Stability and development Transnational threats

Constituencies of conflict and opportunity: land rights, narratives and collective action in Darfur.

North Africa
McGill University

Grievance-based narratives are a primary component of civil wars. While present among the general population affected by conflict, the variants held by the segment of the population most proximate to the armed factions – constituencies – play a primary role in the development and conduct of a conflict. Such narratives can coalesce around specific volatile issues and enable non-combatant constituencies to participate in the conflict through the use of specific 'legalities' or legal precepts. These legalities facilitate the engagement of sets of collective action that are opposed to those derived by constituencies of the opposing side. However such constituencies and their narratives are also where potential opportunity resides for peace-building, both during and subsequent to hostilities. This article looks at the case of Darfur to examine these ingredients, with a focus on land rights as the volatile set of issues around which narratives have developed. In Darfur, opposed narratives which maintain how and why groups claim and deserve access to land and territory, and how groups were unjustly displaced or excluded from lands (and hence power), became solidified and acted upon prior to the conflict to become a primary driver in the current war. In certain cases however narrative change has led to interaction between members of opposed constituencies for the purpose of exploring cooperative arrangements.

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