Sub-Saharan Africa internal and regional conflicts driven by “meddling”

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Sub-Saharan Africa, according to an international think-tank report, “grapples” with widespread internal and regional conflicts in the continent’s Sahel and Great Lakes regions, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The 65-year-old International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) bills itself as a leading global authority on geopolitics and strategy with offices in Bahrain, Berlin, London, Singapore and Washington DC. Among others it publishes The Military Balance and Military Balance+.

The IISS latest Armed Conflict Survey released this week has it sub-Saharan Africa’s internal and regional conflicts are largely driven by rising regional and international “meddling”. It states further “the April 2023 civil war in Sudan between opposing factions of the army is having disastrous humanitarian consequences, while witnessing the diplomatic mobilisation of regional actors and Gulf states.” Jihadist extremist violence, the survey notes, is more localised in several theatres, including in the Sahel, where “a string of military coups” is redrawing international alliances.

On the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, IISS reports apart from the Israel/Hamas war, there was a conflict stalemate and “reluctant acceptance of the status quo” by the international community, notably in Syria and Yemen.

The Libyan conflict also remained at a stalemate, with the country divided between competing governments, while Iraq and Egypt saw reduced fighting. Turkiye, previously Turkey, and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) clashed without major territorial changes. Rising food prices worsened the region’s climate vulnerability, triggering food insecurity.

IISS has it the intensity of armed conflicts at global level is rising, evidenced by a 28% rise in violent events and a 14% increase in related fatalities.

The conflict survey also notes the importance of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) as belligerents and providers of security and governance is increasing globally, contributing to conflict intractability. The trend of internationalisation of internal conflicts through growing third party involvement continues as competition among traditional, emerging and revisionist powers exacerbates with non-state armed groups (NSAGs) becoming “increasingly internationalised in their networks and operations”.

“The influence of non-Western powers, including Russia, China, Iran, the Gulf countries and Turkey, add to an ongoing trend of democratic backsliding tied to diminishing Western clout and drives geopolitical fragmentation in the Global South,” the survey reports, adding international funding and resources for humanitarian and development issues are “strained”.