Roots of conflicts in developing societies Part 1

Roots of conflicts in developing societies Part 1

      By Chris Odinaka Nwedo

Conflicts are prevalent in heterogeneous societies. This is often the case with the perception that the authorities lack the capacity and objectivity in dispensation of justice and social responsibilities. Studies suggested that weak or dysfunctional state promotes prevalence of, and remains main condition for explosion of gangs of armed groups. These armed groups methodically legitimate themselves by various people-friendly titles such as ‘Freedom Fighters’, ‘Peoples Resistant Soldiers’, ‘Community Vigilant Group, ‘Bakassi Boys’, ‘Niger Delta Militants’, ‘The Revolutionaries’, etc.  One clearly identifiable symptom of a failed state is the loss of the state’s monopoly on violence. This is accompanied by proliferation of armed non-state actors that hinder conflict management and keep violence active and never intend hostilities to end to avoid loss of relevance. Besides, homogenous and culturally integrated societies are also not exonerated from conflicts and violence. For instance, Aguleri-Umuleri internecine war was waged by communities in the Southeastern Nigeria with same history, culture, language, etc. who lived and farm together and answer the same. They are culturally homogeneous. The same holds true for the Ife-Modakeke war. Ife and Modakeke are communities in Southwestern Nigeria. These ‘brother’ communities have been waging wars of extermination for years.1 Ample evidences abound of an individual finding conflict with himself or herself and inflicting mortal injuries on oneself or even out rightly killing oneself as it is typical in suicide case.  The difference that characterizes motley preferences and disparities of inclinations often predispose societies to conflicts that systematically end in violence. The most stifling phenomenon that effectively impacted many post independent states in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and even Eastern Europe remained the proliferation of endemic and ill motivated conflicts.

Many shattering conflicts have their genesis from resentments arising from mishandling of public resources, denial of political rights, economic injustices, religious chauvinism, racism etc. In the former colonial states scholars and critics are inclined to blame defunct imperial policies as most of the reasons for never-ending social and political upheavals bedeviling the states. The schools would ultimately associate all ramifications of the predicaments to extraneous influences, censoring all former imperial administrations for criminal insincerity, paternalism and misdirection which according to these schools of thought personified injustices, neglect and marginalization.  In Africa for instance, ‘one cannot truly understand the real situation and problems of without examining the negative roles which foreign powers played in Africa. Most of these nations, now the G8 nations, have subtle ideological framework and policies put in place to continue to meddle in the affairs of independent states of African nations…2 Many African states are still vulnerable to insidious neo-colonial strategies of the former imperialists. This fact is evident in the ruinous policies or programmes forced willy-nilly on the throats of the former colonies. Ideas quite dangerous and uncongenial to the welfare of these states are nurtured to the detriment of domestic peace and stability. However, as conflicts and destruction erupt and escalate, threatening the rickety political structure, cosmetic panacea is rapidly introduced by the paternalists triggering the assumption that the disquietude is either well anticipated or insinuated.

Many African scholars believe that it is impossible to access comprehensively the genesis of African multi-phase imbroglio without understanding in its totality the configurations of the preponderant external influence on the continent. African colonial history is replete with stories of oppression, repression, sabotage, denial and exploitation. African unfortunately was cheated of her inheritance and entirely destabilized. The disfigurement of the fundamental world views of Africa’s people, the imposition of one racial group over the other, the fusing together of races of incompatible dispositions and enthronement of ‘gangs’ as administrators without reference to existing socio-cultural institutions created a ready recipe for severe socio-cultural dislocation and violent conflicts.

Groups glorifying violence

Perceptibly, these development precipitated series of perplexing predicaments, social tensions, political instability, economic wastages, displacement, wars, deaths and finally military revolution. All these rammed together constituting the gravest impediments to socio-cultural recovery and economic development. Up till this day, many former colonial African states still grope in the tick-darkness of truly realistic political ideology. African politicians are generally not ideologically cohesive, as they are neither in the right nor in the left. This however, has been fuelling the fire of political confusion, indiscretion, colossal waste of states’ resources and corruption leading to indifference towards people and inability of the governing elites to resolve problems of infrastructure, education, health or basic social services. This is a mounting frustration among the masses. This frustration is proving venomous and has led to conflict and violent destruction and derailing the processes of democratization of the states in question. There is nothing about the national politics, socio-economic strategies of these states that demonstrate authenticity or originality of a people active and fighting for self-determination.

According to Ikechukwu Nwakaeze- Ogugua, having observed that western-directed and at times sponsored strategies of development based on materialism, hedonism, Epicureanism and utilitarianism are faulty, our survivalist instinct tells us that there is need for a philosophically sound paradigm for African development which will pick the man from the dustbin, cleanse him and rightly position him.3 Nwakaeze-Ogugua noted that virtually all African nations have worked hard to develop based on the western model of development. And development has eluded Africa for the old paradigm was based on quantitative and economic analysis.4 This disorientation of the ruling class, the weakness of the governance, the confusions and frustrations of the people who have waited in vain for leadership hit the polity with  turmoil of resentments which validated regular military ‘Saviours’. Due to lack of political insight, the politicians indirectly legitimated the invasion of the political system by the military, who sack the erring politicians and impounded powers of expression and suspension of democratic constitutional order. Thus the military rulers contributed to endangerment of democratic values in Africa because they imprudently interrupt the learning processes and disperse the learners.

