Ethnic skirmishes within a country belong to identity conflicts that are a form of internal conflicts. There are many other forms of internal conflicts, except the identity ones. These include governance, ideological, environmental, and racial conflicts. In some cases, the word “ethnic conflict” is used to define a broad range of internal struggles. Wars in Somalia, Afghanistan, or Cambodia, for example, are not tribal conflicts, because these skirmishes are not between enemy ethnic groups, but amongst competing political factions, which belong to the same tribal group. The prevailing causes of identity conflicts are religious, ethnic, tribal, or language dissimilarities. These struggles regularly involve a combination of identity and search for security, where the main debate involves the devolution of authority.
Culture refers to the pattern that is practiced by individuals over and over again. It is passed on from generation to generation, eventually becoming the way of life. Culture is manifested through a people’s language, customs, literature, religion, art, and the way of dressing. Culture differs from one community to another. As a result, each country or ethnicity in the world has developed its own and unique culture. Culture also boils down to the beliefs of some individuals from different parts of the world. This set of beliefs and traditions emanates from one’s ethnic association.
Cultural diversity appears to be common among the world population in the modern day, as well as in the past years. This issue has been addressed by many activists as an effort to bring peace to any cultures that may be at war. The aim of culture diversity would be to learn the different life styles of other cultures as a way of acquiring knowledge. Cultural history, values, and other elements may appear to differ between one culture and another, but people should not attempt to make them even by conflict. The people should be proud of their culture and respect the culture of others. This state of affairs leads to harmony in the community and outstanding teamwork performance.
Before discussing ethnic conflict and its causes, it is important first to have a clear definition of the word ‘ethnicity’. There is no much unanimity in the literature concerning the terminology and elementary concepts about ethnicity. “Ethnic community”, “ethnic group”, “ethnicity”, “marginalized”, or occasionally “identity groups” are used by several authors in dissimilar ways. Ethnic groups are traditionally given collectivities or psychological societies, whose members share a persevering sense of mutual interest and identity that is founded on some mixture of common historical experience and treasured cultural traits, beliefs, language, religion, ways of life, and a common motherland.
Several criteria concerning the above description must be met before a group can be referred to as an ethnic group or community. Initially, the group should have a name, by which it is referred to. Names are significant for self-identification and are the expressive logos of the “communal personality”. Secondly, a common tongue is also an influential sign of ethnic and national identity. The scuffle over language guidelines and language rights is frequently a chief reason for ethnic clashes. Numerous linguistic minorities all over the world are authoritatively banned from using their language in public places or in the media. The third feature is religion that traditionally has been a significant indicator of the ethnic identity. Particularly, in societies where religion interferes with the various domains of public life, it may become a hegemonic feature and, consequently, determinant one for ethnicity. It develops an ethnic marker. Where the religious factor is deeply intertwined with other elements of social life, religion turns out to be a decisive variable of ethnicity. In Lebanon, for instance, being a Muslim or Christian denotes a private expression of religious faith to the community and belonging.
Territory is the fourth aspect in ethnic conflicts. Territory is the foundation of political and economic structures, which are the central units in the existence of ethnic nations and groups. The regional state is considered the defining element of the actuality of a nation in the modern era. Countless ethnic groups that consider themselves to be states seek to have their own regional state (e.g., Palestinians, Kurds, and the Tamils of Sri Lanka). In the world, the bulk of ethnic groups are associated with some territory, which could be both their indigenous environment and their real or mythical land of origin, every so often imbued with sacred meaning. Another reason behind ethnic conflict is a shared culture that comprises a complex of idiosyncratic elements of the ethnic group. In the explanation of ethnic groups, culture is a structure of values, meanings, symbols, customs, and norms, shared by the adherents of a group. Culture outlines the way of life, which differentiates one ethnic group from another.
The ethnic affiliations, whose status is of utmost importance in international politics, are currently the targets of judgment and those who have planned to take political action to endorse and protect their interests.
Ethnicity has deep historical and political roots in the African nations. The colonization of African states created a sense of ethnic belonging to some people. The divide-and-rule policy used by the British colonizers, for instance, has created deep cracks in African societies. Before the arrival of the British, African societies were not fully aware of their ethnic divisions. They lived together as brothers and sisters, traded, intermarried, raided each other, and ran their business peacefully. However, the British devised this destructive policy of dividing groups on the tribal basis and making the natives aware of their linguistic and cultural differences. This led to ethnicity strife that continually plagued the African communities and used to be a constant cause of conflicts.
