Intrastate Conflicts By Rania Maroun 500319319 Submitted To Dr. Abbas H. Gnamo Ted Rogers School of Business Management In partial fulfillment for the requirements For POL 540 November 7, 2011 Ryerson University As a Lebanese citizen I have experienced firsthand the tragic result which intrastate violence leaves on a nation and its people. Intrastate conflicts have been the cause of the world’s many high profile displays of brutal and inhumane violent acts. In fact “most wars today take place within rather than between states” (Turton, 1997).
From Somalia to Indonesia, intrastate conflicts are “particularly destructive of the lives and livelihoods of civilians, waged not against an invisible enemy but against neighbours, friends and even relatives” (Turton, 1997). Aside from the direct destruction of intrastate conflicts which have left up to 30 million people dead internationally since 1945 (Miall, Ramsbottom, Woodhouse, 1999), the long-term effects of these conflicts can be felt for generations.
That is why understanding the reasons and how intrastate conflicts come about is essential to combating and eliminating their destructive results. Although some would argue that to understand intrastate conflicts, one must find common the common denominator, which would make them easier to identify and solve; is there really an underlying common denominator? Or the obvious reality is that interstate conflicts are context specific and completely vary in each incident, hence eliminating the concept of the common denominator for the reason of conflict.
Moreover, looking and analyzing what many have said are the common natures of intrastate conflicts – colonial legacy, unstable political structure, external interests, and ethnic hatred, one will get a further understanding that intrastate conflicts are in their own right context specific. First of all, to argue that common factors are a possible are false because they may or may not be present. Also these common factors are present in other states but have never lead to interstate catastrophes of war and violence.
So really this essay will be going over the named common factors in intrastate conflicts and arguing that they are actually 100% context specific, with their own set of problems and different variables that play a role in creating the devastating result of an internal war. As the topic and theories on intrastate violence are broad, this essay will be looking at the ongoing conflict in Somalia and how its intrastate conflict, while similar in nature to other international incidents of internal violence, is complicated and context specific.
Main causes of the Somali conflict are politicized clan identity (ethnic hate), competition for resources and/or power (lack of governess or structure), the colonial legacy, and the availability of weapons (external involvement). Contributing causes were the presence of large number of unemployed youth and repression by the military regime (Elmi, 2010). Yet one cannot even come to comprehend the conflict without understanding the historical context of that nation, the region it is in, and the situation of the world around in.
That is why it is important to consider the history of Somalia and nature of its government structure from an earlier point in history. Close to civilization and international trade for thousands of years, Somalia’s current inhospitable condition would never have been imaginable to the traders who prospered on its natural ports. Strategically located on the Horn of Africa, its harbours allowed trade from Europe and the rest of Africa to flow back and forth to India.
In fact it was in the north, the land of the legendary Queen of Sheba, where the earliest part of Arabia flourished. It was this prosperity that made Somalia so important during the European scramble for Africa in the 1880s. Colonized and split into five parts between Great Britain, France, Italy, and Ethiopia, which later became separated into the North and South, Somalia would never be the same again.
Seventeen years after the Somali Youth League was created to fight colonization, Somalia was finally declared independent in 1960. A military coup in 1969 turned the then democratic state into a socialist state. Under this repressive state many clan-based army groups organized. An attempt to overthrow the government by the Majeerteen clan in 1978 lead the Siyad Barre government to punish civilian members of that clan through mass killing, abuse, and general destruction of their area.
This marked the journey toward a more abusive state and the Somali civil war as more clans started to rise up. Finally in 1991, after murdering countless innocent civilians Siyad Barre was overthrown and anarchy took over Somalia as most of the country’s institutions were destroyed. MORE PRESENT HISTROY Unstable Structure The biggest argument present that tries to support the idea of a common nature behind intrastate conflicts is that they are seen as an outcome of a frail or lack of a properly governing structure.
