Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Berkeley

Rethinking the Resource Curse: Natural Resources and Polywar in the Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Author(s): Fahey, Dan;
  • Advisor(s): Peluso, Nancy L;
  • et al.


Rethinking the Resource Curse:

Natural Resources and Polywar in the Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo


Dan Fahey

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, Policy and Management

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Nancy Peluso, Chair

This dissertation examines the people, events and processes that contributed to the onset and duration of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a focus on armed conflict in northeast Congo's Ituri district. Building upon theories about the typology of war and critically engaging literature that depicts Congo's wars as civil wars, I argue that war in Congo was a polywar of numerous internal and international conflicts taking place in the same geographic area. The concept of polywar helps to make sense of how several disparate armed conflicts coalesced in 1996 to produce a regional war that absorbed pre-existing conflicts and spawned new wars. One such new war started in June 1999, when a relatively minor dispute in Ituri escalated into a major war that killed 60,000 people before it ended in November 2007.

Two natural resources - gold and land - figured prominently in war in Ituri, although in ways anomalous to conceptions of the resource curse equating resource abundance with increased risk of civil war. I argue that Ugandan interests in Ituri's gold were more important than internal Congolese interests in explaining the onset of the second Congo war in 1998, while land disputes were tangential to the local struggles for political and economic power that produced the brutal inter-communal "war within the war" in 1999 in Ituri. This dissertation provides new insights into how local, regional, and international interests in natural resources can contribute to the onset and duration of war.

This dissertation demonstrates how historical patterns of governance over people, territory, and mineral resources intersected with more recent struggles for political and economic power to produce war. The interaction of space, natural resources, and power helped to launch and to sustain war in Congo and in Ituri, but these links also provide insights into ways to transform conflict to produce peace and security for the Iturian and Congolese people.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View