P021 – “Rebel Governance”, Public Authority and “the State” in Africa
10 July, 09:00-10:30

Verweijen Judith / Nordic Africa Institute & Ghent University
Vlassenroot Koen / Conflict Research Group, Ghent University


Armed groups are increasingly recognised as “twilight institutions” that are involved in the production of forms of local authority, even if their modes of governing are often exclusionary and coercive. Yet, we have only limited knowledge of the processes underlying “rebel governance”, in particular when and why armed groups have incentives to engage in public service delivery, or how their governance is received, resisted and co-produced by civilians, including local authorities. Furthermore, we lack detailed insight into the relations between rebel governance and “the state”, both in respect to its material and regulatory dimensions and its epistemological and symbolic underpinnings. In what ways does “rebel governance” transform, undermine or (re)produce “the state” and public authority? How do rebels draw upon, appropriate and transform “the language of stateness”?
This panel presents empirically grounded and theoretically informed contributions on rebel governance in situations of long-term violent conflict and limited statehood. It discusses, amongst other themes, rebel administrations, rebel use of state symbols and discourses, the perceptions and practices of civilians living under rebel governance, experiences of rebel governance by combatants, and the impact of rebel governance on post conflict political orders.

La « gouvernance rebelle », l’autorité publique et « l’État » en Afrique
Même si leurs pratiques de gouvernance sont souvent basées sur la force et l’exclusion, les groupes armés sont de plus en plus reconnus comme des « institutions crépusculaires » engagées dans la production de formes de gouvernance locale. Toutefois, nous avons une connaissance limitée des processus qui sont à la base de la gouvernance exercée par les rebelles, en particulier quand et pourquoi les groupes armés sont incités à s’engager dans la prestation de services publics, ou encore comment les civils –y compris les autorités- reçoivent leur gouvernance, s’y opposent et la coproduisent. En outre, nous manquons d’une bonne compréhension des relations entre « la gouvernance rebelle » et « l’État », non seulement du point de vue de ses dimensions matérielles et régulatrices, mais également de ses fondements épistémologiques et symboliques. De quelle façon « la gouvernance rebelle » transforme-t-elle, sape-t-elle ou (re)produit-elle « l’État » et l’autorité publique ? Comment les rebelles utilisent-ils, s’approprient-ils, et transforment-ils « le langage étatique » ?
Ce panel présente des contributions à la fois empiriquement et théoriquement riches concernant « la gouvernance rebelle » en situation de conflits armés permanents et de pouvoir étatique limité, entre autres celles se focalisant sur l’administration des mouvements armés, l’usage de symboles et discours d’État, les expériences des civils vivant sous cette gouvernance, et les effets sur l’ordre politique d’après-conflit.


Paper 1

Tarila Marclint Ebiede / University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium

Empowerment of Ex-Militants and Social Transformation of Power Relations in the Niger Delta: Evidence from two Communities

The study of the reintegration of ex-combatants has been debated by scholars focused on post-conflict peacebuilding. One key research findings in Sierra Leone suggests that there wasn’t significant difference in reintegration experiences between those who underwent Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programmes and those who didn’t. Other studies that followed continue to conceptualise and research the reintegration process of ex-combatants as an outcome of DDR programmes, thus explaining the success or failure of reintegration within the programme structure of DDR. However, these arguments have not clearly established the conditions for the reintegration of ex-combatants. This is so because current research has downplayed the dynamics of protracted conflicts, while ‘overstating the utility and efficacy of DDR programmes’. This paper addresses this issue by focusing on the conflict dynamics and politics of peacebuilding in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Specifically, this paper will examine whether the conflict dynamics and politics of peacebuilding in the Niger Delta empowered ex-militants in the Niger Delta to become de facto state figures in rural communities. The paper will shed more light on how the politics of peacebuilding transforms power relations in the Niger Delta and the implications this process has for the reintegration of ex-combatants in particular, and the Nigerian state in general.

Paper 2

Fahey Daniel / University of California, Berkeley

Rebel Governance in Eastern Congo: The Case of the Allied Democratic Forces

During 2014, a military operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) resulted in access to people and documents that provided unprecedented insight into the structure and function of this highly secretive armed group. Among the new understandings of ADF was that unlike most rebel groups in eastern DRC, ADF functioned like a state: it had an army that controlled territory; had its own symbols, financial system, courts, internal security apparatus, schools, and hospitals; and had external networks that supplied goods, money, and people to ADF’s camps. This article will draw upon the work of the UN Group of Experts and other sources to explain how and why ADF effectively acted as a state, including analysis of ADF’s external finance network and internal finance system; ADF’s system of internal security and social control; and the effects of the 2014 military operation on ADF’s structure and governance.

Paper 3

Wiegink Nikkie / Bonn International Center for Conversion / Utrecht University

“RENAMO that was us”: Rebel governance and Collaboration in Central Mozambique

During Mozambique’s sixteen year long war (1976-1992), the insurgent movement RENAMO occupied and controlled vast areas of rural territory and it is estimated that millions of people lived under some form of RENAMO rule. Based on life histories of ex-combatants and inhabitants of the district of Maringue, a former RENAMO headquarters, this contribution challenges depictions of RENAMO as “armed bandits” by analysing its localised attempt to establish some sort of authority and public service delivery. I particularly focus on the perceptions and practices of civilians living under RENAMO governance. I argue that these wartime alliances between civilians and RENAMO can best be understood by a notion of “collaboration” that is multifaceted and contextualised, (i.e. not only rational-choice), allowing for a mixture of loyalty, (patronage) expectations, profit-seeking and survival. I will situate civilians’ collaboration with (armed) authorities in a historic context of colonial and post-colonial rule and then analyse how civilians were in different ways and to different degrees partaking in RENAMO’s repressive and administrative structure. I will end with a short reflection on the consequences of these wartime collaborations for Maringue’s post-war political context and for RENAMO’s post-war political trajectory as an opposition party.

Paper 4

Ferrão Ana Raquel / GEA- Autónoma University of Madrid

Imagining Rebel Governance: Suffering and Loyalty in the UNITA Rebellion

Rebel governance is normally posited a substitute for coercion in the way rebel movements face the challenge of obtaining civilian compliance. This paper proposes to aproach it from a less common angle and that is how rebel governance is also important for building loyalty among its own combatants.
Based on fieldwork among former combatants, the paper explores this topic for the rebel movement UNITA during the Angolan civil war. During the Cold War, foreign journalists and academics contributed to internationally project the image of UNITA as a “state within a state”, much as the movement itself liked to be described. With the nineties, this image increasingly waned under a new dominant characterization of the rebellion as essentially oportunistic and predatory on the population. A fact underplayed in this image is the sometimes long-life loyalty combatants exhibited towards the movement. What relation can be drawn between loyalty and governance? And which of those images, if any, best describes the governance UNITA put in place? The paper suggests that, as it has been argued with regard to the state, of much importance was the imagining of the rebel governance by those fighting alongside UNITA. How it was imagined and how loyalty was generated from there cannot be fully understood though if not in strict relation to the state project. For answering these, the paper brings to the fore the topic of suffering through which combatants articulated their views on life under UNITA.

Paper 5

Marks Zoe / University of Edinburgh

Bureaucracy of Atrocity in Sierra Leone: The Untold Story of Rebels with Rubber Stamps

This paper breaks down distinctions of ‘combatant’ and ‘civilian’, and investigates governance as conceived by the rebel group itself. It uses the paradigmaticRevolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF) as its case study and draws on fieldwork conducted between 2008-2014. In addition to over 250 interviews with more than 150 ex-combatants, this research presents for the first time the written record of the RUF. With lengthy ‘cc’s, officious writing, hand-carved rubber stamps, and stolen stationery, they illustrate the lengths to which the RUF leadership went to legitimate in writing their ‘revolution’. Like the state it mimicked, there was a significant gap in the RUF between formal de jure institutions and procedures, and the informal de facto modes of power. The paper identifies three key theoretical implications of the untold story of rebel bureaucracy. It identifies the close connection between internal and external governance in rebellion, and the fluid boundary between combatant and civilian, vis-à-vis how they are engaged by armed organizations. It demonstrates how bureaucratic documentation of war-making serves to legitimate and quite literally rubber stamp the ‘banality of evil’. Finally, the gap between the ideal power structures and flows set up by RUF leadership, and the real modes and mechanisms of power, provides a guide to understanding violence in the Sierra Leone civil war and the failures of the state itself.

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