Table of Content
Table of Contents
The Concept of Conflict and Conflict Management
The Phenomenon of Conflict in Africa
Civil Society and Conflicts Management
Introduction Conflict is the incompatibility of goals and values between two or more parties in a relationship, combined with the attempt to control each other and antagonistic feelings towards each other. It is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests.1 It exist whenever incompatible activities occur. An activity that is incompatible with another is one that prevents, blocks or interferes with the occurrence or effectiveness of the second activity.
The incompatibility or differences may exist in reality or may only be perceived by the parties involved. Nonetheless, the opposing actions and the hostile emotions are very real hallmark between people in all kind of human relationship and in al social settings. As a result of the wide range of potential differences between people, the absence of conflict usually signals the absence of meaningful interaction2. A conflict can be as small as a perceived disagreement or as large as war. It can originate in the person, between two or more people or between two or more groups. Conflict by itself is neither good nor bad but the manner in which conflict is handled determines whether it is constructive or destructive.
A conflict is different from competition and cooperation because in competitive situations, the two or more individuals or parties have mutually inconsistent goals as either party tries to reach its goals, it undermine the attempt of the others to reach theirs. Therefore, competitive situations will by their nature cause conflict. Conflict can also occur in cooperative situation, in which two or more individuals or parties have consistent goals because the manner in which one party tries to reach its goal may undermine the other individual or party.3
A clash of interests, values, action or directions often sparks a conflict and conflict is also seen as the existence of the clash. The world ‘conflict’ is applicable from the instant the clash occurs. Even when it is described as a potential conflict, it is implying that there is already conflict of direction even though a clash has not occurred. As a result, conflict can occur whenever there is interaction. Leo Otoide describe this situation in the international system thus:
When states interact there is competition for power and prestige and in the process, the international system elicits a picture of perpetual conflict, of survival of the fittest, where the desire for power and influence determines the attitudes of states and the course of events.4
Conflict occurs in different levels. The first is interpersonal conflict. Interpersonal conflict is when two people have incompatible needs; goals, or approaches in their relationship.5 Communication breakdown is often an important source of interpersonal conflict and learning communication skills is valuable in preventing and resolving such difficulties. At the same time, very real differences occur between people that cannot be resolved by any amount of improved communication. Personality conflict refers to very strong differences in motives, values or styles in dealing with people that are not resolvable. For instance, if both parties in a relationship have a high need for power and both want to be dominant in the relationship, there is no way for both to be satisfied, and a power struggle ensures common tactics used in interpersonal power struggles includes the exaggerated used of reward and punishments, deception and evasion, threats and emotional blackmail and flattery or integration. Unresolved power conflict usually recycles and escalates to the point of relationship breakdown and termination.