Introduction to peace and conflict studies in west africa pdf

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Introduction to peace and conflict studies in West Africa : a reader

While violent conflicts are declining in the sub-region, recent insurgencies in the Sahel region affecting the West African countries of Mali, Niger and Mauritania and low intensity conflicts surging within notably stable countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal sends alarming signals of the possible re-surfacing of internal and regional violent conflicts. These conflicts are often hinged on several factors including poverty, human rights violations, bad governance and corruption, ethnic marginalization and small arms proliferation.

Although many actors including the ECOWAS, civil society and international community have been making efforts, conflicts continue to persist in the sub-region and their resolution is often protracted. The transformation from inter-state to intra-state conflict from the latter part of the 20 th Century in West Africa brought a number of its economies to near collapse.

Although conflicts are not always violent, those that have plagued West Africa at community, state and regional levels have been characterized by violence Afisi 59— While violent conflicts are declining in the sub-region, recent insurgencies in the Sahel region affecting the West African countries of Mali, Niger and Mauritania sends alarming signals of the possible re-surfacing of internal and regional violent conflicts.

More critical to add is the low intensity conflicts surging within notably stable countries such as the Casamance conflict in Senegal, the intermittent Dagbon chieftaincy crisis in Ghana and the Niger Delta conflict in Nigeria to name a few Olonisakin 11— Ending violent conflicts in West Africa remains one of the main challenges of the sub-region.

This is possibly attributed to the sudden shift from inter-state to intra-state conflicts that characterized most part of the late s through to the 21 st century posing a new challenge of intra-state peace consolidation and conflict prevention.

Despite these efforts which have achieved some appreciable success, the cradle of peace and stability in the sub-region remains brittle and the possibility of a resurgence of seemingly ended conflicts is high. These few examples raise questions on the capacity and mechanisms used to resolve conflicts in West Africa and the effectiveness of these mechanisms to ensure sustainable peace in the sub-region. Against this background, the author attempts to support discourses on violent conflicts and civil strife in West Africa by first giving an overview of violent conflicts and civil strife in the sub-region; identifying and expatiating on the causes of these conflicts; elaborate on existing initiatives; identifying challenges impeding efforts towards ending conflicts in the sub-region; and finally concluding with prospects for future conflict resolution.

The conceptualization of conflicts and war ending is dynamic and constantly evolving particularly in the post-cold war era. With the paradigmatic shift from inter-state to intra-state conflicts, many literatures have different definitions and concepts of conflict and its resolution.

To Bernard Mayer conflicts can be explained through a three-dimensional lens. For the purposes of this article, conflict could be seen as a violent expression of disagreements and frustration often arising from unmet needs and aspirations. As indicated earlier, while conflicts are not always violent, the ones that have affected West Africa have been characterized by violence and brutality.

While the conceptualization of low intensity conflicts LIC remains unclear, this article refers to LIC as prolonged, subtle yet staid altercations between different groups often with socio-economic, political and military intentions. LIC has the potential of erupting into full-blown conflict if unresolved.

Invariably, conflicts in West Africa have been notably fuelled by multiple interrelated causal factors including poverty, human rights violations, bad governance and corruption, ethnic marginalization and small arms proliferation Fithen ; Voz di Paz and Interpeace ; Vinck et al ; Keili While the above causes persist, some of the conflicts that have occurred in the sub-region have been linked to certain triggers which often ignite the uprisings.

Ending war or conflicts especially in West Africa has been quite a challenge due to its complex multi-causal factors, multiple actors and the nature of the conflict; often contributing to prolonging the conflict. Furthermore, Fearon explained that the latter tends to be protracted because the belligerent groups expect to gain military supremacy or use violence to acquire favourable agreements Fearon While the former have often been short-lived eg.

Mali and Guinea-Bissau coups in , the latter however have been protracted eg. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Northern Mali. West Africa has been grappling with violent conflicts and civil strife for decades, however, the periods between the s and the s leading to the new millennium presented more violent and protracted conflicts which destabilized many of its economies Aning and Bah ; UNSC Report Nevertheless, this seeming peace was short-lived as longstanding and simmering ethnic tensions, corruption, subjugation and abject poverty of the people thrust the country back into a second civil war in ; two years after Taylor was elected into office as president Kieh and Klay By the end of the second civil war, there were reported high cases of rape and torture, high death rates, destruction of basic infrastructure and services, malnutrition and about 21, child soldiers to disarm and demobilize Vinck et al Subsequently, in , the country reportedly ranked of countries in the Human Development Index, making it one of the poorest countries in the world Vinck et al Clashes between the Ghaddafi and Taylor supported RUF and the incumbent resulted in over a decade long violent conflict which was officially declared over in February The conflict, arising from corruption, bad governance, social injustice, and breakdown of democratic institutions resulted in the killing of 50, people, and the destruction of infrastructure as well as other pertinent social services Kargbo The month conflict which ended on 7 May , led by Brigadier Ansumane Mane, was supposedly caused by weapon trafficking in neighboring Senegal for the Casamance independence movement, corruption and human rights abuse.

