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Are 'Child Soldiers' In Sierra Leone A New Phenomenon?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter investigates the question of continuity and change in intergenerational relations and conflict in Sierra Leone. What light can be shed on the modern phenomenon of child soldiering by a historical analysis of the participation of children in war? Four eras of Sierra Leone's history the pre-colonial, early colonial, late colonial and early independence eras are examined. Although their participation has shifted in meaning and in substance over the years as the nature of war has shifted, two themes emerge. First, their participation taken place under the rubric of apprenticeship to powerful warriors. Second, in a gerontocracy, 'youth' is not simply a biological category; it is most productively understood as a political category. The chapter ends with reflections on the agency of children in war, and discusses whether they are better seen as the dupes of their elders or as a class for themselves.

Keywords: child soldier; gerontocracy; Sierra Leone



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