Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

State-Building and Non-State Conflicts in Africa

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

State-Building and Non-State Conflicts in Africa

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The end of the Cold War ushered in the resurgence of internal conflicts that wrought humanitarian disasters, and the breakdown of political authority across the developing world, notably in Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cambodia, former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus in general. In response to these dynamics, peacebuilding and state-building has become the twin goal of Western intervention policies and United Nations (UN) programmes toward conflict prone countries. There is an ongoing debate regarding the feasibility, desirability, successes and failures of these programmes of state-building and peacebuilding both in academic and policy circles (see for example Wienstein 2005; Pugh 2005; Paris 2004; Chandler 2006). Notwithstanding this debate, the agenda of state-building and peacebuilding continues, with its own ramifications for peace and development in the weaker states of the world.

One distinctive feature of these interventions is their top-down approach, and their overriding concern with state institutions to the detriment of local dynamics that are central to non-state conflicts. The emphasis on restructuring the state is the result of two major factors. First, the agenda is driven by a concern for international security posed by conflicts and instability across the Third World. Second, there is an assumption among international state-builders embedded in their liberal institutionalist paradigm of engagement. This approach presumes that well-functioning institutions generate economic and social processes that are supportive of peace (Newman 2011). Accordingly, once an effective state embodying properly functioning institutions is in place, peace is expected to ensue.

The extent to which this holds true regarding non-state conflicts is not yet empirically substantiated and hence the effect of state capacity on the prevalence of non-state conflicts needs to be examined. Do state-building interventions geared to create accountable, effective and legitimate states contribute to reducing the occurrences of non-state conflicts? Do such measures need to be supplemented by other distinctive local level strategies that foster inter-communal peace and reconciliation? Existing literature on the topic falls short of scrutinising this pertinent question in the quest for human security. Hence, this work is a modest attempt to fill this lacuna by investigating the association between the capacity of states and the prevalence of non-state conflicts employing mixed methodological approaches from sub-Saharan Africa. A statistical analysis of the correlation between state capacity and non-state conflict is supplemented with an in-depth qualitative scrutiny of the relationship between the variables in states that are chosen to this end. The review of extant literature is employed to analyse the case studies, whereas the correlation analysis is undertaken using statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS) software.

The term 'non-state conflict' is defined using the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (Version 2.4-2012). It entails "the use of armed force between two organized armed groups, neither of which is the government of a state, which results in at least 25 battle-related deaths in a year". The armed group could be formally or informally organised, and the arms used could range from any manufactured weapon, sticks, and stone to water. The dataset indicates that most of these conflicts in Africa are related to ethnicity, religion, clan, or even sub-clan that are often dubbed sub-national conflicts or transnational conflict, which states definitely have a role to play in addressing.

The findings reveal that certain aspects of state capacity are weak, but in a statistically significant way, correlated with non-state conflicts. Reinforcing this, the qualitative analysis indicates that state capacity is not the only factor that determines the prevalence of non-state conflicts. …

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