The continent of Africa is endowed with a series of natural resources. The large land mass has a wide spread of natural resources possessing huge prospective for mineral beneficiation. However, due to rising population and diminishing natural resources violent conflicts have ensued in different parts of the continent (Takeuchi, (Ed.). 2014). Approximately two-thirds of the nations in Africa features widespread cases of political violence, social unrest, lack of service delivery, inter-communal conflicts and weak governance infrastructure. For instance, in countries such as Burundi and South Sudan, communities fight over control of natural resources such as land and oil (Mwakikagile, 2012). The paper will examine the natural resource depletion and environmental conflicts in Africa particularly based on the cases studies of Burundi and South Sudan.
Conflicts in Burundi have been escalating in the past few years leading to cases of unsuccessful military coup and civil protests. Since the conclusion of the 2005 Civil War, the core development challenges have been gradually deteriorating. Currently, Burundi is categorized as the hungriest nation globally since 2014 (Mwakikagile, 2012). In addition, it was ranked as the second poorest. More importantly, the depletion of natural resources such as land has been linked to the rising cases of conflicts in the country (Takeuchi, (Ed.). 2014). Burundi is highly overpopulated nation with one of the leading fertility rates across the globe. The Burundian administration has strained in the past years to cope the enormous immigration of returnees previously exiled by the civil war and the 1972 genocide.
Land issues are key causes of conflicts and are considered a case of life and death. More than 89 per cent of the populace acquire their livelihood through farming. However, they are incapable to feed their families because of limited access to their land for agriculture. Moreover, productivity of farming has been reduced because of environmental changes, prolonged war, and poor agricultural practices (Mwakikagile, 2012). Overreliance on land is augmented by a very poor system of education, exceptionally high proportions of illiteracy, and poor economic transformation. Such factors have wasted chances for non-agriculture linked jobs. Food and resource scarcity are persistent challenges that will remain a major challenge owing to the persistent of the conflict.
Precisely, the Kagera basin has crucial natural resources such as land, wetlands & water, wildlife, grazing areas, and forests that reinforce food security, socio-economic development and livelihood of the communities. The Kagera Basis is presently experiences serious population pressure in Burundi, which establishes conflicts, which portend sustainable agro-ecosystem and environmental management (Mwakikagile, 2012). The ever-rising population density has certainly led to advanced competition for a limited amount of natural resources such as pieces of land. Furthermore, it continues to intensify the probable likelihood of conflicts in the future (Takeuchi, (Ed.). 2014). In addition, the tiny elites in the country have amassed large tracts of land and cash crop growing which the large proportion of people are forced to handle with subsistence farming.
The scarcity of land has greatly contributed to environmental conflicts, which has contributed to challenges across the physical, social, and economic spectrums. For instance, it has led to deforestation and poaching for unsustainable means of survival through cutting trees for charcoal burning and wood fuel (Mwakikagile, 2012). Such activities have increased environmental conflicts between farmers, hunters and gathers, and herders. The Batwa ethnic group utilize land for hunting and gathering. However, their powers are not officially protected or recognized as compared to those for herders and farmers. Therefore, their ancestral land have been transformed into secured areas hence forcing them into untenable subsistence means such as poaching (Takeuchi, (Ed.). 2014).
South Sudan is the newest African nation to gain independence from Sudan in 2011 after more than three decades of civil wars, which claimed the lives of more than 2.5 million people (Patey, 2010). However, following independence, conflicts started between large ethnic groups as well as between Sudan and South Sudan over the control of natural resources especially oil. The historical hostility between Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups over natural resources such as oil, water and land changed to war after disagreement between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. The main causes of the war were centred on oil control, which contributes to 98 per cent of the country’s income (Johnson, 2014).
Although oil is the largest source of foreign income, most of the people depend on cattle for survival and utilize charcoal as the major source of fuel, which enhances deforestation (Johnson, 2014). The oil reserves are situated in a disputed border between South Sudan and Sudan but it has not converted into wealth for the people of South Sudan (De Waal, 2014). For this reason, most of the people suffer due to abject poverty and nonexistence of basic amenities such as adequate sanitation and potable water.
Oil disputes have also led to tensions and war between South Sudan and Sudan. In fact, most of the oil reserves are situated in South Sudan but the oil refineries and pipelines are in Sudan. Thousands of people in the country have participated in the environmental conflict because of oil between Sudan and their country (Johnson, 2014). Oil was an important motivation in the 2005 peace agreement, which concluded Sudanese Civil war. With an estimated 75 per cent of the total deposits in the Southern part, both nations decided to share the oil proceeds equally. South Sudan has refused to pay fees to Sudan for utilizing its infrastructure arguing that the charges were exorbitant (De Waal, 2014).
Due to conflicts and war, the country faces escalating environmental conflicts such as unexpected development of cities, which leads to environmental degradation because of pressure on energy infrastructure and water (De Waal, 2014). For instance, individuals without adequate sources of energy are forced to cut down trees, which deteriorate the challenge of deforestation. Internally displaced persons have contributed to unplanned housing in major cities such as Juba. Deforestation has also facilitated other environmental menance such as flooding which has escalated the challenges of food scarcity. Consequently, they have overloaded the nation’s ability to deal with emerging humanitarian problems since the war broke-out (Johnson, 2014). The climatic changes have aggravated the impacts of historical conflicts between Nuer and Dinka, which has generated more tensions establishing security threats in susceptible communities.
Africa is endowed with many natural resources but most countries have been characterized by protracted periods of civil wars (Johnson, 2014). For instance, countries such as South Sudan and Burundi have suffered from fights over natural resources leading to environmental conflicts. For instance, high population pressure in Burundi has affected the people who depend on land for survival (Patey, 2010). In addition, it has contributed to environmental degradation owing to deforestation. Similarly, fights over oil in South Sudan and Sudan has led to internally displaced persons who over utilize energy and food.
De Waal, A. (2014). When kleptocracy becomes insolvent: Brute causes of the civil war in South Sudan. African Affairs, 113(452), 347-369.
Johnson, D. H. (2014). Briefing: the crisis in South Sudan. African Affairs, 113(451), 300-309.
Mwakikagile, G. (2012). Identity Politics and Ethnic Conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi: A Comparative Study. New Africa Press.
Patey, L. A. (2010). Crude days ahead? Oil and the resource curse in Sudan. African Affairs, 109(437), 617-636.
Takeuchi, S. (Ed.). (2014). Confronting land and property problems for peace. Routledge.