Oil, Drugs, and Conflict: Transnational Issues in West Africa

March 26, 2010 — Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program, and Emmanuel Bombande, director of the West African Network for Peacebuilding in Ghana, joined us for a discussion on transnational concerns in West Africa.

Jennifer Cooke started the discussion by explaining how intrastate security issues in Africa contribute to regional instability.  Given the interconnectedness of the sub-region, internal political discord in one country can impact stability across West Africa.  Cooke then highlighted some of the common afflictions in the region that make peacebuilding so difficult, such as porous borders, weak institutions, poverty, and natural resources.  Next, Cooke discussed some specific transnational concerns in West Africa, such as the rise of narcotics trafficking and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, before offering a strategic vision for how to target these problems.  A regional approach that looks for areas of common interest between the United States and African states is key to ensuring an enduring solution. 

Emmanuel Bombande began by discussing how the exclusion of Africans from the border demarcation process in West Africa in imperial times has made states more vulnerable to instability today.  Comparing and contrasting the cases of Ghana, Kenya, Niger, and Cote d’Ivoire, Bombande then explained how the conduct of elections and power transitions in each state in West Africa are important determinants of the degree of stability both within states and in the overall region.  Bombande also offered some hopeful notes.  For example, the spread of mobile phones and the Internet in the region have helped to increase transparency in elections. 

The Question and Answer session began with a thought-provoking discussion on how to create economic opportunity in West Africa.  Other topics included the possibility of ties between al-Qaeda and drug cartels in the region and the issue of government corruption and the potential for reform.  The briefing concluded with a discussion on states at risk of failing or becoming narco-states like Guinea-Bissau.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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