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Scarcity and organized violence in Kenya, 1989-2004: a ‘fitting’ or a ‘mis-fitting’ case of environmental security theory?

This study analyses the relationship between armed clashes  and scarce natural resources in Kenya, using disaggregated data on development, resources, population concentration, and ethnic composition.

The main findings of the research are as follows: 

  • inter-group violence in Kenya is attributed occasionally to scarce renewable resources
  • there is an undisputed link between pastoralist groups‘ need for access to water and pasture and violent conflict
  • the relationship between ethnic heterogeneity and large-scale violence has found to be contingent on the operationalisations of heterogeneity; it is not a straightforward relationship
  • climatic factors do influence the risk of conflict event incidence, where years following wetter years are more violent than drier ones, but heating also may increase the risk of conflict incidence
  • more densely populated areas run a higher risk of conflict, yet this is restricted to election years when conflicts occur more frequently in central areas of Kenya
  • less developed areas are found to run a higher risk of conflict incidence.

The paper suggests that the measure of land pressure should be refined and tested. Furthermore, the effect of distance to border and civil conflict zones in neighbouring countries should also be scrutinised in order to test whether proximity to conflict increases risk through small arms availability.