Will Nigeria break up into smaller countries?


Rainer Tetzlaff

To person

Dr. phil., born 1940; Studied history, political science and German in Bonn and Berlin; since 1974 professor for international politics at the University of Hamburg.

Address: University of Hamburg, IPW, 20146 Hamburg.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications on German and international development policy, international organizations and regimes, democracy and human rights as well as the development of Africa.

The states of Africa are facing four major challenges: rampant political violence, slow economic growth and persistent poverty, the spread of AIDS and tendencies towards state collapse.


Africa is changing rapidly. It oscillates between progress in democratization and processes of state failure, between courageous civil society awakenings and falling into various forms of politicized violence. First of all, it should be noted that a surprising number of countries have entered reform processes of democratic transition in a short time. Positive attitudes towards multi-party democracy have developed among the population - especially in southern Africa as well as in Benin, Ghana and Mali. The institutional maturation and finally the consolidation of plural democracy is also possible under conditions of poverty in Africa - but it requires the resolute commitment of conflict-capable and ready-to-act groups to fight for human rights and for their own interests, and it takes time.

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  • In addition to such successes with democratic transition, there are also four major problem areas in Africa that give cause for deep concern:

    - protracted civil wars and increasing political violence, especially between ethnic and religious groups in densely populated regions - phenomena that promote migration and block development;

    - stagnant or slow economic growth, low investment, high external debt, rising unemployment, especially among young people, and overall persistent poverty;

    - Rapid spread of the AIDS pandemic (and other diseases) and consequent increasing losses of "human capital", which leads to the destruction of families, villages and economic areas in the region;

    - and finally increasing tendencies towards state failure, state collapse and state substitution through new and old forms of social self-organization in order to be able to counter phenomena of loss of authority and social anomie.

    While these four crisis phenomena - war, weak growth, AIDS and state failure - often strengthen each other, the unrestrained collective political violence is of particular importance in the process of blocked development. Only interstate wars have so far been rare. The fratricidal war recently waged between Ethiopia and Eritrea was, however, an event of destructive rage that is difficult to understand. With 13 civil wars (out of 35 wars worldwide) and a further 12 armed conflicts, Africa is still the continent most frequently affected by politicized violence. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons ("displaced persons" within the respective country) runs into the millions. There has been particular concern since the unprecedented genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which killed an estimated 800,000 people (mostly Tutsi people), the first African interstate regional war over the collapsed state of Zaire / Congo and its lucrative natural resources. Up to eight neighboring African states were involved in this conflagration in the Great Lakes region, and the former extractive role of European states, above all Belgium, now seems to be taken over by the four neighboring states of Rwanda and Uganda as well as Zimbabwe and Angola: each war party operating on a regional basis is enriching itself illegally in the natural resources of the Congo and shows little interest in peaceful conflict resolution. So far, another two million Congolese have died here - mainly in the (eastern) Kivu provinces of the Congo.

    In addition to the war accident, Africa has become the continent with the largest number of people infected with HIV. At the end of 2000, around 70 percent of all people infected with HIV (36.1 million people) lived in Sub-Saharan Africa (25.3 million) - and the trend is rising. Every year around three million people die of AIDS. The worst hit is Botswana - the model democratic state with high income levels. So far around 17 million Africans have died of AIDS; they left 13.2 million orphans. HIV / AIDS hits the most active part of the population and leaves deep wounds. No other disease is as devastating as AIDS in its combination of social and economic consequences.

    UNAIDS in Geneva fears AIDS will lead to a demographic landslide: in twenty years teenagers will form the bulk of the population and general life expectancy will drop from 59 to 45 years today. At the same time, the number of AIDS orphans will have more than tripled. These children will hardly be able to go to school. As the workforce dies out, schools, hospitals and police stations will have to close - government institutions will implode. Although 16,000 people are newly infected with the virus every day, the search for an AIDS vaccine is still neglected. And the drugs that are already available, so-called "highly active therapies", are expensive - around $ 15,000 per patient per year. The initiative should therefore be supported by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is calling for a special AIDS program of ten billion US dollars a year, because Africa cannot deal with this problem on its own.

    Almost every serious academic treatise on the state and society in contemporary Africa rightly begins with the reference to its natural wealth of peoples, cultures and languages, at the same time also to its enormous political, economic and ethno-cultural heterogeneity, which actually forbids it, the collective geographical name To use Africa for the multitude of structurally different societies that have little more in common than the colonial legacy (with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia) and structural underdevelopment (colonial monocultures, high external dependency, low industrialization). It therefore makes sense to divide the 53 states or countries of the African continent into at least three groups, differentiated according to an economic criterion (economic growth) in combination with a political one (civil war or political stability as a result of democratic reforms or authoritarian rule). This results in the following typology, which tries to reflect both the great political achievements in matters of democracy and development as well as the obvious deficits of African politics - civil wars, ethnic violence, corruption, oppression of civil society, politicization along ethnic and religious identities, etc.