This allows a breeding ground for chaos as structural features most commonly associated with conflict are “security concerns, ethnic geography; political factors such as discriminatory political institutions, exclusionary national ideologies, inter-group politics, and elite politics; economic/social factors such as widespread economic problems, unequal economic distribution systems, modernization, and cultural/perceptual factors such as patterns of cultural discrimination and previously antagonistic group histories (Brown 1996)”. INSERT SOMALIA UNSTABLE SITUATION DESCRIPTION
However, saying that a lack of or an unstable structure is simply a common factor in intrastate conflicts provides little explanation as to why close societies who share a similar structural feature, case in point such as a presence of frail government institutions, poverty with large wealth disparities, and illegitimate states, have different conflict histories and timings. For example, Kenya has often demonstrated characteristics of weak structure, and shares a past of Western colonial and Arabic invaders with Somalia, yet long-lasting violence is not part of the country’s history in comparison.
Also, this common aspect does not account for the timing of the outbreak of violence (Jackson, 2004). Simply stating that this is a common aspect is too simple of an explanation and “does not provide a satisfactory answer to the puzzlement of why conflicts and campaigns of extreme violence occurred when they did”. For example, genocide in Rwanda erupted in 1994, yet the Rwandan Patriotic Army had invaded the country since 1990. However the biggest problem with seeing structural weakness as a common case for intrastate conflict overlooks the role of internal and external agents that enable or promote the escalation of violence.
While one can look at a weakened structure as a common prerequisite, present before the outbreak of these violent conflicts, they do not give a deeper understanding of the nature of the violence, how it came about, and why it continued the way it did. Basically, intrastate conflicts cannot just be a predictable outcome of structural deficiencies within a state. External Involvement “As many as 71 percent of the civil wars that have occurred since 1945 have involved support by an external power. (Hironaka, 1970) In Lebanon there is a famous saying by the locals referring about their political woes that translate into: our problems are impregnated outside and brought here to give birth. An indirect statement claiming that Lebanon’s interstate conflicts are comprised of external issues finding an advantage of utilising Lebanon as a battle ground to form somebody else’s ideal situation. If you think about it, that by itself illustrates a perfect example of context specific interstate conflict; a conflict created to serve a specific purpose, yet masked pretending to be sprung out of a natural course of the country’s ethnic composition.
When looking at Somalia there is a wide difference between the impact made international humanitarian, economic, and military intervention in the south and the condition in the north where regional clans slowly self governed and eventually lead to a successful peacemaking process. UN leadership in Mogadishu focused a compromise on rival war lords leaders, Generals Aided and Morgan, and other clan leaders who had a personal interest in continuing the conflict. They were then selected by UN officials, who lacked knowledge of the region’s context and conflict condition, as representatives to Somali.
This, not surprisingly, exploited the people’s peacemaking and conflict resolving capabilities and lost an opportunity to allow the evolvement of a home-grown political structure, by instead giving the leadership power to military leaders and local extremists. For example, the two year Mbagathi conference saw Ethiopia and Kenya subjectively selecting the 275 members of the parliament. National intellectuals, civilians, and Islamists did not get elected, not surprisingly, warlords that supported their policies were.
They knew that by doing so they would not have to deal with a unified government that would try to reclaim land taken over by the Ethiopian and Kenyan government. Also Ethiopia, a landlocked nation, needed access to a sea corridor. “The response of the international community to the events in, for example, Somalia and Bosnia, cannot be understood, any more than the events themselves can be understood, except within the context of a particular set of power relations existing within the international political system.
We come back to the point that globalization is not a politically neutral process and that it is the precondition for localization. The international community which defines a political structure globally consisting of associations between states of unequal political and economic power is the context for internal war, including the extreme examples of it which have led to the complete disintegration of former nation-states in the Horn of Africa and the Balkans. The way the international community responds to internal war is simply another manifestation of this global political structure.
We should not be surprised to discover, then, that international intervention in internal wars is prone to sustain and institutionalize the very behaviour it is intended to combat and control. ”(Browns, 1997) Use to make point When we speak of the international community in this context we are, above all, speaking of the countries which, because of their economic power and political influence, dominate the existing global political structure and have most to gain from its continuance.
