How Rebellion Begins: Insurgent Group Formation and Viability in Uganda
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CitationLewis, Janet Ingram. 2012. How Rebellion Begins: Insurgent Group Formation and Viability in Uganda. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractHow do armed rebellions begin? Scholars often probe the “origins” and “onset” of internal conflict, but rarely scrutinize how violence initially emerges. This study does so by examining the inception of all rebel groups that formed in Uganda since 1986. It focuses in particular on understanding why only some nascent groups become viable, while others fail too early to make an imprint on the historical record and thus remain omitted from scholarly analyses. By comparing the initial stages of rebellion for groups that become viable with those of groups that fail early, this project offers a rare opportunity to examine how armed conflict begins and how it sometimes ends before large-scale violence occurs. The project highlights the importance of information in the initial trajectories of aspiring rebels. While most existing work envisions rebel initiation as a collective action problem, I posit that in fact insurgencies often begin as small, vulnerable, clandestine groups whose primary challenge is to avoid information leaks to the government. Several arguments at the core of the dissertation follow from this conceptualization of incipient rebellion. First, in weak states – those with minimal institutional penetration and thus minimal monitoring of their territory beyond the capital – barriers to entry for clandestine groups are low and therefore rebel formation will occur more commonly and with less spatial predictability than several dominant theories of conflict initiation suggest. Second, the decisions of civilians who live near newly-formed rebel groups, many of who could provide information about nascent rebels to the government, are critical in determining whether nascent groups survive. Civilians make decisions about whether to provide information to the government about incipient rebels based primarily on information they receive from other civilians; thus, variation in the structure of civilian information networks importantly influences incipient rebels’ chances for becoming viable. By showing a link between ethnicity and information networks, the dissertation advances a new understanding of how ethnicity can influence conflict onset. A third argument calls attention to the importance of domestic intelligence institutions in allowing states to access local information networks, deterring the initiation of new rebel groups.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10445634
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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