    - A small group of around nine to ten democratic countries has made it furthest, in which the state's monopoly on the use of force has largely been secured, political participation is guaranteed by means of free and fair elections and on the long way to a constitutional state (independence of the judiciary) there are already some noticeable ones Progress has been made. According to the US Freedom House Index, which assesses civil and political freedom, these states are considered "free". This group of successful democratic transition states includes Benin, Mali, Ghana and Senegal in West Africa; because here a change of government based on elections has become possible. This also includes the two economic and political success models Mauritius and Botswana with the highest average per capita incomes (PKE: 3540 and 3240 US dollars, respectively), along with South Africa with 42 million inhabitants (3170 US dollars). The three poor countries Tanzania (260 US dollars), Malawi (180 US dollars) and Namibia (1890 US dollars) also belong to this group, with some restrictions.

    - At the other end of the spectrum of freedom stands the group of countries that are plagued by various stages of state collapse (state implosion) and state collapse and in which free and rule-of-law relationships are blocked until further notice by military dictatorships. This group includes, on the one hand, the countries in which state collapse due to (civil) wars has progressed to state collapse: Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, furthermore Angola and Congo / Zaire, and on the other hand the states in which armed and militant events Conflicts (often in the form of "ethnic cleansing") have blocked and partially prevented democratic development in recent years: Burundi and Rwanda, Uganda and Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, the Central African Republic and Chad. For 2001, the Freedom House Index counted a total of 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as "unfree" countries.

    - A third group of states, positioned between democratic transition countries and violent states collapsing and civil war countries, form the "partially free" states of the Freedom House Index, which currently make up about half of the 48 states south of the Sahara. Although the state's monopoly on the use of force is by and large secured, democratic reforms, the protection of human rights and the independence of the judiciary are only just beginning to be implemented and experience has shown that reform measures that have been started are reversible. The political stability of these neopatrimonial states (or their political regimes) is based on the effective success of a repressive model of rule that can be based on anti-pluralist presidentialism.

    If one asks for an explanation for this different development, at least three bundles of causes can be identified, which can only be hinted at here: endogenous, exogenous and structural factors. While trade protectionism of the industrialized countries, the mostly unfavorable "terms of trade" (exchange relations of export and import goods over a certain period of time) and other world market-dependent factors are among the most important exogenous factors over which the governments of the developing countries have no influence, endogenous factors are homemade achievements or failures of the governments, administrations and socially dominant forces of a country. Structural factors include the climate, size, natural condition and geopolitical location of a state, the number and heterogeneity of its population and other factors from history that are difficult to influence (e.g. trauma as former slaves, epidemics such as AIDS and malaria). The dwarf states of Rwanda and Burundi, for example, have fallen victim to structural factors.

    While structural and exogenous factors can hardly or not at all be influenced by the development companies, it is mostly the endogenous factors, in combination with the provision of the country with coveted raw materials, that have led to very different development results. Under the Atlantic slave trade and European colonialism, for example, more or less all African ex-colonies suffered, but only where good governance at the state level has been able to shape the economy and social development over a longer period of time has there been progress in society as a whole. This applies to the category one countries.

    Zaire / Congo is probably the best-known case of a post-colonial state that was ruined by a bizarre system of "bad governance". Under the neopatrimonial ruling president Joseph Mobutu (1965 to 1997), Zaire was maneuvered into an economic and financial crisis despite its wealth of resources. Under the slogan of self-enrichment issued by the state president to his loyal clientele himself, a bureaucratic-parasitic state class of generals, party functionaries, administrative officials and middlemen has formed who make up the majority of the high state income (from the sale of copper, cobalt, coltrin, etc.) corporatively claimed for himself and thus stole the politically incapacitated population. This form of state-organized robbery has been aptly described by the term kleptocracy.

    Following this unsightly pattern of illegal, even criminal rule - economic self-destruction as a result of the unhindered greed of a martial state class - several of the large territorial states of Africa have been maneuvered into ruin:

    - The state of Algeria, which is rich in natural gas and oil, under the rule of the generals of the FLN (from the war of liberation against French colonial rule that ended in 1962), who even accepted a civil war (with more than 70,000 civilians dead so far) and continue to heat it up illegally to be able to remain in power;

    - Nigeria, with its high oil revenues, under the rule of the coup generals Babangida, Abacha and Co. (1983-2000), who illegally transferred billions of euros to private foreign accounts and simply annulled the result of democratic elections;

    - Angola, which also has large oil wells and diamond fields, in which two competing movements: the MPLA of President dos Santos and the UNITA of the recently slain rebel leader Savimbi are fighting for political power and uncontrolled control over state pension income.

