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The nexus between aid, security and development is now beyond doubt. In fact, security is a precondition for development. The often cited ‘no development without security, no security without development’ captures this interconnectivity (Dochas 2007). Iraq, despite huge avalanche of aid for reconstruction, is a good example of the importance of security. Sadly, aid has become one of the casualties in the ‘war on terror’. It has been rapidly securitised. Self-interest and political motives determine the priorities of aid. Since the start of the ‘war on terror’, when United States (US) President Bush claimed that anybody was either a friend or an enemy, aid has become one of the weapons in their arsenal. War on terror has brought back the state as the sole referent in security. International aid as known today originated during the Cold War at a time when the US felt that the whole continent of Europe would be converted into a socialist camp and pumped billions of dollars through the Marshal Plan to jumpstart the war damaged economies. Enter 9/11, the good intentions of aid were set aside for the political priorities and self-interest.

US President George Bush said on 20 September 2001: ‘We will direct every resource at our command to the disruption of the global terror network’. Relief became a reward for useful intelligence information. Aid was not only a weapon on the battlefield but also used in diplomatic negotiations with poor countries. In 2003, the US threatened poor UN Security Council members like Angola, Cameroon and Guinea with a reduction of international aid. In the post 9/11 era Africa continued to need security and aid as much as before to overcome its ‘tremendous economic, social and political’ (Mohiddin 2007) challenges. Yet Africa did not have ‘capable and intelligent states’ (Kauzya 2007) able to provide much needed security which is a precondition for development and peace. Any form of aid creates an asymmetrical relationship between the donor and the recipients vitiating the spirit and letter of the Paris Declaration. This relationship fosters ineffective aid. In fact, it does harm by feeding into existing conflicts thereby perpetuating conditions of insecurity that hinder meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Before the Cold War, security was interpreted in militaristic terms as defence of the state involving structured violence manifest in state warfare (Fourie and Schonteich 2004). Security was the ability of the state to defend national interests against both national and external enemies (AFRODAD 2005). This traditional notion of security was concerned with ‘security of territory from external aggression, or as protection of national interests in foreign policy…’ (UNDP 1994). Because it concentrated on nation-state and attached ‘disproportionate attention to security of the state’ (Regehr and Whelan 2004), ‘legitimate concerns of ordinary people who sought security in their daily lives’ (UNDP 1994) were overlooked.

But at the end of the Cold War non military threats became conspicuous confusing and muddling the adversary (Elizabeth 2004). In this regard the concept of deterrence ceased to apply. The Westphalian concepts of the state security and statism were sublimed by globalisation creating what is called ‘networked governance’, ‘new multilateralism’, ‘decentred governance’ or ‘polycentrism’ (Scholte 2004) outside the realm of the traditional state authority. As the world entered into the ‘twilight of sovereignty’ (Wriston 1992) or ‘beyond sovereignty’ (Soroos 1986), the irrelevance of the state as the sole referent in security matters brought to the fore the human person as academics and organisations withdrew from definitions which ignored the individual and other forms of security, which are very vital for peace (AFRODAD 2005).

The 1994 human development report of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) officially coined the human security concept. It says the intention of human security is ‘… to capture the post Cold War peace dividend and redirect those resources towards the development agenda’ (Axworthy 1999, p. 2). With the hindsight, the global community increasingly focused on the fate of humans in conflict situations: victims, women, children, child soldiers, refugees, epidemics, etc. Human security has become a call on nation states to remember that sovereignty should not be viewed as control, but responsibility to ‘protect individuals and provide their welfare’ so that they have ‘secure existence in life and dignity’ (Wallensteen 2007). Despite US’s attempt to recapture the concept of security back to the state security after 9/11, for now the vogue definition of security is human security. This definition captures what they may view as legitimate threats to their lives, ‘disease, hunger, unemployment, crime, social conflicts, political repression, and environmental hazards’ (UNDP 1994). In the extended form, such security includes widening of range of people’s choices and ability for people to exercise these choices freely and safely. The UNDP report provides a schema of values of security which are summed up as economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security (UNDP 1994). Any failure to meet these needs may lead to security problems.


A cursory view of the checklist of the African security items forming the continent’s agenda reveals a variety of threats ranging from climate change, HIV and Aids, small arms and criminality, trafficking of human cargo, to civil wars. The threat of external aggression has significantly diminished with the end of the cold war. Even the terrorist threat is well at the bottom of the agenda list save for the countries which stood in the path of international terrorism so to speak or deemed by the US to be breeding ground for terrorists. For the majority of African states the terrorist threat remains a speculative issue, strategically remote and linked to particular grievances and conflicts (Regehr and Whelan 2004). The immediate and attending threats are those affecting the human person-the human security threats.

One of the profound security threats in Africa is climate change. The phenomenon has been viewed as ‘driver of human conflict’ (Brown, Hammil and Mcleman 2007). Since global warming is a ‘threat to international peace and security’ (Brown et al 2007) it cannot be ignored. As such climate change has been regarded as the mother of all security problems threatening water, food security and increasing forced migration, triggering conflicts. The enormity of the threat forced the Pentagon to institute scenario studies to consider the abrupt implications of climate change on international security implications. Further, the British government has branded climate change as the greatest threat than international terrorism to the extent that foreign secretary Margaret Beckett made ‘climate security’ as a central plank to Britain foreign policy.

In spite of the threat of terrorism, the US has conceived climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ making existing food insecurity and water scarcity more complex and intractable. Making a presentation at the African Union summit in 2007, the Ugandan President Museveni regarded climate change as ‘an act of aggression’ by developing world and demanded compensation and Kaire Mbuende resonated the same when he said that the greenhouse emission tantamount ‘to low intensity biological and chemical warfare’. Even the UN Security Council has come to accept the threat paused by climate change and agreed that even Darfur crisis was a product of climate change and environmental degradation.

