Political crisis at times of drought: the case of the 2016 humanitarian response in Zimbabwe
Isabelle Desportes (EUR University Rotterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This article uncovers the impact of humanitarian emergencies on the political order and legitimacy within authoritarian low-intensity conflict settings. It details the case of 2016 Zimbabwe, during which a drought coincided with a wave of protests and state repression.
Paper long abstract:
This article aims to further uncover the impact of humanitarian emergencies triggered by extreme climatic events, which are increasingly common, on the political order and legitimacy within authoritarian low-intensity conflict settings. It details the case of 2016 Zimbabwe, during which an intense drought triggered by the El Nino climatic phenomenon coincided with a wave of protests and state repression, ultimately leading to the 2017 coup and President Mugabe's removal from power. During four months of qualitative fieldwork in 2018-2019 conducted in Harare, Bulawayo and one drought-affected peri-urban community of Bulawayo, members of civil society groups ranging from community committees to church groups and Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international NGOs as well as international humanitarian organizations were approached. The findings detail how the information gathering, negotiation and aid distribution practices surrounding the drought response tested actor alliances differently at both national and community level, and how these levels are interlinked. In a context where conflict fault lines are multiple and deeply rooted, where droughts are recurrent, and where the politicization of food aid is an open secret within humanitarian and civil society circles also, a question remains: of the hydro-meteorological and the political crisis, which one is the disruptive event?
Emergenc(i)es: Disruptive events and their consequences in African politics