Kenya is a failed state
Story by MWANGI GITHAHU
Publication Date: 10/2/2005
Despite all appearances to the
contrary, a report by a US research organisation has classed Kenya as being
among the world's failed states.
In its July/August edition, the
magazine, Foreign Policy, in conjunction with the Fund for Peace,
published what they called the first failed states index.
Foreign Policy is a
bimonthly magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
in Washington DC.
Its areas of focus include global
politics, economics, integration and ideas, and targets a non-specialised
audience and claims a readership of 10 million in 90 countries.
But to many people living in
Kenya, the country's condemnation might be an exaggeration. They might argue
that while the political, economic and social situations could in no way be
described as ideal, it would be unfair to call the country a failure.
Reached for comment, Foreign
Affairs assistant minister Moses Wetang'ula, told the Sunday Nation that
the report is "balderdash and ridiculous in the extreme."
Kenya is the exact opposite of a
failed state, he said, and cited the fact that it is the only developing
country hosting the headquarters of a UN agency.
"Kenya is a regional and
continental powerhouse that makes a critical contribution to peace-keeping
missions around the world and is respected across the board," he added.
The term, "failed states,"
was popularised, if not actually invented, by Canadian author Michael
Ignatieff in his book, The Warriors Honour.
In the book, he cites warlords,
militias and other irregular armies operating in parts of Africa, the Balkans,
the former Soviet Union as proof of states which quite rightly fit the bill.
To most people, failed states are
basket cases such as Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq, parts
of former Soviet Union and, not so long ago, parts of former Yugoslavia.
According to a report that ran
alongside the index, "about 2 billion people live in countries that are
in danger of collapse."
While admitting that identifying
the signs of state failure is easier than crafting solutions, the report
claims that pinpointing where the state collapse is likely is a necessary
In an attempt to categorise the
failed states in the index, the report claims that the World Bank has
identified about 30 "low-income countries under stress," whereas
Britain’s Department for International Development has named 46
"fragile" nations of concern.
The report claims also that
another commissioned by America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has put
the number of failing states at about 20. The 76 countries surveyed are ranked
from those at the greatest risk – Cote d'Ivoire at No. 1– to the least –
India at 76.
All are, however, worryingly
described as "countries about to go over the brink."
Kenya is ranked 25th from the
bottom, worse off, apparently, than neighbours Uganda at 27 and Tanzania at
The foreign policy report explains
that a failed state is "a government that has lost control of its
territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force and has thus
earned the label."
However, it expands this
definition to: "There can be more subtle attributes of failure. Some
regimes, for example, lack the authority to make collective decisions or the
capacity to deliver public services."
Casting the net for failed states
even wider, the report says that "in other countries, the populace may
rely entirely on the black market, fail to pay taxes or engage in large-scale
civil disobedience. Outside intervention can be both a symptom of and a
trigger for state collapse."
Finally, "a failed state may
be subject to involuntary restrictions of its sovereignty, such as political
or economic sanctions, the presence of foreign military forces on its soil, or
other military constraints, such as a no-fly zone".
The report says that the 10 most
at-risk countries in the index have shown clear signs of state failure. It
says Cote d'Ivoire is "a country cut in half by civil war" and calls
it the most vulnerable to disintegration. The report suggests that the country
would probably collapse completely if the UN peace-keeping forces pulled out.
The West African nation is
followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra
Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia and Haiti. All of these are easily identifiable as
failed states, it says.
However, the index includes
countries in which it claims instability is less widely acknowledged,
including Bangladesh (17 from the bottom), Kenya (25), Guatemala (31), Egypt
(38), Saudi Arabia (45) and Russia (59).
Vulnerability to violence
In the Fund for Peace survey, 12
social, economic, political and military indicators were used to rank the
countries in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict "using
software that analysed data from tens of thousands of international and local
media sources from the last half of 2004."
Countries in the top 10 – those
most at risk of "going over the brink" – include the DRC, Sudan,
Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen and Liberia. The next 10 include
Afghanistan, Rwanda, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the Dominican
The four so-called failed states
listed before Kenya are Venezuela, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma and
Least failed are countries such as
India, China and Malaysia which are at 76, 75 and 74, respectively.
Then there are nations such as
Algeria, the Gambia and Russia at 61, 60 and 59, respectively. The report say
failed states have made "a remarkable odyssey from the periphery to the
very centre of global politics." It claims that during the Cold War,
"state failure was seen through the prism of superpower conflict and was
rarely addressed as a danger in its own right."