Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Megan Turnbull ─ State Strategies Towards Militias in Nigeria

Friday, February 26, 2016

12 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Lunch will be provided.

Militias have become a widespread security challenge in developing democracies. Yet state responses to these groups vary across space and time. While governments form alliances with militias in some countries, militias are the target of state repression in others. Still elsewhere, state actors tolerate militias. What explains state militia strategies? I argue that state strategies are a consequence of electoral democracy. Each strategy- collaboration, toleration, and repression- offers various electoral costs and benefits. I show that two factors help elected officials evaluate the net costs and benefits of each: popular support for the militia and the competitiveness of elections. The paper empirically evaluates these claims with structured case studies of governors’ responses to militias in Nigeria: the Bakassi Boys in Anambra State and Boko Haram in Borno State. The findings make two contributions. First, the paper advances ongoing debates on the relationship between democracy and political development. Second, the analysis contributes to a growing literature on militias by examining the efforts of state actors to not only collaborate with, but also tolerate and repress such groups.

Megan Turnbull is a seventh year Ph.D. candidate in comparative politics. Her research interests include armed non-state actors, electoral violence, internal conflict, political development, and African politics. Megan’s dissertation examines different relationships between state actors and armed groups, looking specifically at cases of collaboration, toleration, repression, and armed conflict in Nigeria. She is also currently working on a separate project on militia behavior vis-à-vis civilians. Her field research in Nigeria has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation (2013-2014) and the Graduate Program in Development at Brown University (2011 & 2012). Megan is currently a co-managing editor for the journal Studies in Comparative International Development. Prior to her doctoral studies, Megan received a M.A. in Political Science (cum laude) from Leiden University and earned a B.A. in Political Science (summa cum laude) from the University at Albany. 

Africa Initiative

This Africa Workshop will serve as an interdisciplinary space where faculty and graduate students can come and share, present and discuss research on key issues and developments in Africa.