Critically Examine Why There Are More Small Wars in Africa

Critically Examine Why There Are More Small Wars in Africa

CRITICALLY EXAMINE WHY THERE ARE MORE SMALL WARS IN AFRICA African history has gone through three major phenomena that are the slave trade, colonization and decolonization. Each has its positive and negative impacts on the people, the shape of the continent and her economic resources. Slave trade robbed Africa of its best brains as those sold were mainly targeted after challenging the chief an action that by then was a preserve for those with the morale courage to question decisions from the highest authority as it was considered to be taboo.

Colonization introduced new country boundaries and disadvantaged other ethnic groups in terms of development ranging from education to economic gains. Various draconian laws desired to sideline the indigenous people in participating in the day to day running of their own countries were passed by the colonizers . These were unacceptable to the African people. The positive elements are the introduction of the education system, the infrastructure development, and the provision of health facilities plus the overall improvement of the economy at large, which also brought about a modern standard of living.

Decolonization brought independence and the restoration of the rights of the indigenous people. In the process large quantities of Eastern Block, small arms were dumped in the continent that as will be discussed below ignited random fighting causing mayhem in Africa. Soon after the Second World War, the indigenous people embarked on the confrontational approach to liberate themselves. Negotiations with the foreign rulers started in earnest and majority of countries, were granted their independence.

These had strings attached and main ones were the acceptance of the standing borders and the land ownership status quo was to be maintained. Some were denied, and had to take up arms, to liberate themselves. Small wars ensued and these are popularly known as liberation wars. The major suppliers of the arms were USSR, China, Yugoslavia, Romania and the then East Germany. On cessation of hostilities, weapons were not accounted for and later used in the wars under discussion. These wars were meant to overthrow colonial rule that was presided over by presidents or governors from Europe.

However, these were justified and needs no examination to justify the circumstances behind them. On attaining independence, some countries experienced some civil wars and thus the aim of this paper is to come up with a critically examination of the major causes of these disturbances from 1980 to date. Small wars can be defined as those conflicts between the people of one country regardless of external support in which a state of open hostility and suspension of international and national laws exists. It is characterized by the use of non-conventional means of fighting and arms.

In this write up small wars and conflict will be used interchangeable. The ultimate target is mainly to remove the government or to cede a piece of land and create a separate state. However, of late some small wars have been fought specifically to plunder resources. To effectively, examine as to why we have small wars in Africa it is necessary to briefly sample some small wars from the four corners of Africa. In North Africa, the Algerian war started in 1992 when the Army cancelled the electoral process forcing President Chadli Bendjedid to resign and Mohammed Boudiaf replaced him.

A state of emergence was declared and in retaliation, a border post at Guemmar was attacked. The situation became tense when Said Mekhloufi founded the Movement for an Islamic State transforming what was simple some banditry activity into a religious conflict. The causes for this conflict are lack of democracy and the advent of radical Islamists who intends to turn the country into an Islamic state. Conversely, in West Africa, the Sierra Leone conflict began in 1991, initiated by the Revolutionary United Front led by Foday Sannkoy.

The causes are corruption, the mismanagement, and the desire to loot the diamonds. Ten of thousands have been killed and 2 million displaced. In the horn and east of Africa, hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea are because of a border dispute while the Rwanda disturbances was along ethnic lines, all emanating from colonization. Somalia a model state plunged into war because Siad Bare, desperately clung to power for too long until national unity fell apart. Again, the issues of democracy spiced with some dictatorial elements are to blame.

Imaging from a war with Ethiopia aimed at reclaiming the Ogaden, Somalia failed to defend herself against the rival groups. Siad Bare was toppled in a fast moving civil war in 1991, the opposing sides turned their guns on each other, sunken Somalia into total lawlessness. An attempt by the UN to bring peace to Somalia has failed dismally, and to date the country is in a state of anarchy. The Dafur crisis a precursor of the Sudan war pitting the South against the North started in 2003 after a rebel group began attacking government targets citing neglection of the region by the government in Khartoum.

The rebel groups, The Sudan Liberation Army and The Justice and Equality Movement also accused the government of oppressing the blacks in favour of the Arabs. Additionally, the war was a culmination of many years of tension over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs, the farmers from Fur, Massaleet and Zagava communities. In the south, the Angolan civil war was purely caused by the intentions to plunder the precious diamonds while the Mozambiquean war was created specifically to dissuade it from supporting the liberation movement in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.

In an endeavour to establish as to why we have small wars in Africa it is necessary to draw up a list of the causes of the above cited wars hence the reasons. Lack of development brought about by colonization, mismanagement, corruption, nepotism and centralized control that breeds economic decline thereby creating unemployment are some of the reasons. The non-existence of democracy coupled with dictatorial tendencies, the need to plunder Africa resources, ethnic divisions, religious, and creation including border disputes are among the causes of small wars in Africa.

