WAR AND PEACE: THE WEAK STATES
By Austen Uwosomah
Weak states are predominantly found in some least developed states of the Middle East
like Afghanistan; in Eastern Europe like Yugoslavia and many more among Sub-Saharan
Africa states like the Republic of Congo, Somalia, Angola, Liberia, Chad, Sierra Leone,
etc. A seemingly glaring characteristic of weak states in Africa is the consistency of civil
and political conflicts that more often than not culminate into wars. The consequence of
this is the continual sought by external political and economic interventionists to restore
peace to such states. In this write-up, I shall examine problems that confront weak states
in Africa and put forward some basic ways that may be used to confront the problems.
Additionally, I shall also suggest in my opinion a most convincing response to solving
the problems of weak states.
Problems of Weak States
“State strength or weakness is relatively measured by the state’s ability and effectiveness
to provide the fundamental political goods associated with statehood viz: physical
security, legitimate political institutions, economic management, and social welfare”.
(Stewart Patrick, 2006). When these are absent, a state may thus be referred to as weak,
failed, collapsed or dysfunctional.
There are a number of reasons why problems occur in weak states. The causes of these
problems are not farfetched. Sørensen (2004:132) summarily ascribes “personal rule, the
system which replaced the colonial administration after independence” came to the states
as the major cause. According to Sørensen (Ibid.), “the new rulers were by no means
insulated from society: they were closely connected to it via ties of clan, kingship and
ethnic affiliation…which paved way for clientelism, patronage and nepotism” as well as
The self-rule administration by African states after independence, “lack legitimate
governing and maintained a monopoly on the use of force to control borders, territory,
public order and crime. In the political sphere, institutions that provide effective
administration and checks on abuse of power; protect basic rights and freedoms and hold
leaders accountable, are absent. In the economic arena, the states fail to carry out basic
policies conducive for private enterprise, open trade, natural resource management and
foreign investment that are necessary for economic growth. Finally, in the social domain,
they fail to meet the basic needs of their populations by making little efforts to
eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and minimal investments in health, education
and other social services” (Stewart Patrick, Ibid.).
Confronting the Problems of Weak States
The seemingly glaring outcome of the aforementioned problems in weak states is the
upsurge of civil and political turbulence by the factions of citizens who feel aggravated
by the poor governance from their leaders. Thus wars or revolution break out that
subsequently create enabling ground for security threats to Western countries as the
warring state could become base for anti-Western terrorist sects. Perhaps this is why
political and economic interventionists from the West go to extreme to restoring peace in
belligerent states. However, not all weak states have same problems. Different problems
abound for different states. It is with recourse to the type of problem that is inherent in a
given state that should determine the interventional strategy to be meted out therein.
Civil war is mostly the resultant problem of dysfunctional states which in turn leads to
destabilization of their economies. Past experiences have shown that the warring factions
have often failed to heed to peace brokerage from external interventionists. With regards
to that, as a solution, pertinent that I propose the assertions of Luttwak, (1999); Herbst,
(1989/96/97) and Tilly, (1985) in Sørensen (2004:137), which aver that civil embattled
states should be left to fight till they naturally get tired and fed up with the act; or till
there emerges victors and vanquished. Only at this juncture will the states be ready to
embrace peace brokerage from external interventionists.
Another suggestion to confronting problems of weak states will be for the international
interventionists to accept secession that is creation of new states with regards to
expanding borders (Sørensen, 2004:138). For this to be successful, Stephen Ellis, (2005)
says “peacemaking efforts and rebuilding strategies must take into account … economic
issues such as facilitating cross-border trade… travel, work…” that would integrate
affected states elites or governments to resolve ethnic related crisis that could dovetail
Conclusively, suffice to say that a most convincing response to tackling problems of
embattled states is for the external interventionists to embark on international trusteeship
via providing security for the affected territories. External peacekeeping force should be
deployed to join force with the side that has benign national interest of the troubled state
and not with the self- motivated interest of the intervening party or parties.
Word count: 780
Ellis, Stephen (2005) “How to Rebuild Africa” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 84 Issue 5 Sept-Oct 2005.
Patrick, Stewart (2006), “ States and Global Threats: Fact or Fiction?” The Washington
Sørensen, G. (2004) ‘The Transformation of the States Beyond the Myth of Globalization’, New
York: Palgrave Macmillan.