Declarations of Intent: Themes of Interstate War in African National Anthems

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This article investigates the prevalence of interstate war as a theme in African countries’ national anthems and seeks to identify whether there is any correlation between themes of interstate enmity in anthems and having experienced interstate war. The article links literature on postcolonial identity- building, nation-building, interstate relations, and interstate war in Africa. Findings indicate that countries without interstate war-themed lyrics are more prevalent (35/54) compared with those with such lyrics (19/54). Proportionally, states with interstate war themes in their lyrics have seen more interstate conflict (75% compared with 54.05% for those without). Brief analyses of the three conventionally defined interstate wars in the continent’s history show that those conflicts were all initiated by states with interstate war as a theme in their lyrics against states without such themes. Similarly, the majority of militarised interstate disputes (MIDs) were initiated by states with this theme in their lyrics. Importantly, however, within this group, only those with lyrics with themes that are pro-war were more likely to initiate interstate conflicts. Thus, anthems are a useful predicter of military aggression; they reflect part of the political psyche of a country and the boundary-related conditions under which it attained sovereignty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of African Renaissance Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • interstate war
  • militarised interstate disputes
  • national anthems
  • nationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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