Vanguard or Vandals

Youth, Politics and Conflict in Africa


Author: Jon Abbink
This book contains a range of original studies on one of the major challenges in Africa today: the controversial role of youth in politics, conflict and rebellious movements. The issue is not only the drafting of child soldiers into insurgent armies or predatory militias, as in Somalia, Sierra Leone or Congo, but, more generally, that of the problematic insertion of large numbers of young people in the socio-economic and political order of post-colonial Africa. Even educated youths are being confronted with a lack of opportunities, blocked social mobility, and despair about the future. Many of the political antagonisms and conflicts in which youths are involved do not only exist at the discursive level but are being produced by current demographic and socio-political contradictions in Africa. African youth, while forming a numerical majority, largely feel excluded from power, are socio-economically marginalized and thwarted in their ambitions. They have little access to representative positions or political power, which is making for a politically volatile situation in many African countries.
The authors address several case studies from across Africa: the Mungiki movement in Kenya, youth agency in southern Sudan in times of war, the challenges of ‘re-integrating’ youthful ex-combatants in Sierra Leone, and street children in Togo. A common aim is to try to explain why patterns of generational conflict and violent response among younger age groups in Africa are showing such a remarkably uneven spread across the continent and to advance the comparative study of youth and generational conflict beyond mere description of the varied empirical cases.

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Jon Abbink is a Social Anthropologist. His research interests are ethnicity, Ethiopian ethnology, the comparative study of violence and culture, and developments in the political cultures of the Horn of Africa. His current projects include a study of ethnic relations, ethno-history and social organization in societies in Southern Ethiopia.
Ineke van Kessel is a historian whose work mostly focuses on contemporary South Africa. She is currently researching the history of Dutch-Ghanaian relations and of the African soldiers enlisted in the Netherlands East Indies army in the nineteenth century.
' The remarably contemporary case studies vary in theme and cover youth in East Central Africa and five nations on the hump of West Africa.
R.M Fulton, Choice, June 2005.

Illustrations vii
Maps vii
Tables vii
Photographs vii
1 Being young in Africa: The politics of despair and renewal 1
Jon Abbink

2 Towards a political history of youth in Muslim northern Nigeria, 1750-2000 37
Murray Last
3 Imagined generations: Constructing youth in revolutionary Zanzibar 55
G. Thomas Burgess

4 Clash of generations? Youth identity, violence and the politics of transition in Kenya, 1997-2002 81
Peter Mwangi Kagwanja
5 Re-generating the nation: Youth, revolution and the politics of history in Côte d’Ivoire 110
Karel Arnaut
6 War, changing ethics and the position of youth in South Sudan 143
Jok Madut Jok
7 Anglophone university students and Anglophone nationalist struggles in Cameroon 161
Piet Konings
8 Past the Kalashnikov: Youth, politics and the state in Eritrea 189
Sara Rich Dorman

9 From generational conflict to renewed dialogue: Winning the trust of street children in Lomé, Togo 207
Yves Marguerat
10 Children as conflict stakeholders: Towards a new discourse on young combatants 228
Angela McIntyre
11 Warriors, hooligans and mercenaries: Failed statehood and the violence of young male pastoralists in the Horn of Africa 243
Simon Simonse
12 Reintegrating young ex-combatants in Sierra Leone: Accommodating indigenous and wartime value systems 267
Krijn Peters
List of authors 297
The book is aimed at readers with a general interest in African society, specialists interested in social problems and conflict in Africa, and policymakers and experts involved in development cooperation.