Civil wars destroy existing political orders, shape new ones, and play crucial roles in the dynamics of state formation. This working paper is based on a 2-year research project reflecting on the social construction of order and legitimacy during and after violent conflict. It focuses on political orders put in place by armed groups.

Drawing on case studies in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and South Sudan, it shows how strategies of legitimization are central to understanding the politics of armed groups and their relation to the state, how international aid agencies impact on the legitimacy of armed groups and state actors, and how continuities between war and peace, especially in key sectors such as security forces, need to be taken into account in any effort at establishing long-term peace and stability.