A civil war is a conflict that occurs between groups of people from the same country. It is usually characterized by armed fighters or rebellions who oppose the government in a particular country. Throughout the history of the world, there have been innumerable civil wars. According to studies on civil wars in different countries, there have been factors that have attributed as the main causes for wars. These include; ethnic diversity, poverty and the presence of a dictatorial regime. This report will seek to give an overview of some of these causes and analyze the hypothesis surrounding the causes of civil wars. A comparative analysis will then be used to deduce the main causes. The countries of interest in this report will include; Guatemala, Burundi, Iraq, Syria, and Indonesia.
Hypothesis Regarding Causes of Civil Wars
After a close examination of the probable causes of civil wars in Guatemala, poverty strikes out as the single most prominent cause. In the republic of Guatemala, there is widespread poverty, where approximately 51% of the country’s population is composed of poor people. According to the Human Development Index (HDI) on the United Nations Development program of 2011, the country ranked 131 out of 187 countries. The HDI was achieved after a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy levels and living standards were done in all the countries. A majority of the poor people in Guatemala reside in the rural areas where they depend on agricultural activities to earn a living. The young people and rural dwellers are the most vulnerable to poverty. The agricultural sector employs about 40% of the entire population and it plays an important role in the country’s national economy. It actually accounts for about a fifth of the GDP. The indigenous and rural communities are the main players in agricultural activities.
The country experienced about three decades of civil wars up to the middle of 1990. The areas that the civil wars occurred in Guatemala are Baja Verapaz and Alta Verapaz, San Marcos Quetzaltenango, Soloa and Totonicapan. These areas are found in the high poverty belt where there are remarkably higher rates of poverty as compared to the other regions of the country. The country is composed of multi-ethnic societies that live in different regions of the country. The terrain of the country is composed of high mountains and dense forests which pose as a challenge to the country’s farmers, who are forced to utilize the steep slopes to carry out agricultural activities.
The civil war that occurred in Burundi was marked by violence that was based on ethnic lines. The fight was between the Tutsi-dominated army and the rebels, the Hutu group. Many civilians were killed including the president who had been democratically elected. The country is poor and has a dense population, where 80% of its citizen depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood . The main concern that can be attributed to the civil wars and problems in the country is the ethnic division and conflicts between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis. The leadership of Burundi has been held by the Tutsis for the better part of the country’s history, and they dominate in the military forces and the educated society. On the other hand the Hutus make up about 85% of the country’s population and the ethnic discrimination perpetrated towards them affects all the sectors of the society. The civil wars that have taken place in Burundi has claimed thousands of citizens.
In Syria, civil wars are mainly attributed to the diversity of religion as well as ethnicity. The main players of the civil war were the armed forces under the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the rebel militias. There is a wide range of opposition to the government of Islamists and youth activist groups, who aim to remove Assad from power, but they do not have a common stand on who should rule next. Syria’s society is compounded of diverse populations. There are both Muslims and Christians, a majority of the people are Arab and while a minority are from Armenian and Kurdish ethnic groups. The religious intolerance and suspicion in a large part of the country is brought about by the support that some of the religious group offers to the regime. The president originates from the minority Alawite community that belongs to Shiite Islams. A majority of his army generals also originate from the same community. On the other hand, many of the armed rebels belong to the Sunni Muslim. This creates a war between two groups divided on the basis of religion.
The warfare in Iraq is largely conceptualized as being between the Sunnis and Shiites. These two groups are divided on the basis of their religious beliefs. This diversity seems like the main cause of the civil war that has affected the country. However, on deeper investigation of the country’s economy it has ascertained that poverty is a major problem. The leadership of the country has been largely influenced by one ethnic group.
During the time Indonesia was under civil war, some of the challenges it faced would be solely attributed to lack of a strong leadership that would sufficiently handle the insurgency. Some of the strategies used to deal with the rebels failed miserably. For instance, punishing an entire village, where some rebels are believed to dwell, without making an effort of identifying the exact identity of the rebels, only works to reinforce the rebel’s regime. Most of the fleeing innocent citizens would try to find solace by joining the rebels to fight the government, which initially mistakenly assaulted them.
Analysis of the Hypothesis
In all the civil wars from the countries discussed above, there is a likelihood that ethnic and religious diversity was their main cause. However, the civil wars were mainly fuelled by poverty and a growing enmity that is caused by segregation of a certain group of people. In all the countries that have been analyzed, the problem has been poverty and misrepresentation in the government. The ruling governments in the five countries, at the time of the civil war, were mainly composed of minority elites, who discriminated against the majority groups. This triggered wars, where the majority sought for representation in the government in order to receive government services. Poverty is another aspect that closely relates to misrepresentation in the country’s administration.
The poor population also lacks some very essential services, which their current economic state, forces them to rely on the for government assistance. When the government fails to offer such services in abudance, the poor society is forced to join hands and form rebellion groups with the aim of removing the ruling government from power and placing a leader whom they think would lead a government that takes into consideration their needs. Additionally, the wealthy societies do not depend wholly on the government to provide essential services. This is because, they have the capacity to hire equivalent private services.
Global Security. Burudi Civil war. 3 July 2011. Web. 27 September 2013.
Lisa, Trei. CAUSES OF CIVIL WARS MISUNDERSTOOD. News release. CHicago: Stanford, 2002. document.
Manfreda, Primoz. Syrian Civil War Explained. 6 June 2012. web. 27 September 2013. <http://middleeast.about.com/od/syria/tp/Syrian-Civil-War-Explained.htm>.
Rural Poverty Portal. Rural poverty in Guatemala. 5 march 2012. http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/country/home/tags/guatemala. 27 September 2013.