Climate Change and Conflict: A Case Study of Darfur Conflict (5)

David Ochieng Onyango

A research project submitted in partial fulfillment for the award of a Degree in Master of Arts in International Conflict Management at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS), University of Nairobi.
Competition between pastoralists and agriculturalists over access and control of resources is key to so many conflicts in East Africa, including the crisis in Darfur. Violence between tribes and ethnic groups are the most visible dividing lines, but the stories of these conflicts cannot be told without including underlying environmental and demographic stresses.


The Neo-Malthusianism perspective is essentially the application of Malthus theories on current world systems in order to investigate trends and make predictions. The implications of a neo-Malthusian model are that the Earth can only sustain the agricultural needs of a limited population and that as overpopulation occurs, there are significant social and economic consequences. Neo-Malthusian perspective has also been extended beyond agricultural sustainability to describe the need and depletion of all resources. These interpretations suggest that overpopulation may in fact be a direct cause of poverty and starvation in societies around the world.
In contrast to this theory, scholars have been or have become concerned over the effects of resource abundance. Sach & Warner (1995) have noted that countries with abundant resources tend to be less developed. The motivation of conflict can be generated by the prospect of gaining control of valuable resources. Ayoud argued that conflicts are motivated more by greed than grievance and that this runs counter to the neo-Malthusian view, the two are not necessarily contradictory. Local abundant resources can only be scarce if they are scarce elsewhere and thus making the resources valuable, and therefore it is theoretically possible to have conflicts that are as a result of abundant resources and conflicts that are as a result of scarce resources.

Population growth

The reason why this study used this theory is because Population growth can give rise to conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, such as farmland, water, and pasture among other resources. Human activities such as industrialization are aimed at meeting the rising population’s needs, and these activities have led to emissions of green house gases that are responsible for climate change; that has been the cause of droughts in areas such as Darfur. As the theory argues, the rise in population will lead to rise in Human activities such as industrialization to meet their basic needs, and industrialization will lead to emissions of green house gases that are responsible for climate change, which in turn brings about famine due to drought that causes scarcity of resources such as water, and conflicts may arise over access and control of these vital resources.


This section looks at the research design to be adopted by the researcher, the data collection methods employed and how data was analyzed. It further describes the type and sources of the data to be employed. The target population, sampling methods, techniques used to select sample size and kind of data analysis envisaged.
According to Kothari (2004), descriptive studies are not only restricted to fact finding but may often result in the formulation of important principles of knowledge and solutions to descriptive research design will be obtained on the current status of the phenomenon. Kothari explains that in ex post facto research, as they describe descriptive research, the researcher has no control over the variables; hence he/she can only report what has happened or what is happening.
The researcher was inclined to adopt this design method because it answers to who, what, how, which, when and how much. Data collection instrument developed probed into facts, human behaviour and attitudes and their views on how climate change can contribute to conflict. Random sampling of the target population was used to sieve through the participating respondents. Data was collected through a developed questionnaire, open-ended and closed-ended questionnaires. Quantitative data was analyzed through tables, graphs and charts whereas unstructured data was qualitatively analyzed thus giving a wealth of information through context analysis.
Sample design Kothari (2004) has defined a sample design as a definite plan for obtaining a sample from a given population. It refers to the technique or the procedure the researcher would adopt in selecting items for the sample.50 Random sampling was used to ensure that different groups of the population are adequately represented in the sample so that the level of accuracy in estimating parameter is increased. It provided an accurate picture and a true representation of the population.
There are merits and demerits that come as a result of using samples as a way of generalizing the entire population. Samples are used to reflect the entire population and are very time efficient, fast and less costly. The demerits have can include bias in the selection of subjects and that is why they are supposed to be randomly selected. When they are not randomly selected, then the results may reflect errors and inaccuracy thus it loses the findings credibility. In sampling, it is important for a researcher to use purposive sampling where he/she targets a specific group of people randomly pitched for the objective of the research findings. The sample must be representative of the entire population.
Interviews on the other hand are very easy to administer and to analyse because one is at liberty to pick the relevant content and leave out the others that are irrelevant.

The answers

The answers can also be categorized because every question is answered differently with various interpretations. Face to face interview here is the most preferred as one can also gauge the weight of the answers by the facial impressions and other signals such as the hand signals that may come by during the interviews. Face to face interviews also have an advantage of getting immediate responses. Phone or telephone interviews can be used when the interviewee is perhaps geographically far and it may be applicable in this study. Regardless of the means, the objective of this study must be achieved from the questions that will be asked.