Resultantly, a valid seed of a truly democratic culture seemed to have never been properly sowed and so unable to germinate. Culture of freedom, stability and respect for rule of law are indispensable indices for development. This unnatural lack of positive environment for stability and progress contributed in reinforcement of the continent’s contemptible dependency and appalling loss of integrity. Africans apparently, are the most disparaged, downgraded, thus, treated as inconsequential. The endless and indeed the ubiquitous nature of the continent’s imbroglio is dispassionately regrettable.  In this reflection, the concern will be significantly limited to the understanding of the nature of conflict in developing societies and the extent of its destructive impact on socio-political stability and economic development.

Harmonious coexistence and stability are necessary conditions for any form of development. The absence of these essentials constitutes major bulwark against progress. Africa today presents a pitiable profile of conflicts. It has a record of ‘about 80 forceful changes of government, which claimed the lives of about twenty-four heads of states and governments, in 1996 alone, fourteen African states were simultaneous engulfed in armed conflicts. The 1990s alone witnessed at least nine serious conflicts, many of them transcending national boundaries. In the Horn of Africa, Somalia was without a central government for more than a decade after the fall of Siad Barre’s regime. The vacuum created by absence of state authority in Somalia left the country susceptible to external interferences with the intensified regional instability. To the north of Somalia, border skirmishes between Ethiopia and Eritrea developed into full scale war in 1999. A ravaging illogical conflicts in Sudan culminated in the balkanisation of the nation. The division of the country was like permission granted to the new nations to continue the former conflicts in different forms and detrimentally. For instance the Southern Sudan that evolved from a war ravaged old Sudan was engulfed by intractable violence occasioned by morbid political rivalry. The growth and stability of the southern Sudan was thwarted by greed and senselessness of her imprudent leaders. The crisis in the Southern Sudan was so shameful that the Pontiff had to kneel begging the Sudanese rulers to save their vulnerable citizens from disasters of unnatural catastrophes of needless political wars. This happened when the imprudent political gladiators were invited for truce in Rome recently.

It seemed neither the United Nations Secretariat nor the Security Council was able to finally resolve burgeoning conflicts in Africa. The UN success in Africa in the post-cold war period, the peace operation in Mozambique, was overshadowed by the UN’s failure in Angola in 1992. Then the dramatic US and UN failure in Somalia rendered the international system helpless in the face of the emerging crisis in central Africa. In February 2003, Sudan’s western province of Darfur was a site of an extremely violent conflict between the province’s nomadic Arab tribes, supported by the government in Khartoum, and the native African tribes.

Jihadists scene of beheading

It is horrifying to imagine the havoc, the unlimited devastations rendered to Chadian communities by untrained child soldiers who suddenly found in their hands figurative ‘powerful toys’ to play with. Obviously, sporadic fighting, illogical bloodbath, maiming of civilians, forceful dispossessions and outright massacre will never absolutely cease until the Chadian Army and its Allied Paramilitary Forces run out of bullets or persuaded cease their shameful destructions and demobilise and allow rehabilitation of their many under aged fighters. The children have been ‘privileged’ by desperate war and denigrating states of anarchy and destruction to learn how to pull trigger to kill friends and or foes at the behest bestial warlords. According to Human Right Watch, since 2005, the Chadian National Army have fought against Sudanese backed Chadian rebel forces seeking to unseat the president, when the battle raged in the northern and eastern Chad in autumn 2006, both the government and rebel forces increasingly turned to recruitment of children, who continued to serve as fighters, guards, cooks and lookout on the frontlines of the conflict. The insecurities in the eastern Chad exposed children as old as eight years to the vulnerability of conscription into the battle fields as combatant soldiers. Human Right Watch source revealed that both the Chadian government and the government affiliated United Front for Change, FUC, are in violation of international law, which prohibits the use of children under the eighteen in armed conflicts. In addition, the recruitment or use of children under the age of fifteen is considered a war crime’.  In the swift move to douse the tension of the international community and possibly evade awful consequences of indictments, Chadian government pledged to cooperate with UNICEF in identifying and demobilizing child soldiers in the ranks of its military. Since then according to Human Right Watch, several hundreds of children, some as young as eight years old have been released from the military base in central Chad. The source disclosed that the army commanders would attempt to infringe on the demobilization process and that some children will be demobilized, but most will be hidden. And that ‘none of four hundred and thirteen children demobilized then by Chadian government have been from the national army. All of them are from the former United Front for Change fighters who have been integrated into government forces.

