About this Class
Useful LinksNews Resources Reuters Africa BBC News Africa AllAfrica.com Financial Times – Africa The Economist – Africa AfricaNews.com The New African Other Useful Links Chris Blattman’s Blog Development Drums Africa Can – a World Bank blog Africa Unchained Africa South of the Sahara William Easterly’s “Aid Watch” African Arguments South African Institute of International Affairs Wesleyan’s African Studies Cluster Michael Nelson’s Blog Country Resources ISS Country Files BBC News Country Profiles CIA World Factbook Africa South of the Sahara Country Page
Direct and anonymous feedback to the professor
Category Archives: Country Post
Despite expectations that transformation to a more peaceful society would accompany the end of apartheid, violence in South Africa has been pervasive ever since the system’s collapse. 1990, the year that Nelson Mandela was released and the ban on political activity was lifted, also marked the beginning of the Reef Township War. Conflicts broke out between migrant workers residing in in hostels and residents of townships and informal settlements and in 1992, violence in areas surrounding escalated by as much as 200%. Annual rates of death from political violence in the early 1990s were significantly higher than those of the 1980s under apartheid, and 300,000 murders were committed between April 1994 and April 2007 (SAPS 2004). Concerns for safety and security that arose around South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup provide a more recent example of the country’s crime problem. Various attempts have been made to explain why violent conflict in South Africa has persisted and continued to escalate since the establishment of a liberal-democratic state. In weighing these explanations, Austesserre’s argument about the insufficiency of dominant narratives like those pointing to resource scarcity as the primary cause of violence to explain such a complex phenomenon is important to keep in mind.
Percival and Dixon argue that environmental scarcity significantly exacerbated violent conflict following the country’s transition to majority rule. Supply-induced environmental scarcities related to social erosion, deforestation and insufficient water supplies are particularly severe in former homelands and urban settlements, where competing local leaders engage in resource capture to secure their access to resources and gain power. In urban areas, this takes the form of control of basic residential resources such as land, home allocations, and business rights.
Other authors emphasize apartheid legacies as reasons for South Africa’s deeply entrenched culture of violence. Sisk argues that negotiations during South Africa’s transitional period generated great political uncertainty and fear due to high expectations by many actors hoping to gain power from the new regime. In this atmosphere of insecurity, many parties felt compelled to resort to violence as an additional way to influence negotiations and gain political ends. Various groups engaged in this kind of violence rose up and created favorable conditions for well-established criminal networks, which continued to exist in spite of the achievement of political stability.
In reality, violence in South Africa is the product of a combination of these factors. Though political violence across racial lines exists to a much smaller degree than it did prior to independence, the structural scarcities that Percival and Dixon discuss were a product of the uneven social distribution of environmental resources in South Africa that the apartheid system institutionalized. Approximately 86% of the land was owned by the white minority, leaving the black majority to subsist off of only 14% of the land base (Percival 284). Disenfranchisement of the black majority during apartheid created extremely poor urban and semi-urban communities with very high levels of unemployment in which alternative social structures such as gangs and warlords thrive due to an erosion of social rules. Democracy alone is insufficient to reverse such deep disparities and prevent conflict, and this should be central consideration for South African leaders interested in promoting peace.
Gary Kynoch, “Crime, conflict and politics in transition-era South Africa” http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/104/416/493.abstract
Val Percival and Thomas Homar Dixon, “Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict: The Case of South Africa”
Timothy D. Sisk, “The Violence-Negotiation Nexus: South Africa in Transition and the Politics of Uncertainty”
Elmari Whyte, “Aluta Continua: The Struggle Continues in South Africa—Against Violent Crime”
Since the “Scramble for Africa” during the cold war Bostwana has been a relatively safe state. There has been little political violence with the exception of a massacre that occured in February 1978. This massacre was a result of Bostwana (after it’s recent independence) attempting to form an army called the Botswana Defence Force. The Neighboring state of Rhodesia took this as too much as a threat; due to Botswana’s support of Rhodesia’s independence from the British Protectorate. The massacred consisted of the Rhodesian army performing an unannounced attack upon a community called Leshoma. Botswana closed their chapter of political, and border violence through supporting the independence movement in Rhodesia. Then finally in 1980 Rhodesia won it’s independence from Britain and become the state presently known as Zimbabwe. This fostered the South African Development Coordination Conference; because there was now relative peace in Southern Africa in terms of border disputes, and political disparities. Since then, Botswana has had relatively a peaceful state. The problem in terms of violence Botswana is addressing now is no longer due to political issues. It is a human rights affair; Botswanans have called it an epidemic. The violence at hand that is pressing the Botswanan people of today is gender-based violence.
