Conflict in Africa: Diagnosis and Response

"Responding to violent conflict begins with a diagnosis of what the conflict is about — what are the causes and triggers that transform a disagreement into an armed struggle. Behind the immediate reasons, however, there are often assumptions about the enabling conditions that underlie the conflict, and these assumptions provide the framework for the diagnosis. This paper reviews three of the assumptions that underlie the analysis of what conflicts are about as they relate to Africa. These assumptions are: that conflicts result from zero-sum power politics among contending leaders; they are due to state weakness and the failure of governments to provide basic services and security; or they result from sharply differing views of culture and society."