FINANCING REBELLION: Piracy as a Rebel Group Funding Strategy
Ursula E. Daxecker, University of Amsterdam
Brandon C. Prins, University of Tennessee
Extant research shows that resources, such as oil and surface diamonds, increase the risk of civil war onset and contribute to the duration and intensity of conflict. The causal explanations for these relationships remain contested. On the one hand, the unequal distribution of valuable resources within a country and the rent-seeking that accompanies the development and use of a country’s assets may generate grievances among groups that see the exploitation of scarce resources as unfair and allocation determined by political favoritism. On the other hand, lootable resources may finance rebellion by permitting rebel leaders the opportunity to purchase weapons, fighters, and local support. Control of these resources, then, provides a revenue stream that rebel leaders may be unwilling to give up. Scholars have noted that the control of resources can help finance rebellion. The Kimberly Process, for example, acknowledges that alluvial diamonds pose problems for weak and poor countries. The bunkering of oil in the Niger Delta by quasi-criminal syndicates is another case where the black-market selling of stolen oil may help finance anti-state groups. If resource control facilitates rebellion, maritime piracy may be an additional funding strategy used by insurgent groups to finance armed conflict. Anecdotal evidence connects piracy in the Greater Gulf of Aden to arms trafficking, the drug trade, and human slavery. The revenue produced also may find its way to al Shabaab. In Nigeria, increasing attacks against oil transports may signal an effort by insurgents to use the profits from piracy as an additional revenue stream to fund their campaign against the Nigerian government. It is certainly conceivable that the conditions on the ground in the Niger Delta, such as poverty, unemployment, environmental ruin, push young men into arms of both rebel and pirate leaders and so perhaps the foot-soldiers of MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) are also the pirates attacking ships in the Gulf of Guinea. We contribute to research on civil conflict by arguing that piracy incidents, i.e. actual acts of looting, increase the intensity of civil conflict. To our knowledge this is the first attempt to document systematically whether piracy contributes to insurgency by funneling critical funds to rebel leaders or altering the strategic bargaining environment. Our evidence from conflicts in Africa from 1993-2010 strongly suggests that maritime piracy increases conflict intensity in both the short and medium terms, and that the effect appears larger than that of either oil or diamonds.