Conflicts and security in West African sub-region, a critique of the interwoven conflicts; Liberia and Sierra Loene

  • Joseph Chukwudi Idegwu

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis uses the case of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars to examine the extent to which: 1) identity issues, 2) natural resources issues, and 3) porous borders combine as catalysts to escalate, sustain the intensity and prolong conflict. The original contribution to knowledge is in the development and application of the tri-focal approach as a distinctive framework of conflict analysis. This draws upon New War theory to understand the Post-Cold War conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. This tri-focal approach goes beyond causes to apply these three common factors (identity, natural resources and border issues), to compare these civil wars, but also to explain how the civil wars became linked, leading to sub-regional instability. The results of this study advance current debates and analyses factors that can combine to exacerbate conflict in Africa and other parts of the world. The research is mindful of the multiplicity of factors that can lead to conflict in fragile/weak states; but will not join the debate over the most potent conflict factors, a single factor conflict analysis, but will rather be more holistic in its analysis. This study concentrates on three conflict factors to situate the Liberia and Sierra Leone conflicts within the Post-Cold War context as highlighted by the New War theoretical framework. Kaldor (2007) and others use this theoretical perspective to analyse and examine new observable trends and changes in the pattern, nature and causes of civil wars and intrastate conflicts. This framework also applies this analysis to explaining how such conflicts are the results of a significant history of identity factor; resource based factors, both exacerbated by cross border linkages. This study treats the conflict factors holistically, not just in isolation; rather, they are part of systematic dynamic shaping peace and security in the region. It is hoped this will contribute to the on-going study on the sources of conflict, especially in Africa and Liberia and Sierra Leone in particular. The research does not seek to refute the claims and arguments of theories that emphasise identity and/or natural resources as the cause of conflicts. Rather this study seeks to clarify and understand how identity and natural resources issues combine with porous borders, trans-national linkages among states and regional factors to exacerbate civil conflict. Accordingly, this study is distinct as far as it seeks to understand the interrelationship between these three catalysts, and how they could be applied to compare and at the same time explain the conflicts within a single research. To strengthen and validate the research, the thesis applied several qualitative and the importance of triangulation in conflict research (multiple empirical materials, combined with field research, using a semi-structured individual elite interviews and focus group discussions to establish a robust and diverse evidence base). It also applied two theories (failed states analogy and New War theory), and investigator triangulation (using different evaluators). This was to overcome the weakness or intrinsic biases and the problems arising from single method, single-observer and single-theory studies. The thesis argues that identity crises combined with the illicit exploitation of natural resources and shared porous and insecure borders in the case of Liberia and Sierra-Leone, explains the diffusion, intensity and ultimately the complex connectivity of both conflicts.
    Date of Award19 May 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University Of Strathclyde
    SupervisorAnthony McGrew (Supervisor) & Wun Fung Chan (Supervisor)

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