Renamo’s new war rhetoric

Renamo’s new war rhetoric

How serious is the threat to peace in Mozambique?

October 26, 2013

By Corinna Jentzsch, Yale University.

Email: corinna.jentzsch

via NAI Forum.

via NAI Forum.

Renamo’s new war rhetoric

How serious is the threat to peace in Mozambique?

Corinna J

October 26, 2013

By Corinna Jentzsch, Yale University.


After several violent incidents over the past year and an attack by Frelimo on Renamo’s current base in the country’s central region this week, Renamo canceled the peace deal and armed men attacked a police station.

Is Mozambique back on the brink of civil war? The US has demanded dialogue between the leaders to deescalate the situation. How serious is Renamo’s war rhetoric?

Renamo’s major concern has been Frelimo’s growing strength and power, and its own shrinking popular base, resources and influence.

Several analysts claim that what Renamo really wants is not power, but money and a ‘piece of the cake’ of the natural resource wealth.

On October 4th, the peace accord between the opposition Renamo and the party in power, Frelimo, signed after more than a decade and a half of civil war, celebrated its 21st anniversary.

After several violent incidents over the past year and an attack by Frelimo on Renamo’s current base in the country’s central region this week, Renamo canceled the peace deal and armed men attacked a police station. Several media outlets made it sound as if Mozambique is back on the brink of civil war, and the US has demanded dialogue between the leaders to deescalate the situation. How serious is Renamo’s pro-war rhetoric?

Renamo has threatened to return to war many times over the last years. “Canceling the peace deal” is the newest version of a threat that Renamo has used in the past to put the Frelimo government—in power since independence—under pressure. This threat is frequently withdrawn, as happened this time, and Renamo leaders keep reassuring the people that they do not want to wage another war against the government.

As Joseph Hanlon, scholar and author of several books on Mozambican history and politics, has noted in a commentary on recent developments, history has to be taken into account to evaluate what’s currently happening in Mozambique. This is not a sudden escalation of Renamo-Frelimo relations, but needs to be seen in the context of Renamo’s difficult transformation into a political party after the end of the civil war in 1992 and Frelimo’s strong grip on power.

Renamo was a serious competitor in post-war elections, and almost won the presidential ticket in 1999. While international observers declared the electoral process to have been free and fair, Renamo claimed that Frelimo had rigged the elections. Since then, Renamo repeatedly accused Frelimo of election fraud and pursued a strategy of maximalist demands, threats and boycotts to try to influence politics outside of electoral processes.

Renamo’s major concern has been Frelimo’s growing strength and power, and its own decreasing resources and influence. While Frelimo developed into a strong political party, similar to European parties in structure, Renamo’s leadership is detached from its popular base and lacks resources.

Many of Frelimo’s party leaders are successful businessmen and—in contrast to Renamo’s leaders—have benefitted from Mozambique’s discovery of vast natural resource wealth and steady economic growth. Moreover, Frelimo has recently made efforts to control the media more closely and has put pressure on two independent media outlets to replace editors that had been critical of Frelimo.

In protest against his party’s increasing marginalization after the 2009 elections, during which Renamo lost a large number of votes, Dhlakama retreated to the northern province Nampula. After some time off the political stage, Dhlakama returned in 2011 with threats to reassemble demobilized combatants in camps and stage large-scale demonstrations to “peacefully” overthrow the government, so that the country no longer “belongs to Frelimo” and can be “returned” to the people.

After a clash between Renamo and Frelimo security forces at Renamo’s headquarters in Nampula in March 2012, where hundreds of Renamo supporters had assembled and presumably waited for money for a “second demobilization”, Dhlakama moved to the central region, district of Gorongosa, close to where the central base was located during the war. A couple of hundred war veterans still lived in the area and had been waiting for Dhlakama’s orders.

Since his return to Gorongosa, the tensions between Frelimo and Renamo have risen, and several violent incidents occurred in surrounding areas over the past year. In April, three people died when armed men attacked a bus in Sofala province in the central region and five more people died in clashes between Renamo and Frelimo in the same area; in June, two people died when armed men blocked the main North-South highway and attacked trucks and a bus, for which Renamo assumed  responsibility.

Renamo’s recent activities focus on the local elections scheduled for November 20 this year. Dhlakama demanded changes to the electoral legislation that currently gives an advantage to Frelimo, but Renamo’s proposals weren’t accepted in parliament.

Since then, Dhlakama decided to boycott the local elections, and his and other Renamo leaders’ rhetoric sometimes even implies that they want to disrupt the elections and make it impossible for people to vote at all. Several rounds of high-level talks between Renamo and Frelimo did not bring solutions that could be accepted by both parties, as Frelimo is not willing to meet Dhlakama’s maximalist demands.

Thus relations have clearly deteriorated. Renamo’s spokesman Fernando Mazanga said that the government’s attack on Renamo’s base this week equaled a declaration of war, as the attack was not conducted by the Rapid Intervention Forces (those previously involved in actions against Renamo), but by the army.

These tensions suggest that violence is likely to escalate. However, Renamo is weak—in terms of political impact, financial resources, popular support, and military resources. Dhlakama prevented the rise of talented party leaders, who then left the party and joined the new opposition party MDM. Dhlakama did not use the parliament to reach his goals or accepted offers from Frelimo, always trying to get a better deal.

Renamo has lost the control of municipalities, has no mayors, and only 51 members of parliament left. This also means that it has fewer financial resources, as parties receive financial support depending on the number of members in parliament. There is limited communication between the party leadership and its base in the rural areas, and thus not much mobilization to support Dhlakama’s extreme positions.

During interviews I conducted in 2011 and 2012, former Renamo combatants told me they had never heard of Dhlakama’s plans to stage massive demonstrations and that they don’t want another war. Some people say though that the young people who haven’t seen the hardships of war might be willing to take up arms. Renamo could exploit grievances arising from resettlement through the exploitation of natural resources, rising inequality, and rising prices for basic necessities.

However, Renamo’s demands don’t speak to young people’s concern, there is no mobilization, and the party is militarily weak— Renamo no longer has the foreign support from South Africa that kept the war going. The same is true for Frelimo: no one wants to return to war, and the small national army has few resources (however, Frelimo is in negotiations with France to buy trawlers and patrol boats for over US$300 million).

In the end, therefore, it’s unclear what will follow from Dhlakama’s threats. Carlos Serra, professor at Mozambique’s national university Eduardo Mondlane, can think of four scenarios: low-intensity warfare, medium-intensity warfare, a “Savimbi-style” renewal of Renamo’s party without Dhlakama (Jonas Savimbi, leader of the opposition force UNITA in Angola, died in 2002), or a fragile peace.

The editor of the Mozambican @Verdade, a newspaper which has repeatedly criticized Frelimo’s authoritarian tendencies, accuses Frelimo of seeking to kill Dhlakama by attacking Renamo’s base, as he is the “only stone left in [President] Armando Guebuza’s shoes.” In@Verdade’s eyes, Dhlakama’s death—or even his removal from the party’s leadership—would mean an end to any real opposition to the ever more powerful Frelimo party.

Several analysts claim that what Dhlakama really wants is not power, but money and a “piece of the cake” of the natural resource wealth. As long as Dhlakama puts Frelimo under pressure and Frelimo refuses to share the spoils, a deescalation is unlikely. Skirmishes and attacks are likely to continue to disrupt people’s lives, especially in central Mozambique.

Frelimo’s security forces closely monitor Dhlakama’s movements, and Renamo does the same with Frelimo’s forces, which provokes the other side. This tit-for-tat can easily get out of hand, and criminal gangs might take advantage of the fragile situation. As Alex Vines, long-time observer and author of several books on Renamo has stated, Dhlakama’s strategy is risky, as it is a breeding ground for miscalculations by both Renamo and Frelimo security forces.

What’s really needed is a mediator who has the trust of both Dhlakama and Mozambique’s President Guebuza to prevent further misperceptions. Until Frelimo is willing to make concessions and Renamo willing to accept them, however, there is a long way to go.

This is a slightly edited


Antena 1 – Entrevista a Alexandre Abreu

No dia em que o Banco Mundial divulgou um relatório que apresenta perspetivas de forte crescimento na África subsariana, o investigador do Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (ISEG) e especialista em assuntos africanos Alexandre Abreu afirma que se tem verificado desde o início deste século uma inversão da tendência que apontava para um continente perdido.

Entre 2000 e 2010, seis dos dez países com crescimento mais elevado foram países da África subsariana, liderados por Angola. Este foi mesmo o país do mundo que registou a mais elevada taxa de crescimento média anual durante esses dez anos, à frente da China.

