Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Pressures and Incentives for Cooperation

Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Pressures and Incentives for Cooperation

Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Pressures and Incentives for Cooperation

Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Pressures and Incentives for Cooperation


Ethnic conflict in Africa is reaching critical levels. Governments are being toppled. National economies are collapsing. And the potential for civil unrest--even violent encounters--throughout the continent threatens to engulf not only Africa, but much of the world.

Africa's salvation depends on the development and implementation of effective institutions of ethnic conflict management. In this book, Donald Rothchild analyzes the successes and failures of attempts at conflict resolution in different African countries and offers comprehensive ideas for successful mediation.

To provide a clear picture of the current situation, Rothchild traces Africa's ethnic unrest back to its beginnings during the period of colonial rule, through the post-independence era, when governments built the institutions of government control and consolidated power; and into its more recent period when it is possible to discern greater democratic governance.

Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa demonstrates how negotiation and mediation can promote conflict resolution and a political environment that fosters economic development. It offers a compelling case for the use of both political incentives (power sharing, elections, and fiscal programs) and a variety of actions (including principles of inclusiveness, coercion, and punishment) to support reconciliation. This "carrot and stick" approach can be employed by a state to promote increased political bargaining while maintaining stability, and by outside intermediaries to cope with conflict brought on by the breakdown of domestic regimes.


Newspaper headlines about places such as Rwanda, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo suggest that conflicts between the state and ethnic groups and between rival ethnic groups are common events in Africa. It is the contention of this book, however, that such conflicts are not inevitable and that they can be avoided or at least managed.

Ethnic groups can be a creative force, providing material benefits and meeting such intangible needs as esteem and a sense of identity and purpose. It is normal for people to mobilize in an effort to gain organizational, ideological, political, and economic power. As long as they compete according to the rules of the political game and accept their opponent's right to participate, the results can be positive.

In other circumstances, however, ethnicity can be a highly destructive fore. Acute tensions can be unleashed as groups struggle over territory, cultural survival, and physical existence. Also, if one group controls the state and its institutions and excludes others from positions of influence, deep resentments and hostility will often surface. In worst-case scenarios--apartheid in South Africa, the carnage in Rwanda, and civil war in Sudan--grim, hostile perceptions can result in damaging relation for all who are drawn into the confrontation. Although the examples of destructive ethnicity that Donald Rothchild has recited in this book are drawn from Africa's recent experience, encounters with collective fear, insecurity, and hostility have a long and virtually universal, history.

Rothchild presents a number of cases to demonstrate how leaders can prevent harmful relations from arising and, when they occur, how diplomats and organizations can influence those involved to shift to more constructive internal systems of conflict management. Still, a break-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.