What Really Ails Africa?

In 2014, Adam Withnall, a Senior Reporter for The Independent wrote an article[1] that revealed countries in the world that could be deemed conflict free. Within the body of the article is a photograph of a Sudanese child in tears and above the photo are the words ’10 most conflicted countries in the world’. A click on the photograph leads the reader to the list of the 10 countries, with each country accompanied by a photograph that is simply heartbreaking. Men wielding weapons, fire, a mother carrying her baby followed by other children that could be presumed to be part of her brood and all in all sadness and despair. The countries are (from 1st to 10th): South Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and finally Nigeria. [2] More than half of the countries on the list are African countries.
As of 2016, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Burundi are other African countries that have plunged into chaos. [3] So what exactly seems to be the problem in African countries? Why is it that out of the 10 countries deemed most conflicted in the world, African countries have taken up more slots than most? Is it a case of unfair branding of the continent as the dark continent that makes African countries an easy target for major focus on the bad and having whatever good that comes out of it ignored? Is the media really to blame? Is there a specific issue that African countries face that others in the world do not? What really ails Africa?

In Nigeria, the Boko Haram have featured prominently in the news across the globe especially after they kidnapped 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State. Other conflicts are however ongoing in the country; one being in Jos. The fight between Muslim herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers has killed more than 60,000 people in the last 15 years and is a situation that jihadists mean to exploit.[4] In North Central Nigeria, cattle herders and farming communities armed with guns and machetes waged pitched battles in February. Those fights were the latest round of violence in a long – running fight over grazing rights in the region.[5] The herdsmen are largely Muslim and the farmers mostly Christian and therefore the potential is there for radicals to exploit the conflict; though its roots are not primarily religious.[6] State and local governments have been blamed for their failure to address the conflict; with the taking of sides by leaders in the region worsening the situation.

With regards to Burundi, the country has been plagued by tension between the usually-dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority. Since independence, the country has struggled to emerge from a 12 year, ethnic based civil war.[7] However, in a study done by a student of International Relations, the researcher was of the opinion that the real cause of war was poverty and not the popular belief of dominance of power and its abuse by the Tutsi minority.[8] The findings revealed that both communities have had their share of wielding power and that there was conflict during all regimes; whether Hutu or Tutsi led. [9]

It has been 5 years since the NATO–led intervention that helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.[10] The result of the intervention was the formation of two parallel governments and the establishment of dominion by the Islamic State of Libya’s central coast since early 2015.[11] However, writer Shamid Hamid argues that despite the results of the intervention, the intervention was a success in that it protected civilians and prevented a massacre that could have happened had  leader Muammar Gaddafi been allowed to continue on the rampage he was on.[12] Furthermore, civil war had already began before the intervention and the chaos, violence and general instability experienced today should be tied not to the original intervention but to the international community’s failures thereafter.[13]

From an analysis of 3 of the African countries in chaos today, it is evident that there is no single factor that could be attributed to the wars in some of the continent’s countries. The problems are attributable to other countries in the world at large that have also seemed to be eluded by peace. Namely; poverty, greed and hatred. The world needs healing. The solution to picking up guns is love for one another and the acceptance of others despite differences.

Ethnicity is something to be celebrated not used as an excuse for violence. Speaking different languages and having different cultures is what makes the world interesting. The answer lies in fighting mentalities that lean towards punishing differences instead of celebrating them. Love for each other quells greed and in turn makes further progress in the quest to fight poverty. Leaders and other people to whom lqrge groups of people listen should recognise the responsibility that they shoulder to break down mental barriers for the world to enjoy tranquility and good relations. They should avoid taking sides and promote dialogue early enough to prevent disputes that can be solved easily from escalating into violence.

[1]14th August 2014; The Independent; Adam Withnall, ‘World Peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict’; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/world-peace-these-are-the-only-11-countries-in-the-world-that-are-actually-free-from-conflict-9669623.html#gallery

[2] Ibid

[3]January 22nd 2016; The National Interest; Peter Dorrie; ‘The Wars Ravaging Africa in 2016’ http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-wars-ravaging-africa-2016-14993?page=2

[4] 11th March 2016; The Daily Beast; Philip Obaji Jr.; ‘The Nigerian War That’s Slaughtered More People Than Boko Haram’; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/11/the-nigerian-war-that-s-slaughtered-more-people-than-boko-haram.html

[5] Ibid

[6] N 4

[7] 2nd June 2016; Burundi Country Profile; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13085064

[8] Spring 2011; Juvenal Hatungimana; ‘The Cause of Conflict in Burundi’; http://www.diva-portal.se/smash/get/diva2:519100/FULLTEXT01.pdf

[9] Ibid

[10] 29th February 2016; Oxford Research Group; Richard Reeve ; ‘Intervention in Libya: Why Here? Why Now? What Next?’ http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers_and_reports/intervention_libya_why_here_why_now_what_next

[11] Ibid

[12] 12th April 2016; Brookings; Shadi Hamid ; ‘Everyone says the Libya intervention was a failure. They’re wrong’;https://www.brookings.edu/2016/04/12/everyone-says-the-libya-intervention-was-a-failure-theyre-wrong/

[13] Ibid

Hawa Gaya

Hawa Gaya

Lawyer, lover of the environment and a beliver in peaceful dispute settlement
Hawa Gaya