IPIS Briefing January 2020 – Focus on GIS4Peace

The IPIS briefing offers a selection of articles, news and updates on natural resources, armed conflict, Business & Human Rights and arms trade.  Every month, an editorial and related publications shed a light on a specific topic in IPIS’ areas of research.

In focus: GIS4Peace, from desk research to field implementation.

In the news: Congolese army implicated in natural resources trade; Qatar furthers its influence in Africa; Angolan corruption scandal.

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This briefing is produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of IPIS and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.



Maps have been used for centuries to conduct war efforts, but since a few decades the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have changed our approach to conflict analysis and peacebuilding initiatives.

Everything started with simple needs. When humanitarian actors needed to know how to reach people affected by conflict or natural disaster, they turned to whatever map was available: from colonial roadmaps to military maps or even maps scribbled on a piece of paper by local partners. When they needed to know how many people were affected, international NGOs started to use digital mapping tools and strengthened their information management systems in order to improve their needs assessment and logistical capacities.

In the field of conflict analysis and peacebuilding, the production of geo-referenced datasets and the emerging use of data visualization tools have remodelled field practices and our theoretical understanding of peace, power relations and political economy of conflicts. By collecting first-hand information in remote and conflict-affected areas, the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) developed a new approach to conflict mapping as a tool for conflict analysis and the promotion of peace.

From mapping natural resources…

About a decade ago, IPIS initiated a program of conflict mapping through a series of static and interactive maps about Central Africa in order to identify key parties and what drives them.

As an independent research center, IPIS contributed to the discussion on conflict minerals through the use of mobile data collection tools and extensive field research. For example, in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), IPIS visited more than 2700 artisanal mining sites and produced an interactive webmap to visualize the link between natural resources and armed conflict in Eastern DRC. By toggling on and off a few layers one can easily visualize how many of those sites were subjected to armed interference during their latest visit by our teams (the answer is 884).

By providing information and regular updates on socio-economic indicators of the artisanal mining sector, IPIS strives to contribute to more transparency and a better governance of resource rich countries such as DRC, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and more recently the Central African Republic (CAR).

To a better understanding of conflict drivers…

Using a similar methodology, IPIS has also mapped 866 roadblocks operated by both regular forces and armed groups in North and South Kivu (DRC). These roadblocks are often used for the illegal taxation of trade and people. By visualizing the distribution of roadblocks along the major roads as well as the area of control of the main actors and key incidents (for example in Central Kasaï in 2017), IPIS static and interactive maps contributed to a better understanding of complex conflict situations.

IPIS maps are an integrated part of the research methodology and are used as a crucial source for analysis by IPIS researchers and its partners.”

In CAR, IPIS combined the outcome of various research projects – the political economy of roadblocks, the spatial distribution of conflict events and areas of influence, as well as predation of armed groups on pastoralism and natural resourcesinto various maps. These maps are not only used to illustrate findings but also serve as a primary source on which the analysis is based. As such, IPIS’ GIS capacities are at the core of its practices and methodology as a research center.

to support local peacebuilding initiatives

In recent projects, IPIS has implemented participative mapping and crowdsourcing tools to support local and practical peace initiatives.

In CAR, IPIS designed a database built from hundreds of face-to-face interviews and dozens of focus groups of pastoralists and villagers in order to better understand transhumance dynamics and related conflicts. This field knowledge was converted into maps visualising former and recent pastoralist routes. The maps clearly demonstrated that in recent months herders started to avoid traditional paths of transhumance well known by local armed militias in order to evade taxation and violence. This led to an increase in local conflicts between villagers and farmers. When mapping the new roads of transhumance, IPIS highlighted that local markets are important nodes where herders sell their cows and buy farmed products. Quantitative data demonstrated the importance of exchanges of good between the two groups for their survival and that mediation and conflict resolution should target women from both sides (who have an history of trading at local markets) and butchers. The latter play a key role in remote villages and often speak multiple languages, in particular those spoken by the herders.

In DRC, IPIS worked specifically on national parks and protected areas. In order to study the impact of artisanal mining and deforestation, IPIS used satellite imageries and the eyes of dozens of Belgian volunteers. Through a series of mapathonsshort and coordinated mapping events during which a group of volunteers attempt to improve maps – IPIS contributed to the OpenStreetMap project by geolocating buildings, artisanal mining sites and deforestation areas within the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Ituri Forest.

