Urgent action is needed to avoid disaster in Africa’s worst-affected countries.
Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Northern Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Cameroon’s north-west and south-west regions are six African conflict hotbeds to watch in 2022. The Libyan situation has not improved significantly after years of instability and a major civil war from 2018 to 2019. The push for elections on or by 24 December 2021 is taking place alongside the stark reality that political and security conditions are not conducive to such an event.
Civil war in Ethiopia
Although instability preceded the war that began in November 2020, Ethiopia’s conflict has since gained impetus and intensity. Bringing the belligerents to the negotiation table is an absolute priority to stop the bloodshed and sustain any chance of a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Whichever direction things go, reconciling deep societal divides will be a key challenge.
By December, the federal government was attempting to quell the advances of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and its allies as they approached the capital Addis Ababa. A humanitarian crisis was unfolding in many parts of the country. African Union (AU) mediation efforts led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo are ongoing, but success remains elusive.
New route needed for CAR
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been embroiled in a conflict for several years. Developments indicate that it remains trapped in an intractable cycle of violence. The political dialogue desired by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and others is stymied largely by President Fausten-Archange Touadéra but also by armed groups. Touadéra vacillates from consolidating power to actions to militarily defeat armed groups abusing state and population weaknesses. He also expresses a desire to implement the 2019 Khartoum Peace Accord. CAR desperately needs a new approach for sustainable peace.
Sustained suffering in South Sudan
South Sudan will be another country to watch as it enters the final year of implementing the 2018 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. Despite progress, much remains to be done to conclude the transition within the allotted time and end long years of suffering for the South Sudanese.
Cameroon’s quagmire in the north and south-west
Over the last five years, the conflict in north and south-west Cameroon has not received the attention it deserves from regional and continental actors. What began as protests over poor governance and marginalisation turned into a deadly insurgency. This has caused many deaths, upended the lives of thousands and created a humanitarian crisis, all of which could have been avoided. The Cameroonian government’s dogmatic stance and military approach to resolving the conflict have not helped, and these are likely to persist.
Cameroon’s dogmatic stance and military approach to resolving its conflict are likely to persist
The ever-present threat of terrorism
In 2022, Africa will also continue to face the threat of violent extremism and terrorism in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin (LCB) regions, East Africa and the Horn, and Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The menace will also hover over the coastal countries of West Africa. The situation in G5 Sahel countries has not abated, causing insecurity and humanitarian crises.
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, particularly, have seen continuing attacks. The Liptako-Gourma border area among the three countries remains highly volatile, with a terrorist threat, intercommunal violence and transnational organised crime. This is not expected to change significantly in 2022. The Burkinabè government has come under increasing public pressure to deal decisively with violent extremism. The focus in Mali and Chad on completing their political ‘transitions’ could also continue to detract from the fight against terrorism.
The situation is similar in the LCB, with terror attacks by Boko Haram, flare-ups in intercommunal violence and organised crime. What appear to be local conflicts have also spilt over, adding to the region’s insecurity. Governments’ responses to the LCB security crisis have negatively affected women’s livelihoods, which means that many families have suffered its brunt. As with the Sahel, trends in LCB are unlikely to change in 2022, as their reversal will require a shift in strategy from all stakeholders.
The Cabo Delgado extremist insurgency has been ongoing since the end of 2017. Slow response early on led to the deterioration of the situation. Since then, a Rwandan troop deployment based on a bilateral arrangement and a Southern African Development Community multilateral deployment, have helped quell the insurgency and restore humanitarian access to affected populations.
While the military response seems to have pushed back insurgents so far, a more holistic approach is needed to address the socioeconomic challenges of communities. Also concerning are the regional ramifications of Cabo Delgado’s insurgency, including links in countries such as Tanzania and the possible spread to create a larger extremism axis along the continent’s eastern flank.
The spread of the threat from the Sahel to West Africa’s coastal countries is best evidenced by the resurgence of attacks in northern Cote d’Ivoire near the border with Burkina Faso. Cote d’Ivoire is now suffering repeated attacks, and the fear is that violent extremism could affect other parts of the country and neighbouring states such as Ghana, Benin and Togo.
A continental priority
The continent must heed the challenges posed by violent extremism and start to chart effective ways to address them at country, regional and continental levels. It has to curtail and revert the spread of terrorism, which would devastate its aspirations for peace and prosperity.
These numerous challenges facing Africa require concerted regional and continental responses. While several mechanisms exist, their implementation largely depends on the will and means of the states. Although such mechanisms and frameworks provide guidance, solving structural vulnerabilities will remain the primary responsibility of national governments.