Ethnic Group Conflicts: The Chad-Sudan Conflict

Introduction

Ethnic conflict is in itself historical having manifested itself throughout the cold war and beyond. Even to date, inter-ethnic wars and conflicts are still evident in different parts of the world some even attracting bloodshed and fatal consequences. According to Monica (2003), ethnic conflicts or what is referred to as interethnic groups’ warfare is basically the misunderstandings which often result to war between or among the varying ethnic groups. They are often triggered by racism, identity politics, ethnic hatred, ethnic nationalism, and Diaspora politics among other ensuing inter-group’s differences. As a matter of facts, ethnic conflicts have continued to be witnessed since the cold war, irrespective of the coordinated efforts by peace activists and series mediation from people or nations of goodwill to combat them. Virtually, ethnic conflicts culminate to war crimes for instance genocides such as the Rwanda genocide: the lengthy conflict between two tribes, the Kenyan post election violence of 2007-2008 that resulted in warring between tribes among others (Monica, 2003). Over the years, scholars have attempted to explain the ideology of ethnic conflicts using three main schools of thoughts which includes the primordialist school of thought, the instrumentalist school as well as the constructivist (Schlichting, 1997).

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However, most of scholarly research and concern mainly endeavors to reveal the prevalence rate of ethnic conflicts since the cold war as well as coming up with appropriate ways to manage and combat such conflicts particularly utilizing tools and strategies such as consociationalism and federalization. This paper therefore presents an insight into ethnic conflicts with a bias to the conflicts between Sudan and Chad.

The Chad- Sudan conflict

According to Anonymous (2008), the root cause of the conflict between Chad and Sudan is the Chad civil war which started in the later months of 2005 as an internal conflict between the Chad government and the numerous rebel militias present in the country such as the United Front for Democratic Change, United Forces for Development and Democracy, the Gathering Forces for Change, the National Accord for Chad among others. However, the conflict has since escalated to include the Janjaweed -a term that has been applied in description of militia comprising mainly armed gunmen occupying the larger part of Darfur west of Sudan as well as parts of eastern Chad. Furthermore, it is the allegations that Sudan supported the rebels against the Chad government that greatly fueled the conflict between the two nationalities (Monica, 2003). By January 2006, reports from the government of Chad indicated that the number of fatal casualties resulting from inter-boarder raids has reached highs of six hundred and fourteen people mainly Chad’s nationals; a factor that led to the signing if the Tripoli agreement of February 2006. This posed as a first move to curtail the conflict (Anonymous, 2008).

Although the agreement stopped the conflicts for almost two months, the peace did not last as conflict resumed necessitating further peace talks and mediation as well as subsequent attempt to enter into more peace deals. For instance, the conflict between two tribes in Chad (Zaghawa and Tama) that ensued in 2007 with Zaghawa tribe which the Chad president comes from claiming that the Sudanese government was supporting the rival group: the tama tribe. This greatly led to the escalation of the rift between Sudan and Chad culminating to the Darfur crisis and increased warfare in the Darfur region. All through the Sudan – conflict, Liberia has consistently played a mediation role in an attempt to restore peace in Darfur region (Anonymous, 2008).

Comparison: Sudan and Chad

Basically Chad compares Sudan in terms of well pronounced tribes and ethnic groups which have greatly failed to harmonize. Actually, the distinct tribes share different ideologies as well as varying perspectives regarding social perception and social cognition, perhaps the reason behind the ranging conflicts in the two countries. Also, both countries are characterized by transitional ethnic groups with tribes from both nationality registering significant representations in both countries. For instance, both Zaghawa and Tima which are the two key rival tribes in Chad occupies a larger part of eastern Chad while the Janjaweed, a Nilotic community made of armed militia, have also found their way into Chad. Interethnic representation in the two countries is an issue that has often been overlooked in devising of policies and perhaps one of the reasons for the escalation of the Darfur crisis (Schlichting, 1997). This is because the presence of such transnational tribes can directly or indirectly provide resources and support for each other thus promoting the conflicts (Anonymous, 2008).

