Kenya improves in list of fragile states

Kenya improves in list of fragile states. [Courtesy]

Kenya has been ranked second among the 13 most improved countries in the Fragile States Index (FSI) 2019.

The country is rated behind Ethiopia in terms of handling public unrest, security and political intolerance.

The two countries were ranked the ‘most worsened’ countries in the 2017 FSI report. Kenya, however, has made huge strides after the divisive 2017 presidential elections.

Overall, in an analysis of 178 countries, Kenya is ranked the 25th most fragile state and is placed in the ‘alert’ category with 21 other states.

The most fragile states are Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are placed in the ‘very high alert’ category.

Buried differences

Countries in the ‘high alert’ category are Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan and Afghanistan.

The FSI - which is produced by the Fund For Peace (FFP) - highlights not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also identifies when those pressures are outweighing a state’s capacity to manage them.

Some of the issues that threaten the stability of a state include ethnic tensions and civil wars. They may take the form of revolutions and many result in complex humanitarian emergencies.

Identified fault lines can include identity groups, language, religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, class, caste, clan or area of origin.

“Tensions can deteriorate into conflict through a variety of circumstances, such as competition over resources, predatory or fractured leadership, corruption or unresolved group grievances,” reads the report.

It continues, “The reasons for state fragility are complex but not unpredictable. It is critically important that the international community understand and closely monitor the conditions that contribute to fragility and be prepared to take the necessary actions to deal with the underlying issues or otherwise mitigate the negative effect.”

In March last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga reached a unity pact amid rising tension among their supporters. Their ‘handshake’ resulted in relative calm and boosted the country’s status.

The two leaders, who were rivals in the run-up to the August and October 2017 polls, buried their differences and formed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) with a nine-point agenda that aims to unite Kenyans.

The country finds itself in the FSI’s ‘alert’ category due to its past as a post-conflict state over divisive elections.

“In recovering from conflict, simply not being at war is pretty obviously a significant improvement. It is, therefore, likely no accident post-conflict countries are among the most improved since their rate-of-change has been faster,” reads the report.

“However, whether this trend can continue without more fundamental political, economic or social change is unclear.

The report recognises that among the most improved countries are some that continue to be restrictive, autocratic and subject to closed civic space.

“Herein lies an important distinction in reducing fragility over time when countries begin from a poor starting point, significant gains are much easier to detect and measure and even relatively simple reforms can greatly reduce a country’s fragility,” it reads.

Regional tension

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been credited with embarking on an ambitious reform agenda that has led to more political and social inclusiveness, breaking down the previous ethno-centric system that his country endured for decades.

“Ethiopia has also benefited from and contributed to a decrease in regional tension, marked by a détente with neighboring Eritrea, with whom Ethiopia fought a war only two decades ago,” the report reads.

The yearly evaluation is based on the FFP’s proprietary Conflict Assessment System Tool. FFP collects thousands of reports and information from around the world, detailing the existing social, economic and political pressures faced by each of the 178 countries analysed.

Some of the key indicators consider how representative and open a government is, and its relationship with its citizenry.

Seven nations, Finland, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia and Iceland, top the list in the ‘very sustainable’ category.

France, South Korea, Uruguay, Japan, Malta, United States, United Kingdom, Mauritius, Lithuania, Czechia and Chile are ranked in the ‘stable’ category.

Former Soviet states dominate the list of most-improved countries, with Belarus, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ranking in the top 20.