Amid ongoing war and political strife in several countries, Africa doesn't always stem from crises of national governance and the failure of governmental institutions to mediate conflict. The colonial factor should be reconsidered in attempts to address African conflicts because the roots of many post-colonial conflicts in Africa remain buried in its past. The conflict dynamics and ethnic and religious tensions were often rooted in a combination of state weakness, corruption, ineffective delivery of basic services, competition over natural resources, inequality and a sense of marginal-ization. Two other cross-cutting issues continued to shape regional security: the ongoing internationalization of counter-terrorism activities, and the growing impact of climate change with water scarcity being a particularly serious challenge. Here are some African conflicts that need urgent action.
1. Civil War in Ethiopia
Although the instability came after the war that began in 2020, the conflict has since gained momentum. In the ritsi lands of Ethiopia, peasants have always trolled government measures that would impact their access to land. Unlike some areas in Ethiopia, Tigray had little commercial potential and therefore no state farms were established. To-date forces under Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy are fighting to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from its stronghold in the northern region of Tigray. Through it all, civilians have suffered most. Since the war started, witnesses have reported numerous human rights violations, many confirmed by a U.N.-led investigation, of massacres, ethnic cleansing and widespread sexual violence.
On March 2, the United Nations appointed a team of investigators led by Fatou Bensouda, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to collect evidence of abuses for potential use in future criminal prosecutions. The suffering in northern Ethiopia is part of a broader storm of conflict, climate change and soaring food prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, that has fueled a crisis affecting 20 million people in the broader Horn of Africa region. And human rights abuses continue unabated. Tens of thousands of Tigrayans have been driven from their homes by ethnic Amhara militias, as part of what the United States has called an ethnic cleansing campaign.
2. New approach to peace needed for CAR
The Central African Republic has been mixed up in a series of wars. It is said that CAR will remain trapped in a cycle of conflict and violence. Displacement and violence occurring in a fragile national context have had serious consequences on the protection of civilians, their living conditions and their physical and mental wellbeing. In late 2020, a coalition of rebel movements called the “Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC) formed to disrupt the 2020-2021 general election. The second round of the elections was held in March 2021 despite the CPC’s use of violence and armed action against the national government. Although the national army and allies regained control of most of the country’s cities, the armed rebel groups dispersed in rural areas and military operations continued. The displacement of population in CAR and the worsening humanitarian situation in some parts of the country is also due to seasonal natural disasters (such as floods or fires) and agro pastoral conflicts. In fact, 30,000 people were reported affected by natural disasters in 2021 (HNO 2022) and 5 percent of the locations assessed by DTM mobility tracking (round 13) recorded displacements mainly due to natural disasters. Humanitarian access has also become a major concern in CAR that further complicates the humanitarian response. The country is a dangerous place for humanitarians with recurring incidents affecting them and a serious threat of explosive devices in their area of intervention.
3. Suffering in South Sudan
Despite this being the final year of implementing the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict, much remains to be done to conclude the transition within the allotted time. The country is in a humanitarian crisis which has been driven by over four years of civil war as half of the population faces extreme cases of hunger. The power crisis which erupted in 2013 has spiraled into a conflict which has spread throughout different parts of the country leading to over ten thousand deaths. Nearly 2.5million people have fled to neighboring countries to seek refuge and solace from the conflict.
4. Cameroon’s conflicts in the North and Southwest
What began as protests over poor governance and marginalization turned into a deadly insurgency. This has caused many deaths, upended the lives of thousands and created a humanitarian crisis, all of which could have been avoided. The Islamist armed group Boko Haram increased its attacks in the Far North region from January to April, killing at least 80 civilians, with over 340,000 internally displaced as of August 2021. In responding to the armed conflict, government forces have also been responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests. In the last five years, the conflict in north and south-west Cameroon has not received the attention it deserves from regional and continental actors. The Cameroonian government’s dogmatic stance and military approach to resolving the conflict have not helped, and these are likely to persist.
5. Threatening state of terrorism
In 2022, Africa will also continue to face the threat of violent extremism and terrorism in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin (LCB) regions, East Africa and the Horn, and Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The menace will also hover over the coastal countries of West Africa. As always, the prevalence of terrorism is linked to socioeconomic conditions. Terrorist organizations exploit deprivation and alienation to recruit members, with the Islamic State, for instance, promising disaffected African youth “a new life and new opportunities.” Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, particularly, have seen continuing attacks.
The Liptako-Gourma border area among the three countries remains highly volatile, with a terrorist threat, intercommunal violence and transnational organised crime. The Burkinabè government has come under increasing public pressure to deal decisively with violent extremism. The focus in Mali and Chad on completing their political ‘transitions’ could also continue to detract from the fight against terrorism. The expansion of Islamic State affiliates is behind the surge in terrorism in many of the Sahel countries.
Terrorism deaths in Niger more than doubled in 2020 to 588 deaths. The proliferation of Islamic State affiliates and al Qaeda-linked groups have turned Africa into a terror haven. While the military response seems to have pushed back insurgents so far, a more holistic approach is needed to address the socio economic challenges of communities. The spread of the threat from the Sahel to West Africa’s coastal countries is best evidenced by the resurgence of attacks in northern Cote d’Ivoire near the border with Burkina Faso. Cote d’Ivoire is now suffering repeated attacks, and the fear is that violent extremism could affect other parts of the country and neighboring states such as Ghana, Benin and Togo.
These numerous challenges facing Africa require concerted regional and continental responses. While several mechanisms exist, their implementation largely depends on the will and means of the states. Although such mechanisms and frameworks provide guidance, solving structural vulnerabilities will remain the primary responsibility of national governments.