Nesta entrevista conduzida pelo jornalista Nuno Rodrigues, Alexandre Abreu aponta como causas para este ritmo de crescimento da África subsariana o facto de se partir de uma base muito reduzida, o que faz com que o afluxo de investimento tenha um peso muito elevado no PIB destes países. O economista aponta ainda outras causas, como o aumento do preço das matérias-primas – petróleo, carvão, gás natural e produtos alimentares –, o aumento das remessas dos emigrantes, a exploração do turismo, e a aposta em novos parceiros de construção de infraestruturas, nomeadamente China, Brasil e Índia.

Foto: Alice Vilaça/Antena1


via Antena 1 – Entrevista a Alexandre Abreu.

via Antena 1 – Entrevista a Alexandre Abreu.

‘Africa rising’: TIME magazine agrees with The Economist


At the end of 2011, The Economist magazine caused quite a stir when it came out with a cover titled ‘Africa Rising’ together with an illustration of a boy flying a rainbow-coloured kite the shape of the continent.

The reason for all the fuss was that 11 years earlier the publication called Africa “the hopeless continent” on one of its covers. The accompanying article painted a picture of a continent ravaged by war, famine and disease.

“Since The Economist regrettably labelled Africa ‘the hopeless continent’ a decade ago, a profound change has taken hold,” said last year’s article, headlined Africa’s hopeful economies: The sun shines bright. It went on to mention that Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote has overtaken Oprah Winfrey as the richest black person and that countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and Mozambique are now among the world’s fastest growing economies.

Over the past year, many commentators have used The Economist’s U-turn on Africa as confirmation of the continent’s changing economic fortunes.

This week TIME, the world largest weekly printed news magazine, also highlights Africa as the “world’s next economic powerhouse” on its cover.�Surprisingly, TIME’s cover and the article inside have the exact same title as last year’s The Economist cover: ‘Africa rising’.

The latest issue of TIME magazine has the same title as a cover by The Economist a year ago.

In the competitive world of media it is somewhat strange that a magazine of TIME’s stature�would go to print with a title the same as a magazine that could be seen as one of its competitors.

TIME also doesn’t seem to think that Africa will sell enough magazines in markets such as the US and Asia. Every week the magazine publishes four editions: for the US; Europe, Middle East and Africa; Asia; and South Pacific. The ‘Africa rising’ cover, however, features only on the Europe, Middle East and Africa edition, while the other three editions lead with an article about the nutritional value of frozen food, written by celebrity surgeon Dr Oz.

In a colourful article, TIME journalist Alex Perry points out that despite Africa’s rapid economic growth over the past decade, the continent still faces numerous challenges, especially converting growth into jobs. “If Afro-pessimism is outdated, undiluted Afro-optimism is premature,” notes the article.

Perry also says Irish musician Bob Geldof’s evolution from the organiser of Live Aid to the founder of a $200 million Africa-focused private equity fund, is evidence of the region’s improving business environment.

While media industry commentators might poke fun at TIME for its unoriginal cover, business people with an interest in Africa’s improving image have most likely already made mental notes to include the cover in their next conference slide-show presentations.


Editor’s note: After this article had been published, a How we made it in Africa reader pointed out that TIME magazine had in fact in March 1998 also published a cover with the title ‘Africa rising’ (see right).


via ‘Africa rising’: TIME magazine agrees with The Economist.

via ‘Africa rising’: TIME magazine agrees with The Economist.

Las causas de la guerra: más allá de la barbarie y la codicia

Por: EL PAÍS 23 de noviembre de 2012

Autor invitado: Oscar Mateos (*)

La explicación de las guerras en el continente africano se ha fundamentado muchas veces en tópicos y clichés. Es habitual encontrarnos con medios de comunicación que reducen la complejidad histórica, económica, sociopolítica y sociocultural de todo un conflicto a una cuestión de “recursos naturales” o de “enfrentamientos tribales”. Las razones para ello parecen obvias: sintetizar la explicación de una guerra en el escaso espacio que proporciona el medio de comunicación en cuestión, para quien la realidad africana ocupa un espacio marginal; necesidad de dar masticada la información para que sea inteligible, hasta el punto que queda desvirtuada y totalmente descontextualizada, o bien porque el periodista, como muchas veces el trabajador humanitario, va saltando de conflicto en conflicto, sin capacidad ni tiempo para adentrarse en los libros y análisis que explican la compleja realidad del país.

Sierra leona fotografía de Kadir van Lohuizen

Imagen de Kadir van Lohuizen incluída en la exposición ‘Comercio de diamantes’, vía Tania Adam.

Pero este no es un problema circunscrito a los medios de comunicación. En el ámbito académico, se produjo desde la década de los noventa un intenso debate entre dos narrativas monocausales que competían por explicar las causas últimas de los conflictos. Por una parte, la narrativa del “nuevo barbarismo”, como algunos autores críticos la denominaron, trató de demostrar que los conflictos africanos se explicaban por una combinación de factores identitarios (“luchas tribales”), de colapso de los gobiernos locales y de escasez de recursos y presión demográfica. Autores como Thomas Homer-Dixon o el periodista estadounidense Robert Kaplan, abanderaron dicho discurso.

El propio Kaplan, con su obra La anarquía que viene (The Coming Anarchy) en 1994, analizaba conflictos como el de Sierra Leona de la siguiente forma:

“[…] la guerra no es tanto un medio sino un fin en sí misma (…) Sierra Leona es un microcosmos de lo que está ocurriendo (…) en el resto de África Occidental y del mundo subdesarrollado: la caída de los gobiernos centrales, el auge de los dominios tribales y regionales, la incontrolada expansión de las enfermedades y la omnipresencia de la guerra”

Ante este discurso, surgió poco después la narrativa de “la maldición de los recursos”. Uno de sus principales defensores fue el economista Paul Collier, quien consideraba que la presencia de recursos naturales en contextos caracterizados por la pobreza y la falta de oportunidades eran los elementos determinantes para explicar la guerra en África. Collier, muy influyente con sus ideas en el Banco Mundial, puso en el centro del debate la idea de la “codicia” de los actores de la guerra, como principal motor de la violencia, relativizando la importancia de los posibles agravios socioeconómicos o del peso de la historia. Los diamantes en Sierra Leona, la extracción del coltán en la República Democrática del Congo, la madera en Liberia o el petróleo en Nigeria, serían, según esta visión, los principales argumentos para explicar el por qué de la violencia en estos países. Ambos discursos, el del “nuevo barbarismo” y el de la “maldición de los recursos naturales”, a pesar de enfatizar aspectos diferentes, coincidían en una cosa: considerar los conflictos africanos como post-ideológicos.

Tanto en el ámbito periodístico como en el académico se ha avanzando mucho en este sentido. En el primero, parecen existir medios de comunicación y periodistas cada vez más sensibilizados con la necesidad de subrayar la complejidad de la guerra y de huir de tópicos que no ayudan a entender un contexto en cuestión, sino todo lo contrario. Existen nuevos espacios de discusión, como este propio blog, en el que se da pie a exponer la multicausalidad existente en cualquier conflicto. En el ámbito académico, numerosos autores críticos, como es el caso de Mark Duffield o de Christopher Cramer, han tratado de superar el reduccionismo de ambos discursos. Sin duda, los factores identitarios, aquellos relacionados con la trayectoria del estado post-colonial africano o bien con la extracción de recursos son importantes para explicar la génesis y desarrollo de un conflicto, pero éstos, por sí solos, no explican nada. Los conflictos africanos, como el del resto de regiones del planeta, por lo tanto, son multicausales.

Esta es precisamente una de las tesis de fondo de un reciente libro coordinado por la politóloga Itziar Ruíz-Giménez y publicado por Edicions Bellaterra. Con el título “Más allá de la barbarie y la codicia”, esta obra pretende contribuir al debate sobre la complejidad de los conflictos en África Subsahariana.

Port-MAS ALLA DL BABARIEEl libro analiza los debates académicos existentes en las últimas dos décadas(capítulos de Raquel Ferrao yMaría Serrano) o la visión de los medios de comunicación(José Carlos Sendín), a través del análisis detallado de casos concretos como los de Angola(Karlos Pérez de Armiño),Liberia (Mayra Moro-Coco),Sierra Leona (Oscar Mateos),República Democrática del Congo (Mbuyi Kabunda),Somalia (Itziar Ruíz-Giménez) oSudán (Aleksi Ylönen). Además de insistir en la complejidad de los conflictos, el libro subraya otro aspecto fundamental: para entender los conflictos africanos no es suficiente una mirada local, sino que es imprescindible entender la dinámicas regionales, internacionales y transnacionales. Por poner sólo un ejemplo, el papel de las empresas multinacionales de extracción de recursos como el coltán o el de las empresas de seguridad privada han sido y son cruciales en conflictos como el de Sierra Leona o el de la República Democrática del Congo.

