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B Side, Politics

Polithinks: The Road to Perdition

Civil wars often stem from a combination of factors such as political repression, ethno-religious tensions, economic neglect, ethnicity, and marginalization.

  • Folasayo Adigun
  • 22nd May 2023
Polithinks: The Road of Perdition

Across Africa, there are different civil war hotspots – from Libya, to the Central African Republic, to Northern Mozambique, the recently settled Ethiopia-Tigray war, and the Cameroon’s north-west and south-west regions (among others, including the recent war that broke out in Sudan). These civil wars are often the result of deep-seated social, political, and economic divisions within a country. These divisions can be based on ethnicity, religion, class, or ideology. When these divisions become too great, they can lead to violence and conflict.


Using these civil war hotspots mentioned, we will identify some of the factors that lead countries down the road of perdition:


1. In Libya, following the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s autocratic rule (a continuation of the Arab Spring that had started in Tunisia), a power vacuum was created, leading to a fractured landscape with rival militias vying for control. The absence of a strong central government, coupled with regional and international interventions, further made divisions worse and fueled the conflict. Disputes over resource distribution, ethnic tensions, and the proliferation of arms added more complexity to the crisis, making it a multifaceted challenge to resolve. The Libyan civil war can be said to have been fueled by political repression and international interventions, amongst others.


2. The civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR) was caused by a number of factors, including deep-seated ethnic and religious tensions, political instability, economic disparities, and the marginalization of certain communities. These factors created a volatile environment in which armed groups, representing different ethnic and religious factions, could seize power and control over resources. The widespread violence, human rights abuses, and the displacement of civilians further perpetuated the cycle of conflict, making reconciliation and peacebuilding a daunting task.


The civil war in CAR can be said to have been caused by ethno-religious factors.


1. The conflict in northern Mozambique has been primarily fueled by the rise of an Islamist insurgency known as Ansar al-Sunna, which is locally referred to as Al-Shabaab. The root causes of the conflict is a combination of socio-economic grievances, political marginalization, and religious extremism. The region is rich in natural resources like gas and minerals, but sadly has experienced a stark contrast in development compared to the rest of the country, leading to feelings of neglect and frustration among the local population. Extremist groups have capitalized on religious radicalization and recruited disaffected individuals in a bid to explore these grievances, employing tactics of violence and intimidation to challenge the Mozambican government’s authority. The conflict has resulted in the wanton destruction of human lives and livelihood in the area.


We can say that the fuel for the crisis in northern Mozambique is economic neglect. 


1. The (recently settled) conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray was triggered by a combination of factors. The ruling party, the TPLF, which is dominated by the Tigrayan ethnic group, faced resentment due to perceived discrimination against other ethnic groups during its 20-year rule. Political reforms introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, from the Oromo ethnic group, raised concerns among the TPLF about diminishing power and influence. Additionally, the peace agreement signed with Eritrea led to fears among the TPLF of strengthening Eritrea at Ethiopia’s expense. Regional power dynamics and the TPLF’s aspirations for independence also played a role in the outbreak of the war in 2020. Again, we find ethnicity and political repression playing a role in another conflict in Africa.


2. Cameroon has been at the brink of civil wars several times due to the conflict in its north-west and south-west regions. The conflict in Cameroon’s north-west and south-west regions arose from a combination of political, socio-economic, and cultural grievances. The regions, predominantly Anglophone in a predominantly Francophone country, have long felt marginalized and neglected by the central government. Calls for greater recognition of their linguistic and cultural rights degenerated into demands for federalism and secession, leading to a violent response from the government. Unhappy with economic disparities; political exclusion, and human rights abuses further fueled the conflict, resulting in a cycle of violence between armed separatist groups and government forces. The conflict in Cameroon has demonstrated that civil war can start in a country when a section of the country feels marginalized.


Civil wars often stem from a combination of factors such as political repression, ethno-religious tensions, economic neglect, ethnicity, and marginalization. Political repression, characterized by authoritarian rule, suppression of dissent, and lack of political freedoms, can breed discontent and lead to armed resistance. Ethno-religious factors, including discrimination or exclusion based on religious or ethnic identity, can fuel grievances and prompt communities to resort to violence. Economic neglect, such as unequal distribution of resources or economic marginalization, can exacerbate social inequalities and contribute to social unrest. Ethnicity and marginalization, where certain groups are marginalized or oppressed based on their identity, can be catalysts for armed conflicts as they seek recognition, autonomy, or independence. Together, these factors intertwine and interact, creating complex dynamics that often underpin civil wars.

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