, Volume 134, Issue 3-4, pp 347-366
Date: 15 Sep 2007

Provoking a civil war

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Nondemocratic governments under the rule of weak institutions use repression against the opposition to remain in power. Repression both muffles the opposition’s voice and strengthens the government’s supporters. Nevertheless, when repression becomes strong enough, it becomes intolerable to its victims who revolt and initiate a civil war. The government is aware of the mechanism and determines the level of repression accordingly. This paper studies the circumstances in which the ruler’s best alternative is to intensify repression to the point of provoking civil war. Although the model is abstract, its implications are discussed using the recent civil war in the Ivory Coast as a case study.