On Friday, 4 August 2023, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) organised a webinar to discuss the key findings of the 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) in the Security & Rule of Law category. Ben Crumpton, a researcher at MIF, hosted the session along with Now Generation Network (NGN) member Mubarak Aliyu, Political and Security Risk Analyst, and it was moderated by Tracy Kituyi, a research assistant at MIF.
The session focussed on security trends and tried to formulate potential solutions to the drivers of security deterioration at the continental level. The webinar shed new light on the 2022 IIAG findings and allowed us to look towards the coming years.
Here are some Security & Rule of Law highlights from the 2022 IIAG:
- The decline in the Security & Rule of Law category over the decade (2012-2021) has been driven by the underlying sub-categories Security & Safety (-5.8) and Accountability & Transparency (-1.3).
- In opposition to this, both Rule of Law & Justice (+1.4) and Anti-Corruption (+0.7) have improved since 2012.
- In 2021, the top five highest-scoring countries in the Security & Rule of Law category were: Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Cabo Verde, and Namibia whereas South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, DR Congo, and Sudan were the lowest-scoring countries.
- Since 2012, the main drivers of the deteriorating security situation on the continent have been a rise in violence against civilians as well as in armed conflicts.
Declining security and rule of law
Based on the 2022 IIAG, the Security & Rule of Law category has experienced a decline in both the past decade (2012-2021) and in the latest five years (2017-2021). This decline is hindering governance progress, despite still being the second highest-scoring IIAG category in 2021. Security & Safety, one of the sub-categories within Security & Rule of Law, has experienced the largest decline at the sub-category level over the past decade.
In 2021, two out of three IIAG sub-categories with the lowest scores belonged to Security & Rule of Law, namely Accountability & Transparency and Anti-Corruption. The decline in Security & Rule of Law over the last ten years can be attributed largely to the sub-categories of Security & Safety (-5.8) and Accountability & Transparency (-1.3).
Considering the current sociopolitical situation in Niger, several people asked during the session about key data facts on security regarding this country. But it is important to understand the latest iteration of the IIAG data set only covers the decade from 2012-2021.
Based on the 2022 IIAG data set, Niger was the 10th most deteriorated country over the decade in the Security & Safety sub-category. When we look at the Sahel region, we also witness similar declines in the Security & Safety sub-category, especially in Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad.
To contextualise these findings with more updated information, Mubarak Aliyu intervened, talking mainly about his area of expertise: the Sahel region (which includes Niger). He confirmed that this deterioration of Security and Rule of Law in the region is not only explained by radical extremism and political instabilities but there is also a lack of state legitimacy coming from other very important interdimensional factors to be considered in the Sahel region:
- The sentiment of poverty and inequality, people feel like they are exploited.
- The effects of climate change, especially regarding desertification and access to water.
- The migration patterns, fuelling insecurity.
In terms of the most serious decline in the Sahel, Mubarak highlighted Burkina Faso. The country has been deeply impacted by the militarisation of its population and the two military coups it faced in one year. The country witnessed radicalisation and violence against the civilian population despite the efforts made by the government.
The contribution of the youth and the role of social media
The youth have a key responsibility in terms of political organisation.
According to Mubarak, young people need to educate themselves to understand how the system works, and more importantly to organise themselves for their voice to be heard on different levels:
- Political organisations must speak out and act on policies.
- Civil society organisations can be powerful by raising problems and helping governments.
- Religious organisations are also key as it is their responsibility to praise counterterrorism.
The youth also use social media, a powerful tool becoming increasingly important in security and rule of law. Mubarak explained that it can be used in political campaigns, to monitor events, track protests, etc. It has potential and gives power back to the people. For example, it has been used by the public in Nigeria, in Sudan, or during the Arab Spring. Despite this, online disinformation and radicalisation remain ongoing issues.
There is a collective responsibility from the governments and the users. We need to use tools to refine news and verify false claims. In terms of tackling radicalisation, it needs to be a country-by-country approach, as it needs to be adapted to each country and its laws. It is a sensitive question as there is a thin line between control and censorship.
As we have seen a decline in transparency and accountability, it could mean there is a kind of censorship developing and we can’t fully trust the moderation process. This is also why it is an individual approach. We need to seek the truth first before reacting. One way of checking information is to check fact-checking websites or to ask people that are witnessing events, like expatriates for example.
Reasons for hope
According to the 2022 IIAG, the most improved countries in the Security & Safety sub-category are Eswatini, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, and Zambia.
For Mubarak, the most improved countries in the Sahel region are Gambia and Mauritania, where security has been very stable and has evolved well. Mauritania is an interesting example as the government factored in the local context, including women in community outreach efforts, and involving as many people as possible.
Ben also presented the most improved countries in the Accountability & Transparency sub-category: Ethiopia, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Seychelles, and Madagascar.
A government can only be as accountable as civilians are willing to make it.
Mubarak commented that strong organisations must be able to negotiate with the governments. Also, on the question of Illicit Financial Flows, something that damages transparency and accountability, organisations in civil society can be essential in fighting this. Improvements in accountability led by citizens are taking place throughout the continent but they will take time.
What are the conditions for civil society to be able to have an impact on society as a whole and to cooperate with the governments?
- First, civil society organisations must be in touch with the grassroots in order to develop their legitimacy. The level of distrust in organisations that are not in touch with the population is high and might hinder efficiency.
- They need to define their agenda based on the reality on the ground. It requires outreach to specific communities, and to be skilled in balancing different interests.
The role of regional bodies
When we look at Africa as a whole, what are the regional dynamics in place?
Different regions are performing differently in the 2022 IIAG, with, for instance, Southern Africa having the highest score and Central Africa having the lowest score in the Security & Rule of Law category in 2021.
Restorative approaches should be taken to address problems in all regions, Mubarak said, with a focus on repairing what is lost after conflicts and compensating those who have suffered the most. Regional bodies should factor in local dynamics during democratic transitions or peace-building processes and avoid copy-paste approaches. To prevent conflict, governments should focus on the basic needs of the population such as healthcare, education, and affordable housing.
International interventions in Africa
We cannot keep external actors from being involved in a globalised world. What would be the ideal international intervention?
For Mubarak, it it is all about interests. African governments need to define their interests, and the external actors need to do so too, so negotiation processes are clearer and more efficient. When we look back at history, there is a difference between African countries’ values and international interests. Agendas must be defined precisely.
African countries should also cooperate and form coalitions to negotiate together. A good example is what we have witnessed with transitional justice in Rwanda after the genocide, where the process was informed by local courts (the ‘Gacaca’ courts). The objective is to focus on restoration and not retribution by placing the priority on the community and maintaining peace.