Managing Militias: Recruitment, Discipline, and Governance among Counterinsurgent Militias in Sierra Leone

Forney, Jonathan, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Forney, Jonathan, Arts & Sciences Graduate-fasg, University of Virginia

Why do non-state armed organizations change over time? Why do some armed groups retain high levels of discipline and cooperative relationships with civilians, while other groups degenerate into racketeering and rogue banditry? This dissertation uses micro-comparative evidence to identify the mechanisms of organizational durability and change within three counter-insurgent militias that operated in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. Newly gathered oral history and survey data from interviews with over 150 former militia members reveal that militia recruitment processes are essential in managing community-level conflicts, and are thus highly predictive of the long-term trajectories of armed organizations that draw recruits from local communities. Critical questions about how militia members are recruited have profound consequences – manifested in the varying levels of success of attempts to monitor and control existing militia members, and to extract key resources from civilian populations. My fine-grained examination of civil militias in Sierra Leone suggests important revisions to, and extensions of, existing theories of recruitment in armed groups and theories of civilian victimization during civil wars.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
militias, non-state armed groups, insurgency, counterinsurgency, rebellion, agency theory, Sierra Leone, Civil Defense Forces, Kamajor, Donso, Tamaboro, Africa, armed groups, political violence, civilian victimization, violence, civil-military relations, diamonds, drugs, recruitment, adverse selection
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