Between a rock and a hard place: armed violence in African pastoral communities

Between a rock and a hard place: armed violence in African pastoral communities

How can armed violence in African pastoral communities be tackled?

Pastoral communities inhabit over 21 countries on the African continent. They are concentrated in some of the most arid regions of the continent, which necessitate semi- or wholly-nomadic livestock grazing. Many of these communities are affected by armed violence with associated lawlesness and severe under development. In this paper the author provides detailed information in the main article on issues such as:

  • Dimensions of the problem: their ambiguous relationship with the state and the majority sedentary populations that reside within them
  • Impact of Armed Violence: transhumance, minimal monitoring by state security forces, and the near-absence of news media, contributes to the lack of information
  • Overview of International and Regional Agreements: they appear to have had little impact to date on reducing the movement of weapons into pastoral regions
  • Prospects for Armed Violence Reduction: Measures to reduce armed violence have failed in most African pastoral contexts.

Conclusions and recommendations:

  • Climactic change and redefined land uses that have impaired pastoralist access to rangeland and prompted intra-pastoral tensions and conflict with sedentary communities
  • Growing urban populations adjacent to pastoral regions, have encouraged economically motivated crime, including commercialized cattle raiding and banditry
  • A lack of infrastructure and state-provided security, permits lawlessness and deters investment that could counteract some of the economic motivations for armed violence
  • The failure of governments and international agencies to grasp the complex dynamics of pastoral violence has led to ineffective violence-reduction and development policies
  • Without a concerted effort by states and international agencies to operate within extant pastoral systems for resource-sharing and dispute-settlement, pastoral violence seems set to remain the most internationally visible feature of the regions in question
  • Development assistance has tended to focus on alternatives to pastoralism rather than attempting to fix failings in the system
  • There has been a withdrawal or diminished engagement of donor-funded programmes and aid agency activities in pastoral regions.

The author concludes that the pastoral system is not fatally flawed. Rather, in many African regions, it has been pushed out of equilibrium by a mix of climactic change, changing demographics and inappropriate national and international interventions.

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