Come rain or shine: An analysis of conflict and climate variability in East Africa
Previous research on environment and security has contested the existence, nature and significance of a climate driver of conflict. In this study, we have focused on small-scale conflict over East Africa where the link between resource availability and conflict is assumed to be more immediate and direct. Using the parameter of rainfall variability to explore the marginal influence of the climate on conflict, the article shows that in locations that experience rebel or communal conflict events, the frequency of these events increases in periods of extreme rainfall variation, irrespective of the sign of the rainfall change. Further, these results lend support to both a â€˜zero-sumâ€™ narrative, where conflicting groups use force and violence to compete for ever-scarcer resources, and an â€˜abundanceâ€™ narrative, where resources spur rent-seeking/wealth-seeking and recruitment of people to participate in violence. Within the context of current uncertainty regarding the future direction of rainfall change over much of Africa, these results imply that small-scale conflict is likely to be exacerbated with increases in rainfall variability if the mean climate remains largely unchanged; preferentially higher rates of rebel conflict will be exhibited in anomalously dry conditions, while higher rates of communal conflict are expected in increasingly anomalous wet conditions.