Africa’s Conflicts Continue Unabated
A summary of the situation as of April 2015
Civil wars in Africa are among the top five causes of the slowness of the continent’s economic development. Here is a summary of the current major conflicts:
The Republic of South Sudan became self-governing in 2005, and completely independent from Sudan in 2011. The newest African independent state had everything going for it at the time of self-government in 2006: large oil revenues, international support, and safe borders. But the nation’s leadership, made up essentially of guerrilla leaders who had been running an armed insurgency against the Sudanese Government in Khartoum for thirty years, was unable to establish a functioning government.
The various ethnic factions in South Sudan were able to maintain stability during six years of self-government, 2005 to 2011, but the substantial oil earnings were essentially stolen. There was no new infrastructure or institutions built during this period. After independence, the different ethnic factions started to fight among themselves for power and resources. The fighting caused hundreds of thousands of citizens to be displaced, and tens of thousands to be killed because of their ethnicity.
The African Union and the Intergovernmental Association for Development (IGAD) have been trying to mediate and bring about a government of national unity, to no avail. It is expected that fighting will resume, and that the long suffering South Sudanese people, among the most poverty stricken people in the world, will suffer even more.
In 2005, a violent insurgency broke out in northeastern Nigeria in Borno State, on the borders of the Republics of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The insurgents called themselves “Boko Haram”, and called for the transformation of Nigeria into an Islamic state, with the entire population subject to the most extreme Islamic “Sharia” law. The government did not pay much attention to “Boko Haram” until 2013 when the movement started to capture towns and villages, engaging in mass slaughter of populations. The governments of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, sent their military to engage Boko Haram, and as of mid-April 2015 appeared to have blunted their advance. A presidential election in Nigeria in March 2015 resulted in a new head of state coming to power, Muhammadou Buhari. President-elect Buhari had pledged to assign high priority to the defeat of Boko Haram after he takes office in May, 2015. The insurgency has caused tens of thousands of Nigerians to be displaced and about 15,000 Nigerians were killed.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been in a state of civil war since August 1998. Rogue militias, warlords, and military units, some under the control of neighboring countries (i.e. Rwanda and Uganda) have been wreaking havoc in the eastern provinces of Kivu, Orientale and Ituri. Normal economic life has been disrupted and tens of thousands of Congolese have been displaced and killed. This long- standing state of civil war has caused great economic hardship to the people of the Congo, and has prevented economic progress despite the country’s abundant natural resources.
The Republic of Sudan
The granting of independence to South Sudan in 2011 has not solved Sudan’s civil war problem. This minority regime continues to face major insurgencies in its southern provinces of Kordofan and Blue Nile. The western region of Darfur continues to be the theater of major conflict between local ethnic communities and the central government. So far, efforts by the international community to bring about reconciliation and democratic transition have been ineffective. Tens of thousands of Sudanese are dying and are being relegated to refugee camps. The economic situation is bleak.
Republic of Mali
The West African Republic of Mali is bisected from west to east by the Niger River. South of the river, there is irrigated agriculture and economic development. North of the river, there are nomadic ethnic groups that are alienated from the government in power. Since 2011, armed ethnic groups in the northern cities of Kidal and Timbuctu, supported by Islamist extremist fighters from Algeria, calling themselves Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb AQIM) have being conducting an insurgency against the Malian government in Bamako. The insurgents were stopped from moving south of the Niger River by a French military intervention, but the northern towns remain under the control of rebel groups who are trying to impose an Islamic Sharia regime on the entire nation. As of April 2015, the situation was at a stalemate, with the Algerian government attempting to mediate a political solution. In the capital city of Bamako, a transitional government is attempting to develop a new dispensation that could lead to a democratic solution for the northern insurgency.