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Title: The internal dynamics of rebel groups : politics of material viability and organisational capacity in the RUF of Sierra Leone
Author: Marks, Zoe E. Z.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the internal dynamics of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone over the course of the civil war waged from 1991-2002. It does so in two parts, looking first at the RUF’s organizational capacity—its ability to emerge and survive as a group; and second, at its material viability—the logistics and procurement of food, weapons, and other resources required to sustain war. The RUF has become a paradigmatic case for the study of war and rebel groups in Africa. Although much has been written on the group and its violence, comparatively little is known about the inner-workings of the organization and how a largely forcibly recruited group of ill-equipped thousands managed to pose a viable threat to the state for over a decade. Through a fine-grained, case-based analysis, this study applies research on the microdynamics of violence in civil war to the structural and logistical mechanics that underpin it. Doing so contextualizes debates about resource wars, collective violence, and mobilization and onset within the RUF’s own strategies for controlling these aspects of war- making. New primary material, including rebel archive documents, describes the extensive military and civilian governance structures through which order and cohesion were established and enforced. Tracking the success and failure of these mechanisms helps explain the disconnect between rebel rhetoric and behaviour. A detailed examination of the RUF’s material capacity applies this organizational analysis to the group’s strategic priorities for survival. It reorients the resource war debate toward what actually fuels fighting on the ground. Food has long been overlooked as the primary requirement for group survival, and ammunition the basic element of military viability. These ‘low politics’ of survival explain the nature of the war and underscore the importance of shifting factors, such as territorial control, in shaping rebel behaviour. Finally, the ‘high politics’ of international arms trades and global diamond markets illumine changes in the RUF’s firepower and personalization of power, returning to the organizational failings that ultimately led to the group’s dissolution.
Supervisor: Anderson, David Sponsor: Georgetown University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Africa ; Social Sciences ; Political science ; Governance in Africa ; International studies ; War (politics) ; Gender ; war ; conflict ; civil war ; Sierra Leone ; revolution ; rebellion ; Africa ; armed groups ; violence ; security ; international relations ; internal conflict ; small wars ; insurgency ; women ; power ; politics