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Mystical and modern transformations in the Liberian Civil War
Swedish Defence University, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Division of Strategy. Uppsala universitet, Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning.
2016 (English)In: Transforming Warriors: The Ritual Organization of Military Force / [ed] Peter Haldén and Peter Jackson, London/New York: Routledge, 2016, 126-143 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Resource type
Text
Abstract [en]

This essay investigates military transformation within the context of the Liberian civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). Military transformation is understood as a process of turning a civilian into a fighter, and in Liberia two ideal types of fighters materialized: the trained soldier and the mystical combatant. Whereas the first drew from their professional military training and international military culture, the second drew on mystical protection. These two ways of transformation also became sources of authority within the military organizations that fought the wars. It was ultimately training that offered more than protection alone: the former military personnel dominated command positions. Training also succeeded in the creation of forming a shared identity, which continues to date. Whereas most combatants demobilized and not fought again since, the identities of soldiers are still very much alive. This has partly to do with the fact that the Liberian government continues to pay pensions to those that have served in the armed forces, which has led to the institutionalization of these identities. The view of military personnel as security professionals also helps to maintain these identities as relevant. While constructing and maintaining this kind of professional cohesion is important during conflicts, it can have long-term consequences for peace-building.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London/New York: Routledge, 2016. 126-143 p.
Keyword [en]
Cohesion, identity, Liberia, military professionalism, peacebuilding, rebels, soldiers
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Krigsvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-6138Libris ID: 19478682ISBN: 978-1138642836 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-6138DiVA: diva2:930894
Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-05-25 Last updated: 2017-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Bush generals and small boy battalions: military cohesion in Liberia and beyond
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bush generals and small boy battalions: military cohesion in Liberia and beyond
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

All organizations involved in war are concerned with military cohesion. Yet previous studies have only investigated cohesion in a very narrow manner, focusing almost solely on Western state militaries or on micro-level explanations. This dissertation argues for the need to broaden this perspective. It focuses on three classic sources of cohesion – coercion, compensation and constructs (such as identity and ideology) – and investigates their relevance in the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003). More specifically, this dissertation consists of an inquiry of how the conflict's three main military organizations – Charles Taylor’s Government of Liberia (GoL), the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) – drew on these three sources to foster cohesion. Based on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with former combatants, this dissertation contains five parts: an introduction, which focuses on issues of theory and method, and four essays that investigate the three sources of cohesion in the three organizations. Essay I focuses on the LURD rebels, and provides an insider account of their strategy. It shows that even decentralized movements like the LURD can execute strategy, and contends that the LURD fought its fiercest battles not against the government, but to keep itself together. Essay II focuses on coercion, and counters the prevailing view of African rebels’ extensive use of coercion to keep themselves together. Since extreme coercion in particular remained illegitimate, its use would have decreased, rather than increased, cohesion. Essay III investigates the government militias to whom warfighting was subcontracted. In a context characterized by a weak state and fragmented social organization, compensation may have remained the only available source of cohesion. Essay IV investigates identities as sources of cohesion. It argues that while identities are a powerful cohesive source, they must be both created and maintained to remain relevant. Taken together, this dissertation argues for a more comprehensive approach to the investigation of cohesion, and one that also takes into account mezzo- and macro-level factors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala universitet, 2016. 83 p.
Series
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 109
Keyword
Coercion, cohesion, compensation, ethnography, identity, ideology, Liberia, micro-dynamics of civil war, military sociology, strategy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Krigsvetenskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-6135 (URN)978-91-506-2545-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-06-03, Borgen, Orphei Drängars plats 1, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-05-25 Created: 2016-05-25 Last updated: 2017-01-13Bibliographically approved

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