Department of Computational Social Science Seminar Abstract

Friday, February 8 - 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
Research Hall, 3rd Floor

The Geography of Conflict Diamonds: The Case of Sierra Leone

Bianica Pint
CSS PhD Student
George Mason University

ABSTRACT: In the early 1990s, Sierra Leone, a small country on the western coast of Africa, entered into nearly 10 years of civil war. Sparked by an abusive government and fueled by the illicit diamond market, the decade-long war killed an estimated 50,000 and displaced another two million people (Shah, 2001). It has been argued that the spatial dispersion of a resource is a major defining feature of a war, impacting the type of rebellion, the length of the war, and even the type of violence (Le Billon, 2008). An agent-based model is developed and provides an initial attempt at simulating the impact of the unique environmental and socio-economic attributes of a region on the onset, intensity, and location of conflict. Utilizing GIS and socioeconomic data, Sierra Leone’s landscape is re-created, while human behavior is driven by Lujala et al’s (2005) theory of the determinants of war. The spatial dynamics of rebellion are observed in the model as diamond excavation sites are made more secure and moved near city centers. It is found that unexpected consequences can come from minimally increasing controls over the diamond market when the sites are in rural regions, potentially displacing conflict rather than removing it. On the other hand, minimal controls may be sufficient to prevent conflict when resources are in the city.