Publication: The Military Balance 2016
09 February 2016
Security and defence affairs in Sub-Saharan Africa have again been dominated by complex challenges arising from long-standing security, stability and development issues. While there continues to be an upward economic trajectory, these issues in combination impede progress in many areas, and their effect is to highlight the fragility of progress on the continent. Ebola was one example of how quickly a crisis could unfold and affect regional security dynamics; the challenge from Islamists in Mali was another. Both examples also highlight the increasingly transnational dimension to the continent’s security crises.
Perhaps the most prominent instance of how issues either directly related to security, or with the potential to become so, can rapidly display transnational dimensions is Boko Haram, now active not just in northeastern Nigeria but also in neighbouring states. To this can be added continuing instability in the Sahel, largely fuelled by a nexus of criminal–terrorist activity that crosses porous borders, and similar concerns in East Africa, particularly in Somalia. There are also other slow-burning conflicts that display transnational dimensions, such as the continuing activity of – and so far unsuccessful attempt to counter – the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in north-central Africa.
The activity of groups such as these has a profound and enduring effect on the societies in which they operate; not just with the instability and destruction that they create, but also because of the way they operate – frequently pillaging for supplies, terrorising local communities and forceably ‘enlisting’ child soldiers. Recent reports in 2015, including by UNICEF, again highlighted the continuing use of children in conflict in locations ranging from the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to South Sudan and Mali, among others.