Y es que la deconstrucción de los discursos monocausales es más importante de lo que parece. El impacto de narrativas como las del “nuevo barbarismo” o la “maldición de los diamantes” ha influenciado enormemente el imaginario social, hasta el punto que ha determinado muchas veces las decisiones políticas. Entender la guerra en África como un problema estrictamente local y despolitizado ha derivado en políticas cada vez más basadas en la seguridad y de defensa de la supuesta amenaza que esto pueda representar para los intereses o la integridad física de un país en cuestión. Esta“securitización” de las soluciones puede observarse en las políticas migratorias o de lucha contra el terrorismo. Precisamente, y por entrar al debate en el que este mismo blog participó hace unos meses, campañas como la de “Kony 2012”refuerzan esa visión simplista (“el problema es Joseph Kony y basta”) y desoluciones militarizadas (“el problema se acaba si le detenemos”) que demuestran que es necesario seguir insistiendo en la complejidad de los conflictos.

En definitiva, para entender lo que sucede en el norte de Uganda, actualmente en el este de la República Democrática del Congo, en el Delta del Níger en Nigeria o en Somalia es imprescindible recurrir a la historia, a la complejidad sociopolítica y sociocultural, pero también, a las dinámicas de poder existentes a nivel global, al papel deficitario de organismos internacionales como Naciones Unidas y a las interacciones entre nuestros hábitos de consumo (móviles, tablets, petróleo, etc.) y las dinámicas de la violencia. Es imprescindible ir “más allá de la barbarie y la codicia”, no sólo por honestidad intelectual, sino también porque las soluciones no tienen tanto que ver con una cuestión de “seguridad” sino esencialmente de justicia social y global.

“Más allá de la barbarie y la codicia” se presenta en Madrid el 26 de noviembre (La Casa Encendida, 19.00) con la participación de Itziar Ruíz-Giménez, Alfonso Armada (periodista) y Jesús Núñez (Co-director del IECAH)].

(*) Oscar Mateos es profesor de la Universitat Ramón Llull, miembro del Grupo de Estudios Africanos (GEA) de la UAM.

The Causes of the Sierra Leone Civil War

The Causes of the Sierra Leone Civil War

By  on October 25, 2012 

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 ‘The root of the conflict is and remains

diamonds, diamonds and diamonds.’

(Ibrahim Kamara 2000)


‘To the economist, this is war motivated by greed.

For the young fighter, it is injustice.’

(William Reno 2003, p. 46)


I. Introduction

The decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone formally ended in January 2002 following the British government’s successful military intervention to suppress rebel insurgents. However, the conflict has not completely finished yet; some features of brutality and viciousness in the conflict are still lingering in the minds and bodies of Sierra Leoneans. The recent trial of former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, clearly reveals the indelible scars left to people even ten years after the official declaration of end of the war. After he was found guilty of ‘aiding and abetting the war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war’ in the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone on April 26 2012, one victim, whose forearms were amputated during the war, indignantly talked to the BBC: ‘Taylor deserves 100 years in jail for his role in the atrocities’ (BBC April 26 2012).

The forced recruitment of child soldiers by the Revolutionary United Front (henceforth the RUF) and the rebels’ atrocious behaviour against civilians are the most frequently featured aspects of this war. Indeed, vast numbers of Sierra Leone children were conscripted into the conflict by both parties – the RUF and the Sierra Leone government forces. Yet no precise number of abducted children has been confirmed, and estimated figures vary according to agencies. For instance, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) estimated that 10,000 children were involved in various fighting forces, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicated that 6,000 children were forced into violence over the years (TRC 2004). One UNICEF report also shows that 8466 children was officially documented as missing between 1991 and 2002 with 4448 children missing solely in 1999 (Williamson 2006).[i] In addition, more than 50,000 people appear to have been killed whilst almost two-thirds of the total population in Sierra Leone was displaced (Gberie 2005). These figures do not properly show the actual agony and resentment of those victims, though. Up to today, a huge number of Sierra Leoneans including former child soldiers are still enduring pains in their souls and bodies.

The dreadful result of the war, both in figures and in reality, makes us wonder why this war broke out. Some economic literature asserts that civil wars are more likely to be motivated by opportunities of economic profit (greed), than by political and social dissatisfaction (grievance). This assumption about the primary role of economic opportunities appears plausible to explain the persistence or escalation of civil wars. However, one can doubt whether there is a strong correlation between the motivation of greed and civil war onset. In addition, some scholars and journalists disregard historical and political contexts in which civil wars occur and then describe the wars merely as products of less politics, more criminality or environmental collapse.[ii] The atrocities committed during the war were also portrayed as evidence of a mysterious and mindless rebel movement without legitimate political grievances. These one-sided or abstract approaches provide a limited picture of what really happened.

In order to explore more complex causes of civil wars deeply rooted in society, this paper will examine the case of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Instead of covering the whole period of the civil war, this paper will focus on the pre-war period to show the causes of civil war onset. For the subsequent stage of civil wars is more likely influenced by diverse political and economic interests differing from the initial drivers of the conflict.

Section II briefly provides an overview of the scholarly debates regarding economic causes of civil wars and then explains why the Sierra Leone civil war does not entirely correspond to the arguments of the existing economic literature. Rather than using a single-dimensional approach such as focusing on diamond resources, the main focus of this paper will be placed on the interaction between structure and agency. Section III traces the political and social circumstances (structure) of Sierra Leone from its colonial period until 1991 which increased discontent among its population. However, the structural problems do not solely account for the causes of the war. Growing grievances in the pre-war period paved the way for the birth of the RUF (agency), the main rebel group which initially triggered theSierra Leone civil war. In this context, Section IV addresses the history of the emergence of the RUF, and then traces their motivations and sources of external support which paved the way for the war to come.

II. Economic Causes of Civil Wars and Sierra Leone

‘Greed’ and Its Critics

Why do civil wars occur? A number of scholars have addressed this topic; in particular, econometric literature in recent years tends to place much emphasis on material aspects of civil wars. Among others, Collier (2000, pp.91 & 96) claims that ‘conflicts are far more likely to be caused by economic opportunities than by grievance,’ and ‘grievance-based explanations of civil war are so seriously wrong’, which is backed by the three major findings of his research: the exports of primary commodities, the number of young men and low education levels are positively correlated with the frequency of civil war outbreak. His later research with Hoeffler (2004) also reaches a similar conclusion supported by some newly added proxies: the risk of civil war outbreak is also likely increased in cases of the existence of large diaspora, a low per capita income, a low growth rate, a dispersed population and finally a higher population in total. Furthermore, Collier (2000) argues that the aspects of grievances are not readily involved in the making of civil wars mainly because of a collective action problem. He notes that while citizens may wish to see the government overthrown in order to have more justice, they may not have any interest in personally joining the rebellion. Rebellious groups are usually fragmented, which diminish the likelihood of reaching the goal of greater justice. In addition to this, people may be reluctant to join the rebellion when expected benefits may take years to be realized.

This argument has triggered a variety of scholarly debates. First, Fearon (2005, p.483), who used the same data as Collier and Hoeffler, has found that the research findings of Collier and Hoeffler become fragile, merely by ‘minor changes in the sample framing and the recovery of missing data’. Unlike Collier and Hoeffler, he asserts that the impact of primary commodity exports is not sufficiently significant in provoking civil wars. On the other hand, countries with high oil production are more prone to conflicts. It is not because oil offers higher financial incentives for potential rebels; it is more likely that oil-dependent countries have ‘weaker state institutions than other countries with the same per capita income’ (Fearon 2005, pp. 487, 490-491 & 503-504). Bates (2008, pp. 10-11) also supports Fearon’s argument while noting ‘a disparity between the evidence from cross-national regressions and that from qualitative accounts’. Last but not least, to reassess Collier’s latest ‘greed’ argument, Keen (2008) provides several critical points based on a dubious selection of proxies, a lack of attention to political goals, and the interaction of greed , grievance and the state.

Since Sierra Leone was a country with a massive diamond reserve, the competition for seizing control of lucrative diamond-producing regions has been widely regarded as a main cause of the conflict. Did the ‘resource curse’ – the ‘diamond curse’ in the case of Sierra Leone – provoke the decade-long bloody war there? Collier did not include diamonds and gems in his econometric analysis (Fearon 2005), so there is no clear evidence about how diamonds have contributed to the civil war outbreak in his cross-national research.

It is notable that Lujala, Gleditsch and Gilmore (2005) examine the impact of diamonds on civil war onset and incidence (or prevalence). They argue that easily exploitable secondary diamonds are positively correlated to the onset and incidence of ethnic war, whereas primary diamonds (mainly Kimberlite) affect them less likely because mining primary diamonds necessitates more stable and strong state systems. However, this quantitative research also fails to account for the relationship between diamonds and the civil war outbreak in Sierra Leone. The diamond mining industry in Sierra Leone was based both on primary and secondary diamonds (Lujala, Gleditsch & Gilmore 2005) and the Sierra Leone civil war was not rooted in ethnic rivalry either (Bangura 2004). Hence, even in the economic literature, it is still an unsubstantiated argument that the huge diamond reserve in Sierra Leone was the initial driver of the decade-long conflict.

