Urban Violence in Africa

Urban Violence in Africa

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English

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The urban environment is a breeding ground for various forms of violence. As the hub of political, social and economic processes, the city is the meeting point for peoples from diverse cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds. It is often the venue of intense class and social struggles for scarce economic resources as well as political power. While the daily struggle for survival is usually nonconfrontational, when the economic-cum-political situation deteriorates, the city streets provide the venue for riots, demonstrations and even revolution. Because of the relative anonymity of city-life, it is also an attractive place for the more undesirable elements in society: thieves, rapists, murderers etc., who can commit crimes without fear of recognition. The urban context of violence is well established in the literature, and has been particularly emphasized by students of social change and revolution. Nevertheless, the study of urban violence qua urban violence has been rather sparse in Africa. The singular exception to this is South Africa, whose long history of structural violence dates back to the apartheid era. This phenomenon has been fairly well studied, although not specifically as urban violence. The pilot studies on three countries in this volume are part of a continent-wide comparative research project aimed at filling this huge gap in the literature. A research project on urban violence in Africa could not be more timely: All over Africa, criminal, political, religious and other social conflicts have been on the increase. The dwindling economic capacities and governance crises prevent governments from dealing effectively with these conflicts, which have often degenerated into situations of violence. These pilot studies and the larger project are expected to highlight these linkages and suggest the way forward. By their very nature, the studies are both exploratory and empirical. Problems are identified and suggestions are being made on how to overcome them. They therefore represent a necessary first step in coming to grips with issues raised by urban violence.


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Urban Violence in Africa

Pilot Studies (South Africa, Côte-d’Ivoire, Nigeria)

Eghosa E. Osaghae, Ismaila Touré, N’Guessan Kouamé, Isaac Olawale Albert and Jinmi Adisa
  • Publisher: Institut français de recherche en Afrique
  • Year of publication: 1994
  • Published on OpenEdition Books: 5 April 2013
  • Serie: Dynamiques africaines
  • Electronic ISBN: 9791092312195

OpenEdition Books

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Printed version
  • ISBN: 9789782015303
  • Number of pages: vi-176
 
Electronic reference

OSAGHAE, Eghosa E. ; et al. Urban Violence in Africa: Pilot Studies (South Africa, Côte-d’Ivoire, Nigeria). New edition [online]. Ibadan: Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 1994 (generated 11 December 2014). Available on the Internet: <http://books.openedition.org/ifra/771>. ISBN: 9791092312195.

This text was automatically generated on 11 December 2014. It is the result of an OCR (optical character recognition) scanning.

© Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 1994

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Table of contents
  1. Preface

    Eghosa E. Osaghae
  2. Urban violence in South Africa

    Eghosa E. Osaghae
    1. FIRST WORDS
    2. Acknowledgement
  3. La violence urbaine en Côte d’Ivoire

    Le cas de la ville d’Abidjan

    Ismaila Touré and N’Guessan Kouamé
    1. 1. Introduction
    2. 2. Généralités
    3. 3. Les manifestations de la violence urbaine
    4. 4. La perception et le mode de gestion de la violence
    5. 5. Conclusion
  4. Violence in metropolitan Kano: A Historical Perspective

    Isaac Olawale Albert
    1. 1. Introduction
    2. 2.Historical Background
    3. 3. Ethnic Violence
    4. 4. Religious Violence
    5. 5. Violence by the Almajirai
    6. 6. Violence Against Women
    7. 7. Conclusion
  5. Urban violence in Lagos

    Jinmi Adisa
    1. 1. Conceptual Overview
    2. 2. Metropolitan Lagos in National Perspective
    3. 3. Growth and Pattern of Development: The social setting
    4. 4. Violence and Crime in Lagos
    5. 5. What Is to Be Done?

Preface

Eghosa E. Osaghae

1The urban environment is a breeding ground for various forms of violence. As the hub of political, social and economic processes, the city is the meeting point for peoples from diverse cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds. It is often the venue of intense class and social struggles for scarce economic resources as well as political power. While the daily struggle for survival is usually nonconfrontational, when the economic-cum-political situation deteriorates, the city streets provide the venue for riots, demonstrations and even revolution. Because of the relative anonymity of city-life, it is also an attractive place for the more undesirable elements in society: thieves, rapists, murderers etc., who can commit crimes without fear of recognition.

2The urban context of violence is well established in the literature, and has been particularly emphasized by students of social change and revolution. Nevertheless, the study of urban violence qua urban violence has been rather sparse in Africa. The singular exception to this is South Africa, whose long history of structural violence dates back to the apartheid era. This phenomenon has been fairly well studied, although not specifically as urban violence.