I visited the Embassy of the United States’s website to look more on this topic and I was surprised to find many articles, speeches, and press releases on this topic of gender-based violence. In a press release Ambassador Michelle Gavin brought to light this epidemic occurring in Botswana:
“Worldwide, an estimated one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Here in Botswana, a country rightly known for its history of peace and its commitment to the rule of law, women and children have been victims of violence at alarming rates. In 2012, Gender Links for Equality and Justice, a non-governmental organization that promotes gender equality and justice across Southern Africa, published the Gender Based Violence Indicators Study Botswana, in collaboration with the Government of Botswana’s Gender Affairs Department. The study found that over two-thirds of women in Botswana have experienced some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime, and 62% of women reported being victims of intimate partner violence.”
These numbers are startling. The people of Botswana have every right to call it an epidemic. There are even more alarming numbers from presented in a speech by the Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Murphy:
“The gender based violence the challenge here is immense. Official police statistics for 2010 indicate that there were: 8 cases of incest; 518 cases of defilement of girls under the age of 16; 1,865 cases of rape; and, 1,166 threats to kill that year.”
And this epidemic does not stop at the cost of the lives that have suffered. The violence has an effect on the economy as well; due to human capital directly being correlated with health. Michael Murphy directly addresses this issue:
“Women and girls constitute 50% of the population in Botswana. They are politicians, leaders, decision-makers, producers, workers, professionals, entrepreneurs, and service providers. Their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities, and your local and national economy. All these things will suffer irreparable damage and harm if we fail to protect women and girls from gender based violence.”
However, Botswana has been active in trying to solve this epidemic. The United States have been involved in many of the programs Botswana has established to solve this epidemic. Ambassador Michael Gavin updates his audience in his this speech of Botswanna’s current efforts:
“Last year, the United States, the Botswana Ministry of Health and Harvard University launched a four-year project called the Botswana Combination Prevention Project. The Setswana name for the project is Ya Tsie (YAT-SEE-YEA) – a name derived from a Botswana proverb meaning Teamwork bears more fruit than individual effort.
We hope to determine whether coordinated and strengthened prevention methods – including HIV testing and counseling, antiretroviral treatment, Safe Male Circumcision, and PMTCT – when scaled-up together at the community level, can prevent the spread of the virus better than methods offered individually. We need to continue this kind of research that advances high-impact detection and prevention of HIV.
Option B+ is also one of the right things. For those unfamiliar with Option B+, this is a program that provides lifelong treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of the CD4 count. Why is this important? It prevents infant infections, saves mothers’ lives, reduces the numbers of orphans, and is cost-effective.”
Botswana is ready to solve this current issue of violence. And look to progress their
country even further as the poster child of southern Africa.
Intrastate conflict is a severe, complex and longstanding element of Nigerian political life. When the British combined two separate territories, a diverse swathe of West Africa suddenly became a political unit. Northern Nigeria is largely Muslim, while the South is largely Christian and contains many different ethnicities. The two regions and the groups within them have different political influences (e.g. Islamist vs. Western vs. traditional African). Divisions within Nigeria have fueled conflicts throughout the 20th century and into the present.
Mismanagement of Nigeria’s natural resources and other factors have contributed to sustained underdevelopment in the country. Scapegoating of other religious and ethnic groups is more likely to be successful under conditions of economic stress. This is similar to the situation in the DRC in intergroup conflict can find support among those for whom survival is a primary concern, as well as in communities and where national borders and state identity are less meaningful than other identifiers such as religion or ethnicity (Reyntjens).
The most recent conflict within Nigeria originated with the establishment of sharia law in parts of the North in the late 1990s. Riots between Christians and Muslims caused many civilian deaths in the years following the creation of the laws. In 2009 a group called Boko Haram initiated a violent campaign against the Nigerian government, which some have designated “terrorism.” The Nigerian government does not have the capacity to combat terrorist activity. Although there has been international condemnation of Boko Haram, this response has been described as “slow,” as major players (especially the US) have been reluctant to become directly involved in the region.