Like all violent conflicts, casualties were recorded as it claimed the lives of thousands and entrenched poverty in the country Voz di Paz and Interpeace Deeply rooted in ethnic-religious divisions and identity aggravated by politics of exclusion, the country erupted into full-fledged civil strife in September Ogwang With three years of relative peace in the country, Ivoirians were ready to take to the polls in November , a critical election which was anticipated to consolidate the peace the country had enjoyed and unify its stratified population.

Much to their chagrin, the country nearly relapsed back into a violent civil war after the disputed elections led to a violent confrontation between loyalists of incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and main opposition Alassane Ouattara Ogwang The following five-month battle led to the death of over people and the displacement of many.

Since its emergence in , the Boko Haram insurgency has taken many lives, displaced several thousand and destroyed state property Walker The Niger Delta conflict has led to several kidnapping of expatriates, casualties and the increased use of sophisticated weaponry in the region by militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta MEND thereby heightening insecurity within the country and across the sub-region Ejibunu The root of violent conflicts and civil strife in West Africa is linked to several complex factors.

The roots of conflict in West Africa are much deeper and complex, and are embedded in the interplay of historical factors, socio-economic crisis, legacies of authoritarianism and the politics of exclusion, international forces, and local struggles Obi Admittedly, while the aforementioned constitute the broader causal factors, embedded within and related to them are bad governance and corruption, human rights violations, poverty, ethnic marginalization and small arms and light weapons proliferation among others , which continue to serve as triggers and drivers of violent conflicts in the sub-region.

Even though there are several other specific causes of violent conflicts and civil strife in West Africa, the paper will focus on discussing the aforementioned.

Post-colonial rule of West African countries has been fraught with several challenges. Elemental among them are the issues of bad governance and corruption. Following independence, several regimes across the sub-region have mismanaged state resources and weakened governance institutions which has resulted in economic stalemate, political apprehensions and breakdown of social peace and stability.

Today, these twin factors constitute a major cause of violent conflicts and civil strife in West Africa. Several scholarly works on conflicts in the sub-region have identified bad governance and corruption as the underpinning factors fuelling and renewing violence in West Africa.

For instance, in the Sierra Leonean war, it was identified that bad governance, corruption and poverty were the root causes of the conflict Fithen Additionally, research conducted in Liberia by Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham and Tino Kreutzer in indicated that majority of the population 64 per cent identified, among other factors, greed and corruption as the cause of the Liberian civil war Vinck et al Ironically, the Niger Delta region though blessed with the largest oil resource in Nigeria is also the poorest region in the country.

Reportedly, the majority of the perpetrators of corruption in Nigeria include senators, ministers, commissioners and individuals with higher connections in the political playground Ejibunu Likewise, in a small country like Guinea-Bissau, bad governance and corruption are deeply entrenched in the social, political, judicial and economic system leading to bitter pent-up feelings among the local population which are sometimes expressed through violence Voz di Paz and Interpeace Some citizens were quoted saying:.

The President steals. The Governor steals. The minister and even the Prime Minister steal. The administrator steals.

Who will not steal? The country is being destroyed by the President. It was there that the destruction began.

If the President takes twenty-four billon CFA , what is left? Voz di Paz and Interpeace The health centres do not have anything; patients have no bed and no sheets. The leaders go to build buildings. It is not the people that are spoiling them. The people are united, but the State does not want our unity. They are pitting us against each other. That lineage is not worth anything. Clearly if the above mentioned persists and remains unresolved it could increase the likelihood for more violent conflicts and civil strife rather than ending them and building sustainable peace in the sub-region.

Incidences of human rights abuses and violations are numerous in West Africa and as such this forms the basis for the eruption and renewal of violent conflicts and civil strife in the sub-region. Across the sub-region, there are reported incidences of sexual and gender-based violence, reprisal killings, beatings, impunity for state officials and institutions, high social injustice, repressive and brutal leadership, and unequal distribution of state resources among others HRW All these serve as both triggers and consequences of war.

For instance in Nigeria, violations of the human rights of local citizens underscore as one of the factors causing the militancy in the Niger Delta region Ejibunu Many of the oil companies in the region are reported to be causing environmental pollution and economic marginalization while the state supinely looks on. A specific example is the killings of youth from Bonny, a local community, during a peaceful demonstration against the ecological pollution and marginalization caused by Shell Company Brisibe Unfortunately, the state security institutions support these oil companies to violate the rights of its own citizens as was the case in January when , Ogoni protestors who were harassed, arrested and killed by Federal government troops when demonstrating peacefully against Shell oil for environmental pollution and economic marginalization Ejibunu In Guinea-Bissau as well, the impunity for human rights abuse by state officials in part led to the violent conflict that destabilized the country in Voz di Paz and Interpeace Moreover, human rights violations in seemingly stable West African countries such as The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea are increasingly creating precarious situations for instability.

