Monday, February 2, 2009

Causes and impact of political economic and social conflict in Africa


Conflict in Africa is one of the problems affecting the real development of African people. It had taken enormous lives from the Biafran war that consumed over a million lives to the Rwandan genocide that liquidated over 800, 000 lives in just 100 days of ethnic rampage. This ugly inhumane phenomenon continues in Africa. Millions of people are currently displaced in Africa as a result of conflicts. These victims are miserably living as refugees in places other than their native homes. It is estimated that over 9 million Africans are currently living as refugees as a result of wars, and regional conflicts. Causes of conflicts in Africa can be summarized as follows;- Political corruption, lack of respect for the rule of law, human rights violations, others are tribalism or tribal polarism, religious polarism, artificially established boarders by colonial masters,poverty,competition for economic resources and regionalism. All these factors are inter-related, and manipulated by the first factor which is bad leadership. Few countries in Africa with good leadership have been very stable. African leaders are hereby called upon to stand up to the task of good governance, or pave way for the right leaders. Africans in general are called upon to vote out corrupt and inept leaders, and usher in a people's oriented leadership. African Union is called to task to ensure good governance in Africa. Let the guns implode, the wooden barrels decompose to fertilize a vibrant agriculture, and the metallic barrels and structures melted for industrialization. Let the ensuing abundance fill up the greedy, for the complete healing of Africa. This paper will eloquently analyze the major causes and impacts of political, economic and social conflict in Africa and Tanzania in general. And finally give recommendation of measures towards healing process.

Theoretical literature review.

Recent years have seen many regions of Africa involved in war being caused by internal or external conflict, from democratic republic of Congo (DRC) to the Sierra Leone crisis and the war in the Ethiopia/Eritrea and the various other civil wars. It is estimated that not less than 28 sub Saharan African states have been at the war since 1980.From this wars there have been over 9.5 million refugees and hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered, according to the US committee for refugees 2001.

Causes of Conflict in Africa is as follows;-

First, conflict in Africa is inextricably related to poverty, particularly the lack of human capital which influences the probability of civil war. Poverty means that young men have no stake in staying where they are. Joining a rebel army becomes a viable employment opportunity where job markets do not incorporate youth note NRA-Uganda, Liberia and Somalia.

Second, conflict in Africa is caused by inequitable sharing of valuable natural resources. This failure was led to a number of conflicts and exacerbated many others. And whenever territories rich in natural resources are captured by marauding militias, these resources are most often looted providing the private funding to continue conflict, as it happening in Angola and DRC (Democratic republic of Congo).Angola has seen an estimated 500,000 people killed since 1989 and an estimated 3 million refugees. It is also being torn apart due to resources such as diamonds and offshore oil, with various factions fighting for these prices supported by multinational corporations and other governments.

Third, conflicts in Africa are facilitated by dysfunctional governments characterized by weak, undemocratic economic and political institution. There are many cases where the failure by governments to address national grievances has led to conflict and war. Clearly civil conflict is less probable in a full democracy. The more democratic the society, the more it has outlets for frustration and ways to seek solutions. The more governments responds to the issues people have the lower risk of civil wars.

Fourth, polarized societies risk fracture. Contrary to what so many analysts have said about how Africa can never be stable with so many ethinicities, the evidence is that ethnic and religious diversity is a stabilizing force. There is a higher risk of civil wars in polarized societies (even if they are ethnically more homogeneous) than in more diverse societies. Diversity makes societies safer by reducing the probability of ethnic conflicts, as it is simply more expensive and complicated to foment trouble in diverse societies. Even if conflicts do break out in pluralistic societies, they tend to last for shorter periods, as it is harder for rebels to be cohesive.

We know the results when poverty is high, natural resources endowments are managed inequitably, governments are undemocratic and societies are polarized. The results are conflicts and the costs are terrible. War is undoubtedly the destroyer of economic development on our continent. As we saw tragically in Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, civil war not only devastates the lives of civilians; it damages the environment, it wreaks havoc on social, education and health services, it traumatizes whole generations of youth, and it forces people to abandon homes and farming land, engulfing once stable family units in flood of refugees. Statistically enormous lives from the Biafran war consumed over a million lives to the Rwandan genocide that liquidated over 800, 000 lives in just 100 days of ethnic rampage. The price of Liberia’s conflict: 200,000 Liberians were murdered and over one and a half million displaced. Many of the most educated Liberians now live out of the country, most with no apparent plans to return. While the active conflict has ended, ethnic enmity simmers, and continues to be exploited by ambitious persons in and out of Liberia. Some observers point out that even the present government is not immune from using ethnic tensions to its own end.

