GRAPH 1: Proportion of Conflict Events by Type and Year

Over the past 17 years, political violence rates have grown. ACLED recorded a total of 13,504 violent conflict events in Africa for 2013, compared to just over 9,000 events for 2012. While the absolute increase in conflict events can at least in part be influenced by on-going improvements in the reporting and coverage of violent conflict, as well as improvements to data collection techniques within the project, the nature, location and magnitudes of this increase are instructive. On a continental scale, 32.8% of events involved battles between armed groups; 39.7% involved rioting or protesting; and 27.4% involved violence against civilians.

Historically, 1999 witnessed the highest proportion of battles between armed actors, largely due to violence in Angola, DRC and Sierra Leone. The years 2002 – 2004 witnessed the highest proportion of violence against civilians, driven by several contexts including the Zimbabwean elections, Ugandan LRA activity, and the cessation of civil war in DRC that drove violence against civilians before peace talks.

In 2013, riots and protests saw the largest overall increase (of over 60%), driven largely by events in North Africa – Egypt in particular – over the past year as the fallout from the Arab Spring continue to be felt across that region. By contrast, while absolute levels of violence against civilians remain high, the proportion of continental violence which involves civilian targeting actually fell in 2013, the fifth consecutive year in which it has done so, and the third consecutive year in which civilian fatalities have fallen as a proportion of reported conflict deaths. This trend, while welcome, masks important regional discrepancies: among high violence states, civilian targeting made up more than half of the reported conflict events in 2013 in Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Sudan, and an extremely high rate of reported conflict-related fatalities in Kenya (61.5%), South Sudan (57.7%) and Nigeria (45.5%).

A relative drop in violence is apparent in the years 2004 – 2006, when a number of high-intensity conflicts ended- including civil wars in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire- and other areas- such as the Darfur region and Congolese Kivus- experienced a relative fall in violence. In addition, the operational and logistical environment in Uganda changed over this period, and the activity of the LRA (which had been a prominent actor in the region and proportionally on the continent as a whole) fell with their diffusion into neighbouring states, where they continue their activity but at a much-reduced rate and with significantly reduced capacity.