25 Most Fragile States

Africa–A Paradox

Farooque Chowdhury

The world's 25 most fragile states have been identified. The Foreign Policy magazine has released the annual ranking of the least-stable countries, now known as the Fragile State Index (FrSI). Up to last year, the name of the index was the Failed States Index (FaSI). The FaSI/FrSI is created by The Fund for Peace. It is claimed that the index, based on 12 metrics, puts "countries into perspective by providing an annual snapshot of their vitality and stability (or lack thereof) and ranking them accordingly."

This year's "unfortunate" fragile states include [beginning from the bottom] Liberia in Africa that tied with Myanmar in Asia, Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia that tied with Niger, Kenya, Nigeria. Guinea Bissau, Syria, Cote D'lvoire, Iraq, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Haiti, the poorest state in the Western Hemisphere, Yemen, one of the poorest states in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Chad with the lowest life expectancy in the world, which is 49.44 years, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan, till now, the youngest state, and the most fragile state in the world.

A seemingly strange, but actually not strange, pattern emerges: Most of these countries are in Africa, a continent rich with resources. The continent is rich with creativity of women and men, and with minerals.

Nkrumah, while writing about the continent in his Neo-colonia!ism, The Last Stage of Imperialism, said: "Africa is a paradox, which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below her soil continue to enrich, not African predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa's impoverishment."

The revolutionary from Africa cited the continent's natural resources based on very inadequate surveys during the time the book was prepared: Immense, untapped wealth. It was, till that time, iron reserves: twice the size of America's, and two-thirds those of erstwhile the Soviet Union; coal reserves: enough to last for three hundred years; oil fields: being discovered and brought into production all over the continent; potential water power: more than 40 percent of the world's total, a greater share than any other continent; arable and pasture land: more than in either the US, the Soviet Union, and Asia, despite the desert Sahara; forest areas: twice greater than that of the US.

Nkrumah writes: "But her resources have been, and still are being used for the greater development of overseas interests.... Although possessing fifty-three of the world's most important basic industrial minerals and metals, the African continent tails far behind all others in industrial development."

A long time has passed since the revolutionary penned his pains. A long time ago, Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba have been sent to "hell" by the masters of the world. Yet, the scene has not changed significantly. Rather, it has worsened. The resources have brought in devastation.

Next in the cited list come the Asian countries. These countries are not also resource-poor.

And, geo-strategically, all the cited countries are in important geographical positions that include trade routes among other factors. A number of these countries are required for keeping control and eyes on others. Positioning of AFRICOM tells a lot.

The story of these failed states has a number of more or less common features:
Hunger, abject poverty and increasing disparity with elites indulging in rampant corruption, loot and luxury; civil and proxy wars, intervention and invasion; genocide; dispute, conflict and war with neighbors; no transition toward democracy of the people; bloody factional fight among the dominating elites and deadlocked politics of the elites; armed gangs; decades of military rule or dictatorial regime; oppressive regimes with barbaric, elaborate security machine; institutions for rule without legitimacy, distorted electoral process and miserably non-functioning government; murdering of all rights; "development" of non-development and uneven development of infrastructure; demographic pressure and burden of internally displaced citizens; higher infant mortality, pressing diseases and illiteracy, unemployment, lack of public services including electricity, water and sanitation; deteriorated environment; ethnic and sectarian conflict; and refugees.

These are not without root. The "diseases" are not without historical background. These curses have not cropped up overnight.

Long ago, capital conquered the continents, and the countries. In the countries, global capital is still reigning. Who can ignore the "glorious" colonial past and neo-colonial present phase of these countries? Who can ignore the imperial "hobby" of defining and re-defining political borders of a number of these countries? Who can ignore the "benevolent and progressive" role played by imperialist capital in these countries? And, who can ignore the compradors constructed and sheltered by imperialist powers? Are not these external masters and their internal orderlies involved with the great "awakenings" in the former colonies? These have created today's failures.

The most powerful factor present in these societies/economies was imperialist intervention in forms ranging from conspiring with elite factions and patronizing armed gangs to direct military invasion and organizing proxy war. In these societies, multi-national corporations freely indulge in business ventures that include assassinations and murders, bribing and purchasing elites and bureaucracy, making institutions dysfunctional, arming gangs, fomenting violence and strife, propagating false ideas and concepts, and seeding sham hopes.

