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Causes of Ethnic and Racial Conflicts

Discusss about the Ethnic and Racial Conflict in Poor Countries.

The racial or ethnic conflict is a very simple and basic process in the social lives of human beings and both such conflicts could be vicious and consistent. In several scenarios, it might prove to be destructive for some communities and can act as the cohesive force for other people. Both racial and ethnic groups might be the foundation and the outcome of two sides of social conflicts which act as the limit marker in between the communities that look at themselves uniquely in their interests and values from other groups. Since last 50 years, the researchers have been struggling with the various opinions of the conflicts which have focussed on the different factors of the critical and integrative atmosphere of the process. People who research practically tends to downplay the pessimistic forces whereas theorists of conflict try to implement the vital role in order to challenge the status quo and to bring about the original social change.

The conflicts which are known have been internal and not in between countries. They might range in the wars with regards to religion, liberation, civil wars or they might be rebelling ones too. The crisis those are internal ethnic conflicts might rise up due to a number of reasons. These might range from the ideological, cultural, religion or racial factors and sometimes also political factors(Chogugudza, 2008).

Some of the data and statistics display that, in South Africa, the one third of the population in terms of income is poor and one quarter is poor with respect to the UNDP’s Human Development Index. When talked about the poor countries or continent that did not develop because of the conflict on Ethnicity and racism, Africa comes on the top of all the in the whole world. Most of the people who live in Africa in countries like Zimbabwe or Kenya etc have a record of developing in the most mediocre way irrespective of the measurement index they are applied to and also have the slowest growth in the economy.Almost 1/2 of the African nations have experienced minimum one year of conflict with in past 30 years (Assies & Salman, 2005).

With respect to the heterogeneous past experiences, ethnicity is unavoidable and intangible concept which is the kind of identity that can easily be influenced for political factors or purposes and hence changed. The conflict is understood as large scale violence within the group of people who have not achieved statehood(Ericson & Widmark, 2015).

Case Studies: Nigeria and South Africa

If the inception of the ethnic conflict is foreseen, then the era of World War two should be considered. At the time of World War Two, the growth was taken to be as primary condition for peace in the inter ethnic relationships.  The theorists of melting pot believed that as the nations which are poor continue to become developing, the ethnicity would become out of date and will result into peace. Melting pot discussion necessarily advices that as the modernization arrives, the sub state ethnic identities becomes politically non significant and are passed by national identities and at the same time the tensions and conflicts between the ethnic groups would mostly not exists as the outcome. Since it is believed that the conflicts starts from the sources which are limited, the melting pot theorists in the decade 1950 to 1960 believed that modernization, growth of economy and development could make sure of the conditions of the conflict to not rise and hence peace would come(Dzimiri, et al., 2014)

For example, according to Deutsch (1953) and Huntington (1968), with the development of the economy there develops and nurture political peace. This develops the situation for ethnic groups to strive and reduce the impact of the ethnic attachments. This is the certain argument which can be evaluated by the case of Mauritius which is ethnically diverse. Example: Few of the African Countries which might have achieved economic growth and might have managed to ignore the ethnic conflicts with the combination of the development of the economy and political projects that are put out of mobilization. Till 1970’s came, the conflictual modernization theory incepted for advocating that growth actually is a reason of conflict rather than the enabler of peace. This was just in the opposition of what melting pot theorists claimed. If this perspective is taken, then the growth and modernization imply raised up growth of economy which will mostly not are enough and neither distributed equally. But the economic growth is mostly not being inclusive in such type of countries but only partial modernization happened due to the multiple state organizations not being efficient in delivering the full advantages of that development to the wider segment of people. The theory of conflictual modernization is characterized by two various schools of thought in terms of how the growth efficiently takes towards the conflict(Venkatasawmy, 2015).

This could be stated by the example of Sharia law that started ethnic tensions in Northern Nigeria till the point of violence in the year 2000. Also, the murders in Kaduna state where percentage of Muslims and Christians were equal and hence confirming as to how concerns of religion and ethnicity have known the speed of growth in Nigeria after independence in 1960. According to Langer, Mustapha and Stewart (2009), further adds that in the late 1950’s, various ethnic groups compete over the representation of Nigeria Government and State Organizations. The discrimination feeling which is based on the ethnicity or religion within the groups were not sufficiently represented and this in return aggravated tensions and conflicts in Nigeria Civil War(Brysk & Wise , 1995).

