African Guerrillas: Raging Against the Machine

In This Review

African Guerrillas: Raging Against the Machine

By Morten Bøås and Kevin C. Dunn
Lynne Rienner, 2007
275 pp. $58.00
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Recent analyses of civil conflict in Africa have focused on the microdynamics of violence. According to the "greed model," civil wars tend to be sustained by economic motives, and in particular by the ability of military organizations to control natural resources; the older approach, in contrast, emphasized the role of "grievances." The authors in this collection are openly critical of the greed approach, instead focusing on the grievances of disadvantaged youth and subaltern populations, the political dynamics of dysfunctional states, and the historical antecedents of conflicts. In the end, the rich and informative case studies that make up most of the chapters give plenty of evidence of greedy behavior, and the book's approach seems more complementary than contradictory to the greed approach. The authors also typically agree that violent conflict emerged because political elites in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire and Congo actively manipulated ethnic divisions to mobilize core supporters -- and that the ultimate objective of most of these conflicts is control of the central state for the financial resources and legitimacy it offers. Where the authors begin to break new ground is in their suggestion that these conflicts have been fueled by the irrational rage of rootless and disaffected youth in the face of the central state's pervasive political and economic failures and their own powerlessness.