The total absence of European policies to address climate-driven migration from Africa is deeply concerning.
Europe is underestimating the primary cause of migration from sub-Saharan Africa: climate change. Environmental changes have a particularly pronounced impact on migration from Africa for at least four reasons: the continent is highly dependent on natural resources and agriculture, which are the first assets to be undermined by climate change; it has poor infrastructure, such as flood defences; its states are often characterized by weak institutions, which are less able to adapt to climate change; and its high poverty rate undermines the resilience of local populations to climate shocks.
This Sunday, 17 September 2017, marks two years since the last attempted military coup d’état in Africa. Defined as “illegal and overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting executive.” Coups have been attempted over 200 times in Africa, with over 100 succeeding.
However, the last decade has seen a pronounced decline in and—with no coup attempts since September 2015 and no successes since 2014—this trend appears to be gaining momentum. This extraordinary shift away from what Samuel Decalo once referred to as the “most visible and recurrent characteristic of the African political experience” likely has its roots in both external and internal dynamics. Each of these dynamics can be seen with the continent’s last coup attempt.
Conflict data sources show fewer armed conflicts, but are we getting the full picture?
Political violence in Africa is rising and it is more complex than before. But it is significantly less deadly than in previous decades, according to a number of conflict data sources.
Open-source conflict data is increasingly used to supplement reporting and analysis of trends in instability in Africa. A number of recent global reports, including the OECD States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, use conflict data to show changes in conflict type, actors, tactics and intensity across and within countries over time.
While Africa accounted for only 16% of the global population in 2016, more than a third of global conflict took place here last year. Leading conflict data projects such as the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) show that conflict incidents in Africa rose significantly between 2010 and 2014, but have been declining since 2015.
At the end of 2016, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), announced that the group had “expanded and shifted some of our command, media, and wealth to Africa.” ISIS’s Dabiq magazine referred to the regions of Africa that were part of its “caliphate”: “the region that includes Sudan, Chad, and Egypt has been named the caliphate province of Alkinaana; the region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda as the province of Habasha; the North African region encompassing Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania as Maghreb, the province of the caliphate.” Leaving aside the mismatched ethno-linguistic groupings included in each of these “provinces,” ISIS’s interest in establishing a presence in Africa has long been a part of its vision for a global caliphate.
Battlefield setbacks in ISIS’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria since 2015, however, raise questions of what impact this will have for ISIS’s African aspirations. A useful starting point in considering this question is to recognize that the threat from violent Islamist groups in Africa is not monolithic but is comprised of a variety of distinct entities. For the most part, these groups are geographically concentrated and focused on local territorial or political objectives. Specifically, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has identified 5 major categories of militant Islamists groups in Africa. In order of lethality on the continent, these include Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, ISIS-linked groups in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Sinai-focused groups.
There are strong calls to give UN peacekeeping operations more robust mandates to engage in counter-terrorism tasks. But the idea of UN peacekeepers conducting counter-terrorism operations is not without its problems.
Terrorist attacks have been increasing rapidly over the last decade. According to the Global Terrorism Index, 29,376 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2015. This was the second deadliest year after 2014, when 32,765 people were killed. The spike in 2014 and decline in 2015 is largely a result of the rise and subsequent weakening of Boko Haram and the Islamic State (IS).
Fatigue after long engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq and the continued impact of the financial crisis has significantly dampened the interest in new out-of-area operations among Western member states. At the same time, the threats of terrorism and migration remain at the top of the foreign policy agenda. It is in this environment that policy makers are turning to the UN, to see what role it can play in the global security burden-sharing. This means a more transactional relationship with the UN, not necessarily considering the longer-term impact of undermining its impartiality and legitimacy.