The fighting in some civil wars primarily takes place in a few stable locations, while the fighting in others moves substantially. We posit that rebel groups that do not primarily fight for a specific ethnic group, that receive outside military assistance, or that have relatively weak fighting capacity tend to fight in inconsistent locations. We develop new measures of conflict zone movement to test our hypotheses, based on shifts in the conflict polygons derived from the new Georeferenced Event Dataset (GED) developed by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). Our empirical results provide support for the suggested mechanisms. We find that groups which lack strong ethnic ties and sufficient military strength to compete with government forces in conventional warfare fight in more varied locations. These findings improve our understandings of and expectations for variations in the humanitarian footprint of armed conflicts, the interdependencies between rebel groups and local populations, and the dilemmas faced by government counterinsurgency efforts.
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