Some scholars argue that ethnicity by itself is not a cause of violent clashes, just like the intergroup differences are not a direct cause of conflict. Most scholars agree that ethnic conflict occurs as a result of collapse of authoritarian rule. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, for instance, many conflicts have sprung up in Eastern Europe.
Ethnic conflict is explained using two levels of critical analysis; systemic level and domestic level. Systemic clarifications of ethnic skirmishes emphasize the nature of the security structures, in which ethnic assemblages function along with the security anxieties of these groups. The first and most noticeable systemic precondition for ethnic struggle is that two or more ethnic communities must live in close proximity to each other. Moreover, the regional, local, national, and international establishments should be too weak to stop communities from fighting and to safeguard the security of separate groups. Ethnic war is based on the scuffle between diverse groups over political authority and status. The latent energy of ethnic skirmishes is virtually universal, since there are few states with only one tribal community.
In organisations where chaos prevails, separate groups have to arrange for their own defence. These communities fear for their economic, physical, and emotional safety and survival, particularly when groups are more or less consistently harmonized and neither can enthral the other community politically, culturally, or economically. Communal fears of forthcoming conflicts arise when countries lose their capacity to adjudicate between communities or deliver credible assurances of protection for communities.
On the domestic level, ethnic conflict can be explained as a result of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of countries in solving the trepidations of their constituents, the influence of democratization on the inter-ethnic relations and the effect of nationalism on inter-ethnic associations.
Individuals depend on the government in stimulating economic prosperity and delivering security. Nationalism mirrors the need to create states with the ability to meet such goals. Intense nationalism and intensified risk of nationwide conflict mount when countries fail to complete the economic and military intimidation of their citizens and when they are not able to develop operative institutions for handling amplified levels of political participation.
The advent of ethnic nationalism makes some form of ethnic struggle almost unavoidable. The upsurge of ethnic nationalism in one community can be perceived as threatening by other communities. Consequently, this will result to the development of analogous elements in other parts of the country. Ethnic nationalism causes some communities to build large, highly motivated armies. The other communities react by being more vigilant and by establishing their own military forces. Consequently, this can make anticipatory attacks or defensive war amongst neighbouring groups very likely.
Ethnic differences may also drive individuals to revenge. Revenge is not an easy thing, especially when it becomes a passion. However, people, who are able to control the hatred during revenge, can live happily even after the consequences that befell them. Revenge for the dead can sometimes be used as a legitimate purpose to accomplish a mission that the dead have never accomplished. The mission may be building a house or buying some worthy assets. Such urge to accomplish the mission failed by the dead always ends in peace for both the living and the dead. On the other hand, joy is also achieved when someone takes revenge for a dead victim.
This paper has comprehensively gone through the topic of ethnicity and its causes in modern societies. It has conclusively explained the various phases and the preventive measures to be instituted to deter ethnic skirmishes. In conclusion, governments should take necessary measures to curb negative ethnicity from infiltrating peaceful societies.
Ethnical conflicts have been threatening most countries’ stability in today’s world. In this case, the literature review looks at ethnicity, ethical conflicts and civil wars, their cause and consequences, their nature, manifestations, and magnitude. In this context, ethnicity is viewed to define groups in terms of race, language, appearance, level of education, colour, etc. It is largely based on the physical settlement, common ancestry myth and system of beliefs. Scholars have looked at these issues in the past without proper definition of ethnicity and what its causes and manifestations are, as well as conflict effects and strategies of its management and resolutions. The definition of ethnical conflict and ethnicity defies their concepts.
In most cases, interethnic conflicts do not only arise due to mere national and continental boundaries, but also due to ethnic grudges. That is why most interethnic conflict management strategies have failed, since they focused on symptoms but not the root cause of these conflicts. Moreover, there are many social, economic, and political grudges between or within ethnical communities or tribes. According to Baldwins (1962: 195), “Many management strategies and resolutions have been attempted with no success for ensuring there is peace, inter and intra ethnic co-existence in Africa.” While according to Markakis (1994: 261), “African ethical conflicts are compared to many sided violence that is waged at different levels. They involve ethnical clans, tribes, lineages, religion and nations.”
These ethnical conflicts can originate from several things. During the colonial times, in most of the third world countries, people were brought together under boundaries of one country. Due to the colonization mission, people were not well integrated in a new state. This led to some people falling out of the disparate culture of these countries. It greatly affected such people, who even after colonization remained poorly integrated. This low integration has been conducive to crises in many countries. In some African countries, for instance, many conflicts have led to violent wars, economic and political instability, as well as social disequilibrium. This is clearly evident, because during the war the Europeans kept people divided.
