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Building the Rule of War: Postconflict Institutions and the Micro-Dynamics of Conflict in Eastern DR Congo

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Abstract

Why have peace-building and reconstruction efforts so frequently failed to create durable institutions that can deter or withstand resurgent violence in volatile sites of cyclical conflict? Extant theory predicts that new institutions can help overcome violence and mitigate commitment problems in postconflict contexts by reducing uncertainty in inherently uncertain environments. By contrast, this article argues that postconflict institutions often prove limited in their abilities to contribute to durable peace because they offer wartime elites new venues in which to pursue conflict-era agendas. Through a micro-analysis of efforts to build the rule of law in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I demonstrate that wartime elites capture and instrumentalize new legal institutions to maximize their intra- and inter-organizational survival; to pursue economic, military, and political agendas behind the scenes; and, in some cases, to prepare for an imminent return to war.

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