This topic of this chapter, like Chapter 5, cannot be analysed with reference to one scale. Conflict as experienced in most parts of the world today is caused by factors at the international, national and local levels. It tends to become most serious in places where resources are already stretched, which itself may be part of the causation, and inevitably its consequences mean a reduction in these already inadequate resources. Its impacts are also experienced, in different ways, at all levels and of course at the household level too. Its impact is also differentiated by gender, age, ethnicity and religion in most cases. Unfortunately, the implications of conflict for food security remain very serious: it is particularly implicated in the creation of famine circumstances. Analysis of entitlements, broadly conceived, around which this text is built, makes the examination of conflict unavoidable; conflict erodes, destroys, despoils and transforms the entitlement patterns of all those caught in its scope.
The old battlefields of the Third World, where the proxy wars of the United States and USSR were played out, are still bloodied by conflict in countries such as Afghanistan and Angola. In other countries, new waves of violence are accompanying the birth of a post-Cold War (dis)order.
(Macrae and Zwi, 1994, 1)
Today (23 July 1996), Burundi and Rwanda are in the news again and the international community holds its breath and hopes that more massacres will be avoided - holds its breath because it appears incapable and/or unwilling to do anything more constructive. This situation, in East Africa, is just one example of what is referred to in academic, political and policy circles as a ‘complex emergency’. These precipitate humanitarian crises and are multicausal but always associated with armed conflict. The number of complex emergencies is increasing and they are intimately and inevitably associated with food crises of varying types and intensity. The term ‘food wars’ (Messer, 1994) is applied to many of these conflicts and reflects the centrality of food to their dynamics. Although they occur most frequently and disastrously across the South, since 1989 they have occurred in the area of the former Soviet Union and with devastating humanitarian consequences in the former Yugoslavia. However, their gravest direct and indirect impact is in sub-Saharan Africa. Measuring the number of deaths due to conflict is problematic, but Green holds that in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 ‘much below eight million would be unrealistic’ (Green, 1994, 37).