Throughout our journey since independence, Africa has faced a series of crises that have tragically escalated into conflicts. These conflicts have too often been approached from a Western perspective, resulting in the loss of countless lives and the destruction of property. Many African nations have overlooked a critical aspect of peacebuilding: ensuring all their citizens’ human security.
Addressing human security concerns is paramount in tackling the peace and security challenges we face on the African continent today. Our world is plagued by insecurities and threatened on multiple fronts by natural disasters, persistent poverty, violent conflicts, prolonged crisis epidemics, and economic downturns.
Being strategic in peacebuilding initiatives means new approaches to increase the prospects for peacebuilding success, which right now hover around 30%, especially in Africa.
All these inflict adversity and undermine prospects for peace, stability, and sustainable development. These crises are complex, giving rise to various forms of human insecurity. When these challenges intersect, they spread rapidly, affecting every aspect of people’s lives, devastating entire communities, and transcending national borders.
The State of Human Security in Africa
The global incidence of violent conflicts and insecurity is considered one of the most urgent development problems in the world today. In theory, most people and institutions around the world welcome and support the vision of security and a violent free world for sustainable peace and development. Sadly, however, it remains elusive, especially in many parts of Africa that are still inundated with problems of security, violent conflicts, and wars.
Cycles of the financial crisis, pandemics such as COVID-19, natural disasters, enduring and escalating violent conflicts and wars, terrorism, injustice, and food insecurity, have not only brought havoc to the peace and security of nation-states but have resulted in disastrous consequences for the survival, well-being, and dignity of individuals across national boundaries in Africa and beyond.
So far, opinions differ regarding the character of progress made to instill peace and security in the African continent, especially by warding off the dark history of militarization in the face of conflicts from the 1960s and 1980s. Apparently, in embracing the democratization processes from the 1990s, and taking into consideration the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030; and AU’s Agenda 2063, to ‘Silence the Guns,’ militarization appears to be a favored approach for many African governments in conflict situations. However, experience in many parts of Africa has revealed that extensive deficits exist in the militaristic approach or, again, state-centric approach to security and peacebuilding, especially with the increasing asymmetric violent conflicts involving state security forces and violent extremist groups.
In addition to the human and financial costs, one of the criticisms that have been raised in the literature about the militaristic approach to managing societal conflict is that it does not address the underlying reasons why people engaged in violent conflicts in the first place (the epicenter of the conflict). Instead, it focuses on the symptoms (the conflict episode) of a much deeper and more complex structural factor that is at the root of the ‘violent’ conflict.
It is, therefore, not surprising that states emerging from war in many parts of Africa (and other countries in fragile situations) also frequently relapse into war. Moreover, in today’s interconnected world, the concept of security extends well beyond the traditional analysis of the military actions/ state-centric approach to security and diplomatic policies of the nation-state to embrace the human security concept.
Human security is an important component of the global political and development agenda. It encompasses firstly, the protection of individuals as a strategic concern for national as well as international security; secondly, it spells out that the security conditions for people’s development are not bound to traditional matters of national defense, law, and order but rather encompass all political, economic and social issues enabling a life free from want, fear, and humiliation. Human security does not seek to supplant state security but rather to complement it. Such a holistic approach has the potential to contribute to more resilient societies where people are safe from chronic threats such as abject poverty, hunger, disease, violence, and repression and protected from sudden and hurtful disruptions in their daily lives.
Being strategic in peacebuilding initiatives means new approaches to increase the prospects for peacebuilding success, which right now hover around 30%, especially in Africa. Thus, in this context, strategic peacebuilding is a holistic and conscious effort that covers a broad range of measures implemented in the context of emerging, current, or post-conflict situations in Africa and which are explicitly guided and motivated by a primary commitment to the prevention of violent conflict and the promotion of lasting and sustainable peace and sustainable development.
Hence, we are motivated by the assumption that if the world nations and leaders collaboratively focus on enabling human security in the peacebuilding and development process, they have a chance of meeting their citizens’ aspirations for security and peace, thereby contributing toward a peaceful and equitable society and by extension also contributing to sustainable development goals (especially SDG 16 which focuses on promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development ‘for all’ by 2030).
- The human security approach is a new concept in Africa, and that is the reason it is facing rejections from policymakers; thus, there is a need to increase synergy between the States and civil society so as to build a nexus between national security and human security.
- Civil society organizations should build more strategies that will enable them to project positive values of human security systems.
- Civil society organizations should intensify capacity-building workshops on human security in all African countries and resolutions advanced to other stakeholders.
- African countries should place their population at their central stage, thereby eliminating military systems that protect the centralized regimes.
- In line with the AU Agenda 2063 aiming to silence guns, regional economic communities and member states should implement guidelines to ensure that constitutional amendments adhere to the continental framework and to national consensus.
- AU needs to call for a revitalization of peace and security council subcommittees on sanctions to develop different levels of punitive measures for any member state violating the rules.
- African states should take advantage of both our precolonial and colonial heritage to build efficient conflict resolution strategies that also address the drivers of conflicts.
- African nations should prioritize conflict prevention and conflict resolution at the regional level (AU) through dialogue, mediation, and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
- African nations should prioritize poverty alleviation and economic development as conflict prevention strategies.
- African nations should build synergy around human-centered and State-centered security for efficient peacebuilding in African nations.
Many African nations have ignored a critical aspect of peacebuilding, which is ensuring the human security of all their citizens. Addressing the concerns of human security is key to tackling the peace and security challenges we face on the African continent today. These crises are complex, giving rise to various forms of human insecurity.
When these challenges intersect, they spread rapidly, affecting every aspect of people’s lives, devastating entire communities, and transcending national borders. If African nations can build on these recommendations to prioritize the protection of individuals as a strategic imperative for national and international security, as well as investing in all political, economic, and social aspects that enable a life free of risk and fear, then sustainable peacebuilding and development will be guaranteed in the continent.
Tazoacha Francis is the director of peace & security at the Nkafu Policy Institute.
Article first appeared in On Policy.
Photo by Stuart Price via Iwaria.