Race, Ethnicity and Politics

The Politics of Eco-violence: Why Is Conflict Escalating in Nigeria’s Middle Belt?



Competition for natural resources has intensified in recent years between nomadic Fulani herders and sedentary farmers in Nigeria's Middle Belt. What were initially sporadic conflicts over cropland and water have transformed into daily occurrences of mass violence. While extant research focuses on the root causes of such conflicts, the reasons for their escalation remain insufficiently understood. Based on fieldwork conducted during 2018-2019, this article examines how political developments have contributed to the escalation of conflict in the region. Using Homer-Dixon's theory of civil strife as a conceptual framework, the findings show that changes in the 'political opportunity structure' in Nigeria since 2014 were a catalyst for escalating the conflicts. These changes resulted from the 2014 insecurity in Nigeria caused by terrorist acts committed by non-state actors and the outcomes of the 2015 election. The consequences were the unvarnished adoption of nepotistic domestic policies and alliances between elites and militia members.


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