THE EFFECTS OF ARMED CONFLICT IN THE CONDUCT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN AFRICA

35

THE EFFECTS OF ARMED CONFLICT IN THE CONDUCT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN AFRICA

INTRODUCTION

Armed conflict has been a recurring reality in the analysis of postcolonial Africa. According to Lindemann (2008), since the 60s, a total of 24 sub-Saharan African countries (i.e., almost 50% of African states) have suffered war, while 22 other countries have managed to “avoid it”. “Freedom wars”, “intractable wars”, “proxy wars” (substitute wars or wars controlled from abroad, typical conflicts of the context of bipolar dispute) or “post-Cold War conflicts” have sparked a major review of its causes and consequences, sometimes very biased and reductionist, based on very different sources, methodologies and data. Nevertheless, most sources agree that Africa has experienced a substantial decline in the number of “major armed conflicts” in recent years. For example, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) states that if in 1990 there were “major armed conflicts” in Africa, this figure had dropped to just one in 2007 (Somalia). In total, this agency estimates that since the end of the Cold War a total of 14 armed conflicts can be counted in Africa, namely: Algeria, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Republic of the Congo, Eritrea-Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.2 Some of these contexts, according to the cyclical dynamic of violence that often characterizes many armed conflicts, are still undergoing noteworthy episodes of violence, for example, the events of the last months of 2008 in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the serious situation in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Other conflicts appear to be nearing their closing stages, as is the case of Uganda, while the events taking place in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria also deserve special attention due to the periodic high levels of violence, destruction and fatalities reached. Although we are aware that by referring only to the major armed conflicts we have left out other conflict situations on the continent, the fact is that this approach enables us to focus on the common characteristics of these conflicts. Although the vast majority are regarded as intrastate conflict type (except the dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000), they are also highly regionalised conflicts. Similarly, they are conflicts occurring in contexts more and more internationalized and transnationalized. At different levels, not only at direct contenders level, a large number of actors are involved either in their management and / or resolution (UN, NGOs, etc.), either in their dynamics (third countries, private security companies, natural resource companies, etc.), creating complex networks linking local armed factions with actors of very different nature (Duffield, 2001). From this, it follows that the war in Africa has had an extremely significant humanitarian and socio-economic impact. The estimations only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are that