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The armed conflict in Sierra Leone and the extreme violence of the main rebel faction – the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – have challenged scholars and members of the international community to come up with explanations. Up to this point, though, conclusions about the nature of the war and the RUF are mainly drawn from accounts of civilian victims or based on interpretations and rationalizations offered by commentators who had access to only one side of the war. The present study addresses this currently incomplete understanding of the conflict by focusing on the direct experiences and interpretations of protagonists, paying special attention to the hitherto neglected, and often underage, cadres of the RUF. The data presented challenges the widely canvassed notion of the Sierra Leone conflict as a war motivated by “greed, not grievance.” Rather, it points to a rural crisis expressed in terms of unresolved tensions between landowners and marginalized rural youth – an unaddressed crisis of youth that currently manifests itself in many African countries – further reinforced and triggered by a collapsing patrimonial state.Read more
- Based on extensive fieldwork periods during and just after the war
- Includes numerous interview extracts with young and under-age combatants
- Discusses the so-called 'crisis of youth' which currently manifests itself in other African countries as well
Reviews & endorsements
"This book goes more deeply into an understanding of RUF fighters – their beliefs and their atrocities – than previous studies. It is a very important contribution to our understanding of Sierra Leone and its war."
David Keen, London School of Economics and Political ScienceSee more reviews
"What are the real motivations and goals of rebels that commit atrocities among those for whom they claim to represent? Krijn Peters offers an answer that is as simple as it is profound. Drawing on extraordinary field research in Sierra Leone among former Revolutionary United Front fighters and commanders, Peters finds a deep commitment to an egalitarian millenarian ethos borne of a rejection of a state-sanctioned system of subjugation of young men and women in rural areas. War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone is among the rare breed of books, essential for scholars and policy analysts, that is sure to make waves for all of the right reasons. It will become a classic for its sober and measured analysis that challenges conventional wisdom and for bringing a critical analysis to bear on the words and actions of members of a violent rebel group."
William Reno, Northwestern University
"War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone is a startling, behind-the-scenes depiction of Sierra Leone’s notorious rebel outfit, the Revolutionary United Front. With compelling clarity and a spotlight on ex-combatant perspectives, Peters challenges readers to set aside easy judgements and take a hard look at thorny wartime realities, including just how a rebel group could be profoundly brutal yet internally coherent. Illuminating links between a predatory prewar society and rationales for predation and misogyny during conflict, Peters leaves the reader with a powerful sense of how and why Sierra Leone’s male youth got caught up in war and what the experience did to them. Strongly and thoroughly recommended."
Marc Sommers, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
"War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone is a work of unique empirical depth and ethnographic knowledge. Peters sheds light on the RUF militia and the role they played during the Sierra Leonean civil war. He illuminates the social logics at play and clarifies the motives behind their constitution, conflict engagement, and conciliation. The book is a crucial contribution to our understanding of one of Africa’s most misunderstood and demonized militias."
Henrik Vigh, University of Copenhagen
"War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone is a welcome addition to the literature on the civil war in this unfortunate land. Not only is this the voice of someone who knows the country and its young people well, but by situating the aetiology of war in terms of a rural crisis as symptomatic of unresolved tensions between landed gerontocracy and déclassé youth, Peters has been able to bring political economy in from the cold, which enabled him to debunk the misguided 'greed not grievance' explanation of those intellectually remote from the problems of Sierra Leone. This is invaluable reading for policy makers and all those interested in how a land once described as the 'Athens of West Africa' slumped to the poorest of the poor."
Tunde Zack-Williams, University of Central Lancashire
"… this book is a well-written summary of the debates surrounding the causes of conflict in Sierra Leone, and is a wonderfully rich representative of one camp in the debate."
Susan Shepler, African Affairs
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- Date Published: March 2011
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107004191
- length: 292 pages
- dimensions: 236 x 158 x 21 mm
- weight: 0.52kg
- contains: 1 map 2 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Voices from the battlefield: ex-combatants' views on root causes of the war and their reasons for participation
2. The socio-economic crisis of rural youth
3. Conflict in Sierra Leone and recruits to the war
4. The world of the RUF
5. Malfunctions and atrocities
6. Cultivating peace: RUF ex-combatants' involvement in post-war agricultural projects
7. Footpaths to reintegration?: Agrarian solutions for the reintegration of ex-combatants
8. Conclusion: the RUF as a rural underclass project
Annex I: a chronology
Annex II: overview interviewed ex-RUF combatants.
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