3The pilot studies on three countries in this volume are part of a continent-wide comparative research project aimed at filling this huge gap in the literature. A research project on urban violence in Africa could not be more timely: All over Africa, criminal, political, religious and other social conflicts have been on the increase. The dwindling economic capacities and governance crises prevent governments from dealing effectively with these conflicts, which have often degenerated into situations of violence. These pilot studies and the larger project are expected to highlight these linkages and suggest the way forward. By their very nature, the studies are both exploratory and empirical. Problems are identified and suggestions are being made on how to overcome them. They therefore represent a necessary first step in coming to grips with issues raised by urban violence.

4The idea of a project on urban violence in Africa, for which these pilot studies have been a path-finder, was conceived by Isaac Olawale Albert of the Institute of African Studies, Eghosa E. Osaghae and Jinmi Adisa of the Department of Political Science, all of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. To broaden the scope of the study, Ismaila Touré and N’Guessan Kouamé, both at the Institut d’Ethno-Sociologie of the University of Abidjan, were commissioned to embark on a similar study of Cote d’Ivoire. These studies were carried out between February and August 1994.

5Osaghae’s study on urban violence in South Africa shows that most of the violence there, has been racially and politically oriented, and is the direct result of the systematic suppression of the blacks under the state policy of apartheid. However, there is a rising proportion of black-on-black violence social delinquency and crime.

6Touré and Kouamé’s report on Abidjan focuses on the causes of violence, which, are mainly socio-economic. Monoparty politics has also led to some violent confrontations. In addition, the presence of a large number of foreigners in the capital town of Côte d’Ivoire also provides the background for various acts of violence.

7In Nigeria, Albert and Adisa carried out studies on Kano and Lagos respectively. Albert’s study on Kano presents a historical perspective of violence, generated over time, within the context of the city’s pre-colonial antecedents. In this study, he examines violence arising from ethnic and religious considerations, violence perpetuated by almajirai (children in Koranic schools) as well as violence against women. Adisa’s study on Lagos analyzes the profile of urban violence as the product of the sociological crisis associated with urban sprawl, a consequence of Lagos’ prominent position in Nigeria’s economic and political life. Adisa discusses some local variations on fraud, popularly referred to as 419 scams, as well as the alarming menace of area boys, who frequent the markets and taxi-parks harassing both the traders and buyers.

8The contributors to this volume wish to express their gratitude to the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique, Ibadan and especially to its Director, Professor Georges Hérault for the research grants which enabled these studies to be carried out. We also wish to acknowledge the contribution of the Accra-based office of the Urban Management Programme of UNCHS (Habitat) towards the publication of this book.

Author
Eghosa E. Osaghae

Ibadan, Septdember 1994

Urban violence in South Africa

Eghosa E. Osaghae

FIRST WORDS

1This study has moderate objectives. It uses existing perspectives on violence in general, as a background for focusing on violence in the urban context. The major thesis is that towns and cities, as the hubs of political, economic and social processes, as well as social change, provide the locale for analysing the usually complex and interrelated forms of violence. The structural and spatial inequalities often found in towns, and the growth of slums and un-and underemployed sub-cultures, provide the milieu for the proliferation of violence, particularly against the existence of relatively high levels of opulence. By their very nature therefore, cities provide an enabling environment for violence, arising from individual and mass frustration caused by relative deprivation, political repression, and systemic injustice.

2For these reasons, the urban framework of revolution has been emphasized by many scholars, but this is only one part of the totality of violence. The urban framework enables political forms of violence, such as revolution and also non-political forms, such as criminal gang violence and armed robbery to be studied as phenomena deriving essentially from the same milieu. The South African case in focus here demonstrates this very well. With its long history of apartheid and discriminatory urban policies, sustained by one of the most repressive systems of state violence ever known in human history, the cities of South Africa show how violence in all its ramifications has come to constitute one integrated whole. Such an integration of violence can only be approached holistically and this is the major advantage of an urban focus. This is, however, only an introductory and exploratory study. Its purpose is to identify and demonstrate the ways in which urban violence can be most meaningfully studied.

1. Introduction

3Violence is central to the South African body politic, as is clearly reflected, not only in its pervasiveness, which has been described in terms of a culture of violence (Marks and Anderson, 1990) but also by, amongst others, the large volume of literature on the subject, the large number of researchers involved in studying its various ramifications, and the large number of research institutions, non government organizations, and various other bodies involved one way or another in projects aimed at understanding, preventing, and resolving problems of violence. At the government level, the concern has been no less substantial, especially during the transition to the post-apartheid polity, during which, rather than decrease as was hoped, violence escalated to unprecedented levels.

