The past two decades have witnessed rapid escalation in prominence of security threats such as terrorism, state fragility, nuclear proliferation, bureaucraticcorruption,andglobalwarming. Equallydisquietingisthe new wave of non-state sources of instability including HIV/AIDS, food insecurity, and natural disasters. The uncertainties they portend for worldwide peace are yet to be accurately, comprehensively deciphered, and present recommendations for their solution often raise more questions than answers: Are state institutions developing the muscle and experience to confront emerging threats? Should regional economic organizations modify their role to find balance and order among warring parties? Can new security regimes eliminate the roots of conflict and solidify long-term peaceful relations across national borders? If answers to these questions are negative, the international community must immediately chart alternative strategies to change current trajectories away from violence and conflict footings.
Security and conflict risk exist and are magnified in West Africa—where state institutions are fragile and their weak economic underpinnings frequently yield violent internal conflicts that seem profoundly impervious to mediation; and the situation is made that much more difficult because specialized structures required to promote continuous dialogue and compromise among the political elite are eithernon-existentorlackinginvitality. Meanwhile,ethnicrivalriesand malignant political vectors in the form of religious (Islamic) fundamentalism render the achievement of mutually acceptable outcomes from negotiations almost impossible; and massive flows of light weapons embolden insurgents and drive radicalized amorphous groups to seek violent solutions rather than negotiate peaceful settlement, agreements on identity crises.
With the challenges of an insecure region as the context, the search for peace must begin with inoculating and fortifying West Africa’s conflict prone societies with values of democratic consultation—to enable them resolve crucial national questions of state legitimization, qualityofcitizenship,andpoliticalparticipation. Thosestatesemerging from conflict also need regional cooperation to address socio-political tensions embodied in migration, illegal exploitation of natural resources and cross-border trafficking in illicit narcotic drugs. For that matter, reform of the security sector, demilitarization of politics, rehabilitation of female victims of war-time rape and forced pregnancy, and punishment of indicted war criminals (perhaps truth-telling) can ease the burden of memory and encourage peacebuilding.
These are some of the most crucial issues on the minds of policymakers and peace activists, many of whom share our confidence in regard to the capability of existing regional security regimes to contain the conundrum of inflammable conflicts, and to achieve positive outcomes.
Properly conceived, Conflict Risk is an appropriate theme to celebrate this launching of the second volume of West Africa Insight; it speaks clearly and articulately to the transformational dividends that will accrue to communities once a majority of leaders abandon violence and begin seriously to court reconciliation of conflicting interests through peaceful measures.