Working paper
Open access

Rebel governance and the politics of civil war

Number of pages36
PublisherBerne : swisspeace
Publication date2015

Dominant narratives and theories developed at the turn of the 21st century in order to account for civil wars in Africa converged around the idea that this upsurge in violence was linked to state failure or decay. Violent conflict thus came to be seen as the expression of the weakness, disintegration and collapse of political institutions in the post-colonial world, and guerrilla movements, once viewed as the ideological armed wings of Cold War contenders, as roving bandits interested in plundering the spoils left by decaying states. Recent research has however shown that, against the reductionism that underlay such accounts, we need to move beyond the search for the motives that bring rebels and rebel movement to wage war against the established order and look into the (micro-)politics of civil war. Indeed, civil wars do not simply destroy political orders. They contribute to shaping and producing them. Civil wars, in other words, are part and parcel of processes of state formation. This working paper looks at state formation through violent conflict. It focuses on political orders put in place by rebel movements, on their strategy to legitimise their very existence as movements and their claim to power, and on the extent to which they strive and manage to institutionalise their military power and transform it into political domination. It discusses some of the recent literature on the topic and offers some avenues of new research on the complex interplay between civil wars and state formation. It concentrates on the manner in which statehood, understood as a historical and constantly changing process of institutionalization of power relations, is ‘negotiated' during and after conflict. It is this ‘negotiation' that will allow scholars to better understand what “legitimate institutions” are and how they are shaped by and through civil wars.

Citation (ISO format)
PECLARD, Didier, MECHOULAN, Delphine. Rebel governance and the politics of civil war. 2015
Main files (1)
Working paper
  • PID : unige:108552

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