Dissertation Project

My dissertation project focuses on the use of drones for civilian protection in peacekeeping.

Drones have attracted a lot of interest in many fields over the last two decades because of the expectation of effectiveness in accomplishing difficult tasks with limited risks. However, scholars studying the subject of effectiveness of drones have primarily explored it within the context of the War on Terror, specifically regarding insurgent behavior. We know little about drones’ effectiveness in non-combat areas like peacekeeping; hence policy makers and scholars stand at risk of basing the deployment of drones in peacekeeping on assumptions made of their effectiveness in combat.

To fill this gap, my dissertation focuses on the use of drones as surveillance tools for civilian protection in conflict, and how on one hand the political and cultural contexts of actors deploying them shape their effectiveness, on the other hand beliefs about violence and identity shape their acceptance among civilian populations in conflict settings.

I use a mixed methodology entailing a qualitative approach and a survey experimental design in interrogating conditions that shape effectiveness of drones for civilian protection in armed conflict as we all as factors that influence their acceptance by civilian populations in conflict settings.

Relying on document review, archival work, and expert interviews with UN officials at the UN headquarters and mission levels, mission intelligence officers; peacekeepers; and humanitarian workers, I argue that effectiveness of drones in protecting civilians in armed conflicts depends on the quality of accompanying peacekeeping operational capacity to enable peacekeepers to intervene timely to avert attacks on civilians. And due to mission level challenges of UN peacekeeping, including inadequate infrastructure on the ground to analyze surveillance data and gaps in ground operational capacity, there is little evidence that drones have led to a significance impact on reduction of civilian violence, despite their presentation as transformational and revolutionary for peacekeeping.

Regarding civilian support for surveillance drones - or surveillance technologies broadly - in conflict settings, I theorize that there are two implications of deployment of surveillance technologies in conflict settings for civilian populations. On the one hand, surveillance technologies can provide security for civilians, and on the other hand, they are a potential source of violation of civil liberties that bother privacy norms. I further argue that civilian beliefs about implications of surveillance technologies are shaped by surveillance actor identities and the relationships that exist between those identities in conflict settings. Surveillance actor identity refers to both the actors deploying surveillance technologies, i.e. third party foreign inteveners or the state and its agencies; and the identities of those affected by surveillance, i.e. salient ethnic, political, or religious cleavages which form the basis of inclusion and exclusion in conflict settings.

I argue that in conflict settings surveillance actor identity - i.e. identity of actors deploying surveillance technology, is significant because of the perception of neutrality and impartiality required to signal good intention of such actors, and how that perception shapes civilian populations’ beliefs about security and privacy norms of surveillance technologies. I suggest that if the surveillance actor is a neutral foreign or international intervenor, it would inspire high levels of trust and reduce suspicion towards surveillance technologies, and whether there is the belief that information from surveillance would be accessible to outgroups thereby giving them competitive advantage over ingroups.

Considering this expectation, I suggest that because conflict societies tend to be characterized by fractious relationships along salient identity markers, ingroup members would be calculative about how deployment of surveillance technologies affect power dynamics with outgroups. Hence, in balancing beliefs about security and privacy norms of surveillance technologies, civilian populations would only support surveillance technologies and make concessions on violations of privacy norms if they ensure security for them, and the actor deploying the surveillance is either a neutral foreign intervener, or an impartial or ingroup-leaning state actor.

Peer Reviewed Publications

Banini, Daniel Kofi, Jonathan Powell, and Michael Yekple. "Peacekeeping As Coup Avoidance: Lessons from Ghana." African Security 13, no. 3 (2020): 235-259. [Ungated]

Recent scholarship has claimed that peacekeepers are more likely to mutiny or attempt military coups against their governments after returning home. These trends stand in contrast to the case of Ghana, which witnessed a perhaps unprecedented transition out of the “coup trap” to stable democratic rule, including multiple transfers of power to the political opposition while providing substantial and ongoing peacekeeping manpower. This is especially interesting given Ghana’s infamous mutiny in the Congo and the coup against Kwame Nkrumah, had their roots in peacekeeping. Potentially seen as a deviant case through the lens of recent scholarship, as evaluation of Ghana’s experience illustrate that different leaders under various regime types deliberately utilized peacekeeping deployments as a coup avoidance strategy. This experience has also acted as a tool to gain military resources from foreign donors, while the government has deliberately made efforts to avoid mission hardships and perceptions of victimization seen in other contingents.

