Close-up on renewable resources and armed conflict: The spatial logic of pastoralist violence in Northern Kenya

Detges, Adrien 2014: Close-up on renewable resources and armed conflict: The spatial logic of pastoralist violence in Northern Kenya. In: Political Geography 42, pp. 57-65.

Methods of spatially disaggregated conflict analysis are becoming increasingly popular and open avenues for systematic micro-level research. Especially within the field of environmental security research they bear the promise of a better assessment of environment–conflict linkages at the sub-national level. Yet, this branch of research lacks a thorough theoretical involvement with the spatial logic of armed contests over renewable resources and this hampers the use of highly disaggregated data.

To address this shortcoming, the present contribution proposes an actor-centred approach, which allows determining the precise locations of violent events in armed contests over renewable resources. It is developed by analysing the spatial logic of pastoralist violence in northern Kenya, a frequently cited example of scarcity-related struggle over renewable resources. The analysis demonstrates that pastoralist violence in northern Kenya has frequently occurred close to well sites and in locations of higher rainfall, which offer favourable conditions for livestock raiding. These results lend support to narratives of pastoralist violence, which emphasise the strategic use of violence with regard to the ecological opportunities and constraints of African rangelands. They also highlight more generally that conflict locations reveal more about the strategic choices made by armed groups in a given conflict situation than about the ultimate causes of their struggle. This calls for a more conscious use of disaggregated data in environmental security research.