In his article for this week, Autesserre questions the critique on the emphasis on state-building the DRC, held by both powerful and marginalized survey respondents despite the “predatory” nature of the state. The question of political and economic disenfranchisement is important in the context of Nigerian conflict, considering that the poverty rate has increased rather than decreased in the last several decades (concurrent with the discovery of oil and limited globalization of culture and trade). Nigerian scholar Chris Kwaja asserts that poverty and desperation are the root causes of Nigeria’s ongoing ethnic and racial conflicts, noting particularly that certain members of communities can be prevented from traditional rights of citizens (read: denied limited public and private resources) based on ethnicity or religion. In Nigeria, and in the DRC and many other developing countries where corruption is a problem, simply increasing state capacity is not a silver bullet vis a vis intrastate conflict because the state apparatus can itself be used tool used to sustain social power imbalances and pursue personal gain.
“The roots of Nigeria’s religious and ethnic conflict”
“Islamist insurgency in Nigeria”
“Experts: Slow International Response Contributed to Rise of Boko Haram”
Reyntjens, Filip. 2005. The privatisation and criminalisation of public space in the geopolitics of the Great Lakes region. Journal of Modern African Studies. 43 (4). 587 – 607.
Autesserre, Séverine. 2012. Dangerous tales: Dominant narratives on the Congo and their unintended consequences. African Affairs, 111(443), 202-222.
While Benin has had a deep history in conflict and civil war, Benin currently is heralded as a peaceful nation. Many scholars attribute Benin’s avoidance of conflict to having a developed democratic government. Benin boasts some of lowest political violence rates in the country. Even Geneva Academy of International of humanitarian law and human rights, an organization that closely tracks any conflict within a country, acknowledges that there are no current conflicts within Benin.
The era of peace within Benin may be coming to close, according to some statistical studies. The Armed Location and Event dataset displays that riots and violence against citizens had been growing since 2009. There was also an attempted poisoning of Boni Yayi in October 2012, the second attempt in five years. Recently Benin has had to deal with Niger Delta pirates; 350 km of offshore water have been declared as a “war risk” zone by Lloyds of London (AfCon 21 October 2011). These pirates have links to many militant groups in south Nigeria.
Benin also still has to deal with the repercussions of conflict within other countries. Because of the evolving rebel conflict within Mali, many refugees have been fleeing to Benin, putting more pressure on an already weak economy. The UN is dedicated to solving this cause, attempting to help these refugees by giving them aid and even repatriating some refugees. The UN plans on helping 5,000 Togolese refugees in 2015 (http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e483d46.html). This conflict is extremely worrisome to Benin, a country with a week military. President Boni Yayi is worried that conflict could spread throughout the region because of the Islamist militants in Mali, claiming, “These terrorist movements engage in all sorts of trafficking in drugs, people and all calibre of arms. They are committing massive violations of the fundamental rights of citizens by imposing practices from another age. They are irreversibly mutilating people by amputating their upper and lower limbs as punishment.” (Boni Yayi) Yayi is worried that the UN is quickly losing interest in a consequential conflict.
Yet Benin has still had a recent history on conflict with neighboring Burkina Faso. There has been a history of land disputes between the local villages of the respectful countries. Relations with the boarder of Nigeria were also strained in 2009 because of cross-boarder gang clashes.
As long as the conflict in Mali doesn’t spill over into Benin, the peaceful nation should be able to control the relatively smaller domestic conflicts.
The initial conflicts in Zimbabwe began with the arrival of the Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company in the 1890s. Until 1898, they fought a war against the Ndebele Clan who ruled over a large portion of what became Southern Rhodesia. Europeans managed to maintain their grip on power until Ian Smith’s declared autonomy from Britain and continued white-minority rule touching off a guerilla war against the state by the Marxist-Lenninist ZIPRA and the Maoist ZANLA armed groups who fought each other while at the same time fighting the state. This independence war period, known as the Rhodesian Bush War was marked by heavy support and meddling by outside parties such as China, USSR, and Mozambique. Zimbabwe is a nation founded on violence and conflict because it is being ruled by a liberation movement (ZANU-PF a merger of previous rebel groups from the Independence war) which can’t seem to make the transition from fighting wars to building a peaceful society (Beyond Violence).
