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From low-conflict polity to democratic civil peace: explaining Zambian exceptionalism

By Peter J. Burnell


An absence of civil war and other significant sub-state violence makes Zambia an exceptional although not unique case in central-southern Africa. The literature devoted to explaining civil war has grown dramatically in recent years, but while it pays much attention to sub-Saharan Africa only rarely does it investigate counterfactual cases like Zambia. Similarly the growing field of research into post-conflict reconstruction fails to capture the distinct features of persistently low-conflict situations where many of the predisposing conditions for violent conflict might seem to be present. This paper examines Zambia’s experience against a background of general theories that try to explain conflict. It is an “interpretative case study”. The paper proceeds by substantiating Zambia’s claim to a relatively peaceful record and introduces ideas of conflict and conflict theories, before arguing that no single general theory dwelling on just one primary “cause” will suffice to explain Zambian exceptionalism. The precise mix of arguments differs for each one Zambia’s three republican eras, as the potential threats to peace have themselves evolved over the period since independence. The paper’s main theoretical claim is that over time the explanation is both multi-layered and dynamic. That said, certain features do stand out, most notably an inherited political culture that is predisposed against the violent resolution of conflict and continues to insulate the country against social and economic traumas and democratic shortcomings

Topics: JQ, DT
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:

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