Civilian Protest in Civil War: Insights from Côte d'Ivoire


Scholars recognize that civilians engage in nonviolent collective action against governments and rebel groups to tamp down on violence and call for peace. Yet, scholars often fail to appreciate the full range of demands that civilians raise in warzones and tend to overlook civilian action against certain targets and concerning particular issues. Such omissions risk romanticizing civilians and impede knowledge of civilian collective action in civil war. This study introduces wartime civilian protest as a concept that unifies these different actions within a single conceptual framework, and identifies four overarching protest types: alignment protests, intervention protests, peace-related protests, and reform protests. Moreover, the study demonstrates the analytical benefits of considering different protest types in tandem rather than isolation. To illustrate the typology’s validity and utility, the study introduces and analyzes the first comprehensive georeferenced event dataset of 284 wartime civilian protest events during the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire. The analysis sheds new light on the limitations of the Ivorian peace process, the contested nature of international peacemaking and peacekeeping, and how civilians related to armed actors in rebel-held areas. Taken together, the study speaks to the burgeoning literature on civilian collective action in civil war and emerging practice on how to involve civilians as partners in civilian protection, peacemaking, and peacebuilding.

Working paper
Sebastian van Baalen
Sebastian van Baalen
Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Research

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