Africa: The continent must look beyond its colonial past for the causes of current conflicts.

by admin on October 24, 2012

By Fidele A. Lumeya

 More than three decades after African countries gained their independence; there is a growing recognition among Africans themselves that the continent must look beyond its colonial past for the causes of current conflicts. Today more than ever, Africa must look at itself. The nature of the political power in many African states, together with the real and perceived consequences of capturing and maintaining power is a key source of conflict across the continent.

It is frequently the case that political victory assumes a “Winner-Take-All” form with respect to wealth and resources, patronage, and prestige and prerogatives of office. A communal sense of advantage or disadvantage is often closely linked to this phenomenon, which is heightened in many cases by reliance on centralized and highly personalized forms of governance. Where there is insufficient accountability of leaders, lack of transparency in regimes, inadequate checks and balances, non-adherence to the rule of law, absence of peaceful means to change or replace leadership, or lack of respect for human rights, political control becomes excessively important, and the stakes become dangerously high. This situation is exacerbated when, as often the case in Africa, the state is the major provider of employment and political parties are largely either regionally or ethnically based.  In such circumstances, the multi-ethnic character of most African states makes conflict even more likely, leading to an often violent politicization of ethnicity.  In extreme cases, rival communities may perceive that their security, perhaps their very survival, can be ensured only through control of state power. Conflict in such cases becomes “virtually inevitable.”(Annan, 1998)

During the cold war, external efforts to bolster or undermine African Governments were a familiar feature of super-power competition. With the end of the cold war (1989), external intervention has diminished but has not disappeared like the case of what was known as France-Africa. In competition for oil and other precious resources in Africa, interests external to Africa continue to play a large and sometimes decisive role, both in suppressing conflict and in sustaining it as in the current case of Rwanda-Uganda and DR Congo. Foreign interventions are not limited, however, to sources beyond Africa. Neighbouring States such as Rwanda, Uganda in the Great Lakes, Burkina Faso in Ivory Coast war, and South Africa in the case of Lesotho may also have other significant interests, not all of them necessarily benign. While African Peacemaking and mediation efforts have become more prominent in recent years, the role the African Governments play in supporting, sometimes even instigating, conflicts in neighbouring countries must be candidly acknowledge. (Annan, UN SG, 1998)



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