domingo, 9 de agosto de 2009

PAYS Day 4 - "Insecurity in Africa"

Following the lectures about International Security and Security System Reform, the afternoon of the 4th day of PAYS, was about Insecurity in Africa.

The lecturer, Professor Pedro Borges Graça, started the conference by asking the public their thoughts about Africa. This raised the general interest and gave a very interesting dynamic to the discussion. Later on, after hearing all the different opinions, Mr. Borges Graça, summed them up and gave them a hint of his own analysis.

Evaluating the continent the lecturer reminded the public about the very different dimensions one finds there. Firstly he identified 3 critical points for security in Africa. The first is in the Horn of Africa, another one being the Guinea Golf and South Africa. This analysis was based on a basic division between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, where he identified a basic difference in state consolidation and the notion of nation state. On one hand there was only one nation state in Sub-Saharan Africa to begin with, Botswana, whereas in the Muslim Arab countries most states had a national basis one way or the other. Therefore there were very few security risks involved. The real threat there lay in those shatterbelt states, situated right in the middle, those between one and another Africa, states such as Nigeria, Mali and others.

This continent has indeed two major structural damages. As we have said, there is the problem of nation vs state. African borders are not in accordance with the different ethnic identities which would be too many and too small in numbers to constitute viable states anyway. Thus, the consolidation of the state structures is a starting challenge still to be met in many countries.

This gave way to the second structural liability of these regions: a vicious cycle revolving around a series of other problems: social, economic and political. Where one cannot be solved without the other, and where one causes another. In a very simple way, Professor Borges Graça explained the reason for the never ending drama that Africa has been for the last forty years.
Before the session ended the lecturer tackled the present and future of the continent, this turn as a competition site for foreign powers in Africa. The argument appointed American difficulties and the European lack of resources, to establish the needed influence in the continent. Stating that the US have the means and some European countries (namely Belgium, France, Portugal and the U.K.) have the know how since they are more familiarized with the continent. That would be why the American government has been having problems negotiating an African location for the establishment of their military command, AFRICOM.

Jorge Wahnon

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