ABSTRACT

Why should we be concerned with marginal African borderlands as most may at glance seem like there are completely off the beaten track, without much to offer the rest of the world than sad stories about death and misery? This is, however, not the full story. What happens in this part of the world also concerns us and our well-being in the long run. These areas are not only among the most turbulent and deadly in the world, but also of great geostrategic importance. Here, we find strategic minerals such as gold, diamonds, uranium, coltan and cassiterite, as well as transit sources for the trafficking of goods and people. It was uranium from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga that was used to construct the A-bombs unleashed over Japan as the uranium ore from this mine was one of the best in the world at that time, containing 65 per cent uranium in the uranium ore. Thus, what happens in these distant corners of the world also contributes to the shaping of world politics as well as political and regulatory practices at regional, national and international levels (see Christensen 2012: 61; see also Roitman 2004; Arnaut and Højbjerg 2008). Eastern Congo is rich in important minerals such as coltan, cassiterite,

tungsten (wolframite), gold and diamonds and there will never be peace in the DRCwithout a solution to the security predicament of the eastern border regions. The border areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire are not only so porous and uncontrolled that conflict in one country easily spills over into neighbouring countries, but these conflicts are also locked into cross-border alliances between different groups on each side of the border. Thus, suggesting that previous efforts at peace and reconciliation in one country may be at huge risk if great care is not taken in understanding the formation of local conflict and its cross-border repercussions and ramifications in this region. Northern Mali has always been an epicentre for resistance against the state and central authority, but it is also increasingly becoming a transit point for contraband, drugs, guns and people, and for the regional strategies of al-Qaeda in the Land of Maghreb (AQIM). The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has not reduced, but rather increased the significance of this area, and the refugee camps of Central Africa are not only zones of humanitarian disasters, ‘states of exceptions’ par excellance, but also constitute important keys to unlocking

the almost chronic conflicts in Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo. Thus, in short, these areas are far more significant than the scarce international headlines that they conjure suggest. The borderland is, however, also of primary importance conceptually for a

people-focused approach to the political economy of fragile states. In this regard, the border can be seen as a cipher, a code that if unlocked can help us grasp something that we cannot see by approaching anything else than the borderland. It is a node that can help us unpack the social practices that constitute state and society. The very point is that these borderlands to a certain degree are non-state in nature, but power and thereby also the ability to control rests on various non-state actors’ access to state agents and state institutions. This has not occurred by itself or out of the blue, but is part and parcel of larger processes of historical change as well as continuity. During colonialism, ruling administrations relied heavily on individuals with authority nested in non-state institutions in the periphery for the purpose of the control of both people and territory. In this process deals were made with local big men allowing them to also use their new status as ‘agents of the state’ for private gains as long as they expressed their loyalty and performed the tasks the state asked of them. As such, they became a form of ‘twilight institutions’, state, but also non-state (see also Lund 2006). This was the mode of governance that made it possible for the ‘great

architect’ of ‘indirect rule’ and thereby also British colonialism, Lord Lugard to not only gain, but also keep control over vast territories at a low cost for the colonial state. The irony is that this practice did not end with colonialism, but was not only continued, but also masterminded by a number of African rulers in the post-colonial era. Mobutu of Zaire was one of them, but parts of this practice are evident in all the countries that this book is concerned with. The approach taken here is therefore very much in line with Hagmann and

Péclard’s (2010) argument about ‘resources’ and ‘repertoires’ as the very key to political authority. Resources are in their approach, ‘the material base of collective action, including tangible and intangible assets such as bureaucratic capacities, organizational skills, finance and ability to mobilize funding, knowledge and technical expertise, control over physical violence, international networks, political alliances and, very importantly, access to state resources’. On the basis of their ability to tap into such a base of resources, actors can employ various sets of ‘repertories’ to ‘further their interests, to mobilize popular support, and to give meaning to their actions’ (Hagmann and Péclard 2010: 547). The main implication of this kind of thinking about authority and action is

that it urges us also to rethink our approach to the state, its relationship to peripheral areas and thereby also the distinction between state and non-state as it is much less clear-cut than standard textbooks of political science would like us to believe. Thus, rather than operating with a firm distinction between state and non-state, it is more useful for our understanding of events, but also social processes, to see state as well as non-state actors that matter as nodal

points in informal networks of governance that span across state and nonstate institutions and networks. These nodal points therefore encapsulate both, but are in fact none. Their very definition is ambiguity; their very strength is being none and both at the same time. They exist because they are in-between and betwixt, and the less formal the

institutional environment of the state is, the greater the need for these kinds of ‘variables’ to negotiate one’s reality. Thus, underlining Agamben’s point that ‘being outside and yet belonging is the very essence of the structure of a state of exception’ (see Agamben 2005: 35). Thus, the very point being that the standard textbook Weberian-inspired formulation of a ‘state’ as a single coherent authority with a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence within a given territory is not only almost non-applicable to these circumstances as legitimacy is dispersed and authority contested, but also due to the hybrid and shape-shifting nature of the politics of place of the borderland (see also Geertz 2004).