Civilian Protest and Competitive State-building in Rebel-held Côte d’Ivoire


How do urban environments shape the occurrence of wartime civilian protest? Wartime civilian protest in this chapter refers to instances of public, collective, and predominantly nonviolent action by which noncombatants make claims on a conflict party within the context of armed conflict. Building on a unique georeferenced database of protest events in rebel-held Côte d’Ivoire, as well as insights from eight months of field research and relevant secondary sources, this chapter interrogates the occurrence and dynamics of wartime civilian protest. Starting from the observation that civilian protest was predominantly an urban phenomenon, I argue that protest was a function of a broader process of competitive state-building between the government and the rebels. Competitive state-building in rebel-held cities in turn prompted civilian protest by generating both opportunities for the rebels to organize anti-government protests, and opportunities and incentives for civilians to challenge wartime governance through collective action. The chapter contributes new knowledge on how urban environments shape processes of competitive state-building in civil war, the urban dynamics of wartime civilian agency, and to our understanding of how armed insurrection in the bushes can trigger civilian protests in the street.

In: Sam Kniknie & Karen Büscher, Rebellious Riots: Entangled Geographies of Contention in Africa, Leiden: Brill, pp. 94-127.
Sebastian van Baalen
Sebastian van Baalen
Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Research

My research interests include the dynamics of violence and civil war.