The world-wide surge in the number and violence of open conflicts revolving around ethnic or religious identities towards the end of the 20th century is a powerful reminder that communal identities are not a remnant of the past but a potent force in contemporary politics. After three decades of independence, ethnicity is more central than ever to the political process of many African countries. Africa has had more than its fair share of ethnic dissent which has sometimes plummeted states into civil war as was experienced in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and reached frightening proportions in Rwanda and now Sudan. Political openings and multiparty elections have led to the formation of innumerable overtly or covertly ethnic political parties, which serve more often to increase civil strife of which the most recent addition to the long list in Africa is Kenya. Africa’s ethnic disturbances have occurred more within national borders, thus giving rise to unstable domestic systems. This paper attempts to address these ethnic issues by assessing certain conflict spots as opposed to areas of relative calm in Africa. The assessment of states on both sides of the divide (i.e. cooperation and conflict) is done in the hope that trends that lead to conflict as well as those that lead to cooperation can be identified. In order to establish these patterns of cooperation and conflict, it became pertinent to use a broad range of case studies, notably, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. The result of this study tells that the lack or presence of equity and justice (components of good governance), high literacy levels and an external threat, are factors which strengthen or diminish possibilities of ethnic conflict.