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Department of Economics
RESEARCH SEMINAR

Alex Armand (University of Navarro): The Reach of Radio: Ending Civil Conflict through Rebel Demobilization

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Welcome to our research seminar with assistant professor Alex Armand from the University of Navarro.

Title: The Reach of Radio: Ending Civil Conflict through Rebel Demobilization

Abstract:

We study the role of FM radio messaging in discouraging violent conflict by armed groups. Focusing on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), we collected unique information about defection messaging by local and international radio stations in the four countries where the LRA has operated (DR Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Uganda).

We exploit time and geographical variation, along with random topography-driven variation in radio coverage, to capture the causal effect of the intensity of messaging on violence, and on the LRA’s strategic behavior. Higher intensity of defection messages leads to a decrease in both fatalities and the number of events involving violence against civilians and clashes.

We show that this outcome is mainly explained by an increase in returnees from the armed group. In areas with higher intensity of messaging, we observe a strategic shift as the LRA tries to compensate these membership losses by engaging in higher levels of looting to reward existing members.