Sierra Leone and its Diamonds

Despite the lack of evidence of the diamonds’ role in initiating the civil war, it is quite clear that diamonds played an essential part in the war by offering the RUF an invaluable funding source to sustain its warfare. With the growing interests of both parties – the RUF and government soldiers – in illegal diamond-mining, battles often occurred over diamond-abundant areas (Keen 2008). The RUF is estimated to have made an approximate profit of 200 million dollars a year between 1991 and 1999 through the illicit diamond trade. These illicit diamonds are widely known to have been traded with Charles Taylor in return for arms and ammunitions, which were later falsely identified as Liberian in origin and then legitimately exported abroad (Stohl 2000).

Although diamonds played a significant role in financing the war, this factor solely cannot explain the initial intention of actors involved in the conflict. Rather, some of the problems caused by the abundant diamond reserve are more useful to explain the structural inequality in Sierra Leonean society which later fed into the war. For instance, unequal benefits arising from diamond extraction were augmented as the ownership of diamond mines and mining licenses had been mostly given to the ruling families and loyal supporters of the ruling regimes. Thus, this economic inequality led to growing frustration among the population who were excluded from the benefits. To make matters worse, the Sierra Leone government was not able to properly collect tax from the diamond sector. The low purchase price of the Government Diamond Office (GDO) encouraged smuggling and, as a result, failed to increase tax revenues necessary for empowering civil sectors including armies (Keen 2008).

In order to argue that there was a direct and clear connection between diamonds and motivations of the war, it is necessary to substantiate that the first priority of the RUF’s war aims was to secure diamond mines for gaining a huge commercial profit beyond the necessity of equipping themselves with weapons. The RUF did not demonstrate such an obvious aim in the beginning of the war, though. Rather, as Reno (2003b) asserts, it is more likely that universal assumptions on the relationship between natural resources and motivations in conflict do not thoroughly explain diverse evolutions of conflicts. Therefore, instead of simply laying all the blame on the greed for diamonds, this paper intends to examine the broader and unique political and societal context of Sierra Leone which created the circumstances for the invasion of the RUF in 1991.

III. History of ‘Grievance’

The history of Sierra Leone is a product of mixed grievances from its colonial period. A two-class society with a weak bureaucracy was established during British colonial rule, thereby sowing the seeds for the later popular discontents. Post-colonial mismanagement, particularly in the government of Siaka Stevens (1967-1984), even made the already weak state system completely collapse. As a consequence, the young population both in cities and rural areas became even more marginalised from their society, without access to proper education and employment. This fuelled political and economic grievances against the government and ruling classes. This section will examine how those grievances were generated in Sierra Leonean society.

Legacy of British Colonial Rule

The modern history of Sierra Leone goes back to 1787, when the Black Poor, mostly former soldiers from the British army, settled on the northern end of the Sierra Leone peninsula. After the area of Freetown and its environs became a Crown Colony of Britain in 1808, Sierra Leone was used as a principal navy base for a British anti-slavery squadron operating in western African waters (TRC 2004; Richards 1996). Then later in 1896, as the remainder of the territory of modern Sierra Leone was declared a Protectorate of Britain, British colonial rule, which was based on a separate and disparate development of the two areas, started to take its shape (TRC 2004). The British colonial investment in Sierra Leone concentrated on the Crown Colony and its predominant residents – i.e. the Krios. For instance, the disparities between the Colony and the Protectorate were conspicuous in the field of education; although the vast majority of Sierra Leone territories and population belonged to the Protectorate,[iii] half of the primary schools were located in the Colony in 1947, and it was mostly the Krios who were the beneficiaries of higher education (TRC 2004).

The discriminatory aspects of the colonial period resulted from and were strengthened by the British tradition of indirect rule. Britain recognised only the Crown Colony as part of the British Empire while dividing the Protectorate into many small ‘chiefdoms’ and then controlling them indirectly. Under this rule, instead of establishing a strong centralised bureaucracy, the colonial government allowed the most important chiefs, known as Paramount Chiefs, to have considerable power – i.e. ‘decentralized despotism,’ a term coined by Mamdani (1996).  Under British protection, the chieftaincy became a lifetime and inheritable position, and the chiefs played principal roles in local economic development and exerted real authority over the indigenous population by enforcing their customary rights (Keen 2003; Denov 2010; Peters 2011).

Competition for the office of paramount chiefs was intense and violent among rival ruling families due to the economic rewards that they would receive once appointed as the chief (Keen 2005). Yet tension in rural communities was not only caused by this rivalry between ruling families but also by the discontent of rural population at the chiefs’ abuses including ‘excessive cash levies, unpopular land allocations, forced labour, and the punishment of dissenters’ (Keen 2005, p. 10). Systematically, the chieftaincy was established upon excluding women, youth, and the poor since each paramount chief was elected from ruling family members by an electoral college of councillors composed of twenty taxpayers (Denov 2010). Being neither citizens nor subject in this system (Fanthorpe 2001), those excluded under British indirect rule became more marginalised during the post-colonial period, and particularly Sierra Leone youth in rural area was the primary victim in the marginalising process.

The indirect rule of Britain failed to comprehend these dynamics at the local level, thereby letting the colonial government appoint or maintain autocratic chiefs who only served the interests of the British and themselves. As a result, this policy ‘helped to lay the foundations for the later failure of the state in rural areas’ (Peters 2011, p. 38). After the independence, the resentment against chiefdom administrative staff further increased as new chiefs were directly appointed by the central government and more local population were alienated by the decision-making process in their own communities. While commenting that this situation ‘had created [potential] recruits for the RUF’, one Paramount Chief from Moyamba District said:

“Chieftaincy is older than this current form of administration. […] [After the independence] the chiefs were molested and disgraced and reduced to nothing, and so could not control their people. And so many chiefs were created, which did not have popular support. Some of the chiefs who enjoyed the favour of the government ruled very adversely, abused and molested their subjects and connived with the administration, particularly under the APC, to intimidate and vandalise civilians and villages (Keen 2005, p. 20).”

State Collapse & the Destruction of Patrimonial Society

The Sierra Leone political system in its post-independence era demonstrates the characteristics of a ‘shadow state’. A shadow state, with its origin in dealing with illicit mining activities, reveals ‘the construction by rulers of a parallel political authority to manage the diamond sector in the wake of the near total decay of formal state institutions’ (Reno 1995, cited in Peters 2011, p. 40). With the connivance of the British, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) distributed diamond mining licenses to party loyalists in the late 1950s (Reno 2003b). The shadow state, however, started to grow even more enormously under the All People’s Congress (APC) which ruled Sierra Leone from 1968 to 1992 (Peters 2011).

Siaka Stevens, who was the prime minister (1968-1971) and then the first president of Sierra Leone (1971-1985) under the APC regime, and his Sierra Leone-born Lebanese partner, Jamil Said Mohammed, gained  control of ‘the state diamond marketing monopoly in 1976 in a bogus privatization exercise’, enabling them to earn up to 300 million dollars (at 2001 prices) in diamond revenues. Not being satisfied, Stevens extended his privatization projects to ‘state agencies for agricultural marketing, road transport, and oil refining’ (Reno 2003b, p. 56). Instead of leading to an efficient and competitive market, though, the privatisation process under the leadership of Stevens merely contributed to increasing his own fortune as well as his key political allies’ wealth, ‘by using government control over import/export licenses and over the allocation of foreign exchange to favour his own clients’ (Keen 2003, p. 75).

The characteristics of a shadow state were further strengthened by the patrimonial principles which had upheld Sierra Leone society for a long time. Base on the principles ‘involve[ing] redistributing national resources as marks of personal favour to followers who respond with loyalty to the leader rather than to the institution the leader presents’, Stevens also behaved as ‘the ultimate leader of the Sierra Leone patrimonial system’ (Richards 1996, p. 34). For instance, he offered a number of benefits to the army officers, in particular to senior commanders, to buy off their loyalties (Keen 2003), but he did not finance the army for improving its fighting capacity. There were no proper training and weapons provided to the army for the fear that a well-equipped army could threaten his power. Rather he subordinated the army as a political instrument by ‘transform[ing] the Army Chief of Staff into a Member of Parliament in 1974’ (TRC 2004, p. 26). This patrimonial generosity soon resulted in the deficit of government budget, though, while leaving the rank and file unpaid (Keen 2003). Unfortunately, the weakening of the army both by not being paid and trained made the state system more vulnerable to rebellions.

