Land, natural resources and violence in Africa

Land, natural resources and violence in Africa: 

‘Land and Resource-related conflicts and intercommunal violence’

 The land question in Africa and elsewhere is intimately linked to vexed issues of citizenship, identity, and the notion of political community. To suggest that land is one of the most politicised questions in Africa is an understatement. Over the past few decades, the management of land and the systems of distribution, access and control of land have become increasingly detached from their broader social and cultural meaning and have given way to extractivism and commodification. As a consequence, conflicts over land and natural resources have increased, along with the rise of violent insurgencies, terrorism and radicalism. This has been particularly evident in Mozambique, in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Nigeria, among others.

In many parts of Africa, the formal end of colonialism and the advent of national independence did not always translate into a national project with regards to land policy as a tool of inclusion. African states’ capacity to articulate a strategic or coherent land policy framework was soon thwarted by deepening neoliberalism, austerity, the erosion of state rule, regional and national disintegration, and social and political conflicts that in some cases lead to violence.

By and large, projects of national unity are heavily contested and modern regional integration processes do not seem to serve the purpose for which they were created. In parallel, the idea of the nation-state is constantly being challenged and states are losing legitimacy.

This series of two conferences/roundtables aims to reflect on these and other issues. It will take the broader topic of land broadly understood to open up a debate on the appropriation of knowledge and natural resources on the African continent, and its impact in exploring the current cases of Mozambique (armed insurgency and terrorism), Angola (exclusionary extractivism and elite capture) and Niger (corporate resource grabbing) as an entry point to answer, but not be limited to, the following questions:

  • What are the imprints of colonial and racial regimes of ownership in modern juridical formations across Africa?
  • How has the intimate relationship between land as property and the modern state been consolidating across the continent
  • What is driving the private appropriation and accumulation of land and natural resources on the African continent and how can promoting a notion of the commons play a role in reversing commodification of land?
  • How can we rethink redistributive and people-centred land and resource policies, and how can we rethink the nation and public space to find pathways to inclusive policies and actions that reduce land-based violence? This includes bringing gender, ethnicity and generation into the equation.
  • In contexts shaped by legal plurality, how to account for a variety of approaches in resolving land and resource conflicts and deepening democracy in Africa
  • How do struggles for land and environment in Africa contribute towards a deeper recognition of multiple subjectivities, agencies and practices? Can this multiplicity of experiences contribute to a democratic renewal?