Article from ROAPE Volume 26 Number 81
Warfare, Endemic Violence & State Collapse in Africa
African politics in the nineties have been marked by a series of violent breakdowns of order, and in some cases the disappearance of the central state, in a large number of states. Attempts at the analysis of this phenomenon have involved several different but complementary approaches, notably those invoking globalisation, the economics of ‘new’ war, the crisis of the neopatrimonial state, or social and cultural factors as keys to explanation. These either confine themselves to case studies, or treat all instances of endemic violence as open to the same analysis, in part because they treat violence or warfare as themselves the central objects of analysis. An alternative approach does not see ‘war’ as the problem, but is instead concerned with the historical circumstances within which endemic violence occurs and which can be seen as possible causes of that violence. &break; This approach allows for the simultaneous existence of several different historical sequences involving war and violence, and identifies one key category of cases of endemic violence which covers the great majority of those cases in the nineties: violence associated with the process of state collapse in Africa. It attributes the origins of violence in these cases to the degeneration of their ‘spoils politics’ systems under the impact of their internal dynamics, accelerated by economic decline since 1980 and the end of the Cold War. As spoils systems develop into ‘terminal spoils’ , so violence intensifies and takes on new but necessary forms, and a process of state collapse begins, interacting with the growth of violence in ways that accelerate both.