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Africa, a lost continent?
Transcript of Africa, a lost continent?
Conflicts can be categorized in various ways depending on the type of criteria one uses. For example Salim (1999) classifies conflicts in Africa as follows:
• boundary and territorial conflicts,
• civil wars and internal conflicts having international repercussions,
• succession conflicts in territories decolonized,
• political and ideological conflicts,
• others including those related to transhumance and irredentism.
Explaining the Causes
of African Conflicts
The Context of African Conflicts: Past and Contemporary
These arose as a result of the colonial boundaries and although the OAU
Charter declared the borders inviolable, nevertheless, almost all the interstate
conflicts were caused by claims over borders. Some important features
of African borders which were the bases for claims to change them, and
claims which led to border conflicts, are:
• many borders were imprecise;
• some borders were straddled by a large ethnic group considered
strategic by one side of the border;
• some borders passed through strategic terrain desired by countries
on both sides of the border;
• some borders passed by areas rich with mineral resources all of
which fell on one side of the border, thus excluding the other
Preventing, Managing and Resolving Conflicts: Strategies and Polices
AFRICA, A LOST CONTINENT?
Political authoritarian, civil wars and the logic of regional conflicts in Africa
Table 1 & 2: Africa’s worst conflicts, 1945—present
Conflicts in the Pre-Colonial Era
A Rebellion to Overthrow a Government
Cold-War Sustained Conflicts
Many-Sided Conflicts to Seize State Power
Rural Conflicts over Resources
- Rebellions, by groups outside the military establishment of a country and which aim to overthrow a government, are the most common type of political conflict in most African countries.
- These rebellions are generally initiated by urban elites who are dissatisfied with the way the government had treated them and their region or ethnic group.
- Conflicts between state and rebellions trying to overthrow them vary in intensity, scale, and duration depending on many factors.
- A coup d’etat by the military of a country can be instigated and even carried out by outside forces such as in the Comoros. However, most coup d’etats are carried out without external instigation or support. They are generally the expression of a struggle for power between contending groups amongst the elite
- During the 1970s and 1980s, the vicious competition between the superpowers in Africa was an important factor, if not in starting conflicts, certainly in sustaining them.
- At the time, the support or opposition of one super-power or another was a very powerful force in the political survival or demise of an African government. So powerful were these cold war interventions that they set in motion sociopolitical forces in some of the strategic countries, processes that led to serious internal conflicts which have outlasted the Cold War itself and continued until today.
- The specific conditions for this type of conflict are the following elements:
a very weak government; the reason for the weakness of the government could be many and we need not go into them here;
a deterioration and deep malaise of the economy, widespread poverty and a large pool of unemployed, landless and aimless youth;
the state and its few institutions are the sole means of accumulating wealth;
the availability and control by the state of easily exploitable natural resources;
deep divisions in a stratified society based on ethnicity, race, religion, and cultural and economic oppression of various groups by a ruling class/group
- These are conflicts over grazing land, over cattle, over water points and over cultivable land. These conflicts go back a long way, in some cases to the pre-colonial period.
- Furthermore, environmental deterioration in land productivity and scarcity of water has contributed to the intensity of the competition. Amongst pastoral societies in particular, the system of grazing which involves movement of large cattle herds to water points and in search of pasture, has created a serious problem.
- Both the African governments and the international community are generally not sympathetic to secessionist rebellions. Hence, very few secessionist movements have succeeded compared to those rebellions which aim at overthrowing their governments. The most spectacular secessionist war was that of Biafra in Nigeria that ended in catastrophic failure.
Urban Violence and Conflict
- Urban violence is now becoming more common than in the past, as Africa’s rate of urbanisation is the highest in the world. Population is increasing dramatically in urban centres, while the economies of most African countries have been deteriorating thus raising urban unemployment to a very high level.