Even after Stevens’ peaceful hand-over of power to Joseph Momoh in 1985, the situation went worse. With government being almost bankrupt, it became impossible to pay most civil servants (Reno 2003a). To overcome the lack of state resources by receiving IMF financial support, Momoh’s government pursued strict austerity measures such as reducing subsidies in petrol and food. This departure from the previous patronage system led to major budget cuts on health and education (Keen 2003). For instance, during the 1974/75 fiscal year, 15.6 percent of government expenditure was spent on education; but, this was reduced to 8.5 in the 1988/89 fiscal year (Abdullah 1998), then even plummeting to an all-time low 3 percent in 1993 (Karimu 1995, cited in Reno 2003a). This budget cut in education severely affected the salaries of teachers and the number of students: ‘many schools and colleges were closed because of the non-payment of salaries to teachers’ and, by 1987, less than 30 percent of children of secondary school age were registered in school (Davies 1996, cited in Keen 2003, p. 80). Considering the economic and social privileges that Freetown had enjoyed from its colonial times, these budget cuts had presumably hit urban areas much harder, which explain why we cannot simply regard the rebellion movement of the RUF as a rural uprising. This will be further examined in Section IV.

State collapse eventually led to the destruction of the patrimonial system, further fuelled by ‘the collapse of raw materials prices on the international market’, the decline of the Cold War patronage system, and ‘the withdrawal of large foreign firms from Sierra Leone due to high levels of corruption and depleting deposits of minerals’ (Peters 2011, p. 45). The biggest victims of the patrimonial system collapse were, in fact, young people who were not able to be educated and employed in this deteriorating situation. To make things worse, President Momoh delivered a speech in the eastern district of Kailahun saying that education was not a right but a privilege and then, not surprisingly, the RUF promptly used his speech as ‘one of its justification to go to war’ (Peters 2011, p. 46).

Marginalised Youth

Shrinking opportunities for education apparently made the young generation increasingly marginalised from their society. According to Abdullah (1998), the number of students registered in secondary schools increased from 16,414 in 1969 to 96,709 in 1990. However, only about 60,000 were in paid employment by 1985, and the situation in job markets deteriorated; even university graduates found it difficult to secure jobs in the public sector by 1990, whilst the private sector was also rapidly downsizing.[iv] In this period or even before, many middle-class students and school drop-outs became associated with poorer alienated youths in urban areas. This created the general circumstances enabling student protest to move beyond campuses particularly in 1977 (Keen 2003).

Abdullah (1998, p. 207) underlines the lumpen culture in Sierra Leone which was created by ‘the largely unemployed and unemployable youths, mostly male, who live by their wits or who have one foot in what is generally referred to as the informal or underground economy’. The lumpenproletariat expanded as more numbers of secondary school dropouts and university graduates failed to find jobs and became marginalised from the privileged class (Abdullah 1998). However, the concept of lumpen does not clearly touch upon the real problems of marginalised youth in Sierra Leone since it neglects original causes of the emergence of the lumpenproletariat; instead, it merely focuses on their criminal behaviour or lack of ideology. As Fanthorpe (2001, p. 363) interestingly argues, ‘scholarship focusing on lumpen or secular sectarian agency only serves to emphasize the conflict’s apparent detachment from pre-war patterns of politics and identity’.

For those who left school and were still unemployed, there were no many options available except semi-subsistence agriculture, finding jobs in the urban informal sector or ‘trying one’s luck in the alluvial mining areas’ (Peters 2011, p. 53). However, the situation in rural areas was not much better than in urban sectors. Peters (2011) found it hard to distinguish between the analyses and motivations of former rival combatants; which groups they fought for – RUF or government(s) – was not a decisive factor. Many of them shared similar opinions in a rationale for participation in the war – i.e. political corruption and lack of education and jobs. The interview with one former RUF combatant, who ‘did not join the rebel completely voluntarily but neither was bluntly forced’, clearly shows the resentment of young people against the whole society and what they really wanted:

“They [the RUF] told us that they are fighting to overthrow the APC government because they exploited the people and were taking all the money to Europe to build mighty houses or buy luxurious cars and forgetting about the youth. We, the young people, do suffer a lot in this country. Greed and selfishness was another factor which made the rebel war come to Sierra Leone. Nobody was willing to help the young men, especially the politicians have no sympathy for the young men. […] Actually we were fighting for awareness and also to have justice in the country. […] We fought against bribery and corruption in the country. […] If I become the president I will make all the youth to be engaged in skill training to avoid [the] idleness that will create confusion or make people commit crimes. If you do that for the youth they will not be any problem in this country. The young men should be encouraged by providing them with jobs. I think that will make the country stable. If I have my tools I will not go round town just being idle. I will survive through my trade (Peters 2011, pp. 20-21).”

IV. The Formation of the RUF and Its Invasion in Sierra Leone

Despite the accumulated grievances throughout history, circumstantial factors do not directly trigger violence; there should be active protagonists who take advantage of these grievances by channelling them into the road to war. In Sierra Leone’s case, the main protagonist was the RUF which had been militarily assisted by Charles Taylor from Liberia. This section will, thus, examine how the RUF was established and assisted by external actors.

Foday Sankoh and Founding Members of the RUF

Although the sole name of Foday Sankoh is widely known by the public, the RUF was actually founded by three Sierra Leoneans who received a military training together in Libya in 1987-88: Foday Sankoh, Abu Kanu and Rashid Mansaray. The rebels’ atrocious behaviour against civilians during the war does not necessarily illustrate their initial motivation to start the war. Therefore, the process of the formation of the RUF and the roles of all these three founders need to be analysed to better understand the original characteristics of the rebel group.

Foday Sankoh joined the army in 1956, and then was jailed from 1971 to 1978 after having been convicted of failing to report the plot of John Bangura to overthrow the government (Gberie 2005). According to Abdullah (1998), Sankoh claimed to have participated in the 1977 student protest in Freetown; however, Abdulla definitely denied the possibility of Sankoh’s participation based on his own experience of having been actively involved in the demonstration. It is undeniable, that Sankoh had a sort of distant connection to the student movement. For he was allegedly recruited and trained by a member of the Pan-African Union (PANAFU), Ebiyemi Reader, who was active in Freetown in the late 1970s and then moved to Bo to build a revolutionary cell.[v] When Reader discovered Sankoh in Bo, Sankoh was working as an itinerant photographer. As a secondary school dropout, Sankoh was not familiar with any intellectual radicalism in his early years, but as he joined Ebiyemi’s group, he ‘started, for the first time, to acquaint himself with pan-Africanism’ (Abdullah 1998, p. 218).

It was in August 1987 that Sankoh left to Libya for insurgency training, where he met his future RUF co-founders, Kanu and Mansaray: as the PANAFU members, Kanu was also ‘a founding member of Future Shock club and a graduate of Njala University College’, and Rashid was ‘an activist from Freetown east end, who had left the country in 1986 to join the MPLA in the fight against UNITA in Angola’. Originally, the PANAFU congress discussed the issue of sending recruits to Libya on behalf of the organisation, but the majority was against the enterprise. Kanu and Mansaray were among those who were finally expelled from the union as a result of their support for the move to Libya. Once rejected by the PANAFU, the project became a matter of individual choice; in the end, there were three groups, not more than thirty five men, sent to Libya from July 1987 to January 1988 including Sankoh and the two former PANAFU members (Abdullah 1998, pp. 216-217 & 219).

In the beginning, the RUF was nothing but ‘a loose collection of individuals who had returned from military training in Bengahzi’ with a collective leadership of three: Sankoh, Kanu and Mansaray. The three travelled a lot in Sierra Leone and Liberia to recruit combatants and open a link with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and eventually by 1989, they managed to make an informal deal with Charles Taylor to help him in return for his military assistance. Even though there is no specific evidence that ‘any Sierra Leonean took part in the initial NPFL attack on Nimba county in December 1989’, some RUF members, notably Kanu and Mansaray, allegedly participated in NPFL battles by November 1990 (Abdullah 1998, pp. 221-222).

The early insurgent force of the RUF was composed of three major groups: those who had military training in Libya, Sierra Leone residents in Liberia and NPFL fighters on loan to the RUF. Scholars provide different analysis with regard to the characteristics of these original forces, in particular to the first and second categories. Abdullah (1998, pp. 219-221) argues that a majority of them were lumpenproletariats and, thus, ‘this social composition of the invading force is significant in understanding the character of the RUF and the bush path to destruction’. On the other hand, Richards (1996) describes them as excluded intellectuals and economic exiles/refugees staying in Liberia. In addition to their early revenge-inspired attacks on some educational facilities, as Richards argues, their destruction of mines cannot be adequately explained by a lumpen culture or motivations of greed. Why did the RUF destroy a number of mines instead of running them for their own economic interests? Richards (1996, pp.25-27) interprets this abnormality as implying ‘a typical academic response’ to accumulated social discontents and the intellectual anger of excluded elites. Abdullah (1998, pp. 222-223), however, refutes Richards’ argument that he ‘totally neglects the centrality and dynamics of rebellious youth culture’, while insisting that the RUF rebels were neither radical nor excluded intellectuals.

