Sierra Leone

Gender Violence and HIV/AIDS in Post-Conflict West Africa: Issues and Responses


Ahonsi, Babatunde A. 2010. “Gender Violence and HIV/AIDS in Post-Conflict West Africa: Issues and Responses.” Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.

Author: Babatunde A. Ahonsi


This Discussion Paper is based on an analysis of the sexual and gender dimensions of the civil wars in two West African countries, Liberia (1989-96, 1999-2003) and Sierra Leone (1997-2002). It critically examines the impact of, and linkages between conflict, the incidence of sexual violence against women (SVAW) and risks of exposure to HIV/ AIDS in both countries. It also examines these connections in the context of postconflict transitions. In this regard, it interrogates some of the assumptions about the linkages between war, levels of SVAW and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The critical perspective adopted in this paper opens up new vistas in the form of a gendered analysis of a largely neglected aspect of post-conflict transitions in Africa.

Keywords: post-conflict reconstruction, violence against women, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, AIDS, women's health, gender analysis, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Health, HIV/AIDS, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2010

Strengthening Women’s Citizenship in the Context of State-Building: The Experience of Sierra Leone


Castillejo, Clare. (2008) “Strengthening Women’s Citizenship in the Context of State-Building: The Experience of Sierra Leone”. Madrid, FRIDE working paper 69

Author: Clare Castillejo


"There is currently great interest in citizenship within development discourse and practice. The development community has come to see citizenship both as a key element of democracy and accountability, and as an important framework to understand “the extent to which poor people are able to participate in the decision-making structures which shape events and outcomes in their own lives”. Feminist scholars have made the case that citizenship is also a useful framework to understand and support women’s struggles for equality, as it reveals how women can influence the institutions, policies and structures that shape their lives. While there are many different definitions of citizenship, one that is perhaps most useful in the context of development and gender equality is that citizenship is made up of access to rights and participation in governance. This is the definition used in this paper. Following the end of the devastating internal conflict there is now a process of state-building underway in Sierra Leone. Within this process new institutions are being created and old ones reformed, and the boundaries of authority between the formal state and customary authorities are being redrawn. This process has profound implications for women’s rights and participation in relation to the formal state, to customary authorities and to their communities, and has the potential to significantly reshape women’s experience of citizenship. This paper explores how state-building processes in Sierra Leone can offer opportunities to strengthen women’s citizenship and influence over the decision-making structures which affect their lives. It will look at the forms of citizenship currently available to women in Sierra Leone, the challenges women face in claiming their rights and participating in governance, and the changes that are being brought about by the strengthening of the formal state. It will also make recommendations for how women’s citizenship can be placed more centrally within the statebuilding process" (Castillejo, 2008, 1).

Topics: Citizenship, Development, Gender, Women, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2008

‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone


Kelsall, Michelle Staggs, and Shanee Stepakoff. 2007. “‘When We Wanted to Talk About Rape’: Silencing Sexual Violence at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 1 (3): 355–74. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijm034.

Authors: Michelle Staggs Kelsall, Shanee Stepakoff


This article explores the legal and psychological ramifications arising from the exclusion of evidence of sexual violence during the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) case at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Using empirical findings from post-trial interviews conducted with the ten victim-witnesses who were originally to testify, we juxtapose what the Special Court allowed the women to say, and what the women themselves wanted to say. From a legal perspective, we then critique the Trial Chamber's reasons for excluding the evidence and question the legal bases upon which the women were silenced, arguing that wider and wider circles of the women's experience were removed from the Court's records despite there being ample authority at an international level to support inclusion. We further look at the gendered biases in international criminal law and how expedience and efficiency usurped the significance of prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in this instance. From a psychological perspective, we discuss the consequences that the act of silencing had for the witnesses, and argue that a more emotionally sensitive understanding of the Court's notion of ‘protection’ is required.

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

Defying Victimhood: Women and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding


Schnabel, Albrecht and Amara Tabyshalieva, eds. 2012. Defying Victimhood: Women and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding. Tokyo and New York: United Nations University Press.

Authors: Amara Tabyshalieva, Albrecht Schnabel


Women are among the most competent, yet marginalized, unnoticed and underutilized actors in efforts to rebuild war-torn societies. Opportunities for sustainable peacebuilding are lost - and sustainable peace is at risk - when significant stakeholders in a society's future peace and conflict architecture are excluded from efforts to heal the wounds of war and build a new society and a new state. The contributors to this book draw on comparative case and country studies from post-conflict contexts in different parts of world to offer their insights into frameworks for understanding women as both victims and peacebuilders, to trace the road that women take from victimhood to empowerment and to highlight the essential partnerships between women and children and how they contribute to peace. The authors examine the roles of women in political and security institutions.



