Explaining & Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Towards a Cultural Theory of Democracy


This paper explores the relationship between armed conflict and constitutional and political engineering in ethno-plural African societies. These societies are often characterized by persistent deep-rooted and identity-related conflicts. These are conflicts fuelled by "a combination of potent identitybased factors with wider perceptions of economic and social injustice," regarding the distribution or means of sharing economic, social and political resources within the state (Harris and Reilly 1998: 9).

In Africa there have since the mid-1960s been prolonged and protracted ethnic-related violent political conflicts, including in some cases, civil wars in the following countries: Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Cote d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger Republic, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, the Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Little wonder, therefore, that there has been a renewed global policy-related and intellectual interest in ethnic conflict in recent years, because of the state building-including peace, development and security-problems they continue to pose for domestic and international politics. (Wimmer 2004: 3-13)