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Discuss the diplomatic initiatives in response to religious, ethnic conflict


Africa is a continent filled with beauty and diversity. There is abundance of wonderful natural beauty in the game reserves and wide expanses of untouched land. There are so many diverse and beautiful cultures contained in Africa. However, this continent is filled with conflict upon conflict. There have been many diplomatic efforts to stop some of these conflicts. This paper will evaluate what diplomacy is and how it has helped alleviate tension. In addition we will evaluate whether the efforts have proved to be successful.

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1.1 What is diplomacy

It is the conduct of human affairs by peaceful means using or employing techniques of persuasion, and negotiation. Diplomacy has helped to alleviate tension and resolve conflict in the world mostly using the following methods such as negotiation, persuasion and mediation to resolve conflicts. We shall analyze which methods were used in each of the conflict resolution case studies that will follow.

There are several reasons as to why diplomacy can be used:

To secure the state’s national interest. To successfully achieve that as a state there has to be peace and collaboration with other states as well as other actors in the international system

To seek good relations with other states so as to create a stable and peaceful environment for both neighboring and other states so as to avoid war and conflict.

To resolve any conflict on an level in a non violent way so as to maintain peace in the world.

Diplomacy of all forms attempts to bring together two sides in an amicable way so as to avoid or get rid of conflicts and disturbances of peace. It can be done at a community level all the way up to international levels. We shall see several different cases where diplomacy was used in the continent of Africa

1.2 Post-Colonial Africa

Colonialism has largely affected Africa and there have been many changes in the continent ever since. It has largely affected the political, economic and social system. The colonial period for Africa was quite brutal as it was mostly marked by oppression, exploitation and deception by the colonialists. For Africa, colonialism began around 1870s and 1900 and with it came a world of problems we are still dealing with today.

African states gained independence from the 1950s but there was a problem. Several nations/tribes were contained within the same boundary as a state. This meant that nations were bound to clash as state decisions are made. Furthermore there was a separation of people as state lines divided tribes.

Politics in Africa is one aspect that was majorly affected by colonialism. The colonisers when they occupied the land favoured certain tribes over others i.e when Belgium favoured the Tutsi over the Hutu. This then created political parties with ethnic majorities i.e Kenya’s ODM is favoured by the Luo. Furthermore African leaders have a tendency of clinging to power and being corrupt. This leads to unrest within the nation and sometimes even a coup d’etat. Good examples of this are the military coup of Zimbabwe in 2017 where Mugabe had been in power for over 30 years, Ugandan coup of 1971 who were under the oppressive rule of Milton Obote. All of these reasons can lead to a state having no unity and constantly being in conflict.

African economies have also suffered post colonialism as the West and the East battle for economic supremacy by abusing Africa and her resources. The book ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo highlights how aid has crippled African economies. Kenya currently has Sh2.51 trillion in debt, 21.3% of it is owed to China. African states also import more than they import meaning that they spend more money than they can recover. These issues lead to poverty, unemployment which ultimately lead to increases in crime rates and a general displeasure of the citizens with their state.

Colonisation caused a major crippling in Africa that most leaders have done very little to repair. This is probably the major reason why African states are in conflict within themselves and with other states. Africa could be the leading continent in the world what is needed is state cooperation and radical ideological changes amongst the leaders of Africa.

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1.3 Intrastate vs Interstate Conflict

Intra-state conflicts refer to situations of disagreements within a state. This could be tribal, religious, ethnic e.t.c. For example, the Rwandan Genocide was a conflict between the two dominant tribes; Hutu and Tutsi. This was a conflict that lasted four months and saw the deaths of between 500″,000 and 1″,000″,000 people.

Inter-state conflicts are those disagreements that occur between/among two or more states. These are usually that can cause effects to several other countries not related to the given conflict. For example, during the world wars. These wars were between different countries grouped to form alliances and even the countries that had no direct relation had to pick a side in order to keep their allies.

