Globalization and Conflict Resolution in Africa since the 20th Century

Essay, 2018

11 Pages, Grade: 4.42


Globalization and Conflict Resolution in Africa since 20th Century


Globalization is a process of global economic, cultural, and political integration. It is playing an important role and has brought new opportunities for African countries such as growth and improved productivity and living standards, technological transfer, conflict resolution etc. Globalization is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon of contemporary society. Therefore, the areas of conflict and conflict resolution are also affected by this phenomenon. Conflicts are part of man’s existence; this is because disagreements among peoples are natural. The disagreement occurs in forms of revolution or war. The continent of Africa has been highly susceptible to intra and inter-state wars and conflicts. Africa’s track record of civil war, conflict and political instability has with a big measure of justification earned it the idea of a continent at war against itself. Thousands of Africans have been killed in civil wars, conflicts and uprisings in the course of the past decade. Meanwhile, Africa to date has remained a victim of all economic and political reform agenda of the European dominated world, but now consumed in what has come to be termed as globalization.

This has led to a lot of conflicts in African. The effects of the global openness and the dynamics and ideological context showed in the competition among identities, the changing landscape of information flow, the new forum made by civil society and social movements, and the fight for economic resources which have created to conflicts and wars in Africa. The many conflicts which have devastated the African states from Ethiopia to Eritrea, Somalia to Kenya Liberia to Sierra Leone, the killings and conflicts of Rwanda, Burundi, and a host of others including the most recent conflicts in Dafur, Sudan are link to serious economic struggles instigated by the effect of globalization. Even though there are some negative effects because of globalization, however, the positive impacts are prevailing. While much has been written on how globalization induces conflict little has been made on how conflict and globalization interact to bring positive results. Globalization is seen as a generator of social change, and as such, may act as a cause for conflict, instigating the tensions in any given community and even creating new ones. At some time, it may also catalyze and bring conflict resolution and peace building. The relationship between the global and the local can result to unintended processes of resolution. Through bringing new means or inspiration for negotiation and dialogue among diverse parties, globalization can be a spark for peace. This work, however, evaluates the roles and effects of globalization in conflict resolution in Africa since 20th century.

Conceptual Clarification

Conflict is a confrontation between individuals or a group resulting from opposite ends or means. Conflicts take place when people pursue goals which clash. According to K. Boulding, Conflict is a situation of competition in which the parties are aware of the incompatibility of potential future positions that is incompatible with the wishes of others1. T. Woodhouse defined Conflict as a dynamic process in which structures, attitudes and behaviors are constantly changing and influencing one another.2 Hence, Conflict could be seen as a natural phenomenon which must occur among human beings.

Conflict Resolution can be referred to as interference in an ongoing conflict in such a way as to settle the conflict. It refers to the elimination of the causes of the underlying conflicts, generally with the agreement of the parties. Lund defines conflict resolution as an effort to increase cooperation among the parties to a conflict and deepen their relationship by addressing the conditions that led to the dispute3. While Maluwa interprets the concept as changing reality ether by reducing scarcity of a disputed value or resource, or by changing the casual factors that have made for antagonism and confrontation in the pasts.4 Globalization is the increasing interaction of people, states or countries through the growth of the international exchange of money, culture and ideas,. Malcom in 1995 defines globalization as a social process in which the countries' social and cultural arrangement recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding.5 While Nnoli sees globalization as a complex phenomenon: globalization interfaces with various areas of social life and is suffused with ambiguities, variations, uncertainties and incompatibilities; its core is the inevitable expansion of capitalism worldwide including the spread of its values.6

Theoretical framework

There have been many different attempts to understand the role of globalization in conflict resolution. Some of these views are represented by theories; namely, Liberalism, and Functionalism

Liberalism: Liberals opine that prosperity can be created by freeing economic interchange from political restrictions and believe that countries that are highly dependent on the global economy are likely to experience larger economic growth, more democracy, and increasingly peaceful conditions at home and therefore reduce conflict. According to liberals, international institutions and interdependence are important to fostering international peace because it breeds avenue through which state can interact and forge relationship bluffed in the mutual trade and security interests. Maoz in 2009 aptly summarized the liberal idea; global interdependence increases coordination, cooperation, transparency, and trust, thereby reducing global level of conflict.7 The liberalist’s idea of the international system is one of a multi-polar world that would want and impose new relationships, responsibilities on states and international organizations alike, based on the rule of law. It would be a new world order that would motivate the military neutrality of the developing countries in relation with the big powers; make the great powers to cease military support of conflicts in African and the developing countries; support collective security system to guarantee territorial integrity, with a mechanism for resolving regional and local conflicts; and improve African and developing countries technical and financial assistance. The influence of idealism on Africa with respect to conflict management is worth mentioning. At the continental level, the AU dominated the scene with a charge to resolve conflicts.

