The International Crisis Group (ICG) has just released a new report on the influence of diamonds on the political situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). We’ve read various papers on the link between resource wealth (“lootable resources”) and political outcomes, such as regime type and economic outcomes. This report analyses the link between the presence of large stores of diamond wealth in CAR, the level of political instability (it’s essentially a failing state) and the existence of endemic conflict. From the executive summary of the report:
In the diamond mines of the Central African Republic (CAR), extreme poverty and armed conflict put thousands of lives in danger. President François Bozizé keeps tight control of the diamond sector to enrich and empower his own ethnic group but does little to alleviate the poverty that drives informal miners to dig in perilous conditions. Stringent export taxes incentivise smuggling that the mining authorities are too few and too corrupt to stop. These factors combined – a parasitic state, poverty and largely unchecked crime – move jealous factions to launch rebellions and enable armed groups to collect new recruits and profit from mining and selling diamonds illegally. To ensure diamonds fuel development not bloodshed, root and branch reform of the sector must become a core priority of the country’s peacebuilding strategy.
Nature scattered diamonds liberally over the CAR, but since colonial times foreign entrepreneurs and grasping regimes have benefited from the precious stones more than the Central African people. Mining companies have repeatedly tried to extract diamonds on an industrial scale and largely failed because the deposits are alluvial, spread thinly across two large river systems. Instead, an estimated 80,000-100,000 mostly unlicensed miners dig with picks and shovels for daily rations and the chance of striking it lucky. Middlemen, mostly West Africans, buy at meagre prices and sell at a profit to exporting companies. The government lacks both the institutional capacity to govern this dispersed, transient production chain and the will to invest diamond revenues in the long-term growth of mining communities.
Chronic state fragility has ingrained in the political elite a winner-takes-all political culture and a preference for short-term gain. The French ransacked their colony of its natural resources, and successive rulers have treated power as licence to loot. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the CAR’s one-time “emperor”, created a monopoly on diamond exports, and his personal gifts to French President Giscard d’Estaing, intended to seal their friendship, became symbols of imperial excess. Ange-Félix Patassé saw nothing wrong in using his presidency to pursue business interests and openly ran his own diamond mining company. Bozizé is more circumspect. His regime maintains tight control of mining revenues by means of a strict legal and fiscal framework and centralised, opaque management.
The full report can be accessed here. Here is a Al-Jazeera English news report on the situation in CAR.
Here are some questions that we will try to answer in class, based on the Mueller, Kalyvas, Collier & Hoeffler, and Kaldor readings:
- How has the nature of warfare changed (or has it) over the course of the last 70 years or so? Provide evidence from at least four sources.
- Comparatively assess the arguments of Collier & Hoeffer, Kalyvas, Mueller, and Kaldor. What are some commonalities? Divergence of opinion?
- What are the policy implications–from a humanitarian perspective–of taking each of the authors’ arguments seriously? Discuss.
Collier & Hoeffler (2004) “Greed and Grievance in Civil War
- Define `greed’ and `grievance’ in the context of the analysis of rebellion/civil war.
- What are the types of causal mechanisms that each term implies?
- What do C & L mean by `opportunity’?
- Based on the statistical results, what conclusion do C & L draw regarding the causes of the onset of rebellion?
- What is the analytical importance of diaspora communities?
- How important are ethnic grievances in fomenting rebellion?
. Mueller (2000) The Banality of `Ethnic War’
- Why does Mueller put the words ethnic war in scare quotes in the title?
- What does Mueller mean when he says that ethnic war is `banal?’
- What evidence does Mueller use to support his main argument(s)?
- According to Mueller, what are the stages of ethnic war and ethnic cleansing?
- What is `ethnic cleansing’?
- Did ethnicity play any role in the inter-ethnic violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda? Read more…
The Financial Times reports a rise in social unrest in Egypt, which has been attributed to inflation, rising food costs in particular. Inflation is soaring in most parts of the Middle East, from the affluent enclaves of the United Arab Emirates to the more distressed countries, such as Egypt. The main culprit is the record-level price of oil.
A wave of discontent has been sweeping through Egypt in response to mounting food prices and the return of long queues in front of bakeries selling subsidised bread – the only food item that has not recently risen in price.
Civil servants, industrial workers and even groups considered privileged such as doctors and university lecturers have been staging strikes and demanding higher pay to meet price increases of up to 50 per cent for some basic foods.
State university lecturers have gone on strike this week, bringing many classes to a halt for a day. “Faculty members in Egypt are normally a very conservative group who do not want to expose themselves to trouble,” said Hany Al Husseini, one of the strike organisers. “But now the economic situation has become so bad that people are prepared to do anything.”