Ethnic nationalism and conflicts: challenges to west africa’s integration

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For thousands of years, several ethnic groups have lived alongside with each other in the West Africa sub-region just like in any other part of Africa. The relationship between them has always been with friction and suspicion as there was hardly a time long enough for peace between them. Inter-ethnic or tribal wars had existed over ages as along as the existence of these groups in this part of Africa. Two events have transformed the mode of conflicts and the way these groups live with each other. First of these is the Berlin Conference of 1884 where many African nations were created and many ethnic groups were made to live with each other under colonial supervision. The second was the granting of independence for the states created in this manner. These states now have to manage their own affairs and create a managable formular in which the various ethnic groups can live with each other in a multicultural society that will allow for growth and development like rest of the world.
Moreover, the creation of modern states in Africa has also gone in tandem with the establishment of an African consciousness ideology in the Pan-African movement. The Pan-African movement was established to bring together all black people on the continent of Africa and outside into forging an identity that will be respected by creating a united political unit of Africa. This will be done by liberating Africans from colonial yoke and creating a kind of polity that will be beyond tribe or ethnic divisions. A kind of African that will identify himself first as an African before any other type or without any other type of identity.
The task thus set for West Africa’s modern states became daunting, not only because the ethnic groups have to live with each other as independent states for the first time but also because the Pan-African movement that should provide the spiritual and ideological back-up for the attainment of this unity suddenly lost its locus and focus. Competition for resources and power suddenly became the rule and politicians have to resort to radicalising their ethnic base to have access to these variables.
The African Union (A.U), and its predecessor the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) have tried to present unity to the African polity as a civic alternative to ethnic nationalism.


Considering this background, this thesis work will be out to examine challenges to West Africa’s integration within the context of two related questions. These include the extent to which ethnic nationalism has led to the various civil wars in West Africa, and how those civil wars have in turn affected the level of integration in the West African sub-region. Studying the problem of integration in West Africa can not be done completely without an extensive knowledge of the complex ethnic diversity of the region. Enough attempts will be made to expose the level of connection and inter-relationship between the various ethnic groups in West Africa.
To further answer the research questions, the study will also try to explain the various attempts made by various colonial governments and the modern African states to integrate the various countries within the region. This will include an overview of the role of the inter-regional group known as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) integrating the various ethnic nationalities within the region and its strategies of resolving such conflicts. It will also try to study the reasons why Pan-Africanism has not succeded in integrating the various ethnic nationalities in Africa.
The thesis work will conclude by explaining the linkage between internal ethnic conflicts in a country and conflicts in the other areas of West Africa, this is how conflicts diffuse between countries within the region. To cap it all, it will also try to find the connection between ethnic configuration of a country and its effect on power distribution and conflict level in different countries in West Africa.
In Summary, the main objective of the thesis is to determine how ethnicity has led to the various conflicts in West Africa and the effects of these conflicts on the integration of the West African sub-region.


In answering the research question, the thesis used a lot of process and sequence that finally ends in the exposition of facts. It based the earlier parts of its argument on historical facts which unravelled into the present situation in West Africa. It used a lot of secondary sources and opposing subjective views of previous scholars to reinforce its way to a simplistic conclusion. It is divided in to six chapters which also includes a case study. The theories were used to identify and explain the variables influencing unity in Africa like ethnicity, nationalism and conflicts. It then examines the alternative option aspired as a dream or goal i.e. Pan-Africanism. The later chapters categorically made an exposé on the causes of ethnic conflicts and why it spreads across borders in West Africa. A quantitative approach was also used to prove that there is a linkage between ethnic heterogeneity and conflicts multiplicity in West Africa. Ivory Coast was used as a case study before a conclussion was made.
The first chapter includes the general introduction to the issue of ethnicity, unity and integration in Africa. This thesis applied a number of theories that are relevant to analysing ethnicity and ethnic nationalism especially as it concerns Africa. The theories were carefully selected to explain and enhance the understanding of each of the variables affecting the research question. The choice of the theories is initially to explain the concepts of ethnicity and ethnic nationalism. The theory of ethnicity and ethnic nationalism was to describe the relationship between individuals, and individuals and their states. The theories were used to define the different forms of identity crisis and security interest that characterize the relationship between the different individuals and the modern states in which they found themselves.The theories of Ethnicity and ethnic nationalism were used to analyse how individual adopts an identity and how he or she uses it in relationship with others. It analyses the process of development and transformation from tribal to a modern multicultural society.
The theory of primodalism was also used to expose the positive side of ethnicity and ethnic nationalism as a form of development. It was used to explain its role in regional integration and its effects in discouraging unity across ethnic lines in the West African situation. It also explained why unity along related ethnicity and ethnic groups with similar ancestry and cultures are far easier than otherwise. Primordalism will be appropriate in explaining why the pre-colonial ethnic national awareness is making a comeback in West Africa.
In the same chapter, the theories will also analyse and compare the effectiveness of civic and ethnic nationalisms as ideas in nation building. The effectiveness of the two ideas can be used to determine its values in societal development in West Africa. Social constructivism theory was used to determine if West Africa’s society could be reconstructed to accommodate all ethnic groups and citizens that are agitating for a more egalitarian society. This will check the effectiveness of democracy as it is being practiced in the region and various efforts by the regional body ECOWAS to evolve a union in which all citizens, nations and countries will have a sense of belonging and identify more to their states than their ethnic groups. It was also used to explain the relevance of the modern states in West Africa accepting to live in a multi-ethnic but egalitarian society. The theory of conflict was used to explained the fact that frictions are abound across the cleavages in the West African society. How the natural,cultural and the modern stratifications in the West African society have led to conflicts of relationship between and across ethnic borders.
The third chapter explained the physical and the social environment in West Africa. This is the background that may have influenced human behaviour within the sub-region. This include a brief history and geography of the region and its ethnic features. These exclusive variables served as backdrops for the theatre of conflicts in the region. The chapter also presents a more civic option of Pan-Africanism which was presented as a better option of development than ethnic nationalism. It analysed the role of the movement in presenting an optional identity, securing independence and integrating African states. It also compared the techniques used by the colonisers to transform the various ethnic nations into modern civic entities.This chapter will continue by explaining the link between civic nationalism and regional integration movement in West Africa, and give examples of integrational Organizations in West Africa.
Chapter four carried out a categorization of wars and conflicts in West Africa considering criteria from various authors on the study of wars and conflicts. It made an inventory of major conflicts and wars in the region based on this categorization. The chapter tried as much as possible to explain the immediate and remote causes of ethnic conflicts in West Africa.Furthermore, it included the quantitative part of the analysis. This section displayed a table of Ethnic composition of the different countries in the sub-region. There was a further illustration of this data with use of pie charts. The use of pie charts is to make visual comparisons possible. The chapter also include a quantification of ethnic conflicts in the region with a table adding the major ethnic conflicts since 1989 based on the Upsalla University War data programme. The number of each conflicts per state was added to the number of successful and unsuccessful violent coup d’etat in each state. The figure was now used to compute the correlation between the states’ethnic diversity and the level of ethnic related conflicts in West Africa using the correlation coefficient formular.
The fifth chapter was a case study to analyse the causes of ethnic conflicts and how it has led to disintegration in the region. Ivory Coast was chosen because it presents a true picture of a civic inter-ethnic relationship and social reconstruction used for a balanced economic growth and development. Its founding President was also a leading light in the Pan-African movement especially an advocate of gradual regional approach to Africa’s integration. How he used his ideals to develop as it seemed, an utopian ‘zero-ethnic’ civic nation, and how the social reconstruction collapsed with pluralistic democracy and the degeneration of civility into ethnic nationalism and conflicts after his death. It also presented a case of how ethnic conflicts diffuse through the sub-region. It initially gave the social economic and political background of the country. It tried to trace the transformation of ethnic nationalities in to the modern nation of Ivory Coast, and how civic equilibrium was maintained between the various ethnic groups before the late 1990s. This chapter will also examined the factors responsible for the outbreak of the Ivorian civil war and roles ethnic nationalism played in the war among other factors.
The later part of the chapter will examine the linkage between the civil wars in Ivory Coast and the conflicts in the Mano River Union and vice-versa. And not to forget the role international migration played in the outbreak of ethnic conflicts in Ivory Coast especially the free movement of citizens’ treaty of ECOWAS.
The sixth and concluding chapter attempted to explain the obvious effects of the civil conflicts on the integration process in West Africa. It also tried to explain how the regional grouping ECOWAS has been trying to solve the various conflicts and it tried to see if the approaches used are justified. The concluding section will also try to link the failure of civic nationalism to the various conflicts and how the conflicts in part have led to the growth of ethnic nationalism. The effect of Pan-Africanism on Africa’s unity was also explained.

