7 September 2011

Legislation creates conflict on the Horn of Africa


Drought and hunger are not the only things raging on the Horn of Africa. The countries are also torn by conflicts, weak governments, poverty and corruption. Although Kenya has a strong position in the region, the stability in the country remains threatened. A major grant from the Consultative Research Committee (FFU) is now giving researchers from the University of Copenhagen the opportunity to examine the connection between Kenya's handling of natural resources and the stability in the country.

With a relatively stable government, a new constitution and legislation to regulate the country's natural resources, Kenya is one of the East African countries which have handled the challenges on the Horn of Africa best, yet there is still fighting going on in the country:

"Back in 2005 the government adopted a new decentralised Forest Act in Kenya. The purpose of the act was to involve local people who depend on the forest and its yield e.g. to build houses and give them more rights, influence and responsibility. The problem with the act is that it destroys the regulations which the locals have lived by for many years and continue to live by. In this way, the state regulation contributes to further destabilisation," says Professor Vibeke Vindeløv from the Centre for Public Regulation and Administration at the Faculty of Law, who heads the research project Stabilizing Kenya by Solving Forest Related Conflicts.

Acts for peace

East Africa's largest contiguous forest area, Mau ForestWith the grant of 8.5 million DKK from the Consultative Research Committee (FFU) and together with researchers from LIFE – the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen - Professor Vibeke Vindeløv will examine how to create a connection between law and conflict resolution in Kenya. The researchers will visit East Africa's largest contiguous forest area, Mau Forest, which is affected by violent fights over access to natural resources.


Vibeke Vindeløv"In the long term we hope that our work with Mau Forest will find an answer to how governments better can pass acts, which can promote peace and stability and correspondingly, how the local community can increase the understanding of the need for global regulation. We believe that there is a need for legislators as well as locals to see the necessity of the other party and thus we hope to contribute to greater capabilities both in terms of governance and conflict resolution," says Vibeke Vindeløv.

Interdisciplinary international cooperation

The research project Stabilizing Kenya by Solving Forest Related Conflicts is associated with the interdisciplinary theme Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen. The project runs for four years and starts on 1 January 2012. The main areas of the project are governance and conflict resolution, and besides the researchers from the University of Copenhagen international colleagues from the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi and practitioners in Nairobi participate.