Transforming West African militia networks for postwar recovery

William Reno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Conventional analyses and policy prescriptions for postwar societies in West Africa typically conflate wartime networks with continued violence and criminal economic activities. However, while posing real problems, these networks also are potential vehicles for economic transformation. As evidence from Liberia and Sierra Leone shows, some of these networks show signs of developing commercial activities outside old political patronage networks based in the national capital. They provide avenues for ex-combatants to gain direct access to economic opportunities in defiance of the control previously exercised by local political insiders. Alongside this unexpected development lies the risk that foreign-sponsored reform programs unintentionally strengthen centrally organized insider networks that are, to many wartime combatants, avenues of privilege and exploitation. The analysis presented here provides a contrast to the view that the survival of wartime associations of combatants is purely negative in its effects on society and the economy. It suggests that appropriate reform strategies should take into account the potential for some of these associations of ex-combatants to develop as more purely business operations and should seek ways to integrate them into the formal economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-149
Number of pages23
JournalComparative Social Research
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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