This map nicely illustrates that the Europeans drew up the borders of Africa with little regard to the distributions of linguistic groups, not to mention religious or racial composition. We can see a mixture of colors in some new and old conflict zones like Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, and, of course, Sudan. The problem is that this would cause us to overlook other places that have seen lots of violence that do not appear to be all that "colorful":
- Somalia: always the exemplar of homogeneity breeding conflict, as Somalis speak the same language, worship in the same way (Islam), and are of the same race.
- Both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia appear more homogeneous than they really are. Of course, Ethiopia's borders were not drawn as much by the colonial powers since it was only conquered by the Italians in the 1930's.
- Angola had heaps of conflict in the aftermath of the Portuguese, but you would not guess it from this map.
- Rwanda and Burundi have both seen heaps of violence over the years, and the colonial powers (Belgium) did heaps of damage here, but boundaries are not really the issue.
- Zimbabwe would not appear to be problematic, but Robert Mugabe has more to say about that than the lines drawn.
The key is how ethnicity interacts with political institutions. Sometimes, institutions mitigate ethnic conflict and sometimes they exacerbate it. I used to study this question, and hope to come back to it soon (problems with data sets should be fixed soon). The importance today is to remember that borders are not destiny and the past only shapes but does not completely determine the future. Southern Sudan's diversity can be a strength if it can be like Tanzania, which has always been one of the most diverse countries on the planet .... and has had very little violence.