Sources of Data: Most of the information used in this thesis were extracted from secondary sources especially books and journals. A few of the books and journals were also from the region. Also some of the data were also accessed from research Organizations specialising on conflicts and war data categorization and information. Most of this information were carefully ranged to present a reliable result. Journals were also accessed through electronic means in libraries and the web. The study was however cautious in using only electronic publications from well known scholars. The data was further illustrated with the use of tools like tables and bar graphs .

The theories involved in this thesis work are carefully chosen to explain the cause and effect situation in the crisis that has beset the political landscape of West Africa over the past decades. There may have been several causes for these conflicts but the one that actually stands out is the ethnic multiplicity of the region. Several scholars and politicians observing the region have often looked towards ethnicity to find reasons for the region’s woes. The basic fact remains that the current political situation in the region has its main determinant in its ethnic configuration. That is why understanding ethnicity as a concept will enhance the understanding of the region’s multifaceted conflicts. Ethnicity is directly derived from the word ‘Ethnic’ or more perfectly ‘ethnic group’. Max Weber defined an Ethnic group as “ those human groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent because of similarities of physical type or of custom or both or because of memories of colonisation and migration, this belief must be important in group formation furthermore it does not matter whether an objective blood relationship exists”.
Nnoli defined an ethnic group as social formations distinguished by the communal character of their boundaries and membership, especially language, culture or both.1 Bath defined it as a set of delineated boundaries between neighbouring groups and individuals are primarily concerned with maintaining these boundaries in order to explain one’s identity often in a relative comparative manner2. He however identified four basic theoretical features of an ethnic group, the first he said the group must be biologically self-perpetuating, second, the members of the group should share basic cultural values manifest in overt cultural forms, thirdly, the group is a bounded social field of communication and interaction and finally, the members should identify themselves and are identified by others as belonging to that group3. The three descriptions from Weber, Nnoli and Bath actually qualified an ethnic group with features of identity and boundary. These are also the features that distinguish the concept of ethnic groups and ethnicity.
Ethnicity can thus be seen as a term that evolves in the interrelationship between ethnic groups. Erickson defined it as an aspect of social relationship between agents who consider themselves as being culturally distinctive from members of other groups with whom they have minimum of regular interaction.4 Fredrik Bath defined ethnicity as a set of delineated boundaries between neighbouring groups and individuals are primarily concerned with maintaining these boundaries in order to explain one’s identity, often in a relative comparative manner5. There appears to be a consensus on the identity feature of ethnicity but the boundary of an ethnic group may not be that rigid, it seems in many cases the boundary is applied haphazardly to keep an individual inside or outside a group at any point in time.
Cohen supports this view by asserting that ethnicity is not so concrete or black and white, but rather a fluid concept by which member distinguish “in-groups” from “out-groups,” and which can be in a state of constant change due to various situational application.6 The concept of “border” in the ethnicity discourse actually became a point recognised by various scholars especially between Cohen and Barth. The boundary of an ethnic group creates the exclusiveness which is jealously guarded by members. The boundaries may include criteria like descent, language, physical traits, occupation and other cultural attributes which may not be fixed or used intermittently to keep individuals outside or inside the group. While Barth was emphasising on rigid boundaries Cohen was supporting the idea that borders are fluid and flexible with members able to change identity especially when they live among other groups.7 Barth however agrees with identity change which he said comes in terms of failure, the individual can simply change to the alternative ethnic group by adopting their culture but the welcoming group will not forget his origin. In this light, he explained that ethnic groups will erect physical boundary to distinguish and maintain their identity from other groups in a way to indicate that identity is rigidly tied to their location, but Cohen noticed that in most ethnic groups physical location may not be an important factor as many ethnic groups are scattered in different location and still retains their identity and boundary. The Jews may be used as a good example of Cohen’s theory.


Ethnicity has been explained explicitly enough in a way that makes it similar in understanding with the term ethnic identity. Ethnicity simply describes one ethnic group in relation to another while ethnic identity emphasises on attributes that makes one ethnic groups different from another. The keyword in the two terms is the creation of “border” or “boundaries” as criteria for inclusion or exclusion8. A universally accepted definition of ethnic identity does not actually exists, indicating confusion in the conceptualisation of the term. Dickson and Trimble see it as an affiliative construct where an individual is viewed by themselves and by others as belonging to particular ethnic or cultural group.9 It involves identifying with the various borders created by an ethnic group as a way of delineating between themselves and others. These boundaries or cultural symbols may include languages, artefacts; foods, clothing and holidays, and the affiliation towards an ethnic group may also be influenced by racial or natal origins especially if other choices are available.10 Fredrik Barth. Barth explains that ethnic identity is a means of creating boundaries that enabled a group to distance themselves from one another.11 Creating boundaries may not only be enough but there must be persistence of cultural values when ethnic groups are in contact with others. This, Barth says really distinguish them from others.12
Two other approaches have also being used to define ethnic identity; one of them is in the realm of psychology, where ethnic identity was explained in the perception of self consciousness. The most important study here was done by Jean Phinney, who defined ethnic identity as “a dynamic multidimensional construct that refers to one identity, or sense of self as a member of an ethnic group.”13 She further explains that ethnic identity is not fixed but rather modifies as the individual becomes aware of their ethnicity14. Phinney also recognised the fact that self identity is the starting point which eventually leads to the formation and development of several identity states that influence one’s social actions.15 Peter Weinreich in the theory of identity structure analysis also agrees with the formation of self identity as a nucleus to the development of ethnic identity. He recognised it as a state among several states of development of social identity16. He also noticed that ethnic identity is not a rigid or a static process but changes and varies according to particular social context, so individuals will not tolerate any threat to their identity; they easily challenge any force that humiliate, castigate, or threatened their ethnic identity and will sustain possible settings that favour the identity state. Fearon and Laitin explained that cultural boundaries are flash points i.e. ‘‘inflammatory’’ like territorial ones so groups are very strict in enforcing cultural norms among their members.17
In summary, ethnic identity can be viewed with the perception of the boundaries or set standard of values or physical attributes used to differentiate between one’s in-group and others, it can also be viewed in the perception of self consciousness of an individual as a member of a social group. It includes the development of his self identity as a prerequisite to the formation of a wider social or ethnic identity. So it transforms from self consciousness to group consciousness and both physical and innate characteristics that distinguish one group from others. Identity may also be dynamic for individuals but the real objective of the group is how to preserve their identity especially when in contact with others.


