In the fall of 2005, two years after Liberia’s civil war had officially ended, the country appeared to be on a halting, but stable track to recovery. On the surface, the transition from war to peace appeared to be proceeding smoothly, but a closer look revealed that in various parts of the country, ex-combatant groups had taken over pockets of land and were illegally exploiting natural resources for personal profit.
In the process of doing so, some of these groups had terrorised local populations, co-opted key local and national government figures, and even threatened to take the country back to war- long after hostilities had come to an end. Yet Liberia’s transitional government seemed powerless to stop these groups, even with the support of the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force at the time.
This seminar explains how these extralegal groups came about, how they persisted, and the threats and opportunities that they created for statebuilding in the aftermath of the civil war. It illuminates the political economy of post-conflict transitions and contributes to a growing literature examining intra-state variation in post-conflict outcomes. It also questions the nature of the state itself, by demonstrating, somewhat controversially, that even though extralegal groups provide cause for concern, they are also potential statebuilders.
About the Speaker:
Dr Christine Cheng is Lecturer in International Relations at Kings College London. Her research on post-conflict transitions sits at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics. Dr Cheng holds a DPhil from Oxford University and an MPA from Princeton University. Previously, she was the Bennett Boskey Fellow in Politics at Exeter College, University of Oxford. At Oxford, she taught in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics programme and the Williams College’s year-abroad program. In 2009, she was the Cadieux- Léger Fellow at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Dr Cheng originally trained as a systems design engineer (BASc) at the University of Waterloo, where she served as president of the student government. She has worked for the UN Commission on Human Security, the World Bank’s Gender Group, Environment Canada, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. She also regularly comments on international affairs for a variety of media outlets including the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, al Jazeera, Radio France International, and Real Clear World.