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From ‘People's Struggle’ to ‘This War of Today’: Entanglements of Peace and Conflict in Guinea-Bissau


This article aims at contributing to our understanding of violence and warfare in contemporary West Africa by adopting a bi-focal analysis that looks both at power struggles within the urban elite and at the grassroots multi-ethnic setting in southern Guinea-Bissau. I pay close attention to the social dynamics of rural peoples' perspectives, coping strategies and inter-ethnic conflicts. Local conflicts are elucidated as an ongoing process that traverses times of war and peace. Although they are subject to manipulation by urban actors, local conflicts are also a matter of continuous negotiation and partial consensus at the grassroots. In stark contrast to this, the struggles in the ruling group are characterized by an escalating spiral of factionalism, diminishing compromises and elimination of rivals. By analysing the relationship between urban and rural actors and the role of cosmology, the article also aims to shed new light on the multiple shapes patron–client relations can assume in Africa.

Cet article cherche à nous aider à mieux comprendre la violence et les conflits en Afrique de l'Ouest contemporaine en adoptant une analyse bifocale portant à la fois sur les luttes de pouvoir au sein de l'élite urbaine et sur le cadre populaire multiethnique dans le Sud de la Guinée-Bissau. Il s'intéresse de près à la dynamique sociale des perspectives, des stratégies de défense et des conflits interethniques des populations rurales. Il décrit les conflits locaux comme un processus continu qui traverse les périodes de guerre et de paix. Bien qu'ils fassent l'objet de manipulation par les acteurs urbains, les conflits locaux sont aussi une affaire de négociation continue et de consensus partial au niveau local. En revanche, les conflits observés au sein de la classe dirigeante se caractérisent par une spirale croissante de factions, de compromis moins nombreux et d'élimination des rivaux. En analysant la relation entre les acteurs urbains et ruraux et le rôle de la cosmologie, l'article cherche également à apporter un éclairage nouveau sur les formes multiples que peuvent prendre les relations patron-client en Afrique.

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