Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


This paper examines the cause of ethnic peace, and subsequently, the cause of ethnic violence. Varying arguments have been used to explain ethnic violence: primordialism, instrumentalism, and constructivism. The question central to this study is how master narratives, scarce resources, and democratic institutions have influenced the occurrence of ethnic violence. Small n comparison is used to analyze two pairs of sub-Saharan African nations in order to control for other explanatory variables: (1) Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and (2) Kenya and Tanzania. In each pair, one nation is relatively peaceful and the other violent. Drawing from ethnographic research papers, and news sources this paper finds that while cultural and economic factors play heavily into ethnic violence, it is the carrying capacity of political institutions which enable ethnic peace. Better political institutions foster civic trust amongst citizens, and ensure peaceful means for the demonstration of political and economic frustrations.