Since gaining power in 1980, Mugabe’s government has not suffered from high casualty internal conflict but rather constant low-intensity state terror and repression campaigns built around silencing opposition to ZANU-PF and protecting state interests. Mugabe did decide to intervene in the Second Congo War in 1997 allying with Angola on the side of the Kinshasa government. The reasons for intervention were part economic—the DRC government had signed contracts with Zimbabwe during the 1st war amounting to around $200 million. As of 2012, relations have worsened given that Kabila’s unpaid debt to Zimbabwe in military and consumables expenditures incurred throughout the war has reached over $1 billion (Independent). The other reason for intervening in the DRC was political—Mugabe hated being seen as a ‘dinosaur’ compared to the young leaders of Rwanda and Uganda who had both intervened. Zimbabwe also wanted to reclaim some of the leadership lost to South Africa in the region (Reynjens).
The war created disaffected war veterans who demanded compensation for disabilities incurred while fighting. Government subsidies and payouts to over 50,000 veterans helped to further exacerbate the problems of hyperinflation and didn’t stop the most disgruntled of them from squatting and occupying white commercial farms. Farmers were forcibly displaced along with their workers and resistance resulted in brutal beatings and sometimes death (American.edu). Today the main conflict that exists in Zimbabwe is that of youth-brigades teamed up with dubious veterans who take white-farmers land by force and with the encouragement of Mugabe’s government.
The other form that internal conflict has taken in Zimbabwe is political violence. Because of Mugabe’s one party rule, the regime is incredibly hostile against any opposition. Around election time, the atmosphere is one of intimidation and violence. Between 2000 and 2010, there were over 3,000 extra-judicial executions, hundreds of disappearances, and more than 7,000 cases of torture or serious assault. To date, no police investigations have been undertaken, nor arrests or charges pressed concerning the violence surrounding the run-off election in 2008 and the years before. Many journalists and civil society leaders were arrested, tortured or seriously beaten (Beyond Violence).
The privatisation and criminalisation of public space in the geopolitics of the Great Lakes region: https://wesfiles.wesleyan.edu/home/mbnelson/Courses/AFWP_SP2009/Readings/Reyntjens%202005.pdf
Since its struggles for independence, Cameroon has remained relatively conflict-free. This is a huge anomaly compared to many of its Sub-Saharan neighbors who seem to be in a perpetual state of conflict, whether civil or interstate. However, Cameroon’s one real international conflict is with their powerful neighbor and regional leader, Nigeria. This conflict has been an ongoing conflict dating back to 1993. In 1993, the dispute escalated to the point of actual military confrontation and since then there have been occasional skirmishes and military posturing. In 2006, the Greentree Agreement settled the conflict militarily, however tensions still remain very high. Cameroon’s conflict with Nigeria is in relation to the ownership of land near Lake Chad as well as the Bakassi Peninsula. Both of these are oil-rich areas with the capability to yield large profits for the sovereign country. As a regional power, with the highest population and GDP in Africa, Nigeria has always seemed to have the upper hand in this conflict. However, international actors have become involved as well, as the International Court of Justice has begun to consider the issue.
Outside of this land dispute, Cameroon seems to be entirely void of international conflicts. There are no other wars of note, and much like most peripheral countries they don’t get involved in the wars of others. Much of this ties into Cameroon’s anti-contrarian approach on the world stage. Whether it is with the United States, France or any other world power, Cameroon avoids conflict at all costs. This shows the importance of international actors on the prevention of armed conflicts for countries in all regions. Cameroon is very focused on cooperating with the United Nations and Security Council countries, in order to improve their “legitimacy” on the world stage. This goal in their foreign relations acts as an internal prevention against aggressive tendencies and subsequent armed conflict. This also displays the immense ability that international actors, such as the United Nations, have when it comes to deterring armed conflicts across the globe. The fear of reprimand, rejection and potential sanctions is enough deterrence for many countries, including Cameroon.
