This article seeks to deepen the debate about violent war-to-peace transitions through a comparative case study between two rebel movements that became integrated in considerably different ways in post-war Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The political marketplace brought about by Congo’s war-to-peace transition substantially influenced the bargaining power of non-state armed actors in the country’s eastern borderlands. In such violent environments, non-state actors like militias, try to become recognized as alternative taxing authorities opposed to state governments, while they simultaneously collaborate with them to gain access to the dividends of international peacebuilding efforts. A decisive factor for the legitimacy of these violent agencies is their ability to transform from coercion- to capital-based organizations: militias, like state governments, need to actively organize local production while embedding their authority in rapidly transforming idioms of political power. This article argues that the ‘symbiotic’ relationships emerging between rebel rulers, capitalist brokers and state government in the context of protracted armed conflict have far-reaching consequences for the political order of post-war states, with varying results depending on the coercion- and capital-based rule of these emerging complexes in the world’s violent peripheries.