Determinants of Civil Conflict in Africa: Borders as Political Resources
Lance Hadley | BIG Research Reports | #58
Contemporary spatial research on civil conflict in Africa has largely focused on borders and the state periphery as spaces of limited political and economic opportunity. These studies largely adopt approaches that present borderland citizens as operating in structurally desolate spaces of poor governance, economic opportunity and political inclusion. While spatial analyses are permitting unprecedented focus on borderland structures, causal mechanisms that explain how the geographic opportunities present from nearby international borders inform strategies of rebellion remain undeveloped. To explore this, this paper repositions the socio-economic processes in the borderlands as the central unit of analysis. In particular, this paper conceptualizes international borders as a political resource that is exploited by borderland groups to access unregulated ‘in’ and ‘out-flows’ of strategic capacity. This access to alternative strategic capacities is hypothesized to provide the opportunity for border citizens to challenge structural grievances and attempt alternative (if unlawful) governance structures within the borderlands. Lastly, this paper concludes with a spatial theory of conflict specific to Africa’s borderlands whereby relative distances from the state capital, in combination with weak state capacity, creates sites of competing power structures and ultimately violent civil conflict.