Excerpted from African Media and Conflict By Abiodun Onadipe and David Lord is
online at http://www.c-r.org/occ_papers/af_media/contents.htm
2 of 5)
A Continent in Crisis
With Africa's diminished global strategic importance, new conflicts have
emerged, while older ones have mutated. Prominent among these post-Cold War
conflicts have been Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone,
and now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The renewed battle for the
Democratic Republic of Congo is no ordinary African war. At least five
countries -- Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia -- have sent
troops into the war that could split Africa's third largest country and much
of the continent itself.
Throughout 1997 and 1998, there were dozens of violent and potentially
violent conflicts in Africa, the number essentially unchanged since 1994.
Most of them were internal but with international ramifications and causes.
This is not to imply that the whole of Africa is aflame but to show that
political or social crises can and do easily become violent if the
mechanisms for preventing or handling them properly are absent. While some
conflicts were violent, many had the potential of turning violent within a
relatively short space of time for various reasons.
At the time of writing, the Great Lakes region still seemed to be the most
unstable region south of the Sahara, with substantial violence in eastern
Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and northern Uganda. The war in Sudan continued,
exacerbated by the onset of widespread famine with refugees and violence
spilling over into Uganda, and Kenya. In the Horn of Africa, clan rivalries
fed violence in Somalia. Clashes between Ethiopian and Eritrea over disputed
borders became full-scale armed conflicts.
West Africa is not far behind the Great Lakes in the instability stakes.
Despite pacts on cessation of hostilities and moves to consolidate its
democratisation through demobilisation and disarmament, violent incidents
were still being reported in Liberia. In Sierra Leone, the rump of the army
ousted the democratically elected government only to be forced out of power
by the West African peace-making force ECOMOG after nine months. Violent
communal feuds in northern Ghana are still smouldering, while new ones are
emerging in Nigeria -- a country persistently in a state of uneasy calm. The
decade-long secession bid in the Casamance region of Senegal continued to
claim lives. The army mutiny or attempted coup that preceded the civil
conflict in the relatively peaceful Guinea-Bissau in June 1998 has further
underlined the fragility of peace in the region.
In the Central African Republic, French troops came to the rescue of a
government besieged by army mutineers. The Congolese president was deposed
by former military strongman General Sassou-Nguesso in November 1998 after a
six-month civil war, allegedly financed by foreign multi-national companies.
Further south, Angola's fragile peace process crumbled and threatens its
neighbours' security as it slides back to war. Zambia and Malawi were under
threat of social and political violence, while Zimbabwe teetered on the edge
of an abyss, wracked by sporadic but violent disturbances and riots. South
Africa, despite the consolidation of the transition to a multi-ethnic
democracy, was still beset by widespread social violence.
In North Africa, the civil war pitting Islamists against a more secular
government in Algeria has led to an estimated 50,000 deaths, with
journalists and media workers being deliberately targeted by both sides. In
Egypt, Islamists have waged a violent campaign against the government of
Hosni Mubarak. The occasionally violent and long-running dispute between
Morocco and the Polisario in the Western Sahara remains unresolved.