2.3.1. Nationalism.
Nationalism as a political or sociological concept developed strongly in the 20th century. Joireman described nationalism as political ethnicity18 . She further described it as an ethnic group with political agenda. Gould and Klobh defined nationalism as a form of group consciousness, that is, consciousness of membership or attachment to a nation. It also denotes ideologies seeking to justify the nation-state as an ideal form of political organization19.Ojo and Sesay described it as modern historical process whereby nations have been established as independent political units in the international system20. Nanda T.R defines nationalism as a political belief where some group of people represents a natural community which should live under one political system, be independent of others, and often has the right to demand an equal standing in the world order with others.21
The origin of the term nationalism could be traced to the latin word nasci which means to be born. It was well used by the anti-Jacobin French priest during the French revolution in the 18th century but by the 19th century it has taken up a universal political doctrine and movement.22 The term ‘nation’ can not be separated from the main term nationalism. In its original use, it connoted a breed of people or a racial group which possessed no political significance, but in modern political relevance and use, it connotes cultural entities, collections of people bound together by shared values and traditions, a common language, religion and history, and a common geographical area.23
Language has emerged as the most important symbol of nationhood in recent times. As a result, nations are always very sensitive to threats that will dilute their language. Although there are people across the globe who speak the same language but do not belong to the same nation example in the global scale is the English language spoken at birth by Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and the people of England, but these people do not necessarily see themselves as members of the same nation.24 In the West African context, the Hausa, Mandingo,and the Fulani languages are widely spoken over a large expanse of geographical area but the people who speak each of these languages have never regarded themselves as a single nation. Therefore any emphasis on ‘nation’ is rooted in specific boundary criteria used to determine the identity of a group. These criteria may also include shared common history and traditions. Another important factor in defining a nation is religion. Religion shows common moral values and spiritual belief system. This is the main reason why Islam has been the main focus of national consciousness among the people of North Africa and the Middle East and in reality influences the roles they play in international politics.25These various forms of nationalism also have one thing in common, that is, ‘self determination’. This is the ultimate goal of nationalism as an ideology, the creation of a popular sovereignty as a ‘nation-state’. This is achieved through the process of unification as in the case of the German states or as being canvassed by African, Jew and Arab nationalists or through the achievement of political independence or being liberated from a foreign rule 26 which will create a self government for national interest. The other more important tenets of nationalism include the emphasis on the organic nature of nations which means that mankind is naturally separated in to a collection of nations. Identity politics is also a main feature of nationalism. All forms of Nationalism are rooted in the basis of a sense of collective identity.27
In more modern academic research, nationalism is seen more as a developmental process of modernity for a group of people who regard themselves as culturally homogenous, exercising this as a form of nation-state.28 It is part of the modernisation of a community that is bonded by descent and many other factors. The process of nationalism is thus divided theoretically in to two routes towards the goal of achieving a modern nation-state. The dichotomy in the study of ethnicity was recognised in many study made by Ernest Gellner, Daniele Conversi. Plamenatz labelled the division in nationalism as plainly eastern and western but along the lines of division as recognised by most scholars in this area. These are mainly ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. He recognised western nationalism as best demonstrated by the nationalism of both England and France; these he said were nations with progressive culture or high culture as described by Gellner. The nations of the east thus developed a form of national consciousness as a reaction to the high culture in the west, they recognised that their own culture is backward and in order to develop the new civilisation of the west, they will need to adopt new values, ideas and practices.29
This will make them progressive, modernise and be successful and make them equal to the western countries in this new civilisation. To achieve this aim, the people in this region now find it necessary to unite as groups that will be politically recognised in the form of a nation-state. This is done around unique sets of features that make them different from other people and assert their independence.30 These feature can be skin colour, language or culture. Ethnic blood consciousness dominates rather than civil or civic consciousness, in this case nationalism is not voluntary but by descent. Kearney thus described all nations that subscribed to political principles or constitution as exercising civic nationalism while ethnic nationalism mainly deals with inheritance or blood but not law.31 He however used Germany as an example of a nation-state that defines itself ethnically and nation-states that developed in Eastern Europe in the 19th century used Germany as their model of commitment to ethnic nationalism.32
The understanding of the terms nation, nation states, ethnicity, ethnic identity and nationalism should enhance our description of the term Ethnic nationalism. Inyang defined the phenomenon of ethnic nationalism as the crystallization of socio cultural consciousness among members of an ethnic group which regards itself both as a distinct, identifiable, objective ‘group-in-itself’ as well as ‘group-for-itself’ – a community of interests relative to other ethnic groups.33 Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism that defines ‘nations’ in terms of ethnicity. The term is however different from ‘ethnic group’ because it connotes and includes the basic tenets of nationalism. This means that an ethnic group may mean an ethnic nation when it forms the basis of a political identity and nation-state in which it relates to other political or ethnic units in the wider world. Inyang further explained that ethnic nationalism is accelerated by ethnicity related Ethno-centrism. This is the evaluation of, and response to, other ethnic groups’ total cultures or segments of them, in terms of one’s prevailing cultural value standards and practices. This form of evaluation often give rise to negative stereotypes, bigotry, discrimination, racial and ethnic cleansing and even fatricidal wars of genocidal proportions. Ethnocentrism is thus attitudinal in form and perceptual in content and therefore represents a subjective aspect of ethnicity. However, ethnicity which subsumes ethnocentrisms is largely behavioural in form and conflictive in content.34 ‘Ethnic-nationalism’ on the other hand, expresses a condition of heightened self consciousness and identity of an organised ethnic group, given its national level of competition and conflictual interaction with similarly organised ethnic groups over quest for power, wealth, security and status for its members.35Ethnic nationalism provides popular appeal to the nationalist movements borrowing its ideological bonds from the people and their native history.
Consequently, ethnic nationalism in its ideal state is undertaken using the power of popular mobilisation. Using the elements that are unique to the group gives the movement an emotional support. Ethnic nationalism is thus a subjective part of nationalism, because it uses elements like memory, value, myth and symbolism, also bonds to the land and blood ties as the core principles of the movement.36Unlike civic nationalism where the individual can move in and out of pre existing national space, ethnic nationalism has exclusive membership, admission to members is mainly by descent or blood ties.37It also perceives the nation as a community bounded by genealogical descent, the national identity in turn draws its features from ethnic identity which includes myth and memories and history found in the ancestry of the community.
In explaining ethnic identity, Anthony Smith claims he used the same approach as Tom Nairn. He described populism as a coalition between the masses and the elite, it is a product of their interaction and contingency upon one another which means they are dependent on one another for progress38. At the birth of nationalism, the mass is left out of the ‘high culture’; it is only the elite who could participate, thereby manipulating the masses instead of managing them.39
In the process of manipulating, the elite use mobilization. This is in the demand for progress by the mass. This mobilization will only take place with available or unavailable tools or sentiments, these may include economic and political institutions, and the uniqueness of the people like skin colour, language etc.40Mobilization towards development as a measure of progress can also be a measure taken against dominance. This was referred to as reactionary nationalism by authors like Greenfeld and Nairn. The dominance may be foreign dominance or the introduction of foreign ideas or even a reaction against the domination of the “west”41 Hutchinson suggested that reactionary ethnic nationalism can be negative. This may include the use of ethnocentrism to mobilise the mass against perceived foreign or local threat. Understanding individual and social psychology also help to understand the potential of ethnic nationalism to be violent and pathological.42Although scholarly theories have steered clear of well known assumptions that it is a ‘natural’ part of human behaviour to resort to violence to defend his territory and family, and that ethnic sentiments are intrinsic in human psyche, the fact that can not be disputed is that mobilization done along descent, blood or ethnic lines arouses passion more than any other among the masses.43The dichotomy as it exists between the elite and the masses has made entrance in to the ‘high culture’ of the elite an exclusive event. This in turn gives the elite the manipulative power on the masses. This can also lead to the tendency of the elite to live above the law and authoritarian rule of the masses. This is one big difference with civic nationalism which promotes liberal democracy.44
Civic nationalism is a form of nationalism that is practised where civil society exists. A civil society can be defined as a group of people who feel they belong to the same community, are governed by law and respect to the rule of law.45 In this case the sovereignty of the people is located in the individual citizen. The national identity of the citizen is a function of the political community located within a demarcated territory which is also a social space that houses a culturally homogenous group46. Civic nationalism demands that an individual should belong to a nation, which in turn belongs to a state, blood ties or ethnic ties are subsequently lifted to the level of political supremacy.47 Individuals enjoy legal equality with other members of the state. The government respects the law and the fundamental rights of the citizens, rather than existing above the law. This is a form of nationalism that conforms more to liberal democracy. As a social movement, civic nationalism is more democratic when compared with the populism of ethnic nationalism. Through education, the mass are integrated in to the ‘high culture’ which gives them the same political right as the elite and thus reducing the role of the elite to managing the mass rather than manipulating them.
The nation-state is the nucleus and the starting point of civic nationalism. In the goal of establishing a nation, the role of the state is no longer that of a territorial region but a unit whose main function is to protect its culturally homogenous inhabitants. This was defined by Gellner a prominent modernist in his theory of nationalism that the state “is the protector, not of faith, but of a culture, and the maintainer of the inescapably homogenous and standardising education system”48 The main focus of civic nationalism is the nation state promoting the belief in a society united by the concept and importance of territoriality, citizenship, civic rights and legal codes transmitted to all members of the group. Consequently, all members are now equal before the law be it the elite and the masses. There is no longer a mass of “low culture” rather modernity has eliminated the cultural cleavages and formed a new high culture. This means civic nationalism is “about entry to, participation in, identification with, a literate high culture which is co-extensive with an entire political unit and its total population.49 The social bond is provided by shared traits like the common use of language, experiences, rules, food, education, etc this social bond requires no common paternity but a bond formed by exposure to the same elements.50
The concept and components of civic nationalism are not new, it existed in the pre-modern times especially the existence of state and the notions of patriotic consciousness, but what distinguished it from the modern concept is the unification of these components into one entity and the territorial association of citizens that share one public culture.51 Territorial and attachment to specific community is important to provide a will to participate socially and politically.


