Conflict in Africa: An Overview

  • Created : 08.05.2017 01:12
  • Last Updated:08.05.2017 01:24
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This is the prologue of the book written by Ali Mazrui. As the title connotes, the author presents an overview of conflicts in Africa. In doing so, he divides this chapter into two sections: roots of conflicts and conflict resolution.
 
In the first section, he identifies a number critical issues in Africa and lays out some paradoxes.
 
Black violence, white roots: colonial administrations destroyed old methods of conlfict resolution and traditional African political institutions and failed to create effective substitute ones in their place. In the West, effective states are a major tool for maintaining stability in societies. However, states in Africa are founded by Europeans and are not effective.
 
Are borders to blame? While most African conflicts are partly caused by borders, those conflicts are not about borders. before the western colonial administrations, there were no boundaries in Africa. People lived in loose groupings. If colonialism forced into the same political entity people who would otherwise have lived apart, it also separated people who would otherwise have lived together. hausas, Igbos and Yorubas of Nigeria are examples of the first, while Somalians living in Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Kenya are examples of the latter.
 
Religion or Ethnicity: While the conflicts in Arap North Africa are religious, conflicts in subsaharan black africa are ethnic.
 
Resources or Identity: While blacks clash with whites over resources, blacks clash with blacks over identity.  Ethnic rather than economic message can account better the conflicts among blacks.
 
 
 
Modern Weapons and Pre-Modern Armies: When African countries gained independence, their weapons were not very advanced but the armies were very disciplined. Today, African armies have more advanced weapons but the armies are not disciplined and trained well.
 
Dualism and Pluralism: Mazrui argues that  we tend to pay attention to pluralist societies while dual societies are more dangerous. By dual society he means `a society in which two groups account for over 80 percent of the population`.
 
The second section of the chapter suggest some possible solutions to conflicts in Africa. Mazrui believes that his recommendations can bring about change from within the continent. Here are his recommendations for preventing conflicts in Africa.
 
Tolerance: African societies and upcoming generations should be taught tolerance as a virtue. This trait must be emphasized among people.
 
Constructive Pluralism: With this, Mazrui means decentralization of power. He argues that power should not be concentrated in the hands of a single group. He believes in the need of promoting developing multi-party systems, capitalism, federalism, and the political representation of women. Here Mazrui makes a clear distinction between his recommendation and American-style capitalism. He argues that American system cannot be very accountable to its citizens and will be destructive if applied to Africa. What is need in Africa, he argues, is a type of capitalism that permits us to pluralize power but which is also responsible and does not desire for profit.  As another recipe for constructive pluralism, Mazrui supports federal government system. Although only Nigeria practiced fedaralism as a legitimate system, it did not work in this country because this country is ruled by generals and were prone to coups.
 
Civil - Military Relations: African countries are coup-prone and soldiers are regarded as a threat to political stability. Mazrui has two recommendations for this problem. First, creation of vice-president post, where a civilian can run for presidency with a soldier as his running mate. Second recommendation is bicamaral system. He argues that British-like system can be ideal for African countries. A military house can be created and committees can be formed with members from both houses.
 
Intervention: Mazrui believes that African states can intervene when a neighboring country is about to collapse. He mentions three types of intervention. 1) Like Uganda did, Museveni trained exiled Rwandans to intervene in 1994 to end the genocide. 2) A single power intervenes with the blessing of a wider group of states. Nigeria's intervention in Sierra Leone on behalf of ECOWAS is an example of this type. 3) Inter-African annexation: Tanganyika's annexation of Zanzibar is an example of this type. Mazrui finds the third type intervention contraversial.
 
Regional Integration: Another solution to state collapse is regional integration. This takes places when the state as a political refugee is integrated with its host country. For example, Mazrui argues that both Rwanda and Burundi are dual societies and can be more peaceful when integrated into Tanzania.
 
Security Council: Finally, Ali Mazrui offers a security council of Africa, similar to that of UN. He believes that some states must have permanent seat and veto power, as in the UN system. But he does not elaborate who will determine these permanent members with veto powers and how it will be done.
 
In short, as a prologue to a book, this is a concise and explanatory chapter. Mazrui briefly presents challanging thoughts to readers.