Conflict Borders And Ethnic Politics History Essay

It is an uneasy heritage that the sub part of West Africa is at odds with and has been for the better portion of the last few decennaries, particularly in the station cold war epoch. Inter-state struggle, eroding of state provinces and international boundary lines, cultural struggle, offense, disease, refugee migrations, scarceness of resources, authorization of private ground forcess, international drug trusts, blood diamonds, human trafficking have all manifested themselves in this sub part, doing it one of the most violent and volatile parts of the universe today.

West Africa consists of those provinces, which constitute the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) , by far the most of import organisation – both in the economic and in the security realm – in the sub- part ( Kornprobst, 2002 ) .There are 16 members, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. In fact the bomber part has been described as one of the most varied in Africa, in footings of the size of its states, colonially inherited linguistic communications[ 2 ], the degrees of economic development, and linkages, both external and internal ( Adeniji, 1997 ) .

It is common cognition by now that station colonial direction in the part has been a failure. The male childs, who took power in Sierra Leone, in the early 1990 ‘s basically all came from backward economic categories and ‘in three months, aˆ¦ confiscated all the official Mercedes, Volvos and BMWs and wilfully wrecked them on the route. ‘ One of the putsch ‘s leaders, Solomon Joseph Anthony Musa, shot the people who had paid for his schooling in order to, “ wipe out the humiliation and extenuate the power his in-between category patrons held over him. ” ( Kaplan, 1994 )

As Kaplan puts it, the political map of West Africa is one of the most delusory in the universe. For illustration, even though Sierra Leone is a state province with good defined boundary lines, at the clip ( 1994 ) , the authorities was being run by a 20 seven twelvemonth old ground forces captain, Valentine Strasser, who controlled Freetown. In other parts of the state resided units of two separate ground forcess from the war in Liberia, as an ground forces of Sierra Leonian Rebels. As a consequence, approximately 400,000 Sierra Leonians were so internally displaced, 280,000 had fled to the neighbouring Guinea and another 100,000 had fled to Liberia, even as 400,000 Liberians had fled to Sierra Leone. The 3rd largest metropolis in Sierra Leone ( Gondama ) is a displaced individuals cantonment. And with an extra 600,000 Liberians in Guinea and 250,000 in the Ivory Coast, there is a pre-modern formlessness ( Kaplan, 1994 ) that governs this sub-region and the boundary lines spliting these states have become mostly undistinguished.

This paper will seek to look at some of the struggles of the part and attempt and asses their cause. As a brief history of the part is considered, the consequence of differing colonial systems ( largely that of the Gallic and the British ) and their duty in fuelling cultural difference and unrest will be highlighted. The effects of decolonisation and the province system in the context of station colonial modernness shall besides be considered. The cause and inter relationship of the handiness of diamonds with cultural struggle, which recent academic work has proven to be an of import correlative of cultural struggle will besides be examined. We shall besides look at boundary line struggles and trade with the inquiry of individuality and concentrate on how the resources of the sub-region have an consequence on exciting cultural force and struggle.

Taking Over: Arrival of the Colonizers

The first contact that the West African had with Europe was through Lusitanian bargainers in the fifteenth Century. By the latter portion of the century, their other colonising rivals, the Dutch, the Spanish, the British and the Gallic had all begun to do their presence be felt in this country. The timing of this contact is per se connected with the development of maritime capablenesss, increasing involvement in trade activities with Africa and the Far East, the age of geographic expedition and of class, spiritual enlargement. ‘Africa and West Africa in peculiar came to stand for of import possibilities for the expansionist policies of the European powers for the following five centuries ( Wooten ) .Interestingly one of the major causes of European involvement in West Africa was gold. Ghana, ( once known as Gold Coast ) in fact accounted for about 1/10th of the universe ‘s gold militias in the sixteenth century.