Considering this controversy, it does not seem easy to track and determine the original character of the early RUF members since the rebel group included members from relatively diverse backgrounds. At least, however, the transformation in the RUF leadership reveals a certain useful aspect for further research on the early stage of the RUF insurgency. As mentioned above, the RUF maintained a collective leadership system before the civil war. Yet the three co-founders roughly agreed Sankoh would be the spokesperson for the group.[vi] His status as a spokesperson became later transformed into the RUF leader through his speeches for external audiences (Abdullah 1998).

As Sankoh consolidated his power in the group with the beginning of the war, he also started to eliminate his potential rivals – mostly educated radicals – within the group; the number executed was allegedly reported to have reached almost at 300 (Keen 2005). Among those executed, there were Kanu and Mansaray who founded the RUF with Sankoh; Kanu was executed in August 1992 for ‘failure to follow instructions and conniving with the enemy’, and Mansaray in the following November for ‘failure to defend a strategic position against the enemy.’ They could have endangered Sankoh’s position since both of them were regarded as the leading strategists and also popular among the RUF cadres (Abdullah 1998, pp. 226-227).

In addition, according to a former PANAFU member in the army, ‘the area under Kanu’s control was generally peaceful and well organised’ because ‘he reached out to explain what the RUF was about to the peasants, and was not engaged in unnecessary violence against civilians’. Mansaray’s second-in-command also confirmed that one of the reasons Mansaray was executed was his ‘opposition to the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians’ (Abdullah 1998, pp. 226-227). By these executions, as Pratt (1999) noted, ‘the radical intellectual roots of the RUF were extinguished in its first year of operation, and its brutal attacks on civilians stood in contradiction to its ostensible aim of creating a revolutionary egalitarian system’.

External Assistance

Though it was originally a civil war, the bloody conflict in Sierra Leone was also closely intertwined with varied external factors prevalent in West African politics. First, as widely known through the recent conviction of Taylor, the civil war in Sierra Leone cannot be explained separately from the Liberian civil war. Although some of the charges could have been exaggerated by the Sierra Leone government for its sake during the war and repeated by the media without thorough consideration (Abdullah 1998), Talyor’s supplies of arms to the RUF and the participation of the NPFL in the Sierra Leone civil war are no longer controversial; in this context, it is significant to examine why Taylor decided to assist the RUF in waging the war.

Sankoh and Taylor are thought to have first met in Ghana in 1987 and then again in Libya in 1988, but it is uncertain how seriously Taylor regarded Sankoh at that point. In 1989, Taylor, who had already secured his forces, visited Freetown to request the endorsement of President Momoh for ‘the use of Sierra Leone as a base to launch his armed insurgency’ in Liberia. His request was, however, rejected summarily and, to make things worse, he was detained at Pandemba Road prison (Gberie 2005, p. 54). This episode seems likely to have affected his perception of the Momoh administration negatively, and probably made him realise the significance of having pro-NPFL regimes in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, once the Liberian civil started on Christmas Eve in 1989, the Nigerian-led Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) established an intervention force called ECOMOG (the ECOWAS Monitoring Group) in a hurry, and Sierra Leone joined this force by dispatching 300 soldiers. It was not surprising that Taylor, the main rebel leader at that time, was strongly against the external intervention and vowed to fight it. Notably, the domestic opinion in Sierra Leone was not much in favour of Momoh’s initiative either since the ECOMOG intervention was partly considered as ‘an attempt to frustrate a popular uprising against a soldier-turned-politician’ (Gberie 2005, pp. 55-56).[vii] Also, given that the border region between Sierra Leone and Liberia was abundant in resources, including diamonds, a deeply destabilised Sierra Leone could have been Taylor’s interest in economic terms (Richards 1996).

There is another major external factor which should not be disregarded: that is Libya. In light of the early influence of Gaddafi’s Green Book on Sierra Leone students’ movement and, more practically, the military training offered to the three co-founders of the RUF in Benghazi, it is obvious that the Libya connection laid the foundation for the emergence of the RUF. Yet it is controversial how deeply Libya was involved in assisting the RUF except providing the military training programmes to Sierra Leone rebels. Richards (1996, p. 20) argues that Gaddafi could not go beyond ‘retain[ing] some residual sympathy for the RUF as one of the more sincere African attempts to apply aspects of his youth-oriented revolutionary philosophy’ because of his own problems with the sub-Saharan venture. However, Berman (2001) suggests a different point of view: some copies of the letters allegedly written by Sankoh show that, in the mid 1990’s, Libya provided the RUF the funds to purchase weapons. He also refers to evidence that they shipped and airdropped weapons to the rebels. Nonetheless, it is unclear whether Gaddafi made a pledge of support for the military activities of the RUF before the rebels invaded in Sierra Leone.

Civil wars cannot occur only by receiving external support; however, the Sierra Leone civil war might not have happened in 1991 had the RUF failed to acquire the minimum external assistance necessary to take an action. At the same time, though, the availability of external support limited the domestic support necessary to win the war in the long term. As Reno (2003b, p. 60) asserts, this external support ‘reduced the RUF rebel’s incentives to rely upon popular support in Sierra Leone to survive’, and it allowed, at least in part, the RUF’s atrocious behaviour against its own civilians during the war.

V. Conclusion

The war finally began on March 23 1991 when the RUF entered Kailahun District and Pujehun District in Sierra Leone from Liberia, and as we all know, thousands of innocent civilians suffered and were killed by both parties – government soldiers and rebels – during the eleven-year war. Despite the gravity of those war crimes, we should be careful not to judge the causes of the war simply based on the process and outcomes of the war. This paper, thus, questioned the conventional belief that diamonds were the main driver of the war, and then explored the broader political and societal context of Sierra Leone and the RUF’s history before the war.

The Sierra Leone civil war was the result of varied interactions between structural problems in Sierra Leone society which increased grievances among people and, accordingly, led to the emergence of the RUF. Although diamonds seemingly played a significant role in financing the war once it started, diamonds more likely contributed to corrupting state institutions in the pre-war period, thereby increasing grievance, rather than directly triggering the conflict. The problems of marginalised youth following the collapse of patrimonial society were also serious issues: without proper education and employment, many young people were left vulnerable to be easily recruited to the rebel forces. Lastly, the RUF was not merely mindless and violent bandits without any legitimate political cause as widely believed. The early co-leadership reveals some roots of radical student movements in the earlier period, and by successfully eliminating these roots, Sankoh consolidated his power and conducted the war in his own ruthless way.


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Bangura, Y 2004, ‘The political and cultural dynamics of the Sierra Leone War’, in I Abdullah (ed.) Between democracy and terror: the Sierra Leone Civil War, UNISA Press, Pretoria.

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Collier, P & Hoeffler, A 2004, ‘Greed and grievance in civil war’, Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 56, pp.563-595.

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[i] There is no clear explanation in Williamson’s article about why almost half of missing children was reported in a single year of 1999. Presumably, it was because of the RUF’s ‘Operation No Living Thing’ in 1999 in which thousands of innocent civilians in Freetown was murdered and raped. Many children were also reported missing and likely abducted by the RUF. See more details about ‘Operation No Living Thing’ in Denov (2010: 74-76) and Gberie (2005: chapter 6).

[ii] One of those journalists is Robert D. Kaplan (1994; 2001), and Paul Richards (1996) criticises Kaplan’s argument as ’New Barbarianism’.

[iii] ‘The Crown Colony was not more than 200 square miles. The Protectorate, on the other hand, extended some 182 miles from West to East, and 210 miles from North to South. The Colony had only about sixty thousand people by the end of the colonial period, while the Protectorate had about two million people.’ (TRC 2004, p. 6)

[iv] The author did not state further details. More quantitative data concerning unemployment rate in Sierra Leone is difficult to find in other sources.

[v] The PANAFU was launched as a radical student group at Forah Bay University in the early 1980s.

[vi] It is not clear why Sankoh assumed the job of spokesman in the beginning. Presumably, it may have been related to the fact that he was much older than other RUF members. When the war broke out, he was already 53 years old.

[vii] ‘The ECOMOG peace-keeping forces in Liberia were dominated by the Nigerians. Presidents Momoh was a close friend of Nigeria’s military leader, General Babangida, and Freetown served as an important base for ECOMOG.’ (Richards 1996, p. 19)

Written by: Se Young Jang
Written at: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
Written for: Gareth Austin
Date written: May 2012

Boko Haram and the Nigerian state (Guest post by Henrik Angerbrandt)

Boko Haram and the Nigerian state (Guest post by Henrik Angerbrandt).

Boko Haram and the Nigerian state (Guest post by Henrik Angerbrandt)

October 23, 2012 by Mats Utas

Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) – more known as Boko Haram – came in the centre of attention in Nigeria in mid-2009 when they clashed with police squad ’Operation Flush’ in Borno State capital, Maiduguri, resulting in more than 800 deaths. The leader, Muhammad Yusuf, was arrested and killed while in police custody. This followed a pattern of how the Nigerian state has approached similar radical Islamist groups before. This time, however, the strategy resulted in a spiral of violence between Boko Haram, the police, and security forces that is taking an ever more vicious face.