Impact on Economic Development

Africa is one of the continents which have seen devastating results in the past due to the ethnic and racial conflicts. Civil unrest is the most cliché phenomena across the world. The most regretting things out of all this is that the continuity and the frequency of such conflicts stops the socio economic development of the nations(Irobi, 2005). According to Ibrahim (2008), the complicated element in African economic background very openly invites the religious and ethnic conflicts on various nationalities or groups which make up the structure of the continent. Similarly, according to Donatus and Ozigi (2008), claimed that ethnic and racial conflicts in the country Nigeria mostly ended in full blown conflicts with very devastating outcomes in terms of the development and stability of the country as corporate entity. Since the time of restoration of the democratic rule in the year 1999 in Nigeria, it has seen the number of conflicts originating from the ethnic and racial backgrounds. According to Omorogbe (2005) and Imobighe (2002), declare that in Nigeria’s case, there is a reason for everyone to worry about the rise of ethno-racial conflicts(Vincent, 2009). This is certainly in the view of the fact that conflicts have dysfunctional and disruptive effects on the society like deaths, property destruction, breaking up the polity, dislocation and chaos and also the scarcity of the resources from development perspectives. The reasons of the causes of these conflicts have many dimensions and they are interrelated. The commentators of politics have every time attributed racial and ethnic conflicts in Africa to huge amount of poverty, intolerance in religion, explosion in demographics, differences in politics, social fragmentation and moral values background(Caselli & Coleman, 2012).

Poverty as a problem has many dimensions which go above economics to be involved under additional things like societal, political and civilizing problems. Researchers always try to create a hypothetical method to scarcity and also for conflict from long time. Few of the scholars such as John Burton in the year 1997, Laune Nathan in the year 2003, Richard Sandbrook in the year 1982 and Ted Gurr in the year 1970 indeed consent that scarcity as the outcome of being short of human requirements takes to situations and response that results in conflicts (Mohammadzadeh, 2016). The people requires that theory given by Burton in which he argues that there are conflicts and no stability in countries which are developing as people are deprived of their biological requirements and also psychological requirements which relates to the expansion and development.  The intervening significance of this theory is that in completely realizes that requirements mainly food, water and shelter and not like the importance cannot be dealt or negotiated and hence, any effort of doing this will lead to conflict (Eller, 2011). There is no Government which can grip the stability and peace when it is made on the ocean of shortage. In Africa, there was always lack of food, clothing and shelter and it is due to the seed of conflict. Poverty is the incident or scenario in which none of the individual would be satisfied amid due to the ache which pursue the scarcity of essential needs. Hence, people mostly act negatively in such type of situations in order to display their pain and dissatisfaction and especially when the Government is corrupt (Esteban & Ray, 2011). Africa being the blend of poverty and conflict has regularly persistent to be very badly grown and urbanized. Hence, till poverty is still there in Arica, the conflicts will always remain intact (Klasnja & Novta, 2016).


Some of the economic factors are known to be one of huge and main reasons of conflict in Africa. The scholars consider that the scarcity of the assets is a cliché aspect in mostly of the ethnic conflicts in Africa. In the civilization which is multi ethnic such as Nigeria and South Africa, the ethnic groups battle for the human rights, jobs, studies, culture and lingo, basic facilities and best health. According to Okwudiba Nnoli (1980), he found so many examples associated with socio-financial features till ethnic conflict in Nigeria (Mbowura, 2014).

In case study of South Africa, Gerhard Mare affirms that the ethnic conflict seems to be answer to non even growth in South Africa that helped the groups to assemble to battle with the assets with the ethnic outline. Countries which are multi ethnic will most probably experience conflicts which are distributional (Tomchak, 2017).

Both the countries Nigeria and South Africa exists with the troubling histories of colonialism and white oppression that generates hate and conflict within various communities (Anyanwu, 2004).