Prior to 19th century, although European contact with the part was extended, it was besides basically limited to coastal countries and the huge inside was of small involvement to the colonisers. But with the coming of the industrial revolution the focal point was now on the acquisition of natural stuffs and agricultural goods. For this intent, there was now a new moving ridge of colonialism which led to distributing out of colonial powers into the insides, in order to derive direct administrative control of the part.

Although Great Britain and France were the dominant colonial powers in the part, their manners of operation and general mentality towards, the sub-region differed. While for Britain, the involvement was strictly commercial and besides aimed at maximising their mercantilist inclinations, for France, the chief purpose was to set up their position as a major power, by incorporating ‘the colonial districts as the outstations of metropolitan France ( Adeniji, 1997 ) .Thus their chief purpose was assimilation of the people. At the really beginning of colonisation in Conakry ( capital of the future Gallic Guinea ) , the Gallic wanted to do a interruption with the past and do a clean start. Their purpose was to enforce their ain chiefly hierarchy, whereby there would be merely one beginning of colonial power regardless of the local heads ( Georg, 2006 ) .[ 3 ]By the early old ages of the twentieth century, the Gallic occupied and were consolidating most of what was to be their district in colonial West Africa ( this included, present twenty-four hours, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger. )

But it was besides in this period that through the prolongation of their different manners of disposal that easy but certainly different systems of cultural stratification were being created, which would go forth an unerasable grade on the history of the part in the undermentioned century.[ 4 ]

Cultural Conflict: Creation of a Colonial Bequest

Among one of the permanent heirlooms of European colonialism, is the colonial bequest of cultural struggle, which has hitherto been one of the most of import characteristics of the modern-day political system of Africa. The seeds of cultural struggle in station colonial Africa were sown in 1885 when the European powers imposed formal territorial boundaries throughout the continent. At the clip nevertheless these boundaries were drawn with small or no consideration towards the existent geographical distribution or the natural boundaries of the cultural groups in the part. Therefore each settlement encompassed multiple figure of cultural groups within their freshly imposed boundaries and many cultural ‘nationalities ‘ were divided between two or more colonial entities. With independency these boundaries gained international ( though non needfully domestic ) legitimacy as boundary lines of freshly formed autonomous state provinces. However, “ the disjuncture between province boundary lines and geographic distribution of cultural groups instantly confronted the new African provinces with the twin jobs of secessionist sentiments within their boundary lines and the menace of irridentist wars across their boundary lines. ” ( Blanton, Mason, & A ; Athow, 2001 )

The multi cultural character of the African settlements remained the same between different colonial opinion powers, because the standards that had been used to pull colonial boundaries had nil to make with cultural boundaries. Alternatively as Blanton, Mason and Athow put it, the extent to which traditional forms of societal organisation was disrupted, by the colonial power, vary with the manner of colonial regulation. They contend that it is these discrepancies in governing ‘styles ‘ that had important effects for the station – colonial forms of cultural struggle.

As has been mentioned earlier, the Gallic manner of disposal was centred on the larger impression of ‘Greater France ‘ , which they hoped to accomplish through cultural assimilation and administrative centralisation. This meant that all the colonial topics, irrespective of which cultural group they belonged to, were incorporated into a individual societal system, under the control of the administrative province, modeled after and controlled by the Gallic province. Gallic now became the linguistic communication of commercialism and administration and therefore basically a tool of assimilation in itself. On a local degree, this assimilation meant that, traditional beginnings of authorization and establishments were now supplanted by ‘bureaucratic bureaus of the colonial province ‘ ( Blanton, Mason, & A ; Athow, 2001 ) .With the impartment of Gallic instruction on the colonials, a new educated elite emerged, expert and exhaustively good versed with the Gallic linguistic communication, civilization and administrative accomplishments required to function the colonial province. But the job was that this assimilation was non unvarying across any given settlement. This made for disproportional entree to Gallic instruction, among cultural groups, hence disproportional entree to places of power in the colonial administrative apparatus. Therefore this set the phase for station colonial stratification along cultural lines and finally any group which had non assimilated found itself disadvantaged. This made socio-economic position, chances for instruction, upward mobility and eligibility for places of power all related to ethnicity.

