The Geography of Repression in Africa


I ask how the location of a protest affects how forcefully governments crack down. This geography of repression provides insight into a larger strategic problem: under what conditions do leaders meet protests with violence? I argue that protests in rural areas pose a smaller threat and, thus, prompt less frequent intervention. However, when governments decide to repress rural protests, they are less concerned that lethal repression might incite a backlash, as there are fewer bystanders in more rural areas that can join the fray. I uncover two patterns consistent with this theory: (1) repression is 30 percent more frequent in response to social conflicts in urban areas; but (2), if the state does employ repression, it is 75 percent more likely to kill dissidents in rural areas. The empirical relationships I report cannot be explained by reporting bias, international sanctioning, proximity to past armed conflicts, or the presence of natural resources.

Journal of Conflict Resolution
Darin Christensen
Darin Christensen
Associate Professor of Public Policy & Political Science

Political scientist interested in conflict and development.