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Conflict Trends in Africa, 1989–2019


Palik, Júlia; Siri Aas Rustad & Fredrik Methi (2020) Conflict Trends in Africa, 1989–2019, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

Executive Summary

2019 saw a record high in state-based conflicts in Africa: In 2019, 25 state-based conflicts were recorded, four more than in 2018. A record number of 13 conflicts were fought over territory. Internationalized civil wars are also at an all-time high. In 2019, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Somalia, and Burundi all saw external involvement in their domestic conflicts. Multiple statebased conflicts in Africa are related to the rise and expansion of the Islamic State (IS). In 2019, nine countries in Africa (Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia, and Mozambique) experienced conflicts with IS within their territories.

Excelling at working towards peace: In our regional comparison, Africa experienced the highest number of definitive ceasefires and peace agreements. The highest number of ceasefires was recorded in 2003, when 49 ceasefires were concluded in 10 different countries. There was a steady increase in the number of peace agreements from 1988 onwards and in 2003 and 2004, the number of peace agreements exceeded the number of conflicts. After 2008, we see fewer peace agreements, while the number of conflicts has risen. In 2018, four peace agreements were recorded. Africa also experienced a large number of peacekeeping operations (PKOs) between 1994 and 2018. Since 2002, there has been a steady increase in the number of PKOs and their troop sizes. Between 1999 and 2006, average troop size grew more than twenty-two-fold. Troop numbers reached a historic height in 2010, when almost 80,000 peacekeeping troops were deployed in Africa in eight missions.

Non-state conflicts decreased but remained one of the most serious threats: The number of battlerelated deaths from non-state conflicts in 2019 (2,791) is the lowest recorded number in Africa since 2012. While most non-state conflicts in Africa are still communal conflicts, where incompatibilities are based on communal identity, the 27 recorded communal conflicts in 2019 represent the lowest number of this type of conflict since 2014. In many cases, state-based and non-state conflicts take place in the same areas; however, it is also clear that in some countries, such as Nigeria, South Sudan, and Eritrea, non-state are occurring through out the country.

Rising one-sided violence: When compared to other regions, Africa accounts for the largest number of incidents of one-sided violence. Although the total number of one-sided violence events and the resulting battle-related deaths have decreased in Africa from 2018 to 2019, onesided violence perpetrated by non-state actors increased from 2018 to 2019.