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Violence Against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?

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  • JEAN-PAUL AZAM

    (ARQADE, IDEI, University of Toulouse, Institut Universitaire de France, and Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford azam@univ-tlse1.fr)

  • ANKE HOEFFLER

    (St Antony's College and Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford, and International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO))

Abstract

This article analyses the motives of violence against civilians during internal wars. It is suggested that soldiers may terrorize civilians because they need the loot to augment their resources while the rest of the time is engaged in fighting proper. An alternative hypothesis suggests that terrorizing the civilian population plays a direct military role. The displacement of large fractions of the civilian population reduces the fighting efficiency of the enemy, as they cannot hide as easily and obtain less support. These two alternative hypotheses are investigated in a simple two-stage game-theoretic model. At stage 1, the government and the rebels simultaneously decide on the level of forces engaged in violence against civilians before they choose the level of forces that they engage in the fighting proper at stage 2. There are two types of sub-game perfect equilibria in this model: there is a pure fighting equilibrium in which no violence against civilians takes place and a pure terror equilibrium. In the latter equilibrium, it is shown that terror substitutes for fighting if the government can afford it. Predictions of the model are tested using African refugee data. In accordance with the theoretical model, the refugee population displays strong positive serial correlation, and after controlling for war, overseas development assistance has a positive impact on the outflow of refugees. Thus, the results support the hypothesis that violence against civilians is motivated by military objectives and suggest that donor funding to governments at war should be cut if the protection of civilians is regarded as more important than the fate of the fighters.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Paul Azam & Anke Hoeffler, 2002. "Violence Against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 39(4), pages 461-485, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:39:y:2002:i:4:p:461-485
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    Cited by:

    1. Shemyakina, Olga, 2011. "The effect of armed conflict on accumulation of schooling: Results from Tajikistan," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 186-200, July.
    2. Trani, Jean-François & Cannings, Tim I., 2013. "Child Poverty in an Emergency and Conflict Context: A Multidimensional Profile and an Identification of the Poorest Children in Western Darfur," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 48-70.
    3. David Fielding & Anja Shortland, 2010. "What Explains Changes in the Level of Abuse Against Civilians during the Peruvian Civil War?," Working Papers 1003, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised May 2010.
    4. Jean-Paul Azam, 2005. "Suicide-bombing as inter-generational investment," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 177-198, January.
    5. Benedikt Korf, 2007. "Contract or war? On the rules of the game in civil wars," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(5), pages 685-694.
    6. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2004. "Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Policy in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 1230, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Joan Esteban & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2015. "Strategic Mass Killings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(5), pages 1087-1132.
    8. Manuel Fernández & Ana María Ibáñez & Ximena Peña, 2014. "Adjusting the Labour Supply to Mitigate Violent Shocks: Evidence from Rural Colombia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(8), pages 1135-1155, August.
    9. Juan F Vargas, 2009. "Military empowerment and civilian targeting in civil war," Documentos de Trabajo 005282, Universidad del Rosario.
    10. Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Simon Hug & Livia Isabella Schubiger & Julian Wucherpfennig, 2011. "International Conventions and Non-State Actors: Selection, Signaling, and Reputation Effects," HiCN Working Papers 108, Households in Conflict Network.
    11. David Fielding & Anja Shortland, 2010. "Foreign Interventions and Abuse of Civilians during the Peruvian Civil War," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1051, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    12. Ana María Ibañez & Andrés Moya, 2010. "Do Conflicts Create Poverty Traps? Asset Losses and Recovery for Displaced Households in Colombia," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 137-172, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Laia Balcells, 2008. "Rivalry and Revenge: Making Sense of Violence against Civilians in Conventional Civil Wars," HiCN Working Papers 51, Households in Conflict Network.
    14. Valentina Calderón & Margarita Gáfaro & Ana María Ibáñez, 2011. "Forced Migration, Female Labor Force Participation, and Intra-household Bargaining: Does Conflict EmpowerWomen?," Documentos CEDE 008912, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.

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