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A View from Chatham House: Authoritarianism and the securitization of development in Africa

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From Chatham House
glIn the wake of 9/11, the politics of western aid and international development in general have become ‘securitized’ and ‘militarized’, most especially in those areas that are considered ‘hot spots’ in what has been called the ‘global war on terror’.1 Despite differing interpretations of what this process entails, there appears to be widespread agreement on two related issues: first, that ‘securitization’ has had an unwelcome and negative impact on key development areas, such as social devel- opment, human rights and governance reform; second, that the security agenda of the global war on terror has been devised and promoted by western actors imposing a securitized approach upon passive and vulnerable states in the South. This article offers a corrective to both of these arguments by focusing on the role of governments in Africa that have eagerly embraced the securitization agenda, actively promoting its practice.
Drawing on the emerging literature on ‘illiberal state-building’ in Africa, we argue that for many African governments ‘securitization’ of the relationship with western donors is neither unwelcome nor problematic. From Ndjamena to Kigali, a range of regimes, many emerging from civil war and out of military guerrilla organizations during the 1980s and 1990s, have conducted their state-building around a set of authoritarian and militarized practices, readily adopting and, crucially, adapting the securitization agenda. These governments have regularly used military means to settle problems at their borders, frequently resorting to harsh repression of internal dissent. Despite these authoritarian tendencies, western enthusiasm for supporting, training and arming the military and security services of these states has grown unabated. As a consequence, illiberal states are emerging and growing stronger in Africa, supported by securitization and the enthusiasm of western governments to put security above all else.
* This research was partly supported by a grant from the Research Council of Norway, under project 214349/ F10, ‘The dynamics of state failure and violence’, administered by the Peace Research Institute Oslo, as well as by fieldwork funding provided by the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department. The authors are grateful to Gabrielle Lynch, Daniel Branch, Julia Gallagher, Teresa Almeida Cravo and an
1 anonymous peer reviewer for comments on an earlier draft.
For African examples, see Jude Howell and Jeremy Lind, Counter-terrorism, aid and civil society: before and after the war on terror (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Rita Abrahamsen, ‘Blair’s Africa: the politics of securitiza- tion and fear’, Alternatives 30: 1, 2005, pp. 55–80; Robin E. Walker and Annette Seegers, ‘Securitization: the case of post 9/11 United States Africa policy’, Scientia Militaria 40: 2, 2013, pp. 2245.
International Affairs 91: 1 (2015) 131–151
© 2015 The Author(s). International Affairs © 2015 The Royal Institute of International Affairs. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford ox4 2dq, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
Jonathan Fisher and David M. Anderson
This gives rise to crucial questions about African agency in managing the securitization agenda. Through their willingness to take ownership of the security agenda, African regimes have played a conscious role in securitizing their relation- ship with donors. Securitization is not something that the West has done to Africa, but rather a set of policy imperatives that some African governments have actively pursued. African governments are thus not victims of securitization, but often its advocates and beneficiaries.
In making these arguments, we analyse below the activities of four African states: Chad under the Idris Déby regime (in power since 1990); Ethiopia under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime (since 1991, under first Meles Zenawi and now Hailemariam Desalegn); Rwanda under the Paul Kagame regime (since 1994);2 and Uganda under the Yoweri Museveni regime (since 1986). All feature prominently in donor security funding and training initiatives since the 1990s, and all have deployed troops to donor-funded peacekeep- ing missions in Darfur, Somalia, Mali and elsewhere. All four regimes also emerged from guerrilla movements, and all have constructed and entrenched authoritarian systems of rule in their respective states, which rely, ultimately, upon military force and militarized governance (rather than democratic legitimacy) to function and maintain authority. On the donor side, the primary focus will be on the United States, United Kingdom, France and the EU, these being the leading western funders of securitization initiatives and major donors to these African states.
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