Category Archives: Maps
There has been a lot of bad news out of West Africa recently. Coup d’états have destabilized Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Nigeria has seen a series of terrorist attacks. Toureg rebels have conquered northern Mali and declared independence. Cote d’Ivoire is still recovering from its civil war. Meanwhile, there are reports about drug trafficking, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and a food crisis in the making.
No region in the world has more fragile states than West Africa. The region, which consists of the fifteen countries stretching from Senegal to Nigeria, exemplifies the problems of state building when surrounded by other fragile states. Pint-sized, expensive markets keep most countries isolated from the dynamic changes globalization is bringing elsewhere. The region’s aggregate GDP is roughly the same as Norway’s—despite having over fifty times more people. Although Ghana and Senegal have made significant political and/or economic gains in recent years, most of the other states have been rocked by war, ethnic or religious clashes, political unrest, famine, or serious economic dislocation at various times over the past two decades. (more…)
Tuareg rebels have declared the independence of the territory under their control in northern Mali, calling their country “Azawad.” Here are best links to information on the area available online: (more…)
Getting rid of dictators is much easier than building a political order to replace them. This is especially true in countries with a limited sense of nationhood, as is the case in much of the Middle East. As a result, the Arab Spring has exposed the fragility of the Arab state.
Libya offers a cautionary tale. Muhammad Gaddafi’s reign has left it with arguably the weakest state institutions in the region, and a very limited sense of nationhood. The country’s tribes remain all-important, and given the armed militias that many now control the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) is going to struggle to exert its authority for an extended period of time. A potentially violent Salafi contingent may complicate matters even more.
As a start, it is important to understand as much as possible the ethnic and tribal divisions that divide the country. (more…)
Cross-posted from Global Dashboard.
If people in the Middle East could democratically choose what country they lived in, would they choose the one they are in now?
Amidst all the talk of an Arab Spring, the fragility of the Arab state is often forgotten.
Whereas developed countries are almost always the product of an organic, internally driven process, in the Middle East’s case, the countries are mostly the product of a British-French agreement made in 1916 (Sykes-Picot) that paid little attention to local sociopolitical realities. As a result, few possess the historical roots, social cohesion, and legitimacy necessary to nurture the complex institutions that are a prerequisite for development and democracy. On the contrary, most suffer from both sectarian divisions and weak government—the causes of state fragility. (more…)