4From whatever perspective one looks at it, South Africa is a structurally violent country. It is commonly agreed that this is the result of the country’s long history of apartheid, a discriminatory system perpetuated by South Africa’s government and their armed forces, which excluded the non-white majority from its share of state power and entrenched social and economic inequalities between whites and non-whites in all sectors. The militarization of the apartheid state made violence somewhat inevitable, though there were other important predisposing factors, as will be seen. Because the policy of apartheid was all embracing, every instance of violence in South Africa was treated as an aspect of political violence.

5Political violence is the focus of most scholars of violence in South Africa. This focus appears all-embracing because most forms of violence are associated with apartheid and the struggle to end it. It tends to lay too much emphasis, however, on manifestly political variables which obviously cannot sufficiently explain acts of criminal violence such as rape, murder, gangsterism and armed robbery, which are much more pervasive than strictly political acts of violence (cf. Marks and Anderson, 1990; Simpson et al., 1991). What is clearly required is an all-inclusive framework which attributes to the various forms of violence the different emphases in explanation due to them, even while treating them generically as consequences of the same social (dis)order.

6The focus of this study – urban violence – advances such an all-inclusive approach. The approach takes its cue from the empirical fact that urban areas are centres of violence. If we are to fully understand the phenomenon of violence as having various forms which constitute an interrelated whole, we should locate this analysis in the urban context, just as many students of guerilla warfare and revolution in the Third World have, with success, located their analyses in the rural areas. This is not to say that violence is exclusively an urban phenomenon or that it bears no relationship to rural violence – in fact if nothing else, there is a great deal of rural-urban linkage in violence, and scholars like Skocpol (1979) argue that without peasant revolts urban radicalism cannot succeed in revolutionary transformations – but to emphasize the fact that it is in the urban areas that factors which are predisposed to violence are most dramatically played out.

7Concern with urban violence is not new, but it has not been sufficiently addressed in studies of Third World countries in general, and Africa in particular. Most analysts recognize the urban concentration of violence but few studies exist which view it as an urban phenomenon, while those who approach it from the urban perspective do so only in relation to explaining revolutions and as the location of social movements (cf. Farhi, 1990; Walton, 1979; Gugler, 1982). The approach here has a different orientation: the urban setting is taken as the locus of violence and its analysis. In other words, the importance of the urban area for our purpose is that it is the centre of all forms of violence, and not only as the breeding ground for revolutionary violence which is the popular focus in the literature. To repeat the overall objective of doing this: the urban context provides the framework within which conceptually different aspects of violence (including revolutionary violence) can be analysed as essentially aspects of the same generic phenomenon.

2. Violence as a Conceptual Variable

2.1 Clarifying the meaning of violence

8Although there seems to be a consensus that violence is any act that involves a threat to, or destruction of, lives and/or property, there is no agreement on how the concept should be defined and measured. As a value-laden concept, violence is subject to cultural, ideological, and religious idiosyncrasies. As du Toit (1990) has observed, it is essentially a contested concept. There is disagreement over whether violence is an objective or subjective phenomenon, over what to include and exclude as violence, and how to classify its various forms. Dating back to Thomas Aquinas’ notion of legitimate revolt against tyranny, violence has usually been defined in relation to the state which has led to distinctions being made between ‘legitimate’ or ‘justified’ violence and ‘illegitimate’ or ‘routine’ violence.

9Most political scientists have focussed on the former, in terms of revolution, rebellion, civil strife, internal war, and political conflicts, and have tended to disregard the latter category whose major distinction is that it is not directly, if at all, related to the state. Shupilov (1981) distinguishes ‘progressive’ violence which he regards as the struggle against capitalist oppression and tyranny, from ‘destructive’ violence which is mostly of a criminal kind and often involves ‘the personal aspirations of the individual pursuing his own personal aims’. Although not quite as explicit, Gurr (1970) limits his definition of violence to political violence against the state, which he classifies into three types: turmoil, i.e., relatively unorganized and spontaneous political violence with substantial popular participation (riots, strikes, demonstrations and localized rebellions); conspiracy, i.e., highly organized political violence with limited participation (assassination, coups d’etat and small-scale guerilla wars); and internal war, i.e., highly organized violence with mass participation designed to overthrow a regime or the state (large-scale terrorism, mass-based guerilla warfare and revolution).

