Reasoning with rebels: how the private authority in rebel enclaves impacts the peace process

Negotiated settlements in civil wars are relatively rare and have a high risk of renewed violence. The political and economic motivations of rebel groups have been studied to explain the success and failure of peace processes. The objective of this research is to develop theory that explains variation in the outcome of peace processes with rebel groups. First, there is a need to explain why rebel groups with an industrial interest in war sometimes do engage in peace negotiations, and why negotiations are followed by a rich diversity in terms of settlement. Second, there is a need to explain variation in post-settlement insecurity. In some cases, after a settlement has been reached, violence against civilians persists even if the rebel group continues to profess commitment to the agreement. In other cases, the conflict is ‘frozen’ but episodic armed battle takes place.

I propose that to explain variation in the outcome of peace processes it is essential to look at the internal dynamics and organisational interests of rebel groups. In particular, I focus on the control of rebel territory. Rebel groups create a system of governance to control their territory, constituting rebel enclaves. A rebel enclave is an unrecognised space or territory controlled by insurgents. Rebel enclaves are governed through private authority, depending on illicit channels of trade and communication. Building on recent micro-level analyses of rebel groups, this research explores in particular how the hegemonic or contested private authority in rebel enclaves impacts the outcome of the peace process.