In January 2000 over half of the countries in Africa were affected by conflict. These conflicts have resulted in enormous loss of life, massive displacement and huge costs to the economy, seriously hindering the development of African states. These conflicts clearly need to be tackled to reduce the magnitude of human suffering and address the threat to global security.
This paper identifies the background to and causes of conflict in Africa and looks at local, regional and international responses. It examines how a stronger and more focused international effort is required for sustainable peace and sets out a comprehensive framework for conflict prevention.
The background to conflict in Africa is presented as comprising three factors: (1)Overthrowing colonialism. For example, Somalia refused to accept externally prescribed borders. Colonialism in Sudan was succeeded by an inadequate political structure; (2)The Cold War resulted in a system of client states where corrupt leaders were maintained in exchange for allegiance with one of the superpowers. This increased arms flows and military expenditure and raining. The large armies created by this support were not demobilised as the Cold War came to an end, leaving behind a threat to domestic security; and (3) New World Order: In the 1990s state authority weakened, internal conflicts increased and fragmentation led to warring splinter groups. Conflicts became regional as collapsed states threatened the security of their neighbours.
Other findings include:
- An effective response to conflict requires agreement on and understanding of its causes. The root causes for conflict in Africa are identified as social, political and economic inequality; state collapse; economic decline; a historical pattern of conflict and battles for control of natural resources.
- Secondary causes enable and sustain conflict. These include unemployment, lack of education, population pressure, ethnic hatred and availability of arms.
- Tertiary causes which hinder resolution are complexity caused by interlocking conflicts; resolutions not properly consolidated; inadequate mediation and inappropriate humanitarian assistance.
As wars become more entrenched, clearly they become less amenable to a solution. For Africa to be able to advance its development, a long-term commitment to conflict resolution is required. It is proposed that international co-operation and commitment should take the form of:
- The development of new approaches for the new types of warfare that are found in Africa; li>
- Targeting the availability of arms;
- Responsible investment in areas of natural resource wealth, with international monitoring and management of such areas;
- Appropriate mediation to foster stable and equitable political structures and support to African peace-keeping capacities. li>
- Appropriate humanitarian interventions that effectively accesses those in need and is supported by political and judicial actions.