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Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture 2023

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Wednesday 13 December 2023, 3.00PM to 5:00 PM

Speaker(s): Dr Christine Cheng

Challenging statebuilding wisdom: Extralegal groups in post-conflict Liberia

In the aftermath of the Liberian civil war, groups of ex-combatants seized control of key natural resource enclaves in the country. With some of them threatening a return to war, these groups were widely viewed as the most significant threats to Liberia’s hard-won peace. But this characterization oversimplifies who these groups are and what they represent. Instead, the ways in which these groups operated in post-war Liberia challenged the idea that they were simply peace spoilers. Instead, it was equally important to understand that in weak states with contested authority and corruption, these groups provided order and dispute resolution, and were able to establish norms of compliance through trade. Fundamentally, the core building blocks of post-conflict statebuilding were rooted in trade, not war. These findings raise uncomfortable questions about legitimate governance, trust in states, corruption, and the effectiveness of international peacebuilding and statebuilding efforts.

Christine Cheng

Christine Cheng is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London. She is an award-winning author, policy advisor, and political activist. Dr Cheng studies the rebuilding of societies after violent armed conflict. She co-led the UK government’s Elite Bargains project, which later became the foundation for the UK’s conflict stabilisation policy.

Adrian Leftwich

Adrian Leftwich was a student leader active in the early 1960s in the anti-apartheid struggle. He came to Britain, where he was a prominent academic in the Department of Politics at the University of York.

Location: P/X/001, School of Physics, Engineering and Technology

Admission: Free, must register