Functionalism: functionalism is an integration theory that stress on the need for cooperation and integration of states that would naturally lead to the emergence of a new and war free world. International integration between states develops its own internal dynamic as states integrate in limited functional, technical, or economic areas. According to functionalists, cooperation on social and economic issues will make it possible for states to be involved in a web of activities which will discourage recourse to war and create the condition for political cooperation and the surrendering of sovereignty. The objective of functionalism towards global peace is achieved through functional cooperation by the work of international organizations including intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The activities of functional international organizations involve taking actions on practical and technical problems rather than those of military and political nature. Functionalists believe that this will result in an international government and would bring world peace and security.

The Role of Globalization in Conflict Resolution in Africa since 20th century

The contemporary world has been changing. The ease to interact, the rapid transfer of high technology and the internet are agents that brought people closer than it has ever been since time immemorial. With closer economic integration, each country has an aim in making sure that appropriate policies and decisions are followed in its neighboring and partner countries. This could be gained by coordinating the appropriate national policies within a regional structure. Throughout the continent, African countries are coming together to coordinate components of their relatively small size and opening access to larger markets in order to realize economies of scale. Globalization, meanwhile, has grown beyond economics to become a social, cultural, political and legal concept. In social terms, globalization explains an increased level of relationship among the people of the world and their lives. Political globalization refers to the shift of political activities from a national level to a global level through international organizations such as United Nations. And thus may ultimately reduce the importance of nation states. International institutions such as European Union extend or replace national functions to facilitate international agreement. The globalized world today has created change in world politics where peace and security has become a collective issue not only to countries but corporations and organizations. As a legal phenomenon, globalization is a shift in the ways the international law is created and carried out. While Economic globalization show the increasing economic interdependence of states across the world through a high increase in cross-border movement of goods, capital, technology, and services.

Since the 1990s, the rises of coalitions, peacekeeping missions, and humanitarian interventions have been parts and parcel of new global era. Political economy is more than ever globalized. Conflicts in one territory can have socio-economic and political impacts in other parts of the world. Countries are determined to look for peaceful and diplomatic cooperation while multinational corporations multiplied their presence internationally creating more similarities among diverse cultures. What’s more, the subject of peace keeping and peace building has become part of the fundamental policies of many countries. For instance, Peacekeeping and peace building are now part of the training of major officers of the US, British, Canadian, French and German, Scandinavian armies. And approximately 600 NGOs has devoted all or part of their efforts to international conflict resolution including in Africa. Today, there are tens of thousands of people who have full time careers in governments, NGOs, and consulting firms that specialize in conflict resolution. NGOS are ever increasingly engaged in programs and projects to teach how to settle conflicts to local communities in Africa. States leaders are keener to establish coalitions to find common structure in peace operations and resolutions. It has become a normality to have a third party involve under the cover of international laws. A country would be the mediator between or among states. The academic community has also contributed to conflict resolution by providing theoretical insights to the African conflict situation. Scholars and writers in the conflict resolution tradition have played a pioneering role in theorizing the type of conflicts that have become predominant in the post-cold war period and the ways to resolve and avoid them. The works of scholars like Elise Boulding, William Zartman, Lewis Coser, K. Holsti and others have been very essential in explaining the dynamics of contemporary conflicts especially African conflicts.

Furthermore, conflict resolutions have become globalized with the rise of mechanisms on international conflict resolution. And in assessing the spate of conflicts and conflict resolution in Africa, there are multiple dimensions which manifest in the role of external actors. These external players could be world powers like the United States, Russia, Britain, and non-state actors including multinationals and international organizations. Significantly, the role of external actors in African conflicts varies from conflict management, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and peace building. In other words, the UN, Non-governmental organizations and other entities has been fully involved in the conflict resolution attempts in Africa and also entail a sense of duty to intervene in African affairs. The spread of globalization is generating change in an unprecedented level in Africa. Among other things, it has led to the internationalization of conflicts and wars which otherwise would have remained local. The effects of globalization on the African states have been of both economic and military dimension.

The political aspects of globalization have led to a shift of power from sovereign states to technologically advanced global elites and private multinational. More so, a review of intervention efforts in African conflicts in the last three decades of the 20th century brings out main trends in regard to the main agencies or actors and the intervention methods involved. The trend shows that the main actors intervening in African conflicts were mostly from outside of Africa; they include individuals, countries, institutions and organizations. Some of these outside entities or actors included former colonial masters, the European community, the US, international organizations, as well as regional efforts like ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), IGAD (Inter-Government Authority on Development), and a number of non-governmental actors such as former presidents Jimmy Carter, Olusegun Obasanjo and Julius Nyerere. Similarly, the major international organizations involved in African conflicts are mainly the United Nations and the OAU (Organization of African Unity) /AU (African Union). The UN, for instance, has intervened in African conflicts since 1960 as in the case of DR. Congo. In the last two and three decades of the 20th century, the UN intervened in the Namibian independence conflict, Mozambique and Angola civil wars, Western Sahara, and the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Most of these interventions were in form of peace building. The expanse of war in Africa is evident in the fact that in the last decade the attempt to address conflicts on the continent has covered up to two-thirds of the United Nations Security Council’s activities and has involved about three quarters of its active peacekeepers. Some of the UN conflict resolution attempts were seen in DR Congo in 2010 under United Nations Mission in Dr Congo (MONUC). MONUC is a multinational mission with the contributing countries from all over the globe. It is arguably the largest and most complex mission in UN history and the most challenging. In Sierra Leone, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was established in 2005. UN converted a large contingent of Nigerian, Ghanaian and Guinean troops from ECOMOG to form the UNAMSIL peacekeepers.8

The United Nations/African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was as well created in Darfur, Sudan. The UN in July 2008 authorized the deployment of 26,000 peacekeepers in Darfur making it one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions.9 Its budget of $1.7 billion for the fiscal year 2008-2009 is the largest of UN peacekeeping operations.10 Furthermore, in December 1992, UN intervened in Mozambique civil war. The Security Council approved the UN operations in Mozambique (ONUMOZ). The mission helped manage and resolve the conflict which began since 1975. In relation to Angola, in August 1988, US brokered talks were held in Geneva involving South Africa, Cuba, and Angola. A ceasefire was reached, and South Africa troops withdrew from Angola. With the involvement of the UN, two peace agreements were signed in New York in December 1988. The first UN Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) was established in 1988 to verify the withdrawal of Cuban troops.11 The success of UNAVEM 1 provided the impetus for the ruling MPLA and UNITA rebels to sign the peace accords in 1991. Also, the Security Council established the UN operations in Somalia (UNOSOM 1), deploying 500 peacekeepers to settle Somalia’s civil war which erupted in full force in January 1991. UNOSOM 11 was later established to build peace. In addition, UN accepted responsibility to eliminate atrocities and reduce mass killings, common in Africa if African government is unable to protect its citizens. The OAU on its part was, until 1990, practically non-responsive to African conflicts because of its doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. Nevertheless, OAU has been successful in settling low-level conflicts, especially those that involved personal disputes among African leaders. In more serious issues, African mediation was more effective in the first decade of the OAU, when the first round of conflict management in Africa especially in the Sahara and the horn was carried out than the second. Its effectiveness depended on treating a problem before it draws in outsiders. One of OAU few successes occurred in 1978 when a mediation committee was able to successfully propose a peace formula for the border dispute between Ethiopia and the Sudan.12 In the Algerian-Morocco conflict of 1963-1973, the fact that OAU’s effort to settle the dispute did not stop at organizing a ceasefire and creating demilitarized zone but went further to launch the parties on the path of serious negotiations was vital to the successful management of the conflict.13

The OAU management mechanism equally tried to intervene in conflicts such as the one in the Republic of the Congo and Burundi in 1993. Such OAU intervention has not been different from the examples of the UN. Like the UN, the OAU laid much emphasizes on the conflict management method comprising of peace-keeping forces to reduce or end violence rather than to addressing the basic issues which caused the conflict. With the global changes stemming from the end of the cold war, the OAU could not cope with the new threats, and so it was wound down. From its ashes emerged the AU.


1 K. Buolding, Class and Conflict in Industrial Society, (Standford: Standford University Press, 1962), 23

2 Tom Woodhouse and Tamara Duffey, et al (eds), Peacekeeping and International Conflict Resolution, (New York: UNITARPOCI, 2000), 22

3 M. Lund, Preventing and Mitigating Violent Conflicts, a Revised Guide for Practi-tioners, (Washington DC: Associations International Press, 1997), 31

4 T. Maluwa, “The Peaceful Settlement of Disputes among African States, 1963-1983; Some Conceptual Issues and Practical Trends” International and Comparative law quarterly, vol.38. no.4, (1989)

5 W. Malcolm, Globalization, (London: Routledge, 1995), 33

6 O. Nnoli, Globalization and Democracy in Africa, in D. Nabudere, (ed.), Globaliza-tion and the African Post Colonial State, (Harare: A. APs Books, 2002) 13.

7 Maoz, Zeev, The Effect Of Strategic And Economic Interdependence On International Conflict Across Level Of Analysis, American Journal Of Political Science 53(1) 223-240, 2009

8 UNOMSIL: Background, unosil_b.htm (accessed 13 February 2010)

9 “UNAMID Fact Sheet”, Henry Stimson Center,, (ac-cessed 25 February 2010)

10 Ibid

11 Francis Deng and William Zartman, Conflict Resolution in Africa, (Washington: Brookings Institute, 1991), 54

12 Ibid., 66

13 Ibid., 67

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Globalization and Conflict Resolution in Africa since the 20th Century
University of Lagos
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globalization, conflict, resolution, africa, century
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Chigozie Paul Nnuriam (Author), 2018, Globalization and Conflict Resolution in Africa since the 20th Century, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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