Who Governs Here? Minerals Governance, the State, and Violent Conflict in Rural Ghana

Authors: McKenzie Johnson*, University of Illinois
Topics: Environment, Africa, Development
Keywords: Ghana, securitization, natural resources, violent conflict
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past two decades, numerous Sub-Saharan African states have engaged in governance reforms that heed neoliberal calls to securitize – or, establish and consolidate state control over – natural resources. In Ghana, securitization has contributed to the expansion of the informal mineral economy as artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM), marginalized in the process of reform, have utilized non-state institutions to maintain access rights. While the Ghanaian state has branded “illegal” mining a national security threat, it has responded to this threat unevenly; that is, it has violently enforced its authority in some contexts but remained relatively indifferent in others. This paper explores the phenomenon of selective enforcement to explain patterns of violence that have emerged between state and society in response to both securitization and informality. Drawing on a multimethod approach, I find that natural resource governance authority remains fragmented across resource contexts, and that the configuration of authority and interests on the ground shapes the extent of state intervention. I propose a natural resource typology that identifies when the state is most likely to enforce its authority, and the degree of violent conflict likely to result. Ultimately, I contend that Ghana is unwilling to broadly enforce its authority over natural resources for fear that disrupting competing networks of authority could contribute to more substantial civil conflict.

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