Elections: Presidential, legislative, and regional; April 2011
FSI Rank: 14
When Nigeria held elections in April, observers declared them the most credible in the country's history. For the most part, voting went smoothly, and the ballot-stuffing was far less prevalent than in previous years. But the voting itself aside, these were in fact among the most violent elections in Nigeria's history. In addition to local-level candidates who were abducted, killed, or otherwise intimidated prior to the election, post-election violence left some 800 dead, according to Human Rights Watch, and displaced thousands more. Even in a country where politics has often been marred by bloodshed, these were devastating stats.
The Failed States Index offers some clues about the devastating mix of grievances, political cleavages, and economic strains that produced this post-election violence. Although many indicators have improved slightly in the last two years as an amnesty has helped reduce militant violence in the Niger Delta, the future of the arrangement is far from certain, and the underlying grievances remain. Many of Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups have historical bones to pick with the state, and these often cut along geographical and religious lines. A low-level rebellion in the oil-rich Niger Delta has been fueled by the contrast between the region's poverty and the lucrative petroleum extracted from it. In the country's so-called Middle Belt, economic pressure to control scarce farm and grazing land has pitted neighbor against neighbor. Across the board, inequality is pronounced, with 64 percent of the population living on less than $1 per day. Public services are limited -- just 58 percent of the population has access to clean water. After years of corruption, trust in the state is low -- such that in some areas, citizens and even local government officials have turned to vigilante groups to crack down on crime.
Although Nigeria's elections have passed, the underlying pressures that contributed to the post-poll violence remain: poverty, inequality, corruption, grievances against the state and rival identity groups, and a proliferation of armed militant groups. The country's stability going forward will depend on how effectively the new government tackles these issues.
Elections: General, October 2011
FSI Rank: 26
Just minutes after you arrive in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, many of the West African country's weaknesses are vividly on display. Poverty is overwhelming, there is no water system, and only seldom does electricity flicker on without a generator. But construction sites also highlight the country's slow and steady forward momentum. Elections in October will be watched around the world as a test of the country's progress, now almost a decade after its 14-year civil war came to an end.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in office since 2006, has been widely hailed abroad for the investment boom she has ushered into the country. On the ground, however, many Liberians feel that progress isn't moving as fast. Unemployment remains high, with only 15 percent of the population employed in the formal sector. Meanwhile, land rights are a major source of tension, frequently erupting into violence. Families and individuals often lack records of their land ownership, and there have also been disputes over the demarcation of towns, districts, and even county boundaries that have complicated the voter registration process. Liberia has also been affected by a major influx of more than 150,000 refugees fleeing violence caused by the disputed election in neighboring Ivory Coast, putting pressure on border communities. For now, Liberia's security is relatively assured; the country is home to a 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission. But as those forces are eventually whittled down, Liberian forces will face a daunting challenge patrolling a country with few paved roads.