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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Terrible Toll of Post-Colonial 'Rebel Movements' in Africa: Towards an Explanation of the Violence against the Peasantry
Author:Mkandawire, ThandikaISNI
Periodical:Journal of Modern African Studies
Geographic term:Africa
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Military, Defense and Arms
Law, Human Rights and Violence
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3876277
Abstract:Many postindependence rebel movements in Africa have unleashed extremely brutal forms of violence, especially against the peasantry. This paper argues that to understand this violence, we need to know not only the nature of the rebel movements, but also the social structures of the African countryside in which they often operate. The paper first reviews some of the major accounts of the 'root causes' of civil wars in Africa and the violent turn they take. Considerable space is devoted to the 'rational choice' explanation, partly because it seems to be widely accepted, but also because it exemplifies an abstract and deductive neoclassical style of discourse that has informed the study of policymaking and attempts to understand Africa. The paper then offers an alternative approach that builds on the interaction between the largely urban origins of conflicts, and the rural terrains in which these conflicts are violently played out. It argues that the African rural setting is generally deeply inimical to liberation war, because peasants enjoy direct control over their own land. The African situation, too, has tended to favour 'roving' rather than 'stationary' rebellions; many rebels are merely passing through the countryside, on their way to seek power in towns. Having little in common with the peasantry, and nothing to offer it, they resort to violence as the only way to control it. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.