Civilian targeting in African conflicts - a poor actor's game that spreads through space

Piotr Lis, Michael Spagat, Uih Ran Lee

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    Abstract

    Armed conflict actors frequently target civilian populations. Thus, an improved understanding of such behaviour could pave the way to reducing it. We use the Civilian Targeting Index (CTI) and a broad array of geo-referenced data to investigate the spatio-temporal and economic dynamics of civilian targeting by conflict actors in Africa. Two main insights are generated. First, the civilian targeting behaviour of African non-state conflict actors is strongly influenced by the behaviour of other proximate actors. In particular, non-state actors tend to increase their civilian targeting after nearby non-state actors have done so. Possible mechanisms to explain such spatial spillovers include emulation and retaliation. Second, a negative relationship between economic activity and civilian targeting exists and applies to both state and non-state actors. In addition, CTIs of non-state actors tend to increase with population density, the geographical spread of their conflict activity and conflict duration. State actors have higher average CTI's than non-state actors do but the gap between the two actor types tends to close during long-duration conflicts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)900-914
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Peace Research
    Volume58
    Issue number5
    Early online date8 Feb 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

    Keywords

    • African conflicts
    • civilian targeting
    • one-sided violence
    • spatial diffusion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Safety Research
    • Political Science and International Relations

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