Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2010

Inclusive Institutions and the Onset of Internal Conflict in Resource-rich Countries

Tim Wegenast

March 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


The literature on institutional determinants of intra‐state violence commonly asserts that the presence of multiple political parties reduces the conflict potential within countries; by co‐opting oppositional groups into an institutionalized political arena, dissidents would prefer parliamentarian means over violent rebellion in order to pursue their goals. The present paper shows that this proposition does not necessarily hold for fuel‐abundant states. In the presence of natural resources such as oil or gas, countries exhibiting numerous non‐competitive parties are actually more susceptible to internal conflict. Fortified by the establishment of legal political parties, regime opponents succumb more easily to the prospects of securing resource revenues, adopting rapacious behaviour. Fuel‐related internal grievances as well as the opposition’s disaffection over the lack of effective political leverage and government use of political violence provide a seemingly legitimate motive for armed rebellion. Moreover, financial means for insurgency are raised by extortion or the possibility of selling future exploitation rights to natural resources. Logit models using different estimation techniques and alternative operationalizations corroborate the proposed claim. The argumentation is further illustrated by a depiction of the Colombian case.