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Local Determinants of African Civil Wars, 1970-2001

by Halvard Buhang and Jan Ketil Rød. Reading for week of March 15, 2005.

In large-N investigations, civil conflicts -- like any significant political event -- tend to be studied and understood at the country level.  Popular explanations of why and where civil wars occur, however, refer to such factors as ethnic discrimination, wealth inequalities, access to contrabands, and peripheral havens.  The intensity of such factors varies geographically within states.  Therefore any statistical study of civil war that applies country-level approximations is potentially flawed.  In this paper, we disaggregate the country and let 100 x 100 km grids be the units of observation.  Drawing on preliminary, geo-referenced conflict data from Uppsala/PRIO's conflict database, we use GIS to identify regions of peace and conflict and as a tool to generate sub-national measures of key explanatory variables.  The results from an empirical analysis of African civil wars, 1970-2001, demonstrate spatial clustering of conflict that co-varies with the spatial distribution of several exogenous factors.  Territorial conflict is more likely in sparsely populated regions near the state border, at a distance from the capital, and in the vicinity of petroleum fields.  In contrast, governmental conflict is more likely in populous regions near the capital.  These promising findings show the value of the innovative research design and offer nuanced explanations of the correlates of civil war.

Download File: PERG.Buhaug.pdf

Center for Comparative and Global Research