HIV and AIDS are real security threats to Africa (Elizabeth 2004). Hadingham (2000) argues, in terms of the post Cold War human security regime, HIV/Aids poses a ‘pervasive and non violent threat to the existence of individuals, as the virus significantly shortens life expectancy’. HIV /Aids has direct and indirect human security implications, ‘so immense that they do not constitute one human security issue among many, but rank amongst the gravest human security challenges the twenty first century confronts’ (Elbe 2006). The pandemic causes ‘at the simplest level premature and unnecessary loss of life’ becoming ‘perhaps the greatest insecurity of human life’. In numerical terms, the Aids pandemic is amongst the worst to have ever threatened humankind (Elbe 2006). It has become indirect threat to human security affecting the economic security, food security, personal security, political security, political security and healthy security (Elbe 2006). Using the threats posed by the global Aids pandemic as a case study, the analytical breadth of the human security concept ‘emerges not so much as a liability, but on the contrary, as a distinctive asset over the narrower conception of national security’ (Elbe 2006).

Connected to the climate change and HIV/Aids is the problem of food security. Climate change affects the productivity of land as aridity affects crops due to depletion of water budgets. HIV/Aids can not only affect the production of agricultural goods, but can further skew the access of certain individuals and groups to food – as often food security is a challenge of ‘access’ rather than a matter of physical availability. Coupled with these twin problems of climate change and HIV/Aids is the use of cereals for the production of biofuels leading to the artificial food shortages worldwide. Debate and research are still on this matter, but the practice has been challenged for diverting food availability from the table.

Drugs consumption and trafficking have not been ranked as critical threats to Africa. The market for these drugs is not yet grown to the western proportions. To this end drugs still rank low on the security agenda of the sub-Saharan Africa. However, money laundering, gun running, and human trafficking are slowly picking up in intensity and as security threats.


The African state is unable to meet the ever changing needs of its people who have either resorted to arms of war or voting by their feet into diaspora to claim their dues. The state has failed to adopt or adapt to scientific or technological changes, new ideas, organisational and management principles, experiences and relevant best practices. In some cases constitutionalism has been blocked and rule of law made anathemas. Democracy and social justice, accountability and transparency, inclusiveness and empowerment of people so that they can participate fully in public affairs have been unacceptable in some African states. The virus of brutality of big governments has destroyed sensitivity of good governance.

The African state is facing twin challenges affecting its capacity to manage aid and offer security to its citizens. These challenges are domestic and global. Mohiddin (2007) notes several capacity challenges that have weaken the state. He says African state is unable to promote ‘sustainable human development including meeting MDGs, promotion of peace, security and stability, combating HIV/Aids pandemic, malaria, sustaining popular electoral participatory democracy, and ensuring thriving private sector’ on the domestic front and unable to ‘promote regional economic and political integration’ on the global front. The lack of capacity inhibits ‘continuous supply of appropriate legal, institutional, human and material resources’ necessary to meet the ever changing challenges’.

9/11 has had varying impacts on the security, official development aid and the relationship between African states and their western counterparts. The incident has led to the redefinition of aid at least from the western perspectives. The US, Sweden and the United Kingdom have stood clear on the nature and course their official assistance was to follow. US President George W. Bush stated on 20 September 2001: ‘We will direct every resource at our command to the disruption of the global terror network’. Aid was included in their arsenal to fight terrorism. United Kingdom reframed their aid policy and foreign policy toward fighting terrorism in earnest. This syndrome caught up with the rest of Europe including the Scandinavian countries, which in the past had supported many African states in their bid to fight poverty and underdevelopment.

By overtaking ODA with nation-state security and counter terrorism agenda and orienting ODA toward the security interests of the donor rather than the development interests of the recipient states, the basic development and poverty eradication objectives were lost. The little aid that trickled into Africa was constrained by ODA spending targets, which were easily achieved through increased security spending (Regehr and Whelan 2004) rather than development and poverty eradication spending. While terrorism is not generally caused by underdevelopment, conditions of economic underdevelopment are a soil in which terrorists are likely to take root. Bonn international centre for conversion (2003) concurs that terrorists are ‘often motivated by, and justify their actions with reference to economic injustice and exploitation’. Reduced ODA in Africa progressed the continent toward its vulnerability and attending conflicts.

To address the pressing problems in sub-Saharan Africa of peace and security and control of aid there are several avenues that can be taken. First Africa needs to improve on its capacity. Secondly, the continent needs to reconceptualise its security. Thirdly, there is need to democratise governance systems. Finally, the Africa state needs to work as part of a regional architecture not in the disparate form.


The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA led to drastic policy change in the western world which has had an impact on the sub-Saharan Africa security envelope. The change of policy has left sub-Saharan Africa exposed to security challenges it has no capacity to manage as a result of historical, domestic and global structural issues. Unless the capacity is addressed in Africa there will be continued vulnerability since the continent cannot control the ODA that it receives nor demand the strict observance of the 1994 Paris declaration on the operation of aid. In search of that capacity, sub-Saharan Africa needs to deliberately redefine its security and raise the moral plank to address the threats that are affecting its citizens in an era of diminished external aggression. Sub-Saharan Africa needs to be persuaded by the virtues of human security rather than state security. This paper proposes democratisation, regionalism and capacity development as key to the attainment of security-human security, among others. When all these are achieved, even the redefinition of ODA will have little impact on the focused and united African continent and the goals for the continent will remain in full view.

* Shastry Njeru is based at the Midlands State University, Gweru, Zimbabwe.

* This article is an extract from a longer paper which will be included as a chapter in the forthcoming "African Perspectives on Aid in Africa" book published by AFRODAD and Fahamu.

*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


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