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Articles in Insurgencies

Does the Boko Haram Insurgency Stem from Environmental Degradation and Climate Change?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 5, 2014 | 4 Comments

Several attempts to explain the extreme violence of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria focus on resource scarcity, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and especially climate change. A recent article in The Guardian, for example, claims that:
Instability in Nigeria … has been growing steadily over the last decade — and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development …

Is Poverty the Root Cause of Boko Haram Violence?

By Martin W. Lewis | June 2, 2014 | 13 Comments

The notion that poverty is the main cause of terrorism and insurgency is one of the most contentious ideas in global security studies. Those on the left tend to emphasize the connection between violence and the lack of development, while those on the right tend to deny or at least minimize it.
In recent weeks, this debate has turned to the …

Casamance – harmonious name, discordant reality

By Claire Negiar | February 26, 2014 | One Comment

The Casamance has long been a region in limbo, caught between worlds: today trapped between Senegal and The Gambia, it was subject to both French and Portuguese colonial efforts before the border was negotiated in 1888 between the French colony of Senegal and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) to the south. The settlement resulted in Portugal losing possession of the Casamance, which was at the time the commercial hub of its colony.

Fighting Flares in Bodoland

By Martin W. Lewis | July 25, 2012 | One Comment

Eastern Assam in northeastern India has been engulfed in ethnic violence for the past five days, with the indigenous Bodo (pronounced BO-RO) pitted aginst Bengali-speaking Muslims. Fighting flared July 20th after four unidentified men killed four Bodo youths; in retaliation, Bodo gangs attacked local Muslims. Before long, tit-for-tat carnage resulted in some 32 deaths and the burning of approximately 60 …

The Nasa (Páez) People Take on the Colombian Military and the Leftist Rebels

By Martin W. Lewis | July 20, 2012 |

A recent article in the Chinese news site CRI notes that the indigenous Nasa people of southwestern Colombia have “lashed out at a Colombian Army outpost in southwestern Cauca province, as the military refused to leave their land as requested.” The report goes on to note that some 1,000 people surrounded a military outpost and literally tried to drag the soldiers away. As reported elsewhere, Colombian riot police soon evicted the Nasa demonstrators, and later shot and killed a member of the movement who allegedly refused to stop at an armed checkpoint

Flood and Political Conflicts in Northeastern India

By Nicholas Baldo | July 3, 2012 |

Flooding in Northeastern India and its sometimes-fraught political backdrop.

Oil and Arabic-Speakers in Iran’s Troubled Southwest

By Martin W. Lewis | October 22, 2011 | 9 Comments
Incorrect Map of Sunni/Shia Distribution in the Middle East

If Saudi Arabia faces a restive Shia minority in its main oil-producing area (see GeoCurrents Oct. 14, 2011), Iran has a similar challenge. Its foremost oil-producing zone—the southwestern province of Khuzestan (Ahwaz in Arabic)—is the heart of Iran’s dissatisfied Arabic-speaking minority. Fear of unrest in Khuzestan looms large in Iranian security deliberations. Not only does

Dams and the Ignored Ethnic Conflict of Northern Burma

By Martin W. Lewis | October 10, 2011 | 8 Comments
Map of Cease-Fire Armies in Burma

Recent news reports have trumpeted Burma’s (Myanmar’s) decision to suspend construction of the massive, Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River in the northern reaches of the country. The Economist magazine, for example, claims that the cancellation provides “mounting evidence that the new government in Yangon is serious about reform.” That assessment may well be

Problems in the Panhandle: Namibia’s Caprivi Strip

By Martin W. Lewis | September 13, 2011 | 4 Comments
Map of Language Groups in the Caprivi Strip and Environs

Of the world’s many geopolitical “panhandles,” that of Oklahoma best fits the term: the state is indeed shaped like a pan with a well-defined handle. In regard to sovereign states, Namibia seems to sport the clearest handle, although the rest of the country looks more like a deep pot than a pan. At any rate

Insurgency, Sex, and Tribalism in Northeastern India

By Martin W. Lewis | June 3, 2011 | One Comment
Map of language and religion in northeastern India

The small Indian state of Tripura was until recently beleaguered by insurgency, much like its neighbors in northeastern India. South Asia Terrorism Portal lists one active terrorist/insurgent group, two proscribed groups, and twenty-two inactive ones. Most have championed indigenous claims to land and autonomy, opposing the Bengali migration that has transformed the state.

Support for the Baloch Insurgency: Right-wing or Left-wing?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 18, 2011 | 14 Comments
Ralph Peters Alternative Map of the Middle East

A recent (May 14) discussion thread in GeoCurrents takes on the one-dimensional left/right political spectrum. Jim Wilson perceptively notes that he “always like[s] watching political commentators trying to decide whether those who want to roll back the reforms of Deng Xiaoping are the right wing or the left wing of the Chinese Communist Party.” Another

Geopolitical Complexities in the Twin Insurgencies of Balochistan

By Martin W. Lewis | May 17, 2011 |
Map of Baloch provinces in Pakistan and Iran

Balochistan, spanning the border between Pakistan and Iran, is a deeply troubled region, beset with rebellion and split by a barrier. Pakistan’s Balochistan province has been in rebellion as often as not since the founding of the country. Wikipedia lists five distinct “Balochistan conflicts” since 1948, but it is not always clear when one conflict

The Iran-Pakistan Border Barrier

By Martin W. Lewis | May 13, 2011 |
Google Earth Image of Iran-Pakistan Barrier

One of the world’s most heavily fortified borders stretches between Iran and Pakistan. The Iran-Pakistan Barrier, currently under construction by the Iranian government, features a three-foot thick (.91 meters), ten-foot high (3.05 meter) concrete wall extending across 700 kilometers of forbidding desert terrain. The actual wall, however, is merely one part of an elaborate system

Disparate Interpretations—and Misinterpretations—of the Conflict in Ivory Coast

By Martin W. Lewis | April 25, 2011 | 5 Comments
Map of the Division of Ivory Coast in 2007

Understandings of the recent conflict in Ivory Coast (officially, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire) vary significantly among different sectors of the news media. Mainstream sources in the United States often mention the Ivorian Civil War of 2002-07 that effectively divided the country in two (see map), but they focus primarily on the presidential election of 2010

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