African Conflicts and Informal Power: Big Men and Networks By Mats Utas

In the aftermath of an armed conflict in Africa, the international community both produces and demands from local partners a variety of blueprints on how to reconstruct state and society. The aim is to re-formalize the state after what is viewed as a brief or extended period of fragmentation and informalization caused by armed conflict. In reality, both African economies and politics are very much informal in character, with informal actors (including so-called "Big Men") often using their positions in the formal structure as a means to reach informal goals. Through a variety of in-depth case studies - from DRC to Somali to Liberia among others - this book shows how important informal political and economic networks are in many of the continent's conflict areas. More than this, it demonstrated that without a proper understanding of their impacts in areas such as borderlands and in "narco-states" such as Guinne-Bissau, attempts to "formalize" African states, particularly those emerging from wars, will be in vain.
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