In order to explain the emergence of ethnic violence, scholars from different disciplines have focused on different factors, such as the role of ethnicity, the individual gain from civil war, the relative deprivation explanations, and the role of ethnic elites, and proposed different conflict narratives. Although these approaches focus on different aspects and use different explanatory variables to explain the emergence of violent group mobilization, they are complementary and overlapping in many important ways. In order to explain the descent of Côte d'Ivoire into violence at the end of the 1990s, this paper focuses on the relationship between inter-ethnic or horizontal inequalities and the emergence of violent group mobilization. The central focus of the proposed analytical framework is on the interaction between the evolution of the political horizontal inequalities at the elite level and socio-economic horizontal inequalities at the mass level. The evidence presented regarding the Ivorian case demonstrates that the simultaneous presence of severe political horizontal inequalities at the elite level and socio-economic horizontal inequalities at the mass level forms an extremely explosive socio-political situation because in these situations the excluded political elites not only have strong incentives to mobilize their supporters for violent conflict along ethnic lines, but are also likely to gain support among their ethnic constituencies quite easily.
CRISE Working Paper 13, 37 pp.