Internally, Cameroon has avoided armed conflicts as well. There have been no sincere civil conflicts since the days just succeeding independence. One potential reason for this is the lack of an abundance of a powerful natural resource and the related “resource curse.” Although they possess oil, it is not at the level of Nigeria or other oil-rich nations that have become scarred by the possession. This helps Cameroon avoid the corruption and conflicts associated with the resource curse, which hindered Nigeria’s development and led to bloody conflicts across the continent. However, for some it seems a civil conflict is just a matter of time. The Cameroonian newspaper, Cameroon Voice, suggests that the conditions in Cameroon mirror that of neighboring countries in the midst of civil conflict, however no uprisings have occurred. It is suggested the Cameroonians have long avoided war because it is “something they abhor but that may become necessary,” (Leon Tuam). Hopefully Tuam’s analysis of the situation is wrong and Cameroon remains peaceful but it is hard to argue that the conditions aren’t ripe for an uprising of some sort.
Intra-state conflict in Libya has persisted following the end of the civil war in 2011. The lack of a credible, centralized government has spawned and emboldened numerous militia groups. Escalating violence has created grave humanitarian concerns and has forced foreign actors to withdraw from Libya. Neighboring countries have engaged in the conflict between Islamists and nationalists, exacerbating instability. Libya is on the verge of another full-fledged civil war as rivaling factions fight for economic resources and political power.
The most recent conflict ensued when the predominantly-Islamist General National Congress (GNC) refused to step down after the expiration of its electoral mandate in January of 2014. In response, nationalist forces, led by General Khalifa Haftar, launched an attack against Islamic militants in Benghazi, and then again, in Tripoli, in order to ensure non-interference from the GNC in state elections. The election that took place on June 25, 2014 replaced the GNC with a new House of Representatives, ousting the large majority of prominent Islamists. After the electoral defeat, Islamists retaliated by initiating a month-long battle over control of the Tripoli International Airport. Islamists have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new House of Representatives in Tobruk and claim that the country’s only legislative body is the GNC, which is in Tripoli, creating two antagonistic parliaments.
The fighting has continued for nearly six months. Billions of dollars in damage have been caused to the cities of Benghazi and Tripoli, hundreds of people have died, and thousands have fled. The airport and seaport in Benghazi have been closed, further crippling the economy. The constant shelling by rivaling militias has brought about a humanitarian crisis that requires help from the international community. However, the majority of foreign actors, including the United Nations, have been forced to evacuate the country due to security concerns. Founding Director of the African Leadership Centre, Funmi Olonisakin, explains that humanitarian responses are only possible when there is police or a military presence able to provide reasonable safety and security. Libya’s national army and police force have been replaced by, approximately 350 autonomous militias, making it impossible for the international community to effectively intervene or mediate the crisis.
While some members of the international community have not been able to provide assistance to Libya, others have actively aggravated the incendiary environment. U.S. officials have reported that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have recently launched airstrikes against Islamist organizations, supporting the efforts of General Haftar’s “Operation Dignity”, while Qatar and Turkey have aligned themselves with Islamist “Operation Dawn.” Foreign actors picking sides will exacerbate the crisis in Libya and catalyze the escalation of larger and broader ethnic, religious and political conflicts through much of Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The current situation in Libya is not simply a matter of Islamist versus nationalist, but rather, it is a multifaceted issue involving a number of moving pieces. The increasingly volatile environment has made it impossible for the international community to intervene in arising humanitarian crises, while meddling from neighboring countries has prolonged turmoil. Regional and international actors must play a role in facilitating negotiations between rivaling factions so that Libya can become a unified and stable state.
BBC News. “Libya Crisis: Tensions Rise as Tripoli Airport Seized.” 24 August 2014. Accessed on 28 October 2014. < http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28916417>
Eljarh Mohamed. “Libyans Are Bracing for Civil War.” 3 September 2014. The Foreign Policy Group. Accessed on 28 October 2014 <http://transitions.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/09/03/libyans_are_bracing_for_civil_war>
Fadel, Leila. “Libya’s Crisis: A Shattered Airport, Two Parliaments, Many Factions.” 26 August 2014. . National Public Radio. Accessed on 28 October 2014 <http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/08/26/343444450/libyas-crisis-a-shattered-airport-two-parliaments-many-factions>
Joffe, Geroge. “Libya Airstrikes: Wider Conflict to Middle East.” 27 August 2014. BBC News Africa.
Olonisakin, Funmi. Chapter 13. “Conflict and conflict resolution in Africa” from Power, Wealth and Global Equity edited by Patrick J. McGowan and Phlip Nel.
