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Africa: A continent in constant conflict

Africa: A continent in constant conflict
Ivorian refugees at makeshift camp in Bossou village, Guinea Source: Joe Penny/Voice of America

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Ivory Coast, the West African state that is the world's top cocoa producer, is on the brink of civil war -- its second in a decade -- amid mounting violence triggered by a disputed presidential election.

But the political and tribal turbulence in the former French colony, once a model of stability which was torn by north-south civil war in 2002-03, is only a small part of the tempest of turmoil that is sweeping Africa these days.

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What follows is only a sample of the upheaval gripped the continent.

War has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. An estimated 5 million people have died in a conflict deemed the worst since World War II, as neighboring states and their surrogate warlords battle for the vast country's mineral riches.

RELATED French nationals urged to quit Ivory Coast

Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and others scramble for the DRC's gold, copper, diamonds, uranium, tin ore, tungsten and other resources.

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Controlling minerals, timber, farmland and, increasingly, water, have become main characteristics of Africa's incessant wars.

Sudan, which endured ethnic-based civil war from the 1950s to 2005, faces another explosion of bloodletting as the oil-rich Christian and animist south is expected to vote for independence from the Arab-dominated north in a Jan. 9 referendum.

RELATED Amnesty: Ivory Coast violence on upswing

Another former French colony, the Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries on the planet, is collapsing as an undermanned force of U.N. peacekeepers withdraws, leaving the landlocked nation of 4.4 million people to the mercy of guerrillas, terrorists and bandits.

Peacekeepers were also forced out by the government of neighboring Chad, also once part of France's African empire and now plagued by violence and poverty.

The peacekeepers were there to protect some 500,000 refugees, who will now be prey to brigands, while the United Nations warns that relief efforts for 2 million people facing food shortages are at risk. The DRC also wants the peacekeepers gone.

RELATED U.N. worried about Congolese violence

Kenya, a former British colony in East Africa, is teetering on the brink of a new spasm of savagery after the International Criminal Court in The Hague, in a rare indictment, accused six prominent figures of orchestrating tribal violence in 2007-08 after another disputed election.

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Some 1,300 people in the Rift Valley were slaughtered and 600,000 displaced.

The accused include Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister and son of Kenya's founding father, independence leader Jomo Kenyatta.

RELATED Ethiopia challenges Egypt over Nile water

Supporters of one of the accused, William Ruto, former minister of agriculture and higher education, have vowed to unleash a new wave of ethnic cleansing against rival tribesmen modeled on the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

In that horrific bloodbath, Hutu extremists massacred 800,000 Tutsis and their allies over 100 days while the world did nothing.

In the East African state of Uganda, the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, infamous for its murderous child soldiers, has terrorized the country for two decades.

It has carved out a vast region of control in the dense forests of the northeastern DRC, southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

From Algeria in the north on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, through the Sahara region to Nigeria on the Atlantic coast, east to Somalia on the Indian Ocean, terrorism and insurgencies abound.

In North Africa and in Somalia, affiliates of al-Qaida, or groups inspired by Osama bin Laden's global jihad, are active.

Somalia, a failed state without an effective central government since 1991, is a battleground between Islamist forces and a Western-backed Transitional Federal Government that barely functions.

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A long-simmering dispute between Algeria and Morocco over the mineral-rich Western Sahara threatens to ignite once more.

In Ethiopia, which with U.S. backing invaded Somalia in 2006 to oust a short-lived Islamist government, the regime of autocratic Prime Minister Meles Zenawi grapples with insurgencies in the wild Ogaden region fueled by neighboring Eritrea.

The two authoritarian states have a violent history. Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year conflict and the two countries fought a devastating but inconclusive war in 1998-2000. They remain locked in hostility.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on the Red Sea state in December 2009 for aiding Somali insurgents.

The Asmara regime "is weakening steadily," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group reported in September. "Its economy is in free fall, poverty is rife and the authoritarian political system is hemorrhaging its legitimacy."

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