Asymmetric warfare in African conflicts

  • R Ferreira


Irregular wars have erupted in African states since colonial independence
from Western European countries in the 1960s. The end of the Cold War in 1989 and the changing nature of international politics did not bring about political stability in African states either. These intrastate wars were by-products of historic disputes kept hidden during the Cold War. When the ideological confrontation ended, they surfaced again. Intrastate wars and irregular warfare are not new phenomena on the African continent and led to the collapse of state institutions in countries such as Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Sudan and Burundi. Rather than addressing African animosities, conflict continues unabated.

The article aims to investigate why irregular (or asymmetric) warfare is utilised in African conflicts where rebel and ethnic groups retain residual military capacity to deploy against weak central governments if their socio-economic demands are not met in the emerging states. The article combines “grievance” and “greed” models to explain the motivations for conflict, while the conceptualisation and utilisation of asymmetric warfare approaches in the African context of irregular war are questioned. Democratic values such as freedom, justice, equality and human dignity are lacking in conflict-ridden societies where unequal forces compete for
political and economic control or control over scarce resources.  Peacekeeping operations cannot succeed unless the basis for equitable participation in, and the sharing of wealth and power is established in African societies.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0020
print ISSN: 1022-8136