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Stages of conflict
Case study: Rwanda - Part 1










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Stages of Conflict - Part 1
Wars don’t happen overnight. Conflicts gradually build up over months, years or even decades. In his book, ‘Peacing Together’, Dr David Cormack lists three phases that take a conflict from low to high.

Phase 1 - Separation
The two parties increase distance from each other by emphasising:
  • Differences and ignoring similarities. Since all people are unique, it is always easy to find differences once people start to look for them. For example, wars have been fought between groups who were different in race, religion, politics, social class or just place of residence.
  • Distance between the ‘different’ groups is increased, by isolating themselves or having less contact with each other.
  • Danger People start to claim the ‘other’ group is a danger further increasing the strength of the differences. People cease to communicate and cannot now hear or share a common ground. Feelings count more than fact. The possibility of danger now looks like a threat.

Phase 2 - Divergence
The two parties prepare for conflict by strengthening their positions. Prejudices deepen and distance grows.
  • Creating a united Front Parties create unity within their group, making sure everyone feels strongly that 'our side is right'. Pressure to conform is high and undecided people are squeezed out. Anyone who suggests co-operation or understanding is accused of being a traitor.
  • Maintaining a good image People talk to observers, friends, the press about the injustices they feel, the dangers of the 'enemy', etc. They talk to anyone except the 'enemy'.
  • Preparation and Positioning Parties prepare for the conflict and look for a showdown by using rumours, malicious gossip or suspicion.

Phase 3 - Destruction
This is open conflict and the longer it continues the more insensitive the parties become. They may begin with high moral words and principles, but soon they justify any action. Both sides do whatever they can to damage the other. The parties become so desperate to destroy each other that they lose their normal values. They use all weapons at their disposal, even at the risk of damaging their own citizens. The conflict destroys both parties and destroys many others who are in the way.

     War inquiry.


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