Date of Graduation

Winter 12-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Annick Wibben


Between 1989 and 2011, the three neighboring West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire each experienced at least one major civil conflict; and the combined devastation of the conflicts claimed over a million lives, generated millions of refugees, and crippled infrastructure in ways that continue to impact the development of the sub-region today. The occurrence of conflict in the three countries and the fact that they share borders has raised questions about whether the conflicts were caused by domestic factors or were the result of transborder processes of conflict diffusion. This paper will assess the causes of conflict through a political economy lens, paying particular attention to foreign economic intervention in the colonial and post-colonial period and focusing specifically on the impacts of structural adjustment programs on processes of conflict and conflict diffusion. Based on the findings of this paper, conflict in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire can be attributed to two factors. The first of these is the establishment and institutionalization of unequal and exclusive economic and political structures during the colonial period, and the second is the magnification and exacerbation of these inequalities that occurred as a result of neo-colonial economic intervention in the form of structural adjustment programs. Importantly, the findings of this paper also suggest that conflict spillover was not a primary cause of conflict in the case of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire.