GEOPV: Geographies of Political Violence Across African States

This project is directed by Prof Clionadh Raleigh and includes two long-term post-doctorate positions, three PhD positions, coders and analysts for ACLED and collaborations across several US and European research programs.

The central aim of this project is to explain what causes the various types of political violence found within and across African states. In contrast to the widespread view that conflict is confined to a few crisis prone states, new evidence suggests that almost all states are sites of substantial, widespread political insecurity (Raleigh et al. 2010). Civil war accounts for less than half of all political violence occurring across African states; the remaining conflict is composed of communal and political militia violence, rioting, protests and violence against non-combatants outside of a war context. These forms of ‘invisible’ violence often involve state collusion and present a widespread risk to civilians.

The project has five stages:

  • 1st: Conflict Landscapes – Explores how conflict types and risks vary over space;
  • 2nd Conflict Risks – Qualifies and quantifies the political topographies underlying conflict types, hotspots, and cold zones;
  • 3rd Conflict Triggers – Models which changes in local, regional and national variables give rise to different conflict types over time;
  • 4th Conflict Dynamics – Focuses on contagion, diffusion, splintering and alliance behavior within and across conflict types; and
  • 5th Conflict Prediction – Tests emergent behavior in real time using select case studies and findings from conflict dynamics package.

This project tests whether different governance practices and policies within states creates incentives for distinct types of violent reactions on the local, regional and national level. It employs the latest available disaggregated data methodologies for spatial and temporal dynamics. Further, it introduces spatial and scaled approaches, which are the most rigorous and well suited to a comprehensive conflict study, as risks, triggers and dynamics are spatially inscribed and hierarchical.

The theoretical contribution of this work is an examination of how insurgency and opposition violence are spatial and political processes that are shaped by the political, economic and social geographies of states. The empirical contributions include an extension of the most comprehensive data on political events collected and publicly available (ACLED) and a merging of these disaggregated data with information on local level political, economic, social and environmental conditions throughout Africa.

Working papers for this project include:

  • The Rise of Political Militias Across African States;
  • Landscapes of Political Violence Across African States;
  • Islamist Violence Across African States;
  • Dominant Forms of Violence Across Different Governing Institutions; and
  • Battlefield Balance.