Social constructionism also known as social constructivism is one of the main contemporary social science theories specifically used in the analysis of cultures and individual interactions within and among cultures. According to Mcmahon, social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in the society and constructing our knowledge of truth of this society based on this understanding. It has its origin in discipline of psychology and it has been used across the social sciences especially in the developmental theories of Vygotsky and Bruner and the social cognitive theory. And it has its intellectual and cultural backcloth in postmodernism.52
Postmodernism has actually shaped the structure of social constructionism. Post modernism rejects grand narratives in theory and the placement of a search for truth with the celebration of the multiplicity of perspectives. Social constructionism thus rejects the truth in using the past knowledge to judge the present. It also believes in the acceptance of the multiplicity of knowledge or ideas. Thus, social constructionism takes a critical stance towards taken-for-granted knowledge. It is critical of the theories that believe that there should be objective observation of the world for us to know the truth about it. It is therefore in opposition to what is referred to as positivism and empiricism in traditional science. It cautions us to be cautious of our assumptions of how the world appears to be. Social constructionism thus denies that our knowledge is a direct perception of reality.
‘’in fact it might be said that as a culture or society we construct our own versions of reality between us…….there can not be such thing as an objective fact, all knowledge is derived from looking at the world from some perspectives or other’’53
Furthermore, social constructionists believe that knowledge is a human product and that it is socially and historically constructed.
‘’All ways of understanding are historically and culturally relative, not only are they specific to particular cultures and periods in history, they are also seen as a product of that culture and history and are dependent upon particular social and economic arrangements prevailing in that culture at that time’’54
So it is possible to hold different knowledge or truth about the same idea in the same society. It is however not acceptable to use knowledge in a single society or culture to judge another. Therefore all forms of knowledge should be treated the same way. This is simply because history and the culture of a society influences the way they judge other societies, and the methods of understanding is actually influenced by socio economic arrangement obtained at the period.55Social constructionists also believe that knowledge is created by social process and not derived from the nature of the world as it is really is. They believe that people construct knowledge between them during socialization. Burr explained that knowledge is constructed through the daily interactions between people during the course of social life. Therefore social interactions of all types especially language are of particular interests to social constructionists. Language has taken centre stage among social constructionists. It is believed to be a precondition for thought. This is however against the facts in most traditional psychology where the relationship between thought and language has been controversial for years. Burr writes that the way a person thinks and the categories and concepts that provide a meaning for them are provided by the language they use. The major role of language in knowledge acquisition has led social constructionists to study language as used in daily interactions between people. This is known as ‘discourse analysis’. This brings the work of Foucault, the French psychologist in to forefront. He defined discourses
‘’as practices which form the object for which they speak. Foucault argues that discourse constructs the topic. It defines and produces the objects of our knowledge. It governs the way a topic can be meaningfully talked about and reasoned about.’’56
Critique of Social constructivism pointed to the fact that the theory has diverted from its traditional psychology origin. Some of its assumptions are against established beliefs in social science and in Psychology in particular. One of the most important criticism against Social constructionism is the fact that it limits its analysis of social interaction to texts. This is common in social constructionist research methodology. The Foucauldian discourse

approach has been further criticized for turning discourses into objects which are independent of the people who use them.57 It has also been criticised for its anti-essentialist stance as it does not belief in the nature\nurture argument in traditional psychology, but most essential is the fact that it is misunderstood for supporting the nurture side of the debate because of its insistence that culture and history influence individual behaviour and social interaction. In this sense, the use of psychoanalysis to complement whatever is left unexplained by social constructionists has also been argued as inadequate as they say it may lead the theory back to essentialism.58 Social constructionists have also found it difficult to explain the desires, wants, hopes, and fantasies of a person and their role in the choices the person makes in their lives.59It also fails to explain why in the face of understanding the implication of discourse for our identity we do not choose an alternative way of life60. Social constructionism will be appropriate in the course of this study especially to understand the roles and behaviour of individuals in various cultures and ethnic groups in West African and how it affects integration in the region. It will also be useful as it approves a multi approach to the study of the social problems, it supports the view that social problems should be seen from the perspectives of the individuals within a culture and not judging a culture or an individual’s behaviour within a culture using imported ideas from other cultures. The emphasis of the social constructionists on the perspective of history, culture and socio economic arrangement makes it appropriate for analysis in the problems of ethnicity and integration in West Africa.

