Ethnicity: A Catalyst for Conflict in Sub Saharan Africa

For this week’s blog post, I wanted to focus on race and ethnicity as a whole in sub Saharan Africa and how it is a central issue in much of the conflict in that region. I was reading a paper that argued that perhaps the root of the multiple conflicts in sub Saharan African is due to internal problems between tribal powers and different ethnicities. This brings up a good point since throughout a lot of the history of sub Saharan Africa there have been many conflicts that have arisen from ethnic issues. There have been conflicts in Chad, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and others that all center around ethnicity or tribalism.

In high school world history, we are taught that the African regions were peaceful with each other and lived fairly in harmony pre-colonialism. This brings me to believe that colonialism was a main catalyst in the ethnic conflicts in Africa, however, it also brings me to ask why do the ethnic differences turn into violent conflicts? It seems as though in addition to colonialism, the centralization of power has mixed ethnicities. Centralization of power in the post-colonial era was bad in a way because although it may have been thought of as a way to better ethnic relations, it instead heightened the tension between different ethnic groups. Additionally, centralization of power also created opportunities for political leaders to commit actions that could be considered as corruption, nepotism, among others.

One article that I read while writing this blog post considered the possibility of revisiting the authenticity of post- colonial boundaries. Could this be a way to relieve ethnic tensions in many sub Saharan nations? Personally, I believe that revisiting these borders and attempting to meet the needs of every group would cause more violence. A better approach would be to understand the conflicts that are occurring in detail. There is probably more to it than what the popular media portrays and there are definitely other ethnic conflicts that occur that gain no press. The role of ethnicity in conflicts in Sub Saharan Africa is something that needs further discussion as it is a complex issue that could have a number of factors.


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