Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Timothy D. Sisk, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rachel Epstein

Third Advisor

Erica Chenoweth

Fourth Advisor

Cullen Hendrix


Inter-ethnic conflict, International security, Northern Kenya


Deadly, inter-ethnic group conflict remains a threat to international security in a world where the majority of armed violence occurs not only within states but in the most ungoverned areas within states. Conflicts that occur between groups living in largely ungoverned areas often become deeply protracted and are difficult to resolve when the state is weak and harsh environmental conditions place human security increasingly under threat. However, even under these conditions, why do some local conflicts between ethnic groups escalate, whereas others do not? To analyze this puzzle, the dissertation employs comparative methods to investigate the conditions under which violence erupts or stops and armed actors choose to preserve peace. The project draws upon qualitative data derived from semi-structured interviews, focus group dialogues, and participant observation of local peace processes during field research conducted in six conflict-affected counties in Northern Kenya.

Comparative analysis of fifteen conflict episodes with variable outcomes reveals the conditions under which coalitions of civic associations, including local peace committees, faith-based organizations, and councils of elders, inter alia, enhance informal institutional arrangements that contain escalation. Violence is less likely to escalate in communities where cohesive coalitions provide platforms for threat-monitoring, informal pact making, and enforcement of traditional codes of restitution. However, key scope conditions affect whether or not informal organizational structures are capable of containing escalation. In particular, symbolic acts of violence and the use of indiscriminant force by police and military actors commonly undermine local efforts to contain conflict. The dissertation contributes to the literatures on civil society and peacebuilding, demonstrating the importance of comparing processes of escalation and non-escalation and accounting for interactive effects between modes of state and non-state response to local, inter-ethnic group conflict.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Fletcher D. Cox


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

355 p.


Peace Studies, Political Science