In South Africa, people were deprived of the fruits of modernization and development because of racism. The white rulers saw the Africans only as the thorn in their body and continuously differentiated against Zulus, Xhosas and several other black ethnic groups (Noyoo, 2000). In 1910 and 1947 displayed as to how economic racism combined the structures of white dominance and black disenfranchisement & misuse. This was actually being done via racialist legislation which was totally in opposition to the bulk of black people. Such laws pushed the Africans to relocate to the main cities and shift to isolated locations in a broke part of the nation. In the year 1912, the African elites started a rebel by creating the ANC (African National Congress) that meant to stand for and protect black African rights(Torbjornsson, 2016).

If given importance to history of ethnic conflicts in Africa, there was winning of right division racist national party in the year 1948 and the opening of apartheid. Winning of the Afrikaner Nationalist Party combined white benefit in political and financial area. This party reinforced the rule that were discriminatory and campaigner faith that Africans were lower both in biological and cultural point of view as compared to the whites and are not capable of administrating their self dealings. Apartheid system served as dived & rule approach which restricted black mobility & involvement in social economic functions in nation by putting them at the structural drawback (Annan, 2014).

Apartheid created the lives of people who were black very tough in terms of the rising up scarcity of the mother country. Small that dripped in was battled for & in many cases turned out to be a way of structuring patronages for elites. The researchers had faith that Zulu traditional ruler, Chief Mongosuthu Buthelezi & his inkatha freedom movement referred to the assertive instance of how the assets were being distorted for patronage set of connections in his mother country (Olaosebikan , 2010).

The very much immediate reasons of the conflict can easily be associated with the high rate of poverty, no jobs in the countries & politicization of each tad of life in motherlands. It is very relevant to put in this discussion that conditions which are social mostly frequently supported in the ethnic capitalist to mobilize particular groups aligned with the other groups (Cocodia, 2008). Conflicts at that time were called black or black conflicts and they were provided with the ethnic nuance by expression coming from the inkatha group. This type of conflict developed tough limitations in between the Zulus and Xhosas and strengthened the human killing and the township destruction. It should be approved that the different South African governments since 1983 have tried their best to find put the resolution to the conflicts but their hard work were on surface as they were biased towards the Inkatha and the while Afrikaners. Moreover, the allegations by Nelson Mandela and the ANC that South African Government was providing the logistical and equipped hold up to the inkatha exhausted trust from the labors the government was creating to divide the martial groups(Mlambo, 2013).

Similar is the case of Nigeria. History and the conflicts in Nigeria also take a reverse to the colonial offense which pushed the groups of the north & south province in becoming a body called Nigeria in year 1914. Since dissimilar ethnic groups were livelihood in such regions were not asked about the amalgamation, the British colonial policy was despotic and not democratic & hence, took to the conflict. Due to this people were deprived of the basic needs of the contribution, parity and social well being (Murambadoro & Wielenga, 2015).

The inception of the indirect rule in Nigeria was done by Lord Fredrick who was the chief minister and was not an apt means for organizationethnicbitterness in the colony. The system not just toughened ethnic divisions but it also made the task difficult of bonding the diverse factors into Nigerian Nation. This type of strategy of governance made distance between the ethnic groups from one another. Lugard provided the authority to the conventional rulers who immorally used that in the villages to accumulate prosperity, property and create support networks and that in the long term are motivated tribalism and nepotism (Mabhena, 2014).

The separation of the colony of Nigeria was also created and supported by the colonial laws which unperfected the mobility of the Christian from south till Muslims from the North, made the different defrayal for non-indigenous citizens in the north and even incomplete acquisitions of land outside of one’s own region(Hilal & Wani, 2013). Prejudice and disgust became widespread in the shires as dissimilar ethnic groups ongoing looking at each other shiftily in all compasses of contact. Uneven and discrepancy treatment of ethnic groups was accountable for the strong competition in Nigerian society. It created difference in educational attainment and broadened the political and economic holesamong northern and southern Nigeria.

