What will make the Libyan rebels' government-building attempts successful?
Guest blogger Laura Seay interviews the author of a book on governance by rebel groups about what Libya's National Transitional Council will need to do to build a stable government.
(Page 2 of 4)
But on my first trips to to Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka in the early 2000s, I was struck by the relative normalcy of towns under insurgent control. Despite the difficult conditions which ebbed and flowed with the rhythm of the conflict, civilians continually tried to return to something resembling their normal lives. Instead of looking to the state to provide support, they turned to a variety of non-state actors and networks to meet their basic needs, sometimes effectively. What I came to realize is that the Hobbesian assumption that only the state can stave off anarchy continues to underlie academic understandings of social and political order. But in many other societies, there are various sources of social – religious groups, traditional authorities, NGOs, corporations, armed groups, etc. – that become especially relevant in times of war. Arguably, these should be the focus of our analysis (versus simply documenting the many ways in which post-colonial states fail to live up to their Western counterparts).Skip to next paragraph
Latest leader to redefine term limits: Senegal's President Wade
US troops against the LRA? A war worth winning
Congo election aftermath: some possible scenarios to avert crisis
Africa Rising: Carbon credits save Sierra Leone's Gola Rainforest
Eastern Congo braces for election results
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
TiA: In the book, you note that rebel governments must consider the needs and positions of civilians as well as their group’s internal divisions and the role of transnational actors. In this respect, what makes one rebel movement more successful than another?
Mampilly: There is a complex interplay between the actions and capacity of rebel leaders and the realities of contemporary battlefields. We've swung from one model that interpreted everything through the ideological orientation of the leadership to a more recent focus on the economic, political and/or geographical conditions that seem to predetermine civil war outcomes. The reality is somewhere in between. Rebel leaders do face a number of constraints initiated by a variety of actors and circumstances beyond their control. But they also make consequential choices.
Take for example the LTTE under Prabhakharan. At several points during the conflict, he seemed to misread the degree the international situation had changed after 9/11 and how this had direct impacts on the viability of the insurgency. Due to restrictions on diaspora fundraising and limits on rebel mobility outside of Sri Lanka, the LTTE leader probably should have accepted an autonomy offer in the early 2000s that would have been celebrated by the Tamil community, especially in contrast to the bloodbath that ended the war (and the Tigers) in 2009. But these calculations can be extraordinarily complex to make, especially since as I describe in the book, rebel leaders are engaged in so many negotiations (violent and non-violent) with so many different actors each operating according to its own logic.
We also shouldn't underestimate the role of chance, personalities, and other seemingly random events that can have determinative impacts on civil war outcomes. Again to take the LTTE, most analysts agree that the military tide turned following the defection of his No. 2, Colonel Karuna, along with almost half of the LTTE cadre. If you look back at what happened, Karuna wasn't initially inclined to leave the organization but wanted an audience with Prabhakharan to discuss what most would consider legitimate concerns about the structure of the insurgency. Instead of listening to the concerns of Col. Karuna – a war hero with deep credibility among cadre especially in the eastern part of the country-- Prabhakharan ordered him killed, directly leading to his defection to the government side.
TiA: In the case of the SPLM, a rebel movement spent the last six years transitioning into the government of an internationally-recognized state. Why was the SPLM successful in this effort while most rebel groups so often fail to achieve this goal? What dangers and difficulties is the South Sudanese government likely to face now that it is fully independent?