Peace Through Agrarian Justice
The extent to which recent African civil wars have also been agrarian crises has been underestimated. Urban “loose molecules” and the lure of mineral resources have been put forward as reasons for protracted conflicts. Recent research in Sierra Leone (Richards et al. 2005; Humphreys and Weinstein 2004; Richards et al. 2004) shows that most combatants came from rural backgrounds and were induced to fight by promises of food, jobs and marriage partners, not diamonds.
Many ex-combatants want to go home (to rural areas), but are unwilling to do so without major agrarian reforms. These include strengthening the land and property rights of women and youth. Through failing to understand the rural roots of recent African conflicts donors and policy-makers have risked rebuilding the causes of war. Attention to agrarian justice, we argue, is now essential if further violence is to be avoided.