In This Review

Conflict in Africa
Conflict in Africa
By Adda B. Bozeman
Princeton University Press, 1976, 403 pp.
Ethnic Conflict and Democratization in Africa
Ethnic Conflict and Democratization in Africa
Edited by Harvey Glickman
African Studies Association Press, 1995, 484 pp.

Although the vast majority of Africans live in peace with their neighbors, life has been nasty, brutish, and short for millions of others who live in ill-fated parts of the continent where Hobbesian civil wars have recently raged. These conflicts are the focus of two useful collections, one primarily descriptive, the other organized around the prescriptive theme of institutional reform. With minimal overlap, the books offer chapter-length profiles of civil conflicts in about 20 countries. In most of these countries the conflicts are still ongoing, but in a happy few like Namibia and Mozambique, peace now prevails. Of particular value in throwing new light on current crises are the contributions by Paul Richards, in the Furley volume, on youth culture in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Hussein M. Adam, in the Glickman volume, on clan politics in Somalia. Thematic essays in Furley's collection also survey the plight of refugees and child soldiers, causal links between conflict, colonialism, and the end of the Cold War, and the economic impact of African wars, such as their lack of positive technological side effects. An overview by Ali A. Mazrui, typically hovering between profundity and persiflage, introduces the volume.

The essays in Glickman's collection center on ethnicity as a factor in civil strife. In a country or regional context, each explores political reforms that might channel ethnic competition into nonviolent democratic expression. In most cases leaving in abeyance the tricky question of how to get from here to there, the authors speculate on the suitability of various consociational, federal, or other decentralized constitutional arrangements; of coalition governments, proportional representation, and other non-winner-take-all electoral systems; and on possible ways of lowering the stakes in national political competition, particularly by shrinking the public sector through privatization. Ironically, as several authors point out, many of today's wisest prescriptions for political reform in Africa were presciently set out by W. Arthur Lewis in his 1965 classic Politics in West Africa.