Democratic Republic of Congo: Wars for what? The Democratic Republic of Congo has been subject to one of Africa’s deadliest wars, with estimates of 5.4 Million deaths, directly or indirectly due to the war, between 1997 and 2007 (IRC(2007)). Yet due to the weak capacity of the Congolese State and the sensitive nature of this information, there is no systematic data of the strategies that armed groups employ and employed locally or of the motives that lead them to use systematic violence against, while protecting them in others. My own preliminary fieldwork suggests that when the community is endowed with high value and taxable minerals, armed groups prefer to refrain from using violence and instead protect their population. There is a unique opportunity to learn about motives of violence and peace from this context, because both the weakness of the Congolese state and the economic activities of dozens of armed groups entrenched in the mineral sector generate substantial variation in strategies and behavior by these armed groups suited to statistical analysis. This context offers therefore a unique opportunity to assess the causes of the different uses of violence by armed groups, for conflict or for protection.
A proposal: Systematic data collection on armed group’s historical strategies: The proposed project implements a systematic data collection in a target of 100 villages in eastern Congo. Based on the results from the pilot of this project in a first set of villages, the research can credibly produce historical village-level data on armed groups presence, activity, and strategies, as well as social and economic historical data. This data will allow to use statistical techniques based on surprise shocks to different mineral endowments present in these villages in order to assess the causal relationships leading armed groups to exercise different types of violence, in particular whether to loot and abuse the civilians, or instead to use violence to provide security for the civilians and invest in legitimacy, a strategy often used by armed groups. The analysis promises to learn about the causes of violence against civilians and the causes of peaceful uses of violence (for protection, like proto-states). However, it will also advance existing knowledge on the origins of proto-states organizations that monopolize violence to protect civilians instead of against them. Finally, the wealth of the historical economic, political and social data collected, will allow for a long term research agenda answering potentially many other questions, for instance about the organization of self-defense groups or the use of sexual violence during wars.
Team and experience: The research team consists of 6 enumerators and one supervisor that were selected among 100 enumerators that were part of a pioneering data collection project I designed and implemented with Professor Macartan Humphreys between 2010 and 2012 (http://cu-csds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/20120622-FINAL-REPORT.pdf). They were trained during 4months, and collected survey data in 812 villages over the course of 1.5 years for the purpose of evaluating the social impacts of a development intervention. Based on the unique capacity hence created in eastern DRC, as well as the expertise the enumerators derived during the pilot of this project in the visits to mining villages exposed to armed groups, our team has a grounded experience and is very familiar with the proposed work.
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