The issue of inheriting a habit of conquering surrounding chiefs as a way of amassing wealth and enlarging one’s empire as was the case before colonization also needs some consideration. Prior to colonization, African chiefs could amass wealth and expand their areas of influence. This was, achieved by attacking weaker neighboring chiefs. It was a way of life as survival was through subsistence farming and rearing of cattle. The expansion was necessitated by the need for more pasture. The notable examples are the Munhumutapa Empire and the Zulu Kingdom of the 14th and 19th centuries respectively.

The Munhumutapa Empire built the now one wonders of the world “the great Zimbabwe Ruins. ” On the same note, the Zulu kingdom under the great general “Tshaka the Zulu” caused the Muficane and defecane. The two simple means the movement of people from the south to the north and vice versa. The growth of the two were mainly made possible by the charismatic leaders of that time whose management styles made it possible to annex other areas and put them under control. On colonization, the chiefs were stripped of their powers to allocate land and other responsibilities.

This did not go well with the Chiefs and on attaining independence, some claimed back their powers. In some situations, they were granted, while others were denied. Owing to the desire to rule and greed coupled with the inheritance syndrome of attacking and annexing other areas some conflict erupted. The unaccounted for AK rifles alluded to elsewhere in this paper were used to initiate the first battles. Subsequently, due to the dare need to loot African resources, weapons which were used in the wars were provided by multinational companies.

These were directed to the disgruntled leaders who in the majority, if not all cases embarked on senseless wars that had a devastating effect on Africa. It therefore follows that those involved were not after meeting the needs of the majority of the people but due to greed and power hungry. This, therefore becomes, one of the reasons why we have more wars in Africa. Additional to this, the other factors are now general knowledge due to civilization and these are, failed political institution resulting in corruption and nepotism, which leads to economic decay giving birth to high rate of unemployment.

Owing to this Africa houses the poorest countries in the world. Such a state of affairs is not because of lack of resources but due to mismanagement that leads to the break down of state structures. Civil strife becomes a norm and tension rises, culminating to small wars. The decision to partition African during the Berlin conference did not take into considerations the existing boundaries. Although these boundaries were not permanent but they at least existed.

The kingdoms and Empires were set up along rivers and on high grounds . The settlement within these were in accordance of the ethnic groups. The advent of colonization did not recognize these boundaries and some ethnic groups were divided into two by just a river or an imaginary line that was used as a boundary. Such a status quo was maintained through out the period of European rule. On attaining independence, some sort of freedom prevailed that gave room for land claims to be instituted and demand for boundaries changes ensued.

Some issues were presented to the United Nations for arbitration and were amicable solved while others resulted in war such as the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict. An international commission decided that a silver of land claimed by Ethiopia should be part of Eritrea. It therefore follows that the demarcation was to have been the corner of a peace settlement . However, Ethiopia refused to cede the land. This war is a typical example of a boundary and land claim dispute culminating into a conflict which killed more than 70000 people. This brings us to the second reason why there are more small wars in Africa.

Settlement in Africa before colonization were along ethnic lines with a well pronounced hierarchical order , Some ethnic groups reigned over others due to discrepancies in wealth and natural military ability . In Rwanda the Tutsi, were said to be superior and ruled the Hutus while in South Africa the Zulus had authority over the Ndebele and Xhosas . Some colonizers suppressed this while others promoted it. The Belgian and the German introduced ethnic identity cards in Rwanda. Similarly the Portuguese in Mozambique introduced a pass system which upgraded the Tshanganas to a status above others ethnic groups.

However, since these groups were not closed societies. Intermarriages and social interaction over years solidified a single culture, language, and shared many beliefs. This coupled with the strong-handed rule by the colonizers kept the ethnic groups in harmony, although others were harboring ambitions to revive their reign. The attainment of Independence provided such opportunities hence the outbreak of the two wars, one in 1959 and the other in 1994 pitting the Tutsis against the Hutus. The hatred is so deep rooted that it may not be a surprise to witness yet another, genocide in the near future.

Failed political institutions due to the inability of the leaders was cited as a major cause of small wars in Africa. 4 Notable examples are the Ugandan scenario under Idi Amin and Mobutu Seseko of the then Zaire now Democratic Republic of Congo. The obtaining factors were the lack of democracy and the centralized control caused by overstaying in power. All these are good ingredients for corruption and nepotism resultant in the break down of services and economic decline. This creates unemployment that breeds uncertainty and poverty within the people.

A poverty-stricken nation is prone to abuse and is prepared to take anything that will make them survive. Greed leaders will capitalize on such situations and recruit young men and women for military training. This was how the Ugandan war of the early eighties started. On overthrowing the government in Uganda, before the National Resistance Army could consolidate itself in power another war, which was based on ethnic lines, started. The rebel leader is Alice Lakwena who encouraged her followers to fight in the name of God. Her rebel organization is known as the Lord Resistance Army.

