P198 – Re-defining Conflict-Urbanism; Critical Reflections on Urbanisation in an African Context of Protracted Violent Conflict
8 July, 17:30-19:00

Büscher Karen / Conflict Research Group


Starting from the current gaps in the academic literature on urbanisation in contemporary violent conflict situations, this panel wants to contribute to a more profound understanding of dynamics of ‘conflict-urbanism’ or ‘war-urbanism’. The panel thus focuses on the particular urban perspective of contemporary civil war or fragile and violent post-conflict situations in Africa. Conflict dynamics in Africa generate complex processes of urban transformation, as a protracted situation of civil war profoundly impacts on cities’ regional or national significance, identity, their external connections as well as their internal organisation. Besides investigating these transformative effects of current war dynamics on African cities, we also want to take a look at new urban centres that emerge from conflict-settings, developing new forms of urbanisation, revealing distinguishing urban characteristics. This panel presents a number of particular case-studies on various related topics such as the impact of violent conflict on urban governance and institutions, transformation of urban livelihoods, spatial urban reconfigurations, etc.

Une redéfinition du «conflict urbanism»; réflexions critiques sur l’urbanisation dans un contexte africain de conflit armé prolongé

A partir des lacunes actuelles dans la littérature académique sur l’urbanisation dans le contexte particulier du conflit armé, ce panel souhaite contribuer à une compréhension plus profonde de la dynamique de « conflit-urbanism ». Ce panel se concentre donc sur la perspective urbaine des guerres civiles contemporaines ou des situations de post-conflit fragiles et violents en Afrique. Les dynamiques de conflit et guerre en Afrique engendrent de complexes transformations urbaines ; une situation prolongée de la guerre civile laisse un impact profond sur l’importance régionale ou nationale des villes, leurs identités urbaines, leurs connexions externes ainsi que leur organisation interne. Outre l’analyse de ces effets transformateurs du conflit armé sur les villes africaines, nous voulons aussi examiner des nouveaux centres urbains qui émergent d’un contexte de conflit armé, qui développent des nouvelles formes d’urbanisation, en révélant des caractéristiques urbaines distinctives. Ce panel présente un certain nombre d’études de cas sur divers sujets, comme par exemple l’impact des conflits sur la gouvernance urbaine et ces institutions, la transformation des moyens de subsistance en milieu urbain, des reconfigurations spatiales urbaines, etc.

Paper 1

Sanogo Aïdas / Institute of Social Anthropology, Basel University

Land Access and Statehood in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire

This paper is part of a PhD thesis in social anthropology. The thesis, titled “Urban governance and land and housing access in Bouaké”, draws on the concept of statehood as defined by Migdal (2001). In his analysis of the state from a political science perspective, Migdal (2001) argues that the state will increasingly have difficulties to achieve obedience and conformity from its citizens in the 21st century. New theories would then be needed to understand the gap between state’s rhetoric and its performance on the ground. Based on a comparative study of two distinct neighborhoods located in the outskirts north and outskirts south of the city of Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, the paper looks into the ways the Ivorian crisis decade has shaped Bouaké urban dwellers’ representations of land access and urban governance.

Paper 2

Matthys Gillian / Radboud Universiteit

Why IDPs often stay: Urban challenges and displacement in North-Kivuda

Academic research in the Great Lakes regions seems to have a rural bias, and seems to often narrow down explanations of social, economic and political processes to violence. Whilst it is true that most of the violence against the population is located in the rural regions, and armed groups are most ‘visible’ in rural areas, this ‘rural bias’ blinds researchers and practitioners alike that conflicts also have an impact on urban settings, and vice-versa. In my talk I will focus on displacement, broadening the approach to include the impact of displacement on the ‘urban’ and shifting away the focus that sees displacement primarily through the lens of conflict by pointing out that displacement in fact needs to be seen in a wider continuum of coping strategies. I will illustrate these points by focusing on two different cases. I will lend examples from the town of Kitshanga and from one of Goma’s peripheral neigbourhoods, Ngangi. My talk is mainly based on 2 months of fieldwork in North-Kivu at the beginning of 2015. Recent but limited research experiences in South-Sudan indicates that similar processes may take place there as well.

Paper 3

Claessens Klara / Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), University of Antwerp

“Un banditisme positif”. Public authority and access to land on the plantation of Mukwidja, Eastern DRC

This article looks at the negotiation of land arrangements and the making of public authority on the plantation of Mukwidja in South Kivu, Eastern DRC. The plantation of Mukwidja is an interesting case since part of the agricultural land has been transformed into an agglomeration for residential purposes. Similar agglomerations are emerging in the whole region and these new premature urbanisations offer opportunities for a conflict affected population looking for land to secure or diversify their livelihoods. This article analyses the access mechanisms to these residential plots and, as a consequence, the formation of new power constellations and the making of public authority. Mukwidja will be presented as a site where public authority is exercised outside the state domain by drawing on moral, political and economic sources of legitimacy. The presence of two conflicts demonstrates that this public authority is also contested and in a process of continuous (re)negotiation.
By drawing our attention to the existence of a vernacular land market outside the state domain and outside the customary domain, this case challenges this prevalent duality (statutory/customary) in African land tenure literature. These hybrid arrangements offer opportunities for certain actors and they fill a void in the state’s capacity to manage the land. However, their validity does not exceed the physical border of the plantations, making them susceptible for renegotiation and more prone to conflict.

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