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Africa as a continent is faced with rampant conflicts in some of its countries with consequent negative effects to the economic, political and social lives of their citizens and neighboring countries. A study by Africa action, an activism website for Africa, states “It is important to note that most of Africa is not at warâ€¦ However, where conflicts do exist, they affect not only the stability of the countries involved, but also their neighbors and the entire sub-region”. The political class often uses ideologies to stay in office and sometimes resort to conflicts in the form of violence. Conflict resolution, being a basic human activity, is conducted in forms that often vary across cultures. Different methods have been used in the past to try to resolve these conflicts including military deployment; dialogue between conflicting parties; and even negotiations.
THESIS: Whenever there is scarcity of resources there is bound to be conflict as people try to share the resources. Conflict is thus as old as humanity. “Conflict” is defined as the underlying issue in dispute between or among parties and “conflict resolution” as the elimination of causes of the underlying conflict.
Conflict resolution in African countries
Africa as a continent is endowed with enough resources to keep the world moving for years. It is indeed the resources from Africa that brought industrialization to life; ranging from raw materials to labor. It is thus absurd that majority of African countries are categorized under third world countries and are faced with frequent deaths due to diseases, civil wars, poverty, and natural calamities. Civil wars and political unrests have been the major setbacks to development in Africa. Where there is peace, corruption comes in the way. Allocation of resources has always been a cause of disagreement in countries frequented by conflicts in Africa. Okoth et al states:
â€¦State power in African countries has been the major arena of privilege -the religious, business, and other arenas provide fewer opportunities – and it has been accessible to ambitious men of humble origin. The quest for political power is thus motivated by the desire to control state resources and their ‘authoritative allocation’. (46)
African political class, thus try so hard to achieve political positions in their respective governments and once they get there, they work even harder to maintain these positions. They then indulge in allocation of state resources to theirs kinsmen and close friends with no regard whatsoever to the common man who labors so much and gets no say in the fruits of his labor. This scenario, more often than not leads to a section of the country feeling left out in the allocation of state resources taking up arms in an attempt to oust the incumbent political class out of government.
In an attempt to try to hold on to power and the status quo, the political elite often resort to ideologies to save their skins. Nzunga points out that the current state of most African countries cannot be dissociated from the Berlin Treaty of 1885, which divided the continent into zones of European influence. Before this year, most communities in this continent ran their own affairs in relative independence, within a clearly understood ethnic region. He points out that the greatest injustice the colonial masters committed was, undoubtedly, the imposition of their language and culture on the colonized minority groups.
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Because of the way the colonial masters divided the African continent without regard to the various cultures of ethnic communities that were in existence before them, these ethnic communities found themselves in the same borders forming countries. The political elite is well aware of this fact and whenever things are not going well for them they go back to their ethnic cocoons making them believe that it is their tribes in threat of extinction by the others. This often leads to ethnic clashes as witnessed in the Rwanda genocide and Kenya. Okoth et al notes that the politically motivated ethnic violence in Kenya in 1991-1992 on the re-introduction of multi-party politics can thus be explained in terms of this misuse of the state to the advantage of a few, and the consequent instigation of parochial identities by political leaders for their own selfish interests (52). Others, in the case of Nigeria, resort to their religious affiliations clashing Christians against Muslims.
Political ideology is thus a tool used by the politicians to cause conflict while they desperately cling to power for selfish reasons while the common citizen suffers.
Sadiki is quick to point out that an observation of conflict trends in Africa indicates that intrastate armed conflicts, which were on the rise between 1990 and 1998, have significantly decreased in number. Many conflicts on the continent have been settled and others are in the process of being resolved, generally through peaceful means. This is an indication that as far as African states are concerned, military deployment has not been successful in resolving conflicts rather it fuels it. This is evident in southern Sudan where military deployment from the north for over a decade failed to resolve the conflicts until peaceful negotiations were introduced. Despite the military deployment by the AU and UN peacekeepers in Somalia, the state is still in chaos as violent conflicts thrive.
In Kenya, for example, the 2007-2008 post election violence only escalated when police tried to intervene. It took the efforts of a third party, Kofi Annan, to lead peaceful negotiations between the two parties in conflict to resolve the conflicts. In the present day, conflicts in Egypt and Tunisia over corruption and equitable allocation of state resources cannot be resolved through military might.
In conclusion, with studies showing the similarities in the causes of conflicts in African countries, one thing that stands out is that we should not wait for conflicts to occur and try to resolve them. Instead, African countries should put constitutional measures in place that will ensure corruption and resource allocation issues are dealt with from the roots upwards.
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