State-Rebel Relations During Civil War: Institutional Change Behind Frontlines

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This dissertation develops a theory of rebel-state engagement during armed conflict that links these varied interactions to processes of institutional change in the state in which they unfold. Conventional wisdom portrays conflict zones as lacking institutions or pitting armed groups and states as competitors. Yet, this dissertation finds that rebels and state agents often negotiate to leverage organizational resources and realize interests on both sides. Drawing on new data from armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this dissertation examines how state agents maintain institutions that collect revenue, monitor resource flows, and allocate property in rebel-held territories. Through subnational case comparison, it identifies four sets of accommodations between these actors—collusion, cooptation, entrenchment, and displacement—that differ according to rebels’ use of the state apparatus and where authority resides. The theoretical framework builds in two steps to explain this variation. First, it traces how rebels engage the state apparatus in their strongholds to appropriate administrations as their own institutional levers of control. Second, it identifies how state agents adapt administrative functions to redirect rebel governance strategies. How rebels link up with the state apparatus during war holds enduring legacies into its aftermath: rebels that convert state institutions into sources of support can upend post-conflict political settlements, while trajectories of institutional change during conflict affect the capital’s ability to reintegrate national territory at war’s end. Analytical focus is placed on how these institutional settlements are forged as rebels and state agents administer the political economy of war. Specifically, I trace how these interactions in wartime systems of taxation in local economies and cross-border trade. The argument is illustrated and assessed through new data gathered from the internal records of rebel administrations. These data include records of rebels’ financial transactions and correspondences with business partners and government agencies, as well as mining reports, security updates, budgets, payrolls, and tax ledgers. These unusually comprehensive records provide data to trace the social relationships that governed resources during civil war and offer unprecedented insights into the inner workings of rebel organization.

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  • 04/11/2018
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