Oil, politics, and climate in the Tuareg insurgencies

There have been some new developments in the Tuareg insurgencies in Mali and Niger. First, China and Niger have come to an oil deal that will give the Nigerien government five billion dollars. Secondly and possibly related, the MNJ in Niger has (finally) split. Also, the relationship between climate change and conflict has been getting some attention regarding the Tuareg rebellion. This post will look at the oil deal - I will write later on the MNJ split and the relationship between environmental change and conflict.

First, the oil deal. From Reuters:
China's state oil company has won a $5 billion deal to develop oil reserves in eastern Niger in the latest major Chinese investment to secure energy resources in Africa...
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) agreed to bring into production within three years the large Agadem block, which has proven reserves so far of 324 million barrels, Niger's government said.
Five billion dollars over ten or so years. For comparison, Niger's GDP is between nine billion and four billion dollars depending on how you calculate it. Also from the Reuters article:
Niger's eastern Diffa region has been relatively unaffected by a year-old revolt by Tuareg-led rebels who mostly operate in the country's northern desert region of Agadez.
Well, not quite. The MNJ has allied with a Toubou (the nomadic people that live in eastern Niger) rebel group, the FARS. Back in April, they led an attack against Nigerien soldiers around Diffa (possibly with an MNJ official, Kindo Zada, who had experience in Diffa as a Nigerien soldier). Previous to this oil deal, there wasn't really any economic motive for the Toubou to fight - they occasionally kidnapped tourists or soldiers for cash, but didn't really have any solid political objectives other than to be left alone by the central government. Now there is five billion dollars worth of oil under Toubou land.

Another consequence of an oil industry may be the further deterioration of the agriculture sector, as workers leave subsistence agriculture and pastoralism to compete for oil jobs. This has happened in other African countries (Gabon, Angola, Congo, etc.), well documented and explained by Nicholas Shaxson in his book Poisoned Wells which I'm in the middle of right now. The deterioration of agriculture could lead to further famines and unemployment (it's hard to start up a herd again once you've sold it off), conditions which have fostered the violence in Tuareg areas.

This post will be continued (when I have time) to look at the possible relationship between the Chinese oil deal and the MNJ split, as well as looking at Adam Wolfe's post on climate change and conflict in the Sahel.

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