Politics of Affection : Ex-Combatants, Political Engagement and Reintegration Programs in Liberia
Sammanfattning: Ex-combatants' relationship with post-war politics is crucial for the continued democratization and peace processes, irrespective of what has shaped it: the war or their post-war experiences. In this thesis, the relationship with politics, after the end of the Liberian civil war (1989-2003) is explored among ex-combatants, following the research question: How do ex-combatants in Liberia think about politics and how do they engage in politics? Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) programs are a large component of contemporary peacebuilding efforts that target ex-combatant populations. However, current research has failed to seriously examine the political consequences of these programs. Therefore, this thesis is also driven by an interest to explore whether the reintegration programs can shape the ex-combatants’ relationship with politics. Using focus group interviews with 101 ex-combatants in 18 different groups, with six different program experiences, as well as survey data from the Afrobarometer, these questions are examined using nested analyses, at both the group and individual level.Expanding on the concept of political reintegration, using the literature on democratic citizenship, this examination addresses the implicit democratic ideals that surround current DDR practices. In the case of ex-combatants in Liberia, their relationship with politics can be described using four dimensions: political involvement; tolerance of dissent; inclusion; and expressed antagonism. As a whole, the ex-combatants express a relation with politics indicative of a politics of affection, as their understanding of politics is often driven by a logic of emotion. Politics is filtered and understood through an emotive lens. Using a policy feedback framework, this thesis also shows how some reintegration programs can accentuate democratic ideals (e.g. participation and inclusion), while others emphasize more conflictual and antagonistic political practices, through their program design. Program procedures thereby provide cognitive cues, and provide an opportunity for political learning through an interpretive mechanism.
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