The two main conflicts in recent memory regarding Angola are the 27-year civil war and the insurgency (facially) resolved in recent years in the oil-rich province of Cabinda. The civil war began in 1975 after the hard-won independence from Portugal and was an incredibly violent conflict between pro and anti-Communist parties. International actors played a huge role in the conflict and are largely responsible for how long the war lasted. The Angolan civil war is commonly cited as an African example of a Cold War-era proxy war between the United States and the USSR. The United States refused to recognize the Communist ruling party for decades and kept fueling money into the opposition parties throughout the conflict. The civil war has had long-lasting effects that continue to be relevant in Angola today, like an ongoing refugee crisis and economic and social unrest. There should be no downplaying the consequences of an extremely violent conflict lasting nearly three decades, but the more recent Cabinda conflict is in some ways more relevant to the topics we’ve been discussing in class.
The conflict between Angola and Cabinda has been long-standing, as the two were separate entities under Portugal. In 1975, under pressure from the international community and the newly independent Angola, Portugal agreed that Cabinda would be a part of Angola. This agreement wholly ignored the wishes of the Cabindan people. The origins of the conflict bear a striking resemblance to the circumstances Wrong described between Eritrea and Ethiopia. There’s a clear pattern here that shows that the will of tiny countries and their rights to self-determination can be totally swept aside by the international community, with western powers and the U.N. given the right to determine nations’ fates in the manner that is most politically convenient for them. When Portuguese troops left Cabinda, Angola invaded and fighting ensued for decades. After the internal civil war ended, fighting between Cabindan liberation forces continued, with little to no involvement from the international community. The conflict caught global attention in 2010 when Togo’s national football team was attacked, by mistake allegedly, by rebel forces. The lack of attention by the U.S. in the decades during the Angolan civil war are particularly interesting when compared to how heavily the U.S. funded and supplied the other rebel forces in Angola. The funding of the anti-Communist rebels in Angola while ignoring the liberation rebels in Cabinda highlights the different ways we’ve discussed in class of how the U.S. has viewed aid over the decades. Currently, there is no organized violence in the region, though there continue to be skirmishes and the issues of conflict remain largely unresolved.
Autesserre’s paper on simple narratives becoming dominant narratives, and how that shapes the way foreign actors perceive the issues of certain countries, seems quite relevant to the role of the international community in Angolan affairs. When looking at the simple narratives of the Angolan civil war, it’s easy to see how the U.S. could become involved in the funding of one rebel force movement while totally ignoring the other. The UNITA rebels benefitted from the transmitted simple and dominant narrative: we are anti-Communist and we oppose the Communist government. The FLEC rebels, while also fighting for their own freedom from an unwanted Communist government, seemed to lack a compelling enough simple narrative to garner aid from the United States.
Ethnically motivated interstate violence has been significantly present throughout Rwanda’s history. Rwanda’s ethnicities consist of Hutu’s, Tutsi’s and Twa’s. Twa’s, form over 1% of the population and are believed to be the original inhibitors of Rwanda. Hutu’s consist of rural workers generally from the south with larger facial features and darker skin, as defined by the Dutch. Tutsi’s on the other hand, are believed to be descended from Ethiopia with lighter skin and a taller, thinner frame than Hutu’s and Twa’s. While not always ethnically distinct, Belgium separated Rwanda’s ethnic groups due to the supposed “race of science”. They took the traditional structure of society and transformed it into a polarized “almost apartheid-like system”. Tutsi’s became the ruling class as Twa’s and Hutu’s became the rural, agricultural, peasants of the country.
Rwanda became independent in 1962, just after Hutu’s and Tutsi’s were defined as a different races. By 1964, over 300,000 Tutsi’s had fled from Rwanda and the Hutu purges (this included Paul Kagame, the current president of the nation). Throughout the late 20th century, Rwanda remain frail and weak at the hands of ethnic tensions.
In 1994, Rwanda experienced one of the most horrific genocides with the highest death rate per day the world has ever seen. Over 800,000 people were killed within a hundred day period due to ethnic clashes between the Hutu and Tutsi’s. The minority Tutsi, once favored by the Belgians, were at the center of Hutu disparity and hatred. Spurred by the killing of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana , a large scale killing of Tutsi’s took place throughout the country. Neighbors, friends and relatives turned on one another often using dull machetes to hack of heads.