Conceptualizing Conflict

Conflict is generally defined as a clash of interests between individual groups. In the theory of conflict Karl Marx (1875) who is the father of social conflict theory understood conflict in the human society to be between social classes, that is the haves and have not’s, in capitalist societies it was between those who owned the means of economic production and those who did not have56. Conflicts are inevitable in one’s organizational life and personal life. Conflict in itself is not necessarily negative it should be perceived as part of the social transformation of societies in a positive direction and it is not conflict that presents a big problem for our societies but what is actually done with it. In sociology there are three sociological perspectives explaining how societies behave and these perspectives give insight on how conflict arises. These are symbolic interactionism, functionalism and conflict perspective57. Ken Birch asserts that conflict could be struggle between two or more people with different interest, motive over a value, competition to the status of power or over scarce resources. It is incompatible behavior between two or more parties whose aim or interest are seen to be different.
According to Makumi Mwagiru (2010), conflict arises when two or more parties have incompatible goals about something. The incompatibility arises because they may both have different perceptions, goals and ideas about how to achieve them. Underlying that situation is a conflict of visions and often an inability or unwillingness to see the other person’s point of view.59 This incompatibility of goals also defines more complex conflicts be they organizational, communal or international. Political conflicts are those conflicts between groups and their major characteristics are a high degree of organization. Political conflicts have increased with the role of the state which had punctuated all sections of life, even social conflicts has become particularized with developments in modern communications, and so it is easier for parties in conflict to master support for their cause.

conflict denotes disorder

According to Donelson (1999), the word conflict denotes disorder and impediment to development processes. Violent conflicts have diverse effect on economy which in turn complicates the governing system of the society or state and its surrounding environment. For example the main causes of conflict among the pastoral communities Darfurin Sudan, is but dwindling ranging/grazing land. The scarce resources for both livestock and human being brought about by miseries of drought and diseases reduces many pastoralist to impoverished states, forcing the community to adopt rigid ways of reclaiming back wealth through banditry and cattle raiding. The changing economic market and the demand for the livestock product both internally and externally, have attracted middlemen and traders who establish extensive external and internal networks connecting the commoditized livestock to the wider market. This has led to the expansion and penetration of criminal networks selling small arms has transformed then traditional raids and conflicts into more deadly raids for purpose of accumulating livestock for wider markets.

Causes of conflicts

The causes of conflicts are as diverse as the conflicts themselves, there are interpersonal conflicts as well as intergroup conflict. Conflicts can be caused by, desertion, adultery, violence in the home and the like. The causes of conflict in industrial set ups include poor working conditions, remuneration and bad interpersonal relations. In political conflicts, particularly in the 3rd world, the causes of conflict include the illegitimacy of governments and regimes and conflicts of constitutions as these regimes resist challenge to their legitimacy and authority. In international conflicts, diverse causes of war and conflict have been identified. These include the search for resources, territory and the need for raw materials.There is also lack of fulfillment of needs, both biological and ontological and include of course the need for recognition, participation and dignity.
Causes of conflicts are therefore a question of motives and reasons for conflict. At the individual level, the concern is with the motivation of individuals, and what leads them to engage in conflictual and aggressive behavior. At the level of states the concern is with decision making process which can lead to conflict. If the Conflict is within the context of religion, social and cultural settings and if there is certain interests, power, rights, position from parties involved.

Pre-Conflict stage

Most parties participate in conflict either directly or indirectly depending on their interests, if something is at stake or their needs are threatened.63 Conflict is not an abrupt action or event that occurs accidentally, but it passes through five stages. The first stage is the Pre-Conflict stage. This is period when goals between the parties are incompatible and it eventfully turns to open conflict. The second stage is Confrontation. Here, the conflict opens or manifests itself between the warring groups, or mobilization for resources. Third stage is the Crisis stage. This is at the peak of conflict, which leads to killings, injuries or displacement. The fourth stage is the Outcome stage. There is an assumption that all conflict will have an end result, either one side will win, and the other one will lose, there could be cease fire and may be one of the opponent will Surrender and retreat. The final stage is Post conflict. At this stage, the violence has reduced and the parties have gone past the crisis stage.64 Defined otherwise, Staub (2000) conflict as the demonstration of incongruity over something deemed important to the disputing parties. This comes about as a result of the perception and points of view of parties involved. It also depends on the act upon encountering differing points of view. Thus, the difference of opinion may result to a conflict. A number of factors contribute to conflict. They include poverty, economic stagnation, uneven distribution of resources, weak social structures, lack of good governance, systematic discrimination, oppression of minorities, ethnic antagonism, religious and cultural intolerance, social injustice among others.

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