Eastern Africa: Security and the legacy of fragility

Report
from International Peace Institute
Published on 31 Oct 2008 View Original
Introduction

"Eastern Africa" denotes the geographical are comprising the seven member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD): Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. Tanzania is also included because it has had long historical and political interactions with Kenya and Uganda within the rubric of the East African Cooperation (EAC). The main challenges to human security in this region have originated from political and state fragility, resource scarcities, and environmental degradation. All these factors have contributed to a regional context that is characterized by intrastate conflicts, interstate wars, and political extremism. Raging civil wars and interstate conflicts have, in turn, produced forms of statelessness and marginality that have deepened societal insecurities and strained human livelihoods. Consequently, in addition to profound political instability and economic destitution, human security is arrayed against escalating communal violence, small arms proliferation, and massive movements of people within and beyond the region.

Regional insecurities have also had wider global resonance, attracting international actors, institutions, and resources. Since the turn of the new century, man-made conflicts and natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, have tasked the energies of the international community. International engagement will continue because new security threats such as terrorism and piracy have emerged, exploiting extant weaknesses in states and societies of the region. Resuscitating structures that reduce the challenges to human livelihoods in eastern Africa will entail the return to sturdy territorial order, national cohesion, economic viability, and the building of regional institutions for security and prosperity.

Key Challenges

The key challenges for East Africa and the Horn include the following:

- Weak states and governments that lack authority and legitimacy, resulting in the weak organization of security;

- Ecological, environmental, and health vulnerabilities that have exacerbated the inability of states and societies to produce food and other forms of material sustenance;

- The proliferation of lawless and marginal communities imperiled by the vagaries of the weather, internecine communal violence, and state neglect;

- Susceptibility to international terrorist and criminal networks.

TERRITORIAL SECURITY AND GOVERNANCE: THE LEGACY OF FRAGILITY

Weak territorial boundaries that invited external and internal challenges have long dominated eastern Africa. Since the 1960s, the external challenge has been expressed in Somalia's irredentist claims against its neighbors in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti while self-determination was captured in secessionist struggles in southern Sudan and Eritrea. The threats arising from weak states also led to the consolidation of authoritarian and military governments that sought to defend the state and the regime. Questions of territory and security as symbols of weak statehood have persisted in an admixture of new and old forms. Eastern Africa continues to evidence contention over the definition of territory, state, and nation, producing a new spiral of regional insecurities with implications for human livelihoods and economic viability.

As before, the major states of the region- Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan-have faced armed threats to their regimes, challenges that also constituted threats to their political and geographical integrity.