Africa Security Briefs

The Africa Center’s Africa Security Briefs are concise analyses of critical security challenges facing Africa that generate practical insights on a topic or context as well as actionable recommendations for policymakers and practitioners.

  • Creating Sustainable Peacekeeping Capability in Africa

    By Daniel Hampton, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, April 2014 Peacekeeping - MONUSCONearly half of all uniformed peacekeepers are African and countries like Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa have provided troops to UN and AU missions almost continuously over the past decade. Despite such vast experience, African peacekeepers are often reliant on international partners for training before they can deploy on these missions. Institutionalizing a capacity-building model within African defense forces is a more sustainable approach that maintains a higher level of readiness to respond to emerging crises and contingencies on the continent.

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  • Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria

    By Michael Olufemi Sodipo, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, August 2013 05-17-2013warcrimesOngoing attacks by Boko Haram and other violent Islamist groups coupled with an at times arbitrary response by Nigeria's security forces have contributed to a deteriorating security situation in the north. Increasingly frequent attacks and bombings also mask longer-running radicalization dynamics. A sustained approach targeting every stage of the radicalization spectrum, from addressing socioeconomic grievances, to cross-cultural peacebuilding initiatives, to rehabilitating radicalized members of violent Islamist groups, as well as a more measured use of force are needed to reverse this broader trend.

    Download Security Brief #26 [PDF] ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Peace Operations in Africa: Lessons Learned Since 2000

    By Paul D. Williams, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | July 2013 Heal-Africa-DRC-UN Photo-Eskinder Debebe More than 50 peace operations have deployed in Africa since 2000, including multiple African-led or hybrid African Union/United Nations initiatives. The frequency of these deployments underscores the ongoing importance of these operations in the playbook of regional and multilateral bodies to prevent conflict, protect civilians, and enforce ceasefires and peace agreements. Recent operations have featured increasingly ambitious goals and complex institutional partnerships. The achievements and shortcomings of these operations offer vital lessons for optimizing this increasingly central but still evolving tool for addressing conflict and instability.

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  • The Lessons and Limits of DDR in Africa

    By Prosper Nzekani Zena, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | January 2013 Ammunition Collected From Militias in Côte d'Ivoire - UN Photo/Ky Chung With organized DDR initiatives in 10 African states, there is widespread recognition of the importance of these programs to advancing stability on the continent. Even so, these initiatives are often under-prioritized and -conceptualized, contributing to the high rates of conflict relapse observed in Africa. DDR efforts across Africa over the past decade indicate that DDR cannot substitute for measures that address core conflict drivers and is often hobbled by expedient but fragile efforts to integrate nonstate militias with a national defense force.

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  • Islamic Militancy in Africa

    By Terje Østebø, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, November 2012 Suspected Shabaab Members Captured in Somali Capital

    The rise in Islamic militancy in the Sahel, northern Nigeria, and the Horn of Africa has elevated attention to this evolving security concern. Hopes that Africa's historically moderate interpretations of Islam would suffice to filter extremist views from gaining meaningful traction seem increasingly misplaced. More generally, understanding of this unconventional security challenge is often based more on speculation than informed assessment. Responses must avoid conflating distinct Islamist actors while addressing local level perceptions of disaffection and under-representation that underpin support for militants.

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  • Building Africa's Airlift Capacity: A Strategy for Enhancing Military Effectiveness

    BlackhawkBy Birame Diop, David Peyton, and Gene McConville. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, August 2012. Growing security threats posed by agile and maneuverable forces such as narcotics traffickers, coastal pirate gangs, and nonstate militias have underscored the critical importance of security force mobility to monitor and protect Africa's enormous land mass and more than 30,000 km of coastline. While commonly viewed as too expensive, airlift assets provide vital capabilities and multiply the effectiveness of Africa's resource-limited militaries and collective peace operations.

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  • Unfinished Business: A Framework for Peace in the Great Lakes

    DRCMap By Rigobert Minani Bihuzo. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, July 2012.

    Despite numerous peace agreements, Africa's Great Lakes region has been in a persistent state of conflict for the past two decades. The contributions and shortcomings of some of the most significant previous peace initiatives, however, offer vital lessons as to how to mitigate the local level tensions, national political dynamics, and competing regional interests that have led to recurring outbreaks of violence.

