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The changing geography of conflict in North & West Africa

Authors: Matthew Pflaum*, University of Florida, Dr. Olivier Walther, University of Florida, Dr. Steve Radil, University of Idaho
Topics: Africa, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Political Geography
Keywords: violence, conflict, extremism, civilians, Sahel, Sahara, North and West Africa, military, spatial analysis
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The objective of this paper is to analyze the shifting geography of conflicts in North and West Africa since the late 1990s. By applying data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the paper reveals that conflicts tend to involve numerous non-state actors with diverging agendas (frequently involving local grievances), and target civilians more systematically than before. Attacks against civilians are particularly numerous in West Africa, where the number of victims of sexual violence, civilian attacks, and kidnappings exceeds the violence associated with armed clashes between governments and non-state actors. From a spatial perspective, border regions tend to attract a disproportionate number of violent events and casualties. Between 1997 and 2019, 42% of violent events and victims have been located within 100 km of a land border. The narrow 10-km border strip that separates the countries in the region alone accounts for 10% of the victims registered since 1997, more than any other area. This evidence and data have particularly compelling policy, military, and strategy implications for curtailing violent conflicts in the region.

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