“Wartime Experiences of Civic Leaders: Legacies of Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa”
Justine M. Davis
PhD Candidate in Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
International donors funnel billions of aid dollars to local civil society organizations to facilitate post-conflict democratization, but little is known about how war shapes the democratic promotion strategies of these organizations, including the behaviors of civic leaders themselves. In this paper, I develop a theory in which the uncertainty associated with rebel takeover of territory during civil war conditions the democratic potential of civic leaders over the longer term. I argue that exposure to wartime uncertainty produces egocentric and discriminatory effects among civic leaders. The egocentric effect emerges because the uncertainty around who is in charge experienced under rebel takeover leads civic leaders to become more inclined to keep resources for themselves as a form of insurance. The discriminatory effect emerges because the distrust fomented during rebel takeover exacerbates existing cleavages, inducing civic leaders to become more discriminatory in their relationships with outgroups. To assess this theory and its implications, I leverage geographic variation in rebel control within Côte d’Ivoire through a combination of elite interviews, surveys, and lab-in-the-field games. I find that civic leaders who lived under rebel control are subsequently more egocentric and more discriminatory than their counterparts who lived in areas continuously controlled by government. These findings have implications for post-conflict democratization by providing greater understanding of the behavioral constraints faced when relying on war-traumatized civic leaders to facilitate the growth of democratic culture.
Justine M. Davis is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on comparative politics and political behavior in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellow as well as an American Political Science Association Minority Fellow. She holds an M.A. in International Affairs, Conflict Resolution and Civil Society Development from the American University of Paris and the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a B.A. in International Studies from Elon University. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Justine was a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellow in Côte d’Ivoire and worked at the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club in Paris.