    - As a result of the large oil discoveries on the Middle Nile by international raw materials companies in the last few years, the situation in Sudan, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 1955 (Muslim-Arab north versus African-Christian south), has escalated further due to the greed for wealth and power that was recently sparked. In the multi-religious, multi-ethnic state, peace has continued to slide into the distance, especially since the oil fields are located in the contested border area and additional state resources encourage the purchase of new and more effective weapons.

    In other resource-rich African states (e.g. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) there are lucrative raw material deposits, competing "warlords" who rebel against the ruler of the local state and seek to conquer the latter in the name of a discriminated ethnic group or region - Third - market-hungry "global players" in the form of raw material companies and foreign arms dealers play a similar role in the process of economic and political self-destruction. From the cases outlined here it can be seen that predominantly homemade, i. H. politically changeable causes cause the decline of some states.

    Unjust state rule, which evades democratic elections (and thus also possible deselection), provokes counter-violence from the margins of society, which further weakens the weak central state. The state monopoly of force is replaced by social anomie or even political anarchy. Where state authority is eroded or state institutions collapse, violent cavities of state power emerge in which alternative or para-state authorities can nestle - political adventurers, rebellious units of the army, "warlords" and "ethnic militias" - which sometimes lose all inhibitions to kill and through Magic, spell and prospect of prey are held together. Due to the largely repressive recruitment of fighters - including "child soldiers" again and again - such groups are extremely unstable and politically difficult to integrate. The economy of such warlord gangs is based primarily on looting and trading in stolen or illegally extracted goods (such as "blood diamonds").

    The fact that a few state presidents (and their political clients, including their generals) are now entangled in the criminal war economy is a new phenomenon: at least in Zimbabwe and Uganda, internal criticism of the involvement of government members in the illegal exploitation of Congolese mineral resources is growing.

    Thus, the question of the moral quality of "political leadership" is of particular importance: "Not programs and political parties matter, but presidents." At the moment, however, we are witnessing how a power-hungry president in Zimbabwe, after 22 years of sole rule, is doing everything possible to impose a third term of office against the provisions of the constitution by all means (including the persecution and murder of opposition voters) - just like President Nujoma in Namibia had the constitution changed in order to run for a third time (in Tunisia the president is trying a fourth time). These are signs that the legal, rational rules of the game of political competition and the control of power are not yet so internalized that politicians feel bound by them. Here the slowly coming of age civil society in Africa is called upon to set standards for "good governance" or to counter violations by the power politicians with appropriate protests. Preventing such situations must be the primary imperative of Western development cooperation.

    For the upcoming phase of economic consolidation of pluralistic democracy in the Republic of South Africa - d. H. the acceleration of industrial growth and the intensification of scientific research under increasing globalization pressure - broad-based structural reforms are required which require a collective effort from an entire society - and foreign direct investment worth billions. The country run by the ANC suffers from various internal weaknesses, most of which can still be attributed to the apartheid system with its state-regulated labor market and economic system and which represent a heavy legacy of some duration: First The threateningly high crime rate in the cities, in which frustrated black young people without training and without gainful employment, discharge their aggressiveness, has reached intolerable proportions and discourages foreign investors. Secondly the effects of the AIDS crisis on economic and social development, with 150,000 AIDS deaths in 2000, are devastating. Third The rising number of executives who have emigrated is a cause for concern: Between 1989 and 1997, 233,000 people - mostly with good training and without informing the authorities - left the country mainly for Canada, the USA, Great Britain or Australia. The unemployment rate is extremely high at around 23 percent. That depends fourth together that the level of foreign direct investment, at less than one percent of the country's gross national product, is far too low to have a positive impact on the labor market. The privatization of state and semi-state utilities is also making slow progress.

    All in all, it can be said for South Africa that a large, expandable industrial potential with experienced workers and managers is faced with an abundance of institutional weaknesses and problems that will further strain the social cohesion of the already very fragmented society. For this long-term transition period, increasing political violence is to be expected - as a weapon of the desperate, who have lost the hope of being able to improve their living conditions in a constitutional manner.

    The international community of states is all the more challenged, in its relations with African societies, to accompany the difficult upheaval and reform processes that will continue for decades with a lot of empathy, patience and money.