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Research Report

The Political Economy of Internal Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of Angola, Colombia, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka

P.S. Douma
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2003
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 114

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-4)
  3. (pp. 5-6)
  4. (pp. 9-14)

    Images of seemingly random violence, drug-abusing child soldiers and mutilated civilians have reinforced the prevailing prejudice that the state of affairs in poor countries has degraded further since the end of the Cold War. Strikingly, it is precisely this message of anarchy and senseless abuse of brutal and primitive power that seems to have replaced a more profound attempt to analyse what is going on in conflict-ridden states in the South.

    Some of the long-standing internal conflicts in notably sub-Saharan Africa have deteriorated to the extent that entire population groups have been annihilated or forcefully displaced. The apparent reluctance of...

  5. (pp. 15-20)

    In the conventional meaning, political economies of war refer to the historic relationship between state formation and the mobilization of economic means to support war efforts, which in turn secure state survival. In the twentieth century, during both World Wars, entire states redirected their economies in a highly centralized manner towards so-called total war efforts in a bid to defeat belligerent states.⁸ In other words, war economies can be viewed as the legitimate means to generate capacity for self-defence of sovereign states in times of need.

    The Cold War furthermore proved to be a rather costly peace in terms of...

  6. (pp. 21-34)

    The internal war in Angola that came to a grinding halt in early 2002 has been waged by two dominant actors: the ruling party Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) governed by Eduardo Dos Santos; and the União Nacional para a Indepêndencia Total de Angola (UNITA) rebel movement led by Jonas Savimbi. The war has lasted for twenty-seven years, from independence until the present. Since the death of Savimbi the prospects for peace have increased and a ceasefire agreement was signed on 4 April 2002 in Luanda.18 Despite the presence of a real perspective for the end of this...

  7. (pp. 35-65)

    Theoretically, while reviewing the relationship between violent internal conflict and the domestic availability of resources, the major question seems to be whether wars are fought over, or with, resources. Are resources the reason why these conflicts are fought, or are these conflicts fought with the economic benefits derived from resource exploitation? This question again focuses the debate on the issue of causality. Are protagonist groups vying for the largest share of the pie, or are they trying to promote a political agenda with the help of economic resources? Although the salience of this question is beyond doubt, I would first...

  8. (pp. 67-96)

    Moving away from the local context, it becomes clear that the extraction of resources in a local conflict theatre necessitates the existence of commercial outlets and networks that facilitate transfer, shipment, exchange or monetary conversion. The interface between local and international ‘dimensions’ of resource transaction is thus an outstanding feature of the political economy of internal conflicts. Without exchange and transactions between both levels, internal wars would quickly subside and peter out. The political and economic logic underlying contemporary internal violent conflicts thrives on the nexus of local and international commercial actors, the interest agendas of actors involved in these...

  9. (pp. 97-103)

    A review of the various protagonist factions in the four countries studied demonstrates that the violent conflicts all materialize in the context of weakly developed states, with the notable exception of Sri Lanka. In the other three cases, the incumbent state elites have hitherto been unable to assume internal sovereignty and show significant institutional weaknesses. These internal wars have been labelled ‘new’ wars. In chapter two a tentative definition of war economies was formulated. These wars may well have materialized as a result of genuine grievances, but in due course specific interest groups among the various protagonist factions developed economic...

  10. (pp. 115-115)