This is another approach in the understanding of the term ethnicity. Its origin can be traced to the works of two German social philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried Herder. As a theory, it believes that certain primitive or certain sociological groupings exist in a society. These primitive groupings are natural units which derive their cohesion from some inherent biological, cultural or racial traits which are then instruments of social differentiation.61Some other authors explaining this view, regard ethnicity as a kind of kinship, and ethnic group as an extended kin group. It is a form of socio-biology in which the real bond is based on blood ties and reinforced with shared beliefs in common ancestry, shared myths and history.62 Primordalists thus believe that nations predate all things and everyone must have a nation and be basically defined by one. In this framework, some authors believe that ethnicity is grounded in genetics, which persons who share certain number of genes will bond together as an ethnic group and seek to reproduce these genes in the most efficient possible manner. This is however achieved through endogamy of the ethnic group which leads to genetic selection and ensures the survival of the group.63 The primordialists thus believe that the human society is a conglomeration of tribes with varying regulating principles for distinguishing the distinctions between the tribes. These distinguishing distinctions however determine the boundaries and the limits of tribal membership in such a way that the in-group can be clearly demarcated from the out-group. This also gives a sense of dichotomy of the world to the members of the group as ‘’us and them’’. It also performs a crucial task in the formation of the individual’s personal identity, thus ethnic identity emerges naturally through a process of collective definition. This process relies on constant review, redefinitions and reinterpretation of social experience and historical events vis-à-vis other groups. It eventually results in aligning and realigning of relations with other groups and determines the line of action towards them.64


Ethno-centricism is however ubiquitous with the primordialists, they believe that it is appropriate to judge one’s ethnic group as superior to inferior ethnic out-groups.65They also believe that there is nothing wrong in judging other ethnic groups from the perspective of one’s ethnic group. Primodialists also discovered a state of conflict between the in-group and the out-group and states that aggression towards the out-groups is justified because it is a natural ‘urge’ or instinct of survival. To them, relationships between the in-groups and out-groups are conflictual, anarchic and destructive while relationships within the in-groups are more peaceful, orderly and supportive.66 In the primordialist view, ethnic groups function as insular universes, their membership is defined by accident of birth, and when constituted, they perpetuate their uniqueness by socialization of their point of uniqueness from other groups.67Generally, primordialists believe that ethnic groups are located in pluralist societies that contain several other competing formations. Relations within the ethnic group may be personal or impersonal but relationship with other ethnic groups is strictly impersonal and usually takes place through market structures and political process.68 These institutions are concerned with the distribution of wealth and power within the society and subsequently create winners and losers which may be disproportionate in favour of the later. This may eventually lead to inter-aggregational conflict and violence. Even when the disadvantage group is less, inter-aggregational conflict can still occur when the group internalizes a ‘’myth’’ of deprivation thereby channelling resentments towards other groups rather than diffusing them within itself.69 Primordialists believe that in the case of competition for resources within the same group, violence are not in a large scale fashion and very insignificant compared to violence against other groups.
Primordialists have been reviewed to have certain strength and weaknesses. One of the major merits is that it focuses on factors that easily explain human solidarity, most of which are superficial e.g. skin pigmentation, common language or common enemies. They however failed to explain the nature of group solidarity and methods of solving the problems of collective actions within the group.70

2.6. Conflict theory and Ethnic conflict.

Karl Marx supposedly borrowed his dialectical method from another German philosopher G.W.F.Hagel and combined it with his historical materialism. Hagel wrote that ‘idea’ or ‘consciousness’ was the essence of the universe and all social institutions were the results of changing forms of idea.71 Marx on the other hand believed that ‘matter’ and not idea are the essence of the universe and that social institutions were the results of changing material conditions. Thus materialism forms the basis of the historical economic system that are inherent in all societies, where each individual funtions to maximise their benefits. It is this materialism that essentially divides the society not necessarily in to two equal halves, which now struggles to dominate each other. Struggle for materials created classes in the society. Classes are forms of stratification which all societies succomb. As Marx and Engels put it “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”.72 Conflict theory explains class conflicts as it may be between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, capitalism and communism, landlords and tenants, the oppresors and the oppressed and so many stratification line in the society.73 Conflict theory basically believes that the world is not utopian or ideal and inequality is an essential character and which the Marxist believes revolution must be used to correct with time.74
Conflict theory was further developed by other scholars especially Max Weber, Vilfredo Pareto and Max Gluckman. Most of the later authors that developed the conflict theory recognised that social stratification caused by materialism is also transformed in to power based classification in which the whole society is structured not only between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but also between the elites and the masses.75 So, the struggle for scarce resources has led to social inequalities which has transformed into classes based on power. The continous struggle of the classes is essentially to maintain or better their status quo as the elites continues to use various means to manipulate the masses and continue to stay in power. Conflict theory arises from the friction that exists in a society where the greed for power and material by the few elites creates a grieviance by the deprived masses.76
Class struggle has basically created a state of conflict within the society but with the most powerful seeking to exploit the weak either through their consent or without. The society is now divided in to layers in the pyramid of power and wealth with the elite bourgeoisie at the apex and the most wretched at the base of the pyramid. Stratification is a feature of most society in the world today. The most powerful constantly devised means to bare others below the pyramid from acheiving their status.77
Conflict theory states that conflict is inherent in all societies and it manifests itself in different ways, these include conflicts between religions, between gender and between races or between ethnic groups. Conflicts between races had taken global dimension and had even led to wars, while conflicts between ethnic groups have increased greatly in the past twenty years since after the end of the cold war, especially in states where many ethnic groups are found. These states exists either by conquests as in Northern Ireland or by artificial creation and colonialism. In these states the dominant groups have more access to resources like land and minerals which will metamorphorsised in to power domination. Donald Horowitz carefully explained what is it in ethnic groups or ethnicity that make them prone to conflicts.78 He suggested a lot of reasons, some of which include the fact that hatred between groups develop in to conflict, especially if the previous experience of contact with the other group is hostile. The other reason being that contact between groups is always a clash of cultures, contacts bring together people with different values and norms. He also gave reasons that ethnic conflicts are brought about by modernization, as it makes different groups to scramble for the same resources. Economic competition he said “brings conflicts between ethnically segmented labour market or buyers and sellers”. Horowitz towed the line of other authors by alluding ethnic conflicts to “elite competition and the actions of ethnic entrepreneurs”79 He explained that elites will continously manipulate ethnic identity in their quest for power and this leads to the construction of ethnic conflicts.
Ethnic conflicts have also being studied as a case of security dilema. Politics is all about a constant struggle for power and security and the relationship between actors is therefore basically in conflict and this lead to the state of anarchy with each actor trying to use the first strike advantage.80 Erik Melander suggested that security dilema is always the situation when ethnic groups live closely, they are particularly vulnerable to attack. This security dilema may cause one ethnic group to launch preemptive strike against the others.81 Other views on social conflicts will suggest theories that will make a general assessment of what factors are inherent in the actors that make conflicts with others a certainty. Louis Kriesberg suggested a theoretical approach that study the conflict-generating feature of specific individuals or as he puts it “the underlying bases of conflicts in the universal characteristics of humans or their societies”. This may include the study of the biological, evolutionary or psychological background of individual humans and their society. Kriesberg gave examples of features of human nature as the fundamental base for his conflictual behaviour. Instances of this has also been studied in other animals that are related to humans and are found to be general. These include our territorial behaviour, the hierachical nature of our social order and our tendency to project our frustrations towards others as explained in the works of Freud.82