The fact mostly camouflaged is also related to imperialism: All these fragile states are part of the global system. These states are, as part of the Third World, in "the group of countries which are still governed by the laws of the capitalist system." (Pierre Jalee, The Pillage of the Third World) The world system has built up and nourished all these states. "[I]t is the international division of labor characteristic of imperialism which perpetuates the underdevelopment of the backward nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America..." (Pierre Jalee, The Third World in World Economy) All these states are tied up in the network of global capital.

Even, a part of capital engages in black marketing of resources in a number of these states while the capital propagates transparency, fair play, legitimacy, rule of law. And, for the purpose of black marketing, the part of the global capital patronizes armed gangs, and foments civil wars.

The target is "simple": loot the valuable natural resources including minerals, secure paths for pipe line or trade route, gain foothold to complete the "job", weaken the state that appears as an obstacle to perform the "duty". As example, anyone can cite names of a number of countries in Africa. It will be difficult not to name a few Asian countries not entangled in the worldwide web.

These countries carry the curse of resources or, in other words, the curse of capital conquering the globe. The curse is strife and decay, destitution and bloodbath, plunder and stagnation.

The reality has not changed since Pierre wrote in 1968: "Third World is stagnating or regressing.... Political decolonization has done nothing to alter the system of pillage." (ibid.) The failing states are bearing the burden of this pillage, stagnation, economic colonization.

Names of a few states are amazingly missing in the list. One can ask: what about a few Pacific small island states?

The index fails to capture the state of these island states, victims of climate crisis. The crisis is vandalizing entire population, entire state machine, entire public services in these states. Doesn't the index take into account the climate factor that is making governance ungovernable, life unlivable, services extinct in these states? Are not these states fragile?

And, the climate crisis is fundamentally the "gift" of the global system that controls and governs, broadly, all the resources the planet possesses.

The report on FrSI mentions names of two states: the US and Sirgapore.

Performance of Singapore, one of the richest countries, worsened in its overall rating. Pollution, the origin is in neighboring Indonesia, was at record levels. The regimented city-state experienced a police-foreign workers clash in last December. It was the country's largest riots in more than four decades. On the surface, the source of the clash was an accident. But, under the surface, it was, as said, "simmering resentment among some low-wage foreign laborers about perceived discrimination and poor working conditions." It's a complete capitalist style: low-wage, discrimination, poor working condition.

The rich state, a place of worship to a number of main stream economists, is still not fragile; but, it fails to ensure fairness to all, failure of a state. Incidents don't allow denying fact.

The tale of the state of the United States, in brief, is the NSA narration and recently-experienced debt-deadlock.

"The political brinkmanship", as has been mentioned, "that has defined Washington throughout Barack Obama's administration came to a head during the government shutdown in October 2013." It's increased factional fight.

It pushed the US to score worst "on the Factionalized Elites indicator in the nine years that the country has been included in the index." In time of growing crises, factional fight among elite increases, and it takes its payment from the people.

The NSA-surveillance "story" shows the state of democracy in one of the advanced capitalist democracies: the United States of America.

The exposed collaboration with NSA shows the state of democracy in a few other capitalist democracies: the UK, Germany and rest of their cohorts including New Zealand.

"The very structure of a country", as has been said, "can be challenged by overwhelming events during the course of a year - and the consequences inform not only the legitimacy of the state, but also the experiences of its citizens, often for decades to come." It's a serious statement.

The challenges lurking in home are actually bigger than the challenges the Empire is facing in the wider world of competition.

Ultimately, it's the people that suffer as anarchy overshadows fragile states. They pay it as they get displaced, turn refugees, get killed, turn prey of genocide; as their honor is violated, houses are burned down to ashes, environment and ecology are defaced, opportunity for livelihood is quashed. It's the dominating interests' cruel "joke": ‘Take price from people as we settle self-accounts’.

This has been said: "At its core, beneath the indicator scores and state-by-state rankings, the Fragile States Index is a measure of the livelihoods of real people. Security-force abuses and inadequate public services, for instance, are not simply inputs into a formula; they are parts of citizens' everyday reality."

The following question has been raised:
How is most of the world living?

The answer has been provided:"It turns out, not so well. With 'Very High Alert' describing those nations that are the most fragile, 'Warning' describing those that fall in the middle, and "Very Sustainable' as the most stable countries, a little over half of the index's populations live in the 'High Warning' group of states, while only 17 percent live in more stable nations. To look at the data another way, a little more than 83 percent live in 'Warning' nations or worse."

With so big a number of populations living in "Warning" states or worse, isn't it a "gift" from the world system? Then, should not people will ask: what to do with the "gift", and with the system other than discarding?

Vol. 47, No. 4, Aug 3 - 9, 2014