In recent years, internal intractable conflicts and violence have been a result of failure of the countries to cope with ethnicity problems. In earlier ages, ethnicity was developed for political purposes. However, after colonization, little was done to prepare these colonies for being independent. This situation led to a deep cleavage between diverse groups of people, who constituted those states, which was then accelerated by competition over scarce resources among multiethnic societies.
Economic reforms are the other issue that could facilitate ethnicity conflicts. In the period between the 1970s and 1980s, Africa experienced high increase in violent ethnic conflicts. During this period, most African countries were living in a state of economic austerity. International community put a lot of pressure on these countries at that time, to initiate programmes of economic and political liberalization. Due to implementation of the programs in the 1980s, most African countries entered into agreements with international financial institutions on specific economic areas, without many economic or political reforms.
The manner, in which economic and political reforms were introduced and implemented, played a great role in ethnical conflicts. Democratic political system was considered to be of great importance for the success of economic reforms. However, many things did not go as expected. The issue was the spate in ethnic conflicts, accompanied by the violence and organizational levels in no ways similar to the colonial period. Another issue was ethnicity, and nationalism. According to Wallerstein (1979: 205), ethnic genocide, cleansing, hatred and dynamics are seen as struggles by the oppressed and dominated groups for greater autonomy and protection of their rights:
Ethnic conflict and conscious results when different groups feel threatened with a loss of previously acquired privileges. At the same time if they feel that there is an existence of a political opportunity to overcome a longstanding denial of privilege. “He further argues that mechanization and mechanisms through which these groups increase their aim has accelerated ethnical conflict and tension.
In Africa, ethnicity is a class and elite phenomenon. Whereby the community elites feel cut out from political power and economic control by other elites, they indoctrinate their ethnicity members to believe in a conspiracy plot of a whole community against another.
However, according to Nnoli (1995: 89), ethnicity is meant to pull individuals together, ensure internal cohesion, provide natural security for each member, and enhance their sense of direction and identity. He believed that ethnicity should provide solutions to such problems as oppression, exploitation, alienation, and deprivation.
Undemocratic governance nature is another major contributor to ethnicity conflict. In most third world countries, and especially Africa, undemocratic regimes and their leaders have been repressing scores of people with no regard for their needs and wants. It has led to the development of the divide-and-rule governance, further increasing ethno-religious divisions.
Ethnicity and National Unity
In most third world countries, national unity is expected; however, some circumstances have been working against it. Though inadvertently, some nations have been promoting politicizing circumstances, instead of sensitizing ethnic differences in the country.
Ethnicity and Political Power
Power quest and resultant ethnic conflicts can be traced to greed and ambition. These sour human fortunes and relations have been contributed by the negative instincts of men. It resulted in displacement of the population on a large scale. In Africa, the primary causes of ethnical conflicts are the determination by ethnic groups and a sense of alienation, as a part of primary resources control. Violence can be involved when these groups see no other way of looking for redress and getting justice. Poverty may also cause inducement for conflicts. In most cases, ethnic conflicts arise when the claims of a party for territorial and land control become incompatible with others, who aim at satisfying their own basic needs and interests within the same physical territory.
Ethnic conflicts have more negative than positive effects; in fact, 99% of them are usually negative. The first cost of ethnic conflict is social. After an ethnical conflict has taken place, social consequences may take a heavy toll on the people involved. For example, people are left homeless, get killed, injured, deprived of their land, and endure abuse and destitute. In many cases during the war, civilians take the law into their own hands, killing many people and destroying properties. In many situations, former neighbours and friends become enemies. This results in a lot of insecurity that interferes with the day-to-day political, social, and economic activities within the affected areas. Moreover, families and marriages fall apart, causing mistrust, psychological traumas, and prejudice. Displacement of people is another thing that happens when a civil war occurs, resulting in many children dropping out of school.
During and after the clashes, identity crisis usually follows. Offspring from the fighting communities often end up at crossroads, in terms of cultural and ethnic identity, whereby children from the intermarried families are separated and faced with hard decisions on their future life. They are unsure of whether to go to the paternal or maternal side, and, in most cases, they pick the side with the least amount of pressure involved. This results in additional hatred among communities, as one community begins to see the other as an enemy. Another major issue is health; the displaced families are prone to health problems after the war as a consequence of limited access to basic necessities, food, shelter, and clothing. Such families are then forced to go to camps with poor ventilation, inadequate water supply, and poor or absent sanitation facilities, resulting in the outbreak of diseases.
