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The Reach of Radio: Defection Messaging and Armed Group Behavior


  • Alex Armand
  • Paul Atwell
  • Joseph Gomes


We study the role of FM radio messaging in discouraging violent conflict by armed groups. Focusing on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), we collected unique information about defection messaging by radio stations in the four countries (DR Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Uganda) where the LRA has operated. We exploit time and geographical variation, along with the randomness of topography that influences radio coverage, to capture the causal effect of the intensity of messaging on violence, and on the LRA’s strategic behavior. Higher intensity of defection messages leads to a decrease in violence, measured in both number of events and fatalities. We show that this outcome is mainly explained by an increase in defections among LRA members. In areas with higher intensity of messaging, we observe a strategic shift as the LRA tries to compensate these membership losses with increased abductions to recruit new members, and increased looting to reward members.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Armand & Paul Atwell & Joseph Gomes, 2017. "The Reach of Radio: Defection Messaging and Armed Group Behavior," NCID Working Papers 01/2017, Navarra Center for International Development, University of Navarra.
  • Handle: RePEc:nva:unnvaa:wp01-2017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maja Adena & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Veronica Santarosa & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2013. "Radio and the Rise of the Nazis in Prewar Germany," PSE Working Papers halshs-00858992, HAL.
    2. Maja Adena & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Veronica Santarosa & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2015. "Radio and the Rise of The Nazis in Prewar Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1885-1939.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clarke, Damian, 2019. "A convenient omitted variable bias formula for treatment effect models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 174(C), pages 84-88.
    2. Edoardo Chiarotti & Nathalie Monnet, 2019. "Hit them in the Wallet! An Analysis of the Indian Demonetization as a Counter-Insurgency Policy," IHEID Working Papers 03-2019, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.

    More about this item


    Conflict; LRA; Radio; Defection; Mass Media;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • N47 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Africa; Oceania
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other

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