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Violence Against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?

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  • Azam, Jean-Paul
  • Hoeffler, Anke

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.
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Suggested Citation

  • Azam, Jean-Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 2001. "Violence Against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?," WIDER Working Paper Series 046, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:dp2001-46
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    Cited by:

    1. Joan Esteban & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2015. "Strategic Mass Killings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(5), pages 1087-1132.
    2. 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.
    3. María Alejandra Arias & Ana María Ibáñez & Andres Zambrano, 2017. "Agricultural Production Amid Conflict: Separating the Effects of Conflict into Shocks and Uncertainty," HiCN Working Papers 245, Households in Conflict Network.
    4. 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.
    5. Matthias Cinyabuguma & Louis Putterman, 2006. "Sub-Saharan Growth Surprises: Geography, Institutions And History in an all African Data Panel," Working Papers 2006-21, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    6. 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.
    7. Timothy J. Hatton & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2004. "Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Policy in Europe," NBER Working Papers 10680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ana María Ibáñez & Andrea Velásquez, 2006. "El Proceso De Identificación De Víctimas De Los Conflictos Civiles: Una Evaluación Para La Población Desplazada En Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002537, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    9. 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.
    10. Jean-Paul Azam, 2005. "Suicide-bombing as inter-generational investment," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 177-198, January.
    11. Juan F Vargas, 2009. "Military empowerment and civilian targeting in civil war," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 005282, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO.
    12. Oliver Vanden Eynde, 2015. "Targets of violence: evidence from India's Naxalite conflict," PSE Working Papers halshs-01202689, HAL.
    13. 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.
    14. Ana María Ibá-ez, 2014. "Growth in forced displacement: cross-country, sub-national and household evidence on potential determinants," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Migration and Economic Development, chapter 13, pages 350-387 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    15. Laia Balcells, 2008. "Rivalry and Revenge: Making Sense of Violence against Civilians in Conventional Civil Wars," HiCN Working Papers 51, Households in Conflict Network.
    16. Abbey Steele, 2007. "Massive Civilian Displacement in Civil War: Assessing Variation in Colombia," HiCN Working Papers 29, Households in Conflict Network.
    17. Francesco Amodio & Leonardo Baccini & Michele di Maio, "undated". "Security, Trade, and Political Violence," HiCN Working Papers 250, Households in Conflict Network.
    18. 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.
    19. Attiat F. Ott & Sang Hoo Bae, 2011. "Modeling Mass Killing: For Gain or Ethnic Cleansing?," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Conflict, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2014. "Theory of Indiscriminate Violence," Working Paper 365551, Harvard University OpenScholar.

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    Keywords

    civil war; Africa; game theory; refugees;

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