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A new Spatial Conflict Dynamics indicator of political violence in North and West Africa

Authors: Olivier Walther*, University of Florida, Steven Radil, University of Idaho, David Russell, Independent researcher
Topics: Political Geography, Africa, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: conflict, war, political violence, Africa, quantitative geography
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper introduces a new spatial indicator, called the Spatial Conflict Dynamics indicator (SCDi), that examines the intensity and concentration of violent events in North and West Africa since 1997. The indicator highlights which regions experience the most conflicts, how conflicts change geographically over time, and how foreign interventions affect the geography of conflicts. The indicator is comprised of metrics that focus on two interrelated but different spatial properties of violence: the relative intensity of conflict across a region (spatial density), and the relative distribution of conflict locations relative to each other (spatial concentration). The indicator suggests that violence has both relocated and expanded over time. Contrary to popular belief that global extremist ideas fueled by transnational groups spread like wildfire across the region, the paper shows that conflict is largely localized. Less than a third of the regions with violence exhibit signs of diffusion. However, the paper also confirms that the geography of violence is less isolated than 20 years ago. Multiple clusters of high-intensity regions have formed in the Sahel, where violence is spilling over to adjacent regions and countries. These clusters are more likely to be surrounded by a periphery of lower intensity regions than in the past.

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