Comparative essay


In recent years, even though there has been a reduction in ethnic violence and civil wars, shocking cases continue to be witnessed the world over - Comparative essay introduction. Violence, though considered barbaric with no place in the modern world is still a common phenomenon in the resolution of social conflicts. Ethnic conflict or ethnic war is a war between two or more ethnic groups. Violence and conflict go hand in hand as in most cases; conflict is expressed through violence. One of the primary characteristics of ethnic wars is that the civilians are the major targets and the most affected. According to Kalyvas, 2000, research shows that 80% of people killed in the modern day civil wars are civilians. A distinctive feature between civil wars and civil unrest is their respective structures, organization, duration and the participants.

We will write a custom essay sample on
Comparative essay
or any similar topic specifically for you
Do Not Waste
Your Time

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.

More Essay Examples on Comparison Rubric

Civil unrests like riots tend to take place in urban centers, are mostly for particular groups of people and take a short period of time with minimal violence involved. Civil wars on the other hand are mostly witnessed in the rural areas. The scale of participation by individuals in civil wars is different from ordinary civil unrest. Ethnic war is seen as a war in which a neighbor rises against his own neighbor.


There are thee major theories used in the description and understanding of the ethnic wars: The primordialist thories, instrumentalist theories and the constructivist theories. The primordialists argue that there are historical relationships of a family type between neighboring ethnic groups. As a result of this, the ethnic war or violence results from political, institutional and economic factors rather than ethnicity. The primordoalists see the wars as resulting primarily from bad political decisions made by the political elites and other leaders who may use the ethnic card to advance their interests. Grosby (1994).

The Instrumentalists on the other hand argue that “ethnicity and  race are ..instrumental identities.” used by particular groups of people to meet certain scarce resources e.g. scarcity of resources, identity or political power. The community leaders use the cultural groups to their competitive advantage, Stephen Cornell and Douglas Hartmann (1998)

[1]The third explanation of ethnic conflict is constructivism school of thought. This argues that ethnic groups are socially constructed in a such a way that they make up the nation. Benedict, 1999  ” a nation is a community socially constructed” meaning that the people see themselves as part of a nation or a group though they fundamentally identiry with a particular ethnic group. The theory is attributed to Benedict Anderson who argue that a nation, made up of different ethnic groups is different from an actual community in that a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear them”, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” The communion is imagined and may be described as “virtual” as opposed to “real”. Anderson argues that the communities are sovereign and at the same time limited.


Two wars which clearly illustrate classical cases of ethnic wars is the war in the former Yugoslavia between the Serbs and the Croats and the War in Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Unlike a war perpetrated by a country or a sovereign nation in which the nation is held accountable, ethnic war has the direct participation of neighbor against neighbor and the particular ethnic groups are held accountable.


Yugoslavia is a country with rich history. The two major explanations given for the wars in Croatia and Bosnia are the culmination of ethnic hatred over time between the two ethnic groups and the rise of calls for nationalism after the fall of communism. The calls for nationalism was brought about by politicians

and the media calls for nationalism leading to the renewal of hatreds and fears that had been kept in check with the Federal communist government.

[2]Juhdah, 1997 argues that even though the war was caused by politicians with their persistent calls for nationalism, the war would not have succeeded had there been no existing ancient hatreds which characterized the social fabric of the Federation. These calls led to the rise in “militant nationalism” which directly preceded the wars leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The elections in May 1990 led to escalation of fear and insecurity which was as a result of the rising nationalism and expected soon to be independence. The elections in Croatia was highly manipulated and the nationalists headed by Franjo Tudman won the elections with over 69% of the parliamentary seats despite attaining only 42% of the total votes cast. Mueller, 2000. The Serbs’ participation was minimal with only less than 25% of the Serbs participating. (Mueller, 200) This was the same case with Serbia in which Slobodan Milosevic managed to win the elections. The Albanians living in Kosovo had boycotted the elections increasing Slobodan chances.

 [3]In the Croatian state for example, the Serbs were a minority with rights different from the other Croats. The Croatian Serbs therefore demanded autonomy as they lived in fear in Croatia. This resulted in armed conflict. One of such conflicts were when the Serbian Policemen living in Croatia declined to wear the new uniform which they were given following the attainment of autonomy by the Croatian government. The other form of militant conflict was the “log revolution” in which the Serbs blocked the streets with logs thereby preventing the Croatian forces from entering the Serb territory in which the Croat police had had a strike. Since the Croats were still under the Yugoslav government, the federal government intervened by barring Croatian helicopters from flying over the area. Likewise the Hutu of Rwanda, though with the same rights as the Tutsi’s, had been marginalized over the years Rwandan. Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004)

The participants of the war were small groups of thugs, soccer hooligans, and idlers who were “always drunk” Muller, 2000. They were initially organized by the political elites to help in the war. The federal army had inevitably disintegrated as a result of growing ethnic hatred and calls for nationalism thereby having minimal participation in the war.

