Sexual Violence by Militias in African Conflicts: Not a question of ‘delegation’ by states

PRIO Policy Brief

Cohen, Dara Kay & Ragnhild Nordås (2012) Sexual Violence by Militias in African Conflicts: Not a question of ‘delegation’ by states, CSCW Policy Brief, 1. Oslo: CSCW.

In a study of African conflicts from 1989 to 2009, we find that governments do not seem to ‘delegate’ the commission of atrocities to militias in order to avoid accountability, as has often been assumed. On the contrary, when militias commit  acts of  sexual violence, states are also reported as perpetrators.

Also counter to conventional wisdom, our data show that:

  • Only 30% of African militias perpetrated sexual violence.
  • Conflicts with few killings often see militias committing widespread sexual violence.

What characterizes those militias that use sexual violence? We find that such militias often rely on child soldiers and operate in the poorest countries, but do not operate in the conflicts with the highest casualty
rates from regular battles. 

Authors

Ragnhild Nordås

Ragnhild Nordås

Research Director, Conditions of Violence and Peace Department; Senior Researcher & Deputy Editor, Journal of Peace Research

Research Groups