The regional and international communities response was limited and arguably oblivious. President Bill Clinton was tentative to become involved after the unfortunate failure of Black Hawk Down in Somalia in 1993. The rest of the world too feared political entanglement in Rwanda’s problems. Rwanda did not pose any political significance to other countries nor did it provide any valuable natural resources as its economy was based in agricultural, something easily outsourced. The Security council and the U.N. provided troops that were either too little or too late to the conflict. Overall, the community mourned the civil conflict of Rwanda as Bill Clinton states it was one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency.
While Africa remained idle in addition to the international community during 1994, Rwanda’s refuges from the genocide greatly affect the region and current political strife. Over two million Hutu’s fled the country into surrounding areas, especially into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The presence of the Hutu militias in the DRC has led to years of conflict in the neighboring nation. It also generates tensions between the Rwandan government and Congolese government as Rwanda allegedly backed the M23 Rebel movement in the DRC causing international backlash threatening Rwanda’s aid.
Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has bounced back under the leadership of the RPF’s but continues to feel the repercussions of the ethnic violence to this day.
The area that is today South Sudan has been marred by almost continual conflict for the last half century. The origin of the conflict between can be traced to the division between North and South Sudan. The Northern part of the country that was once Sudan is primarily Muslim and the South (modern-day South Sudan) is primarily Christian. During the colonial period, the two regions were ruled as separate regions Britain and Egypt, whose poor and uneven colonial governance only exacerbated the divisions between the two. Prior to independence, Britain merged the North and the South into a single state, distributing considerably more power to the North at the exclusion of the Southerners, despite forcing the more developed North to promise a certain degree of autonomy to the South. When the North began to renege on its promise, tensions rose in the South, eventually leading to the outbreak of civil war in 1955, just as the country was receiving independence. Some scholars have also argued that central governments in the area of North Sudan have exploited less developed outer regions, including the South, for centuries.
The First Sudan Civil War began as a relatively less violent affair, with guerilla separatist fighters trying to evade the North’s army. It continued to amass casualties however, and the Southern fighters were able to obtain arms from foreign countries like Israel and the Congo. The North received their weapons from the Soviety Union as part of that country’s Cold War Africa strategy. After about 500,000 deaths, the war finally ended with the Addis Abbaba Accords in 1972, which saw the North grant the South more autonomy, among other concessions. It is also worth noting that during this first war internal divisions amongst different ethnic groups in South Sudan began to show, which is a major cause of the ongoing Civil War today.
The peace accords of 1972 proved insufficient, and war resumed about a decade later for many of the same reasons underlying the original war. Southern rebel movements had gained steam under the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) and their armed wing, and the government in the North decided to adopt aspects of Islamic Sharia Law in 1982 to the further irritation of the Southerners. This second war would last 22 years and see over two million casualties. The war was also noted for its human rights abuses and indiscriminant targeting of civilians, particularly by the Sudanese government. Foreign involvement on either side was limited, but many countries, including other African nations, were active in providing humanitarian aid and pushing for peace. The war finally ended with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreements, which ultimately led to South Sudanese independence in 2011.
Unfortunately, independence has not meant the end of violent conflict for South Sudan. Several skirmishes with Sudan followed independence, most notably the Heglig Crisis in 2012, predominantly over oil profit sharing and the delineation of borders. In December 2013, South Sudan descended into a civil war of its own. A power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his vice-president Riek Machar (who come from rival ethnic groups), quickly divided the country. Despite major casualties, US and African Union-led calls for negotiations and the threat of famine for a large portion of the population, the violence continues. Several other foreign players are at work: Sudan, with its oil interests, and Uganda, which appears to have played an important peace-keeping role and has had more success than most in creating dialogue with the two sides.
Sadly, the outlook for long-term peace is not good. Relations between Sudan and South Sudan remain precarious at best, and a permanent solution to the issues of borders and oil appear very far off. Additionally, the presence of oil in South Sudan is bound to continue to create resource curse-related problems and President Kiir has already shown signs of “big man” rule. Years of neglect and under-development mean that South Sudan is essentially starting from scratch, lacking an infrastructure, strong state instructions and capable bureaucrats to secure a prosperous and peaceful future. Even ethnic divisions, which traditionally have not been a great source of conflict in South Sudan, seem to be worsening instead of improving.