2.6.1. Typology of Conflicts.

Conflicts have been part of the West African political landscape ever since the evolution of modern states in the region. To be able to understand the role play by conflicts in the integration of the region, there must be a standard categorization of these conflicts to be able to determine their level and impacts on the region.
Several scholars have attempted to define the concept of political conflict and categorize it at different times, but a form of controversy has emerged in the definition of the concept. Singer and Small’s ‘Correlate of War’ project gives the definition of conflicts as violent disputes in which one of the combatant parties is a state and there are at aleast 100 battle-deaths.83 In the same light, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) defined a ‘’major armed conflict as the use of armed force between the military forces of two or more governments, or one of the governments or organised armed group, resulting in battle related deaths of at least 1000 people in any single calendar year and in which the incompatibility concerns the control of government or/and territory’’84. The earlier definitions of conflicts clearly showed a lot of quantifications and ‘cause and effect’, but later peace and conflict research has categorised conflicts in terms of intensity and also recognised the fact that conflicts may not involve violence as described in the earlier definitions. The main two approaches to the categorization of conflicts include the objectivists approach which traced the origin of conflicts to the social and political make-up and the structure of the society and opined that the goals at stake can be thouroughly compatible.85 On the other hand the subjectivists reasoned that it is the percieved incompatibility of goals which is the essence of conflict analysis. Accordingly, it is the level of incompatibility that affects the intensity and the dynamics of a dispute.86 The subjectivists believe that conflicts emerge and evolve in intensity and pass through stages over time. Therefore, it is important to understand the evolution and the dynamics involved in conflicts, so as to know how to manage them.87
In Quincy Wright’s “Study of War” published in the American Journal of International law before the second World War, there was an effort to categorise war into four different types (i) balance of power war i.e. war between states in the modern family of nations, (ii) civil war – war within a state, that is a member of the modern family of nations, (iii) defensive war – a war to defend modern civilization against a alien culture, (iv) imperial war – a war to expand modern civilization at the expense of an alien culture.88 Singer and Small also devised criteria that may qualify a conflict as an international war. These are (a) objectives of the participants, (b) the political consequences (c) the leal status of the hostilities (d) the political attributes or status of the participants, (e) the duration of the hostilities,(f) the number of troops involved,and the (g) casualties arising from the hostilities.89
Conflicts have also being categorised as constructive or destructive mainly based on their outcomes. Loius Kriesberg categorised conflicts using a conflict evolution model. His view was that conflicts pass through stages of emergence, escalation, de-escalation and settlement.90 His simplified conflict cycle explained a conflict emerges from the base and passes through the stages of manifestation, escalation, de-escalation, termination, and Consequences. The consequences may be constructive or destructive. It may be constructive in so far as the parties regard the outcomes as mutually acceptable and will form the basis for on going and future relationship. The outcome of a war may be destructive in so far as they are imposed unilaterally regardless of the interests and needs of the parties involved.91
Conflicts generally have been categorised into ethnic and non-ethnic wars. David Carment considers most international conflicts as conflicts that may be explained as inter-racial, inter-ethnic,inter religious or inter-civilization.92 He also sees internal conflicts as conflicts that have the potential of spilling onto the international arena. He recognised three types of ethnic conflicts that may have international dimension, these are (i) irredentist – this occurs when states become major actors in ethnic wars, e.g. the Arab-Israeli war, andnthe Greek-Cyprus war. (ii) Secessionist – this occurs when ethnic war within a state spill over in to the international arena. This secessionist conflict lead to interstate war by drawing attracting a third party state especially a ‘self-appointed’ regional peacekeeper and (iii) Anti-colonial ethnic conflicts which involves colonial powers and nationalist groups.93
Using the Cognitive simulation model (COSIMO) conflict categorization developed by the Heidelberg Institute for International Research (HIIK), The methodology explains a dynamic model of conflict, which involves five intensity stages, and grouped under non-violent and violent categories.94 These five stages was developed based on the escalation dynamics of Frank Pfetsch where he recognised five types conflict categories of latent conflict, manifested conflict, crisis, severe crisis and war. With the HIIK categorization, latent and manifest conflicts are categorised as non-violent and low intensity conflicts, while the crisis stage is violent but of medium intensity. Severe crisis and wars are categorised as violent and of high intensity.95 Non-violent conflicts.