J.Brian Atwood, former head of the US foreign aid agency, USAID commented that “failed states” (which included a number of African countries suffering from conflict), threaten our nation, they cost us too much, they create diseases that impact on us, they destabilize other nations, they stymie economic growth and they deny us economic opportunity in the largest new market place-the developing world (Esman and Herring 2001).

Empirical literature review.

Zanzibar consists of two main islands, Unguja and Pemba that together comprise 2,332 square km. with the former making up 67% and the later 37% of the total land sea. The islands had a population of 979,637 people according to the 2002 census. Zanzibar is united by a common language Kiswahili which is spoken by all and is both the lingua franca and the language of official business on the island. The Island together joined with Tanganyika in 26th April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

These islands are faced with conflicts which exist among them and impart dichotomy as will be diagnosed from political, economic and social perspectives. In political dimensions, many of the Zanzibar political problems have witnessed their most intense expression during the periods of electoral competition, particularly following the introduction of multiparty politics to the country. It is apparent from the beginning that many politicians in Zanzibar particularly those who had benefited from the monopoly of the single party were not keen to open up to multiparty. A good number of Zanzibar’s electoral problems were attributed to politicians for their unwillingness to submit themselves to the people’s choice. The intense struggle is between CUF and CCM parties.

During the pre independence period there was an equal representation of ministers from Pemba and Unguja.However, there is also a submission that even the British had an administrative policy of not giving leadership positions to wapemba.The political cleaverage worsened after the revolution, with the wapemba victimized for their perceived lack of participation in the 1964 revolution. Accordingly, there were only few wapemba in the revolutionary council. The relationship was aggravated with CCM having lost all the 21 seats of Pemba in the 1995 elections and winning only 5 seats in the 2000 elections, which in any event, was seriously contested result.

This enhanced the perception of all Wapemba being seen as opposition. There is claim made that there has never been a president, chief Justice or speaker of the house from Pemba.Additionally,the army, police, Jeshi la Kujenga uchumi(JKU),prison service and kikosi maalum cha kuzuia magendo(KMKM) are allegedly hesitant to employ a person of “Arab origin”. In fact since the assassination of Karume, no person of Arab, Goan, Indian, or commorian origin have been appointed to any of the above institutions.

In economic dimension the conflicts emerge in the fact that Pemba contributes 85% of the Zanzibar’s cloves and constitutes about 40% of the population, thus there is an inequitable distribution of infrastructure, power and opportunities, such as state scholarship. This has made the wapemba believe that the waunguja simply dislike. As such, the sudden deflation of the cost of cloves from shs 3,000/- to 1000/- within six months of political elections in 2000 is perceived as punishment for the pembas lack of political support to the CCM government. The counter point to this argument is that the deflation of the clove prices is attributed to the world trade, and the clove boom in Indonesia. Furthermore, the claim of economic marginalization is also a sham, given that Pemba is agriculturally richer has more university graduates than Unguja and has a large population of successful migrants in the business sector on the mainland.

In social perspectives there are religious tensions that are further compounded by the allegations from the western countries of growing Islamic fundamentalism in Zanzibar, particularly Pemba. The extreme poverty and oppression make Pemba a potential breeding ground for terrorism.

Impacts of Zanzibar conflicts.

-The travel advisories issued by the USA and the Britain have adversely affected the tourism industry.

-Women face gender specific violence during elections, for example the Mbita commission reported that 22 women claimed to have been raped and eighteen were harassed and subjected to attempted rape, the tearing of cloths and touching of the private parts. This impact led to in 1998, the Zanzibar government pass the sexual offenses (special provisions ACT) aimed at protecting the dignity of women and children.

-The same time Hashim Mbita report on 4th November 2002 established that 31 people were killed, 48 suffered permanent disability and 243 people suffered injuries. Over 2000 Tanzanian fled to shimoni on the Kenyan coast as refugees. The reprisal was followed with at least two weeks of beatings, mass arrests and various forms of harassment and intimidation meted out against populace.

-The phenomena lead to social economic destruction and stagnation of the economy since during the violence economic activities do not operate smoothly.

Policy literature review.

