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Unrelenting Civil Unrest in Africa

Essay by   •  May 12, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,676 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,422 Views

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Unrelenting Civil Unrest in Africa

In the face of incredible conflict, death and tragedy, Africa has often been snubbed; its conflicts oversimplified, and have been primarily concerned with a very limited focus concerning the region. In saying this, it is important to ask why Africa has had significant civil unrest while, in all other regions of the world, the occurrence and reoccurrence of civil war has been on the decline. In Africa, the tendency for civil conflict has been consistently and increasingly mounting. Unquestionably, every war has its own story to convey; the characters, the social and ethnic variances, the motivating actions, the provocative dialogue, the mayhem ECT; but there is something far more intricate in the context of Africa; an underlying, problematic root that stimulates violence and reoccurring instability.

It is possible that the structural conditions; social, political or economic, which brand a nation predisposed to civil war are just surface concerns. We must concern ourselves with what the underlying anomalies are and what generates them. Where does this conflict reside and why?

Africa's complications have, for far too long, been reported on yet never really deciphered or resolved. It is of extraordinary importance to discover the root of this problem, and furthermore realize who is profiting from this sort of ongoing conflict, all in anticipation to slow the regenerating violence that has called Africa home. An enduring violence that has devastated lives, uprooted cultures and been denied the acknowledgement it deserves. This violence has been a part of African history and will continue to define its present and future existence unless its stability is repaired along with an accompanying cost-benefit solution for all who are now involved with the conflict region.

The problematic concern is attempting to figure out whom, or perhaps, what is to blame. There are numerous factors that promote instability and violence in nations, but there are usually only a couple of underlying issues that are really at work. What we see at the surface; the ethnic clash in the Congo, the child slave labor in Sierra Leone, uprisings/protests in Egypt and the cries against humanity in Darfur; these are only the effects of a greater origin, a cause most have failed to recognize.

There have been over 9 million refugees and internally displaced people from conflicts in Africa. Hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered from a number of conflicts and civil wars (Shah). Subsequently, why is it that Africa has been fundamentally ignored by the global community? To begin to understand why they are "ignored", we must be aware that Africa has a large percentage of the world's most sought after natural resources.

As stated by Paul Collier, the economic roots of civil war are fueled by natural resources (Collier). In a critical analysis you will see that, remarkably, the prevailing influences of conflict are in fact economic ones. Three factors matter a great deal when examining the threat and probability of civil war: the level of income, its rate of development, and its financial formation. If a country is poor, in economic decay, and in addition is reliant upon natural resource exports, it faces a considerable threat that sooner or later it will experience conflict. "Normally, such a country runs a risk of around one-in-seven every five years (Collier)". It is considerably like a guessing game of when, not if, a conflict will appear and certain combinations of circumstances, or causing events, will ignite such conflict.

Of course, when this happens, the focus tends to be on these certain circumstances; such as ethnic disparities and other triggering events. These are all related sources of conflict; however, the fact of the matter remains, civil war is strongly focused in nations with low incomes, in economic decay, and significantly dependent on their natural resources. Africa just so happens to encompass all of these circumstances.

In respect of the previously mentioned economic characteristics, Africa (although "economically" poor) is typically characterized in terms of their natural resource dependency. "Africa, as a region, still has a much higher ratio of land to population than other regions, and natural resources are basically randomly distributed under the land (Collier)". The issue now becomes one of, what economic pros like to refer to as, "rent". Henry George, a popular political economist, stated that the best way to describe rent is "the share of wealth given to landowners because they have an exclusive right to the use of those natural capabilities", or in Africa's case; resources.

These "rents", or the profits, produce means by which natural resources escalate the risk of violent conflict; "four relate to political economy and two are straight economics" (Collier). When speaking of any resource rich nation, as we have seen evident in the Middle East, conflicts arise in forms of regimes, or corrupted politicians whose main goal is to obtain control of the resource in question, and in turn control the revenue it brings in. Collier also points out that these conflict situations are "aided and abetted by foreign corporate behavior". The trouble in this is while the government/regimes obtain resource rents on, let's say natural gas, it "forgets" about other crucial resources and the supply of public goods dissipates. This economic volatility "crowds out the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, in turn, heightens inequality and induces violent conflict" (Ross) Where a nation depends and exports a majority of natural resources it loses labor in agricultural,

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