Africa and World Conflicts
The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has raised unsettling questions about the relationship that we as human beings have with conflict. Some people are asking whether as human beings we can ever be without conflicts because history tells us of the series of wars and conflicts we have had? Some others are asking whether Africa’s conflicts are different from ‘other’s’ conflicts because they do not often gain recognition of the day and life seems to go on without global disruption. Still, others are questioning the need to resort to conflict in this 21st century, where human beings seem to have evolved from historical conflicts that result from finite resources. Differently from George Berkeley’s “to be is to be perceived”, it seems that to be is to be with conflicts because they exist relative to us since we may be part of the same substratum. For, if we are not relative to each other, why are we defined by so many wars and conflicts? This relationship between humankind and conflicts may have given birth to the popular aphorism that we only know others when we are in conflict with them. So, why do we continually accept a state of affairs in which we are in conflict with one another?
Arguably, there would be no conflict if there were no existence. Consider once that we were never in existence, would there be conflicts? One obvious answer is that conflicts are because we are, given that human societies have fought their neighbour’s resources or power from the beginning of time. Karl Marx and Engels affirmed the perpetuity of conflict in the Communist Manifesto when they argued that the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle; as one class displaced another it fought to have power over another. The struggle of small societies’ limited resources has become more acute as populations grow and resources remain limited: fights for grazing land or access to water mark some societies in the Southern margins of the Sahara and in the horn of Africa. The imperialist expansion has marked parts of the world for a thousand years: China and Persia to take two at random. Most of Europe and a swath of North Africa were colonised by Rome for three or four hundred years. Central and South America had their own empires, Aztec and Inca with centralised rule controlling huge territories. Modern imperialism was initiated by the fight by European nations for precious metals and precious stones and rare spices that set off the first great wave of colonisation in the sixteenth century which subjected South America and India to extraordinary brutality. The brutality surrounding colonisation extended into Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries, only now the main players were Britain and France rather than Spain and Portugal which were dominant in the earlier phase.
In Africa, we have been caught up in conflicts from the primary resistance to colonisation, through the struggle for independence to military coups and the fight for secession and freedom; nor did independence bring peace. The new nation-states that replaced the colonies have been disfigured by military coups, politicians’ contempt for constitutions and less frequently by violent secessionist movements. The violence accompanying these different episodes in the continent’s life has been partly responsible for Africa’s refugees, many of whom are within the continent.
It follows that our existence would be very bland if there were no conflict. We need this experience to tickle our philosophical minds. But are we indirectly affirming that conflicts have some good? Maybe not really, for if that were to be the goal of the nature of seeking knowledge, there would be no philosophers because conflicts might have overpowered their existence. So, we are left with these fundamental questions: why are we in conflict with ourselves? Is it true that to be is to be in conflict? What are conflicts really? Do they have a separate existence or do they exist as a result of our existence? Do they have some good? Are they to be feared? Are we able to exist without conflicts? As African philosophers, can we investigate the underlying nature of conflict in the continent? Are they real or are they illusions? What new knowledge can we create on African conflicts? With a continent so diverse and rich in cultures, are we to advocate for cultural absolutism to curb conflicts? What is the role of African philosophers in times of conflict? Can Africa rely on philosophers during times of conflict? Are African philosophers only content with old discourses on conflicts from the global north that often fail to consider the cultural diversity in Africa?
Africa is a continent in motion, with enduring conflicts that have given rise to internally displaced persons and increasingly rapid refugee crises, which have been met with devastating consequences. No fewer than twelve million persons have been internally displaced because of triggers such as civil unrest, oppressive democracies, and conflicts across the continent, with a significant number from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. The refugee map is also in motion, with the demographics at over eighteen million of the world refugee population, which triggers further conflicts and political instabilities. Because of enduring conflicts in the continent, the number of refugees keeps rising, with some refugees being subjected to inhumane treatment, trauma, racism, and early death. As a continent on the move, what measures could help us grow independent of conflict? What measures could be put in place that ensures the safety and security of internally displaced persons and refugees? What bargaining powers do we have as a continent with so many mineral resources to abate conflict? If our leaders were not self-seeking, could they put an end to conflict?
Arguably, we seem to resort to conflict because of our collective failures to heed God’s commands of peace. John Mbiti articulates this African conception of a cause and effect relationship in his Introduction to African Religion when he argues that anything that happens to an African is perceived as a departure from the instructions of the divine. One could argue that the consequence of not heeding God’s commands of peace is the resulting endless conflicts in Africa and the world at large. For God commanded that we should be peaceful, but we have failed to heed this command. So, conflict exists because of our collective failure to heed God’s command of peace. Are our conflicts a result of our failure to heed God’s command? Would anything God commands be heeded? How would African theologians apply the divine command theory in a time of conflict? In a continent with enduring conflicts like Africa, is there any literature on a theology of conflict? What is the hope to hold on to from African theologians in times of conflict?
There are many ways in which our theme can be developed and the relevance cannot be overemphasized, given the much-talked-about conflict in Ukraine, which began on the 24th of February 2022 when Russia launched what she dubbed her ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. This dubbed ‘special military operation’ has led to resounding consequences across the world, including countless deaths and increasingly rapid refugee crises. Our theme invites reflections on whether there is an inevitable relationship between Africa’s conflicts and the world’s conflicts: why would a conflict in Ukraine affect the economy of Africa so that the prices of essential goods and services are inflated? And why do local conflicts in Africa never affect world economies? Where is Africa not getting it right?
In view of the prevenient paragraphs, the Editorial Board of Chiedza, Journal of Arrupe Jesuit University, for the May 2022 Issue, invites articles reflecting on these or related issues on the theme of “Africa and World Conflicts” from different perspectives. Prospective articles, which may be philosophical, theological, literary, psychological, or historical, should be 4,000 words or less. We also welcome articles and book reviews on related themes or poems which do not necessarily reflect our theme. All articles are to be sent to: email@example.com either on or before the 5th of June, 2022.
Please refer to this Chiedza Website for submission preparation guidelines, author’s guidelines, and the Chiedza style sheet.
Ikpodon Michael, S.J.,
On behalf of the Editorial Board