Article | Rationality and Society | February 2005

Portrait of a Failed Rebellion: An Account of Rational, Sub-optimal Violence in Western Uganda

by Lucy Hovil and Eric D. Werker

Abstract

While newspaper reports typically describe anti-civilian violence in civil war as resulting from hatred or anarchy, there is an emerging literature that interprets these processes as calculated, strategic actions of war makers. We argue that this literature overestimates the strategic value of violence by focusing on conflicts where this strategy is used deliberately and on a massive scale. Our analysis examines the violence in a failed, peripheral rebellion in western Uganda and finds that the brutality was premeditated; however the gains to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels were not military. Instead, we argue that anti-civilian violence in western Uganda stems from the financier-insurgent relationship that promoted a high level of violence in response to divergent interests, unequal access to information, and contracting limitations. In other words, civilians were victimized in order that the ADF could keep their outside funding.

Keywords: civilian violence; civil war; insurgency; war financing; Uganda; Failure; Society; Uganda;

Citation:

Hovil, Lucy, and Eric D. Werker. "Portrait of a Failed Rebellion: An Account of Rational, Sub-optimal Violence in Western Uganda." Rationality and Society 17, no. 1 (February 2005): 5–34.