ECC Platform Library


Conflict between the Sa'ad and Suleiman of the Habar Gidir

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 3
Eastern Africa
Time 1991 ‐ ongoing
Countries Somalia
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Conflict between the pastoralist Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans of the Habar Gidir clan revolves around access to water and grazing land. The scarcity of these...
Conflict between the Sa'ad and Suleiman of the Habar Gidir
Conflict between the pastoralist Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans of the Habar Gidir clan revolves around access to water and grazing land. The scarcity of these natural resources has been increasing due to a higher frequency and intensity of droughts in recent years. The availability of heavy weaponry has added to the high number of fatalities.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Due to its geographical location and volatile environment, Somalia is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. The frequency and intensity of droughts in Somalia has increased in recent years.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Given Somalia’s high dependency on the livestock sector, droughts and their adverse effect on local land and water resources have a severe impact on the livelihoods of Somalian pastoralists.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Droughts in Somalia have been found to have an indirect impact on the number of local conflicts. Between 2004 and 2011, against the backdrop of severe droughts, the pastoralist Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans of the Habar Gidir clan, clashed over access to wells and grazing areas. Extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab profit from situations of livelihood insecurity and extreme environmental hardship as they can provide food or payment, thus recruiting more people.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources undermines resource-dependent livelihoods.Livelihood insecurity fuels grievances between groups.Livelihood insecurity augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityA threat or destruction of livelihoods dependent on the availability of environmental resources / goods.Livelihood InsecurityNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal GroupsThe uptake of activities, such as joining extremist groups or engaging in illicit and violent activities, which increase the overall fragility of a region.Crime / Violence / Extremism
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • History of Conflict
  • Lack of Alternative Livelihoods
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Weak Institutions
Conflict History

Since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barres’ authoritarian regime in the early 1990s, the Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans of the Habar Gidir have repeatedly fought over grazing rights and political dominance. At first, fighting revolved around the control over parts of the Madug area in central Somalia, a major centre of trade and commerce. In the following years the conflict died down. Between 2004 and 2011 clashes over access to wells and grazing areas opposed both communities against the background of severe droughts. Fighting between the two sub clans, which has involved the use of heavy weaponry and violent attacks on civilians, has claimed over 300 lives and is likely to resurface in the wake of severe drought (UCDP, 2015).

Droughts and armed violence in Somalia
Due to its geographical location and volatile environment Somalia is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. Particularly, droughts have increased as a crucial factor fuelling local conflict in Somalia over the past decades, with 2011 being the most destructive drought in the last 50 years. The ensuing famine killed over 250,000 people according to UN information (Howden, 2013; Hove, Echeverría & Parry, 2011). Research has found that droughts in Somalia have an indirect impact on the number of local conflicts. By limiting the availability of essential resources they frequently drive local communities such as the Sa’ad and Suleiman of the Habar Gidir into fierce competition for access to wells and grazing land (Maystadt & Ecker, 2014).
Moreover, droughts decrease the income of pastoralists by lowering livestock prices, thereby creating incentives for conflict participation. Extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab profit from these developments as they can provide food or payment. Thus, their recruitment numbers increase sharply in times of extreme environmental hardship (see Droughts, livestock prices and armed conflict in Somalia).

Favourable conditions for conflict escalation
The impact of droughts on the life of Somalian pastoralists is further heightened by Somalia’s high dependence on the livestock sector. It contributes to approximately 60% of the national GDP, provides food and income to about 70% of Somalia’s population and makes up 85% of the country’s export earnings (Godiah et al., 2015). Furthermore, the political instability in Somalia has played an aggravating role. There has been no effective central government in Somalia between the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991 and the inauguration of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in 2012. The absence of a central authority, which provides basic services and security, facilitates the escalation of drought-induced conflicts (UCDP, 2015).

Resolution Efforts

The Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans held several peace conferences between 2004 and 2007, when a final peace agreement was reached. Funding for these conferences and the resulting measures was provided by the TFG, the Puntland administration as well as the governments of Sweden and Norway through Interpeace (Amber & Habibullah, 2008).

Preliminary meetings between in 2004 and 2006
A first peace conference was held in 2004. The outcome was a settlement in which both communities agreed to an unconditional ceasefire and the establishment of a joint committee of elders. However, negotiations were interrupted as the Suleiman delegation of the joint committee was ambushed by Sa’ad fighters later the same year.
In 2006 a conference was organized by elders and politicians of both groups in collaboration with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. It was attended by high level representatives such as the President and the Prime Minister of the TFG, highlighting the interest of the TFG to pacify both groups. Later the same year two smaller conferences were held in Bandiradley and El Hur. During these conference issues concerning access to water points and grazing areas were addressed and mechanisms to deal with grievances and avoid revenge killings were established. These mechanisms include increased communication between the two communities, a ceasefire, the constant monitoring of the peace process by joint committees and regular meetings in conflict prone areas. Overall these conferences were used to build trust and confidence in the light of the main reconciliation conference at Adado in February 2007 (Amber & Habibullah, 2008).

The Adado settlement in 2007
At Adado hostilities between the two groups were settled. It was agreed upon that stolen property was to be returned through a joint property dispute committee, which was created at the conference. Furthermore, free movement and access to pastures by both communities was agreed upon. To ensure the sustainability of the peace and to monitor any wrong doings a joint elders’ council and a joint local judiciary were initiated. The conference was attended by 230 participants, including religious and traditional leaders, women and observers of the TFG and the Puntland administration (Amber & Habibullah, 2008).

Obstacles to a lasting peace
Despite these efforts, relations between both groups are unstable and violence has re-erupted in 2011, claiming more than 30 lives. A lasting solution to the conflict seems difficult to achieve. Unlike certain other groups in Somalia the Suleiman and Sa’ad sub clans lack an established “xeer”, a customary law defining compensation in the event of the killing of a clan member and establishing the foundation for collective resource use and local conflict resolution (Amber & Habibullah, 2008). Reconciliation efforts are further hampered by the absence of a strong national authority. Inaugurated in 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia is struggling to establish functioning state structures against major security and development challenges. Furthermore, the question remains, if the newly elected government will have the necessary capacities to reduce pastoralists’ vulnerability against increasingly frequent droughts and floods (Amber & Habibullah, 2008). Due to the Somalia's fragile political situation, national drought adaptation strategies remain limited (see Droughts, livestock prices and armed conflict in Somalia). Finally, the involvement of international aid organizations in the central regions of Somalia remains limited, due to persistent insecurity and the lack of adequate infrastructures (UCDP, 2015).

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
Mass Displacement Less than 100.000 and less than 10% of the country's population are displaced within the country.
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence reduced significantly, but did not cede.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been partially addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Decrease in conflict intensity at least partially the result of conflict resolution strategies.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political

Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Sa ad subclan of Habar Gidir clan (Hawiye)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Suleiman subclan of Habar Gidir clan (Hawiye)
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Government of Somalia
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Mediation & arbitration To ensure the sustainability of peace and to monitor any wrong doings a joint elders’ council and a joint local judiciary were initiated.
3 Treaty/agreement A peace agreement was reached between the Sa’ad and Suleiman sub clans after several peace conferences held between 2004 and 2007.
2 Compensation Both communities agreed that stolen property was to be returned through a joint property dispute committee.
0 Coping with uncertainty National drought adaptation strategies need to be strengthened in order to reduce pastoralists’ vulnerability against increasingly frequent droughts and floods.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Symmetric: All parties can affect the environmental resource equally.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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