10These distinctions directly affect what is defined as violence; the trend being, as indicated, to disregard non-political violence as undeserving of analysis by political scientists or better left to psychologists and other social scientists. Such narrow disciplinary delineations do not sufficiently address the epistemological problems involved in conceptualizing violence, for example, the question of its morality, and do not reflect its diversity and complexity as found in the urban area. They cannot suffice for South Africa where the distinction between political and non-political violence is blurred. What is needed is an all-inclusive definition. According to Galtung (1981), the best way to arrive at such a definition is to identify what is common to all phenomena termed as violent. He suggests two commonalities: destruction of lives and property and, on a more abstract level, anything avoidable that impedes human self-realization. The latter, being inherently subjective, is liable to difficulties in observation, but shows that violence is not always a directly observable phenomenon. The destructive aspect of violence is easier to discern, though its psychological aspects, like the trauma of a rape victim, cannot be quantified. Some authors regard death as a measure of destruction, but not all forms of violence involve death.

11Although Galtung’s point is very important, his identification of commonalities to all forms of violence in terms of the end, or consequence of, violence leaves out the area of the means of violence. Indeed, it can be argued that violence is not the only cause of destruction or the only avoidable thing that impedes human self-realization and therefore, that the distinguishing characteristic of violence is not its ends but its means. All forms of violence involve the use of force, whether this is legitimate (as Max Weber says the state’s use of force is) or illegitimate (as is the case when force is applied by the murderer or robber). Indeed, Gurr (1970), says political violence is subsumed under force which he defines as ‘the use or threat of violence by any party or institution to attain ends within or outside the political order’. The use of force is, for us, more important than the consequences of that use; though, for a well-rounded conceptualization, attention should be paid to both the means and ends of violence.

12Many authors in fact combine means and ends in defining violence. For example, Hibbs Jr. (1973: 8), says violence ‘implies the use of physical force and is generally evinced by the destruction of property, the killing or wounding of people, or the use of riot control equipment’. Similarly, Degenaar (1990: 71), defines violence as ‘the intentional application of extreme force against X in such a way that it is destructive of objects and physically injurious to animals and persons’. The main advantage in emphasizing means in the definition of violence, is that it includes the state as a principal actor in violence, something the focus on ends does not do. Another advantage is that it avoids the evaluative problem of whether violence is legitimate, moral or legal by making its definition more objective and empirical. As an empirical construct, it leads the researcher to ask the relevant question: Why and when does violence come into play? Any focus which is strictly on ends could generate a similar question but, by its very nature, it is more oriented towards justification.

2.2 Typologies of violence

13Violence has been classified in several ways, for analytical purposes and to reflect the diverse forms it takes. The bases of classification have ranged from the level of actors involved to the extent to which violence is endemic or incidental in a polity. Thus, at the level of actors, violence has been classified into intra-personal, inter-personal, inter-group, and inter-societal where inter-group and inter-societal violence involves small and large groups and tends to be more politically consequential, and intra-personal and inter-personal violence are regarded as having more of a criminal nature. Another classification which employs the same criterion distinguishes between mass or collective violence and isolated individual violence, which is mostly criminal (cf. Hibbs Jr., 1973; Welch Jr., 1980). Most students concentrate on collective violence because of its more manifestly political dimensions. This is an approach which does not reflect the totality of violence and the interrelatedness of the various levels at which it exists. As has been argued, the urban situation provides the best framework for such a holistic approach.

14Another criterion that has been used to classify violence is its relation or bearing to the State, which underlies the political/non-political typology. The violence that counts for many political scientists is that which Hibbs Jr. (1973: 7), says should meet three conditions: (a) it should be anti-system; (b) it should be politically significant by being actual and not a mere threat to the status quo; and (c) it should involve mass political action. Concern with rebellion, revolution, internal war, terrorism etc., clearly reflect the anti-state slant of the popular literature on violence.

15There are major problems with this typology. In the first place, there is a suggestion that violence that is not directly related to overthrowing the state or ruling class is not politically relevant, which is not the case put forward in this study. Secondly, by narrowing the political to anti-state action, some authors fail to give sufficient attention to the fact that the state itself is a repository of violence, following Weber’s definition. Domenach (1981:35-36), emphasizes the role of the state in violence thus:

… the state … is precisely the authority that makes of violence an institution having no obligation to conform to any moral or legal norm, for it is always prepared to use the maximum force if it considers its survival threatened... Whether we see the state absorbing violence or unleashing it, it is always tied to violence.

16Political violence can only be properly understood if the interface between state violence and anti-state violence is addressed, especially because, in some cases, anti-state violence is a response to state violence. The liberal democratic wisdom that the state is neutral or that its use of violence is legitimate has been questioned by students of state repression, terrorism and genocide, as well as leftist scholars who have continued to regard the state as an instrument of class domination (cf. van den Berghe, 1990; Stohl and Lopez, 1986; Bushnell et al., 1991). The argument presented below is that the role of the state is critical in any explanation of violence in whatever form.

