The relationship between nationality and ethnicity in Africa’s Great Lakes region is much debated – sometimes verbally, but more often violently. And this relationship is also a key component to any discussion on citizenship. Ethnicity is not intrinsically violent, despite media portrayals that suggest otherwise. But its relationship with national dynamics, specifically its position vis a vis national citizenship, has allowed it to become an object of manipulation for political elites and a substantial source of instability. Thus the role of ethnicity within the national arena remains unresolved, and this ambiguity is a critical driver in cycles of violence throughout the region.That's from Lucy Hovil's post at African Arguments on her and her co-authors' excellent new working paper Who Belongs Where? Conflict, Displacement, Land and Identity in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a must-read if you are working in or thinking about the Great Lakes region. It also provides particularly useful background as to the reasons that most academics studying the area do not consider the fighting there to be a "resource war," despite the myriad of press and advocacy reports that continue to call it such.
Yet all too often this root cause of conflict is overlooked, with attention focused on the symptoms of conflict. Nowhere is this more the case than in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where discussions of the conflict tend to focus on its many tangible facets, including the role of minerals in exacerbating conflict; high levels of militarisation; and the chronic use of rape and sexual violence. All of these factors are extremely important and need to be addressed. Yet ultimately, they are symptoms of root causes that are driving the conflict. And if those are not addressed, peace and development cannot take root.