Conflict: A Precursor to History

By Thompson Emate. Thompson lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

I agree with Veronica Roth’s quote that if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading.  Although there are resolutions that can be taken to avoid conflict and apathy, not many stories can be told or read about if there were no conflict. For instance, if there had not been one of the deadliest conflicts in history, how would we have ever envisaged World War I (WWI), also known as the First World War or the Great War? This was a global war that started in Europe and lasted from 28th July 1914 to 11th November 1918. If not for the war, how could it be possible to mobilise more than 70 military personnel including 60 million Europeans. The death toll from the war made history with an estimated 9 million combatants and 7 million civilian deaths.

If not for conflict, there would have been no need for the vast majority of the world’s countries to form two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. This later resulted in World War II (WWII) also known as the Second World War which lasted from 1939 to 1945. This war directly involved 100 million people from more than 30 countries dedicating their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities for the war. World War II was termed the deadliest conflict in human history as it resulted to 70 to 80 million deaths, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. This war changed the political and social structures of the world. The aftermath of World War II are stories worth reading, like the collapse of Nazi Germany, fall of Japanese and Italian Empires, Allied occupations of Germany and Japan, beginning of the nuclear age, dissolution of the League of Nations and creation of the United Nations, emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as rival superpowers which began the Cold War.

If there were no conflict, nothing would have been said about genocide or ethnic cleansing. The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, resulted in the murder of 6 million Jewish people which is around two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. This happened between 1945 across Germany-occupied Europe (Nazi Germany).  It was also conflict that put Rwanda in the public eye. The Rwandan Civil War was a genocide against the Tutsi, Twa and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. This genocide took place between 7th April and 15th July 1994. The shooting of the movie, “Hotel Rwanda” was based off these acts of atrocity.

Conflict made Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan popular cities. The atomic bombings of these two cities by the United States on August 6th  and 9th in 1945 respectively killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people most of whom were civilians. This remained the only use of nuclear weapon in armed conflict. What more can we say, conflict made September 11, 2001 a memorable and historic day in the United States of America. The September 11 attacks, also referred to as 9/11, were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda against the United States. This attack directly killed 2977 people (excluding the 19 hijackers who also died) and injured over 6000 people as a result of the collapsed buildings. It caused at least USD 10 billion damage in infrastructure and property damage. The aftermath of the attack made headlines as there were related cancer and respiratory diseases that followed months and years after.

Also looking at Nigeria in West Africa, the conflict between the government and the secessionist state of Biafra resulted in the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafra War. This war lasted from 6th July 6 1967 to 15th January 1970. The leadership of the Biafra people felt they could no longer co-exist with the northern-dominated Federal Government which led to a war. The conflict stemmed from political economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded the formal British decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. The cause and the consequences of this war are being cited in books by a number of prolific writers.

The historic Berlin Wall that stretched about 168km (104 miles) long that separated the city of Berlin in Germany from 1961 to 1989 was built to prevent people from escaping the Eastern half of Berlin to the western . This was a result of World War II which resulted in Germany being divided into four zones: one zone for each of the main Allied countries. In addition, the Great Wall of China built from rammed earth using forced labour was constructed to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China’s newly founded dynasty, against incursions by nomads from Inner Asia. This wall, which is one of the wonders of the earth, still remains a fascinating site and a tourist centre.

All these examples and so many others came as a result of conflict later resolved made stories worth telling or read.


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