There is in both the theory and practice of early warning a clear preference for tracking and analysing proximate or immediate causes of conflict, sometimes referred to as ‘triggers’ or ‘accelerators’, over factors that might generate earlier warnings, such as shifts in deep-rooted, structural determinants of conflict. This preference reflects common assumptions made about the nature of structural factors (viz. that they are static and/or too indirectly linked to outcomes) and the relative ease with which less deeply rooted factors may be monitored. I suggest that structural factors are indeed variables, the value of which can be indirectly assessed with proxy indicators. Adopting a method from conservation biology, the monitoring of a ‘species’ of conflict (low intensity herder-farmer conflict), allows one to assess how well society is bearing political, economic, environmental and cultural stress. Normally considered too difficult to track in their own right for use as data in early warning systems, monitoring patterns in herder-farmer relations allows the observer to tap into otherwise inaccessible structural data that can be useful in anticipating the onset of wider-scale conflict.
Van Walraven and van der Vlugt‘Conflict Prevention’; David Carment and Karen Garner, ‘Conflict Prevention and Early Warning: Problems, Pitfalls and Avenues for Success’Canadian Foreign Policy6/2: 103-118 (1998); Alexander Austin ‘Early Warning and the Field: A Cargo Cult Science?’ in Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation (Berlin: Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management 2011). http://www.berghof-handbook.net/documents/publications/austin_handbook.pdf accessed 23 October 2011.
Abdou Sylla‘De la Grève à la Réforme : Luttes Enseignantes et Crises Sociales au Sénégal’Politique Africaine8: 61-73 (1982); Babacar Buuba Diop ‘Les Indicateurs de Conflits Violents dans les Universités – L’exemple de l’Université de Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD)’ Paper presented at the Workshop Conflits Violents en Afrique: À la Recherche d’Outils d’Alerte et de Prévention. Atelier II: Gorée Institute Gorée Island Senegal 12-13 January 2006; William Warters ‘Researching Campus Conflict Management Culture(s): A Role for Ombuds?’ Conflict Management in Higher Education Report 3/1: October 2002.
Rachel Murray‘Preventing Conflicts in Africa: The Need for a Wider Perspective’Journal of African Law45/1: 13-24 (2001); Joanne Thorburn and Rob Zaagman (eds.) The Role of the High Commissioner on National Minorities in OSCE Conflict Prevention. An Introduction. The Hague: Foundation for Inter-Ethnic Relations (1997).
Eric Brahm‘Conflict Stages’Beyond Intractability. Ed Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. September 2003 Conflict Research Consortium University of Colorado Boulder Boulder Colorado USA. http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/conflict_stages accessed 28 October 2011.
Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler‘Greed and Grievance in Civil War’, Policy Research Working Paper 2355, World Bank, Washington, D.C. 2001; Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, ‘On the Incidence of Civil War in Africa’Journal of Conflict Resolution46/1: 13-28 (2002). See also Paul Collier Anke Hoeffler and Nicholas Sambanis ‘The Collier-Hoeffler Model of Civil War Onset and the Case Study Project Research Design’ In Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis (eds.) Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis Volume 1: Africa. (Washington DC: World Bank 2005).
G. Oba‘Ecological Factors in Land Use Conflicts, Land Administration and Food Insecurity in Turkana, Kenya’, Pastoral Development Network Paper No 33a, 1992, cited in Karim Hussein, James Sumberg and David Seddon, ‘Increasing Violent Conflict between Herders and Farmers in Africa: Claims and Evidence’Development Policy Review. 17: 397-418 (1999) p. 404.
Phillipe Bernardet‘Élevage et Agriculture dans les Savanes du Nord: Les Mécanismes Sociaux d’un Conflit’Politique Africaine24:29-40 (1986); Thomas J. Bassett ‘The Political Ecology of Peasant-Herder Conflicts in the Northern Ivory Coast’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 78/3: 453-472 (1988).
Makhtar DioufSénégal: Les Ethnies et la Nation. (Dakar: les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1998); Sheldon Gellar, Democracy in Senegal: Tocquevillian Analytics in Africa. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan2005).