in: Comparative Political Studies, Online First
The presence of natural resources makes civil conflicts more likely to erupt, last longer, and more difficult to end. Yet rebels do not always exploit resources wherever they are present. Why? Felix Haass argues that rebels extract more resources when they compete with governments over territorial authority. Territorial competition facilitates black market access, generates financial pressure, and produces governance incentives for rebels to extract natural resources.
The author tests this proposition in a two-tiered research design. First, he shows globally that moderate territorial control predicts more resource extraction by rebels. Subsequently, he focuses on the example of ivory poaching which offers a rare glimpse into the usually hidden resource extraction process. Spatially disaggregated conflict event data are matched to subnational poaching data in conflict-affected African countries. Results show that rebels seeking territorial control substantially increase poaching rates. These findings highlight the strategic conditions under which territorial competition shapes rebel criminal behavior.