessionist tendencies and South Africa will seek to
moderate accusations of regional domination. Encouraged by this it is to be expected that the international community will seek to empower the AU as a peacekeeping force and
diplomatic broker, however political divisions between African nations will prevent the AU
from developing into a truly effective force.

Failed and Fragile States in Africa

According to the British government’s Department for International Development, failed and
fragile states are today home to more than 900m people, half of whom live in severe poverty.
This poses a significant threat to international security as such states offer a safe haven for
illicit trade, drugs-production and weapons-smuggling. Corruption presents an endemic
problem and the global result is likely to be regional spill over of the effects of conflict,
terrorism and a failure to manage epidemic diseases.
A high proportion of such countries are to be found in Africa. Highly fragile African States
are the following:
• Central African Republic
• Chad
• Congo (DRC)
• Somalia
• Sudan

Those displaying signs of fragility are:

• Burundi
• Congo
• Eritrea
• Ethiopia
• Guinea-Bissau
• Liberia
• Nigeria
• Sao Thome and Principe
• Sierra Leone
• Zimbabwe

The problem of weak and failing states is significantly more dangerous than is generally
understood as these unstable regions are a breeding ground for organised crime and terrorism.

A case study is that of the greater Horn of Africa which includes Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti,
Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Two clusters of conflict emanating from specific states continue
to destabilise the region. The first centres on interlocking rebellions in Sudan and affects
northern Uganda, eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic. The main culprits
are the Sudanese government, which is supporting rebels in these three neighbouring
countries; and those states which are supporting Sudanese groups opposing Khartoum. This
conflict is driven by the Sudanese wish to prevent a fragmentisation of the country. The
second cluster links the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea with the power struggle in
Somalia, which involves the secular government, anti-government clan militias and antiIslamic warlords. Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in December 2006 temporarily secured
the transitional governments position, but this appears to have sown the seed for a future
Islamic and clan-based insurgency, with regional implications.

Such states offer terrorists space to train and recruit dissatisfied followers. Given that such
countries are “no-go areas” for government troops, they are also a safe haven to retreat to
between operations, much as northern Pakistan is today for the Taliban operating in
Afghanistan. Furthermore, such states also offer the possibility of financing terrorism through
the exploitation of natural wealth.

Terrorism in Africa

The decision by the Pentagon to create a separate Africa Command is the clearest indication
that the US Military and other branches of the US Government view sub-Saharan Africa as a
growing Islamic terrorist threat. This decision was driven in the main by the realisation that
the fragmented nature of the US military intelligence gathering and regional security training
efforts were failing to meet the growing threat posed by expanding Islamic networks in East
and Southern Africa, the strong presence of radical Islamic groups in Somalia and the
growing presence of Iranian-backed groups tied to Hezbollah, at times cooperating with al
Qaeda, in West Africa. An essay in Sada al- Jihad , an on line magazine which supports the
global jihad, specifically outlines al Qaeda’s interest in expanding into sub-Saharan Africa as
the general weakness of central government and high levels of corruption make it easier to
operate in Africa than in countries which have effective security, intelligence and military

Further complicating the strategic situation in Africa are the vast cultural and ethnic
differences across geographic boundaries making the gathering and interpretation of
intelligence difficult. For example, the Sunni-Salafist groups are seeking to build a network of
jihadist groups to establish an Islamic caliphate. Saudi Arabia has been investing millions of
dollars in the building of Salafist mosques, often staffed by imams who repudiate the more
tolerant Sufi version of Islam historically practiced in much of Africa. This tolerant form of
Islam is being swept aside by the militant form of Islam imported from the Middle East with
reverberations that will be felt throughout the region.

In contrast to the Sunni-Salfarist groups, which are supported by al Qaeda, the radical Shiite
Groups are tied to Lebanon and Hezbollah through family and business networks. This
grouping is supported by Iran in order to expand its economic reach into Africa. Each year an
estimated $200m is collected from the Lebanese Diaspora in Africa and used to finance

Counter-Terrorism Strategies

Strategies designed to decapitate networks through removing key figures in the movement are unlikely to force real changes, particularly in terms of Islamic extremism as the ideology of
the movement has been disseminated and absorbed to the extent that there is little dependence on individuals to spearhead and focus it.

The fight against terrorism is not a job which can be undertaken by one single agency, it
requires team work and input from a wide range of national and international organisations
including law enforcement agencies, the military, the intelligence services, the financial sector,
the diplomatic service and health organisations. The key to success is Organisation,
Cooperation and Coordination.

A pre-requisite for success is good governance. This is central to the effective administration
of a state’s resources, the rule of law, and the development of a strong civil society. Only if
such a structure is in place can the war against terror, which is fuelled by dissatisfaction and
ignorance, be won.

It is of interest to note that those countries which have good governance are successful in
fighting terrorism. Whilst the threat of terrorism remains in Western Europe, it has been
countered effectively by a multitude of interlocking measures and international cooperation.
Numerous terrorist plots have been uncovered at an early stage thus preventing attacks on
innocent citizens and deterring future attempts to create terrorist incidents. Intelligence is the most important tool in this battle, however being able to act in a timely and effective manneron intelligence gathered is equally important.

Diplomacy in the fight against terrorism should not be ignored. Whilst it might be too late for
diplomacy in the case of fighting against al Qaeda, diplomatic approaches to other terrorist
organisations, especially at an early stage of development can produce results. The IRA, after
all, was not defeated solely of the streets of Belfast but in meeting rooms in Ireland and the

Any attempt to fight terrorism in an effective manner must therefore take this into account. In
the case of Africa this is probably the biggest problem as in too many instances terrorist
organisations are based in regions or countries where good governance and functioning
ministries are wishful thinking, in some cases it is the government itself which is a part of the

Possible Solutions

Possibly the concept of good governance is too opaque to be of practical use as many African
countries haven’t had a widely held and detailed definition of what constitutes good
governance. Otto von Bismarck reportedly stated that “politics is the art of the possible”.
However performance must be judged against objective criteria and these are missing. Thus in
a first step it would seem necessary to initiate the drawing up of such criteria with the aim of
creating an environment in which necessary cooperation between various agencies and
ministries at national and international level becomes possible. This is very much a “hearts
and mind” exercise aimed at the public sector and not an easy one.

Parallel to this it should be possible to organise meetings and workshops at a national level,
involving the armed forces and security organisations and the Ministry of the Interior with the
aim of practising cooperation. Such meetings would undoubtedly result in small but
significant successes, thus further encouraging future cooperation. Foreign experts could play
a role here by mediating and providing expert advice.

It must be realised that such a radical departure from the manner in which counter terrorist
activities are being conducted will be a painful and long drawn out process. It therefore needs
to be mentored by a neutral agency such as IGAD rather than the AU in the form of the
African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism. It also needs to be backed by
legitimate national interests with sufficient power to counteract turf wars.

The role model at a national level is the UK`s COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) which
is highly effective and able to take the necessary decisions to mitigate terrorist threats. It also
cuts through red tape and has reduced time to action significantly, making COBRA probably
the most effective crisis management organisation active in counter terrorism today. It is
backed by a well functioning domestic and international Intelligence Service, a respected
Diplomatic Service, experienced Police and well trained Special Forces on stand by at all
times. Emulating this might take time and a great deal of effort, but it would seem that the
combination of good national governance and the ability to bring the power of the state to
confront the terrorist threat is the only solution remaining.