Africa in the Wider World: State Building Challenges in Africa
July 24, 2014
Many in the United States consider much of sub-Saharan Africa to be outside of U.S. strategic interests. Yet the United States often finds itself drawn into conflicts associated with what is often called Africa’s “state failure” problem. But it is increasingly questionable whether the standard approaches to strengthening fragile states and preventing state failure are based on sound assumptions. The natural response is to try to strengthen state institutions. But when the groups in control of those institutions are part of the problem, the standard approaches would seem inadequate to the task at hand.
Two years ago, a half-hour documentary, “Kony 2012,” was viewed by more than a hundred million people in a week, as individual recommendations to watch it grew exponentially through social networks worldwide. The documentary was criticized for oversimplifying a complicated issue, but it had the effect of raising awareness of the atrocities perpetuated by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against innocent people in significant parts of central Africa. U.S. military personnel were already working with Uganda in the hunt for Kony, but in 2012 that effort was escalated and incorporated into an African Union regional task force, which today the United States supports with personnel, aircraft, advice, and aid.
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