The Red Herring of Identity in Africa: Using Identity Conflicts to Capture State Power and Inculcate Economic Avarice in the Central African Republic

  • Wendy Isaacs-MartinEmail author


Africa’s conflicts are projected overwhelmingly as located in identity rather than economic complexity of resource extraction and socio-political control. As a departure the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) that began in 2013 was and remains projected as a simplistic binary religious confrontation that resulted in the degeneration of a weak state into a fragile state controlled by a myriad of warlords overseeing loosely affiliated militias and temporary coalitions along with private security companies and armies. Within such an anarchic chaotic environment absent of effective legitimate political authority and leadership, and thus ineffective state coercion leaves space for parasitic resource extraction and informal economies of scale. Issues of African indirect economies and identity conflicts are seldom synthesised but seen as two distinct rather than consonance issues. The conflict in CAR represents a cyclical juggernaut of continuous violence that enriches stakeholders that are distinct from the state and extracts resources under the cover of violence and threat. The guise of identity is secondary, dynamic to the interests of external stakeholders, and the use of armed combatants enflames existing identity tensions stoking fear, distrust and destruction of existing property and space that prevents groups/villagers from residing in particular areas. The question posed is can CAR become an ideal-type state in the foreseeable future? The conclusion drawn is that civilian violence under the auspices of identity conflict masks the ambitions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), warlords, private companies and foreign government interests.


CAR Identity Conflict Resource extraction Manipulation 


  1. Adebajo, A., & Keen, D. (2000). Banquet for warlords. The World Today, 56(7), 8–10.Google Scholar
  2. Adrien-Rongier, M.-F. (1981). Les “kodro” de Bangui: un espace urbain “oublié” (Bangui’s ‘Kodro’: A forgotten urban space). Cahiers d’études africaines, 21, 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Azam, J.-P. (2002). Looting and conflict between ethnoregional groups: Lessons for state formation in Africa. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46(1), 131–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banton, M. (2007). Max Weber on ‘ethnic communities’: A critique. Nations and Nationalism, 13(1), 19–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berger, M. T., & Weber, H. (2006). Beyond state-building: Global governance and the crisis of the nation-state system in the 21st century. Third World Quarterly, 27(1), 201–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boggero, M. (2008). Local dynamics of security in Africa: The Central African Republic and private security. African Security Studies, 17(2), 15–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coleman, D. Y. (2016). Central African Republic: 2016 country review (pp. 1–310). Houston: Country Watch Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Dusza, K. (1989). Max Weber’s conception of the state. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 3(1), 71–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fanon, F. (1963). The pitfalls of national consciousness. In The wretched of the Earth (pp. 148–205). New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fragile States Index Annual Report 2019. (2019). The fund for peace. Edited by J.J. Messner. Accessed 12 Aug 2019.
  11. Geschiere, P. (2009). The perils of belonging: Autochthony, citizenship, and exclusion in Africa and Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Isaacs-Martin, W. (2015). The motivations of warlords and the role of militias in the Central African Republic. Conflict Trends, 2015(4), 26–32.Google Scholar
  13. Isaacs-Martin, W. (2016). Political and ethnic identity in violent conflict: The case of Central African Republic. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 10(1), 26.Google Scholar
  14. Isaacs-Martin, W. (2017). The Séléka and anti-Balaka Rebel Movements in the Central African Republic. In C. Varin & D. Abubakar (Eds.), Violent non-state actors in Africa: Terrorists, rebels and warlords (pp. 131–161). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  15. Klosowicz, R. (2016). Central African Republic: Portrait of a collapsed state after the last rebellion. Politeja, 13(42), 33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lachmann, L. M. (2007). The legacy of max weber,. Ludwig von Mises Institute.Google Scholar
  17. Liebenberg, S., Haines, R., & Harris, G. (2015). A theory of war economies: Formation, maintenance and dismantling. African Security Review, 24(3), 307–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lombard, L. (2016a). State of rebellion: Violence and intervention in the Central African Republic. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  19. Lombard, L. (2016b). The threat of rebellion: Claiming entitled personhood in Central Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22(3), 552–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Magnus Theisen, O. (2008). Blood and soil? Resource scarcity and internal armed conflict revisited. Journal of Peace Research, 45(6), 801–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Maiangwa, B. (2017). The ‘quasi-permanent crisis’: Understanding collective rebellion and sectarian violence in the CAR. Politikon, 44(2), 187–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Makki, S., Meek, S., Musah, A.-F., Crowley, M. J., & Lilly, D. (2001). Private military companies and the proliferation of small arms: Regulating the actors. London: Saferworld.Google Scholar
  23. Malejacq, R. (2016). Warlords, intervention, and state consolidation: A typology of political orders in weak and failed states. Security Studies, 25(1), 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Malici, A. (2009). Rogue states: Enemies of our own making. Psicología Política, 39, 39–54.Google Scholar
  25. Pouligny, B. (2004). The politics and anti-politics of contemporary disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs/Les Anciens Combattants d’aujourd’hui Désarmement, Démobilisation et Réinsertion. Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies. Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales Sciences Po/CNRS (CERI). Paris: Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale.Google Scholar
  26. Pouligny, B. (2005). Civil society and post-conflict peacebuilding: Ambiguities of international programmes aimed at building ‘new’ societies. Security Dialogue, 36(4), 495–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Reno, W. (1997). African weak states and commercial alliances. African Affairs, 96, 165–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reno, W. (1999). Warlord politics and African states. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archie Mafeje Research Institute at UNISAPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations