Ex-combatant political engagement in post-conflict Côte d’Ivoire
Berriault, Tobey Evonne
Why do some ex-combatants mobilise to make financial and material gains and others do not? This thesis examines the political engagement activities of ex-combatants in post-conflict Côte d’Ivoire. The activities examined include opposition party politics, mutiny, protest, forming associations, and writing letters. This research demonstrates that the choice of activity varies across groups, with the primary determinant being their own perceptions of whether they are the political ‘victors’ or the politically ‘defeated’ in the post-conflict period. The main argument advanced is that both political loyalties and proximity to political power impact collective and individual choices of engagement strategy, and, at least partially, determine the degrees of success. Whether ex-combatants perceive claims-making opportunities to exist is shaped by their experiences and expectations of clientelistic exchanges with political elites continuing into the post-conflict period. Drawing from 12 months of fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire, from July 2016 – July 2017, this research reveals that ex-combatants with political loyalties to the victorious rebellion of the Forces Nouvelles, were highly engaged in claims-making for material and financial gain. Moreover, it reveals that within the groups of Forces Nouvelles affiliated ex-combatants, those with closer proximity to influential political actors experienced greater success in claims-making than those at a distance. Contrary to this, ex-combatants with sentiments of defeat restricted their political engagement to opposition party politics, and in other cases, chose to disengage altogether. Situating the fieldwork in this time period allows for inquiries into the nature of political engagement in a relatively open and transitional space, as the post-conflict Ivoirian government consolidates its exclusive hold on political and economic power. The case of post-conflict Côte d’Ivoire shows that the greatest risk to peace and stability comes from ex-combatants with the closest ties to political power, rather than from those who feel disgruntled and side-lined. It shows that ex-combatants who are closer to political power engage in highly destabilising forms of political engagement, while those farther away, or out of favour, have restricted their actions. This thesis explores Ivoirian history and politics to understand how ex-combatants perceive political opportunities and constraints in the post-conflict period. In doing so, it contributes to academic discussions about post-conflict compensation for wartime experience, ex-combatant political behaviour, and finally, the transformative effects of violent conflict in reconfiguring social orders in the post-conflict period.