September 24, 2020

The Changing Nature of West African Conflicts

In the postcolonial period, especially in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s, several West African states have been plagued by conflicts resulting in loss of lives, destruction of property and overall political and economic setback for the region. In recent times the nature of these conflicts has tremendously changed, from largely interstate conflicts to intra-state conflicts leading to further set-backs for the region, both politically and economically.


These intra-state conflicts have actually created deeper problems for the region as states no longer possess the monopoly of coercion. New non-state actors have emerged who recognize no borders or the legal international frameworks that define the rules of conflict and are of force equal to what states can offer.. In such a context, transnational crimes such as human and drug trafficking have flourished and are of a great concern for the security of West African states. Nonetheless, the real threat they face is the rise of terrorism.
Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram and recently renamed Islam State’s West African Province; Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM); the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), all operate across borders and have no respect for the rights of people or the sovereignty of the states in the region, which makes it difficult for national, regional and international actors to bring an end to their terrorists actions. In fact, efforts by states to end the huge threat these terrorist groups represent for their existence and for human security have often resulted in gross violation of human rights. The legal frameworks designed to provide platforms for solutions have not worked, particularly in Nigeria where the authorities have been in a quagmire over the ways and methods through which the Boko Haram crisis can be brought to an end.
The North-East Master Plan which is featured in this edition provides a holistic and comprehensive approach that can aid in ending the Boko Haram conflict. The plan is developed from a human security perspective which, if adopted, can yield both short and long term solutions to the conflict. The now inter-linked issues of terrorism-drugsarms come out clear in our featured articles. The rise of terrorism, human and drug trafficking has created the demand for more arms and ammunition across the region. The high level of arms in the hands of the youth in particular is doom for the region, if not curtailed. Money from drugs and trafficking of persons is aiding terrorism. This complex web of criminal activities spells danger for the region, especially in the midst of poverty and high levels of inequality in many of the West African countries.
But, we believe that it is not late. What the region needs in the face of these threats is cohesiveness and cooperation among states and non-state actors. No one can do it alone. Supranational efforts among the region’s states are the way to go. For now, it provides the clearest pathway through which the region can wriggle its way out of this clear and present danger.

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