The concept of conformity

Basically, conformity is a sociological concept via which people either in small groups or communities influences the attitudes, behaviors or beliefs of other people that they interact with either directly or indirectly (Hamilton, 2005). As such, the latter asserts that conformity process may occur ether in a subtle and unconscious manner or rather directly or overt via exerting social pressure on the individuals. Characteristically, conformity takes place as an implied process of others thus makes people abide by norms of those who made them conform irrespective of whether they are present or not. Generally, people conform to fit in a group as well as acquiring a sense of security within it. As a result, conformity can occur along age groups religious societies and ethnic groups as well as all forms of social and formal groupings of people. As a matter of facts, conformity is a critical part of sociology since individuals who fails to conform to the environment that he or she interacts with risk facing social rejection and social bullying. While conformity may come with positive influence, its result can also be negative especially if individuals are influenced to engage in negative (Schlichting, 1997).

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To a greater extent, the concept of conformity, social influence, and ethnic pressure plays a significant role in ethnic conflicts. The Darfur crisis is not an exception either. While ethnicity and ethnic identity have been intricacies of inter-ethnic conflicts and civil war in the Chad -Sudan boarder since 2005, the requirement to conform has seen almost all members of the society convert into rebel groups and deadly militias; a factor that has made efforts to arbitrate and restore peace between the warring groups futile.

The relationship between social perceptions and social cognition

Unlike social perception which is a concept under social cognition, social cognition is the set of bracket tools which defines social psychology. In fact, social cognition concept describes aspects of individuals personal perception, attitudes and attitude change, ensuing stereotypes and prejudices, personal and groups decision making, aspects of social concept, social communication and influence as well as inter-group discrimination (Hamilton,2005). While social cognition is the universal set therefore, social perception is a subset and a constituent of the former, both of which greatly shape the behavior and socialization within and between varying groups. As a result, social psychology is an essential tool in the diagnosing of causes of ethnic groups conflicts as most of the variables of social psychology have the potential to contribute to inter-ethnic groups’ conflicts (Hamilton, 2005). The Darfur crisis is not an exception. Social cognition variable such as perceptions, ethnic bias and prejudices, the social concept, ethnic affiliation and identity plays a great role in fuelling war among the varying ethnic groups in the Darfur region and which has since degenerated into a deadly civil war.

Use of social psychology tools in the solution of inter ethnic conflicts

Since the variable of social psychology including social cognition and social perception are intricacies of ethnic groups’ conflicts including the Darfur crisis their understanding and consideration by both the mediators and policy makers in the peace facilitation processes is critical for effectiveness not only in immediate arbitration but in averting future such conflicts (Hamilton, 2005). Policy makers and facilitators of peace talks must first aim at influencing positive change in the individual and groups’ social cognition and perception as ethnic groups’ perception, bias and prejudice among others. This will be effective in managing of group diversity which is vital for prevention of ethnic groups’ conflicts. Ideally, understanding of social psychology will enable members of varying ethnic groups to accept and accommodate diversity that is inherent in them for positive coexistence.

Conclusion

Ethnic conflicts dates back from the times of the cold war and are still evidence in various parts of the world particularly Africa. The causes of such conflicts are diverse but exhibit points of homogeneity in one way or another. Consequently, they include but not limited to racism, identity politics, ethnic hatred, ethnic nationalism, and Diaspora politics among other ensuing inter-group’s differences and pegged on the negative aspects of social psychology among the warring groups. The conflict between various ethic groups that traverses the Chad – Sudan boarder infamously known as the Darfur region is an illustration of ethnic conflicts. More so, the fatal casualties as well as other unfavorable repercussion of the Darfur crisis is a manifestation of how deadly ethnic conflict can be. As a mater of facts, the characteristics of Darfur region including the transnational ethnic groups may have led to the escalation of the conflict but the shortcoming of social psychology are major contribution to the conflicts since people have failed to positively embrace ethnic diversity. In effect therefore, it is the understanding of social psychology that forms a basis for generation of effective strategy to end ethnic conflicts, mainly via helping people change their social cognition and perceptions to embrace ethnic differences.

Reference List

Anonymous (2008). Sudan – Chad-Sudan conflict: A Wisdom Archive on Sudan – Chad-Sudan conflict, global oneness. Web.

Hamilton, D. L. (2005). Social cognition: key readings in social psychology, a psychology press publication: New York.

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Monica, D.T. (2003). The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Schlichting, U. (1997). Conflict Between Different Nationalities: Chances for and Limits to Their Settlement’ in Andreas Klinke, Ortwin Renn & Jean-Paul Lehners, eds, Ethnic Conflicts and Civil Society. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

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