Africans are less safe than they were a decade ago

Almost 70% of Africans now live in a country where armed conflict and other violence is worse than it was 10 years ago
The M23 rebel group claims to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis.
The M23 rebel group claims to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis.
Photo: James Akena (Reuters)
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Africa is now less safe and less secure than it was 10 years ago, hampering continental progress toward effective governance, according to a new report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance found that “almost 70% (69.3%) of Africa’s population lives in a country where the security and rule of law environment is worse in 2021 than in 2012, mostly driven by a worsening security situation.”

It attributes this trend to increasing levels of violence against civilians and deaths from armed conflicts across the continent.

Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan are the least secure countries to live due to prolonged armed conflict, terrorism, and organized crime, according to the report.

The most secure countries to live in are Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, and Namibia. Seychelles has seen the highest improvement in its security over the study period.

Bloodshed across Africa

Numerous countries and regions across the African continent are beset by conflict, making any progress toward improved quality of life and better government near impossible. “There have been 23 successful and attempted coups on the African continent since 2012,” the report notes. These countries are Mali, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Niger, Sudan, Eritrea, Benin, Central Africa Republic, Libya, Comoros, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, DRC, Lesotho, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Ethiopia.

The war in eastern DRC between the government and M23 rebels, for instance, has consumed the attention of multiple governments in the region. Rwanda, widely blamed for supporting M23, escalated the conflict further when it downed a DRC fighter jet on Jan. 25, claiming DRC violated its airspace.

Thousands were killed in the conflict over the course of 2022, and several hundred thousand others were displaced. About 300 people died in the conflict last month alone.

Meanwhile, a fight over the breakaway region of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, which began in 2020, has displaced a record 5.1 million people (some 2.5 million people in 2021 alone), according to UN estimates. Some 60,000 people fled to eastern Sudan — which faces its own national security vulnerabilities — before a tenuous peace deal was struck between Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Tigray rebels last November.

Over the past 12 years, Al-Shabaab militants have been the biggest security threat in eastern Africa. The group has orchestrated a series of terror attacks, killing civilians in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

In northern Nigeria, more than 35,000 people have been killed since 2009, when the militant group Boko Haram launched an insurgency to overthrow the country’s government and establish an Islamic state. At least 3 million people have fled their homes.

Other violent extremist groups — like Da’esh, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates — continue to exploit instability in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea to expand their influence.

Since 2008, in South Africa, multiple deadly waves of xenophobic violence against Africans from other nations have caused increased conflict, leading to criticism of the current South African government for inciting attacks against the migrant population.

“Anti-migrant discourse from senior government officials has fanned the flames of violence, and government actors have failed to prevent further violence or hold perpetrators accountable,” reported Special Rapporteurs, an independent coalition of UN-affiliated human rights experts.