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War and Violence in Africa . The Myth and the Reality. History of Wars in Africa. Independence movements: mainly peaceful (protests, riots); armed conflict in some countries, mainly those with white settlers

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war and violence in africa

War and Violence in Africa

The Myth and the Reality

history of wars in africa
History of Wars in Africa
  • Independence movements: mainly peaceful (protests, riots); armed conflict in some countries, mainly those with white settlers
  • The “Cold” War (1945-1990): proxy wars in Angola, Mozambique, Somalia, Ethiopia; not nuclear weapons, but the AK-47
rise of small wars
Rise of “Small Wars”

Koidu Diamond Holdings, Kono, Sierra Leone

  • The use of the AK-47 or other low-tech weapons (machetes)
  • Confusion who is fighting: the rise of the “sobel” (both intent on living off civilians and capturing economic resources: e.g., diamond mines in Sierra Leone, elephant tusks in eastern Congo)
  • High civilian casualties: sometimes the direct victim of an attack; more usually, death from displacement, difficulty getting resources: e.g., in Sierra Leone, 15,000 civilians killed and 40% displaced internally or outside the country (out of population of 4m).
thinking about violence and war anthropologically
Thinking about violence and war anthropologically

Key insight #1:

Kigali, Rwanda

  • War and violence express social conflict; if we understand the local social order, we can understand violence as political actions
  • What was Peter Uvin’s argument about why the genocide happened in Rwanda in 1994?
thinking about violence anthropologically
Thinking about violence anthropologically

Child soldiers of RUF

  • Why did the RUF go to war against the state? Richards argues: “The crisis of patrimonialism”
  • What does this mean?
  • How does this relate to big men/big women
  • Why the focus on youth?
  • Why take over the diamond mines?
  • “The movement is a creature of the unresolved contradictions of the post-colonial state” (p. 553)
thinking about violence anthropologically1
Thinking about violence anthropologically

Key insight #2:

Father and child, displaced in Freetown

  • Brutality and dehumanization occur through culturally symbolic actions
  • Violence is performative, symbolically communicative
  • “Civilized”/”barbaric” (or the current terms: “modern” or “developed”)
  • Why cut off the arms of civilians in Sierra Leone?
  • Brutal acts then become comprehensible
thinking about violence anthropologically2
Thinking about violence anthropologically
  • Rambo’s “First Blood” (1982) as a key myth for the RUF
  • POA, p. 552
  • Note how global media become re-signified and made meaningful locally
thinking about violence anthropologically3
Thinking about violence anthropologically

Social harmony = personal health

Curing of personal illness = curing of social disorder

In the Rwandan genocide of 1994,

  • Why so many checkpoints?
  • Why rape?
  • Why impaling?
thinking about violence anthropologically4
Thinking about violence anthropologically

Key insight #3

Nomkubulwana, the goddess of rain, harvest, and fertility

  • Violence and war may not create a new and different social order
  • Rebellion may express and contain social change
  • What is a ritual of rebellion, according to Max Gluckman?