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Killing Kony: Leadership Change and Civil War Termination

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


Is there a relationship between leadership change and the probability of conflict termination in civil war? This article uses an original data set on the leaders of rebel groups combined with existing data on state leaders to determine whether leadership change in states or rebel groups affects the probability that a civil war will end. Three results emerge: (1) when the leader of a rebel group is captured or killed, wars are 398 percent more likely to end, (2) conflicts are less likely to end while rebel groups are being led by their founder, and (3) the leader of a state that presided over the beginning of the conflict is significantly more likely to bring the conflict to an end than a replacement leader. The results are robust to the use of matching techniques and other tests of endogeneity.