Hunger Drives Sectarian Conflict in Africa

Woman with children pack what is left of their belongings following attack in Nigeria. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Hunger, not religion, is the root cause of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, said Charles Steinmetz of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. “A hungry man is an angry man. If there is no job and you cannot feed your family or kids, it leads to extremism,” said Steinmetz, a visiting assistant professor of history. He used as an example the rampages of the Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Steinmetz said the Islamic extremist group, which has killed 250 people in recent attacks, including 59 children, “sees the government as unable to assist the people.” Though it appears that the violence comes from religious differences, in many ways “it is almost coincidental that these issues break across religious lines,” Steinmetz said. An underlying cause of conflict in Nigeria is the legacy of colonialism. Colonial powers in Nigeria gave more aid and infrastructure to the southern part of the country. Now the development of the South has led to a much stronger economy. “The North is so far behind,” Steinmetz said, that resentments have caused even moderate northern Nigerians to side with the radical group.

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