Gold and Conflict: Evidence from South Sudan
Do natural resources cause violent conflicts or do they help to appease them? The present project studies the link between artisanal gold mining and inter-tribal violence. Our evidence comes from Eastern South Sudan where tribes are engaged in constant low-level warfare, which includes systematic and deadly raids. Recent discoveries of alluvial gold deposits have meant that some areas, but not others, have witnessed a `gold rush' to exploit these deposits. Using geological and survey evidence, we test whether gold resources are associated with participation in violence. Based on qualitative interviews, we hypothesize that gold resources reduce individual participation in violence. We theorize that this reduction is due to three mechanisms. First, artisanal mining provides cash incomes, which lowers the monetary incentive to raid. Second, artisanal mining spurs inter-tribal trade and contact, thereby lowering ethnic animosities. Third, artisanal mining is associated with an increase in religiosity, which fosters preferences for reconciliation.