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Title: Ethnic mobilisation and the Liberian civil war (1989-2003)
Author: Antwi-Ansorge, Nana Akua
ISNI:       0000 0004 5050 1006
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the relationship between ethnicity and violent group mobilisation in Liberia’s civil war (1989-2003). It focuses on Gio, Mano and Mandingo mobilisation to investigate how and why internal dynamics about moral norms and expectations motivated leadership calls for violence and ethnic support. Much of the existing literature interprets popular involvement in violent group mobilisation on the Upper Guinea Coast as a youth rebellion against gerontocracy. I argue that such an approach is incomplete in the Liberian case, and does not account for questions of ethnic mobilisation and the participation of groups such as the Gio, Mano and Mandingo. At the onset of hostilities, civilians in Liberia were not primarily mobilised to fight based on their age, but rather as members of ethnic communities whose membership included different age groups. I explore constructivist approaches to ethnicity to analyse mobilisation for war as the collective 'self-defence' of ethnic groups qua moral communities. In the prelude to the outbreak of civil war, inter-ethnic inequalities of access to the state and economic resources became reconfigured. Ethnic groups—as moral communities—experienced external 'victimisation' and a sense of internal dissolution, or threatened dissolution. In particular, the understanding of internal reciprocal relations between patrons and clients within ethnic groups was undermined. Internal arguments about morality, personal responsibility, social accountability/justice, increased the pressure on excluded elites and thus incentivised them to pursue violent political strategies. Mobilisation took on an ethnic form mainly because individuals believed that they were fighting to protect the moral communities that generate esteem and ground understandings of good citizenship. Therefore, ethnic participation in the Liberian countryside differed from the model peasant rebellion that seeks to overthrow the feudal elites. Rather than a revolution of the social order, individuals regarded themselves as protecting an extant ethnic order that provided rights and distributed resources. Even though some individuals fought for political power and resources, and external actors facilitated group organisation through the provision of logistical support, the violence was also an expression of bottom-up moral community crisis and an attempt by politico-military elites to keep their reputation and enforce unity.
Supervisor: Cheeseman, Nic Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Africa ; Economic and Social History ; Agrarian change ; Conflict ; Violence (refugees) ; Governance in Africa ; Social justice ; War (politics) ; Social Inequality ; Ethnic minorities and ethnicity ; civil war ; identity politics ; horizontal inequalities ; moral economy ; moral ethnicity ; Liberia