Beyond Secularism: Sectarian Conflict and the Resilience Challenge for the African State

Following two decades of dramatic progress in economic development, political stability, improved governance and inspired regional cooperation – currently, Africa is at a turning point. Stability and economic well-being is being threatened by a number of emerging security crises, in particular the recent upsurge of violent conflict, together with its ‘religious’ justification, rogue character and cross-border spill-overs in many countries. The threat is compounded by its impacting a number of the pivotal states on the Continent, including Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Libya, thus threatening to turn some of the major pillars of continental stability architecture into liabilities. It is imperative that the nature of the threat be accurately diagnosed in a timely manner, and dealt with in a measured way without a counterproductive overreaction. The spread of violence reflects multiple failures in African state and society, including failure of the state in securing the loyalty of all its citizens, compounded (and often caused) by the failure of political and intellectual elites to provide inclusive political and moral leadership. No less important is the failure of religious leaders, institutions and movements to provide credible spiritual and moral leadership that could channel religious commitment into constructive channels. The sectarian diversion of religious sentiment into violence or the search for short term gains for partisan actors is, fundamentally, a crisis of religion and religious leadership.