Conflict Trends in Africa, 1989–2018


Rustad, Siri Aas & Ingrid Vik Bakken (2019) Conflict Trends in Africa, 1989–2018, Conflict Trends, 6. Oslo: PRIO.

​In 2018, Africa experienced an increase in civil wars from 18 in 2017 to 21: this is the highest number of civil conflicts since 1946 – with 21 also recorded in 2015 and 2016. Further, there has been an increase in countries with conflict on their territory. On the other hand, the number of battle-related deaths in civil wars is lower than it has been since 2012, with approximately 6,700 people killed. While non-state conflict in Africa has been on the rise over the past five years, this trend stabilized in 2018; for the first time in ten years, the number of non-state conflicts did not increase. What should we make of these seemingly contradictory trends?

Brief Points

  • In the past five years, there has been an increase in the number of conflicts in Africa. This holds for state-based conflicts, non-state conflicts, and one-sided violence.

  • While the number of civil wars and conflict-affected countries have increased in 2018, the number of battle deaths have decreased considerably.

  • In 2018, the conflict over the Ambazonia in Cameroon escalated dramatically.

  • Although conflict numbers are high, it is important to note that most of these conflicts are geographically restrained. First, the number of countries experiencing conflict is lower than the number of conflicts. Second, within conflict-affected countries, conflict takes place in limited geographical areas and rarely throughout the whole country