Attuquayefio, Philip, and Michael Yekple. "Drones in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: A New Direction in United Nations Peace." Africa Peace and Conflict Journal, no. 8:2 (2015), 74– 88. [Ungated]

Contemporary narratives surrounding the use of drones have been overwhelmingly influenced by fallouts from their application in the United States-led War on Terror. These have included collateral damage from targeted killings, the psychological effects on target communities living in fear of drone attacks as well as denunciations of legal justifications for the use of drones to arbitrarily execute people. The implication of the confluence of these challenges is a heavy cloud of controversy surrounding the use of drones. This notwithstanding, the United Nations (UN) has approved the use of drones by its mission in Congo (MONUSCO). Within the context of controversies surrounding drone use, this paper examines UN operations in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and assesses the implication of the use of drones within that mission. It is argued that notwithstanding challenges relating to storage and dissemination of surveillance data, the strategic utility of drones is critical to the execution of the mandate of MONUSCO

Book Chapter

Yekple, M., Daniel Banini, Philip Attuquayefio. "Ghana's intelligence culture", The handbook for African intelligence cultures, eds. Rowman & Littlefield. Forthcoming 2022

The book project offers a concise account of African intelligence and security services by examining national intelligence cultures. Specifically, it focuses on how a country’s internal and external environmental factors shape the intelligence culture and how intelligence influences the government, society and culture.

Our Ghana chapter provides an overview of Ghana’s intelligence culture from independence to the Fourth Republic. In particular, it examines the role of intelligence for regime protection and how regime protection imperatives have shaped the structure and governance of the intelligence institutions under various regimes since independence.

In Progress

"Backing Out or Winning in international security crises: Does the Public Reward its Leaders for their Willingness to Fight?" (Santosh Saptoka and Zlatin Mitkov ) Under Review

The audience costs literature suggests that backing down will likely lead to audience costs, while leaders who successfully coerce the opposing country to back down tend to be rewarded. We build on the literature by examining audience cost theory’s cross-country validity on one hand, and the other hand, the generalizability of its microfoundations using three major non-western democracies – India, Nigeria, and Ghana. First, using the cross-sectional Military Compellent Threats dataset, we test the base expectation that leaders suffer audience costs for backing down, across democracies and autocracies. Second, using cross-sectional and experimental data we examine the claim that leaders who successfully coerce the opposing party comply with compellent threats receive higher approval rates and reputational gains, despite the possibility that the public might demand their leaders to punish the opposing country for its current actions and to serve as deterrence for any such behavior in the future, and therefore might not reward them if they do not exact such a punishment against the opposing country. Third, we present novel evidence in support of the claim that leaders who engage the opposing country will experience a surge in their approval ratings and reputation, even if they lose the military engagement. The results corroborate the findings of audience cost studies in western democracies and China while presenting evidence that leaders who induce compliance by the opposing state or engage in an unsuccessful military engagement are still likely to be rewarded.

"Public Opinion and Leaders’ Crisis Behavior Against Domestic Armed Groups". (with Zlatin Mitkov) Under Review

Does the public disapprove of leaders who back down to initiate negotiation with non-state armed actors? This study makes two claims to advance our understanding of leader-public interactions during domestic security crises. First, we argue that the public disapproves of their leaders when they back down to initiate negotiations with non-state armed actors. Second, public disapproval stems from the transfer of negative emotional reactions against armed groups to leaders if they fail to escalate using force. Using original survey experiments with Indian and Nigerian respondents, we provide novel empirical evidence to demonstrate that: 1) despite the potential strategic imperatives for leaders to deescalate and negotiate, the public disapproves if they do so; 2) respondents experience moral outrage and negative emotions as a result of the attacks and can transfer these reactions to their leaders who fail to escalate and use aggressive policies against such groups.