Due to the Democratic Peace theory that states that Democratic states seldom go to war with each other, we can reach the conclusion that less inter-state conflicts are witnessed. This is because these states obey sovereignty which basically means that states are free to run their business in their capacities without foreign interruption. This reduces the amount of inter-state conflict because all states would like for their sovereignty to be respected.

According to our observations intra-state conflicts are more than inter-state because in most cases, they are dealt with by the state in which it is occurring. Because of this other states, unless they have interest in the country, do not bother to find a solution. A good example is the Rwandan Genocide, it took such a long time for the International community to intercede because most countries had no interests in Rwanda. An example where states interceded due to interests is the case of Syria. Russia and the USA are heavily involved in the civil war because they all want to have a share of the oil in Syria.

This is not to say that interstate conflicts do not occur as they still do. In the modern era it is a more common occurrence for an internal conflict to occur. Organisations such as the UN and alliances amongst nations such as AU, EU, NATO etc have also increased the costs of engaging in an interstate war.

2. Conflict Resolutions in Africa

This paper is going to analyse several different conflicts in Africa in order to see how diplomacy aided in resolving the clashes. There are three major types of conflicts we shall be looking at as they are the major underlying causes of conflict in Africa. Whilst most of the conflicts are of an intra-state nature there are some that involve two states. This analysis is done in order to see where diplomacy can be improved so that future conflicts do not occur.

2.1 Religious Conflicts

We currently live in a world where despite different attempts by different governmental and non-governmental bodies to promote tolerance and respect for each other’s rights, there are still many countries in the world that have not yet reached this level. Religion is one of those differences that has caused conflict all around the world. In Nigeria there have been conflicts between the Islam majority and the Christian minority.

Nigeria has been suffering from religious conflicts due to a number of reasons for example ;The Jos crisis “,the terrorist group Boko Haram, poverty in the country ( this has led to idleness and people get involved in riots ), mass unemployment , fear of domination ;whereby the religious groups don’t want either of them to get overpowered and lastly poor security which is as a result of poor governance ( the security agents have been unable to contain the religious chaos).

Several diplomatic efforts were begun in order to resolve this conflict. NGOs such as have been very useful when it comes to these religious riots in Nigeria. They focus on improving the relations among the communities. Mainly through advocacy visits to the leaders and try to find a way in which the conflicting parties can find a way to work together for the peace of the nation as a whole.

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There have also been principled negotiations in a bid to resolve the religious conflicts. By addressing the religious dimension in conflict resolution, it has been useful to bring the parties closer together. Also, by enabling them to practice religious rituals together has enabled them to create a bond between them.The religious dimension has been used in peacemaking efforts in Nigeria, by using the religious community leaders who, through their position, have influenced people to come together and come up with peaceful solutions to the conflict.

2.2 Ethnic Conflicts

Ethnicity is a major cause for internal conflicts in Africa. As earlier mentioned African states are structured in such a way that there are many different tribes and ethnic groups within one state. This leads to major issues as each ethnic group believes they are more superior.

One of the most widely discussed ethnic conflicts in Africa right now is the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. While the methods employed to alleviate the Rwandan conflict have had great success, there is still a long way to go before the possibility of a second ethnic conflict is completely gone. Below, we have examined the methods used in as well as try to account for the success and failure of each.

To begin with, we must note the pivotal role played by leadership both in creating or worsening conflict, as well as in solving it. The conflict between the Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi was escalated by the actions of the then leader Habyarimana and ever since, efforts have been made by both governments to alleviate the conflict.

In Rwanda, the government has banned the use of ethnic labels like Hutu and Tutsi and Twa and rather encourages citizens to identify as simply Rwandans. In doing this, they hope to relieve the tension between two formerly conflicting groups and encourage them to cooperate. This is being done under the hope that by creating a common identity for them the trauma will be reduced.

In addition to this, the Rwandan government has made various efforts at encouraging reconciliation. This has been achieved by the implementation of Gachacha, traditionally set courts working under the strategy of transitional justice. They have also introduced different cooperatives like the Ndi Umunyarwanda programme where interaction between the criminals and victims. These programmes have had high success rates and have helped to create an image of unity in people’s minds. Additionally, compulsory community work, Umuganda, is done once every month to promote community. All these programmes have had a high suc

cess rate and hopefully in the long run will play a greater role in completely alleviating the ethnic tension.

