P167 – Struggles over Resources and Extractivism: Social Movements, Trade Unions and Everyday Resistances
10 July, 09:00-10:30

Engels Bettina / Freie Universität Berlin


In many African countries, conflicts emerge over the access to and distribution of land, water, fossil fuels, metals or rare earth elements. Recent trends such as large-scale land acquisitions and the expansion of industrial mining have provoked protest by social movements, trade union and other civil society actors, as well as everyday resistances by local people.
Contributions will analyse struggles over resources and related to (new and old) extractivism in Africa, referring to questions such as:
-What forms of protest and resistance do emerge related to natural resources and extractivism?
– How are global crises (climate crisis, energy crisis, food crisis, financial crisis…) embedded into the national and local scale, and, as a consequence, result in protests and resistances?
– To what extent do struggles related to recent phenomena such as ‘land grabbing’ or ‘new extractivism’ differ from past struggles?
– Which strategies do protest actors use to attract national and international attention to local conflicts?
– Which role do international donors and transnational networks play?

Luttes pour les ressources et extractivisme: mouvements sociaux, syndicats et resistances quotidiennes
Dans beaucoup de pays africains, éclatent des conflits liés à l’accès et à la distribution des terres, de l’eau, des combustibles fossiles et des lanthanides (aussi appelées «terres rares»). Les tendances actuelles, visant à l’acquisition de propriétés terriennes à grande échelle et à l’expansion de l’industrie minière, ont déclenché des mouvements sociaux, provoqué la mobilisation des organisations syndicales et d’autres acteurs de la société civile, et poussé la population locale à la résistance quotidienne.
Les contributions vont analyser les luttes pour la préservation des ressources naturelles, les anciennes et nouvelles formes d’extractivisme en Afrique en posant ces questions :
– Quels types de mouvements contestataires émergent de la lutte pour la préservation des ressources naturelles et contre l’extractivisme?
– Comment les crises globales (changement climatique, crise énergétique, crise alimentaire, crise financière…) sont-elles transposées à l’échelle nationale et locale et provoquent l’émergence de mouvements contestataires?
– Dans quelles mesures les luttes relatives aux nouveaux phénomènes d’appropriation de terrains (land grabbing) et de nouvel extractivisme (new extractivism) sont-elles différentes des luttes passées?
– Quelles stratégies utilisent les acteurs de ces mouvements contestataires pour attirer l’attention internationale sur des conflits locaux?
– Quel rôle jouent les donateurs internationaux et les réseaux sociaux transnationaux?

Paper 1

Crawford Gordon / University of Leeds, UK

Resisting corporate looting in Ghana’s small-scale gold mining sector: the case of the Gbane Movement for Justice

This paper examines the activities of Chinese corporate involvement in small-scale gold mining in a remote corner of Ghana, and the local opposition to the company presence. It highlights the resistance to corporate exploitation offered by the Gbane Movement for Justice, inclusive of local conflict that is generated between the company and the local oppositional movement as well as between different interest groups within the local community. Crucially, the study highlights the power constraints that the local opposition movement encountered, most notably ones arising from state collusion with corporate interests. Combined state – corporate power both limited opposition effectiveness and facilitated corporate resource theft, while dividing local communities.

Paper 2

Prause Louisa / Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Resources and Protests: Struggles against land grabbing and gold mining in Senegal

We are currently witnessing a rapid transformation of land ownership and usage in Africa, both for large-scale agro-industrial and mining projects. However, struggles against extractive industries and land grabbing in Africa remain a largely underexplored topic in the academic literature.
I take the example of the struggle against the agro-industrial project Senhuile and the Sabodala Gold Mine in Senegal to address the question of how resource-specific forms of extraction of gold and land influence the framing of the protests against the respective projects.
Building on an actor-centered political ecological perspective and social movement theory, I argue that:
1. The specific materiality of resources leads to different grievances of the affected communities and therefore to a certain framing of the protests.
2. Resources, through their symbolic dimension, influence how claims are framed. Protest actors frame their struggles differently according to the specific meanings attributed to different resources.
3. The subsoil and the land are often affected by different laws and policies. Protest actors might frame their claims referring to the regulation as well as legislative procedures of the respective resources.
The paper will be based on empirical data to be gathered during field work in February and March 2015, in particular interviews with affected community members, NGO staff & state officials.

Paper 3

Olayode Kehinde / Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Sharing the ‘‘National Cake’’: The Dynamism and Contradictions of Resource Control Struggles in Nigeria

This paper explores the nature and dynamism of the struggle by ethnic minorities in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta for the right to control their natural resources – particularly oil products mined from under their lands and waters. It explores the economic, political and social forces at play, the impact of oil mineral production activities in the Niger Delta and the neglect of the region by the Nigerian State. It evaluates the struggle for “resource control” and fiscal federalism by the political leaders of the region and the likely impact on the Nigerian State. The paper argues that the challenges of the Niger Delta have laid bare, the fact that a major setback in the nation’s search for stable society and good governance, has to do with deviations from the principle of federalism in the governance of the country. It recommends a return to the practice of true federalism for peace, stability and healthy competition among the federating states/units in the Nigerian State.

Paper 4

Álvarez Feáns Aloia / Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Niger Delta oil struggles: social movement’s historical trajectories and transnational connections

Since its inception in the 60s, oil extraction has been a catalyst for conflict in the Niger Delta, meaning continuities and ruptures on the economic, social and political orders deployed there. The relations between the actors conforming the “Nigerian oil complex” (Watts) are complex and fluid. The “local” and the “global” forces fighting for access to the rents generated by oil industry activities are implicated in this violent conflict either as supporters of the state-backed transnational extractors of oil or as allies of local resistance movements (Obi). The opening of political spaces after the Nigerian democratization process (1999) has facilitated the consolidation of two clear trends in the repertoires of contention of social movements. On the one hand, the resurgence of ethno-nationalist demands by young armed militias, whose grievances have been fuelled during the military era. On the other hand, an explosion of local NGOs, and a multiplication of relations between them and transnational NGO’s and advocacy groups. Those transnational connections have had dual effects on the dynamics of resistance. This presentation analyzes the Niger Delta conflict through the lens of political economy, paying particular attention to the historical trajectories and dynamics of social movements organizations, in order to illuminate the different languages (human rights, rights of indigenous peoples, resource control) they are using to attract local and international attention.

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