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Sierra Leone

Making the Invisible War Crime Visible: Post-Conflict Justice for Sierra Leone’s Rape Victims


Nowrojee, Binaifer. 2005. “Making the Invisible War Crime Visible: Post-Conflict Justice for Sierra Leone’s Rape Victims.” Harvard Human Rights Journal 18: 85-105.

Author: Binaifer Nowrojee


When the civil war in Sierra Leone came to an end in 2002, the international community created two transitional justice mechanisms to address past atrocities: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Little attention has been paid in the international community or in the scholarly literature to the efforts made by these institutions to address and redress the wartime sexual violence routinely directed at women and girls. The two institutions in Sierra Leone are noteworthy for seriously undertaking to fulfill their mandate to address crimes against women and for using gender-sensitive strategies to ensure the comfort, safety, and dignity of the rape victims coming forward to testify. While this should be standard operating practice for international institutions, the practices of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and other transitional justice mechanisms illustrate the unfortunate fact that gender justice often remains the exception rather than the rule in post-conflict societies. Additionally, Sierra Leone represents one of the only places in which the international community has set up both a truth commission and a court in a post-conflict setting; utilizing both institutions concurrently has already produced both positive and negative effects for Sierra Leone, raising crucial questions and setting important precedents for future conflict resolution scenarios. Although the ultimate success of these two international justice mechanisms in the particular arena of gender justice in Sierra Leone remains to be seen, the steps taken so far are encouraging. Together, they can provide a “best practices” model for other international justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court. Sexual violence has been an invisible war crime in a wide variety of contemporary conflicts and mass atrocities; inclusion of gender violence in the post-conflict world of international justice can help to condemn these horrors and to make the perpetrators accountable for the particularly brutal violence perpetrated against women in wartime.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, International Organizations, Justice, TRCs, War Crimes, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2005

Marginalization of girl mothers during reintegration from armed groups in Sierra Leone


Burman, Mary, and Suzan McKay. 2007. “Marginalization of girl mothers during reintegration from armed groups in Sierra Leone.” International Nursing Review 54 (4): 316-23.

Authors: Mary Burman, Suzan McKay


BACKGROUND: Although the widespread presence of girls who participate in fighting forces is increasingly recognized, they remain a highly marginalized group globally, receiving little attention either during or after armed conflict. This is especially true for "girl mothers," girls who return to communities with children born while members of fighting forces.

AIM: The concept of marginalization (Hall et al. 1994) is used to examine what happens to girl soldiers, especially girl mothers, in the aftermath of armed conflict when they seek to reintegrate back into their communities.

METHODS: This analysis, as part of a larger study of reintegration of girl mothers, is based on field work with girls who were in fighting forces in northwest Sierra Leone, especially those who returned with children.

FINDINGS: The type and level of marginalization these girls experience is consistent with the conceptualization of marginalization; however, they lack voice and experience shame and vulnerability. Moreover, economics were fundamentally related to their marginalization. The girls' access to resources was significantly constrained because the area was heavily impacted by the war and because of widespread poverty throughout Sierra Leone.

DISCUSSION: The findings raise important questions about marginalization of girls affected by war. Girls and girl mothers experience an extremely high level of marginalization; however, some aspects are not consistent with the original conceptualization of marginalization. Theory development in nursing needs to incorporate multiple voices, especially those of the very marginalized and be done in such a manner that benefits and empowers.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, Gender, Girls, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

Child Soldiers in the Civil War in Sierra Leone


Zack-Williams, Tunde. 2001. “Child Soldiers in the Civil War in Sierra Leone.” Review of African Political Economy 28 (87): 73-82.

Author: Tunde Zack-Williams


This article examines the factors which have brought children into social movements challenging those wielding political power in Sierra Leone. It reviews the manner of their recruitment and the roles they have played in the civil war. The analysis is premised on the notion that peripheral capitalism has transformed the form of the family, loosening controls over children. With ongoing crises in both the economic and political realms undermining kinship structures and leaving children with little security, some have turned to surrogate families for protection, either on the street or in the ranks of combatants. Although some of the children who have participated in the war have been volunteers, thousands more have been abducted and socialised via brute violence by both sides.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Girls, Boys, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2001

Child Soldiers, Peace Education, and Postconflict Reconstruction for Peace


Wessells, Michael. 2005. “Child Soldiers, Peace Education, and Postconflict Reconstruction for Peace.” Theory Into Practice 44 (4): 363-69.