Conclusively, while the Rwandan government has evidently done much to alleviate the situation, it is still to early to tell for sure whether these efforts will be effective in ensuring peace

Kenya also faced an ethnic based conflict in January 2008 that left at least 1000 dead and several more people displaced from their homes. Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in the 2008 election for Kenya were vying for presidency. Initial results seemed to show Odinga was winning however results claimed Kibaki was the winner. Raila was heavily supported by the Luo tribe and they took to violent protests against the result. This led to violence against the Kikuyu majority in Kenya. The clashes between the tribes led to severe human rights violations and the police proved to be ineffective.

Then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer traveled to Nairobi, followed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to push the two sides to an accommodation. President Kikwete of Tanzania and President Kufuor of Ghana intervened on behalf of the African Union, Desmond Tutu and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa offered their offices, and ultimately, a concerted international push, led by Kofi Annan and by Kenyan civil society groups, pushed the two contenders to join in a grand coalition government, with Kibaki as president and Odinga in newly created position of prime minister.

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The mediated talks helped ease the tensions between the warring tribes and helped rid Kenya of violence. However ten years later we have seen a similar situation rising up as a result of election results . This means that the methods used were not very effective for the long term and a new method may need to be used for ethnic based conflicts.

2.3 Identity-Based Conflict

Identity is defined by the oxford dictionary as the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is. One major identity based conflict is the long running conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. The conflict centered on what is the Sudanese identity, after they gained independence southern leaders accused the leaders of trying to impose an Arabic/ Islamic identity on the nation. Fighting began in 1955 when the southern rebels refused to accept what the government was doing. In 1972 the Addis Ababa peace talks facilitated by Burgess Carr which was an example of track 2 diplomacy where good offices are used in an attempt to ease tensions.

The talks led to the South gaining some autonomy however the fighting resumed in 1983 when the government cancelled the autonomy of the south. In 2005 after years of fighting there was a signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which allowed for a referendum on the south gaining independence. In 2011 90% of the South Sudanese voted for independence leading to the new state of South Sudan.

This conflict had many diplomatic efforts in order for the conflict on identity to be solved. However there is still a lot of fighting between South Sudan and Sudan. Conflicts are still occurring on the borders as the region of Abyei is fighting over land for grazing. There is also the fight over oil that is the major money source of the region. There is a need to have othertalk in order for lasting peace to be achieved.

3. Conclusion

These case studies have shown just how important diplomacy has been in resolving the various conflicts in Africa. The talks and other methods successfully stopped the conflicts from escalating and causing even more damage. That was the major success of all the above case studies. There was also effort from all sorts of organisations, prominent people, other states and the warring parties in order for peace to be attained

The major failure in this conflict resolution did not last for very long. One common issue is that the conflicts rose up a few years after peace had been attained. This has been detrimental to the progress that Africa could make in retaining it glory as we will be dealing with the same issues as the years go by.

One recommendation we can make is that the youth need to be taught that it is one Africa and that diversity is not something to be purged. Tolerance and acceptance are something that should be preached for all the youth. Furthermore there is need to examine the diplomatic methods used to resolve conflict such that when peace is attained that problem does not resurface. Africa deserves to have peace.

4. References

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Diplomacy: Meaning, Nature, Functions and Role in Crisis Management. (2015, April 07). Retrieved from

Hagg, G., & Kagwanja, P. (2008, 04). Identity and Peace: Reconfiguring Conflict Resolution in Africa. African Journal on Conflict Resolution, 7(2). doi:10.4314/ajcr.v7i2.39409

Moyo, D. (2010). Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. Penguin.

South Sudan profile – overview. (2016, April 27). Retrieved from

Entenda o conflito do Afeganistão. Retrieved from

Soares, J. (21/12/2016). 7 conflitos atuais causados por diferenças religiosas. Retrieved from

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