chapter  5
15 Pages

An African perspective on security M . A . MOhAMeD SALIh

Introduction African regional and sub-regional organizations were originally formed to foster economic and social development and political and cultural integration. However, in recent years, their objectives and programmes have become increasingly dominated by peace and security issues as major defining elements of their objectives. Africa’s regional and sub-regional organizations’ shift towards establishing military commands and standby forces has occurred at a time when the social conditions of a large proportion of Africa’s population have deteriorated. Unwittingly, a skewed logic privileging militarized security has become the dominant form of security, with the negative peace as the preferred course of action, knowing that African fundamental social problems, including conflict, are not caused by the lack of militarized notions of security, but by abject poverty and destitution. In this chapter I argue that an African perspective that can be defended and justified should not and could not be nurtured by the same logic of military security arrangements that have, through decades of conflict, obliterated African people’s well-being and subjected a large number of them to intolerable levels of violence and poverty. I argue the case for an African perspective on security premised on the virtues of human security as an alternative to the current dominant militarized peace and security arrangements. The chapter commences with defining human security and then proceeds to delineate the compelling case for a human security perspective by interrogating the human conditions in Africa. Then, the chapter explains the current retreat of African regional and subregional organizations from development to a militarized security. The chapter closes with an exploration of the linkages with the AFRICOM debate from this perspective. A debate has often ensued as to whether an African perspective on security espouses one of the two dominant conventional perspectives on hard and soft security. I commence by contrasting the basic elements of hard and soft security. Hard security implies: (1) the presence, at any given time, of formidable military forces and other capabilities to respond to external and inter-state security threats; and (2) a build-up of forces, including alliances to secure the

force needed to ensure strategic advantage, whereby an arms race becomes unavoidable.1 On the other hand, soft security implies: (1) an inward-looking security concerned with internal security issues emanating from intra-state conflicts, organized crime, human trafficking, weapons or drugs and money laundering etc.; and (2) outcomes that are often less destructive, less discernible and, to an even lesser degree, determinable in terms of success or failure. This is in sharp contrast to the usage of hard security, where the result in terms of victory or defeat is conspicuous and unavoidable.2 Neither a hard nor soft security perspective is appropriate for defining an African perspective on security. These perspectives are blurred, irrelevant and to a large extent reminiscent of the Cold War. They are blurred because many African states have resorted to hard security in order to resolve soft security threats, such as ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts and concerns. The distinction between an outward function for the use of the military and inward functions for the use of the police for solving soft security problems is really irrelevant in countries where such a distinction does not exist. In many African and other developing countries, the state operators assign to the military many police functions, such as road blocks and curbing violent riots and demonstrations. The notion that the outcome of soft security policies and interventions is less destructive is also grossly erroneous. While it is possible for Africans to be amenable to living under conditions where soft security prevails, history has shown that some African states have systematically and sometimes deliberately compromised the soft security of their citizens; they have compounded soft security provision, with the state itself becoming a source of fear. Soft security alone cannot respond to people’s security needs, which are, to a large measure, human security needs. It privileges the punitive role of the internal security organs and their ability to punish the symptoms while leaving the underlying social and material root causes intact. This is exactly what the African state has been capable of doing, i.e. responding to intractable social problems, legitimate resentment and grievances with force, using policy and armies’ monopoly over the use of power and coercion. Instead of using cliché definitions originating in competing perspectives within conventional security definitions, an African perspective of security ought to be human and people-centred. This chapter offers a human security perspective as an alternative to both soft and hard security. Therefore, I commence with explaining human security and its enduring relevance and implications for Africa. In 1994, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report contrasted the dominant conventional notions of security with human security in this way:

For too long, the concept of security has been shaped by the potential for conflict between states. For too long, security has been equated with threats to a country’s borders. For too long, nations have sought arms to protect

their security. For most people today, a feeling of insecurity arises more from worries about daily life than from the dread of a cataclysmic world event. Job security, income security, health security, environmental security, security from crime, these are the emerging concerns of human security all over the world.3