Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2010

Oil and the Eruption of the Algerian Civil War: A Context-sensitive Analysis of the Ambivalent Impact of Resource Abundance

Miriam Shabafrouz

January 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Algeria’s intrastate war in the 1990s, during which militant Islamists and the state fought fiercely against each other, still raises questions concerning the decisive factors leading to its onset and escalation. This paper uses the resource curse approach and the rentier state theory to understand the impact resource wealth could have had on the outbreak of this violent conflict, then goes one step further, adopting a context‐sensitive approach. This approach attempts to juxtapose those conditions directly linked to the resource sector with the general conflict‐fueling conditions diagnosed in Algeria. It takes into account conditions both within the country and in the international context. The application of a context matrix allows us to examine the interplay of resource‐related factors and other conflictdriving forces, such as socioeconomic, demographic and ideological changes. Such an approach not only broadens the general understanding of the resource‐violence link but also enhances our understanding of the eruption of violence in Algeria.