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When Does Ethnic Diversity Turn Into Ethnic Conflict Politics Essay

Info: 2172 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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I will show that ethnic diversity does not cause ethnic conflict but it is a contributing factor. Ruane and Todd (2004) summarise and evaluate two of the main approaches to ethnicity. 'It is important not to jump to hasty conclusions about the inevitability of conflict between different ethnic groups ..For that conflict to happen , certain patterns of interactions are required, which themselves occur only under specific circumstances....'Ruane and Todd (2004) go on to claim that 'the roots of ethnic conflict may not in fact be ethnic' and take issue with two strategies of approach to ethnicity . Ruane and Todd (2004) define ethnicity as: 'a spatially distinctive , territorially defined 'people' ,continuous over time and generation 'typically associated with a sense of origin and a set of origin myths.)'It is important not to jump to hasty conclusions about the inevitability of conflict between different ethnic groups .....For that conflict to happen certain patterns of interactions are required, which themselves occur only under specific circumstances ...'

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Ruane and Todd go on to claim that 'the roots of ethnic conflict may not in fact be ethnic' and take issue with two strategies of approach to ethnicity. They discuss Walker Connor's foundationalism and Rogers Brubaker's cognitive interactionalism. Connor highlights 'the deep emotional feeling associated with ethnicity which has psychological roots in kinship bonds - a quasi-kinship sense of belonging , incorporating a sense of shared blood' Connor says that leaders do not 'manufacture' this feeling but that they recognise it and appeal to it.' Todd and Ruane (2004) point out that subscribing to such a primordalist view is quite defeatist - there is no real hope of ever assimilating ethnic minorities nor of eradicating differences through social engineering. Horowitz (2000) claims that ethnicity causes civil wars, genocide and coups d'état. He sees ethnicity as cause of the genocide in Ruanda and the ethnic riots in the D.R .Congo .

Brubaker, takes the constructivist approach and differentiates between the different ethnic groups and the organisations that represent their interests - he names the IRA, the KLA and the PKK -' these organisations claim to speak for the Catholic Republican Irish, the Kosovo Albanians and the Kurds, yet surely analysts must differentiate between such organisations and the putative and homogenous bounded groups in whose name they claim to act' (Brubaker 2002). People may biologically to a particular group but they may equally 'fill it with religious or linguistic content, or with a set of cultural values or political ideas'.(Brubaker)

For Connor and the primordialists the very fact of ethnic diversity pushes a state into ethnic conflict Mousseau (2001), however, found that ' ethnic heterogeneity and violence are only strongly correlated under certain political conditions - he found that the more democratic a state is , the less likely it is to suffer.Thus, Mousseau and the other constructivists is that ethnic heterogeneity is a contributing factor to political violence as a result of mobilization of ethnic interests and socio political and economic factors (Mousseau 2001).People may biologically to a particular group but they may equally 'fill it with religious or linguistic content, or with a set of cultural values or political ideas'.(Brubaker).Fredrik Barth (1969) said that boundary construction is the most fundamental process in ethnic group formation and he said 'the ethnic identity is the cultural stuff the boundary encloses.' .

Why are there so many civil wars in Africa? 'Contrary to popular belief Africa's civil wars are not due to its ethnic and religious diversity. If a country has stable government, cultural diversity can enrich the lives of the people. The charter on the protection and the promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions states that cultural diversity should be cherished (UNESCO 2005) The relatively high incidence of war in Africa is not due to the ethnolinguistic fragmentation of its countries. Afica's ethnic diversity helps rather than impedes the emergence of stable development as it necessitates intergroup bargaining processes. Deep political and economic failures not tribalism or ethnic hatred are the causes of ethnic conflict' (E. Elbadawi and N. Sambanis 2000) What is of prime importance here is the political stability - economic development could create conditions conducive to political stability - when people are happy, prosperous and are sharing an equal share of resources. The key point here is that it is the lack of freedom and /or the unequal allocation of resources that can cause unrest. Diversity is not a problem if it is managed effectively - a state can actually benefit from cultural diversity. Multi ethnic states like Switzerland ward off interracial conflict through a strict federal system which gives autonomy to every group... The United Kingdom has used devolved government for the sake of political harmony. It is important for countries to develop economically in the presence of ethno-linguistic diversity and cultural richness. Diversity alone is not the problem (UDHR)2004.

In Africa , many countries were former colonies and they experienced major difficulties in learning how to self govern and be autonomous. Now, African Union leaders are trying to build African Union on the the basis of colonial borders with all countries retaining the borders they inherited at independence . And the result? Wars all over.

Africa's civil wars conform to a global pattern that is better explained by political and economic factors as well as by the extent of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in its society (Collier and Hoeffler 1998, 2000;Collier 1999a; Collier et al.,2000a) One very real problem is when you have members of minority groups competing for scarce resources. In the US you have competition between Africans- Americans, Latinos and Whites. There is unrest when members of minority groups compete for scarce resources and if we apply the theory of Utility to this topic of ethnic diversity :'Comparison Utility Theory states ' people get utility not only out of absolute but also out of relative consumption, relative either to other groups or to their own past consumption - if the group under observation is worse off than the other group or than they used to be the disadvantaged groups are likely to initiate a conflict with groups that are better off than them.

