Territorial disputes, colonial past and present poverty in Africa
The document we consider today brings together all the elements we have covered so far: the colonial roots of many of the current issues in Africa.
“The greatest challenge to Africa is the existence of poverty on its land; which has led to the continent being considered as the poorest in the world. The cause of the poverty could be traced from its colonial history. In the beginning of the century, the colonial leaders, namely Great Britain, Germany, Portugal and other Western countries deliberately met and designed the national boundaries of Africa’s countries to cause unrest in the continent. Artificial boundaries were deliberately drawn that split allied ethnic groups, and groups rival groups together. This was done so that the colonial governments could maintain control. It’s a classic case of “divide and conquer”.
Unfortunately, when these nations gained independence, they maintained those old colonial lines, and one can see the results, most notably in places like Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, and even Ghana. It is therefore no surprise that the national government is rife with corruption at all levels with the people feeling more loyalty to their ethnic region than the national government in the midst of many other conditions of deprivations which further pushes the people desolately into the despotism of poverty with little or no hope of survival or escape from such conditions. In Africa, the poor are not only those with a lack of money, but also people in a condition, which involves the experience of shame, powerlessness, social, religious and political exclusion. The poor are people of overdue rights. They are people who are landless, homeless, starving and exploited. They are caused, shunned by others and condemned to live on the periphery of mainstream society. They are either unable to gain access to the good things offered by society or take part in public decisions.
Poverty in the African Content: Causes and Consequences/ Effects
In Africa, the causes of poverty mainly concern the reasons behind the low wealth and productivity of the poor or conversely, the shortage and inflation of the goods they consume. Even though the general characteristics of underdevelopment are not common to all these underdeveloped African countries, ye t a broad answer to the question, “why a poor country is poor”, is implicit in these characteristics. A number of these characteristics are both the causes and consequences of poverty. The following factors analyze the natural causative relationships that inhibit development thereby engendering poverty in the African continent.
War and Armed Conflict War breeds poverty as no other product of man can do. One in every five Africans lives in a country rife with armed conflict. From local warlords seeking to expand their control, to national armies clashing with their neighbours or their own citizenry. Truly here the people can barely grow food enough to feed themselves. War destroys the infrastructure and prevents a build up of any beneficial works that may r aise the people out of their condition. As observed by Brenth (2007), “war and armed conflict are the major causes of poverty in Africa. They have many effects such as displacing populations, destroying crops and forcing people to move from their land”. Hence due to armed conflicts in Africa there are millions of refugees who live on the edges of society, often in abject poverty. Undoubtedly, despite other hot spots of war, Africa consistently remains among the top places for ongoing conflicts, consisting of both long standing civil wars as experienced in Somalia and Sudan and conflicts between countries as seen between Ethiopia and Eritrea‟s border wars after the latter‟s independence from the former. Despite a lack of basic social services or even the bas ic necessities of life military forces are often well financed and well equipped at the expense of the masses‟ survival.
As a result of the above scenario, Africa is full of refugees, who are often deliberately displaced by military forces during a conflict, rather than just having fled from war torn areas like Daffour in Sudan or Kabinda areas in Angola to mention but a few. Although many refugees emigrate to open countries such as Germany, Canada and the United States, the ones who do emigrate are often the most educated and skilled. The remainders often become a burden on neighbouring African nations that, while peaceful, are generally unable to deal with the logistical problems refugees pose. With some conflicts having lasted for 20 or 30 years, some of these refugees haven been living in camps for decades with no hope of leaving them. This situation means that they have to think only about surviving rather than being able to make long – term plans for their future and getting themselves out of poverty. In effect, civil wars usually have the result of totally shutting down all government services. However, any conflict generally disrupts what trade or economy there is.
As an instance, Sierra Leone which depends on diamonds for much of its economic activity, not only faces disruption in production which reduces the supply, but also ending up as a thriving black market in conflict diamonds, which drives down the price of what diamonds, are produced. Furthermore, war, political instability and crime, including violent gangs and drug cartels discourage investment. Civil wars and conflicts in Africa per se cost the continent some $300 billion between 1990 and 2005. Eritrea and Ethiopia spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the war that resulted from minor border changes.”
Today, the post covered the historical reasons for conflict. Tomorrow, the post will present current issues related to territory and management of land in Africa. Indeed, although the time of the colony is long ago gone, some countries still use their international position of privilege to maintain Africa in poverty.
Making Poverty a History in Africa Link to the main document
This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (Routledge 2020).Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.
Territorial disputes: making poverty a history in Africa.
Thursday 22nd October 2020
Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez