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  • Renewable vs. Non-Renewable Resources as Causes

    of Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, a Time-series

    Analysis: 1970-2000

    Samuel S. Stanton, Jr.

    Grove City College

    Joseph J. St. Marie

    University of Southern Mississippi

    Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association Annual

    Meeting 2008, Boston, MA.


  • 1

    Renewable vs. Non-Renewable Resources as Causes of Conflict in

    Sub-Saharan Africa, a Time-series Analysis: 1970-2000

    Truly the Heart of Darkness appears to remain a fire zone. Where

    poets speak their heart then bleed for it.1 Over the past thirty-five years, non-

    African developing countries experienced a decrease, while African countries

    experienced an increase in the outbreak of civil war (Collier and Hoeffler, 2002).

    While Africa and Asia are the primary locations of civil war today and were the

    primary locations of civil war during the Cold War, this work focuses on Sub-

    Saharan Africa. We choose Africa because of the growing publicity African

    conflicts receive and because of the general focus on Africa and Asia that

    emerges in the literature on civil war.

    Civil War

    The current primary arguments about civil war consider the importance of

    greed vs. grievance in explaining human behavior (Collier 1999, 2002, 2007,

    Fearon and Laitin 2003, Oechslin 2006). Greed vs. grievance has been further

    amended to consider feasibility (economic viability) and motivation (socio-

    political inequality), with the caveat that greed promotes feasibility of civil war

    and grievance is more motivational. This paper examines both economic

    feasibility and socio-political inequality perspectives as greed vs. grievance in the

    examination of civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa. Creating a nexus between the

    literature on resource wars and renewable natural resource scarcities, this

    research analyzes the affects certain resources (both renewable and non-

    renewable) have on the occurrence, duration, and magnitude of civil wars in sub-

    Saharan Africa.

    This paper examines oil, diamonds and forested land2 as non-renewable

    resources that feed the greed and feasibility hypotheses. The paper examines

    freshwater and arable land, as renewable natural resource causes of civil war.

    Renewable natural resources are sources of inequality that lead to grievance and

    motivation for conflict.

    The importance of continued study of civil war falls into three areas. First,

    while conflict appears to be subsiding in the world, civil wars do continue and

    according to Bennett and Stam (1996) civil wars last about last about seven (7)

    1 Borrowed from Robert Conrad and from the lyrics of One Tree Hill by U2.

    2 We are well aware that trees are a renewable natural resource. However, the demand for forestry

    products, particularly derived from old growth hardwoods, leads us to accept arguments that forestry

    products are part of the resources governments and rebels covet control over for monetary reasons.

  • 2

    years, while international conflicts last only about eleven (11) months on average.

    Secondly, civil wars are fought between parties that share and if both survive,

    will continue to share the same territorial limitations (as created by international

    borders) after the conflict concludes. Finally, civil war can be viewed as a

    conflict where defeat can mean the end of the existence of one or more parties to

    the war, making compromise in the settlement of the conflict difficult at best

    (Licklider, 1995).

    The primary question we seek to answer in this paper is: whether greed or

    grievance natural resources provide a better causal explanation for civil war in Sub-

    Saharan Africa. We examine the years 1970 to 2000 utilizing data from the

    Correlates of War, Civil War (Singer and Small 1994, updated by Collier, et al.

    2007) using cross-sectional time-series models to test the impact of the greed vs.

    grievance hypotheses on the occurrence, duration and magnitude of civil wars in

    sub-Saharan Africa. Preliminary indications find a stronger case is made for

    grievance and motivation hypotheses in the explanation of civil wars in Sub-

    Saharan Africa.

    To answer this intriguing question we divide the paper into six sections.

    The first and second examine civil war and its causes. The Greed versus

    Grievance hypotheses are introduced and explained. The third section outlines

    the hypotheses we use in testing our models. The fourth section introduces the

    data and explains the variables used in the analysis. The fifth section presents

    the results of the statistical analysis. Finally, we will offer some conclusions

    about the greed vs. grievance arguments, the veracity and quality of our own

    effort, and the direction for future research on civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The Causes of Civil War

    We must first establish the definitions of greed and grievance before

    looking at what exact factors are considered in testing these general ideas as

    causes of civil war. Greed quite simply is the desire to accumulate more of

    something to yourself or to the group you represent. In most cases of greed the

    desired object has monetary value. Accumulating a large amount of something

    of monetary value is perceived and in many cases translated into political power.

    Simply put, wealth begets wealth. Grievance refers to a person or group of

    people who are socially or politically differentiated from others, perhaps another

    ethnic or religious group. The reality or the perception on the part of the

    aggrieved group is that this differentiation, be it artificial or real, is negative

    toward them. This is akin to an in-group/out-group situation where benefits

    flow to the in-group but not he out-group creating hostility. An example of

  • 3

    extreme grievance would be a constitutional provision that prohibited members

    of a certain group within the population from all forms of political participation

    in the state. This group would definitely be aggrieved.

    The Greed Hypothesis

    At the center of the greed v. grievance debate is the work of Paul Collier,

    who along with Anke Hoeffler and others have authored several works in the

    last decade arguing that greed is the primary cause of civil war based on study of

    income growth, plunder of natural resources, financial ability to maintain

    military activity.3 Greed by all apprearance allows rebel movements to maintain

    viability (Collier 1999, 2007; Collier and Hoeffler 1999; Humphreys 2002).

    The primary argument of the greed hypothesis is that groups challenge

    the state for control of resources of monetary value. The resources primarily fall

    into what would be considered non-renewable natural resources. Non-

    renewable natural resources are those resources that take over one human

    generation to replenish themselves. Most non-renewable natural resources

    require hundreds of years to regenerate and require great human effort to

    retrieve. Among the resources that are considered to be non-renewable would

    be oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and silver, gemstones, and minerals. One

    renewable natural resource is usually accepted as a greed resourceforests.

    Forests provide a readily accessible source of both income and cover. While our

    paper is about renewable vs. non-renewable resources, we will allow forested

    land to act as a greed resource rather than a grievance resource.

    Most of the recent research has tested the greed hypothesis. Greed has

    been tested primarily in terms of commodity exports and done in either 5 year

    periods or country years (Collier and Hoeffler 2002, DeRouen and Sobek 2004,

    Fearon 2005). It has also been tested using income and economic growth (Collier

    and Hoeffler 2002, Fearon 2005). If studied in 5 year periods, exports and

    economic growth show a statistically significant relationship with civil war onset

    (Collier and Hoeffler 2002, Fearon 2005), but not when studied in country year

    format (Fearon 2005). In DeRouen and Sobek (2004) exports showed statistical

    significance in relation to multiple forms of civil war termination. Fearon (2004)

    includes contraband (illegal drugs, illegal trade in precious gems and minerals)

    in his study and finds that contraband was statistically significant in relation to

    civil war duration. Hegre etal (2001) include a variable called development in

    3 Normally this citation would be given in text, but length leads to this footnote. Collier (1999, 2000, 2001,

    2007); Collier and Hoeffler (2002, 2004), Collier, Hoeffler and Sderbom (2006); Collier, Hoeffler and

    Rohner (2007); Collier and Sambanis (2002).

  • 4

    their model, which measures per capita energy consumption (2001, 37) yet did

    not find it to be related to outbreak of civil war. This is important to note for

    greed arguments, as control of energy production resources is pootentially a

    great source of wealth. Lujala et al (2005) finds the presence and production of

    both primary and secondary diamonds are


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