From Rebellion to Politics : The Transformation of Rebel Groups to Political Parties in Civil War Peace Processes

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: Why do some rebel groups in civil war peace processes transform into viable political parties while others do not? The transformation of armed rebels into peaceful politicians has been identified as one of the most critical factors in explaining the successful transition from violence to sustainable peace. Yet few studies have examined under what conditions these transformations are more or less likely to be carried out. This study addresses this research problem. It focuses specifically on rebel groups that emerge as opposition parties in post-war politics. Drawing on insights provided by previous research, the study develops a novel and integrated theoretical framework which identifies the relevant causal processes of rebel-to-party transformations and links them to a set of explanatory variables in a levels-of-analysis framework. A comparative study is conducted of four rebel organisations that have experienced diverse outcomes in this respect: the FMLN in El Salvador and Renamo in Mozambique, which both became viable political parties, and the RUF in Sierra Leone and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, which did not. It is found that the rebel groups are more likely to become viable political parties when the leadership of the group is united on the decision to abandon the armed struggle and enter peaceful politics; when the rebel group has a relatively high level of popular support among the domestic population; and when key international actors and donors recognise the rebel group as a legitimate political actor. The findings also demonstrate how and why each of these three factors is linked to the outcomes in question by identifying the group’s selective and collective incentives for mobilising support and resources as the key causal mechanisms at work in rebel-to-party transformations. These conclusions are critical to our understanding of the conditions that facilitate or obstruct a transition from rebellion to politics.

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