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Editor's pick: 9 environmental conflicts in Africa's Great Lakes Region

Boats on the shore of Lake Victoria, Uganda

Communal Conflicts Across the Kenyan-Ugandan Border

Livestock raiding and competition for water and pastures lead to cycles of reciprocal violence between pastoralist groups in the Kenyan-Ugandan border region. More frequent and severe droughts as well as the proliferation of weapons from war-torn neighbour countries are further aggravating this situation.


Conflict over Land Resources in Kilosa, Tanzania

Kilosa, a district of the Morogoro region in Eastern Tanzania, has a history of resource-related conflicts surrounding land and forest tenure and management. These conflicts stem from a mix of environmental, social, economic and political factors that have aggravated resource-related tensions between pastoralists and farmers in the region. Moving forward, the district of Kilosa will need more conflict-sensitive and sustainable initiatives in order to sufficiently handle forest and land resources while avoiding the exacerbation of existing tensions.


Growing Land Scarcity and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994

The causes of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda are manifold and controversially discussed. While acknowledging the importance of factors, such as colonial legacy, economic decline, structural adjustment policies, internal opposition to the government and the disengagement of the international community, there is a wide body of literature, which highlights the role of growing land scarcity in aggravating inter-ethnic tensions in Rwanda. Since 1994, the Rwandan government has achieved remarkable progress in security and human development. Yet, important social, environmental and economic challenges lie ahead.


Drought and Conflict across the Kenyan-Ethiopian Border

The Omo-Turkana basin stretches from southern Ethiopia into Kenya. Temperatures in the region are rising and droughts occur with higher frequency and intensity. As Ethiopian pastoralists venture further south in search of water and grazing land, conflicts with Kenyan pastoralists and fishermen are intensifying. Given their trans-boundary and protracted nature, these conflicts pose a particular challenge to local peace building and disarmament efforts.


Communal conflicts in the Karamoja region

Pastoralist groups in the Karamoja region have been engaged for centuries in cycles of reciprocal livestock raiding, involving inter-communal armed violence. With the increasing availability of automatic weapons and commercialization of livestock raiding, but also with the erosion of traditional conflict mitigation institutions, violence in the region has intensified. This tendency has been further aggravated by frequent droughts and floods, which fuel competition for livestock, pastures and access to water.


Security Implications of the Gilgel Gibe III Dam, Ethiopia

As the third and thus far largest dam on the Ethiopian Omo River, the nearly finished Gibe III hydroelectric dam is expected to make an important contribution to Ethiopia’s energy supply and exports. The dam is also supposed to regulate seasonal flows of the Omo River and thus to permit large scale production of sugar cane in the Lower Omo Valley. However, as pointed out by critics of the dam, flow regulation and water abduction for commercial agriculture could have disastrous effects on downstream rural communities, which, in turn, could incite popular protests and exacerbate existing conflicts between local communities.


Conflict over the Management of the Loita Forest in Kenya

In 1992, plans for converting the Loita Forest – known as the ‘Forest of the Lost Child’ – into a forest reserve met strong opposition from local Maasai communities, who are highly dependent on the forest's resources. As no agreement could be reached, the case was taken to court in 1994. Eventually, plans for the forest reserve were abandoned in 2002.


Conflict over the Kiywebe water scheme in western Uganda

The Kasese district in Western Uganda is characterised by a long history of armed conflict between ethnic groups and tensions over limited resources. With water scarcity and accessibility increasingly strained due to a growing population and climatic changes, government and third party organisations are working to ease tensions over and improve access to safe and clean water in a conflict-sensitive manner. One example of where these actions are being implemented is in the Kasese sub-counties, Mahango and Rukoki.


Farmer-Herder Violence in the Tana River Delta, Kenya

More frequent droughts have exacerbated resource conflicts between Pokomo farmers and Orma herders in the Tana River Delta, Kenya. Pressures from outside investors and rising tensions in the run-up to the 2013 Kenyan elections have further fuelled this dispute. The government’s apparent unwillingness to intervene in the conflict has caused additional grievances on both sides and prevented an effective conflict resolution.


130+ case studies on environment, conflict and cooperation

The Factbook is a knowledge platform that provides an overview of environmental conflict and cooperation from around the world. It does so by offering a select number of case studies that reflect instances of conflict, resolution and peacebuilding processes that are related to environmental change.

The Factbook seeks to help policy-makers, experts, researchers and any interested members of the public to better understand and compare the drivers behind environmental conflict and cooperation. The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to the prevention and sustainable transformation of such conflicts using lessons learned from earlier (non-) interventions.

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