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Muddying the Waters: The Anatomy of Resistance Campaigns and the Failure of Ceasefires in Civil Wars

Posted on 2023-03-16 - 14:11

Ceasefires are a critical tool for those engaged in conflict management during civil wars, yet little scholarship exists that systematically assesses the durability of these arrangements. We argue that ceasefire failure is driven by variations in the composition of organized dissent including and beyond the context of the civil war. In particular, ceasefires should break down faster given increasingly complicated environments of broader anti-government dissent, where resistance dynamics alter the perceived or actual balance of power between rebels and the state. Using original data on organizations participating in violent and nonviolent dissent across African states from 1990-2015, and new data on civil war ceasefires, we find that ceasefire breakdown is precipitated by complex resistance environments that put the government in a precarious position. Increasing numbers of mobilized organizations, higher ideological fractionalization among those groups, more dense and increasingly decentralized dissident networks all expedite the failure of ceasefires in civil wars.

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