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Guerrillas and civilian participation: the National Resistance Army in Uganda, 1981–86

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2005

Nelson Kasfir
Affiliation:
Dartmouth College.

Abstract

Guerrilla organisations vary greatly in their relations with civilians living in territories that they control. The NRA presents a rare, though not unique, case of a guerrilla group whose commitment to popular support deepened into democratic village management during the course of its civil war. The significant causal factors in deepening this commitment were its ideological conviction, relative military strength, dependence on civilian material assistance, and need for accommodation with civilian preferences in its operational area. It withdrew this commitment when it was under severe military pressure. Military survival was central to NRA calculations, but insufficient to determine its relations to civilians. In those phases of the war when the NRA soldiers were relatively secure, these other factors determined the type of civilian participation it supported. It organised clandestine civilian committees for assistance when it was dependent on civilians. During those periods when it held territory, it held elections for committees which managed their villages without NRA supervision.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

The fieldwork for this paper was financed by research grants from the Whiting Foundation and Dartmouth College's Department of Government. I am grateful for both. I thank Stephen Hippo Twebaze for his invaluable research assistance, and Saihou and Deborah Saidy for their generous hospitality during my first two trips to Uganda to conduct interviews for this project. Jacob Asiimwe, Shelley Deane, William Foltz, Ronald Kassimir, Richard Ned Lebow, Mugisha Muntu, Stephen Twebaze and Jeremy Weinstein made helpful suggestions on earlier drafts, as did members of the Laboratory in Comparative Ethnic Processes, the Working Group in Comparative Politics, Dartmouth College and three anonymous referees. I am responsible for any errors of fact or judgement.

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