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Reviewed by:
  • The Roots of African Conflicts: the causes and costs, and: The Resolution of African Conflicts: the management of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction
  • Richard Reid
Alfred Nhema and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (eds), The Roots of African Conflicts: the causes and costs. Addis Ababa and Oxford: OSSREA and James Currey (pb £17.95 – 978 1 84701 300 2). 2008, xii+244 pp.
Alfred Nhema and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (eds), The Resolution of African Conflicts: the management of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. Addis Ababa and Oxford: OSSREA and James Currey (pb £17.95 – 978 1 84701 302 6). 2008, xvi+207 pp.

The Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) is to be commended for facilitating the production of these two volumes, which together provide further evidence of an increasingly rigorous approach to the study of African conflict. As befits OSSREA’s mission, the vast majority of the chapters are authored by Africans or individuals based at African institutions, and the two collections cover a diverse array of topics. However, perhaps inevitably, this is a mixed bag. There are some first-rate analytical studies, some thematic digressions, and a handful of contributions which are both descriptive and glib. Some of the contributions in the first volume – dealing with ‘causes and costs’ – are excellent, and offer much that is new in terms of perspective and paradigm: John Akokpari on citizenship and conflict in Côte d’Ivoire; Thandika Mkandawire on violence against peasantries by rebel movements; Aaronette White’s examination of gender through a revisiting of Fanon; Fondo Sikod on the relationship between conflict, poverty and food supply. Indeed Sikod’s chapter highlights one of the weaknesses of this volume, as there needed to be much more on the issues raised all too briefly in this chapter. Chapters by Sandra Maclean on external factors and global connections, and by Timothy Shaw and Pamela Mbabazi on the ‘two states’ that Uganda has become, offer new and interesting perspectives. In the second volume – on ‘resolution and reconstruction’ – there is much of interest to policy makers and analysts. The general ethos of the second book is ‘African solutions to African problems’ – hackneyed, but no less valid for its over-use – and a recurrent theme is the need to reduce reliance on outside intervention, whether political or financial. Thus there are some worthwhile contributions on regional cooperation schemes (Victor Adetula) and the role of the African Union (AU) (P. Godfrey Okoth) – the latter chapter, predictably, critiques the Organization for African Unity (OAU) but is rather more upbeat about the prospects of its successor – and on the possibilities of conflict prevention through early warning systems (Jakkie Cilliers) and the problematic role of the International Criminal Court (ICC), with particular reference to northern Uganda (Kasaija Philip Apuuli). Khabele Matlosa’s chapter on elections and conflict – the former are far from being a panacea – is one of the best in the collection, and surely flags up a key area for future research. Brazao Mazula’s treatment of post-conflict Mozambique is also thoughtful and informative.

Yet there are oddities. In the first volume, Errol Henderson’s statistical analysis left this reviewer cold, and not much the wiser; neither of the two chapters (one in each volume) on Sudan tells us much we do not already know, and in fact both leave out a fair amount that we do know. Cephas Lumina’s piece on terrorism and human rights (the first volume), and Charles Manga Fombad’s chapter on constitutional reformism since the early 1990s (the second volume), do not seem especially germane to the collection. There are other pieces dealing with ‘resolution’ which – while worthy – also seemed out [End Page 614] of place, notably that by Ursula Scheidegger (social capital in South Africa), whose conclusion, that an inequitable distribution of income is a problem, lacks a certain shock value; and by Christof Hartmann (local government in South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius), who poses quite a few questions but does not seem to answer many. A couple of chapters in the second volume are already out of date, moreover. Idris Salim el Hassan might believe that ‘the Sudanese people’ will come together...


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