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  • Boko Haram's Evolving Threat

    By J. Peter Pham, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | April 2012Photo Credit: George Osodi/IRIN

    A surge in large-scale attacks over the past year by Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram presents a serious threat to stability in West Africa’s most populous state and the world’s sixth largest oil exporter. The group has successfully expanded its geographic reach, mastered new sophisticated tactics, and targeted symbols of international presence in Nigeria. In this Africa Security Brief, J. Peter Pham assesses the significance of this upsurge, examines the origins and goals of this opaque group, and puts forward priorities for responding to this threat.

    Download Security Brief #20 in: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Addressing Côte d'Ivoire's Deeper Crisis

    Abidjan-webBy Thierno Mouctar Bah. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 2012.

    Although Côte d'Ivoire's traumatic post-election standoff has been resolved, legacies of a national identity crisis fostered during ten years of exploitation of ethnic and regional divisions have left this strategic West African country vulnerable to further instability. Avoiding this will require constructive engagement from Côte d'Ivoire's neighbors. International partners' assistance is also needed to build stronger national institutions, particularly a more independent electoral commission and professional military, as well as reinforcement of traditional reconciliation mechanisms.

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  • Regional Security Cooperation in the Maghreb and Sahel: Algeria’s Pivotal Ambivalence

    By Laurence Aïda Ammour, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | February 2012 army_algeria

    Despite growing concerns across the Sahel and Maghreb over the increasing potency of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the diffusion of heavily armed mercenaries from Libya, the expanding influence of arms and drugs trafficking, and the widening lethality of Boko Haram, regional security cooperation to address these transnational threats remains fragmented. Algeria is well-positioned to play a central role in defining this cooperation, but must first reconcile the complex domestic, regional, and international considerations that shape its decision-making.

    Download Security Brief #18 [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Africa's Militaries: A Missing Link in Democratic Transitions

    Mauritania_military-w By Mathurin C. Houngnikpo. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, January 2012.

    The institutionalization of democratic norms in Africa's militaries is often lagging behind advances made in civilian institutions and civil society. In some situations, security sectors have actively aligned themselves with incumbent leaders seeking to stay in power or directly intervened in politics, thereby discrediting the entire security sector and marginalizing its role when transitions do occur. With national elections becoming increasingly routine and subject to stricter oversight, such dilemmas will continue to be front and center in Africa's political development.

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  • Alternative Dispute Resolution in Africa: Preventing Conflict and Enhancing Stability

    By Ernest Uwazie, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | November 2011 AlternativeDisputeResolutionInAfrica2 Low-level disputes in Africa can spiral into violence and conflict due to the lack of effective judicial systems that can provide a credible and timely process for resolving differences. Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques can strengthen dispute settlement systems and bridge the gap between formal legal systems and traditional modes of African justice. They may have particular value in stabilization and statebuilding efforts when judicial institutions are weak and social tensions are high.

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  • Sifting Through the Layers of Insecurity in the Sahel: The Case of Mauritania

    By Cédric Jourde, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    mauritania_armyIncreasing narcotraffic and a more active AQIM are elevating concerns over instability in the Sahel. However, the region’s threats are more complex than what is observable on the surface. Rather, security concerns are typically characterized by multiple, competing, and fluctuating interests at the local, national, and regional levels. Effectively responding to these threats requires in-depth understanding of the multiple contextual layers in which illicit actors operate.

    Download Security Brief #15 [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Nigeria's Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict

    By Chris Kwaja, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | July 2011nigeria_mosque-horz Nigeria's long-running "indigene-settler" conflict in and around Jos, Plateau State has escalated in recent years and may spread to other ethnically mixed regions of the country, heightening instability. Navigating such inter-communal fault lines is a common challenge for many African societies that requires looking past symptoms to address systemic drivers. In Nigeria, this will entail measures that directly mitigate violence as well as realize constitutional reform.

    Download Security Brief #14 in: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Optimizing Africa's Security Force Structures

    By Helmoed Heitman, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, May 2011 asb 13Combating irregular forces has become a common feature of the contemporary African security landscape. However, the security sector in most African countries is ill-prepared to conduct effective counter-insurgency operations. Realigning force structures to address these threats while building security sector professionalism to gain the trust of local populations is needed to do so.

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  • Urban Fragility and Security in Africa

    nigeria_violence_2011By Stephen Commins, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2011.

    Estimates are that more than half of all Africans will live in cities by 2025. This rapid pace of urbanization is creating a new locus of fragility in many African states – as evidenced by the burgeoning slums around many of the continent’s urban areas – and the accompanying rise in violence, organized crime, and the potential for instability. These evolving threats, in turn, have profound implications for Africa’s security sector.

