The Transnational Conflict in Africa Dataset

Most armed conflicts in Africa have a significant transnational element. This key research finding inverts the standard trope that the vast majority of African conflicts are internal and not inter-state. Country specialists focusing on individual conflicts have made this observation for years: what is new is that the Transnational Conflict in Africa (TCA) dataset shows for the first time that this is a general phenomenon. This allows for a comparative analysis of the extent, patterns and drivers of transnational conflict, which allows us to move beyond imprecise metaphors such as conflict ‘spillover’, into a more systematic representation of the phenomenon, that puts transnational political rivalries at the centre of the story of conflict in the continent.

Below, you can find an introduction to the TCA, Tables and Figures, and several publications that introduce the major findings of the Transnational  Conflict in Africa Dataset:

  • Occasional paper: ‘Introducing Transnational Conflict in Africa dataset by Allard Duursma, Noel Twagiramungu, Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe and Alex de Waal (World Peace Foundation and the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics, August 2019). This paper focuses on the methods utilized in the TCA dataset.
  • Policy Memo: ‘Implications of the TCA (World Peace Foundation and the Conflict Research Programme, August 2019). The memo provides a condensed overview of policy implications of the research.
  • Academic journal article: ‘Re-describing transnational conflict in Africa by Noel Twagiramungu, Allard Duursma, Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe and Alex de Waal (Journal of Modern African Studies, 2019, 57.3). This article reflects on the implications of the TCA for both research and practice.
  • Transnational Conflict in Africa Dataset (download the Excel file: Transnational Conflict in Africa data). Please cite related studies when using this data:  Twagiramungu, N., Duursma, A., Berhe, M. G., & De Waal, A. (2019). Re-describing transnational conflict in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 57(3). Duursma, A., Twagiramungu, N.,  Berhe, M. G., & De Waal, A. 2019. ’Introducing the Transnational Conflict in Africa Dataset.’ Occasional Paper no. 20. World Peace Foundation, available at

This research was conducted as part of the World Peace Foundation project on African peace missions, funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as part of the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics, funded by the UK Department for International Development. Their support is gratefully acknowledged.

Introduction | Tables | Figures 

The transnational conflict in Africa (TCA) dataset can be used to study the neglected transnational dimensions of armed conflicts in Africa. The TCA dataset is built by combining, augmenting, and revising several existing datasets, each of which captures some elements of transnational conflict. We broadly define transnational conflict as armed conflict that extend or operate across national boundaries including interstate wars, external state support in interstate wars, low-intensity confrontations between states, external interventions in civil wars, and external support to rebels or coup-makers (Bremer, 1992; Salehyan, 2010; see: Tamm, 2016; Toft and Duursma, 2018).

The emergence of conflict data is tied to the behavioural revolution in the social sciences. In the late 1950s, several scholars began to study armed conflict through using formally stated arguments and systematic empirical analysis (Gleditsch et al., 2014; Clayton, 2014). Building on the pioneering work of Lewis Fry Richardson, who had gathered conflict data on what he described as ‘deathly quarrels’ from the 1930s and published a seminal study on these data in 1948 (Richardson, 1948), David Singer established the Correlates of War (COW) project at the University of Michigan in 1963 (Small and Singer, 1982). The rationale for the start of the COW project was to uncover the causes of large-scale armed fighting between states, though COW project later also began looking at civil wars.

The COW data has helped generate many important insights, yet the COW data on interstate wars in Africa seriously underrepresents the level of transnational conflict in Africa. For instance, based on COW data, Lemke concluded that Africa was distinct from other continents in that it had disproportionately many fewer interstate wars (Lemke, 2003: 119). While it is true that the number of interstate armed conflicts in Africa is relatively low in comparison to other regions of the world, Africa has seen very high levels of external support in ‘civil wars’, as well as many low-intensity violent confrontations between states.

Several datasets exist that capture some elements of interstate and transnational violent conflict in Africa. The Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) dataset compiled by the Correlates of War (COW) project focuses on low-intensity military confrontations between states (Jones et al., 1996). The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) External support dataset focuses on external support to conflict parties in the form of troops, funding, logistics, military equipment, intelligence, and safe havens (Pettersson, 2011). These datasets have been used to generate important findings with regard to the role of MIDs (Senese and Vasquez, 2008; Mitchell and Prins, 1999) and external support (Salehyan et al., 2011; Sawyer et al., 2015) respectively. Yet, missing was a comprehensive dataset that captures a wide array of transnational conflict.

The TCA fills this gap. It not only integrates existing data on armed conflict in Africa; through a process of research based on secondary sources and expert interviews, the TCA also includes new data for cases that fall beyond the temporal scope of existing datasets or cases that are overlooked in the existing datasets. 


Table 1: Definition of Cases of Transnational Conflict





















Table 2: An Overview of Unidentified Cases of Interstate and Transnational Armed Politics







Figure 1: The Distribution of Transnational Conflict in Africa













Figure 2: Temporal Trend of Transnational Conflict in Africa












Figure 3: Internationalized-Internal Dyads, UCDP Coding











Figure 4: International-Internal and Internal Dyads, TCA Coding

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