It is inevitable, therefore, that the political elites of those countries will respond to the problem of internal war, both in their public pronouncements and in the actions they take to intervene in it, in ways that support rather than call into question the legitimacy of that structure. This must go a long way to explaining the startling scarcity and superficiality of the analyses offered by Western politicians and diplomats of events in Rwanda, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.
These analyses have been variations on the “ancient tribal antagonism” theme and have therefore reflected and supported the views and interpretations of local extremists and radicals rather than of those dedicated to compromise and coexistence. ” (Turton, 1997) *NEEDS FIXING STILL ALSO, “The root to Somali’s current state of collapse can be linked to 1977 war between Somali and Ethiopia over “Ogaden”, where Somalia lost after direct military intervention by the Soviet Union and Cuba. ” (Elmi, 2010) Ethnic Hate & Clan mentality ALMOST DONE
Many theorists argue that the primordial approach, which states that an ethnic group comes from a given characteristic, leads to ethnic hatred which is a common factor in understanding intrastate conflicts. After all “there is something universal about ethnicity, of course, and this might be described as the human need to belong, to identify and hence also to exclude” (Turton, 1997). However the idea that ethnic hatred leads to violence holds many fallacies as ethnicities that have been co-habituating for centuries do not necessarily end up in conflict. COULD BE A SECOND POINT) Also argued is that ethnic hatred, after being suppressed by years of colonialism, turns into devastating violence once external governess ends. Yet many ethically motivated conflicts were artificially created to begin with. Like in Rwanda where the Hutu and Tutsi people, who share the same language and look identical, ended in a genocide that saw the Hutu slaughtering up to 800,000. Ancient ethnic hatred or clan mentality is no longer blamed for this conflict; instead most historians argue that it was a result of the Belgium colonial government in Rwanda giving the Tutsi privileged positions in the government.
This creation of supremacy between two artificially created groups, Tutsi people who were herders and the farming Hutu, is what eventually led to the sad events of 1994. “The logic of the “ancient tribal antagonism” hypothesis is that the most sensible policy would be one of non-interference. In the age of instant television coverage of the world’s “disaster spots”, however, it is not easy for a Western politician, with even one eye on the next election, to advocate such a policy publicly.
The next best thing to inaction is to attempt to gain political advantage from high profile humanitarian interventions which simultaneously divert the attention of the public from the underlying causes of the crisis. Here we can see a kind of unholy, although not deliberate, alliance between journalists and politicians, who conspire between them to present such events as those in Somalia and former Yugoslavia as dramatic and short-term emergencies rather than as the outcome of long-term structural processes. (Turton, 1997) Another problem with ethnic hatred as a common nature of intrastate conflicts is that it over simplifies the complexity of these wars, and provides no real quantifiable or quantitative or qualitative data. It basically overlooks the different socio-economic factors that are observed in order to homogenize both current and historical cases of intrastate conflicts. Through that lens it becomes hard to understand why these ethnic disagreements were significant enough for war at certain times in history, yet held no clout during the other periods of peace and prosperity.
However the main problem with that argument is that it shifts focus from understanding the reason of the hatred to simply stating that violence is or was a natural and inherent instinct within the conflicting ethnicities. This doesn’t hold much convection as it indirectly states that the ethnicities in conflict lack reason, and are acting on barbaric characteristics (Turton, 1997). Besides with a huge homogeneous population, the Somali ethnic group, who were historically pastoral nomads depending on livestock and farming, were not filled with hatred but rather divided into clans (Elmi, 2010).
Conclusion: Long enough?? Although interstate conflicts, and thus the instability in one form or another could become a reality in the foreseeable future, they are not unavoidable. Unquestionably, they will likely take place if the status quo continues. Interstate conflicts will remain possible because of the existence of various sources of accusation, including but not limited to territorial debate, unless all issues and the like are dealt with in a favourable manner for all included groups.
It goes without saying that based on the individual situation in every country there will clearly be differences in the type of instability and the extent of materialization. Only by understanding the context of each intrastate conflict, instead of just analyzing the common nature, will us as humans be able to avoid or illuminate the threat of intrastate violence that has been the cause of much pain and suffering for the international community.
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