Roger Blench: Conflict issues



Roger Blench

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Conflict resolution has become high on the agenda in recent years, not because conflicts are more or less common, but because they are more visible. We see conflicts on television, read about them in newspapers and are frustrated when disputes which seem to have very little content are all the more bloody. One of the consequences has been the initiation of standardised conflict resolution strategies which can be transported from one situation to another. The extent to which mobile experts can be parachuted into a situation and apply packaged techniques seems at least open to question. In the case of local conflict, such as over natural resources, access to land or discriminatory practices by government, the alternative is to develop strategies for understanding the ground situation through empirical investigation. This is best achieved through a quasi-anthropological approach, in particular discussions with the various groupings that do not focus narrowly on the conflict itself but seek to explore broader issues of subsistence and identity. This is because experience suggests that the underlying motives in such conflicts may be quite different from the surface description. In addition, conflicts have a way of mutating; just as the Mafia began as a movement of legitimate protest against repressive landlords and became the criminal organisation it is today, so many conflicts in Africa start begin in one arena and rapidly evolve into something else.


I have worked principally on resource conflict in Africa, and focussed particularly on issues of pastoralists and cultivators. This has always been a problem, but as population densities have increased it has gradually worsened, to the extent that pastoral lifestyles in many parts of the continent are threatened. Two important points seem to emerge;


a. The configuration of conflict has changed significantly since 1980 and much older literature is of historical interest only.

b. The causes and local solutions to conflict vary considerably from one area to another and we should be wary of generalisations without a much larger database of case studies.


The conclusion I draw from this is that in the case of resource conflict at the local level, effective conflict resolution should be based on recent field materials. These should be empirical and descriptive and should be written up first, before considering practical solutions and proposing them to communities. Going to the field with pre-packaged techniques and presenting them directly to interlocutors seems to me to be highly problematic.


The following is a list of my publications and reports on conflict. I am also working on audio-visual materials which will be posted on this site.










Stuart McGill & Roger Blench

Documentation, development, and ideology in the  northwestern Kainji languages. In: Peter K. Austin & Stuart McGill (eds.) Language Documentation and Description, 11: 90-135. London: SOAS.


R.M. Blench, S. Longtau & Umaru Hassan

Conflict studies in Nigeria, 2003-2006. CD-ROM prepared for DFID, Nigeria


R.M. Blench

Natural Resource Conflicts in North-Central Nigeria. London/Abuja: Mandaras Press/ DFID. With integrated CD-ROM.


R.M. Blench

Hunter-gatherers, conservation and development: from prejudice to policy reform. Natural Resource Briefing Paper 43. London: Overseas Development Institute.


Charlotte Boyd, Roger Blench, David Bourn, Liz Drake and Peter Stevenson

Reconciling interests among wildlife, livestock and people in Eastern Africa: a sustainable livelihoods approach. Natural Resource Briefing Paper 45. London: Overseas Development Institute.


Bourn, D. & R.M. Blench [eds.]

Can wildlife and livestock co-exist? An interdisciplinary approach. London: Overseas Development Institute.


R.M. Blench & S. Hall

Conflicts in protected areas of Africa: livestock and the conservation of the Rwenya wildlife management area, North East Zimbabwe. AgREN Network Paper 82b. London: ODI.


R.M. Blench

Resource conflict in semi-arid Africa. An essay and an annotated bibliography. ODI Research Study. London: Overseas Development Institute.


R.M. Blench

Resource conflict in semi-arid Africa. Natural Resource Briefing Paper 16. London: Overseas Development Institute.


R.M. Blench

The History and Future of Water Management of the Lake Chad Basin in Nigeria. In L’Homme et l’eau dans le Bassin du Lac Tchad. H. Jungraithmayr, D. Barreteau and U. Seibert eds. 143-166. Paris: ORSTOM.


R.M. Blench

The Expansion and Adaptation of  Fulºe Pastoralism to Subhumid and Humid Conditions in Nigeria. Cahiers d’études Africaines,133-135:197-212. Not available


R.M. Blench

Pastoral  labour  and stock alienation in the subhumid  and  arid zones of West Africa. ODI network Paper, 19e.


R.M. Blench

Conflict and co-operation: Fulani relations with the Samba  and Mambila peoples. Cambridge Anthropology, 9,2.








R.M. Blench

The transformation of conflict between pastoralists and cultivators in Nigeria.


R.M. Blench

Resource conflict in the Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands. Study and report of a workshop. Report to ITAD/DFID. Sections by R.M. Blench from a larger workshop report


R.M. Blench, P. Daniel & Umaru Hassan

Access rights and conflict over common pool resources in three states in Nigeria. Report to Conflict Resolution Unit, World Bank.


R.M. Blench, S. Longtau, Umaru Hassan & M. Walsh

The role of traditional leaders in mediating conflict in Northern Nigeria. Report to DFID Nigeria.


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