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Journal Article


Musah AF. Div. Change 2002; 33(5): 911-933.


(Copyright © 2002, Institute of Social Studies, Publisher John Wiley and Sons)






Most so–called ‘collapsed states’ in Africa are extreme cases of the complex and contradictory processes of state–making and unmaking which are unfolding in the continent. Beneath the veneer of sovereignty, virtually all these nations started their independent existence in the 1960s as shell states. Since then, they have either followed the path of self–destruction (state collapse) or have sought to fill the shell with institutional content (state–making). Private military intervention is one of the key external factors undermining the state–building project. Whether in its traditional ‘soldier of fortune’ form, or in its current corporate cloak, the privatization of security injects an inflammatory element into the governance process in weak states. Since independence, the populations of Africa have been subjected to structural violence that has highlighted force and de–emphasized human security as the cornerstone of governance. Civil society reactions to this have become more pronounced since the end of the Cold War, and have led to negative reconfiguration in weak states that are least equipped to manage the new challenges. The privatization of security impedes efforts to fashion accountable governance, and entrenches the culture of violence. Private military companies, their partner arms brokers and local warlords are the principal actors in illegitimate resource appropriation — a major cause of ongoing asymmetric warfare in Africa — and the proliferation of weapons — an incendiary element in these wars.


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