The Local Arena of Power Sharing: Patterns of Adaptation or Continued Disorder


The overarching question behind our research from the beginning has been whether power-sharing agreements and other related forms of post-conflict reforms have an effect on levels of peace (order) in former hotspots. These former hotspots, or “local arenas” have been the primary unit of analysis throughout our research, though the focus has shifted. In the first phase we considered the effects of national elite pacts on local peace/order and in the second phase we are looking at the effects of institutional reform on local peace/order. In the last phase we have shifted the focus onto agency namely local power-brokers. We ask what effects specific agency has on peace as an ordering practice. This comes from the finding of the first two phases that agency remains a key element of the adaptation processes we observed and analysed. In addition, by moving from an event (Phase 1) to an institution (Phase 2) to actor behaviour (Phase 3) we can comprehensively map the consolidation of peace in local arenas in post-conflict settings from a variety of angles.

Whilst we acknowledge that agency in any adaptation process is multi-faceted we focus on locally important stakeholders that have been identified in the previous two phases as relevant players in the post-war processes. We are interested most specifically on the impact of these actors on the (creative and adaptive) reconfiguration of space in post-war contexts, and in turn, the impact of post-war re-territorialisation on power relations. A preliminary analysis shows that in some contexts key stakeholders take to playing a more or less efficient ‘two-level game’ (Kenya more strongly than in DRC and Liberia, weakest in Burundi) by claiming local support to accede to national power positions and by invoking national influence to bolster local support (sometimes such games extend even to the international sphere). Key questions that we seek to answer include:

• What are the determinants of elite strategies straddling between the local and the national sphere? What determines the room for manoeuvre of such actors?

• How are such “two-level elites” or “power brokers” perceived locally, nationally, internationally? What do their activities mean for the social distance between capital and periphery? What does this mean for the social construction of space in relation to ordering practices?

• To what extent do actors reshape spaces and reconfigure ordering practices informally – compared to effects of formal institutional reforms? Do their actions contribute to the reproduction of or rather curtail local agency?

We plan to study this by reviewing our extensive empirical material that has been collected in the course of the last four years in addition to conducting further fieldwork in Kenya. The Kenyan case is a particularly interesting one since a comprehensive devolution policy has been implemented with the most recent elections in 2013. This provides a further critical juncture for local stakeholders beyond power sharing and re- adjusts spatial power relations. In our fieldwork we will focus on individual actors in the local arenas, interviewing them and others around them, to try and understand their agency in the post-conflict environment and impact on ordering practices. The findings will be reviewed in light of the other arenas studied in Liberia, Burundi and the DRC.

The last phase also serves as a consolidation of the conceptual and theoretical work of the entire project period, which started in 2011. This includes outstanding publications with two book chapters, one article and a book proposal currently under review and further publications planned.

The third project is funded for one year with Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler (GIGA Hamburg) as Principal Investigator and Franzisca Zanker (GIGA Hamburg) as Post-Doctoral Researcher. It started in March 2015.

Starting date:



Research areas:

DR Kongo


See interactive map

Project Events

August – September 2013: Third Fieldwork Phase Liberia (Zanker/Mehler)

December 2013 - February 2014: Fourth Fieldwork Phase Burundi (Simons) and Liberia (Zanker)

June - August 2011: First field research in DR Congo (Simons/ Tull) & Liberia (Zanker)

October - December 2011: Second Field Research in Burundi (Simons) & Kenya (Zanker/ Mehler)

30 May-2 June: VAD Conference, Panel: "Contested Peace Processes in Local and National Arenas" 

VAD Conference: Presentation of GIGA Working Paper No 189 by Franzisca Zanker      


Previous and upcoming presentations & workshops concerning the project