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Religious discrimination and religious armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa: an obvious relationship?

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Relative deprivation theory suggests that discrimination increases the risk of violence. While religious armed conflicts have been increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, effects of religious discrimination have rarely been investigated. Using the new Religion and State dataset and other sources, this contribution investigates this question in a two-level analysis. The analysis yields three main results. First, religious discrimination has been increasing over the last 15 years but in interregional comparison sub-Saharan Africa has a low level of discrimination. Second, at the cross-country level there is a significant correlation between religious discrimination and armed conflict over religious content. Third, looking closer at four pertinent country cases (the Comoros, the Gambia, Mali and Mauritania) reveals that discrimination is probably not a direct driver of religious conflicts. High levels of discrimination are embedded in problematic state-religion relations and existing cleavages become mobilised along religious lines through transnational influences and geography.
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Keywords: Religion; armed conflict; discrimination; sub-Saharan Africa

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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