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Breaking the “Insecurity Trap”? How Violence and Counter-violence are Perpetuated in Elite Power Struggles


  • Andreas Mehler

    () (GIGA Institute of African Affairs)


Half a century after independence, African elites, at least those in conflict-ridden countries, often live in constant fear for their life. Real or invented coup attempts, political assassinations, beatings of opposition leaders, the distribution of death lists, etc. have a profoundly traumatizing and self-perpetuating effect. Purges, not least in the security apparatus, are not uncommon, particularly after changes in government, be they peaceful or violent. These purges come at a cost: the excluded elites are frequently tempted to use violence to come back into the “dining room”—and the excluding government tries to prevent reentry by all means. This contribution draws a dense picture of elite (in)security in three African countries (Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia). A comparative analysis of elite security needs and devices is undertaken, permitting the author to draw some preliminary sconclusions: The ineffectiveness of state institutions (presidential guards, etc.) in breaking the insecurity trap by providing special elite-protection services is obvious. The record of private security services is most debatable and efforts by international actors need to be looked at more closely: UN peacekeepers can be effective when they are sufficient in number and have the appropriate mandate. The record of French interventions in former colonies has over time become ever more ambivalent and has lost any preventive meaning.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Mehler, 2008. "Breaking the “Insecurity Trap”? How Violence and Counter-violence are Perpetuated in Elite Power Struggles," GIGA Working Paper Series 87, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:87

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Collier & V. L. Elliott & Håvard Hegre & Anke Hoeffler & Marta Reynal-Querol & Nicholas Sambanis, 2003. "Breaking the Conflict Trap : Civil War and Development Policy," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13938.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Mehler, 2009. "The Production of Insecurity by African Security Forces: Insights from Liberia and the Central African Republic," GIGA Working Paper Series 114, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.

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    Africa; elites; security; Central African Republic; Côte d’Ivoire; Liberia;

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