Civil War and State Formation

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Mai 2013



Nach dem langen Bürgerkrieg der 1990er Jahre galt Liberia unter der Präsidentschaft des Warlords Charles Taylor vielen Beobachtern als gescheiterter Staat. Seit der Machtübernahme durch Ellen Johnson Sirleaf im Jahr 2006 wird die Landesentwicklung weithin als Erfolgsgeschichte bewertet. Felix Gerdes zeigt, welche strukturellen Änderungen zu diesem Wandel und damit zur relativen Stabilisierung führten. Seine Analysen machen deutlich, dass die liberianischen Kriege gerade nicht die Zerstörung des Staates bedeuteten, sondern als Teil des Prozesses der Staatsbildung zu verstehen sind. Die Betrachtungen der Kontinuitäten und Brüche der politischen Verfasstheit Liberias ermöglichen eine fundierte Bewertung der anhaltenden strukturellen Probleme der Nachkriegsordnung.


List of Tablesviii
1. Introduction1
2. War, Peace, and Young States8
2.1. The State and Other Types of Political Organization9
2.1.1. The Importance of Variance in (Personal) Authority9
2.1.2. Non-legitimate Domination15
2.1.3. The Empirical State17
2.2. State Formation, State Erosion and Society19
2.2.1. State-Building and State Decay19
2.2.2. Society and the State26
2.2.3. A Note on Sequences of Domination29
3. The First Liberian Civil War: The Rise of Charles Taylor31
3.1. Collusion, Competition and Military Combat34
3.1.1. The Actors34
3.1.2. Elimination Contests39
3.1.3. Winning a War by Way of Elections56
3.1.4. Summary: Civil War as State-Building59
3.2. Political Economy of the NPFL60
3.2.1. Creation of the NPFL and Imposition of Taylor60
3.2.2. Politics of the NPFL: Administration and Legitimacy64
3.2.3. Discipline, Repression and Material Interests73
3.2.4. Economics of the NPFL79
3.3. Taylor's Adversaries and their Weaknesses104
3.3.1. The Doe Government106
3.3.2. The Interim Government of National Unity109
3.3.3. The Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia115
3.3.4. The ECOWAS Cease-Fire Monitoring Group117
3.3.5. The United Liberation Movements123
3.3.6. The Liberia Peace Council128
3.4. Summary: Taylor and his Rivals131
3.5. From Warlord to Statesman: Charles Taylor as President132
3.5.1. Transplanting a System of Domination134
3.5.2. The Security Sector139
3.5.3. Revenue Generation in Charles Taylor's Liberia140
3.5.4. Key Features of Liberia Inc.150
3.6. Summary: The Rise of Charles Taylor152
4. Taylor's Fall and the Dawn of a Neo-patrimonial Democracy154
4.1. The Government: Cracks in the System154
4.1.1. Disintegration of the Security Sector154
4.1.2. Repression and the Erosion of a Patrimonial System158
4.1.3. An Aggressive Regional Policy161
4.1.4. The Economics of Taylor's Fall165
4.1.5. The Final Events167
4.2. The Rebels: LURD and MODEL168
4.3. The National Transitional Government of Liberia172
4.3.1. The Erosion of the Former Regime175
4.3.2. LURD and MODEL: Rebels Falling Apart182
4.3.3. Political Parties and Civil Society: Dashed Hopes187
4.4. Elections and a New Regime191
4.4.1. Presidential Elections: Warring Parties192
4.4.2. The Leading Candidates and their Networks194
4.4.3. The Legislature205
4.5. Liberia under Johnson Sirleaf: Rebuilding the State?217
4.5.1. Anatomy of a Post-War Regime218
4.5.2. Major Issues in Institutional Development222
4.5.3. An Anti-Corruption Policy?226
4.5.4. New Elections-Reconfigured Alliances231
4.6. Political Economy of the New Liberia235
4.6.1. A Peacekeeping and Reconstruction Economy235
4.6.2. Natural Resources and Political Control237
4.7. From Taylor to Johnson Sirleaf: Major Issues249
5. Conclusion251


Felix Gerdes, Dr.phil., ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter an der Forschungsstelle Kriege der Universität Hamburg.


1. Introduction

In late June 2010, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced debt relief worth some 4.6 billion dollars for Liberia (cf. IMF June 29, 2010). For this tiny country of roughly 3.5 million inhabitants, this did not only represent significantly improved long-term economic perspectives, it was also of great symbolic importance and signaled the definitive readmission of Liberia into the international community. For more than a decade, the country had been best known for its devastating wars, and was widely regarded a "failed state" (cf. Pham 2004). Yet only a few years after the last war ended in 2003, Liberia started being hailed as a success story. More than anything else, observers lauded the country for its political progress as evidenced by the democratic election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, its maintenance of significant civil liberties thereafter, and the introduction of technocratic economic policy reforms. Hence, the IMF's First Deputy Managing Director stressed that "it was the sustained implementation of a strong macroeconomic program and ambitious reform agenda by the government of President Johnson Sirleaf" (IMF June 30, 2010, italics original) which convinced the Bretton Woods Institutions to support debt relief.

