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THE NEW TRIBALISM: Defending Human Rights in an Age of Ethnic Conflict : A World of Civil Strife

June 08, 1993

From the genocidal "ethnic cleansing" of the former Yugoslav federation to the brutal conflicts in the former Soviet Union and many countries of Africa and Asia, violence has taken root between people who share the same terrain but differ in ethnicity, race, language or religion. A U.N. report in May estimated that "internal conflicts afflict some 60 countries" in the developing world alone.

Although some of these conflicts have a long history, many have been fanned by deliberate government policies designed to divide and conquer opponents, justify repression of separatist movements or fend off calls for democracy.

Here is a sampling of some of the most deadly or dangerous ethnic and religious conflicts today.


1. Azerbaijan: Fighting between Muslim Azerbaijanis and Christian Armenians over Nagorno Karabakh enclave. At least 3,000 deaths since 1988.

2. Bosnia: Muslims being "ethnically cleansed" by Serb and Croat minorities. 150,000 dead since 1991.

3. Britain: Protestant majority vs. Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. 3,000 killed since 1969.

4. Croatia: Serb separatists control about one-third of Croatian territory. Conflict has killed about 25,000 since 1991.

5. France: Significant backlash against influx of mostly North African immigrants.

6. Georgia: Abkhazians and Southern Ossetians seek separation from Georgia. About 3,000 killed since 1988s.

7. Germany: Right wing groups angered by an influx of foreigners have carried out hundreds of attacks. At least 22 killed since 1991.

8. Moldova: Russians and Ukrainians in eastern region battle for independence against ethnicRomanians. About 500 killed since 1990.

9. Romania: Tension between Romanians and Hungarian minority; also prejudice against Gypsies.

10. Russia: Mostly Orthodox Christian Ossetians and Muslim Ingushetians at odds over territory in Caucasus Mountains; also neighboring Chechens seek greater autonomy within Russia. Hundreds killed since 1990.

11. Spain: Basque separatists vs. central government. About 700 dead in last 25 years.

12. Yugoslavia: Albanian majority in Kosovo province of Serbia bristles under repressive rule from Belgrade. More than 100 killed in last four years.


13. Afghanistan: Civil war among competing guerrilla chieftans and ethnic factions (Hazars, Pushtuns, Tajiks). Unknown thousands killed.

14. Bangladesh: Mainly Buddhist Chakmas have fought for separation from officially Islamic Bangladesh since 1975. Hundreds killed.

15. Bhutan: Ethnic Nepalese revolt against the government.

16. Cambodia: U.N. peacekeepers try to end Khmer Rouge attacks on 100,000 Vietnamese civilians living in Cambodia.

17. China: Tibetans oppose rule from Beijing.

18. Fiji: Ethnic Indians vs. Fijians.

19. India: Religious violence between Hindus and Muslims since 1974. More than 2,000 deaths since September, 1992. In Kashmir, Muslim separatists rebelled in 1990 against Hindu rule. About 6,000 killed. In Punjab, Sikh miltants have rebelled for 11 years against Hindu rule. About 20,000 killed.

20. Indonesia: Mostly Muslim Indonesia fights separatist movement among mostly Roman Catholic east Timorese population. Up to 200,000 dead since 1975 through violence or fmine related to civil strife. Another separatist movement in northern Sumatra. 2,000 reported dead.

21. Myanmar: Guerrilla warfare by at least four insurgent groups has killed about 6,000 since 1988. Muslims in the West fleeing into Bangladesh; Karens in east along Thai-Myanmar border. Government offensives against minorities living along borders with Thailand, China and Bangladesh

22. Papua New Guinea: Separtist movement on the island of Bougainville wants independence. 3,000 to 5,000 killed.

23. Sri Lanka: Ten-year insurgency of the mostly Hindu Tamils in the north against the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese.

24. Tajikistan: Clashes between Tajik Muslims and communist authorities seeking to suppress Islamic political power. More than 20,000 dead. Also conflict between Tajiks and minority Uzbeks.

Sub-Saharan Africa:

25. Burundi: Ethnic clashes between the majority Hutus and the formerly politically dominant Tutsis. Thousands of deaths.

26. Chad: Clashes between Zakawa tribe of President Idriss Deby and Gourane tribe of leader he ousted in 1990, Hissen Habre.

27. Ethiopia: Tensions between Oromo people and Amhara exacerbate political divisions. Battles between Oromo Liberation Front and Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democracy Front. Hundreds, perhaps thousands dead. Also fighting between other ethnic groups.

28. Kenya: Human rights groups say the government exacerbates tribal tensions even as it argues that political pluralism would degenerate into tribal conflict.

29. Liberia: Civil war pits Gio and Mano ethnic groups under Charles Taylor against Krahn ethnic group of the late President Samuel K. Doe. Tens of thousands killed or dead of starvation resulting from war.

30. Mali: Ethnic Tuaregs in Mali and Niger fighting for sovereignty.

31. Mauritania: Arab-dominated regime clashes with black minority.

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