Fight or Flight: A Micro-Level Analysis of Demobilization in the Democratic Republic of Congo
41 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 25 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
Why do some combatants leave armed groups and demobilize while others fight on? The existing literature on demobilization after civil war often treats armed groups as unitary actors. Here I study the internal organization of five armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and examine the micro-level dynamics of demobilization both during and immediately after civil war. Drawing on existing theories of collective action I present eight individual-level mechanisms explaining demobilization and sustained participation in armed groups. I argue that these motivationally-based mechanisms are incomplete explanations owing to their neglect of organizational constraints. To illustrate this I apply a micro-comparative method to data collected from a combination of in-depth interviews and informal conversations with former combatants in North Kivu province. The analysis shows how intra-group monitoring and punishment (“in-group policing”) can sustain participation and deter demobilization among combatants with privately held preferences for exit.
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