Armed conflict

The following pages look at armed conflict in central and eastern Africa. The information we have collected in these pages outline the conflicts on going in the central and eastern African region, as well as explain how we are linked to them, even if we live on the other side of the world and feel like we have nothing to do with the situation.

Every day we hear, watch and read about conflicts all over the world. We are exposed to so much violence all the time, that often we lose the sense that these reports are about real people. However, we feel this is not just due to ‘information overload’. Another contributing cause to general ‘desensitisation’ and complacency is that often we do not understand how we are connected to these crises.

How are we connected to these conflicts? Click through this presentation to get a simple overview of how we are linked as individuals, citizens and consumers…

Conflict and me

Armed conflicts in central and eastern Africa

Explore this overview of foreign military interventions in the region since the days of independence in the 1950s and 60s. For a detailed chronology of all the events and to get an overview of how they are all linked, please click through our Timeline of armed conflicts in central and eastern Africa.


As much as we do not like to use ‘jargon’, there are times when this is necessary. Below you will find several terms which we use when we talk about armed conflict and military intervention. We have used these terms to organise the information, which you will find in the three sub sections of our Armed conflicts research.

Multilateral actions involve a number of state governments, usually acting through regional or international organisations.

The United Nations (UN)

The United Nations is an example of an international organisation that takes multilateral action. Founded at the end of World War II “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, the UN has 193 state members today. The organisation has been highly active in central and eastern Africa, especially since 1991.  There are currently almost 50,000 uniformed UN personnel (military and police) in the region in four separate operations in Abyei (Sudan) Darfur (Sudan), the DRC, and South Sudan.

The African Union

The African Union is an example of a regional organisation that takes multilateral action. Originally founded as the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, it became the AU in 2002 with the vision of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’. It currently has 54 state members and, since 2003, has undertaken military interventions in countries such as Somalia and Burundi.

Unilateral actions are performed by one state government without others’ agreement.


The former colonial power in the CAR, France’s influence in the region continued after decolonisation. French involvement in armed conflict in the CAR, the DRC and Rwanda has been extensive, including 14 overt (and an unknown number of covert) interventions since the late-1970s. Most of these were conducted in the context of bilateral defence agreements which France made with the region’s newly-independent states in the 1960s and 1970s, and have been justified as the protection of French interests and of the significant number of French citizens in Africa. However, power politics has always been a factor in French foreign policy in Africa.


The former colonial power in the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, Belgium continued to intervene in the region in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the DRC.  During the 1960-65 Congo Crisis (see timeline) Belgium controversially supported the secession of the province of Katanga and was involved in the assassination of Congo’s first democratically-elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961.

Bilateral actions involve two state governments.

France’s involvement in armed conflicts in CAR, Rwanda and DRC provide examples of bilateral action. In the 1960s and 1970s, France made bilateral defence and military agreements with the region’s newly independent states. These agreements officially permitted France to intervene in cases of external aggression and, unofficially, also included clauses that permitted intervention in cases of internal aggression. As a consequence, France has been able to state that the majority of military interventions that it has made in Africa have been in the context of bilateral agreements between itself and the country it has intervened in.

Inter-state conflict is between state governments.

Intra-state conflict is between a state government and an armed group or groups originating from the same state. Also known as internal conflict or civil war.


Rwanda is an example of both inter-state intra-state conflicts.Preoccupied since its independence with internal conflict which reached a height during mass killings of Tutsis and politically-moderate Hutus in 1994, Rwanda has since emerged as a major military power in the region. The 1990-94 civil war ended in a Tutsi victory and the flight of over two million Hutus to eastern DRC, where their pursuit by the Rwandan army sparked the First and Second Congo Wars (1996-7 and 1998-2003).  While currently accused of supporting the armed group M23 in eastern DRC, Rwanda is also a major contributor of troops to UN, AU and regional organisations’ operations in the region.


What do you think?

Share your thoughts with us while you are digesting the information we have presented to you. This way we can get valuable dialogue going about why we think conflicts are happening as well as start connecting people to find solutions.

Why is there such a high frequency of conflict in central and eastern Africa? Is conflict driven by resources? Bad governance? An abundance of small arms? Or are there other reasons?

What are external states’ interests in central Africa? Who defines those interests?

Why have Western states intervened with such frequency in Africa? Should there be national dialogue on security policy?


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