They strongly believe that through the power of the Lord, enemy bullets were not going to harm them. However, majority were killed as they untactful advance towards Ugandan Army. They also demanded an equal representation in government. Currently the war is ongoing with no possible solution in sight. The obtaining suffering of children and women is unbearable to say the least. Africa has resources in abundance and these are required in the developed countries for their industries. The most sort after is diamond and oil. Consequently, control for these resources becomes the desire for both foreign companies and African money mongers.

Proceeds from the sale of these resources may be used in the purchase of arms of war to continue defending the oil and diamonds fields. Currently Africa has witnessed three major wars, which were caused by the need to plunder her resources. These are the Angolan war of 1975-2001,5 Sierra Leone civil war of 1991-2006 and the Sudanese war of 1983-2005. However, the Sudanese war has other complementary causes such as the secessionist of the southern part, ethnic division of the Arabs of the North versus the black Africans of the south.

This crops up due to relative lack of political rights and the overall lower level of economic development thereby exacerbating the conflict in the southern part of Sudan. However, hostilities have ceased and a government of national unity is in power pending a referendum due next year to determine the secessionist of the south by a vote. The other reason why we have small wars in Africa is the creation to meet special needs such as destabilization. A typical example was the formation of the Mozambique National Resistance Movement.

It was formed to launch offensive operation against Mozambique to dissuade it, initially from supporting the liberation movements in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe and later in South Africa. Similar characteristics exist in the DRC conflict in which the Uganda and Rwanda claim to be pursuing armed groups as well as punishing that country for supporting the Interahamwa who were being accused of causing havoc in the two countries. The love for minerals cannot be ruled out; while corruption and poverty brought about by Mobutu’s 30-year autocratic rule is obvious.

Conversely, unemployment is rife and the young males who are the best recruits for a rebellion have nothing to loose in terms of properties and are more likely to enlist. Diverge religious beliefs is yet another cause of the small wares in Africa. The arrival of Afghans in Algeria sparked the development of radical Islamists who have exacerbated the fighting fore the introduction of an Islamic state. Reasonable numbers have been recruited into the ranks of the Armed Islamists connected to the extremist Takfir Wal Hijra. They reject democracy on the understanding that it dose not exist but what exists is Allah.

To prove their position they issued the following quoted statement. “There is no democracy because the only source of power is Allah through The Koran, and not the people. If the people vote against the law of god, this is nothing other than blasphemy. In this case, it is necessary to kill the non-believers for the good reason that they wish to substitute their authority for that of God” The quotation justifies the fact that the Algerian war is a religious one. Some elements of religious misunderstanding may also, be traced to the Sudan conflict in which the two belligerents are followers of two distinct beliefs.

The South is mainly Christian while the north is more of Islam. Although it is not more pronounced, it is still a cause, which needs to be addressed together with other elements. The issue of ceding a piece of land is yet another cause, albeit at a low level. The Katangise People’s Army attempted to fight for the secessionist of Katanga province in Zaire but failed due to a number of factors chief among them being the terrain, external support for morale and material and the lack of a focused leadership. They then abandoned the idea and joined Joseph Kabila during his fight that was supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

Similarly, the Kaprive Liberation Army in Nambia had the same goals of ceding the Kaprive Strait but these were unattainable owing to the same reasons as above.. The other wars were not examined separately because they have similarities with those discussed. These are the Liberian, the Chad and the Sahara Arab Republic, which is fighting for secessionist from Morrocco. Interesting, is the Liberian war, which was mainly caused by the non-existence of democracy. On this war, colonialism cannot be blamed because the country was never foreign ruled. However, it is vital to reckon that the released slaves were settled in Liberia.

Due to historical frustration, it is believed the war was because of greed. The four main corners, including the central region of Africa have been examined. The main reason why we have small wars in Africa particularly in Algeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique in the north, west, central, east and south respectively are religious disagreements, the need for resources, ethnic differences and the failure of political institution. Mismanagement that breeds corruption, nepotism and the general decline of economies resulting in high unemployment percentages is to blame.

Such a situation makes the youth idol and become vulnerable to recruitment into rebel ranks, as they have nothing to loose. Lack of development is also a cause for concern while non existence of democratic rule appears to be the number one enemy for Africa. However there are signs of improved acceptance of each other’s views. This scenario coupled with the ability of other leaders to relinquish power {eg Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Joaquin Chissano of Mozambique} is a welcome development that may bring an end the conflicts of Africa.

BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS Chingwedere Enias. People Making History Book 4 MAGAZINES Globe Boston. Small Wars Journal, Fester in Africa’s Horn Muchemwa Henry. Focus on Africa. AU Peacekeeping Force in Dafur ARTICLES Ahuja Paul. Somalia Watch, US Admits Slaughter in Somalia Wikipedia. Period 1991-2000 NEWSPAPERS Ken Flower, The Chronicle dated 26 Nov 1981 The Secrets of The Rhodesian War

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