As opposed to the Gallic, the British had a system of disposal which was far less dependent on the construct of the ‘metropole ‘ . They depended far more on the local elite to command the twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours activities. Therefore “ the British authorities preferred to go forth in topographic point autochthonal local elites and merely co-opt or hale them into functioning as agents of the British regulation ” ( Blanton, Mason, & A ; Athow, 2001 ) .The British allowed the pre colonial societal and traditional establishments to remain and they ensured the being of opposing traditional constructions of control in order to maintain the different cultural populations of the district from organizing an confederation against British laterality. Thus the British had co-opted the cultural struggle of the part into their system of administration, seeding the seeds of any future outburst.

Such was the strategy of things, that when independency was attained, the assimilated elite were able to capture control of the province machinery and utilize it to exercise their ain economic and political hegemony over the station colonial province. The dominant groups were able to utilize their monopoly over the civil service places to command non merely national political relations, but local degrees of disposal as good. This ensured easy monitoring of and when the demand arose, repression of dissenter forces.

Blanton, Mason and Athow of class go on to reason with the aid of the Minorities at Risk dataset that cultural struggle should be more in former British settlements because of the bequest of their regulation. Their indirect manner of regulation left the traditional societal establishments and forms of organisation integral, easing the mobilisation of aggrieved minorities for corporate action. Contrastingly the Gallic, they opine, with their centralizing administrative inclinations left the cultural minorities devoid of any mobilizing constructions necessary to present an organized challenge to the station colonial province.

While that is one manner of comprehending the station colonial cultural agitation, one can and must see how the colonial systems of administration have besides facilitated a ‘legitimacy spread ‘ ( Ohlson, 2008 ) increasing the possibilities of intra-state force manifold. There are, harmonizing to Ohlson ‘s thesis, two types of ‘legitimacy ‘ – perpendicular and horizontal. Vertical legitimacy establishes the connexion and facilitates the ‘right to govern ‘ pronouncement between citizens, society, establishments and governments. It is about “ responsible authorization and voluntary subordination. ” Meanwhile, horizontal legitimacy refers to the attitudes and patterns of persons and groups towards each other. It has more to make with tolerance and common credence at “ elect and mass degrees. ” The term legitimacy spread is used by Ohlson with mention to, the difference between what a citizen perceives he/she has a right to anticipate ( or non to anticipate, for that affair ) from his/her province ( protection, political freedom, socio economic public assistance etc. ) and what the province is ready to make for them. More significantly it besides refers to the difference between, what groups expect from each other “ in footings of apprehension, benevolence and munificence on one manus and existent group dealingss manifested on the other. ” Ohlson opines that the wider this spread becomes, the greater is the hazard and possible for intra-state force.[ 5 ]

Lootable Resources and Conflict – the Diamond Question

Recent surveies on intra-state struggle and cultural clash have found a strong bivariate relationship between diamonds ( peculiarly secondary diamonds ) and the oncoming of civil war. A figure of instance surveies have proven that rebels non merely utilize lootable resources as a agency of financing their cause but besides to make full their private caissons. An of import illustration is Sierra Leone.[ 6 ]

Sierra Leone, in the 1990 ‘s held the blue rubric of “ the worst topographic point on Earth ” and was arguably the paradigmatic instance of a collapsed province.[ 7 ]The instance of Sierra Leone is by and large considered as a verification of the conventional position that lootable wealth strains province prostration ( Snyder & A ; Bhavnani, 2005 ) . Siaka Stevens, who ruled the state from 1968-1985, in a command to forestall a military putsch had undermined the regular ground forces and set a cap on the enlisting at two 1000 ( in state of four million ) .As a consequence the ‘balance of coercive power ‘ began to switch to the Lebanese diamond bargainers, who progressively started exporting through non formal and non nonexempt channels, about stultifying the province exchequer ( by the mid 1980 ‘s about 70 per cent of the exports were through this channel ) .By 1989, merely 12 carats, or 0.0003 per cent of the sums common in the mid 1970 ‘s was exported lawfully. The deficiency of gross made it impossible for Major General Joseph Momoh ( Stevens ‘ replacement ) to pay his ground forces. Therefore when the Revolutionary United Front ( RUF ) launched an invasion in 1991, the underfunded ground forces merely disintegrated. The RUF quickly took over Sierra Leone ‘s diamond Fieldss and used their returns from at that place to fund a decennary of force and civil war ( Snyder & A ; Bhavnani, 2005 ) .

