Conflict Resolution in Africa

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CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN AFRICA: CHALLENGES FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY

BY

Ibrahim Alhassan

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

1.Man from the earliest times has always lived in societies each with its peculiarities. But a common variable had been the scarce economic resources he has to contend with and which often times threaten his survival. As man continued to interact with one another a gradual tussle evolved amidst these limited resources that further threatened human existence. Thus economic interests motivated great social upheaval resulting in radical social changes. Karl Marx noted that class struggle often result from these conflicting economic interests. In the communist manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote, ‘‘ the history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggles. Freemen and slaves, lords and serf, oppressors and the oppressed stood in constant opposition to one another and carried on an uninterrupted hidden or open fight. Sometimes these fights end either in a revolutional reconstruction of society at large or in the common ruin of contending classes’’. 1

2.From the foregoing, the social system had been based on economies of scarcity rather than on abundance. Thus, privileges, power and prestige would always be unequally distributed in such societies. This inequality would lead to inevitable class struggle.

3.Conflict is therefore an outcome of human interaction. It is a situation of disagreement between individuals, parties or states. A conflict situation is characterised by the inability of those concerned to iron out their differences.2 Conflict is indeed the most enduring endeavour of mankind as the ultimate means of resolving disputes. Human wants are unlimited but the means to satisfy these wants are scarce. There is therefore, an inherent struggle in man for greater share of the limited resources. Conflict of interest is the result of these struggles.3 Most times, these conflicts at the micro level if not controlled can develop to conflict at the macro level such as communal, national, regional or even global.

4.The Concise Oxford Dictionary (COD) Tenth Edition defines conflict as “a state of opposition, or hostilities, a fight or struggle, the clashing of opposing principles”.4 The COD also defines resolution as “the action of solving a problem or dispute”.5 These definitions are quite apt in setting the stage for this work. In this study, therefore, conflict resolution may be defined as “the action of solving a problem, serious disagreement, argument, hostilities or dispute”. 6

5.Historically, in Africa, like in other parts of the world, conflicts are part and parcel of the dynamics of society. There is a peculiar struggle among individuals, families, clans, ethnic groups and nations to have control over the scarce economic, natural, or political resources. Africa has experienced unprecedented number of conflicts since the middle of the twentieth century. Such conflicts sharpen economic inadequacies, as those who should be busy growing crops are busy making war. Thus, Africa is grossly underdeveloped; poverty and starvation haunt the continent. For instance in some parts of Africa like Congo, Liberia and Sudan, famine has assumed ravaging proportion. Political instability is rife. Power changes hands at random in many states and the political infrastructure frequently becomes subject to manipulations.7 This research is born out of the conviction that conflicts present some of the greatest problems Africa is facing today. Apart from the fact that they frustrate development and cause friction between nation states and tension within the states themselves, conflicts also create opportunity for foreign powers to meddle in the domestic affairs of African states.

6.During the cold war era, most of these crises could have been attributed to ideological rivalry between the United States of America (USA) and the then Soviet...
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