Political trust after war: the effect of broken promises after demobilization in Colombia

As part of the School of Politics and International Studies research seminar series, we will be joined by Joakim Kreutz from Dept. of Political Science, Stockholm University.


Regardless of whether they have mobilized as rebels or form part of local self-defence militias, participants in civil conflict rarely trust their governments. At conflicts’ end, this lack of trust constitutes one of the most serious challenges for peace-building and the establishment of effective political institutions. But what determines trust in the state among former participants?

In this study, we use the arbitrary timing of the Colombian government’s decision to extradite former paramilitary leaders for narco-trafficking trials in the US to identify how a sudden shift in government policy – including the disruption of wartime-support networks -  influences former combatant’s trust in government. Using an attitudinal survey of demobilized former members of paramilitary groups in Colombia, we compare the variation in responses from those surveyed in the weeks prior to and after the extradition of 14 paramilitary leaders to the US on drug charges on May 13, 2008. Our findings indicate that the extradition had a significant negative effect on former combatants’ political trust, but the effect differs substantively on which organization they have belonged to. For those that have participated in pro-government paramilitary militias, the decision to extradite their former leaders was seen as a betrayal and decreased trust in the government. Former guerrillas, in contrast, largely maintained their level of trust and it even increased towards those institutions they mainly interacted with.   


Joakim Kreutz is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Sweden.

His research has primarily focused on politics and the use of violence during and at the end of civil war, employing both quantitative and qualitative methodology and fieldwork in Myanmar (Burma), Colombia, and Nepal. His publications include “How and When Armed Conflicts End” (Journal of Peace Research, 2010) which is one of the top 50 cited articles in International Relations & Political Science during the last decade. He recently co-edited the book Debating the East Asian Peace (NIAS Press 2017, with Elin Bjarngård) which explore different aspects of the processes that transformed East Asia from the worlds’ most to the least war-torn region. His research has also been featured in journals such as International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Interactions.    

The presentation at this seminar is co-authored with Enzo Nussio (ETH Zurich) and is part of Dr Kreutz’s ongoing research project exploring why transitional justice processes sometimes create instability in post-conflict societies.


This seminar is free to attend. All welcome, no booking required.

Location details

Room 14.33
Social Sciences Building
University of Leeds

View campus map