Ethnic conflicts in Africa are often portrayed as having ages-old origins with little prospects for resolution. This Security Brief challenges that notion arguing that a re-diagnosis of the underlying drivers to ethnic violence can lead to more effective and sustainable responses.
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When South Sudan achieved independence in 2011, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M) and its leader, Salva Kiir Mayardit, took control of a system of governance that transcended the lines between the formal and informal sectors, military and civilian elites, government and nongovernment actors, as well as licit and illicit sources of revenue. Instead... Continue Reading
As the four-year conflict in South Sudan continues unabated, the country’s humanitarian situation has reached emergency levels and continues to worsen. Those who have fled their homes relay stories of atrocities, including unlawful killings, mass rapes, torture, arbitrary detentions, and looting and burning of property. A population movement of this magnitude, with majorities of some ethnic groups displaced, has the potential to cause massive and lasting damage to the country’s social fabric, as well as its viability as a sovereign state.
While much of East Africa suffers from food shortages due to drought, in South Sudan, it is conflict, rather than lack of rain, that has been the cause of a widespread humanitarian disaster.
Although the vast majority of conflicts in Africa today involve non-state actors, there has been a significant increase in state-based violence since 2010. While there is now a better understanding of the need to engage at multiple levels of society, leveraging the political will and resources to facilitate these deeper connections has remained a challenge.
The Ethnic Army and the State: Explaining Coup Traps and the Difficulties of Democratization in Africa
Since the independence era of the 1960s, there have been more than 215 coup attempts in 43 of the 54 countries of Africa. Though the numbers were mostly concentrated in the early years, coups attempts are still a feature on the continent. Where early leaders tended to form militaries based on ethnicity, coups attempts were four times as likely to happen. Likewise, because of the patronage system in place in many fragile states, when elections bring in a leader that is not of the same ethnicity as the army, coup risk spikes dramatically.
African institutional efforts at conflict prevention and mediation have proved instrumental at realizing negotiated settlements.
Domestic institutional mechanisms of accountability are more directly relevant for managing conflict than constitutional design.
The Africa Center’s Director of Research, Joseph Siegle, participated in a symposium at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas on October 16 examining the role of constitutions on conflict management in Africa. Responding to the recently released book, Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa: Preventing Civil War through Institutional Design edited by... Continue Reading
Demonstrators took to the streets of Bujumbura following a decision by the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) to nominate incumbent president, Pierre Nkurunziza, as its sole presidential candidate for the upcoming polls scheduled for June 26. The attempt to stay on for a third... Continue Reading
State Building and Peacebuilding in Contexts of Identity-related Conflicts: A Necessary Collaboration
State capacity is not the same as state legitimacy. Though it is essential to build and strengthen the institutions of governance in post-conflict societies to provide for its citizens, the people of a country must feel that the government is endeavoring to protect and provide for all constituents—all races, religions, and ethnicities. To demonstrate this, a government must decentralize to the level where the impact of the conflict was mostly felt. It must create policy informed by the needs of actual citizens its civil service has met. Until it does this, it has not earned legitimacy among its people.
Speaking at the start of a four-day seminar titled, “Africa’s Contemporary Security Challenges” hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Dr. Paul Williams, an Associate Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Security Policy Studies Program at George Washington University delivered a far-reaching overview of key drivers of violent conflict in Africa. The... Continue Reading