Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0006
- LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0006
The study of African civil wars has boomed since 2000 as scholars have recognized the predominance of internal wars over interstate wars in the post-Cold War context. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought with it an influx of illegal weaponry and the weakening of many proxy states, leading to a spike in conflict in the early 1990s as political and economic elites sought to take advantage of the new political dispensation. Across the continent, a variety of insurgent organizations caused immeasurable death and destruction, whether small rag-tag outfits like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda; proxy armies of foreign governments, such as the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone; or more conventional insurgent forces, such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. In addition, conflicts in places like Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo took on hybrid forms mixing internal wars with interstate wars. As a result, no single approach fully captures the broad range of experiences of African civil war.
Scholars have produced many solo monographs and edited volumes that present differing interpretations of the causes and consequences of civil wars. Several of these works, such as Herbst 2000, Reno 1998, and Englebert 2009 locate the source of violence in the postcolonial nature of African states. Others, such as Zartman 1995, Ali and Mathews 1999, Kieh and Mukenge 2002, Kaarsholm 2006, and Spears 2010 take a more case-oriented approach, looking within specific countries for explanations of dysfunction. Mbembe 2000 provides a more theoretical interpretation for African violence, and contributors to Richards 2005 view the subject through an anthropological lens.
Ali, Taisier M., and Robert O. Matthews, eds. Civil Wars in Africa: Roots and Resolution. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999.
Beginning with Sudan in 1956, Congo in 1960, and Nigeria in 1967 and ending with the recent conflicts in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, the contributors examine the root causes of civil wars and violent conflict.
Englebert, Pierre. Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, and Sorrow. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2009.
Englebert’s work uses a variety of methods to demonstrate why civil wars are more common in certain African states and why Africa as a whole has a “secession deficit.”
Herbst, Jeffrey Ira. States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Developing a novel spatial approach to understanding state weakness, Herbst argues that African states struggle to project power over their peripheral lands, rending them perpetually susceptible to violent challengers.
Kaarsholm, Preben, ed. Violence, Political Culture and Development in Africa. Oxford, UK: James Currey, 2006.
Contributors to this interdisciplinary volume examine the sociohistorical processes that have shaped political development and violence in individual African states.
Kieh, George Klay, and Ida Rousseau Mukenge. Zones of Conflict in Africa: Theories and Cases. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
The first half of this volume provides a theoretical framework with which to contextualize African conflicts, while the second half utilizes an array of case studies from the Great Lakes, Liberia, Nigeria, and Zambia to explain civil discord.
Mbembe, Achille. “At the Edge of the World: Boundaries, Territoriality, and Sovereignty in Africa.” Public Culture 12.1 (2000): 259–284.
A dense, yet probing theoretical examination of the nature of contemporary violence in Africa, with an emphasis on its spatial dynamics.
Reno, Will. Warlord Politics and African States. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998.
Focusing on the examples of Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zaire, Reno demonstrates how African rulers attempt to hold on to power in the face of multiple challenges to their rule in the post-Cold War era.
Richards, Paul, ed. No Peace, No War: An Anthropology of Contemporary Armed Conflict. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.
An original volume that challenges prevailing assumptions about the nature of contemporary warfare drawing on a variety of case studies from around the world, including multiple African cases.
Spears, Ian S. Civil War in African States: The Search for Security. Boulder, CO: FirstForumPress, 2010.
Drawing on the cases of Angola, Ethiopia, and Somali, Spears provides an original analysis of why certain wars take the form they do, and what this means for ending violent conflicts.
Zartman, I. William, ed. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1995.
In this influential study, leading scholars examine the conditions that have led to violent conflicts in multiple African countries.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- African Development, Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Authoritarianism in the Public
- Authoritarianism in Turkey
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Climate Change and Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Elections, Partisan Realignment, and Long-Term El...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Electoral Reform and Voting in the United States
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Feminist Political Thought
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume's Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- Interethnic Contact and Impact on Attitudes
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Mexican Political Development
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- Motivated Reasoning
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Online Public Opinion Polling
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Party System Institutionalization in Democracies
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Feedback
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Ambition
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Politics of the American South
- Politics of the US-Mexico Border
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Science and Social Movements
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court and Public Opinion
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- Thailand, Politics of
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Tocqueville’s Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- US Presidential Campaigns and Their Impact
- Voter Turnout
- Voter Turnout Field Experiments
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics