Explaining the Intensity of Violence in Intra-state Conflicts: An Analysis of Civil Wars in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990

Jan 2008 - May 2011

Civil wars are characterised by a considerable variation in the levels of violence over the course of fighting. The scholarly research on civil wars has mainly disregarded this fact and has concentrated instead on the analysis of the causes of violent conflict. This PhD project addresses this gap in the literature and investigates explanations for the varying intensity of violence in civil wars.

The analysis focuses on armed combat and civilian victimisation as main aspects of civil war violence. It is assumed that the dyadic interaction between government and rebels determines whether actors engage in battles against each other or resort to attacks against the population. In this context, especially the relative political and economic capabilities of government and rebels – e.g., regime type, territorial control or economic inequality – constitute central factors in their decision-making process.

The research uses a multi-method approach. Firstly, a quantitative analysis of civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990 is conducted to identify the main explanatory factors. Secondly, qualitative case studies of selected civil wars are employed to refine our knowledge about the determinants of violence in civil wars on a sub-state level.

Sabine Carey, University of Nottingham
Stefan Wolff, University of Nottingham



Conference Paper

Ottmann, Martin 2008 Explaining One-sided Violence in Ethnic Civil Wars: The Case of Southern Sudan, presented at 2nd ECPR Graduate Conference, , 25–27 August 2008.