What is the impact of smuggling on political ordering and stability in fragile states? The article I’ve been working on with @franxstrax for the past two years is now out in @JISBjournal, focusing on #Mali and #Niger.

Article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17502977.2021.1896207

Drug Smuggling and the Stability of Fragile States. The Diverging Trajectories of Mali and Niger
(2021). Drug Smuggling and the Stability of Fragile States. The Diverging Trajectories of Mali and Niger. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. Ahead of Print.

Extended abstract thread.

We investigate how transnational drug smuggling drives divergent trajectories of political in/stability in 2 Sahelian states that are otherwise very similar: Mali & Niger. We explain variation by process-tracing the non/existence of informal protection schemes involving NSAs.

Where state monopoly of violence is lacking, competition among protection providers can fuel instability. By coopting, rather than fighting, nonstate armed actors, the outsourcing of state protection can help dilute protectors’ competition and avoid state disruption.

In #Mali drug revenues helped create armed factions which Bamako manipulated to balance the secessionist rebellion and foster its divide et impera policy among local communities. The selective cooptation has often glossed over the proximity of loyal groups to jihadists.

The deliberate pursuing of fragmentation rather than cooptation of smuggling networks by Malian authorities has only exacerbated competition among prospective protection suppliers, contributing to the militarization of drug trafficking and political destabilization.

In #Niger, the security assemblage coopting non-state armed actors within a hybrid order was precisely meant to reduce fragmentation and competition among prospective protectors, promoting instead integration and cooperation.

Yet recent trends may confirm our prediction that Niger’s hybrid protection racket is not immune from the risk of crumbling, should the state prove unable to ensure cohesion and deter defections.

Conclusion: fragile states crisscrossed by criminal smuggling are less prone to violent destabilisation when they manage to enforce a protection racket on extralegal economies through the integration and cooptation of nonstate actors within a hybrid political order.

The presence/absence of a hybrid state-sponsored protection racket help explain the diverging in/stability outcomes in the ‘quasi-twin’ country cases of Mali and of Niger.

By inadvertently unhinging the fragile equilibrium of a hybrid political order, ill-advised security assistance strategies geared towards the complete eradication of all extralegal flows run the risk of unleashing precisely that destabilisation they aim to avoid.

This perspective suggests that global stances inspired by prohibitionism and counter-terror may be ill-suited to the specific needs of fragile countries, and that greater context- and conflict-sensitivity should be imperative.

Continue reading on https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17502977.2021.1896207