The TANZANIA Development Vision of 2025 focuses on building a sold foundation for a competitive and dynamic economy with high productivity in the country by looking on five main attributes which are high quality livelihood,peace,stability and unity, Good Governance, A well educated and learning society and a competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits. Although Tanzania has enjoyed national unity, peace and stability for long time these attributes must continue to be cultivated, nurtured and sustained as important pillar. For the nation to reach this level there is a need to create an open and democratic society that provides equal opportunity to every person. This entails creation of an active and participatory civil society in the articulation of its needs and in taking pride to fulfill its societal responsibilities.

The Mkukuta which is five years strategic plan strives to meet the nation vision through achieving structures and systems of governance as well as the rule of law that are democratic, participatory, representative, accountable and inclusive. The policy also address the need for equitable allocation of public resources and effective control of corruption, promote effective public service frame work in place to provide foundation for service delivery improvements and poverty reduction and finally the rights of the poor and vulnerable groups are protected and promoted in the justice system.


The right to life and security is the most basic of human rights. Without increased investment in conflict prevention, Africa will not make the rapid acceleration in development that its people seek. Responsibility for resolving conflict in Africa should lie primarily with Africans, but there is much more the developed world can do to strengthen conflict prevention. Investing in development is itself an investment in peace and security.

The African societies need to be sensitized to use the democratic election mechanism at its disposal to elect good incorruptible and responsible leaders with personal integrity, committed to the development of society and to the pursuit of the interests and welfare of the whole society.

Election committees should be selected by the independent body such as judiciary or parliament and not with the president to make the committee operate smoothly without in Tanzania Zanzibar election committee and National electoral agency (NEC), its members are elected by the president.

African Government should reduce the political and social exclusion as well as cultivate the culture of tolerance. This can be done through development of political and social systems as well as institutions that allow for full participation of all citizens, including poor and vulnerable groups. Dialogue on human rights, reduction of poverty and peace will be promoted among political leaders.

The international community must also adopt more effective and legally binding agreements on territorial and exterritorial arms brokering, and common standards on monitoring and enforcement. This agreement could be integrated into a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).


Most of African causes of conflict come out as the impact of political monopoly and poverty. Political monopoly led to poor governance and undemocratic principles compounded by human rights violations, lack of respect for the rule of law and political corruption. Poor governance has caused Africans poverty, but also according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), economic conditions imposed by the IMF and the World Banks were the dominant influence on the economic policy in the two decades to 2000, a period in which Africans income per head fell by 10% and income of the poorest 20% of people fell by 2%per year. Hence as well as looking into the urgent and critical issues of corruption, mismanaged leadership and governance in Africa, external factors resulting from geopolitical power play must be considered. African countries should preach different from those of greed, individualism, economic injustice and violence and emphasis to African concept of UTU OR UBUNTU OR MUNDU reflecting needs of social collectivism, self reliance, peace, love and forgiveness. As the African winner of the Nobel Peace Price, Wangari Maathai, said in her acceptance speech in December 2004:

Let us------intensify our commitment to our people, to reduce conflicts and poverty and thereby improve their quality of life. Let us embrace democratic governance, protect human rights and protect our environment. I am confident we shall rise to the occasion. I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems must come from us.


Agenda participation in Tanzania 2001: A manual on the ten principles for a

democratic culture for conflict reduction in Tanzania, FES, Tanzania.

Dr SINDA (2004): The role of the late Mwalimu Nyerere in the conflict

resolution in the great African lake region, Institute of development

studies, UDSM.

Esman and Herring (2001): Carrots, Sticks and Ethnic conflicts, rethinking

Development Assistance-University of Michigan Press. Chapter 3

USAID and Ethnic Conflict: Epiphany? By Heather S.McHugh, P 54

KCK-Zanzibar constitutionalism and political stability-Muafaka and the search

for a new Vision.

(URT- June2005)National strategy for growth and reduction of Poverty

(NSGRP)-Vice presidents Office.

The Tanzania Development Vision 2025.

Global Witness (December 1998): A rough Trade; The role of Companies and

Governments in the Angolan Conflict.

The Zambian Connection: Ukranian plane came to deliver UNITA diamonds?

from the monitor for Human Rights and Development, issue 101, April

7-13, 2000 also reports on the Diamond and Zambia connection.

Bob Geldof (2005): Our common interest-an argument, commission for Africa,

Clays ltd, st Ives plc.www.penguin .com

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