Vol. XIX No. 2, Fall 1999

Book Reviews

Rothchild, Donald. Managing Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Pressures and Incentives for Cooperation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997.

Recent tragic events in the Balkans are a reminder of the potency of the ethnic factor in domestic and regional politics throughout many parts of the world; in 1914 the Balkans was an equally volatile place where the chain of events that later led to the outbreak of the First World War might be said to have begun. Equally significant, about half a century passed in which the colonial state in Africa was solidified if only to sustain agricultural production and mining enterprises for the benefit of overseas and metropolitan shareholders and elites. M. Crawford Young of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has analyzed this process with consummate skill in his masterpiece, The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994). In some measure, Donald Rothchild of the University of California-Davis, has provided a complement to Young's panoramic study by exploring the post-colonial state in selected parts of the African continent in terms of concepts drawn from the literature of comparative and international politics.

In a Hobbesian fashion, Rothchild's study is predicated on the omnipresence of conflict, particularly ethnic conflict, so that he visualizes states as having a conflict regulating-managing mechanism which, from time to time, can become inoperative. When this occurs, third parties often participate, openly or discreetly and by themselves or with other third parties, in assisting that state to reestablish this mechanism. Such a reconstruction often occurs after the conflict has, as I. William Zartman stressed in his path-breaking Ripe for Resolution: Conflict and Intervention in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), ripened to the point that there is a mutually punishing stalemate. Indeed, Rothchild's study builds upon this 1985 classic.

Four of the nine chapters in this work are devoted to case studies of ethnic conflict stemming, in very large measure, from the decolonization process or from the transition from white minority to African majority rule. Three of the four are in Southern Africa, namely, Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and the fourth study concerns the Sudan. All four nations were characterized by anti-regime insurgencies, although the Angolan example underscores the softness of the African state and the staggering human and economic costs of the pursuit of political power in the wake of decolonization. In brief, Rothchild addresses himself to the question of how to channel ethnic mobilization or to smooth the edges of ethnic conflict in these troubled African nations. His analysis goes beyond (and takes into account) Donald L. Horowitz's exemplary study, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985), and delves into a range of mechanisms, such as proportionality in allocating political goods, services and values, bestowing legitimacy, applying coercive measures (such as economic sanctions) or noncoercive ones (such as diplomatic and strategic isolation), that have been useful carrots and sticks in the bargaining process.

The other five chapters survey how African states have managed this type of conflict, how states can fashion and apply incentives to reduce the ethnic discordance, how coalitions have been or might be created and valued resources distributed throughout the polity, and how third parties may employ coercive and noncoercive inducements and apply a range of pressures during the various stages of conflict resolution and management. The author applies the analytical format and insights from the earlier theoretically informed chapters to his case studies which, delightfully enough, build upon one another. The 47 pages of detailed endnotes serve as a bibliography, and they are a treasure trove of material, most of which consists of secondary sources, although the author conducted a number of interviews and consulted a limited amount of archival material. Rothchild has a gracious way of expressing himself and lucidly covering material which can sometimes be vexing or arcane to the beginning student of African and / or ethnic politics. Yet ethnic politics and what he termed "ethnic entrepreneurs" are here to stay and may, as the Balkans has sadly demonstrated, be the political pathologies of the future. It is no wonder that Daniel P. Moynihan, the well known scholar, United States Senator and former ambassador to the United Nations, titled the published version of his 1991 Cyril Foster lecture at Oxford University, Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Richard Dale
Fountain Hills, Arizona