Demagogues of Hate or Shepherds of Peace? Why 'Warlord Democrats' (Re)securitize Wartime Identities

Project overview

Project Leader

Project period

  • 2015-2020

Project description

Democratization has been identified as a crucial mechanism when building peace after war. A by-product of such processes is that ex-military leaders often ‘reinvent’ themselves as democrats. Even if it may be necessary to embrace such ‘warlord democrats’ (WDs) to prevent them from returning to war, there are also considerable risks involved. In their quest for votes it is not uncommon that they use their electoral platforms to incite fear and cement wartime cleavages. They can either do this by using inflammatory rhetoric or engaging in confrontational electoral behaviour. At worst, such actions can undermine democratic institutions and trigger new outbursts of violence. To improve efforts to build stable and accountable democracy in post-civil war societies, it is therefore crucial to understand when and why WDs seek to (re)securitize wartime identities – held as speech acts and electoral practices that aim to keep war-affected communities polarized and in fear of each other. This project seeks to address this puzzle by comparing WDs in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. We hypothesize that it is WDs that are unable to retain their position as brokers of patronage during transitions to democracy that attempt to (re)securitize wartime identities. To scrutinise the explanatory value of this proposition, empirical data will be gathered using social network analysis and interviews in each respective country, as well as textual analysis of statements made by the WDs in local newspapers.


Main financial support

  • Stiftelsen Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond
  • Swedish Research Council (U-forsk)