Although these countries have not experienced large-scale violent conflicts in recent times as their neighbours have, the brutal, undemocratic, unequal and authoritative rule by incumbent regimes is creating tensions which, unresolved, could bring the countries to a boiling point of violent war and civil strife.

As stated earlier, although these violations have not resulted in violent conflicts in these countries, their linkages to political and internal tensions in both countries cannot be overlooked McSherry Poverty also stands to be one of the major setbacks in West Africa and the continent of Africa.

Consequently, the poverty that many across the continent endure can be seen to be one of the major contributing factors to the occurrence of violent conflicts in Africa. Like the rest of Africa, the West Africa sub-region is neither immune to the poverty canker nor ignorant of its impact on their fragile peace and stability. These agitations sometimes take violent forms and are seen as channels for punishing governments for their failure to alleviate poverty ECOWAS For instance, in research conducted by Vinck et al , 30 per cent of the Liberian population indicated that poverty was one of the root causes of the Liberian civil war.

Similar assertions have also been made with regards to the conflicts in Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau Voz di Paz and Interpeace ; Ejibunu Indeed hunger, starvation, lack of economic growth and development create a high likelihood of violent conflicts and civil strife.

Nevertheless, to a larger extent, for a heterogeneous community like West Africa, ethnicity has become a dividing factor that continues to drive violent conflicts and civil strife within and among communities and states, destabilizing the peace in the sub-region.

Research conducted across the sub-region identifies ethnicity and ethnic fragmentation as one of the root causes of violent conflicts in West Africa. Particularly for Liberia, this was prominent as 49 per cent of the population reportedly identified ethnicity and ethnic divisions as the root cause of the Liberian civil wars Vinck et al Currently, Liberians are still afraid of a potential renewal of civil war along ethnic lines when the United Nations UN Peacekeeping mission ends Vinck et al For a small country like Guinea-Bissau, ethnic divisions are so entrenched among the various communities and at the national level, resulting in constant fighting and violence Voz di Paz and Interpeace Likewise, in a country like Ghana which is noted for stability and peace, ethnic division in its northern region, among the Andanis and Abudus has led to violent inter-ethnic strife that threatens the peace in the entire country.

The sub-region remains an area of considerable SALW proliferation because of their affordability, accessibility and availability; and porosity of the borders and legal frameworks legitimizing their use Keili Additionally, 77, of the small arms are allegedly within the control of West African insurgent groups Ebo and Mazal The circulation of illegal arms within and across states has increased the proclivity of conflicts within the sub-region.

Since the s there have been over 37 successful military coups in almost all the countries in West Africa often resulting in violent wars; killing millions and displacing many Keili

Peace and conflict studies

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While violent conflicts are declining in the sub-region, recent insurgencies in the Sahel region affecting the West African countries of Mali, Niger and Mauritania and low intensity conflicts surging within notably stable countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal sends alarming signals of the possible re-surfacing of internal and regional violent conflicts. These conflicts are often hinged on several factors including poverty, human rights violations, bad governance and corruption, ethnic marginalization and small arms proliferation. Although many actors including the ECOWAS, civil society and international community have been making efforts, conflicts continue to persist in the sub-region and their resolution is often protracted. The transformation from inter-state to intra-state conflict from the latter part of the 20 th Century in West Africa brought a number of its economies to near collapse. Although conflicts are not always violent, those that have plagued West Africa at community, state and regional levels have been characterized by violence Afisi 59—

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Introduction to peace and conflict studies in West Africa: a reader. Responsibility: edited by Shedrack Gaya Best. Imprint: Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books.


The Peace & Security Council

Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyzes violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending conflicts including social conflicts , with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition. This social science is in contrast to military studies , which has as its aim on the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts, primarily by violent means to the satisfaction of one or more, but not all, parties involved. Disciplines involved may include philosophy , political science , geography , economics , psychology , sociology , international relations , history , anthropology , religious studies , and gender studies , as well as a variety of others. Relevant sub-disciplines of such fields, such as peace economics , may be regarded as belonging to peace and conflict studies also.

SCR marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and peace-building. Resolutions and are focused on the theme of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. Each month the Presidency of the Security Council rotates alphabetically, giving each of the fifteen members an opportunity to facilitate discussions and guide the deliberations of the Council. The country holding the Presidency has the prerogative to propose thematic debates and open sessions of the Council that invites the other UN Member States to contribute to the Security Council's deliberations on a particular topic, with the concurrence of other members. The twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly is also known as "Beijing Plus Five" and brought governments together in , five years after the Beijing conference to examine "further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

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