State Failure and Rebel Governance in Africa

Since 2013, armed conflict has raged in the Central African Republic, between the largely Muslim Seleka rebels and the predominantly Christian militias (known as the anti-Balaka). Rebel groups are controlling broad swathes of the country, exploiting mineral wealth, and levying taxes on cattle migration. Non-state actors such as the Popular Front for the Governance of the Central African Republic (FPRC), which claims to “govern” the country’s northeast, have severely tested the authority of the government in Bangui. Reporters have taken to referring to the Western-backed government in Bangui as a “failed” or even “phantom state” – and speak of CAF’s sundry “ministates.” Is CAF a “failed state” as Western observers claim? What type of governance do rebel groups provide? What happens when a rebellion or civil war shatters a country’s socio-political order? This lecture will interrogate the concept of “state failure,” tracing its roots in Western political theory, examining its policy application over the past 15 years, and recent contestations of the concept by scholars of Africa.