Conflicts sometimes may not be associated with violence as absence of violence does not neccesarily means an absence of conflicts. Although parties may not use force against each other but the state of conflict should be recognised by the outside world or at least one of the parties involved.96 It is quite impossible to determine the existence of conflicts without visible signs that may show certain argument, position or interest, although the parties involved in the conflict may not pursue an overt strategy to pursue their goals.97Therefore, the existence of certain incompatibilities between two parties recognised in the form of demand and claims, by at least one of the parties is enough to confirm a state of conflict even though violence may not be involved. It must also be noted that all violent conflicts start as non-violent, and they evolve through two phases i.e. latent conflict and then in to manifest conflict. Latent conflicts mainly represent incompatibilities or interests that are articulated on the level of mere demands or claims by one of the parties. Manifest conflict is a higher level of conflict than latent, in which tensions are present, but are expressed by means below the threshold of violence.98 These may include verbal pressure or economic sanctions. The main difference between latent and manifest conflicts is that there is a higher level of ‘communicative interactions’ between the parties in the later.99 Violent conflicts.
In conditions when peaceful settlement of incompatibilities prove very difficult, violence is used by either or both parties to redress or enforce the status quo. James Davies described the existence of frustration as the most essential condition for a non-violent conflict to turn violent.100In political conflicts, human casualties, physical damages and the use of force are features of violent conflicts. Sandole (1998) in his definition, described it as Aggressive manifest process conflict (AMPC) where he described violent conflict as representing ‘’a situation in which at least two parties or their representatives attempt to pursue their perception of mutually incompatible goals by physically damaging or destroying the property of high value symbols of one another’’ e.g. religious symbols, national monument and\or physically injuring, or elliminating one another.101 Smith in the Handbook of Conflict Transformation, defines armed conflicts (violent disputes) as; “open armed clashes between two or more centrally organised parties, with continuity between the clashes, in disputes about power over government and territory’’102. The Upsalla Conflict Data Programme (UCDP) defined the highest form of violent conflict as war. It categorises armed conflicts in to three levels, the first, as…

  • Minor Armed Conflict: with least with between 25 to 1000 battle related deaths within a year in the course of the conflict.

  • Intermediate Armed Conflict: an accumulated total death of about 1000, but between 25 to 1000 battle related deaths in any given year.

  • War: at lest 1000 battle related dearth per year.103

Singer and Small also defined war in terms of quantity but in addition set limits on troop participation to about 1000.104 Using the COSIMO categorization the use of violence is common in the level of severe crisis and war. The only difference being that in severe crisis the use of violence is sporadic while in War, violence is used in a more organised and systematic way.105

Since the creation of modern states in West Africa, ethnic conflicts have been a major feature in the region. The main feature of these conflicts is that most of them usually spill over in to neighbouring countries. The main point to note are the reasons why some ethnic conflicts spread across the border in to other region and why others remain relatively confined in the country of origin.
In an article by Oana Tranca, there were attempts to distinguish between the concepts diffusion, contagion and the escalation of conflicts. The paper sited an example in Lobell and Mauceri in their book “Diffusion and escalation of ethnic conflicts” in which diffusion and contagion were used to describe the same process i.e. a spill-over of conflicts that directly affect neighbouring countries.106They also described that the escalation of a conflict involves the drawing in of more state and non-state actors in to a conflict. Tranca decided to use the definition in the literature concerning the International spread of war where diffusion is defined as an increase number of actors in International dispute. It is a direct form of spill-over when an ethnic conflict spread from its initial locus within a national frontier where it emerged to neighbouring states by the implication of additional conflict caused by regional proximity.107He also defined contagion as an indirect form of spill-over, in which one group’s actions provide inspiration and guidance, both strategic and tactical for groups elsewhere channeled by network of groups sharing similar discriminations and grievances.108He defined escalation as a new stage in the evolution of a conflict characterised by its intensification from low intensity confrontation to open war.109
2.7.1. Factors Determining the Diffusion of Ethnic Conflicts.
Tranca further emphasised that a state relative capabilities and a set of internal and external factors are reasons that influence its participation in an interstate conflict. Paul Diehl found out that territorial contiguity makes states more vulnurable when conflicts emerge in their immediate proximity because it poses a threat and opportunity to these states.110Vasquez (1993), pointed out that, alliances and rivalries are two other factors that influences the diffusion of ethnic conflicts.111 According to him , there will be a possibility of a diffusion in ethnic conflict if there is an ethnically based alliance between the group in conflict and a politically dominant group residing in neighbouring countries.112The possibility of diffusion is also high if there is a history of rivalry between the two states. He summarised that ethnic conflict diffuse because of the opportunity and internal pressure of alliance felt by neighbouring states.
Lake and Rotschild explained that ethnic rivalries and affinities influence the diffusion of local ethnic conflicts in to regional one.113 It also reiterated that states susceptible to secession will not like to intervene in the ethnic conflict of neighbouring states, as they will choose to respect the territorial integrity of other states, a choice that is important to their survival.114Support for ethnic groups abroad may also be needed for politicians to win local elections,this may influence the policy decision of a state in intervening in a war. Also, a state may decide to intervene covertly or overtly in the ethnic war of its neighbour if it is related to the minority ethnic group persecuted in the neighbouring state. Moreover, a state may also try to intervene in the ethnic conflict of other states if there is a growing opposition at home and a need to divert attention to other issues especially when it involves a related ethnic group. Lake and Rothchild also emphasised that some predatory states may take the advantage of the weakness of another state enganged in ethnic conflict to intervene and plunder its resources.115
Settlement pattern of the ethnic groups residing in a state may influence the method of conflict spread in the region. Secession is always very easy if the ethnic groups live in distinct parts of the region, but if they are interspersed or mixed with other ethic groups in their settlement, it becomes very difficult to wage a war of secession.116The situation is made easier if there is an external guarantor for the minority group, that is ready to support the claims of the minority for a separate homeland.117Secession as a form of conflict also spread easily within a region if other secession within the region has suceeded lately, it reinforces the believe in other groups that it may be possible.118
Information flow enhances diffusion of conflicts. Diffusion of conflict if faster and wider depending on the level of information from one state or ethnic group to another especially where the potetial for ethnic conflict is already high. Edmond keller believed the root of transnational ethnic conflicts in Africa is based on the perception of ethnic groups that there ‘security is in jeopardy at the hands of some other ethnic groups’. If the state unable to intervene, there will be a kind of security dilema, and the ethnic group may launch a preemptive strike against others.119
Ethnic conflicts easily diffuse abroad when “it disrupts the ethnic balance of other states”. Lake and Rothchild recognised the potential of refugee flows, retreat of armed insurgents and other direct border penetrations in diffusing conflicts abroad. This development alter the stands of other ethnic groups and may alter their beliefs about existing ethnic contracts therby creating a new conflict across the border.120

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