1 Forgone opportunities: The marginalization of women’s contributions to post-conflict peacebuilding; Albrecht Schnabel and Anara Tabyshalieva

2 Frameworks for understanding women as victims and peacebuilders; Lisa Schirch

Part I: From victimhood to empowerment: Patterns and changes

3 Mass crimes and resilience of women: A cross-national perspective;  Krishna Kumar

4 Victimization, empowerment and the impact of UN peacekeeping missions on women and children: Lessons from Cambodia and Timor-Leste; Sumie Nakaya

5 Frontline peacebuilding: Women’s reconstruction initiatives in Burundi;  Rose M. Kadende-Kaiser

Part II: Women and children: Essential partnership of survival and peace.

6 Women and children in the post-Cold War Balkans: Concerns and responses; Constantine P. Danopoulos, Konstantinos S. Skandalis and Zlatko Isakovic

7 Emerging from poverty as champions of change: Women and children in post-war Tajikistan; Svetlana Sharipova and Hermine De Soto

8 Young mothers as agents of peacebuilding: Lessons from an early childcare and development project in Macedonia; Deborah Davis

Part III: Putting good intentions into practice: National and global efforts to right past wrongs.

9 Gender and transitional justice: Experiences from South Africa, Rwanda and Sierra Leone; Lyn S. Graybill

10 Empowering women to promote peace and security: From the global to the local – Securing and implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325; Ancil Adrian-Paul

Part IV: Deconstructing victimhood: Women in political and security institutions.

11 State-building or survival in conflict and post-conflict situations? A peacebuilding perspective on Palestinian women’s contributions to ending the Israeli occupation;  Vanessa Farr

12 Women’s participation in political decision-making and recovery processes in post-conflict Lebanon; Kari H. Karamé

13 Combating stereotypes: Female security personnel in post-conflict contexts; Kristin Valasek


14 Defying victimhood: Women as activists and peacebuilders; Anara Tabyshalieva and Albrecht Schnabel

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Peacebuilding, Peacekeeping, Peace Processes, Political Economies, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Women's Rights, Security, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325 Regions: Africa, MENA, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Oceania Countries: Burundi, Lebanon, Macedonia, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste

Year: 2012

African Conflicts and Informal Power : Big Men and Networks


Utas, Mats, ed. 2012. African Conflicts and Informal Power : Big Men and Networks. Zed Books Ltd. 

Author: Mats Utas


In the aftermath of an armed conflict in Africa, the international community both produces and demands from local partners a variety of blueprints for reconstructing state and society. The aim is to re-formalize the state after what is viewed as a period of fragmentation. In reality, African economies and polities are very much informal in character, with informal actors, including so-called Big Men, often using their positions in the formal structure as a means to reach their own goals. Through a variety of in-depth case studies, including the DRC, Sierra Leone and Liberia, African Conflicts and Informal Power shows how important informal political and economic networks are in many of the continent's conflict areas. Moreover, it demonstrates that without a proper understanding of the impact of these networks, attempts to formalize African states, particularly those emerging from wars, will be in vain (WorldCat).


Part one: Country Case Studies

  1. Informal political structures, resources and the Ugandan army; military entrepreneurialism in the Ugandan-Congolese borderland - Koen Vlassenroot and Sandrine Perot
  2. Big Man Business in the Borderland of Sierra Leone - Maya Mynster Christensen
  3. The politics of impersonation: Corps habillés, Nouchis, and subaltern Bigmanity in Côte d’Ivoire - Karel Arnaut
  4. Demobilized or remobilized? Liberia’s remaining rebel structures in post-war security settings - Mariam Persson
  5. Castles in the sand’: Informal networks and power brokers in the Northern Mali periphery - Morten Böås


Part 2: Thematic Case Studies


  1. Critical states and cocaine connections - By Henrik Vigh
  2. African Big Men and international criminal justice: the case of Sierra Leone - By Gerhard Anders
  3. Big Man bargaining in African conflicts - By Ilmari Käihkö
  4. Intermediaries of peace or agents of war: the role of ex-midlevel commanders in Big Man networks - By Anders Themnér
  5. The Big Men commanding conflict resources in Africa: the DRC case - By Ruben de Koning

Topics: Armed Conflict, DDR, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, Central Africa, West Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012

The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia


Hoffman, Danny. 2011. The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Cultures and Practice of Violence. Duke University Press.


