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Published: May 27, 2020

New GISF blog on security incidents related to COVID-19 in East and Central Africa

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According to data collected by Standard Risk, 79% of security incidents related to COVID-19 in East and Central Africa, between 1 March - 7 May, took place in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda.

This blog piece seeks to explain why is this the case and suggests that countries with higher levels of democracy may face more civil unrest following the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.

In monitoring COVID-19-linked security incidents across 13 countries in East and Central Africa, we see that 79% of the total number of such security incidents have occurred in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. The remaining 10 countries have each witnessed 5 or fewer COVID-19-related security incidents. Most commonly, incidents are either protests against restrictions or actions taken by the security forces to enforce curfews and new trading rules. We have not seen significant harassment of expatriates or aid workers, nor have we seen evidence that COVID-19 is impacting patterns of armed conflict within the region.

To understand this observation, we took two variables that could be expected to have a direct impact on the prevalence of COVID-19-related security incidents: 1) the level of restrictions imposed by governments in order to halt the spread of the virus, and 2) the level of freedom in each country. These were chosen as the imposition of restrictions changes the operational environment, and the level of freedom can be used to indicate how well a population will adhere to new regulations.

Taking data from the stringency index of the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), combined with the number of COVID-19-linked security incidents recorded by Standard Risk, and overlaid with ratings from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Democracy Index 2019, we get the below chart:

Why COVID-19 is impacting security environments differently

X-Axis: COVID-19-linked security incidents (1 March-7 May 2020); Y-Axis: OxCGRT’s Stringency Index; Colour palette: EIU Democracy Index 2019.

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