Addition to ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria was the Yorubas' boycott of 1994 legitimate conference set by General Abacha's government. The meeting was to determine the nationwide discussion on ethnicity. Enthused by pan- Yoruba militant groups, the Afenifere and Oduduwa people’s Congress (OPC) in southwestern Nigeria endangered secession & intensify sadistic remonstrations crosswise nation (Jacob & Saad, 2011).

Ethnic conflicts in Nigeria sustained from side to side to the self-governing change. Olusegun Obasanjo, a civilian, had been president for few years. Though, conflict carried on to rise, as different ethnic communities insist a political reformation. The federal structure developed profound cracks & demands immediate acts for mending it. But the worrying part was the angle of religion of ethnic battle for power & wealth of oil in the country Nigeria. Much ethno religion battled in the north cities like Kano, Kaduna, Jos & Zamfara spring from the inception of Muslim courts & the south area needed for Autonomy. This continued battle in Nigeria lacked efficient means for managing ethnic conflicts (Kalejaiye & Alliyu, 2013).

While there is no doubt about the debate that development is impediment and has negative impacts on the poor country when there is ethnic and racial conflict. The below data is from the World Bank that displays gross domestic product/ capita.
















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GDP p capita signifies the financial facet of progress and in actuality the financial influence is inferior than calculated by such figures. For example, government expenditure  may not drip much but what it applies that money on is touched. In its place of financing in solidification the economic viewpoint of a country, for example viasubstructuregrowths, it is now spending that money on the military.

In Uganda in the year 1970, the exclusion of the rich Asian merchant class was another example of the scenario where the ethnic and racism was used as the political tool. In Zambia in year 1990, the President Fredrick Chiluba tries to stop political competitor and former President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda from standing for firm in the basis that his parents were from Malawi and hence, he was adjudged not to completely be a Zambian citizen. This was again the case of the ethnicity conflict. Similar incident occurred in the Cote d’Ivoire where PM was stopped form participating in the elections on the basis of his parents being from Bukrina Faso.

Issues of ethnicity divide once repressed by European Colonial governments in Africa have become growing increasing predictions for a myriad of conflicts in most of the African states. Illogically, before the independence, some colonial administers influenced ethnic fights within native populations by recruiting a strategy of divide and rule. This was the strategy that made enmity and doubts within the African people and the scenario has not importantly changed.

In Zimbabwe since independence from 1980, almost 10 years of growth was completely lost as an outcome of short but tough civil war that resulted in the killing of tens of thousands of simple people. Since then the political structuring in Zimbabwe has always had an ethnic angle. In South Africa, ethnicity and the divide and rule plan was for a long time at the core of the apartheid system. Presently, racial and ethnic differences still intimidate the constancy of this respected rainbow nation. The recent deposing of President Thabo Mbeki by his flamboyant deputy Jacob ‘Jay Zee’ Zuma from the management of the dominant ANC party might have been manipulated by ethnic widths.In Sudan, the Darfur disaster is another example of the excesses of ethnicity and its subsequentbelongings of poverty and human movement. The persons and ethnic groups of South Sudan have over the years agonized at the hands of the powerful Northerners. In Nigeria, problems of ethnicity combined with spiritualstrains and the North/South divide has also been a mainaspect in presidential and state politics(Berat, 2014).

Ethnic and racial diversity has been one of the huge pillars of any society across the world. The various competition that comes with it is best for economic growth. But ethnic groups benefit and completion for scarcity of the resources within the various groups carries about the ethnic polarization. There are many countries especially in Africa that have faced this ethnic conflict. Such wars take the ethnic opinion even when the actual cause might be land, resources, discrimination, religion or any uneven distribution of resources etc. These types of conflicts have literally caused many destructive changes in the countries. The above research displays that the destruction of property, mistrust, apathy and killings which comes with the polarity of ethnicity decreases the GDP of countries within the globe. This study shows the impact of ethnic related conflicts to the economic growthand development of Kenya with a particular analysis of the post-election violence inKenya that happened between December 2007 and February 2008. This particularwarfare had a great effect on the Kenyan economy more than any other catastrophe in thehistory of the country.


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