Economics of Governance

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 53-73

First online:

On thugs and heroes: Why warlords victimize their own civilians

  • Jean-Paul AzamAffiliated withInstitut Universitaire de France, University of Toulouse (ARQADE and IDEI), ARQADE, University of Toulouse 1 Email author 

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Violence against civilians is the mainstay of modern warfare, and claims 84% of the war-related casualties. Looting and terror are the two main reasons why the soldiers victimize the civilians from the other side. However, examples have been found (Congo, Sierra Leone,...) where the guerilla and the incumbent army abuse the civilians from their own side. The present paper offers a potential explanation for this phenomenon, based on strategic looting. It argues that this behavior helps drawing a line between thugs and legitimate rebels.


Looting violence warlords