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War and Conflict in Africa

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4545-2
320 pages
October 2011, Polity
War and Conflict in Africa (0745645453) cover image
After the Cold War, Africa earned the dubious distinction of being the world's most bloody continent. But how can we explain this proliferation of armed conflicts? What caused them and what were their main characteristics? And what did the world's governments do to stop them?

In addressing these and other questions, Paul Williams offers the first comparative assessment of more than two hundred armed conflicts which took place in Africa between 1990 and 2009 - from the continental catastrophe in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the environmental disaster in the Niger Delta and mass atrocities in the Sudan. Taking a broad comparative approach to examine the political contexts in which these wars occurred, he explores the key ingredients that provoked them and the major international responses undertaken to deliver lasting peace.

Part I, Contexts provides an overview of the most important attempts to measure the number and scale of Africa's armed conflicts and provides a conceptual and political sketch of the terrain of struggle upon which these wars were waged.

Part II, Ingredients analyses the role of five widely debated features of Africa's wars: the dynamics of neopatrimonial systems of governance; the construction and manipulation of ethnic identities; questions of sovereignty and self-determination; as well as the impact of natural resources and religion.

Part III, Responses, discusses four major international reactions to Africa's wars: attempts to build a new institutional architecture to help promote peace and security on the continent; this architecture's two main policy instruments, peacemaking initiatives and peacekeeping operations; and efforts to develop the continent.

War and Conflict in Africa will be essential reading for all students of international peace and security studies as well as Africa's international relations.

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List of Tables vi

List of Figures vii

List of Abbreviations viii

Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

Part I Contexts 13

1 Counting Africa’s Confl icts (and their Casualties) 15

2 The Terrain of Struggle 35

Part II Ingredients 53

3 Neopatrimonialism 55

4 Resources 72

5 Sovereignty 94

6 Ethnicity 113

7 Religion 128

Part III Responses 147

8 Organization-Building 149

9 Peacemaking 168

10 Peacekeeping 184

11 Aid 205

Conclusion 225

Appendices 229

Notes 246

References 275

Index 295

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Paul D. Williams is associate professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
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  • This comprehensive core textbook is the only survey of its kind
  • Explores why wars in Africa start, why they persist and why they end
  • Fully illustrated with maps and tables of conflicts compiled by the author
  • Perfectly suited for course use, with an 11 chapter structure divided into three key sections: contexts, ingredients and responses
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"Williams has written a superb overview of this complex subject without resorting to academic jargon. It deserves to be read by novices and specialists alike."
Foreign Affairs

"A critical contribution to the literature ... Williams synthesizes an enormous amount of research on the dynamics and processes of conflicts ... [It] is a critical text for scholars of conflict and peace, as well as policymakers who seek to devise more effective strategies for managing Africa's wars."
H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

"An ambitious and impressive book. ... While primarily an analytical study, the work necessarily rests on a detailed knowledge of cases and on a statistical base that is itself a considerable feat of documentation."
Population and Development Review

"A trenchant resource for international development specialists and students alike."
Journal of International Development

"Exceptionally succinct and useful, War & Conflict in Africa (provides) an accessible and inspirational companion for anyone who wants to survey the state of the field."
Journal of Peace Research

"A foundational framework for undergraduate students. Williams' greatest triumph is his lucid approach to debunking a great deal of the received opinions ... One of the most nuanced books on the subject to have been written in the past decade or so."
International Peacekeeping

"A must-read for anyone with an interest in modern Africa. Its thematic chapters make it easy for development workers and other non-academic practitioners to dip in and out of. Yet its undoubted intellectual rigour and judicious use of existing studies and analyses ensure its utility to scholars and students of Africa whatever their disciplinary hue."
International Affairs

"Paul Williams has done what he set out to do exceptionally well. Admirably researched and eloquent [it] will deservedly be read by students, fellow scholars, and - yes - those policymakers who wish to end Africa's bloody present, and who seek swift but stimulating summaries of the key themes and processes."
H-Net Reviews

"Williams' analysis and critique, written with substantial clarity, is a valuable contribution to the debate over African peace and security, with insights that may prove of benefit for the examination of armed conflicts beyond the African region."
Australian Journal of International Affairs

"Well written and thoroughly researched, War and Conflict in Africa provides a comprehensive assessment of attempts to explain the proliferation of conflict in post-Cold War Africa ... the book provides a useful overview for scholars and naturally lends itself as an academic course-text."
Journal of Military History

"A valuable reference for students, policy makers, civil society actors and those determined to promote peace and security in Africa."
Political Studies Review

"War and Conflict in Africa contributes to a more complex understanding of the political actors and systems that catalyze or prevent conflict and offers a cautionary tale to those who seek only proven, easy predictions."
New Security Beat

"Williams has produced the foundational framework for understanding the mainsprings of armed conflict in Africa over the past twenty years. This book is a must-read for those who want a nuanced understanding of the causes and processes of conflict on the African continent. Williams's analysis is brilliant and enhances the book's value for students, governments, NGOs - anyone working to promote peace and security in Africa."
William Reno, Northwestern University

"Encyclopaedic in scope and cogent in analysis, War and Conflict in Africa debunks a great deal of received opinion and offers not only a sophisticated view of how African conflicts come about but also a critical appraisal of attempts to resolve them. It should be required reading for scholars as well as for all those who seek to mediate in conflicts both in Africa and elsewhere."
Christopher Clapham, University of Cambridge

"This incisive study will be an invaluable resource for students and policymakers seeking to understand and ameliorate Africa's complex and destructive conflicts."
David Keen, London School of Economics and Political Science

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