In another project, IPIS developed an SMS-based incident reporting mechanism that allowed Congolese civil society organizations (CSO) to report and monitor incidents in Eastern DRC in a transparent, independent and participatory way. The system allows anyone to report incidents as described in Annex II of the OECD Guidance on Responsible Minerals Sourcing, such as mining related accidents, violence, child labor, environmental degradation, corruption, roadblocks, etc., in a free and anonymous way by sending an SMS to a Congolese phone number which automatically triggers a responsive questionnaire. The incidents are then organized in a geo-localized database accessible online by selected CSOs for review and follow-up with competent authorities.

In the future, IPIS will continue to support local ownership and sustainable initiatives in the field of conflict analysis and peacebuilding. This translates concretely in the use of Open Source technologies and the release, whenever possible, of key datasets on our Open Data page. As a key tool for the comprehension of complex conflict situations, static maps, interactive webmaps and participative GIS will continue to play a central role in IPIS research methodology which stands at the edge of academic and practitioner publications.

Alexandre Jaillon

IPIS Researcher and GIS manager


Satellite images help create land use maps in villages | 15 November 2019 | ScidevNet

Using high-resolution satellite images to create land use plans could lead to economic development without depletion of natural resources in rural Tanzania, researchers say.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources to use GIS-based mapping to settle land disputes in Marawi | 8 July 2018 | BusinessWorld Online

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be using the geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping and information system to settle land disputes amid the government’s efforts to rebuild war-torn Marawi City.

Peace technology: A promising tool for preventing wars at reduced price | 23 March 2018 | Thomson Reuters Foundation

From apps to help citizens avoid missiles and land mines to rumor tracking mobile-based services using SMS, peace technology is one promising tool to prevent conflict

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in International Relations | 2016 | International Organization (Journal)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are being applied with increasing frequency, and with increasing sophistication, in international relations and in political science more generally. Their benefits have been impressive: analyses that simply would not have been possible without GIS are now being completed, and the spatial component of international politics—long considered central but rarely incorporated analytically—has been given new emphasis.

PRIO-GRID 2.0 Launches at | 9 November 2015 | Peace Research Institute Oslo

The latest version of the PRIO-GRID is now available at​ , featuring several new dimensions and types of data, making it one of the best standardized platforms for visualization and analysis of conflict data.

Students put GIS skills to use on social justice projects | 21 May 2015 | UW Today

Geography professor Sarah Elwood sits at the front of a University of Washington classroom on a recent afternoon, listening and making suggestions as students discuss the data challenges they’re having.

Use of GIS Tools for Environmental Conflict Resolution at Map Ta Phut Industrial Zone in Thailand | 2014 | Sustainability (Journal)

This paper highlights the need for GIS-based environmental quality monitoring for guiding industrialization-based urban development towards sustainability.

GIS as a Tool for Territorial Negotiations | 2000 | IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin (Journal)

This paper looks at how data relating to boundary functions might be collected, organised, analysed and displayed within a geographic informationsystem(GIS)aspartofterritorialnegotiations.



AI, Blockchain technology to rescue modern slaves | 24 January 2020 | DW

For years people have been knowingly or unknowingly consuming goods made by millions of forced workers worldwide. Now, technology is forcing them to reflect on their choices by exposing their complicity in slavery.

Charity Calls on UK to Prosecute British Companies that Violate Human Rights in Liberia | 23 January 2020 | Front Page Africa

The United Kingdom should create a law that will compel British companies to respect human rights and environmental sustainability in countries they operate or be made to account for not doing so, a recent report by the charity Traidcraft Exchange is urging the government of that country.

Luanda Leaks | The Guardian

How Angolan ruler’s daughter used her status to build $2bn empire | 19 January 2020 | The Guardian

How U.S. Firms Helped Africa’s Richest Woman Exploit Her Country’s Wealth | 19 January 2020 | The New York Times

How Africa’s Richest Woman Exploited Family Ties, Shell Companies And Inside Deals To Build An Empire | 19 January 2020 | ICIJ

The complex financial schemes that helped Africa’s richest woman amass a fortune at vast cost to the Angolan state can be revealed for the first time after a huge leak of confidential documents from her business empire.

The business case for understanding human rights and ESG benchmarks | 13 January 2020 | White & Case LLP

Some companies are skeptical about engaging with human rights and ESG benchmarking, because they question whether human rights and ESG disclosures and compliance have a direct economic effect on their bottom line. Some businesses and/or legal counsel are wary about the potential for litigation targeting their statements on human rights commitments. On the other hand, a lack of disclosure on human rights and ESG issues poses risks—as evidenced by the intense scrutiny, and in some cases litigation, that companies have faced around climate-related risks in the US, the UK and other countries.

