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'Big-Men’ Coalitions and Political Order in Northern Côte d’Ivoire (2002-2013)


'Big-Men’ Coalitions and Political Order in Northern Côte d’Ivoire (2002-2013)

Speight, Jeremy (2015) 'Big-Men’ Coalitions and Political Order in Northern Côte d’Ivoire (2002-2013). PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Civil war creates significant opportunities for the contestation of political authority. In Sub-Saharan Africa, rebels commonly use organized violence to challenge the authority of pre-conflict elites. Nonetheless, armed movements also ally with pre-conflict elite actors as a strategy for mobilizing popular support and maintaining political order. Contestation and cooperation between rebels and pre-conflict elites is possible because local communities are often comprised of multiple elite groups. What explains coalitional choices? Why do local leaders of armed movements ally with certain actors and not others? These questions are puzzling because local-level rebel leaders sometimes make counterintuitive coalitional choices that restrict their ability to establish and maintain social control.

To explore the relationship between coalition-building and control, this study focuses on the political crisis and war-to-peace transition in Côte d’Ivoire (2002-2013). It compares three towns – Bouna, Korhogo and Ouangolodougou – that fell under the military control of the principal armed movement involved in the conflict, the Forces Nouvelles (FN). Despite being under the control of the same group, each of these cases demonstrated marked variation in the ability of the FN to politically control local populations.

My argument is advanced in two steps. First, what explains patterns of coalition-building in rebel-held zones? I argue that coalition-building is shaped by pre-conflict brokerage relations. Brokers are those political actors that link local communities to the state. I argue that if elites function as brokers between local communities and the central state in the pre-conflict period, this limits their availability as potential allies for leaders of armed movements. Pre-conflict brokerage relations constrain the choice of potential local partners. Second and relatedly, this study explains levels of control established by armed movements that result from coalition-building. The wartime authority of armed movements can, in some cases, be met with stiff resistance from local actors. In others, the wartime political order imposed by armed movements is underwritten by broad support within local communities. I explain these differences by focusing on what I call ‘hierarchical configurations’. Hierarchical configurations describe the relative levels of social hierarchy of competing elite groups. I argue that the level of wartime control established by armed movements is a function of variation in hierarchical configurations because these differences influence the political clout of rebel allies relative to their broker counterparts (or those elites aligned with the state). In summary, pre-conflict brokerage relations influence the coalition-building strategies of armed groups. These coalition-building strategies shape levels of contestation and rebel control as a result of variation in local-level hierarchical configurations.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Political Science
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Speight, Jeremy
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Political Science
Date:August 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Poteete, Amy
ID Code:980687
Deposited On:16 Jun 2016 15:33
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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