There is a tradition of radical Muslim movements in the north of Nigeria out of which Boko Haram has developed. The group is rooted in north-eastern Nigeria where it has been based since 2002 and where most of their attacks have taken place. Their ideas about creating an Islamic state draw, like other groups in the area, on the Caliphate structure that preceded colonial rule. There is a religious aspect which connects to earlier movements, even if Boko Haram deploys a particularly violent version.

However, the new phenomenon that has created uncertainties about the group is its amorphous structure and the nature of the attacks they pursue. Suicidal attacks are previously unseen in Nigeria and West Africa. High profile targets such as the UN building in Abuja and well-coordinated attacks in January in Kano, in which more than 180 people died, are varied with bomb attempts that have been diverted when plastic bags with homemade explosives have been spotted before exploding.

What also stands out is the capacity to continuously target the security forces and other targets despite killings and arrests of reportedly centrally placed individuals. Later development has seen a broadening of targets, from more or less exclusively focusing on state representatives to also target Muslim leaders seen as cooperating with the government, churches, media houses and, since last month, mobile masts in an attempt to disrupt communications and tracking of their whereabouts.

In all, this has raised the questions of what kind of resources Boko Haram holds and what kind of networks they are engaged in. Boko Haram gives a divided impression of its capacity and several observers point to the fact that there are different groups operating, some more capable than others. And some more connected to the ideological leadership than others, who may have less spiritual reasons for their attacks.

Boko Haram has limited support among people in the region, but they act in a context of widespread poverty, unemployment and inaccessible state functions. Even if these circumstances do not explain why Boko Haram has evolved, they have created the space for the group to operate. The government’s actions have done little to change that. It has responded to Boko Haram in the same way as with similar groups before, such as the Maitatsine movement in the 1980s and the ‘predecessor’ of Boko Haram, ’the Nigerian Taliban’ in 2002 – that is, with force and a mainly militaristic strategy. Police and military have shoot-at-sight orders and young men are arrested indiscriminately in hundreds at a time.

The security agencies have in many places become as big a part of people’s insecurity as Boko Haram. In Damaturu, Yobe State, people have been reported to leave the town in thousands, as they tend to be caught in-between Boko Haram and the security forces. The developments have not only led to increased insecurity but also a militarization of society. The failure of this strategy is even more underlined as the government and the security forces appear to have little capacity to handle the issue. This is exploited by Boko Haram, who rebuts information from state agencies and the government on a variety of issues, ranging from identities of arrested members to whether or not there is a dialogue going on with the government.

Even though there are reports that the new joint military and police task force ’Operation Restore Sanity’ has made hundreds of arrests of claimed Boko Haram members and there are weekly reports of alleged militants being killed, the militaristic strategy have little prospect to succeed in the long run. So far, the heavy handed response has rather resulted in further radicalization of the group. The best that can be achieved is to quell the violence in the short run. Grievances and breeding ground for similar movements are, however, still there.

Northern Nigeria experiences challenges not only in the form of militant movements such as Boko Haram. Relations between Muslims and Christians in northern and central Nigeria have worsened in the last decades. Tens of thousands have been killed in violence between different groups. Boko Haram attacks have targeted Muslims as much as Christians but by attacking churches the group has come to reinforce both a north/south divide nationally on a religious basis and local contention between Muslims and Christians.

Most significantly in places like Kaduna and Jos, where Boko Haram attacks have come into play with local political conflicts that have taken an increasingly religious turn. There have been, in these places, so called ’reprisal attacks’ after Boko Haram bombings. In these attacks, Muslims in general have been targeted on basis of their faith. There is, accordingly, need not only to address the acute threat from Boko Haram but also to find a political strategy that take broader regional and national dimensions into account.

Boko Haram can be seen as a symptom of a dysfunctional state, and a comprehensive solution of the problem involves a transformation of the state itself. Even if Boko Haram would eventually be crushed in a heavy handed strategy there will soon emerge new radical Islamist groups unless efforts are made to address the underlying issues. There is need to reform police and security forces to become credible and functional, but there is also need to have inclusive state services and a strategy for creating conditions for productive lives for people in northern Nigeria.

Henrik Angerbrandt is a doctoral student in political science at Stockholm University. He is at the final stages of his thesis on ethnic and religious conflicts in Northern Nigeria and has followed the region for several years. This post was previously published by NAI forum.

via Boko Haram and the Nigerian state (Guest post by Henrik Angerbrandt).

BBC Africa debate

BBC Africa

This week BBC Newsday will look at what the newest discoveries of oil, gas and coal will do for Africa’s development. Today we are in Mozambique visiting the site of a new coal mine project and power station. Do you think Africa’s next generation will benefit from the continent’s natural resources? Listen live at 0300-0830BST

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RDC : Mbote changement ? | RDC – Philippe Biyoya Makutu : “Nos partis sont constitués pour remplacer les colonisateurs” | – le premier site d’information et d’actualité sur l’Afrique


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INTERVIEW ( 1 réaction )

RDC – Philippe Biyoya Makutu : “Nos partis sont constitués pour remplacer les colonisateurs”

opposition(1124) – Joseph Kabila(479) – parti politique(205) – opposition congolaise(42)

19/10/2012 à 16h:36 Par Tshitenge Lubabu M.K.

Une séance plénière au Palais du peuple, à Kinshasa. © Lionel Healing/AFP

Philippe Biyoya Makutu est professeur de sciences politiques à l’université de Kinshasa et à l’université de Lubumbashi. Pour lui, le but des partis politiques n’est pas d’apporter leur pierre à l’édifice du bien public mais d’accéder à des privilèges… D’où leur impopularité.

Jeune Afrique : Pourquoi les partis politiques congolais, en particulier ceux de l’opposition, sont-ils en permanence l’objet de critiques ?

Philippe Biyoya Makutu : Quand on se replace dans le contexte colonial, on se rend compte que nos partis ne se sont pas constitués pour accomplir des idéaux propres à toute formation politique, mais pour remplacer les colonisateurs, c’est-à-dire un groupe de gens qui avaient des privilèges. Raison pour laquelle, depuis les années 1960, nos partis sont des clubs d’amis qui n’aspirent pas au bien-être collectif. Leur objectif n’est pas la conquête du�pouvoir, mais l’accès aux privilèges. Ce sont des structures de survie. Le gouvernement lui-même apparaît comme une sorte d’arche de Noé qui sauve les plus chanceux.

Peut-on faire avancer le débat politique dans de telles conditions ?

Le premier handicap vient de l’absence de relations entre la vie de l’État et l’existence des partis : les provinces, les tribus ont plus d’importance que les partis, qui ne sont plus que des clubs de football auxquels on adhère parce que certaines couleurs attirent. L’unique débat politique tourne donc autour de la forme de l’État : fédéralisme ou unitarisme. Aucun débat sur la place de la RDC dans le monde d’aujourd’hui et de demain. Rien non plus qui unisse les fondateurs d’un parti, à part l’ambition d’entrer au gouvernement ou d’être candidat à quelque chose. Transformer la société n’est malheureusement pas à l’ordre du jour.

On dirait des clubs de football auxquels on adhère parce que certaines couleurs attirent.

Est-ce aussi la raison pour laquelle l’opposition ne parvient pas à se choisir un leader ?

C’est en effet là aussi une querelle d’ambitions. Opposition par rapport à quoi ? Lorsqu’on a formé le gouvernement 1�+�4 [un président et quatre vice-présidents, comme prévu après le dialogue intercongolais de Sun City, NDLR], il y avait des opposants à Mobutu, des opposants à Kabila et au gouvernement.

La fonction de porte-parole de l’opposition rapporte des dividendes et chacun veut y accéder pour en profiter. Et puis le pouvoir n’a jamais compris que ses per­formances et sa force dépendaient de la qualité de l’opposition. Il préfère une opposition à sa mesure.

via RDC : Mbote changement ? | RDC – Philippe Biyoya Makutu : “Nos partis sont constitués pour remplacer les colonisateurs” | – le premier site d’information et d’actualité sur l’Afrique.

via RDC : Mbote changement ? | RDC – Philippe Biyoya Makutu : “Nos partis sont constitués pour remplacer les colonisateurs” | – le premier site d’information et d’actualité sur l’Afrique.

Ghana Makes Progress Against the ‘Resource Curse,’ but Challenges Remain | Africa Portal

Newcomers to Accra may be surprised to see evidence of corporate social responsibility strewn around Ghana’s capital city. Billboards and posters remind passers-by of the constant stream of summits, workshops and initiatives taking place to address the challenges posed by managing the country’s newfound oil reserves.

For those familiar with Ghanaian politics, however, the 2007 discovery of significant offshore oil reserves has already brought the petroleum industry to the centre of heated national policy debates.

Two recently publicized oil industry events illustrate the wide scope of actors and vested interests at the table within these emerging debates.