The Mighty Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft in “the dock” – A Look At the Child Labour Lawsuit | 13 January 2020 | Opinio Juris

Apple, Google (through its parent company Alphabet, Inc), Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have been named as defendants in what could be a landmark case pertaining to the use of child labour in the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ugandan farmers take on French oil giant in game-changer case for multinationals | 10 January 2020 | WBFO

Dorothy Mbabazi used to live comfortably as a vegetable farmer in western Uganda. The single mother of seven had 9 acres of land in the Buliisa region — nestled between Lake Albert and Murchison Falls National Park — and could afford good food, basic necessities and her children’s school fees. Then Total SA came to town.

The Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration | 6 January 2020 | Linklaters LLP

On 12 December 2019, the launch of The Hague Rules on Business and Human Rights Arbitration (the “Hague Rules”) took place at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands. As described in an earlier post, The Hague Rules provide a set of rules for arbitration in relation to business and human rights (“BHR”) disputes. A copy of the Hague Rules, including a commentary per provision and various model arbitration clauses, is available online.


Gold miners face dangerous life in Nigeria’s ‘bandit’ country | 27 January 2020 | Mail & Guardian

From dawn, before the sun starts to sear the earth, Biltamnu Sani is already hard at work, pounding away at the dusty soil in his perilous quest for gold. The mineral-rich earth of Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria, has provided generations of families with the means to make ends meet.

Centrafrique : Les artisans miniers outillés sur les bonnes pratiques en matière de l’or en RCA | 26 January 2020 | Corbeau News

Le projet droit de propriété et Artisanat minier (DPAM) a apporté une assistance au gouvernement de la République centrafricaine dans le secteur minier artisanal. Du 15 au 16 janvier, le DPAM a organisé un atelier de présentation des travaux sur la cartographie de l’or et formation CRAFT comme outil de devoir de diligence pour le secteur de l’or artisanal.

Mining Companies Threaten Action Against Tanzania Over New Law | 16 January 2020 | Bloomberg

Indiana Resources Ltd. threatened legal action against Tanzania for alleged breach of contract after the East African nation amended its mining law.

Congo opens Chinese-owned Deziwa copper and cobalt mine | 15 January 2020 | Reuters

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company Gécamines on Wednesday opened the Deziwa copper and cobalt mine and processing plant, part of a joint venture majority-owned by China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company (CNMC).

New oil law in Somalia tests uneasy peace | 13 January 2020 | Energy Voice

Somalia is taking steps to attract foreign investment to its energy sector but challenges remain, most notably in how the federal government can integrate its policies with those of the state governments.

Le groupe d’experts de l’ONU rapporte une fois de plus l’implication de certains membres des FARDC dans l’exploitation illégale des ressources minières dans l’Est de la RDC | 6 January 2020 | Deskeco

Dans son rapport publié le 20 décembre 2019 et adressé à la Présidente du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, le Groupe d’experts sur la République démocratique du Congo est une fois de plus revenu sur l’exploitation illicite des ressources naturelles du pays.


Qatar ups meddling campaign in Africa | 26 January 2020 | Middle East Online

Qatar is investing in a military and defence alliance with Turkey to further its influence in Africa, where the Gulf nation continues to meddle in an effort to pressure its Arab rivals. The Qatari regime has moved from a policy of denying accusations of funding terrorism and insurgency movements in a number of African countries to a resumption of offensive penetration in an effort to restore influence.

A Hard Sell? Arms Export Licensing and International Responsibility for Unlawful Arms Transfers – Part I | 23 January 2020 | Opinio Juris

Domestic licensing procedures implementing the international legal obligation to ban weapons transfers that are likely to provide assistance to serious violations of international law have failed to do so. States continue to sell weapons where there is a voluminous record attesting to the buyer’s structural inability to comply with key international legal principles, to their past record of serious violations of international law and thus to the eventuality that the arms sold will be used for the perpetuation of serious violations. What does it take, then, to bring about the revocation of such arms licenses, or hold to account the licensing authority or company benefiting therefrom? Thousands of arms are sold every day, but regrettably only spectacular conflicts, such as the one in Yemen, have helped bring some of the human consequences of such well-oiled supply chains to light.

Extraterritorial Obligations of Arms Exporting Corporations: New Communication to the ICC | 14 January 2020 |Opinio Juris

On 11 December 2019, ECCHR together with a group of NGOs – Mwatana (Yemen), Rete Disarmo (Italy), Centre Delàs (Spain), the Campaign Against Arms Trade (UK) and Amnesty International Secretariat – submitted a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) urging for the opening of a preliminary examination into the conduct of several European companies supplying weapons to the Saudi/UAE-led coalition currently engaged in the armed conflict in Yemen. The communication alleges that fighter jets and other military equipment supplied by these companies were used in indiscriminate attacks against civilian objects since March 2015 which may have violated Articles 8(2)(c)(i), and 8(2)(e)(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The Wagner Group: a private military company that’s not exactly ‘private’ | 10 January 2020 | TRT World

The Wagner Group is Putin’s most potent weapon in advancing Russian policy objectives while maintaining plausible deniability. The so-called Libyan National Army, warlord Khalifa Haftar’s force in Libya, yesterday refused to honour a ceasefire proposed by Turkey and Russia. Haftar’s forces have been carrying out an offensive to capture Tripoli from the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in the capital.

