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of these conflicts was the replacement of the communist Derg regime by a democratic and
federalist political system between 1991 and 1994. Firstly, activities by the new government to
commercialize agriculture in Southern Oromiya increased resource scarcity and access problems
for pastoralists. Secondly, efforts by the state to increase its presence in peripheral lowlands led to
a weakening of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. And finally, the attempt to fix the
boundaries between the territories of various ethnic groups (“ethnic federalism”) caused
increasing territorial conflicts between pastoral groups, particularly around key water points and
grazing areas (Hagmann/Mulugeta 2008; Temesgen 2010).
4.6 Conclusion
This study took as a starting point three suggestions repeatedly articulated in the recent literature
on environmental change, conflict and violence: focus on the transition from conflict to violence,
take context factors seriously, and consider methodological middle grounds between quantitative
large-N and qualitative case studies. Given the contradictory results previous quantitative and
qualitative studies report on the link between resource scarcity and violence, it asked why some
conflicts over scarce, renewable resource escalate into violence, while others do not. By
conducting a QCA of twenty such conflicts, seven of which turned violent, it was found that the
simultaneous presence of negative othering, the absence of large power differences and recent
political change represents a sufficient condition for the violent escalation of conflicts over scarce
renewable resources. Theoretically, one might conclude that negative othering and low power
differences are important pre-conditions for such violent escalations, but that a precipitating
event, namely political change, is necessary to trigger them. Speaking to the literature on socioenvironmental conflicts and more recently on climate change and conflict, this implies that the
scarcity of renewable resources causes violent intergroup conflicts, but only under specific
circumstances.
Methodologically, I agree with other recent publications that QCA is a well-suited method for the
growing research on socio-environmental conflicts (Basedau/Richter 2014; Bretthauer 2014). The
results of a QCA are much more generalizable than the ones of single-case studies if cases are
chosen in an appropriate manner and robustness tests are conducted. But QCA’s are also based
on in-depth knowledge of the cases under investigation and can account for complex causal
relations, which is usually difficult for quantitative large-N studies (but see Braumoeller/Goertz
2003). The number of interaction terms which can be used in a regression analysis is limited (Vis
2012), and such studies rely on datasets that have recently been criticized for their inability to
capture local realities adequately (Benjaminsen/Ba 2009; Selby/Hoffmann 2014; Simons/Zanker
2012). For instance, large-N analyses often use datasets on ethnic power relations as proxies for
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