Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

The Impact of Fragile Alliances among Violent Non-State Actors: Violence, Fear or Uncertainty?

30 October 2014 | 16:00-17:30 | Seminar

14.33, Social Sciences Building


The aim of this talk is to enhance the understanding of how fragile alliances among violent non-state actors (VNSAs) such as rebels, paramilitary groups and criminal gangs affect citizen security. Fragile VNSA alliances are collaborative short-term arrangements between different VNSAs without any initial expectations of long-term commitment. They are based on shared interests and personal bonds. As a result, these alliances are only minimally institutionalised; the groups are barely interdependent because they can easily quit the arrangement. The fragility of these alliances makes it difficult for citizens to comply with “the rules of the game” that VNSAs impose in areas where they have control. As I argue, this matters for the citizens’ physical security: the lines between members of VNSA groups and “ordinary citizens” are blurred and everyone is a potential victim of violence. Producing fear and mistrust among the local communities, fragile VNSA alliances contribute to the erosion of the social fabric and undermine the state-society relationship. Citizens in regions in which fragile VNSA alliances take place thus face constant disorientation and uncertainty. The study is based on more than one year of fieldwork in and on Colombia’s borderlands where fragile alliances among the insurgent groups FARC and ELN as well as numerous post-demobilised and other criminal groups are thriving. I conducted semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders such as ex-combatants, civil society leaders, military and police officials, displaced people and NGO officials. Drawing on the literature on the mafia and on the civil war literature on alliances among rebels, I analyse the cases of Tumaco, located in Colombia’s Southern border department of Nariño, and the case of La Guajira, in the northern part of the Colombian-Venezuelan border to better understand the phenomenon of fragile VNSA alliances and their impact on citizen security.

 Attendence is free and there is no requirement to register.

There will be an opportunity for networking after the talk. PhD researchers are strongly encouraged to attend.


Annette Idler

Location Details

Seminar Room 14.33
Social Sciences Building
University of Leeds

The Social Sciences Building is number 82 on the campus map.

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