7 March 2014 § Leave a comment
I just came across a thought provoking article in the March 2011 edition of Forced Migration Review called “How to Behave: Advice from IDPs.” The author, Stine Finne Jakobsen, summarizes advice from internally displaced Colombians living around Cartagena into four “modes of behavior” intended to lower the risk of living in a war zone. To quote her summaries of them:
- Passivity: In a situation where an illegal armed actor is controlling the local population and imposing order through terror, not to talk, not to know and not to see may be essential coping strategies.
- Invisibility: [This] implies to duck and hide, to melt into the rest of the population and avoid actions that can draw attention to you. Certain daily activities should be restricted or abandoned but total invisibility is never possible since everyday life has to go on.
- Obedience: [This] implies following the rules and orders of the [non-state armed groups] – a first step towards securing survival. However, obeying the orders of one group is inevitably perceived by their adversaries as supporting that group. And in obeying, the principle of passivity is violated.
- Mobility: In wartime, mobility is restricted and regarded as suspicious by armed actors and groups. Unnecessary movement should be avoided – but moving away can be the ultimate solution to secure survival through anonymity in an urban setting.
I found this a very moving depiction of the impossible choices people make during conflict, and would like to revisit some of the other academic literature focusing on civilian life in wartime (such as Zachariah Mampilly’s Rebel Rulers) with these precepts in mind.
7 March 2014 § 1 Comment
If you haven’t seen the interactive graph of support for M23 by foreign states (Rwanda/Uganda) and individuals that was published in Stability Journal recently, it’s worth a look. The data comes from an article by Cathy Nangini, Mainak Jas, Hugo Fernandes and Robert Muggah.
Here’s a still shot of the interactive version. One thing that strikes me in looking at this is that running a rebellion is actually an intensely diplomatic endeavor. Think about the challenges of negotiating relationships with all of these sponsors and allies while also trying to take territory and (in at least a minimal sense) govern it – formidable!
26 February 2014 § 2 Comments
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson are doing a series of posts about Balinese politics in the 18th – 20th centuries, and make an counterpoint to Charles Tilly’s famous phrase “war made the state and the state made war” in their latest:
The truth of the matter is that all polities fight wars, and some centralize while others do not.
Looking at centralized ones and observing that they fight wars, therefore warfare creates states does not seem very sensible empirically.
It’s a very interesting point. Under what conditions does the threat of war lead polities (not just states) to centralize? Is the bias here that only polities which have survived an initial war are around to centralize later, while losing groups, who faced exactly the same risk of war, get swallowed up by their opponents and never build a centralized administrative structure? In which case war would be expected to create and destroy in roughly equal measure. (Granted, I haven’t read Tilly’s original paper in detail, so if these questions are addressed there or in his other work I’d be happy to hear about it.)
Kudos to Acemoglu & Robinson as well for the use of the word “polities” instead of “states” in the first sentence quoted here. It’s a small thing, but a good step towards moving away from ideas of power and governance as the exclusive province of the state.
14 February 2014 § 3 Comments
Since the change in power, diplomats in the region and in the international community have pushed for rapid presidential elections. This is a mistake. In the fighting, voter registries (both paper and electronic) have been destroyed. Re-establishing them will be a massive undertaking that risks exacerbating the tensions around nationality described above. It will consume scarce resources when necessary emergency humanitarian aid is underfunded.
To satisfy the widespread desire for democracy (Bozizé’s electioneering made Central Africans very unhappy), it would be better to start with local elections, which have not been held in the CAR for decades – Préfets and their adjuncts have been appointed by the president, and chefs de village have assumed their roles through a variety of means, such as informal elections — often involving only men — and heredity. These elections would lay a foundation for more substantive national elections, and might also help establish trust in communities riven by looting and brutality.
Also immediately valuable: more money. The levels of violence got as bad as they did in part due to the weak economy and the piling-up of arrears in civil servant salaries, especially over the second half of 2013. Market purchases and bar sociality cultivate a day-to-day ‘getting along’ no less real for being bred of practical necessity, and the drying up of money removed any such possibilities for social lubrication. An injection of cash, such as by paying those salaries, would do much more for people’s well-being and the establishment of security than a strictly ‘humanitarian’ distribution.
The CAR, an improbable country on a variety of levels, has never had a tightly-woven social fabric. It’s always been more of a loose netting that has become dangerously frayed over the last few years. But it can be mended, and these small-scale processes, plus technocratic governance from President Samba-Panza, are good ways to start.
In general, I find Louisa one of today’s most interesting thinkers on power and governance in weak states. Keep an eye out for her work, and follow her on Twitter.
9 February 2014 § Leave a comment
I haven’t properly written up my observations from last year’s African Studies Association meeting yet. In reviewing my notes, I found that one of the themes that cut across the various panels I attended was the unexpected uses of non-state power. By this I mean the exercise of (potentially) coercive power by non-state actors in ways that challenge the state’s monopoly on violence or taxation. Here’s a snapshot:
- Steven van Bockstael noted that most artisanal mining in Liberia is done without the permission of the central government and is therefore illegal, but that miners also frequently ask the permission of land owners, chiefs, and even local government officials before proceding. This type of “highly personalized” authorization clearly has value to the miners, but also means that they’re in a constant process of negotiation with officials.