The contrast with Liberia's international reputation just a few years earlier is striking. Not only was the state seen as having collapsed, but the country was considered the "eye in the regional storm" (ICG 2003b), wreaking havoc on its neighbors and destabilizing West Africa. This perspective developed and became prominent during the First Liberian War from 1989 to 1996, when the country was the scene of West Africa's bloodiest internal conflict. During these years, some 60,000 to 80,000 people died as a direct result of fighting (Ellis 2007a, 316). As the powers of the central government eroded and the formal economy crumbled, armed factions accumulated powers and traded the countr
y's natural resources. At times, it appeared that faction leaders were making fortunes out of war (cf. Reno 1998). The Second Liberian War from 2000 to 2003 only served to reinforce notions of Liberia as a "failed state", i.e. one providing virtually no services to its citizens and subject to political dynamics promoting use of violence as a means of politics (cf. Pham 2004).
The phenomenon of simultaneous destruction and acquisition of wealth apparent in many civil wars prompted academic observers to think of these wars as specific societal systems characterized by specific opportunities to gain power and wealth. Powerful war-time actors, it is argued, are used to realizing their chances within the parameters of these systems. As they are "doing well out of war", the situation is considered to further their economic interests (Collier 2000). Political dynamics arguably work in concert with economic ones. Keen (1998; 2000) argues that war constitutes an environment perfectly suited to both governments and warlords who want to eliminate opponents, repress organized opposition and maintain authoritarian forms of domination. Warring factions may therefore be interested in perpetuating war, rather than winning it.

Neo-liberal economic policies are often considered the background to civil wars, although analysts emphasize different aspects. Reno (1998; 2000) stresses declining state revenues as a result of neo-liberal policy re-forms imposed by the Bretton Woods Institutions. In consequence, rulers cut back on social services and patronage transfers, which entails an ero-sion of legitimacy. In weak states, political elites tend to exert significant personal control over economic and social capital, and these resources can be used to mobilize armed resistance once these elites have been excluded from state patronage. As warlords, these elites commercialize natural resources and generate profits but do not have to shoulder the expenses of states, renderin
g their informal networks competitive political actors vis-à-vis genuine states. According to Reno's argument, a major structural transformation of the international system has been at the root of the emergence of warlord systems. During the Cold War, the world's superpowers alimented "Third World" rulers and, in consequence, absolved them from the need to build self-sustaining systems of domination. The end of the Cold War and an associated re-ordering of the world on the basis of neo-liberal principles entailed the collapse of weak states and created opportunities for alternative systems of domination.

Kurtenbach and Lock (2004), by contrast, emphasize socio-economic factors. According to their argument, neo-liberal reforms imposed from outside since the end of the Cold War have led to a massive decline in formal sector employment in less advanced economies, because of public sector retrenchment. As a consequence, the informal sector (rather than competitive formal business) grows. Economic informalization further diminishes the tax base of the state. State capacity is consequently further reduced, resulting in weaker law enforcement. This in turn leads to growth of the criminal economy. Migration, equally reinforced by the retrenchment of the formal sector, enables criminal networks to expand beyond their home countries ("shadow globalization"). Autonomous economic accumulation allows these networks to accumulate power, forge cooperative relations with state agencies, and impose their interests by means of violence (Kurtenbach/Lock 2004, 22-23). Although competition between these clandestine networks does not necessarily or even predominantly take on the form of war, it is associated with levels of violence that may be higher than those experienced during war (cf. Lock 2004, 58-60). While some form of peace may still be achievable, transformation of war-torn states appears impossible in the short term given the global and structural nature of the pr

It seems that major global trends are working against states remaining the central political entities in their territories. They could consequently hardly be able to pursue "ambitious reforms", and Liberia could in no way have reversed the path it had taken so quickly. Thus, which role did the civil wars really play in the trajectory of the Liberian state?

Arriving at an answer firstly requires investigating to what extent pat-terns of authority have indeed changed during the wars and thereafter. Subsequently, we will be able to identify causes of change, or of the lack thereof. In the light of the theoretical perspectives quoted above, which stress the opportunities for states and their rivals to obtain resources that will confer political power, the question of how the Liberian state dis-integrated and was then restored is a question of emergence of new poli-tical actors and transformation of established political actors. More specifically, the question firstly is how and why dissidents could successfully challenge the claim of the state to control the means of military violence and themselves become the major controllers of the use of force. And why and how did a reconfiguration of political actors take place that allowed politics to be conducted in a more civil way, and how and why could control of means of military violence become recentralized? As Zeeuw (2008, 2) has remarked, "despite the importance of the political transformation of non-state armed movements in the settlement of civil wars and in postwar democratization, surprisingly little is known about this process."