 The majority of Yugoslav residents had not believed in its break up as shown in a poll conducted in Yugoslavia in 1990. It showed that of the total number of people interviewed, only 16% supported the creation of autonomic national states as opposed to the whooping 61% who did not agree to the idea. This shows that the majority of the [4]Yugoslavs wanted a united nation. It is the small groups of armed civilians who fully participated in the persecution of the ethnic groups considered not so friendly.

The existence of thugs and a general attitude of the rise of ethnic warfare also contributed to the civil war in Yugoslavia. The major perpetrators of the ethnic conflict were the common criminals, idlers, thugs and fanatics. Mueller, 2000, classifies the war .It is these people who rose to become national heroes during the war..

Muller, 2000, views the war as having taken part in four major steps, the takeover in which “well armed thugs” strategically took over regions in which the civilian rule had failed in. This was directly supported by the politicians who believed that the military was in control. The takeover led to the persecution of ethnic groups who were considered not so friendly. This was followed by the “Carnibal” in which the thugs in control engaged in all forms of socially unacceptable behaviour : mass killings of innocent civilians, mass gang rapes, uncontrolled drunkenness as well as other sadistic behavior. The third step of the war was the revenge attacks in which the people who had been persecuted sought revenge. An example is the formation of a group the “Black Swans” who had been “orphaned by the wars” and lastly the “Occupation and dissertation,” which characterized the end of the war.


[5]A classical example of the degeneration of ethnic tension into a full blown genocide is the Rwandan case. There are three major ethnic groups in Rwanda; The Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa. JUSTOR 2001 reports that by 1990, 85% of the total Rwandan population was Hutus while the Tutsis and the Twa’s were 14% and 1% respectively. Since the colonial times, there had been tension between the Hutu who happened to be the majority in the country and the Tutsi’s who the minority were were. Belgians who were the colonial masters brought about the problem by empowering the minority Tutsi’s making them the elites of the country. As a result of this, the Hutus continued to be seen as second class citizens in a country where they were the majority in terms of population. The social structure which had been fairly dynamic was divided into two competing and fighting ethnic groups this resulted in a full blown genocide in Rwanda in April 1994 which saw more than 800,000 people die within a short time most of them being hacked to death. The genocide was preceded by a conflict which had been going on between Habyarimana’s government and the rebel group the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who were predominantly the Tutsis. RPF had been formed as a result of fear of possible persecutions by the Tutsis of the Hutus.  The conflict went on between October 1990 and August 1993, when the conflict halted as a result of the signing of a power sharing agreement between the two groups JUSTOR, 2005 the genocide is seen caused by the government policies which were aimed at destroying the Tutsi minority. According to Strauss, 2005, the Rwandese war was planned by the elites in the then ruling Hutu ethnic group, though he acknowledges that there were many more factors that led to the rise of the war. Three groups which participated in the war were the Forces Arm’ees Rwandaises (FAR), the Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF) and the Hutu extremists. The elites had the ability to influence and coerce the Hutu ordinary citizens, into participating fully in the genocide though the participation of the citizens is questioned as only an estimated 9% took part.Mueller,2000. Even though the ideology which defined the war in Rwanda had called for the participation by all Hutus in the elimination of the Tutsis, only few Hutu extremists took part in the killings.


[6]The two ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, the Serbs and the Croats were relatives. It is estimated that around 29% of the Serbs had married Croats in 1991. (Gagnon 1994, 130-131)This even exceeds the number of blacks married to the whites in America which was estimated to stand at 12 percent by 1993. (Mueller, 2000) Just as the Yugoslavs were relatives, the Hutus and the Tutsi’s had significantly intermarried. According to (Des Forges 1999), nearly every Tutsi had a relative from the Hutu ethnic group, (Mueller, 2000).

From the social constructive theory, there were three conditions which led to the rise of the ethnic wars. In Both the Rwandan and the Yugoslav cases, there were myths and historical injustices which justified ethnic hostility and violence. Secondly, there were intense fears by a particular group about possible persecution by another group. In both the two cases there was a general feeling that a particular group would persecute another group. The Hutu were afraid of becoming second citizens to the Tutsi minority and the Tutsis were afraid of a possible future persecution. This is evidenced by the formation of the RPF which sought to defend the rights of the Tutsis. In Yugoslavia a good illustration of this was the case of the Croatian Serbs who felt that with the Croatian independence around the corner and with the creation of a new Constitution would lower their ethnic status in the social strata and result in a possible persecution. The May 1990 elections in Yugoslavia led to a general feeling a general feeling by the Croatian Serbs that they would be marginalized.

In both cases, the ethnic groups had the opportunities to mobilize resources and personnel to engage in fights. The important leaders also served to fuel the rising of ethnic wars through rhetoric’s and mass mobilization of a certain group of people. Lack of any of the above discussed points would probably have prevented the possible war. Lead to the avoidance of both conflicts. JUSTR, 2000.

[7]The atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia were similar in their planning and execution. They were both planned at governmental level and were carried out by the government forces of well as organized militia groups. In Rwanda, the Hutu who were in government had started persecuting the Tutsi minority long before the Genocide. Habyarimana regime …. Had subjected the Tutsi minority to ….. Ferocious persecution.”  JUSTOR, 2003.

