In This Review

War and Conflict in Africa
War and Conflict in Africa
By Paul D. Williams
Polity, 2011, 320 pp.

Why has Africa experienced so many armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War? Williams rejects monocausal arguments in this very readable synthesis of the literature on civil wars in the region since 1990. He also argues for a clear distinction between underlying factors that make conflict more likely (such as poor governance by African regimes, contests over natural resources, and the ethnic and religious heterogeneity of African societies) and trigger factors that push specific actors to violence (such as miscalculation, greed, or personal ambition). Williams takes a rather pessimistic view of international responses to conflict in the region, such as the creation of conflict-prevention organizations, peacekeeping missions, and power-sharing peace deals. He views these efforts as typically underfunded, ill timed, or not well suited to the dynamics of the actual conflicts. Equipped with an impressive command of the different struggles that have ravaged the region, Williams has written a superb overview of this complex subject without resorting to academic jargon. It deserves to be read by novices and specialists alike.