Last month there was second edition of the “Ghana Oil and Gas Summit,” which caters to a corporate audience with a networking platform for potential foreign investors in Ghana’s oil and gas sector. Previously, there was also the Regional Extractive Industries Knowledge Hub’s (REIKH) fourth annual ‘summer school’ on the governance of oil, gas and mining activities, targeting extraction industry professionals from across Africa.

While there is no doubt these developments are promising for the future management of Ghanaian oil reserves, the checks being placed on governments and corporations have not been formulated with realities facing local communities in mind.

The fact that REIKH emerged alongside the discovery of petroleum reserves in Ghana underscores how policy debates have revolved around oil revenue management. The Hub has focused on capacity building among government professionals, civil society organizations (CSOs) and news media, with the aim of building virtuous cycles of accountability with local communities affected by oil extraction.

Despite the diversity of actors in Ghana’s oil industry, however, one buzzword is common to all stakeholders — transparency. Understood as an essential component of accountability in revenue management, the advent of transparency has led to growing debate over the relevance of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international program that promotes global standards of oil and mining sector accountability at the local level.

With Ghana’s mining industries already EITI-compliant, multiple stakeholders — CSOs, government and corporate actors — are now working to extend the standard to the country’s oil and gas extraction. In this effort, Ghana has even gone beyond global EITI guidelines that focus on revenue management, and pushed for earlier onset transparency in contract negotiations and agreements.

But while there is no doubt these developments are promising for the future management of Ghanaian oil reserves, the checks being placed on governments and corporations have not been formulated with realities facing local communities in mind. While information on revenue flows to local chiefs and other traditional authorities may be known, for example, “there are no requirements regarding how the chiefs utilize the royalties that they receive,” says Dominic Ayine, a legal practitioner and consultant who has been involved in drafting the bill to extend Ghana’s EITI compliance.

Viewed by some as an unfortunate status quo, the practices of traditional authorities have the potential to undermine the achievements of higher-level programs such as EITI. With the importance of national government revenue and expenditure acknowledged, however, it will be equally important for policy makers to ensure that resources reaching local communities is being distributed with the same degree of scrutiny. With the culture of nation-wide transparency that Ghana is trying to foster, no wallet is too small for inspection.

W. R. Nadège Compaoré is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University. Her research interests include international political economy, international security, corporate social responsibility and global governance, while her doctoral research investigates the political economy of extractive energy in Gabon and Ghana.

via Ghana Makes Progress Against the ‘Resource Curse,’ but Challenges Remain | Africa Portal.

via Ghana Makes Progress Against the ‘Resource Curse,’ but Challenges Remain | Africa Portal.

NAI Forum » Can Cities or Towns Drive African Development?

NAI Forum » Can Cities or Towns Drive African Development?.

via NAI Forum » Can Cities or Towns Drive African Development?.

Can Cities or Towns Drive African Development?

Economy-wide Analysis for Ethiopia and Uganda


September 25, 2012

by Paul Dorosh, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC; and James Thurlow, UNU-WIDER, Helsinki.

The relative importance of agriculture versus industry in African development remains a major area of both academic and policy debate, informing the allocation of aid and other resources across rural areas, towns and cities, while Africa is rapidly urbanizing.

We examine whether urban agglomeration economies significantly alter the debate over the potential drivers of Africa’s structural transformation. More specifically, we develop an economy-wide model that captures the benefits from urbanization.

We apply the models to data for Ethiopia and Uganda––two agriculture-based African countries that have much in common with the rest of low-income Africa, and where urban development is central to the policy debate.

We conclude that while urban agglomeration provides an additional argument against an ‘agro-fundamentalist’ approach to African development, the shorter-term political and socioeconomic imperative to reduce poverty still supports further investment in African agriculture.

The development literature often provides conflicting recommendations to African countries. On the one hand, governments are encouraged to direct physical and financial resources towards urban industrialization, in part to harness the agglomeration effects brought about by concentrating economic activity in specific geographic locations.

On the other hand, governments have for a long time been told that agriculture has strong growth linkages, both within rural areas and national economies. Investing in agriculture may therefore generate large economy-wide multiplier effects―as is said to have occurred during Asia’s green revolution. While urban and rural development are not necessarily mutually exclusive, a scarcity of public resources, and the need to meet both short- and long-term development objectives, implies that trade-offs between rural  and urban investments are expected.

The relative importance of agriculture versus industry in African development remains a major area of academic as well as policy debate. This debate is crucial since it informs the allocation of foreign development assistance across rural areas, towns and cities at a time when Africa is rapidly urbanizing. The subject of the debate is also crucial for African governments who routinely allocate scarce resources across competing development objectives.

For example, Uganda’s government must decide how best to reallocate resources away from southern regions towards post-conflict northern cities and rural areas. Similarly, Ethiopia’s government limits urban migration through its land tenure policies, but must weigh this policy against the benefits of urban development.

At its broadest level, the academic debate hinges on whether the traditional development models that sought to explain the drivers and process of structural transformation are still relevant for Africa. Early dual economy models viewed non-agriculture as the dynamic sector that draws surplus farm workers into more productive jobs. Agricultural growth was seen as necessary to prevent rising food prices and wages from slowing industrialization.

Subsequent models attributed a more active role to agriculture given its industrial production linkages and its household consumption linkages, particularly within rural economies. For those who some call ‘agro-fundamentalists’, these models still provide the core justification for an agriculture-led growth strategy in Africa. Agriculture is also seen as a direct link to poorer Africans given their dependence on farm-based livelihoods.

The traditional models face two major criticisms. First, integrated global markets mean that countries might be able to use food imports rather than domestic production to support industrialization. Second, the sources of growth are not explicitly identified in traditional models making it difficult to determine which sectors drive structural transformation. In this regard, African agriculture has yet to demonstrate that it is able to generate productivity gains like those experienced in Asia’s green revolution.

Counter-arguments contend that a reliance on food imports would weaken inter-sectoral growth linkages and widen the rural-urban divide. Moreover, African agriculture’s historically poor performance might reflect long-term underinvestment in the sector rather than its growth potential.

The above arguments focus on agriculture itself and are well-trodden areas of the debate. An area that receives less attention is the benefits from urban agglomeration economies and the growing interest in new economic geography. From this perspective, economic growth accelerates when resources or activities concentrate within geographic areas. Urbanization and industrial localization can generate positive externalities by situating producers closer to labour markets and customers, as well as to each other.

Urban agglomeration could therefore generate the productivity gains required to drive structural transformation. Agglomeration economies were not explicitly considered in traditional models and so might provide an additional argument in favour of directing resources towards industries in major cities and towns.

However, over the short-term, investing in major cities does little to address national poverty. Agricultural growth is found to be a more effective means of reaching the poor, albeit at the cost of slower national growth. Given these trade-offs, we conclude that while urban agglomeration does provide an argument against an ‘agro-fundamentalist’ approach to African development, the shorter-term political and socioeconomic imperative of reducing poverty supports further investment in African agriculture.

To examine these trade-offs, we developed a dynamic economy-wide model inthis paper.  We examine whether urban agglomeration economies significantly alter the debate over the potential drivers of Africa’s structural transformation. More specifically, we develop an economy-wide model that captures the benefits from urbanization.

Unlike most models, ours is designed to capture both traditional and new elements of the rural-urban debate, including sub-national growth linkages, internal migration, and agglomeration and congestion effects. It distinguishes between rural areas, small towns and major cities. It captures rural-urban production and consumption linkages as well as international trade including food imports, thereby incorporating many of the arguments for or against agriculture.

We apply the models to data for Ethiopia and Uganda―two agriculture-based African countries that have much in common with the rest of low-income Africa, and where urban development is central to the policy debate. The models are used to simulate the effects of accelerated urbanization, and the growth and poverty impacts (and trade-offs) of reallocating public investment between rural areas, towns and major cities.

Simulation results indicate that urbanization and agglomeration economies are important sources of economic growth and could be drivers of long-term structural transformation in Africa. It also has the potential to reduce the rural-urban divide. This is especially true in Uganda, where the industrial sector has stronger linkages to rural agriculture. However, without supporting investments in urban growth and job creation, there is likely to be an ‘urbanization of poverty’ in both Ethiopia and Uganda.

Rising urban poverty could prevent the use of large-scale rural-to-urban transfer programmes aimed at offsetting the decline in agricultural growth from reallocating away from rural areas. As such, our findings suggest that, at least over the short-term, investing in cities is unlikely to adequately address national poverty concerns.

In contrast, agricultural growth is a more direct and effective means of reaching the poor in the short run, but it comes at the cost of slower national growth and with possible long-term implications for the rate of structural transformation.

Given these trade-offs, we conclude that while urban agglomeration provides an additional argument against an ‘agro-fundamentalist’ approach to African development, the shorter-term political and socioeconomic imperative to reduce poverty still supports further investment in African agriculture.