Competing for the Crown: Inter-rebel Competition and Civilian Targeting in Civil War

Reed Wood, Jacob D. Kathman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


What factors contribute to the victimization of civilians during civil war? Drawing on research from various disciplines, we argue that increasing competition within a civil conflict system brought on by the entrance of new factions contributes to an increase in civilian targeting by existing rebel groups. Specifically, we argue that existing groups are more likely to target civilians immediately upon the entrance of new rivals due to the perceived threat to control over resources and because the arrival of new groups diminishes the gains existing groups expect from either victory or successful conflict bargaining. We further argue that violence against civilians increases during periods in which rival factions engage in direct, violent conflict with one another. Our analysis diverges from existing studies by arguing and demonstrating that fluctuations in competition rather than the simple presence of competing groups produce spikes in civilian targeting by nonstate actors. We evaluate and find support for our argument using monthly data for African conflicts between 1989 and 2010.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-179
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 25 2015


  • civil war
  • civilian victimization
  • competition
  • rebel factions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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