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  • West Africa’s Growing Terrorist Threat: Confronting AQIM’s Sahelian Strategy

    By Modibo Goïta, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | February 2011 aqim Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has undertaken increasingly frequent and effective attacks in the past year, posing a dangerous and growing threat in Africa's Sahel region. Reversing this trend presents a particularly complex challenge as AQIM has simultaneously strengthened ties to local communities and regional criminal networks. Efforts to counter AQIM will require collaborative region-wide strategies that feature complementary security and development initiatives.

    Download Security Brief #11 [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Investing in Science and Technology to Meet Africa’s Maritime Security Challenges

    moi By Augustus Vogel. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2011.

    A growing number of Africa's security challenges - narcotics trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, and armed robberies, among others - take place at sea. Illicit actors exploit Africa's maritime space given its expansiveness and the limited number of vessels African governments can field to interdict this activity. Technology can dramatically improve Africa's maritime security coverage. However, to do so will require engaging Africa's scientists who can guide and sustain these efforts. This will yield not only security but environmental and meteorological benefits for the continent.

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  • Democracy and the Chain of Command: A New Governance of Africa’s Security Sector

    By Dominique Djindjéré, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | 2010 ivory_coast_armyAs many African countries continue down the path of democratic reform, Africa's defense and security forces must make fundamental changes to adapt to a democratic model of governance. In this paper, General Djindjere puts forward five priority reforms Africa's defense and security forces should pursue to facilitate this transition. In addition to building professionalism, the legitimacy and trust security forces will gain in the eyes of their compatriots from this process will lead to greater effectiveness and popular support for national security efforts.

    Download Africa Security Brief #8 [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • Nonstate Policing: Expanding the Scope for Tackling Africa’s Urban Violence

    urban_violense_africaBy Bruce Baker. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2010.

    The increasingly internal nature of Africa's security threats is placing ever greater pressures on Africa's police forces. Yet severe resource and capacity limitations, combined with high levels of public distrust, leave most African police forces incapable of effectively addressing these expanding urban-based threats in the near term. This Security Brief examines the potential of nonstate policing organizations - community-based groups with local credibility and knowledge - to help fill this gap.

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  • Africa's Fragile States: Empowering Extremists, Exporting Terrorism

    FragileStatesBy Zachary Devlin-Foltz. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2010.

    Persistent reports of extremist activity from across Africa have deepened concern over the spread of radicalism on the continent. Extremists capitalize on political and security vacuums within Africa’s fragile states to grow their support base and consolidate their strength. Stable states that provide opportunities for political participation empower moderates while delegitimating extremists’ use of violence.

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  • Cocaine and Instability in Africa: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean

    By Davin O'Regan, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | July 2010 AfricaBriefFinal_5

    Africa is facing an increasingly menacing threat of cocaine trafficking that risks undermining its security structures, nascent democratic institutions, and development progress. Latin America has long faced similar challenges and its experience provides important lessons that can be applied before this expanding threat becomes more deeply entrenched on the continent - and costly to reverse.

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  • Misinterpreting Ethnic Conflicts in Africa

    By Fr. Clement Mweyang Aapenguo, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, April 2010 Demobilization_of_Burundian_MilitaryEthnic conflicts in Africa are often portrayed as having ages-old origins with little prospects for resolution. This Security Brief challenges that notion arguing that a re-diagnosis of the underlying drivers to ethnic violence can lead to more effective and sustainable responses.

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  • Lessons Learned from Peace Operations in Africa

    Ugandan African Union By Paul Williams. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2010.

    Peace operations have been a principal tool used to curb conflict in Africa over the past decade, with over 40 operations deployed since 2000. This Security Brief takes stock of lessons learned from these experiences and the implications they hold for improving the effectiveness of future peace operations in Africa.

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  • Navies versus Coast Guards: Defining the Roles of African Maritime Security Forces

    marine-forces-in-puntland-receive-two-coffins-containing-the-remains-of-slain-somali-pirates By Augustus Vogel. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2009.

    Piracy, illegal fishing, and narcotics and human trafficking are growing rapidly in Africa and represent an increasingly central component of the threat matrix facing the continent. However, African states’ maritime security structures are often misaligned with the challenges posed and need coast guard capabilities and an array of intra-governmental partnerships.

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