Fragile, Flawed…but Failed?

Foreign Policy magazine presents its Failed States Index, with no surprises in the top few places. The list contains my favourite country in Africa and my least favourite, as well as my new home.

  1. Somalia – surely the only actual failed state in the list. The government controls almost none of the country, which is lawless apart from the bits run by warlords, Islamists or gangsters – or a combination
  2. Chad – rebels run back and forth across the eastern border, banditry is rife and it’s largely an undeveloped desert. Not so much a failed state as a failed state in progress
  3. Sudan – Bits are failing. The writ of government does not extend to large swaths of the country. But it has a strong government with a military that protects what state there is
  4. Zimbabwe – attempts at coalition government have proved predictably disappointing and Mugabe is still there. But if anything the state is too strong
  5. Democratic Republic of Congo – state without a chance. Too big and wrecked by its neighbours who fought out their wars in its jungles.
  6. Afghanistan –  The Taliban has set up dozens of shadow administrations and the Kabul government would collapse without outside support. Failed? Pretty much
  7. Iraq – a failed state? Possibly. But surely more like a deliberately dismantled state which only now shows any sign of progress back towards a functioning country
  8. Central African Republic – fragile and getting fragiler. Its place at the heart of Africa means it is surrounded by civil wars that too often spill over. Potential to fail
  9. Guinea – military governments that rule by strong-arming the opposition are unpleasant and undemocratic. But they often hold states together. The real test comes with elections later this month
  10. Pakistan – I’m writing this in a coffeeshop drinking an Americano all bathed in wifi. My household rubbish is collected once a week and there is a postal service. The tribal areas, true, are outside the state. But Pakistan doesn’t feel failed

If this is a list of places with problems, then sure. But failed states? Pakistan is only ever 18 months from a military coup, but President Zardari is turning out to be a survivor. He faces huge economic problems and has an ever-present terror threat. Yet less stable than Yemen? Come on…

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2 responses to “Fragile, Flawed…but Failed?

  1. To top it off, calling the photo slideshow “Postcards from Hell”?? For a lot of people, these places are home sweet home…

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