Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Combatants' Disarmament: Do Command and Control Matter? A Comparison of Sierra Leone and Liberia
by Lemasle, Natacha, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2010, 363; 3433593
Abstract (Summary)

This research explores the central questions of the organizational dynamics of authority and legitimacy within armed groups, and of combatant compliance with disarmament of insurgency groups. I combined empirical material from detailed field research and interviews with former combatants in armed groups in Sierra Leone and Liberia, at all levels in the chain of command, with political theories of patronage and coercion.

Drawing from a comparison between Sierra Leone and Liberia, two highly similar cases, this research argues for the need to focus on an understudied aspect of war-to-peace transitions: the extent to which armed groups' obedience mechanisms influence combatants' behavior towards disarmament. I demonstrate that combatants' perception of the integrity of command and control within their armed group influences their behavior towards the disarmament process. Combatants who perceive their armed group as being under the control of their commander tend to not see defecting as an option. In Sierra Leone, out of a mix of fear from retaliation for not complying with orders, and a willingness to remain loyal to their commander while hoping to be rewarded for their loyalty, combatants obeyed their commander's order to disarm. On the other hand, when, as was the case in Liberia, patronage and coercion had been eroded during the war to peace transition, combatants perceived the command and control within their armed group as weak, and did not see their commanders' orders as mandatory. As a result, thousands defected and threatened the peace process.

This comparison between Sierra Leone and Liberia demonstrates that stronger command and control within armed groups can facilitate disarmament. This research makes an innovative contribution to the political theory of patronage, used here not only to shed light into state politics, but to analyze the internal dynamics of armed groups in conflict and post-conflict. My findings also challenge the existing Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration literature, and demonstrate that strong command and control within armed groups can facilitate disarmament.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Reno, William SK, Cohen, Samy
Commitee: Bigo, Didier, Bourmaud, Daniel, Loriaux, Michael, Murphy, William
School: Northwestern University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Peace Studies, International law, Sub Saharan Africa Studies
Keywords: Armed groups, Combatants, Demobilization, Disarmament, Liberia, Patronage, Reintegration, Sierra Leone
Publication Number: 3433593
ISBN: 978-1-124-39364-3
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