From Perpetrator to Protector?– Post-war Rebel Networks as Informal Security Providers in Liberia

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The dismantling of rebel structures at the end of civil war is often considered to be one of the most important aspects of a successful transition to peace. Combatants are expected to lay down their weapons, but also to abandon their wartime networks. Yet, peace agreements and subsequent Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) processes do not automatically, or necessarily, destroy rebel networks. In Liberia such structures have lingered since the war came to an end in 2003 and networks of ex-combatants are still active, though maintained and mobilised for new purposes.

The security political situation in Liberia, with weak formal security institutions and a history of predatory behaviour, has created an environment where informal initiatives for security and protection are called upon. In such an environment informal security groups have a natural platform. Based on original interview material and findings from fieldwork this thesis examines how post-war rebel networks are organised and operate in the informal security arena, while describing the rationale behind these lingering features of war. By doing so this thesis sheds light on how the adaptive capacity of former rebel soldiers is utilised by various Liberian actors, and the risks, but also possible positive outcomes, of such a development.

This dissertation follows individuals, former rebel commanders in particular, in post-war rebel networks from the time of war to 2013. We will see them, and ex-combatants around them, mobilised as ‘recycled’ warriors in times of regional wars and crisis, as vigilantes and informal security providers for economic and political purposes. Yet, we will also meet them when there are no specific event ex-combatants could be mobilised to fully examine the relevance of post-war rebel networks and ex-combatant identity in contemporary Liberia. In the conclusions basic underlying aims and purposes with the processes of demobilisation and reintegration are challenged. And as this thesis finds, one might even argue that these ex-combatants have succeeded in reintegrating themselves due to, not despite, the fact that they have not been demobilised.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMats Berdal (Supervisor) & Abiodun Alao (Supervisor)

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