Large-scale resource development at the rural margins: assessing implications for governance, conflict and peacebuilding in Ivory Coast and Kenya

Large resource development projects in marginal rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are being pursued by a host of global investors. These projects are encouraged by central governments and promoted as part of national economic development. They increase the strategic presence of both global capital and the state in areas that are distant from political and economic power, and that sometimes have legacies of conflict. Critically, resource developments have the potential to transform local governance arrangements and institutions, including those that support peace-building.

Over three years, this project examined how conflict, local governance and peace-building arrangements in the rural margins of Ivory Coast and Kenya are affected by new, large-scale investments in resource exploitation. Governance and peacebuilding in remote rural areas of both countries have typically been the preserve of hybrid structures in which the state partners with a diverse range of local intermediaries and alternative sources of authority to enforce commitments and facilitate compromise between competing groups at the local level. In Ivory Coast, political trends have emphasised a continuing centralisation of powers, against a backdrop of persistent regional divisions and national political violence. Kenya is in the early years of a devolved system that locates significant powers and public funds in recently established county governments. The creation of devolved political administrative structures has raised the stakes for sub-national political competition, with evidence of increased conflict in some places.

The research supports efforts to broaden debate by generating critical insights and evidence on if, how and why local peacebuilding succeeds in areas of new resource exploitation and, thus, help to reduce conflict risks and strengthen governance.

Research questions

We hypothesise that an intensification of outside investments and greater state presence at the margins will transform relations and institutions, and thus influence abilities to successfully manage the risks, causes and impacts of both historic and emerging conflict. In light of this, the project asked:

1. What are the consequences of new large scale investments on local institutions, relations, conflict dynamics and violence?

2. What new hybrid orders emerge, and how successfully do these address local understandings of peace-building and both historic and emerging conflict?

3. What measures can be taken, at policy and practical levels, to promote conflict sensitive approaches to large investments in marginal rural areas?

Key insights from Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast is rich in minerals, including gold, iron ore, diamond, manganese and other minerals, but growth in mining activities in Ivory Coast has been relatively limited until recently due to high extraction costs and a policy focus on developing the agricultural sector. A boom in extractive industry investment, particularly around gold, is currently underway. The mining sector is quickly becoming an important source of national income, and could help to finance part of the government’s development agenda in the coming years.

The government adopted a new mining code in 2014 that defines key policy objectives linked to transparency, accountability and participation. Prior to the Mining Code and the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the governance system involved the central government and the companies operating the mines. Relationships between mining companies and residents of mining communities were informal. The Mining Code 2014 seeks to formalise relationships between mining companies and the local people, through the creation of the Mining Local Development Committee (Comité de Développement Local Minier – CDLM).

The project has focused on the largest mining sites in Ity, near Zouan Hounien in the Liberian/Guinean borders. Two conflict issues are at play:

  • The first is that the mining company has been negotiating development projects just with the traditional chiefs but have bypassed the ‘big men’ which have an important influence in the region. These big men, which occupy important positions in the capital city, still have an important influence in the region development and have therefore created political and social conflicts for their demands to be heard, especially around the creation of the CDML.
  • The second is the relationship between the mining company and gold pawning. Gold pawning is an important livelihood for many local inhabitants. There are however many incidents on the boundary of the mining site between the private security guards and the artisanal diggers. The issue is further complicated by the fact that local inhabitants are not aware of the legal procedures for obtaining permits around artisanal mining. But gold pawning is not limited to local inhabitants. Transnational organized crime networks are developing with semi-industrial methods, creating much environmental distress. These networks are well organized and corruption is widespread along these practices.

Like the issue of land tenure, these issues may be instrumentalised and bounce back at the national level. Indeed, Ivory Coast still faces political and security challenges, such as the mutinies that occurred in 2017.

The research was carried out by IDS Fellow Jeremy Allouche, Janet Adama Mohammed (West Africa Programme Director – Conciliation Resources), and a team of Ivorian researchers.

Key insights from Kenya

Research in Kenya examined the impacts and influences of recent oil development in Turkana County, one of the country’s poorest inhabited predominantly by livestock-keeping groups. Oil exploration and appraisal activity is the largest inflow of global capital in the history of Turkana. Exploration operations by Tullow and Africa Oil began in 2010, the same year that Kenyans voted for a new constitution paving the way for devolution and the establishment of county government structures in 2013.

While oil extraction is thought to extend the reach of national government and to heighten securitisation, oil operations and plans have been extensively challenged by county government officials as well as local networks. These are keen to benefit from oil development, minimise harm to local lives and livelihoods and assert local rights and claims. While certain state and investor actors might seek to shore up security around project sites, there is no way to circumvent continuous engagement with a wide assortment of community stakeholder groups.

Furthermore, oil development is associated with new conflict risks. Changing governance as well as the new value attached to oil in the region is changing the calculus of peacebuilding. The efficacy of cut and paste peacebuilding approaches that valorise traditional leadership is limited, as new actors have emerged in dialogues and protests around large resource and infrastructure developments. Many efforts have failed to gain traction and are not sustainable beyond the cycle of a project and outside funding.

Security governance around large-scale developments is likely to be more effective where it constructively engages with and reinforces emergent local structures that insist on benefits, rights and accountability. Further, supporting vital local peace work often involves close observation and efforts to understand what are often hidden ‘internal’ conversations, rather than funding public shows of dialogue and negotiation.

The research was carried out by IDS Fellow Jeremy Lind, Patrick Mutahi (Fellow at the Nairobi-based Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies) and a team of researchers from Turkana County.

Project details

start date
1 April 2014
end date
31 October 2017


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About this project


Recent work

Past Event

Picturing change: Oil development in rural northern Kenya

This photographic exhibition tells the story of changing lives and livelihoods in Lokichar, a small town in Turkana County, and surrounding villages that are at the centre of northern Kenya’s oil frontier. This exhibition will be opened by the Labour MP for Kemptown and member of the...

9 November 2018