Political Instability, Threat Displacement and Civil War: Darfur as a Theory Building Case

47 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2011

See all articles by Philip Roessler

Philip Roessler

College of William and Mary - Department of Government

Date Written: August 1, 2011

Abstract

This paper revisits the link between political instability and civil war. It focuses on the elite dynamics endogenous to political instability — namely the commitment problem, in which elites have no guarantees that any distribution of power they agree upon today will be maintained in the future when each actor possesses the capabilities to lock in a much larger share by permanently eliminating others from the regime. It argues political instability, such as coups d’état, regime splits, and purges, often reflect rival elites’ attempts to resolve the commitment problem by destroying or otherwise neutralizing their rivals’ first and second-strike capabilities. The consequence of this political strategy, however, is it divides the regime, destroying the patron-client networks on which the government depends for maintaining societal control and support, increasing the risk of civil war. I explore this argument through an in-depth case study of the outbreak of the Darfur civil war. Based on hundreds of interviews with key members of Sudan’s Islamic Movement, leaders of the Darfurian rebel movements, and other Darfurians, including politicians, tribal sheikhs, and members of civil society, I systematically analyze the effect of the split in the Islamic Movement in 1999 and 2000 on the onset of civil war in Darfur in 2002.

Keywords: political instability, civil war, Sudan, Darfur, weak states

Suggested Citation

Roessler, Philip, Political Instability, Threat Displacement and Civil War: Darfur as a Theory Building Case (August 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1909228 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1909228

Philip Roessler (Contact Author)

College of William and Mary - Department of Government ( email )

Government Dept, College of William & Mary
Post Office Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23186
United States

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