At the same time, clashes expose to sexual abuses children and women, who may be violated, embarrassed, and raped in broad daylight. In most internal refugee camps, there are also no rooms to accommodate many people.
Economic Consequences of the War
Whenever clashes occur, there are usually a lot of economic and human resources wasted, and the country’s economy is highly affected. In most cases, farm ownership is permanently altered. Harvest is destroyed on the fields, thus, making the production go down. People are often hit by hunger due to food shortages. The post-war time brings on the need for increased land possession, as people, who have been driven away by the war, try to grab as much land as possible. It poses a great threat to the nation, as there is always a possibility of the clash renewal.
Extensive drop in the manufactured goods demand is another issue. It arises due to the lack of money or income generated from the sale of agricultural products and labour in the agriculture-based industries, such as coffee and tea plantations. Thus, instead working on these plantations, people were busy fighting, and there was a great possibility of destroying the products during these clashes. This situation led to the destruction of economic and social sectors, as industries, farming, and distributive sectors were forced to lay off their workers.
Environmental consequences of the clashes were also witnessed in the massive destructions of forests. It had greatly affected the rainfall patterns in these areas and, as a result, agricultural products that relied on rainfall were harmed, thus leading to a prolonged period of drought.
Property destruction also is another common occurrence during the clashes. It led to great losses of properties, including houses, farming facilities, and business premises, to cite a few. Consequently, people went backward economically due to the high losses of their savings that they had invested in these sectors.
When the conflict is over, people undertake activities meant to bring back the nation to the original condition before the clashes had started. These activities include government initiatives, NGOs and donor activity, and religious responses.
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In many cases, the government has been seen to do nothing or very little. When it came to resettlement, the government has taken many years to resettle the internally displaced people in their countries. At the same time, they offered very minimum relief assistance to the displaced people. In some cases, the government harassed those who volunteered to assist the displaced people, accusing them of inciting the clashes. A good example is Kenya, when in 1993, Prof. Wangari Mathai, who tried to assist people from the Western region after the tribal clashes had occurred, was arrested and detained under an accusation of inciting the clashes.
When it came to religious responses, most churches have done a lot of work. They housed some of the displaced people, gave them clothing, fed them, and even mobilized their other followers to donate stuff to them. However, in some areas, the Christians did not follow their teachings and, instead of assisting the affected people, some were inciters of the conflicts themselves.
NGOs and donor agencies seem to play the most important role in assisting the displaced people. After ethnical clashes, they usually offered relief assistance, formed peace, and development networks that preached peace to the affected people. They offered guidance and counsel to the victims, thus, raising their hope. They went further to assist them in getting justice through platforms, like the human rights protection.
Several strategies have been developed to manage conflicts in the future, e.g., socialization, creation of political forum for political participation, and enhancing equitable distribution of the national resources. Socialization aims at ensuring groups or individuals acquire skills, knowledge and disposition that can help these groups participate positively in their ethnical group or in the entire society. This process of ensuring order aims at devising means to create harmony in the society, as it may help people curb any disruptive drives, through channelling them to the socially accepted directions.
Institutions should initiate the creation of forums for political participation from the grassroots, regional, and national levels. This will ensure people are given a fair opportunity to participate in the political affairs.
Lastly, there is an issue of national resources. In most cases, the clashes arise due to the unfair distribution of natural resources. In many countries, there are multicultural and multiethnic characteristics, which pose many challenges to the public interest. Every ethnic group has expectations or interests, which may or may not conflict with other ethnic communities. Therefore, leaders are supposed to allocate resources in a way that every ethnic group gets a fair share according to its needs and expectations. They should ensure that they are able to identify and harmonize the various groups’ needs. Thus, they will be in a position to equitably distribute the national resources available.
Multilingual society is another important issue, mostly when it comes to enhancing the means of communication between various countries. This is because language will act as a media of political communication between these nations. Therefore, a common understanding among people within the same boundaries will ensure peaceful coexistence. This will allow minimal chances to disagreements.
Moreover, the leaders should work a lot towards the formation of national parties based on the policies and ideologies that will transcend the conglomeration of ethnic groups. The parties will have more obligations to public education, instead of political propaganda only. Nationalistic, open-minded, and committed are the crucial characteristics of an expected democratic leader.
|Morality and Science||Modern Society|