However, Human Right Watch was not assuaged and therefore insisted that Chadian government have not done enough to release children from all corners of the military.  The Right group accused the then Chadian government of failing in its promise to remove children from its Armed Forces. And demanded that the Security Council should do more to compel the government to compliance. The crisis precipitated several killings, rape and all manners of atrocities. The ethnic related militias were at freedom to attack, kill or mutilate tribal civilians from other cultural areas. Chad Arab civilians were also targeted by the militia in both reprisal and in acceleration of the deadly conflict.  Reprisal attacks accounts for many of the violence, loss of thousands of lives and destructions of properties.

In Pakistan, the combinations of factors of disequilibrium are actively at work destabilizing the society and insinuating sectarian havoc. The roots of ethnic conflict in Pakistan, especially in Karachi and other urban regions in Sindh are traceable to the concentration of refugees within a province where a common religion is too weak to build bonds with other population groups who were injected into the area at the time of partition. Refugees from the Indian Punjab have been successfully integrated into Pakistani Punjab, owing to common language and culture.6  Since the resettlement, the refugees (Mohajirs) by share circumstances grew in influence and significance following their expeditious adaptation to modernity and education. Their privileged positions in the society made them naturally frontrunners in the struggle for Pakistan. ‘They were naturally in a dominant position and were passionate supporters of Pakistani nationalism, as opposed to the regional identities professed by the Sindhis and Punjabis.7 Mohair’s dominance in Pakistani politics was gradually windswept by the Punjabi bureaucratic-military clique, and federal power progressively drifted to Punjab. This was followed Sindhi assertiveness, particularly, provincial government’s initiative which insists on imposition of the Sindhi language in education…8 The imposition considered unwarranted by sections of Mohajirs sparked the fire of the first brutal sectarian clashes and destructions allegedly by Mohajir militants. For instance in 1985, when a Mohajir girl was crushed to death by a bus, a fresh round of violence involving the Mohajirs and Pathans began, since the latter were perceived to control the urban transport business. Subsequent police intervention led for the first time to collisions between the state and Mohajir groups.9   Mohajir militant groups habitually scuffle with many neighbouring tribes such as the Sindhis and Pathans. In 1986, Mohajir Quami Movement leader Altaf Hussain provided a new direction to the ethnic frictions. The agenda of MQM has been to get a better deal for the Mohajirs from the Punjabi centre and from the Sindhi provincial government, which it sees as oppressive. MQM tended to champion the cause of a fairer bargain for the Mohajir ethnic nationalities in economic and political societies of the Pakistan. It has not been able to wrest substantive concessions despite using coercion, violence and terror tactics.10

Within the Mohajir nationalistic movement was a ruinous infra-disunity that factionalized the group into two irreconcilable hostile divisions, both stressing violence to its limits. ‘There has been a series of incidents of violence between the two factions in the past couple of years. Whenever there was a killing, MQM Altaf often accuses its rival organization of masterminding the killings.11 The accusations and counter accusations further intensified the acrimony and polarised the Mohajir communities. Several bouts of violence have occurred after 1986, when Altaf Hussain gave the call for violence against the Punjabi dominated state. The incitement resulted to reported spate of reprisal killings by drug barons in Karachi, where over one hundred persons lost their lives and several hundred injured.12 Manifestly, several interconnected instances of attacks on Sindhis and Mohajirs sparked riots in 1988 with Hyderabad bearing the brunt. The streets of Hyderabad were purportedly littered with human bodies from Hirabad to Latifabad. The rioting claimed over sixty lives in just one day, and more than two hundred and fifty deaths in the phase of rioting. In a backlash more than sixty Sindhi speaking people were gun down in Karachi.13  Pakistan is typical of a developing society encumbered by massive challenges on how best to confront the ubiquitous difficulties of assuaging diverse interests of varied groups that owe allegiance to often violent ideological groups. In the sphere of religion there is the undeviating spate of confrontations between the Sunni and Shia Muslim communities. The embers of the ignominiously horrendous skirmishes are kept alive and active by limitless dare-devil militant groups and Islamic radicals thrilled by the ceaseless destruction.

                        Roots of conflicts in developing societies  Part 1

  1. Gaye D.C.(1999) Ethnic Clashes in Nigeria: a nightmare of vision of what capitalism has to offer’, _conflicts.html15/03 2009
  2. See Ogoke Albert ‘Conflicts in democratic governance in Nigeria-demystifying the philosopher-king ideal, in Philosophy and Africa op.cit.p.111
  3. Ikechukwu Nwakaeze-Ogugua,(2006),‘African Philosophy and authentic Development of Africa’, in Philosophy and African edited by Ike Odimegwu (2006) World Philosophy Day @UNZIK vol.1 Lumos publishers Awka, Nigeria, p.159
  4. Ibid.
  5. See Tom Porteous Resolving African Conflicts in Nwedo C.O. op.cit.
  6. see Book Review by AlfredK.David ‘conflict and violence in SouthAsia: Bangladseh,India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’, edited by K.M.Silva. Ethics Studies Report, vol.xviii, no.2 July 2000 online@conflict and violence in south asia/palash/ 3/3/2009
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid
  13. ibid

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