Similarly in 2000, Rebel forces ( the RUF and Liberian ground forces forces ) backed by Charles Taylor[ 8 ]invaded Guinea and reached with a 100 kilometres of the state ‘s chief alluvial diamond sedimentations. But the Guinean military repelled the invasion and the authorities was able to stave off civil war like in Sierra Leone. In malice of a low per capita income, Guinea possessed a better gross chance construction and the income to pay and fit its military forces ( Snyder & A ; Bhavnani, 2005 ) , which explains the contrasting result of its destiny as opposed to Sierra Leone. Ghana excessively, in malice of bring forthing more alluvial diamonds by weight than any other West African state, and possessing the three chief co-relates of civil war – low per capita income, political instability and semi democracy – has been successful in avoiding civil war. This is attributed to the industrialisation of the state ‘s lootable resource sector ( gold and diamonds ) .

When tested whether hapless states are adversely affected by diamond production, it was found that, hapless states ( with a high degree of cultural fractionalization ) with secondary diamond production have a higher hazard of struggle ( Lujala, Gleditsch, & A ; Gilmore, 2005 ) .Secondary diamond production in more ethnically heterogenous states make civil war more relentless, but besides do them more prone to the oncoming of cultural struggle, whereas primary production of diamonds ( non lootable ) decreases this incidence.

Identity and Border Conflict:

Two cardinal penetrations about the impression of ‘identity ‘ are really of import. First, histrions non merely have a individual individuality, but multiple individualities. Second, individualities are relational. It is shaped by the perceptual experience of other histrions as the ‘other ‘ . The difference from this ‘other ‘ gives intending to the ‘self ‘ . ( Kornprobst, 2002 ) This must be contextualized on the footing of the ‘ethnic individuality ‘ and the ‘border individuality ‘ is being spoken of at length in this paper.

A boundary line difference on the other manus, is defined as a struggle between two provinces originating from the claim of at least one of these provinces to a portion of the district, or in utmost instances, to the full district, that is administered by the other province ( Kornprobst, 2002 ) .

Boundary line differences are reasonably common in African political relations and different sub-regions trade with this job otherwise. This difference is most marked between West Africa and the Horn of Africa. Whereas there have been ten boundary line differences in West Africa, none of which have turned into full graduated table war, the Horn of Africa on the other manus has had four boundary line differences, two of which have turned into full blown wars.

Boundary line differences have been a regular characteristic of province interactions in West Africa. The boundary line disputes between Guinea and Liberia about the Mount Nimba part every bit good as between Ivory Coast and Liberia about the part between the Cess and the Cavally rivers, stemmed from the Gallic extension of the boundary lines of Guinea and the Ivory Coast as the disbursal of Liberia ‘s backwoods, in the 1880s to the 1890s.Thus, in the station decolonisation period, when these states became independent, the boundary lines were disputed by Liberia, but the position quo was maintained and agreed to in understandings made with both states.[ 9 ]Four more differences were solved through understanding:

Between Mali and Mauritania about the Hodh desert boundary line and the Savannah part from Djel Mael to Queneibe in 1963.

Between the Niger and Upper Volta ( Burkina Faso ) about the full boundary line from Mali to the Dohomey boundary line in 1964.

Between Ghana and Upper Volta ( Burkina Faso ) about a 50 stat mi strip at their common boundary line in 1964.

And eventually between Ghana and the Ivory Coast about the Sanwi-inhabited country of the Ivory Coast in 1989.