The two cases of conflicts are seen as resulting from tribalism, ethnic hatred, irrationality and cultural inadequacy. They were a result of modern day tribalism and long standing suspicion and ethnic hatreds. The participants in both cases often were often involved in the destruction of property and violence and were often drunk and under the influence of other drugs. The other groups who offered protection were also as guilty as the perpetrators of the violence themselves.

The purposes of the two wars were also similar, to eliminate a particular group of people from a given territory.

In both the two wars the criminals released from jail due to a state of lawlessness participated in the escalation of socially unacceptable behavior; looting, rape, and mass killings were a common phenomenon. The perpetrators were people who happened to know one another and had peacefully coexisted and lived together as friends and neighbors some being relatives.

The two wars are also similar in the sequence in which they took place. The Rwandan conflict took part in two periods; between 1990 and 1994 followed by the 1994 genocide. While the Yugoslab also took part in two parts; the first conflict between the Serbia and the Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army. Even though people doubt the [8]Rwandese case, it is evident that the two wars asserts that ethnic civil wars are not different from non ethnic civil wars.Journal of Conflict Resolution,2001. Mueller, 2000 argues that the violence in Yugoslavia was not as a result of long standing ethnic hatred but was as a result of manipulation of criminals, thugs and the naïve masses by politicians. [9]He also argues that, Nationalism was a card used to motivate the masses in the case of the former Yugoslavia thereby leading to escalation in ethnic hatred. In the case of Rwanda, a similar scenario is seen as the perpetrators of violence were small time thugs on the rampage who were most of the time under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In both the two cases, the participation of the general masses is evident though. It is estimated that a shocking nine percent of Hutu male aged over 13 directly participated in the genocide. Mueller, 2000.

It is therefore evident that it is only a small minority of individuals who participate in armed conflict in the name of a larger unwilling majority.


[10]As seen above, most people believe that ethnic wars are wars in which neighbors rise against other neighbors making seemingly ordinary people become murderous to the neighbors perceived as an the  enemy. The Rwandan case seems to have As argued by [11]Gagnon and Kimbley however from the two cases of Rwanda and the former [12]Yugoslavia, ethnic wars have close resemblances to non ethnic wars as the main participants are just a small group of people who fight and murder in the name of a larger ethnic groups based on social injustices that are more often than not, virtual, severely misguided and unnecessary. It can therefore be argued that ethnic wars essentially are mistakenly said to exist. We can conclude that ethnic warfare closely resembles non ethnic warfare as only a small considerable group of armed and idle thugs are the major participants as opposed to the majority of the masses who are unwilling to participate. However, it is evident that in both the Rwandan and the Yugoslav cases conflicts increased and ethnic hatred which had spawned over the years provide a breeding ground for ethnic violence. Mueller, 2000. It is therefore wrong to conclude that a particular ethnic group can venture out to destroy another group. Even though ethnic and national hatred are seemingly inevitable and global, use of violence or threats of violence should not be promoted. Several ethnic groups and nationalities have accepted diversity and get along. Examples are the blacks and the whites in the United States and the different nations in Europe where, even though there still exist some conflicting differences which are experienced in violence, have chosen to get along. [13]We can also conclude that, the motivating factors to the people who actually carry out the killings are the opportunities presented by wars rather than the ethnic hatreds or historical injustices.


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. ISBN 0-86091-329-5 </wiki/Special:BookSources/0860913295>, p. 6-7

Steven Grosby (1994) ‘The verdict of history: The inexpungeable tie of primordiality – A response to Eller and Coughlan’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 17(1), pp. 164-171, p. 168

Stephen Cornell and Douglas Hartmann (1998) Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, p.59

3. Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004).The Making of Ethnic Insecurity: A Case Study of the Krajina Serbs


Frank P. Harvey Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans: Opportunities and Constraints for Theory and Policy. Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 37-65 <>

JSTOR: The Banality of “Ethnic War” <>

Mueller,J.(2000) The Banality of “Ethnic War”: Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Ohio State University.

[1]Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities.
[2] . Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004).The Making of Ethnic Insecurity
[3] Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities.
[4] . Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004).The Making of Ethnic Insecurity
[5] . Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004).The Making of Ethnic Insecurity
[6] . Edith Marko-Stöckl (2004).The Making of Ethnic Insecurity
[7] Mueller,J.(2000) The Banality of “Ethnic War”:
[8] Frank P. Harvey Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans
[9] Mueller,J.(2000) The Banality of “Ethnic War”:
[10] Frank P. Harvey Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans
[11] Mueller,J.(2000) The Banality of “Ethnic War”:
Mueller,J.(2000) The Banality of “Ethnic War”: [12]
[13] Frank P. Harvey Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans

Haven’t Found A Paper?

Let us create the best one for you! What is your topic?

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.

Haven't found the Essay You Want?

Get your custom essay sample

For Only $13/page

Eric from Graduateway Hi there, would you like to get an essay? What is your topic? Let me help you