Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations

First Advisor

Nicholas Rush Smith

Second Advisor

Jean Krasno


Ethnic conflict, discrimination, Africa, peace, security


Since the early days of independence, the African continent has been the theatre of many ethnic conflicts. While people, in general, assume these conflicts to be political and blame the conflicts on authoritarian regimes, they dismissed the fact that conflict between ethnicities is a phenomenon that has occurred for hundreds of years and in all corners of the Earth. Entire countries have been devastated by years of ethnic strife. Once ethnic conflict breaks out, it is difficult to stop. Conflicts in the Balkans, Rwanda, Chechnya, Iraq, and Darfur are among the deadliest examples from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The destabilization of states, and in some cases even regions are consequences of ethnic conflict. These conflicts are also accompanied by human rights violations including genocide, rape, crime against humanity, state failure, and economic decline which in turn exacerbate the violence; violent ethnic conflict always leads to human suffering. Systematic discrimination and exclusion from national and local political decision making, the appropriation of ethnic minorities’ traditional homelands, and policies that marginalize ethnic minorities are common practices accompanying ethnic conflict.

Even if fought at a low level of intensity, protracted ethnic conflicts have a great impact on the affected society. The lack of functional or legitimate political institutions, weak economic performance, a nonexistent or polarized structure of civil society, and antagonized elites lead to polarization and separation, leaving societies deeply divided and prone to further ethnic strife. In addition, ethnic conflicts have very direct effects far beyond what we can imagine. Those involve refugee flows, internal displacement, regional instability, economic failures, environmental disasters, diffusion, and spillover effects are conditions favorable to organized crime and terrorism. In the case of Africa, millions have become displaced persons in their own countries or refugees in other. Therefore, it is fair to say that ethnic conflict represents a threat to international peace and security.



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