State Failure Revisited II : Actors of Violence and Alternative Forms of Governance

This INEF report is the companion piece to “State Failure Revisited I: Globalization of Security and Neighborhood Effects” (INEF Report 87/2007). While the first working paper mainly took a structural perspective and dealt with the global and regional level, the contributions in our new study put those actors in the spotlight who shape national and local arenas. Daniel Biró’s paper on warlordism in the “Westphalian Periphery” reconstructs different waves of warlord analysis (European feudalism; China at the beginning of the 20th century; Africa in the 1990s) and evaluates the usefulness of applying related concepts like praetorianism, organized crime, caudillismo, and insurgency. The article challenges the dominant view that warlords are almost exclusively driven by economic interests and instead looks at warlordism as an alternative form of governance in contexts that are defined by “oligopolies of violence”. Under these circumstances, warlords impact state‐building and may even allow for the provision of public goods. Driving factors are the warlord’s need to mobilize a minimum degree of legitimacy within local communities or his aspiration to gain control over society. Furthermore, as Biró argues, warlords may hold the local population captive if humanitarian organizations are willing to deliver social services as they can thus diversify their modes of ‘resource extraction’ and increase their autonomy. Andreas Mehler and Judy Smith‐Höhn present an empirical case study on Liberia and Sierra Leone. Which security‐relevant actors are perceived as being able to offer protection? Who is a potential source of threat? Preliminary answers to these guiding questions are given for Liberia, based on data collected in 2006. It turns out that urban respondents regarded the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as overwhelmingly important for their personal safety, followed by the Liberia National Police (18.4%). Vigilantes, area teams, and neighborhood watches were assessed as ambivalent, being partly a source of protection but also a source of concern. The major threats for personal security, however, obviously stem from street boys, ex‐combatants, political party militias, and secret societies. The contribution concludes that international engagement in security sector reform will remain crucial. But it also argues that a clear understanding of all relevant local players, including non‐state actors, is necessitated because their relevance will grow as soon as external actors withdraw their personnel and resources.


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