"The Microfoundations of the Democratic Peace in Global South Democracies: Evidence from Ghana, Nigeria, and India." (with Zlatin Mitkov, Jennifer Joel, Randy Otoo) Under Review

Is the democratic peace a phenomenon of western democracies or does it also exist in non-western, Global South democracies? While the majority of the world’s democracies are non-western democracies, democratic peace scholars have overwhelmingly studied the theory’s microfoundations among western respondents and generalized those findings to all democracies. This study revisits democratic peace theory by testing its validity in three non-western, Global South countries in Africa and Asia using novel survey experiments – in Ghana, Nigeria and India. By selecting three non-western democracies, and including the issue of territorial disputes, we provide new insights into the public opinion aspect of the theory and its generalizability outside of the major western democracies. The study expands the scope of democratic peace theory by testing the public's willingness to go to war with democracies and autocracies and citizens’ dispositions, morals, and risk perceptions that form the microfoundations underlying the predictions of the democratic peace theory. The study presents two major findings. First, the study does not find support for the democratic peace theory’s main claim that democratic publics will be less willing to use force against fellow democracies during international security crises. Second, the experimental results demonstrate that individuals’ support for war in our Global South cases depends on individual level factors such as hawkishness rather than the regime type of the opposing country. Consequently, we argue that there is a need to reconsider applying mainstream international relations theories to Global South countries whose experiences may deviate from the assumptions underlying those theories.

"The African Public’s Complicated Relationship with Democracy: Why the African Public Likes Democratic Values at Home but Fail to Promote Them Abroad." ( with Zlatin Mitkov and Daniel Banini). Data collection in progress

"The Desire to Punish Belligerent Countries: Is Compliance Enough for Appeasing an Angry Public in International Security Crises?" ( with Zlatin Mitkov)

Does the public want its leaders to exact revenge against aggressor states even though they have complied with compellent threats to stop their actions during international security crises? Conventional belief is that the public is satisfied and rewards its leaders if they force the aggressor country to deescalate by complying with the compellent threat to retreat from its aggressive behavior. In this paper, we empirically examine the micro-foundations of this claim. We argue that contrary to conventional view, the public often rewards leaders who escalate, while punishing leaders who deescalate even after they have successfully compelled the target state to comply to stop its aggressive behavior. Drawing on the political psychology literature, we argue the public's disposition emanates from the desire to punish the opposing country for its belligerent action and as deterrence against such behaviour in the future. We use survey experiments in the United States and two South-East Asian countries with persistent regional disputes -- India and Nepal. The findings are important and have implications for domestic politics and leaders’ crises bargain calculations as it presents a dilemma for leaders who must balance their electoral survival and approval against being forced into a costly escalatory behavior.

"To be Protected But Not Seen: How Actor Identity Shapes Civilian Beliefs about Implications of Surveillance Technologies in Conflict Societies. Data collection in progress

" Violence in the Eye of the Beholder: How Identity Shapes Perceptions of Third Party Interveners' Response to Civilian Victimization" (with Zlatin Mitkov). Data collection in progress

" Parochial Altruism, Punishment, and Support for Armed Groups: Evidence from the Eastern DR Congo" (with Zlatin Mitkov). Data collection in progress

" Inter-Group Conflict in the DRC: How the perception of being part of the victims vs perpetrators shape individuals’ support for retributive violence and reconciliation" ( with Zlatin Mitkov) Data collection in progress

"Foreign Military Assistance and Subnational Variation in Peacekeeping Effectiveness"

"Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention: Privacy Rights of Civilians in Vulnerable Contexts"

"Political Vigilantism in Ghana: A subnational Analysis of Electoral Violence"

" In Conservative and Polarized African Societies, Can Trusted Authorities Change Minds On Strong Moral Norms and Pave Way for Social Change? (with Linda Darkwa and Zlatin Mitkov)

"Innovation for Other Reasons: How African Governments use Technology Innovation for Propaganda " (with (Smith Oduro-Marfo and and Stephen Dadugblor)

"'The mother serpent of corruption': How inter-elite competition drives corruption and corruption cleanup efforts in Ghana." (with Daniel K. Banini and Kingsley Agomor)

Other Writing

" What Can Drones Do to Protect Civilians in Armed Conflict." The Conversation. December 10, 2019. [Link]

" When Drones become UN Peacekeeping Staple" Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center. 2017 [Policy Brief ]