What does it mean to be a fragile state? According to the IMF, fragile states are those in 'which the government is unable to reliably deliver basic public services to the population--[they] face severe and entrenched obstacles to economic and human development.' It is with this understanding that I have identified nine common factors at play in political and economic transitions. These are, in my view, drivers and symptoms of state fragility.
The root causes of conflict-induced state fragility can be considered primary common factors. Leadership is the foundation of a just, egalitarian and harmonious society, and by extension, the state. In this regard, conflict-induced fragility is a function of weak leadership (factor 1), which in turn precipitates the other root causes: injustice, inequality, and ethnic tensions (factors 2, 3, and 4). The secondary common factors listed below are symptoms of state fragility.
South Sudan: a case study
I would argue that the new country of South Sudan was born after a protracted war of liberation with the nine common factors at play. But the leaders of the liberation struggle and their supporters in the international community didn't pay attention to these factors--paving the way for continued struggles.
Weak leadership created feelings of injustice and inequality, leading to ethnic tensions
Conflict-induced fragility is a function of weak leadership, which in turn precipitates the other root causes: injustice, inequality, and ethnic tensions.
In fact, the liberators quickly became the looters of income and wealth of their new nation, evidenced by a recent report. They would make up, in this sense, weak leadership (factor 1); their kleptocratic behaviour fuelled feelings of injustice and inequality (factors 2 and 3) among the population. Ethnic-based injustice (real or perceived) is seen by many analysts to have created unequal opportunities (inequality) between the various ethnic groups in South Sudan. That is, the Dinka ethnic group is perceived by other ethnicities to be dominating access to resources, power and wealth creation opportunities. This created ethnic tensions (factor 4), seen in the response of those who strongly feel excluded (e.g. those of Nuer ethnicity)--resistance by all means available.
Circle of fragility or fragility trap
These drivers have deepened the fragility of the South Sudanese state, creating a vicious circle of fragility that is difficult to break. This is especially true...