17The final clarification that needs to be made on the political/non-political typology is about the tendency of authors like Shupilov to lump together all non-political forms of violence under the rubric of criminal violence. It should be obvious that not all non-political violence is necessarily criminal. There are, for example, categories of economic violence such as that perpetrated by capitalist exploitation and class domination; cultural violence such as entrenched male dominance and ritual violence; and various forms of social violence, such as those perpetrated by the mass media which are not necessarily criminal. Quite apart from these, supposedly criminal acts of violence such as murder and armed robbery can be justified, as they were in South Africa for a long time, as a continuation of the political struggle at the personal level.

18What these imply is: (a) that, to be properly analysed, the category of non-political violence needs to be further disaggregated into social, economic and cultural forms and not simply lumped together as criminal; (b) that even purely criminal violence has sometimes to be related to the political context of violence to be properly understood; and (c) non-political violence should not be dismissed as necessarily negative or deviant. As a UNESCO Panel of Experts pointed out:

… it is no longer possible to study violence as an exclusively negative phenomenon seen in terms of aggressive behaviour. It also [has] to be seen as a method of pursuing positive interests by other means, or as a response made in reaction to a less visible negative violence present in the whole of the social structure. (Domenach et al., 1981: 258)

19Another typology looks at the extent to which violence is endemic or incidental to the polity as its major criterion. Here, the major distinction is between structural and non-structural violence. Structural violence has a relative degree of permanence, being deeply embedded in the social structure and political order. Typically, a society in which there are deep-rooted socio-economic and political inequalities, in which the state is not only controlled by a tiny segment but used to perpetuate relations of dominance by repressing minority groups, and one in which the people are denied their rights to freedom and integrity by force, in short, a society in which the state relies exclusively on the use of force to ensure compliance, can be described as structurally violent. Clearly, the apartheid state in South Africa was structurally violent, as were other colonial states, particularly those of the settler kind. Non-structural violence on the other hand is not endemic, and is found in societies in which inequalities and other injustices are not entrenched in the social structure, and in which the state permits citizen participation and relies on voluntary consent rather than force, which is used sparingly and only in situations where the survival of the state is seriously threatened.

20As an analytical construct, the structural/non-structural typology serves the very useful purpose of allowing us to differentiate highly violent from less violent societies. But even so, the categories must be understood as relative, because there is no society where one form of inequality or another does not exist; though, admittedly, inequality is more entrenched and upheld by state power in some than in others. The point in making this observation is to warn against the common error of assuming that only societies structurally disposed to violence can be violent, or that such violence is automatic. For one, there are countries where structural inequalities have been carefully managed so as not to lead to violence. For another, inequalities or discrimination create situations of violence only when they are politicized and become the basis for political and social struggle. As Welch Jr. (1980: 34), put it, ‘It is inequality perceived as inequity …that gives rise to collective action, including collective political violence. Inequality (real or imagined; individual or group) becomes the basis for resentment when differences are perceived as unjust’ (also see Galtung, 1969 for a similar view). So, even in so-called structurally violent societies, we still need to know how inequalities were transformed into inequities. This is the key to structural analysis.

21The final typology we shall consider, which is of immediate relevance to this study, is that which classifies violence as rural or urban. The point in this classification is not that there is a category, ‘urban’ violence, distinguishable from ‘rural’ violence, the way some modernization, scholars have interpreted it (cf. Hibbs Jr., 1973), but that the essence of violence is basically the same in both rural and urban areas, the only notable difference being perhaps the superior implements of violence (weapons, mass media, and institutional support) available to urban dwellers. In this paper, the essence of the classification lies in the differences between urban and rural areas due to location: by its very nature, the urban area with its concentrated population, weakened and dislocated cultural and social controls, industrialization, concentration of government institutions and so on, is more prone to ‘structural’ violence than the rural area. The greater diversity of social relations in urban areas also means that one is more likely to find a greater representation of the various forms of conflict and violence there, than in the villages. This is not to deny the linkages that exist between violence in rural and urban areas, but to show that drawing a distinction between the two locations enables the researcher to focus on the totality of violence in either of them, thereby giving violence its necessary ecological framework.

22Typologies basically serve to delimit the researcher’s scope of study, and guide his theoretical approach. To complete our discussion of violence as a conceptual variable, we shall next consider the various theoretical explanations that have been given for violence.

2.3 Theoretical perspectives on violence