Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2011

Cutting Bread or Cutting Throats? – Findings from a New Database on Religion, Violence and Peace in Sub‐Saharan Africa, 1990 to 2008

Matthias Basedau, Georg Strüver, Johannes Vüllers

February 2011

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Despite the religious diversity in sub‐Saharan Africa and the religious overtones in a number of African conflicts, social science research has inadequately addressed the question of how and to what extent religion matters for conflict in Africa. This paper presents an innovative data inventory on religion and violent conflict in all sub‐Saharan countries for the period 1990-2008 that seeks to contribute to filling the gap. The data underscore that religion has to be accounted for in conflict in Africa. Moreover, results show the multidimensionality (e.g. armed conflicts with religious incompatibilities, several forms of non‐state religious violence) and ambivalence (inter‐religious networks, religious peace initiatives) of religion vis‐à‐vis violence. In 22 of the 48 sub‐Saharan countries, religion plays a substantial role in violence, and six countries in particular-Chad, Congo‐Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and Uganda-are heavily affected by different religious aspects of violence.