CONFLICTS, CAUSES AND PREVENTION
A CASE STUDY OF NIGERIA CRISES
Conflict is when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature and haven't been aligned or agreed about yet, including: 1. Within yourself when you're not living according to your values; 2. When your values and perspectives are threatened; or
3. Discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of fulfillment. Conflict is inevitable and often good, for example, good teams always go through a "form, storm, norm and perform" period. Getting the most out of diversity means often-contradictory values, perspectives and opinions.
Conflict is often needed. It:
1. Helps to raise and address problems.
2. Energizes work to be on the most appropriate issues.
3. Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates them to participate. 4. Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their differences. Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict isn't the problem - it is when conflict is poorly managed that is the problem.
Conflict is a problem when it:
1. Hampers productivity.
2. Lowers morale.
3. Causes more and continued conflicts.
4. Causes inappropriate behaviors.
Conflict prevention, resolution and sustainable development are mutually reinforcing activities. It is no longer news that the world is a global village and conflict in any area could give rise to a ripple effect felt far beyond the shores of the conflict zone. An investment in national and international efforts for conflict prevention must therefore be seen as a simultaneous investment in sustainable development, since the latter can best take place in a peaceful environment. Conversely, conflicts have the capacity to severely constrain development endeavours by destroying infrastructure, interrupting production processes and diverting resources away from productive uses. It is in this light that this paper will focus on the need to prevent conflicts through early warning systems.
With a population of about 130 million and more than 250 ethnic groups, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation – with a multitude of religious, ethnic and political fault lines that periodically erupt into communal violence. This has created a sizeable, albeit fluctuating, internally displaced population – particularly since the return of democracy in 1999. Conservative estimates put the number of people killed in communal violence across Nigeria since 1999 at around 10,000; some government figures stand at more than 50,000 for central Plateau state alone (BBC, 7 October 2004). Before then, military regimes – especially the rule of General Sani Abacha (1993-98) –kept the underlying tensions in check. Any separatist aspirations were brutally suppressed since the attempted secession of the eastern Biafra republic in 1967 led to civil war in which up to 1 million people died, mainly because of disease and starvation. Almost three decades after the war ended, a return to democratic rule with the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 opened up new opportunities for people to express their grievances and new areas of conflict were created by the competition for political spoils. The resulting rise in communal violence can be attributed to various factors, including: ethnic rivalry, religious violence, land conflicts, conflicts related to the demarcation of administrative boundaries and political elections, and conflicts linked to oil production in the Niger delta (Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer). While some of these conflicts may appear to be caused by a single factor, such as religion or ethnicity, the reality is usually mo re complex. The introduction of Islamic Sharia law in a total of 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states in recent years has caused tensions, but when Muslim and Christian groups have clashed this has usually been caused by other factors – such as pressure on land or unequal access to social services. However, the polarization that follows is...
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