Modern theories of states and their formation generally include considerations on wars, regimes and democracy, and frequently adopt a political economy perspective that is useful for the analysis of both regimes and war economies. Applied to a re-emerging state like Liberia, state-building theory may provide interesting insights on democracy b
y focusing on broader societal processes underlying the creation and functioning of democratic state institutions.

In order to develop an understanding of state formation, Chapter 2 firstly discusses the term "the state", drawing in particular on Max Weber and interpretations of his work prominent in studies on African societies. The chapter introduces Weber's ideal-types of legitimate domination and discusses the term of neo-patrimonial domination, defining the latter as a governance arrangement characterized by patrimonial patterns clashing with relatively weaker but nonetheless enduring legal-rational ones. In more general terms, I define the empirical state as a governance arrange-ment combining elements of a global ideal with local practices (Schlichte 2005). State formation is defined as the extension of the effective powers of this state over a population within an identifiable geographical area on the one hand, and progressive political integration of the population into the exercise of state powers on the other. Drawing on Charles Tilly, I emphasize the (frequently violent) political competition that is intrinsically associated with competition over the economic resources that are needed for state-building. Norbert Elias' theory of configurations characterized by interdependence, imbalances and political contests, leading to shifts in the distribution of power, is also introduced, in order to help us to explain and analyze the waxing and waning of state power. As proposed by both Tilly and Elias, political economy in a wider sense, i.e. the authoritative acquisition of values and authoritative redistribution of values, is an important concept for investigating the evolution of patterns of authority in general and of the state in particular.

Chapters 3 and 4 form the central part of this study. While chapter 3 traces the ascent of Charles Taylor from senior organizer of an irregular armed faction to sovereign president, chapter
4 analyzes his fall and the emergence of a new political regime. As their overarching issue, the two chapters investigate the fragmentation and re-centralization of political power in Liberia, showing how these phenomena were related to changes in the political economy.

Chapter 3 analyzes political patterns and the political economy of major political actors of the First War. Many of the terms developed for analysis of historic state formation as proposed in chapter 2 are equally helpful to investigating state-forming dynamics in contemporary civil wars. The analysis pays special attention to the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the rebel group led by Charles Taylor, but also analyzes in depth his (interlinked) adversaries, i.e. the interim government, the Nigerian-led intervention force, and the diverse armed factions that emanated from the pre-war government. For each of the important political actors, I investigate the basis of their claim to, and their degree of, legitimacy-the latter on the basis of narratives in the absence of more reliable evidence. I further analyze their organizational patterns and control over revenues. Legitimacy, internal organization and control over revenues are the key factors I investigate to explain the relative strength of political actors.

The strength of armed factions and other political actors in the First Liberian War has not been systematically analyzed before, and neither has the available data been compared and checked for plausibility. As I show, high but often implausible estimates of war economy revenues of the NPFL have been widely used in the debate. The chapter entertains the hypothesis that Charles Taylor's rise had much less to do with superior war economy profits than has frequently been argued, and was to a large extent due to his superior, charismatically-based legitimacy and the poor political organization of his rivals. I argue that the profits of war are inadequate an ex
planation for the destruction of Liberia. Rather, the intermittent breakdown of the Liberian state was a political phenomenon engendered by a severe lack of government legitimacy and sustained by a politically motivated regional intervention. The latter was supported by the developed states of the world and sponsored a host of poorly organized, unrepresentative and illegitimate armed or unarmed political actors.

Chapter 4 investigates the fall of Taylor and the emergence of a new, neo-patrimonial and democratic regime. I apply the same categories used in the previous chapter-political patterns, legitimacy, control over reve-nues-to the analysis of the Charles Taylor government, the rebels who unseated him, and relevant civilian political forces. The analysis covers three institutionally different phases, i.e. the Second Liberian War, the power-sharing interim government following it, and the rule of newly elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I show that, faced with a different political situation involving new challenges and constraints, Taylor's legitimacy eroded. While this allowed rebels to gain a temporary military advantage, they were too weak to monopolize power and acted accor-dingly. The result was a power-sharing government composed of various forces and characterized by fragmentation of powers, as well as a high degree of use of public office for private benefit. Importantly, none of the former armed factions succeeded in accumulating power and legitimacy, and hence opportunities were created for civilian political actors. The democratic elections of 2005, i.e. the line-up of forces, the resources at their disposal and the alliances struck by the final contenders, are analyzed in detail with a view to explaining the eventual poll results. The latter part of the chapter is devoted to dynamics of the Johnson Sirleaf government, arguing that Liberia has entered a new, probably cyclical, phase in its political history that can be conceptualiz
ed as "neo-patrimonial democracy."

EAN: 9783593398921
ISBN: 3593398923
Untertitel: The Political Economy of War and Peace in Liberia. 'Mikropolitik der Gewalt'. 4 sw Karten, zahlreiche Tabellen. Sprache: Englisch.
Verlag: Campus Verlag GmbH
Erscheinungsdatum: Mai 2013
Seitenanzahl: 301 Seiten
Format: kartoniert
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