The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: What to Do With Africa's Failing States

opinion

As the year comes to a close, reports emerging from the Central African Republic(CAR) indicate that a rebel movement is at the gates of the capital Bangui, and as usual, foreign nationals (white people to be specific) have already evacuated.

Some reports that were later dismissed a day ago, indicated that the president, General Franco Bozize had already evacuated his family to East Africa. Many people who follow current events, were surprised that within a week or two, previously unheard of rebels had pushed through the jungle to the gates of Bangui.

Well, ever since the demise of the notorious Jean Bedel Bokassa, the self declared emperor of the CAR, not many have had the occasion to follow event in this backwater central African country.

To understand the obscurity of CAR at the moment, one needs to go back almost thirty years ago to where Rwanda was during the long years of Juvenal Habyarimana's forget-able yet disastrous rule in Rwanda.

Up to now, Bokassa, widely lampooned as a man eating tyrant, is still more famous or infamous than his country. Recently in this paper, I read about Mr. John Kayihura's trip to the country's forests and the chance encounter thereafter with Bozize himself. It is such stories, before this rebel insurrection that on occasion reminds us of such African countries.

There is something that is rather bothersome about African countries that were once colonised by the French. They seem to have remained sleepy and fallen behind the largely British colonised countries. Several commentators have spoken about this. Rwanda was in the same league prior to 1994.

The backwater status of countries like CAR, coupled with an absent state in most of its vast jungle, was attractive for the defeated Uganda rural terrorists Joseph Kony to find sanctuary and according to some accounts rebuild his collapsing militia outfit.

Recent international attention has focused on the D R Congo and the endless allegations against Rwanda, as the behind the scenes player in destabilising the vast African nation. However, the nature of the Congolese state and CAR, have a lot in common and it is that very nature of the largely dysfunctional and absent state ,that creates the conditions for a proliferation of militia groups.

Some of these rebel movements have legitimate grievances for their specific local communities. But the problem is that state failure, creates grievances for the whole nation and some communities may become more victim than others and resort to armed insurrection. The problem is that when deals are made with that specific community that has gone to war, just one symptom of a large problem will have been treated.

Going into the new year, I think International efforts especially through regional bodies, should more than ever before, make it their business to look inside the affairs of many of these failed African states. It may not have to be intervention, because local solutions are the best for any kind of such situation, but a concerted effort towards addressing the problems of several failing African states is absolutely necessary.

Recently, many pundits and Afro optimists, have been at it; speaking of what they call Africa's century. That other continents have had their time to develop and shine; and that now, the time for Africa to make leaps and bounds in terms of development had come. That Africa is the new destination for global investment and finance.

Indeed a number of countries that have enjoyed relative peace over the last couple of years or decades, offer hope and opportunity as the next destination for serious investment. But surely, with such continuous conflicts and failed states, a lot of investments will be lost even before they take off.

Whereas it was long agreed that there will be no more change of government by unconstitutional means, a number of countries in West Africa and central Africa, still face the problem of military coups and mutinies. This speaks volumes about the unviability of many states on the continent.

Regional integration, offers hope for such countries in the short term. Many regional bodies like ECOWAS, despite their weaknesses, are on a number of occasions able to restore order in such small and largely dysfunctional states that dot the continent.

It is imperative that efforts to stabilise these countries that are prone to conflict and failure, become an ongoing exercise instead of the fire brigade approach that we see when conflict breaks out.

Forecasting and predicting conflict should be given serious attention by regional blocs and international bodies, since intervening after conflict has broken out is always late and largely ineffective.

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