Resisting infection: How state capacity conditions conflict contagion

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94 Scopus citations


The collapse of Mobutu's Zaire and the arrival of father and son Kabila regimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (hereafter, the DRC) were hastened by the dramatic and tumultuous spread of violence from neighboring Rwanda. Mobutu's state's inability to manage the influx of Hutu refugees (with Interahamwe militia members interspersed) into the Kivu province of eastern Zaire from Rwanda's bloody genocide of 1994 or to compensate for the ratcheting up of their cross-border skirmishes with the Banyamulenge (Zairean Tutsi) population in 1996, exacerbated extant tensions and has since resulted in more than a dozen years of civil war. This example prompts us to ask: are countries with higher levels of state capacity better able to resist the spread of violence from neighboring territories into their own? The author argues that when falsely divided notions of spatial heterogeneity and dependence are interacted, contagion from neighboring conflicts becomes a risk of diminishing value for increasingly capable states. A model of civil war contagion affirms a conditional hypothesis, showing that state capacity modifies the likelihood that a state will become infected by a civil conflict occurring in neighboring territories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-319
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Civil conflict
  • Contagion
  • Geography
  • State capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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