All these understandings typically include an inexplicit mention to the territorial unity norm ( Kornprobst, 2002 ) .Again in a figure of instances no understanding was reached, but however disengagement took topographic point following dialogues. Among these are:

The boundary line difference between Dahomey and Niger about the island Lete in the Niger River, at the beginning of the 1960s.Although dialogues did non decide the issue, detachment occurred.

In 1960, Nigeria claimed the Yoruba inhabited country of Dahomey. Again, dialogues led to disengagement.

Soon after independency, Togo claimed the Ewe inhabited country of Ghana. The latter responded by claiming the whole of Togo. In 1984 both states signed an understanding to normalise dealingss.

Benin and Niger every bit good as Benin and Nigeria had jobs with boundary line limit in the 1980s and 1990s, but they did non hold any issues about boundary line word picture.

These series of station dialogue detachments reaffirm the strong religion in territorial unity that the states in this part possess. A strong testament to this is the fact that even a struggle every bit serious as the Ghana-Togo struggle ended in detachment. But one of the differences, which had to be solved through international arbitration, was the boundary line difference between Mali and Burkina Faso, which stopped short to turning into a full graduated table war. It was in 1960 that the difference over the Agacher Strip began. Contending affecting regular military personnels took topographic point in 1975, in which about fifty five people died. This has by far been the most serious boundary line clang affecting regular military personnels in the West Africa sub part. Nevertheless the graduated table of force was excessively limited for the struggle to be termed as a war[ 10 ].The two states agreed to a ceasefire in 1985 and on arbitration by the International Court of Justice by 1986 and they accepted its finding of fact in an understanding signed in 1988.The territorial unity norm once more shaped the diplomatic discourse ( Kornprobst, 2002 ) .The preamble of the understanding emphasized the norm. It stated that the understanding was made in order to ‘achieve every bit quickly as possible, a colony of the frontier difference between them, based in peculiar on the regard for the rule of the infrangibility of frontiersaˆ¦ . ‘[ 11 ]

There is of class the other statement that the primary ground as to why these struggles have non erupted into war is because these states do non hold the economic capableness to pay war. But this does non take away anything from the committedness of the sub part towards the norm of territorial unity.

Of the Present Regional Crisis:

The station cold war period has seen the politically and economically weak part autumn into a ‘regional civil war ‘ which has earnestly compromised any possibility of peace and stableness in the part. While the diffusement of the job at Sierra Leone has been achieved with the intercession of the United Nations, the renewed struggle in the Ivory Coast threatened the part with instability once more, with the state being divided between Rebels and the loyalist forces following an attempted putsch in 2002.

The Niger Delta still faces jobs of perennial force, in malice of the Nigerian authorities now being in civil custodies for about a decennary now. While the Particular Court for Sierra Leone represents an of import effort to stop the rhythm of force and impunity by keeping accountable those who bear the greatest duty for gross maltreatments of human rights, more attempts are needed to look into and document the ways in which human rights maltreatments continue to fuel struggles throughout the part and keep the culprits accountable ( Human Rights Watch, 2003 ) .

The flow of weaponries ( frequently in exchange for blood diamonds ) and battlers and soldier of fortunes across the porous boundary lines frequently along with the support from regional authoritiess is a major job for any peace attempts in the part. Both the Liberian authorities every bit good as the Rebel forces have been responsible of major misdemeanors of International Humanitarian Law. While the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor has been indicted by the Particular Court for Sierra Leone for his function in carry oning and back uping major human rights maltreatments in the country, the land world is that, the forced enlisting of kids in displaced and refugee cantonments, forced labor, assault, sexual force against civilians every bit good as onslaughts on human-centered workers still continue unabated. The continued flow of weaponries to the country in breach of the weaponries trade stoppage which has been placed on the part by the UN contributes to the job.