Defence-related companies in Africa (interactive map) | 1 January 2020 | IPIS vzw

Africa’s domestic defence industry remains relatively unknown. Therefore, the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) and Omega Research Foundation have compiled a database of the main entities comprising this industry, including companies that manufacture, assemble or maintain: arms and ammunition; aeronautical components; vehicles; as well as importing and management companies. This data has been mapped to give an overview of the industry’s size and geographic layout.


UN rights chief says most DR Congo violations by state agents | 28 January 2020 | AFP | Daily Nation

DR Congo’s army and other agents of the state commit a majority of the rights violations in the conflict-wracked central African country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday.

Conspiracy jail sentences for Rwandan opposition | 27 January 2020 | DefenceWeb

Six Rwandan opposition figures were jailed for seven to 12 years after being convicted of forming an illegal armed group and conspiring against government, state radio reported.

Averting Proxy Wars in the Eastern DR Congo and Great Lakes | 23 January 2020 | International Crisis Group

Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.

Burkina Faso to recruit and arm volunteers to protect communities from militants | 22 January 2020 | DefensePost

Burkina Faso’s parliament on Tuesday, January 21 unanimously adopted a law allowing for the recruitment of Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) – local volunteers who will act as auxiliaries in the fight against militants.

Sud-Kivu: traqués par les FARDC, les rebelles rwandais du CNRD se retranchent à Kasika et pillent les champs des autochtones | 22 January 2020 |

Mis sous pression par l’offensive des Forces armées de la RDC (FARDC), des rebelles hutu rwandais du Conseil national pour la renaissance et la démocratie (CNRD), une dissidence des Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda FDLR), se sont installés à Kasika dans le territoire de Kalehe (Sud-Kivu). D’après certains témoignages, ils s’adonnent aux pillages des champs de la population locale.

Tanzania: Human Rights Lawyer Detained in ‘Outrageous’ Attempt to Silence Government Critics | 21 January 2020 |Amnesty International | AllAfrica

The ongoing detention of the human rights lawyer Tito Elia Magoti and his co-accused Theodory Giyani is an ‘outrageous’ attempt to silence government critics by keeping them behind bars, said Amnesty International, as the men were arraigned in court today.

Looting Is Part of War – Gen Sejusa Speaks Out on UPDF Congo Escapade | 20 January 2020 | Chimpreports

Former Head of Ugandaʼs Military Intelligence Gen David Sejusa has come out to defend the Uganda Peopleʼs Defense Forces (UPDF) which stands accused of plundering natural resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Human rights breaches in Nigeria and Burundi | 16 January 2020 | European Parliament

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted two resolutions taking stock of the human rights and rule of law situation in Nigeria and Burundi.

Africa: Human Rights Violations and Violence – The Continent’s 11 Hotspots | 15 January 2020 | AllAfrica

Eleven African nations are highlighted in a major annual report on human rights as places where violations of citizens’ rights were accompanied by insurgencies, domestic conflict or inter-communal violence in 2019.

Memorandum des groupes armés aux garants de l’accord politique pour la paix et la réconciliation en République Centrafricaine (APPR-RCA) | 14 January 2020 | Communiqué de Presse FPRC/UPC/FPC | Corbeau News

En date du 16 décembre 2019, nous vous avons adressé une lettre dans laquelle nous vous avons exprimé nos inquiétudes et préoccupations quant à la mise en œuvre de l’APPR-RCA et proposé, en vertu de l’article 34 de l’APPR-RCA, la convocation d’une réunion de concertation avec le gouvernement afin de trouver ensemble des solutions idoines aux problèmes qui freinent la mise en œuvre de l’APPR-RCA.

Inter-ethnic violence in Ituri may constitute “crimes against humanity” – UN report | 10 January 2020 | UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Killings, rapes and other forms of violence targeting the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of Congo province of Ituri may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN report released on Friday said.

Burkina Faso: Armed Islamist Atrocities Surge | 6 January 2020 | Human Rights Watch

Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have committed targeted attacks and summary executions that have killed over 250 civilians since April 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. Witnesses said that assailants sought to justify killings by linking victims to the government, the West, or Christian beliefs. A surge in attacks in recent months have caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.