Conflict creates poverty.
A jarring statement for some. Where is the proof? And what does conflict have to do with the economic status of people?
I’m glad you asked.
In a previous post, we illuminated some of the potential causes of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. Here we explore some of the consequences. Unfortunately, leaders who instigate violent conflict remain largely insulated from the costs. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Let us first explore the definition of conflict. Many of the world’s wars in the past few decades occur WITHIN, not between countries. Academic Scholar Eghosa Osaghae calls these unstable countries “fragile states.” Sub-Saharan Africa has many. About two thirds of the sixty countries in the “bottom billion” (see previous post) reside here.
Collier and Hoeffler define war as a conflict with at least 1,000 combat related deaths. Between 1960 and 1999, developing countries in Africa experienced a civil war start-rate of 9 percent, versus only 7.3 percent in non-African developing countries.
Africa endures a statistically higher rate of violent conflict.
So who are the victims? In the Democratic Republic of Congo alone (formerly Zaire), the decades-long “Great African War” has claimed over 5 million lives (and continues today). That’s more than the entire population of Ireland! But genocide isn’t the only result of conflict. Millions have been raped, displaced, trafficked, impoverished, forced into warfare, and a multitude of other atrocities.
Instability creates an environment ripe for corruption and a host of evils.
The poor become poorer. The corrupt grow richer. How does one even begin to reverse these trends?
It would be arrogant to believe that I have the answer for Africa’s ills. Too often, “western” researchers offer their presumptions, posing remedies for the Great Continent. Like others working for change, I must acknowledge the biases I hold. I live in the wealthiest nation in the world. I believe someone can do anything if she puts her mind to it. I believe in democracy and freedom.
But my assumptions have been shaken as I delve deeper into the complex issue of conflict.
Therefore, I enter the study of conflict and reconciliation as a learner. I aim to submerge myself in Kenyan churches to explore conflict, and what perpetuates reconciliation.
Perhaps I will indirectly assist in poverty reduction along the way.