The maltreatments committed by the authorities and government-allied forces include, reprisal violent deaths by province security forces, based on cultural, national, spiritual or political associations of persons ; indiscriminate onslaughts on civilians by chopper gunships, violent deaths, colzas and other signifiers of force committed against the civilians by the Liberians recruited by the Ivorian authorities in refugee cantonments and from the Liberian MODEL[ 12 ]Rebel group. ( Human Rights Watch, 2003 )

The usage of kid soldiers ( some of whom are every bit immature as nine old ages of age ) , the usage of proxy forces in support of to the reserves and the unabated proliferation of little weaponries and ammo to the part has contributed to the effectual and clinical de-stabilization of the part, doing it one of the most unsafe and volatile parts today.


This article has focused on the issues of causes of instability and their manifestation in the sub part of West Africa. It has considered at first, the colonial history of the part and traced the roots of force and cultural stratification from so on. It argues that the history of cultural struggle and the go oning cultural discord of the part is in fact a colonial bequest. It compares the colonial systems of administration of the Gallic and the British ( the two major colonising powers which held sway in the part ) and chalks out the difference between the ranked and ungraded systems of disposal, which made manner for societal stratification. This societal stratification occurred along cultural lines and therefore cultural groups were pitted against each other of all time since. While on the portion of the British this a was a calculated gambit in order to guarantee that a incorporate homogeneous group would ne’er dispute their liberty in the part, the Gallic, who considered their retentions in the country the boundary line outstations of the Greater France, made manner for, through assimilation and centralisation, greater chances for upward societal mobility. But these chances were non made available homogenously throughout the length and comprehensiveness of their lands, therefore merely a choice few cultural groups would acquire entree to the places of administrative control and power.

With the coming of decolonisation and the attainment of freedom by these states, these constructions of power which had manifested themselves for centuries, now helped some peculiar cultural groups monopolize power and administrative clout in their several parts, fuelling cultural tensenesss. This besides led to the creative activity of a legitimacy spread between the citizens and the authorities, farther deteriorating any opportunity of political stableness in the part.

The statement so comes to the correlativity between cultural struggle and diamond bring forthing countries. We saw that it has been established that there is direct nexus between the secondary production of diamonds and the possibility of cultural struggle, whereas a primary manufacturer of diamonds ( or any other lootable resource for that affair ) has fringy opportunities of interrupting into cultural struggle, doing it a stabilising factor in the state ‘s civil order.

Examples of Sierra Leone, which has been called the worst topographic point on Earth, Guinea and Ghana have been considered and their relation to the production of lootable and non lootable resources, low per capita income, political instability, semi democracy and their effects on the possibility of puting off cultural struggle in the part have been punctually analysed.

The paper so looks at the construct of individuality and the happening of boundary line struggles in the part. A good expression at the cases of boundary line struggles in the part ( which have been enumerated during the class of the paper ) show that none of the struggles have turned into a full graduated table war, in fact none of the struggles, save one have really had regular ground forcess contending in them. It has been proven that the part has strong religion and belief in the norm of territorial unity and has made via medias and political grants in order to continue that religion.

Finally the paper looks at the recent status of the part, particularly from the station cold war epoch, the manifestations of the colonial bequest of cultural stratification and fractionalization and the flow of weaponries and soldier of fortunes and the usage of kid soldiers and the gross misdemeanors of human rights, which have marked the sub part. “ Cultural Conflict seems to hold supplanted atomic war as the most urgent issues on the heads of policy shapers. But if yesterdays high priests of reciprocally assured devastation were guilty of hyper reason, today ‘s Prophetss of anarchy suffer from a corporate craze triggered by simplistic impressions of ethnicity ” ( Sadowski, 1998 ) .

The double stars of ‘greed versus creed/grievance ‘ , ‘ loot versus justness seeking ‘ are non clear causal factors of struggle and particularly that of cultural struggle. This paper has tried to demo how the seeds of the job have been sowed much further back in the yesteryear and how drawn-out economic and political subordination to a powerful and exploitatory external histrion, in recent of distant yesteryear can hold such permanent political, economic and societal dimensions. As Kaplan has put it, it is Africa which suggests what war, boundary lines and cultural political relations will look like a few decennaries therefore.