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Generating Rebels And Soldiers: On The Socio-Economic Crisis Of Rural Youth In Sierra Leone Before The War

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Chapter Summary

There seems little doubt that the oppressive and collapsing Sierra Leonean state contributed to the outbreak of the country's decade-long armed conflict. However, according to Sierra Leonean ex-combatants there was an additional crisis; widespread exploitation of young people's labour by rural elites misusing customary law. This chapter reviews evidence concerning the history of the rural society, and the role of the state in shaping that history. It argues that the political economy of rural Sierra Leone from the colonial period is dominated by unresolved tensions between land-holding elites and dislocated peasants or 'strangers'. Post-domestic slavery conditions of social dependency and vagrancy reproduced themselves across generations giving birth to a young rural underclass, ripe for militia recruitment.

Keywords: armed conflict; colonial period; customary law; political economy; rural society; Sierra Leone; Socio-Economic Crisis



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