Stephen Emerson
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Hussein Solomon
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Failing states
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States are the only contemporary political organizations that enjoy a unique legal status under international law—sovereignty—and are deemed to possess an exclusive monopoly on the legitimate use of force within their borders. A central feature of the state is to provide for the delivery of public goods (such as security) to its citizenry, and states fail to function as states when they can no longer do this. While the concept of “state failure” or “failing states” is much debated, the consequences of such failure are all too real, especially in Africa. Endemic violence, ethnic and religious tensions, rampant human rights abuses, rising terrorism and crime, along with a lack of legitimacy and political inclusion, as well as an inability to exercise effective control over territory are hallmarks of failing states.

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African security in the twenty-first century

Challenges and opportunities


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