- Joshua Walker made a similar observation about diamond mining in Mbuji-Mayi, saying that artisanal miners often pay a daily fee to local militias to gain (illegal) access to land owned by parastatal mining agencies. Note that this is actually a bit at odds with the “conflict minerals” narrative of militarized mining in the Congo, which seems to assume that rebel groups operate the mines themselves, rather than simply charging others for access.
- Komlan Agbedahin observed that colonial borders have done less than expected to shape the exercise of chiefly power in central Ghana and Togo. Local chiefs still engage in cross-border power struggles, and the religious spheres of local gods often cross borders as well. Less surprisingly, he also found that local border agents frequently supplemented their salaries by cutting holes in border fences and charging people who wished to cross.
- Nicole Eggers noted that Christian prophets in South Kivu often exercise real political power, sometimes to the point of challenging the mwami or other local authorities. Part of the reason for this is that the South Kivutien mwamis’ power is typically tied to the land, and diminishes if they’re forced to flee due to violence, while the prophets’ power is seen as “heavenly” rather than local, and thus not so easily diminished by flight.
10 January 2014 § 2 Comments
The current conflict in South Sudan has generated some debate about whether the country should have been placed under a type of UN trusteeship at its inception, or still should be today. Hank Cohen and G. Pascal Zachary argue for this type of external intervention, noting that new states are likely to have trouble creating and maintaining good institutions on their own. (This is one reason why new states are so prone to lapse into civil war, because arguments over the distribution of power aren’t constrained by political institutions which all actors view as legitimate.) Chris Blattman finds support for both sides of this argument, and Ken Opalo feels that trusteeship would only delay conflicts instead of preventing them.
The basic question here is about where durable political institutions come from. Ken makes the excellent point that “the building of institutions, unlike learning a language or programing, is not something that you are taught and then left on your own to practice. Institutions only work if they reflect the de facto balance of power, something that trusteeship would necessarily not provide.” Put otherwise, desirable institutions like democracy or ethnic power-sharing are only viable if all the major political actors in a state agree to them, or if the state or its leaders have the ability to constrain actors who disagree from attempting to overthrow the system. Both of these conditions are hard to come by, and it’s clear that even sustained international support for states transitioning to new institutions can’t always generate them.
That said, there’s enormous diversity in the ways that institutions are born and become durable, and it’s difficult to predict when domestic political conditions are right for an institution to stick. The international community pushed Rwanda to end its civil war with a power-sharing agreement between Hutus and Tutsis in 1993, but the country returned to war and genocide less than a year later. The international community also pushed Burundi to end its civil war with a power-sharing agreement between Hutus and Tutsis in 2000, and it’s more or less held up since it was implemented in 2005. Today, both countries are at peace, albeit with significant political volatility beneath the surface.
Trusteeship is essentially an amplified version of this type of international involvement in the institutional development of post-conflict states. It’s obviously a larger infringement on the “entrusted” state’s sovereignty, and ought to be considered very skeptically for this reason. But it seems that rather than seeking to answer whether trusteeship is helpful or harmful on average, we should be trying to answer the same boundary questions we would pose about other types of international intervention, namely under what circumstances we expect them to be successful. There’s some good research along these lines on other types of international intervention, like Barbara Walter’s work on when peace agreements hold, Page Fortna’s on whether peacekeeping is generally successful, and Monica Toft’s on how security sector reform promotes peace.
11 December 2013 § Leave a comment
16 November 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m currently working on a paper about when demobilization occurs after civil war without international intervention. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rigorous political science literature (in English) on the reasons that some countries implement DDR after conflict and others don’t, or whether peacekeeping makes DDR more likely to succeed. At a more basic level, I also haven’t found a comprehensive list of DDR programs and their outcomes.
Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl have a good overview of the conceptual problems with measuring demobilization, and there have been some interesting studies focusing on the individual-level effects of DDR, like Blattman & Annan in Liberia [PDF], Humphreys & Weinstein in Sierra Leone [PDF], Gilligan, Mvukiyehe & Samii in Burundi [PDF], and D’Aoust, Sterck & Verwimp in Burundi [PDF]. Any other recommendations addressing the issues above? Suggestions in English and French are welcome.
10 November 2013 § Leave a comment
Just wanted to point out that I’ve been listing links to datasets on conflict and governance on the righthand sidebar of the blog’s home page. If you read the blog in an RSS reader or just click on links to specific posts, you may not have seen this. Right now it’s at 24 links and counting, ranging from large dataverses (Harvard, World Bank) to mid-size databases (AidData, PRIO Armed Conflict Data, Yale ISPS,) replication datasets for individual papers (Mapping Migration in the DRC, Non-State Actor Data).
If you’re a Stata user, you may also be interested in the -wbopendata- module, which allows you to download World Bank data directly from Stata.