Author: Danny Hoffman


"In The War Machines, Danny Hoffman considers how young men are made available for violent labor both on the battlefields and in the diamond mines, rubber plantations, and other unregulated industries of West Africa. Based on his ethnographic research with militia groups in Sierra Leone and Liberia during those countries’ recent civil wars, Hoffman traces the path of young fighters who moved from grassroots community-defense organizations in Sierra Leone during the mid-1990s into a large pool of mercenary labor.

Hoffman argues that in contemporary West Africa, space, sociality, and life itself are organized around making young men available for all manner of dangerous work. Drawing on his ethnographic research over the past nine years, as well as the anthropology of violence, interdisciplinary security studies, and contemporary critical theory, he maintains that the mobilization of West African men exemplifies a global trend in the outsourcing of warfare and security operations. A similar dynamic underlies the political economy of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a growing number of postcolonial spaces. An experienced photojournalist, Hoffman integrates more than fifty of his photographs of young West Africans into The War Machines."

(Duke University Press)

Annotation: Illustrations ix Preface xi Acknowledgments xxiii Introduction: War Machines 1 I. Histories 1. The Mano River War: A Chronology 27 2. Hunters, Lumpens, and War Boys: A Social History of the Kamajors 55 3. States of Conflict: A Social History of the Kamajors Continued 88 II. Building The Barracks 4. Big Men, Small Boys 127 5. The Barracks 162 6. The Hotel Kamajor 194 7. The Magic of War 224 Conclusion: A Laboratory of the Future 252 Notes 261 Bibliography 273 Index 289

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Livelihoods, Security, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2011

Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative


Mibenge, Chiseche Salome. 2013. Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press. 

Author: Chiseche Salome Mibenge


Before the twenty-first century, there was little legal precedent for the prosecution of sexual violence as a war crime. Now, international tribunals have the potential to help make sense of political violence against both men and women; they have the power to uphold victims' claims and to convict the leaders and choreographers of systematic atrocity. However, by privileging certain accounts of violence over others, tribunals more often confirm outmoded gender norms, consigning women to permanent rape victim status.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, International Criminal Law, International Tribunals & Special Courts, TRCs, Post-Conflict, SV against Women, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa Countries: Rwanda, Sierra Leone

Year: 2013

Sexing the State: The Gendered Origins of the Civil War in Sierra Leone


Lahai, John Idriss. 2010. “Sexing the State: The Gendered Origins of the Civil War in Sierra Leone.” Minerva Journal of Women and War 4 (2): 26–45. doi:10.3172/MIN.4.2.26.


Author: John Idriss Lahai


As a rethink to the existing gender-neutral argument surrounding the causes of the civil war in Sierra Leone, this article presents an alternative framework of pre-war gender structural inequality to explain the conflict. While it does not present a feminist-essentialist argument in defense of the nuanced "peaceful" nature of women, it contends that the long standing exclusion of women in politics, and the lack of social and economic structural equality - which also precipitated the social and political acceptance of violence - should be understood as an antecedent to the war. And it is also argued in this article that although the youth bulge contributed to a militarized culture before the war, the crux of the problem was the lack of women's pre-war reproductive rights and sexual autonomy. To insist on a gendered reasoning to explain civil wars, we should note, appears to be part of the feminist call for the recognition of gender (in)equality in the war-peace calculus. Despite that, it also bears some positive analytical framework for interpreting the "male-instigated" civil wars and the violence that occurred therein (see, e.g., Cockburn 2001). Against this backdrop, we cannot explain the ways how the war affected women, without looking at the pre-war gender structural inequalities. Thus, it is hoped that this article will give voice to women and explain how women's low status contributed to the militarization of pre-war state politics, in the subsequent war, and in shaping the patterns of wartime sexual and gender-based violence between 1991 and 2002.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2010

Combating Postconflict Violence Against Women: An Analysis of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Governments’ Efforts to Address the Problem


Medie, P.A. 2012. “Combating Postconflict Violence Against Women: An Analysis of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Governments’ Efforts to Address the Problem.” In Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: International Law, Local Responses. Sterling: Kumarian Press.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012


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