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Literature review Under which circumstances foreign aid induce war Paper

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Paper type: Review , Subject: Literature

Literature review : Under which circumstances foreign aid induce war in Africa

Van Der Denen (2019) defined war as a “species in the genus of violence; more specifically it is collective, direct, manifest, personal, intentional, organized, institutionalized, instrumental, sanctioned, and sometimes ritualized and regulated, violence”. Multitude factors cause war, scholars such as Cederman, Wimmer, Min (2000:95) defended that ethnic diversity especially if a minority/ majority groups is excluded as an element, Elbadawi and Sambanis (2000), argued that high levels of poverty, failed political institutions, and economic dependence on natural resources promote conflict in Africa. Recently some literatures refer foreign aids as another variable that cause conflict in Africa, a variable which I classify as an intervening variable.

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Agarwal (2018) defined foreign aid as “the voluntary transfer of resources from one country to another country. This transfer includes any flow of capital to developing countries.” The discourse on the effect of foreign aids on war is a highly debate topic. For instance, Uvin (1996:3) affirmed that foreign aid was one the source of triggering genocide in Rwanda, he even implied that Kenya, Liberia, Togo, Burundi, Somalia to Zaire, were countries experiencing intercommunal violence and all where large recipient of foreign aids. He maintained that “development aid helps to lay the groundwork for further inequality and mal-development, as well as structural, and, eventually, acute, violence.” (P34) Meaning that Uvin strongly believed in foreign aids fostering conflict.

Dambisa Moyo (2009:49-50) in her book Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa argued that “foreign aids formants conflicts. Not only would it appear that aid undermines economic growth, keeping countries in states of poverty, but it is also, in itself, an underlying cause of social unrest, and possibly even civil war.” Easterly (2001:274) also argued that foreign assistance given to an ethnic polarized country might benefit a particular ethnic groups and worsen conflict. Gurr and Moore (1081:1997) base on their sequential theoretical model of ethnic conflict demonstrated that repression and grievances lead to ethnic mobilization, which in turn leads to conflict. We can conclude that ethnic heterogeneity in a given country associated with grievances are inversely associated the negative impact of foreign aid which is fostering conflict. Easterly (2001) also pointed out institution quality as an aggravated factor which interlinked to foreign aid causing conflict.

Young and Sheehan (2014:19) studied the impact of foreign aid on institutional quality on 116 countries and at the results, they found out that aid inflow contributes to corrosion of both political and economic institutions. While institutional quality is paramount on managing effectively foreign aid, the weaknesses of the African states is thus another factor that causes the negative impact of foreign aids. Desch (1996:242) argued that weak governments have little effective control of the economy, a low level of political institutionalization, and chronic political instability. Rotberg (2003:4) described weak governments as a states where the level of corruption is embarrassingly high and escalating. Monika Bauhr, Nicholas Charron and Naghmeh Nasiritousi (2013) posited that corruption causes aid fatigue their study examined public perception around the issues as result the public reaction depends on the belief how foreign aids can be ineffective or effective in the presence of corruption.

In many African countries corruption remains one the issue that slows down their economic betterment. According to Svensson (1998:455) foreign aid downfall is associated to countries with high level of corruption, countries involved will likely to be confronted to a social tension. Shleifer and Vishny (1993) argued that corruption creates a discriminatory competitive environment where the one who offer the higher arrangement get the goods. This illustrated the finding of Maria Martini (2012:2) who pointed out how endemic corruption foster inequalities, driven grievances and lead to war in Sudan, while (David keen 2012; Stewart 2011) sustained that is a condition where grievances become pervasive and fuel atrocities in conflict. Meaning that foreign aids allocate to governments embedded with corruption put leaders at a predatory state against their population and dramatically worsen the situation of a country striving with war.

During a period of conflict, multitudes international actors because of the responsibility to protect send to aids in a form of foods, medical assistance, communication tools to ease the victim’s agonies. Unfortunately, foreign aid may become the source of more attack. Wood and Christopher (2015:739) hypothesized that rebel attacks on civilians are recurrent when the area receive a larger humanitarian aid. Their quantitative analysis showed a significant relationship between humanitarian aid and rebels violence. Lischer (2003:83) participated in the same interplay by arguing that militants use relief resources to finance their conflict. This worth noting as according to the rebel finance theory opportunistic groups rebel often need supplies in order to hold on the war therefore aid looting become a strategic tactic to augment their capabilities.

Savun and Daniel (2012) have explored the interaction between positive aids shock. The study used Official Development Assistance (ODA) data covering 1990 through 2004. Results indicated that Foreign aids can prevent conflict. Collier and Hoeffler (2002:439) argued that aid can potentially prevent civil war by stimulating economic growth, by reducing government dependence on primary commodity exports. However, Nielsen, Findley, Davis, Candland (2011) correctly argued that a negative aids shock in aid revenues lead potential rebels to challenge the government especially if the government buy off rebels to seek peace.

In their study, they examined the data of bilateral and multilateral foreign aid from 1981 to 2005 to determine if there was a link between levels of aid and military conflict, they found out that “In contrast to studies finding only an indirect connection between levels of foreign aid and armed conflict (Collier and Hoeffler 2002), we find a direct connection between changes in aid and conflict.”. This is an important point because it implies a severe aids decrease conflate with the fact that donors withdraw their aids due to a lack of commitment of the beneficiaries, or a mismanagement of aid by the beneficiaries which directly impact negatively on the economy, and may shift the balance of power at the hand of the rebel and cause conflict.


Andrew T. Young, A. Y., & Kathleen M. Sheehan, K. S. (2014b). Foreign Aid, Institutional Quality, and Growth. Retrieved from

Desch, M. (1996). War and Strong States, Peace and Weak States? International Organization, 50(2), 237-268. Retrieved from

Easterly, W. (2001). The elusive quest for growth: Economists’ adventures and misadventures in the tropics. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, P274.Retrieved from

Gurr, T., & Moore, W. (1997). Ethnopolitical Rebellion: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the 1980s with Risk Assessments for the 1990s. American Journal of Political Science, 41(4), 1079-1103. doi:10.2307/2960482

Keen, David (2012) “Greed and Grievance in Civil Wars”, International Affairs, 88 (4), 757- 777.

Nielsen, R., Findley, M., Davis, Z., Candland, T., & Nielson, D. (2011). Foreign Aid Shocks as a Cause of Violent Armed Conflict. American Journal of Political Science, 55(2), 219-232. Retrieved from

Lischer, S. (2003). Collateral Damage: Humanitarian Assistance as a Cause of Conflict. International Security, 28(1), 79-109. Retrieved from

Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler (2002) AID, Policy and Peace: Reducing the risks of civil conflict, Defence and Peace Economics, 13:6, 435-450, DOI: 10.1080/10242690214335

Prateek Agarwal, P. A. (2018, August 31). Sucuri WebSite Firewall – Access Denied. Retrieved March 30, 2019, from

ROTBERG, ROBERT. (2003). Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes and Indicators. State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror.

Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. (1993). Corruption. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(3), 599-617. Retrieved from

Stewart, F.T. (2010). Horizontal inequalities as a cause of conflict: a review of CRISE findings.

Uvin, P. (1996). ‘Development, Aid And Conflict: Reflections From The Case Of Rwanda’. Research for Action 1996/024. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER.

van der, J.M.G. & van der Dennen, Johan. (2019). On war: Concepts, Definitions, Research Data: A short literature review and bibliography.

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