Guide Armed Conflict in Africa

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In Africa, this has led to disaffection and violence around elections that are often rigged rather than free and fair. Seven relationships lie behind patterns of violence on the continent, and provide insights into whether it can be managed better.


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  • Relationships explaining violence.
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Internal armed conflict is much more prevalent in poor countries than in rich ones. This is not because poor people are violent but because poor states lack the ability to ensure law and order. The impact of poverty is exacerbated by inequality, such as in South Africa. Democratisation can trigger violence in the short to medium term, particularly around elections.

Recent events in Kenya are an example.


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  7. Where there is a large democratic deficit, as in North Africa before the Arab spring , tension builds up and can explode. And a democratic deficit — where levels of democracy are below what can be expected when compared to other countries at similar levels of income and education — often leads to instability.

    The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Africa: A Stanford-led Analysis

    Instability is also fuelled by the manipulation of elections and constitutions by heads of state to extend their stay in power. The nature of the governing regime is another structural factor. Most stable countries are either full democracies or full autocracies. But most African countries have mixed regimes with some elements of democracy mixed with strong autocratic features.

    Mixed regimes are inherently more unstable and prone to disruptions than either full democracies or full autocracies. By comparison, the median age is 41 in France a relatively young country by European standards. Young countries tend to be more turbulent because young men are largely responsible for violence and crime.


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    If young people lack jobs and rates of urbanisation are high, social exclusion and instability follow. A history of violence is generally the best predictor of future violence. This is very difficult to break. It requires a huge effort and is very expensive, often requiring a large, multi-dimensional peace mission that only the UN can provide. But, scaling peacekeeping back rather than scaling it up is the order of the day at the UN. Where a country is located can increase the risk of violence because borders are not controlled and rural areas not policed.

    Most conflict in Africa is supported from neighbouring countries. Violence spills over national borders and affects other countries while poorly trained and equipped law and order institutions generally cannot operate regionally. Africa is quite unequal, so growth does not translate into poverty reduction. Violence will remain a characteristic of a number of African countries for many years to come and Africa should plan accordingly.

    In the long term only rapid, inclusive economic growth combined with good governance can chip away at the structural drivers of violence. It is also clear that middle income countries are making progress in attracting foreign direct investment but that poor countries will remain aid dependent. You can be assured our editors closely monitor every feedback sent and will take appropriate actions. Your opinions are important to us.

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    The evolution of armed conflict in Africa

    More information: The Lancet Provided by Stanford University Medical Center. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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    Africa Conference on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts - 12222

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