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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

People Versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century
Ted Robert Gurr

Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2000
448pp. Index. Pb.: $29.95/?21.50; ISBN 1-929223-02-1.

Peoples versus States examines specific situations in the world for conflicts and indications of conflicts between state leadership and various unanimity groups, be they ethnic or religious in nature and cause. The different case studies all contribute to form a complex yet understandable parallelism. The analysis of data in the book is quite impressive.

In the first chapter, the writer highlights the fact that one of the ways of reducing intrastate conflict in Germany is by incorporating the Turks into German society by effecting citizenship policies that favor the Turks and discriminatory social practices. This is a principle that holds potential for other countries which have big numbers of immigrants and refugees.

As is noted by Gurr in the second chapter of the book "? the cresting wave of ethnopolitical conflict at the beginning of the 1990s does not have a simple explanation?" pg 56. Essentially, this observation forms the basis for understanding the trends of intrastate conflicts in the 21st century. Marion Recktenwald's contribution: The "Russian Minority" in Ukraine is a valiant attempt at assessing the ethnopolitical conflict therein. However, one is left somewhat in limbo because there are no propositions or augmentative observations made at the end of the article.

I wish to question the rather bold conclusion made by both the author as well as by Richard H Solomon who wrote the book's foreword. This is with reference to statements that allude to a worldwide decline in intrastate conflicts. For example "?Comparative evidence shows that ethnonational political conflict subsided in most world regions from the mid-through the late 1990s?" pg. x. Does this mean that on average there is less ethnopolitical conflict or is the conclusion derived from a region by region study? Speaking from an African perspective and on the basis of researches done on the same, there appears to be no decline in ethnonational conflicts in the region. Citing the examples of Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda all from the Eastern African region and all currently experiencing the said conflicts. For a conclusion of such magnitude and optimism, as is portrayed by the book to be made, there is need for homogeneous research. The issue should be researched further, or at the very least, conclusions should be situation specific.

The third chapter is without a doubt one of the most expedient in the book. It outlines the groundwork from which a hypothesis for ethnopolitical conflict can be built. Four key factors are discussed as the basis for the framework: identity groups, mobilization, timing of action and choice of strategies of participation, protest or rebellion. The arguments brought forth by the author are convincing and the proposed framework can be used to identify groups that have great probability for ethnopolitical conflict in the future.

The sketch done on Political Rivalries and Communal Vengeance in Kenya (chapter 7) raises a number of questions. To begin with, the only bearing that the sketch contents have on the Chapter title Assessing the Risks of Future Ethnic Wars is a vague reference to the 2002 General Elections in Kenya. "?intensified political conflict with ethnic overtones will be provided by the 2002 ethnic clashes?" Is this all that pertains to the assessment of the risks of future ethnic conflicts in the Kenyan context? Secondly, the writer's reference to ethnic conflict in Mombasa in 1997 is lacking in detail. Who were the parties involved? Through out Ms Pitsch's write up, the full blame for the Kenyan situation is placed squarely on Moi and his government. How true is this? The judgement appears to be one-sided. Doubtless, the most conspicuous omission by the writer is the failure to discuss, or at least mention the pastoralist conflicts in Kenya. These account for over half the conflicts that exist in the country. Moreover, they are ongoing and have had extremely adverse effects over the past decade (s). Most of the omissions in this piece could be attributed to the sources. Rigorous research and analysis should be done to obtain factual information and an objective overview.

This notwithstanding, it is an arduous task to write a book such as this one. The writers in their various studies have, on the whole, done a meticulous job in terms of depth and detail. Peoples versus States is a plus to existing publications on intrastate conflicts. It is highly recommended and both scholars and non-scholars will find it readable and informative.

Sam Kona

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