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Book Launch 'Extralegal Groups in Post-Conflict Liberia' with Christine Che...

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War Studies Meeting Room (K6.07)

King's College London

King's Building, Strand Campus

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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Abstract

In the aftermath of the Liberian civil war, groups of ex-combatants seized control of key natural resource enclaves in the country. With some of them threatening a return to war, these groups were widely viewed as the most significant threats to Liberia’s hard-won peace. Building on fieldwork and socio-historical analysis, this book shows how extralegal groups were incentivized to provide basic governance goods in their bid to create a stable commercial environment during the country’s war-to-peace transition. By analysing the trajectory of extralegal groups in three sectors of the Liberian economy— rubber, diamonds, and timber— this book traces how livelihood strategies merged with the opportunities of Liberia’s post-war political economy. At the same time, this is also a context-specific story that is rooted in the country’s geography, its history of state-making, and its social and political practices. Extralegal groups did not emerge in a vacuum.

Where the state is weak and political authority is contested, where rule of law is corrupted and government distrust runs deep, extralegal groups can provide order and dispute resolution, forming the basic kernel of the state. Further, they can establish public norms of compliance and cooperation with local populations. This logic counters the prevailing “spoiler” narrative, forcing us to reimagine violent non-state actors as accidental statebuilders in an evolutionary state-making process, and not simply as national security threats. These are not groups who seek to rule; they provide governance because they need to trade— not as an end in itself. This leads to the book’s broader argument: it is trade, rather than war, that drives contemporary statebuilding. Along the way, this book poses some uncomfortable questions about what it means to be legitimately governed, whether our trust in states is misplaced, whether entrenched corruption is the most likely post-conflict outcome, and whether our expectations of international peacebuilding and statebuilding are unrealistic and self-defeating.

Biographies

Dr Christine Cheng is Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of Extralegal Groups in Post-Conflict Liberia and co-editor of Corruption and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Selling the Peace? Dr Cheng worked with the UK government’s Stabilisation Unit on the Elite Bargains and Political Deals project. She is currently working with Chatham House on a study of Countering War Economies in MENA. At King’s, Dr Cheng teaches on the MA in Conflict, Security, and Development. Dr Cheng holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford (Nuffield), an MPA from Princeton University (Woodrow Wilson School), and a BASc in systems design engineering from the University of Waterloo. She sits on the Federal Policy Committee and the Foreign Affairs Advisory Group for a major political party in Britain, as well as serving as vice chair of the party’s foreign policy working group. Dr Cheng sits on the Conflict Research Society’s Governing Council and the Advisory Board of Women in Foreign Policy. She tweets @cheng_christine.

Professor Funmi Olonisakin is VP International at King's College London. She is also founding Director of the African Leadership Centre (ALC), which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa. Her academic research and writing has contributed to strategic thinking in post-conflict contexts and in the work of regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the African Union.

Funmi is a founding member of the African Security Sector Network (ASSN) and served as its West African Regional Coordinator from 2008 until 2012. From 2008-2010, she served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Fragile States. She currently serves as the Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI), and is on the Advisory Board of the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). She is a member of the Board of the Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa and the Boards of Trustees of International Alert and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. In January 2015, Professor Olonisakin was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, as one of seven members of the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.

Dr Karin von Hippel is Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Dr von Hippel joined RUSI after serving for nearly six years in the US Department of State as a Senior Adviser in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, then as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and finally, as Chief of Staff to General John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL. Prior to that, she co-directed the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC and was a senior research fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London. She has also worked for the United Nations and the European Union in Somalia and Kosovo, and has direct experience in over two dozen conflict zones. Dr von Hippel is the author of Democracy by Force: US Military Intervention in the Post-Cold War World (2000), which was short-listed for the RUSI Westminster Medal in Military History. She holds a PhD from the London School of Economics, an MSt from Oxford University, and a BA from Yale University.

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War Studies Meeting Room (K6.07)

King's College London

King's Building, Strand Campus

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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