A high correlation does not prove causation. There are many other variables that must be considered before making such an evaluation.At least two case studies (Israeli /Palestinian and Rwanda) show a high correlation between ethnic diversity and ethnic conflict, correlation does not prove causation. In real life situations there are many layers of complexity, such as access to resources and political inequalities. Psychologists tell us that man has a basic human instinct to move with his own kind - what Alfred Adler called 'an urge to community' (Ferguson, 1989). Cordell and Wolff consider that 'Donald Horowitz offers the best known application of social identity theory to cases of ethnic conflict. When backward groups and advanced groups are competing for the same resources the backward group has to decide whether to emulate the advanced group or to adopt another ploy where such backwardness is perceived to have emerged from past injustices .Backward groups harbour fears of extinction if they cannot catch up with advanced groups and their insecurity and anxiety is such that they may perceive threats where there are none and thus 'produces over reactions to modest threats'. What may initially have been conflicts over needs and interests mutate into concerns over status and the political system

' Ethnic conflicts are not about ethnicity -ethnic conflict is itself a misnomer as it is not the conflict that is ethnic but at least one of the participants. An ethnic conflict involves at least one party that is organized around the ethnic identity of its members.' (Cordell and Wolff ) Israel, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and Rwanda are just some of the places that have experienced ethnic conflict. In each case there has been a violent confrontation between one ethnic group and another or the institutions of the state.

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In Israel for more than fifty years there has been a deadly conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The main source of contention is territory. Israeli settlements are being built in the lands that were set aside for the Palestinians and a wall built to contain them. A two state solution has been suggested but in this case the land must be equally divided and be equal. The Palestinians occupy a much smaller land area than was initially proposed by the UN in 1947.

'In 1948 during the First Arab Israeli War, 726,000 Palestinian -Arabs, one half of the Arab population fled or were driven from their homes in Palestine by Zionist forces. They left behind farmland, tools and animals, homes,factories, bank accounts and personal property. Israel did not allow the mass repatriatrion of the refugees and quickly confiscated their property. In this lies the genesis of the Palestinian property issue.' There is some controversy regarding the cause of the refugees' flight and 'It appears that it was a combination of fear of battle,fear of atrocities ( The Zionists carried out a massacre at the village of Dayr Yasin outside Jerusalem in 1948) and deliberate expulsion explain why 726,000 settled rural dwellers fled in haste, leaving their homes, their fields, their possessions.

In Ruanda in 1994 there was genocide and the media were quick to portray this a tribal warfare between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The truth is much different -'the racism that gave rise to the 1994 genocide is as much as anything else a testimony to the effectiveness of Belgian and to a lesser extent, German racist practices that succeeded in creating racial divisions in the popular consciousness, where in reality no such division existed.The truth is that Tutsi and Hutu are genetically linked and whether one is designated as a Hutu or Tutsi depends more on economic status than anything else. However , Belgians introduced a system of apartheid in Rwanda and this acted as an incubus of resentment which led to the genocide of 1994 (Cordell and Wolff (2010). Athough many local tensions contributed to the massacres , one must take into account also the colonial past and the mismanagement of independence.

'In conclusion, ethnic conflicts are not always linked to violent conflict. Just because conflicts are often ethnic, ethnicity must breed conflict is an example of a classical error sometimes called 'the base -rate fallacy '. In the area of ethnic conflict and violence, this fallacy is common.'(Habyarimana, 2008). Fearon and Laitin carried out intensive study on ethnic conflict in the African states. They used the best available data for every country in Africa. They identified tens of thousands of pairs of ethnic groups that could have been in conflict. But they did not find thousands of conflicts ( as might have been expected if ethnic differences consistently led to violence - for every one thousand such pairs of ethnic groups , they found fewer than three incidents of ethnic conflict. Fearon and Laitin concluded that communal violence, though horrify ng is extremely rare.

Jerry Muller (Us and them March/April 2008) says that violence among ethnic groups is inevitable as people tend to prefer members of their own group and have active antipathy towards out-group members, making conflict the inevitable result .Social scientists tell us that it is a basic human tendency for people to move with their own kind. The most stable countries in the world are those that are homogenous or have a federal system. Multiethnic European States like Switzerland ward off internal conflict through a strict federal system which gives automony to every group. Switzerland has stable political institutions which provide a framework in which different groups can be accommodated. Africa's civil wars conform to a global pattern that is better explained by political and economic factors as well as by the extent of ethnic , cultural and religious diversity in its society (Collier and Hoeffler 1998, 2000, ; Collier 1999a; Collier et al, 1999, Elbadani and Sambanis,2000) Ethnic divisions exist and may cause conflict when one group lacks basic necessities which its neighbours have. To promote peace there must be efficient reallocation of ressources. Economic and environmental concerns need to be addressed to harness diversity and manage ethnic squabbles.

Peace begets prosperity; Prosperity begets pride; Pride begets prejudice; Prejudice begets war; War begets poverty. 

Proverb

 

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