IDD Guest seminar podcast: The Micro-Dynamics Of Diamonds in the Revolutionary United Front

In the past decade, a wealth of research has examined the relationship between natural resources and the onset and duration of violent conflict. However, despite our growing understanding of how natural resources and economic factors can affect conflict incidence, very little is known about how armed groups – and rebels in particular – actually extract, manage, and ultimately distribute mineral revenues inside a warzone. Using extensive fieldwork research on the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone, this paper examines how diamonds were managed by the rebel group, and identifies five key strategies and tactics for their use. It accomplishes this through group- and individual-level analysis that questions fundamental assumptions about the centrality of minerals to rebel priorities during the war. Examining the history of Sierra Leone’s diamond sector reveals important continuities between previous regimes’ relationship to mining. The research uses archive materials and over 200 interviews with ex-combatants across the country to detail the RUF’s changing strategy toward mineral resources. Then, building on growing research on the microdynamics of violence, principal-agent problems, and rebel governance in war, this paper examines the specific oversight mechanisms employed and challenges faced by the RUF. It concludes that territorial control, the pre-existing political economy, and personal leadership played the strongest role in determining the nature of the rebel-resource nexus in Sierra Leone.

Speaker: Dr Zoe Marks, University of Edinburgh.

Dr Marks is a Chancellor's Fellow and Lecturer in the Centre of African Studies of the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on conflict and civil war, armed groups, gender relations, and post-conflict development. She is lead author and co-investigator on the ESRC-DFID Poverty Alleviation Research project 'Poverty and Conflict' and also leads two projects under the DFID-funded Political Settlements Research Programme. Dr Marks received her DPhil in Politics from the University of Oxford and has published in African Affairs, Civil Wars and the Journal of Modern African Studies.

Co-organized with the Department of African Studies and Anthropology. The International Development Department hosts a number of seminars throughout the year which focuses on a number of different topics. The seminars are open to everyone. View the full list of IDD Guest Seminar Series 2016/17.

Recorded: Thursday 02 February 2017 (16:30-18:00).

To request a transcript please contact: Coss-communications@contacts.bham.ac.uk.