Rethinking about opportunity, greed, grievance and intrastate conflict: an analysis of African political violence based on the spatio-temporal model

Sep. 20,2019
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Since the end of the Cold War, conflict studies have increasingly focused on internal conflict. Mainstream research has attributed the causes of internal conflicts to factors related to opportunity, greed, and grievance. However, there is still no consensus on which factor is most likely to lead to violent conflicts. This is, in part because these three explanations focus on differing levels of analysis, which results in distinct measurements for core explanatory variables, and in part because there are no adequate, large-scale data to examine them simultaneously. Moreover, existing work ignores the spatio-temporal dependence when studying the outbreak of violent conflict. Using spatiotemporal modeling approach, this paper draws data from geographic information system (GIS) technique, nighttime light, and event data in Africa from 1992 to 2013 to re-examine the relative explanatory power of these three factors. Unlike previous work that focused on conflict at the country-level or group level, this paper further disaggregates the unit-of-analysis into county or even village level, which enables us to better utilize geographic features of conflict locations. The results show that political violence is surprisingly more likely to occur in areas where the governments have strong capacity or ethnic settlement areas with more grievances. This paper does not find support for the greed-related factors, as the natural resource variables are not statistically significant. One implication of this study is to show how researchers can utilize new data and methods to resolve previous debates in the age of big data, as well as the possibility to build a new and more dynamic theory on political violence. Meanwhile, this paper might inspire us to find better ways to address such challenges as instability and poverty in Africa.

Corresponding Author: CHEN Chong
CNKI Press Officer: ZHONG Ming

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