Author: Michael Wessells


Worldwide, children are drawn into lives as soldiers and terrorism as the result of forced recruitment and also by extremist ideologies and their inability to obtain security, food, power, prestige, education, and positive life options through civilian means. Using an example from Sierra Leone, this article shows that peace education is an essential element in a holistic approach to the reintegration of former child soldiers and to the prevention of youth's engagement in violence and terrorism. In the post-conflict context, effective peace education has a stronger practical than didactic focus, and it stimulates empathy, cooperation, reconciliation, and community processes for handling conflict in a nonviolent manner. These processes play a key role also in the prevention of children's engagement in violence and terrorism.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, DDR, Education, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Terrorism, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2005

The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Consideration of Gender-based Violence: Contributing to Transitional Justice?


Oosterveld, Valerie. 2009. “The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Consideration of Gender-based Violence: Contributing to Transitional Justice?” Human Rights Review 10 (1): 73–98. doi: 10.1007/s12142-008-0098-7.

Author: Valeria Oosterveld


Serious gender-based crimes were committed against women and girls during Sierra Leone’s decade-long armed conflict. This article examines how the Special Court for Sierra Leone has approached these crimes in its first four judgments. The June 20, 2007 trial judgment in the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council case assists international criminal law’s limited understanding of the crime against humanity of forced marriage, but also collapses evidence of that crime into the war crime of outrages upon personal dignity. The February 22, 2008 appeals judgment attempts to correct this misstep. In contrast, the August 2, 2007 trial judgment in the Civil Defence Forces case is virtually silent on crimes committed against women and girls, although the May 28, 2008 appeals judgment attempts to partially redress this silence. This article concludes that the four judgments, considered together, raise the specter that the Special Court could potentially fail to make a significant progressive contribution to gender-sensitive transitional justice.

Topics: Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2009

Disability as Embodied Memory? Questions of Identity for the Amputees of Sierra Leone


Berghs, Maria. 2007. “Disability as Embodied Memory? Questions of Identity for the Amputees of Sierra Leone; Wagadu 4 (Special Issue: Intersecting Gender and Disability Perspectives in Rethinking Postcolonial Identities): 78-92.


Author: Maria Berghs


"In this paper, my aim is to examine this problematic construction of amputee identity in Sierra Leone society after the decade-long civil war through discourses and imagery of amputees presented in the media. Firstly, I examine how the government tried to contain and control amputee identity. Arguing that security and the physical rebuilding of the country was the first thing they should address, the government tried to contain and control amputee identities in camps. In establishing security and beginning the physical rebuilding of the country, the government used the bodies of the amputees in camps as a genderless visual metaphor for the trauma and threat of war, to gain aid from foreign donors. Furthermore, by rendering amputees in terms of their genderless bodies in camps, the government could hide the traumatic visible and invisible memories of the war. This entailed that the abuses that occurred during the civil war could be hidden from the country and not be a difficult priority to be addressed. Secondly, I examine how amputees, with the help of foreign N.G.O’s and religious organizations, rejected an idea of themselves as hidden victims and organized themselves into self-help groups such as the War Affected Amputee Association and demanded compensation and rehabilitation from those who had caused their injuries. Amputees began to see themselves as people who had rights and access to certain types of (economic, social, cultural, political) capital (Bourdieu, 1986, 1991). The telling of their stories in their autobiographical terms became very important, and they even refused participation in the T.R.C if their demands were not met. Even more embarrassing for the government was that the amputees also made links, in the press, between their disabilities and a patriarchal history of colonial and post-colonial exploitation (the diamond industry) of Sierra Leone, as well as lobbied other governments and agencies for support. Thirdly, I examine how amputee communities were created in amputee camps and how amputees rejected N.G.O and religious discourses of equality. For example, counter to ideas of gender-equality it was very important to male amputees to assert and regain their traditional roles as men. Amputation used as a violent cultural weapon of war erased differences of class, ethnicity, gender, and age (Richards, 1996, Peters & Richards, 1998). However, in reintegrating amputees back into society, while notions of ethnicity may not be so important, notions of class and gender continue to be relevant cultural markers in both local and global discourses and imagery. In this way, I thus hope to trace the outline of what I feel is a struggle by amputees to create, for themselves, their own images, identities, and places in their communities in Sierra Leone. I hope to elucidate why and how amputee symbolic images, identities, and positions in society are problematic and explain why they continue to be problematic in present day Sierra Leone, both for themselves, Sierra Leoneans, and others."

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Health Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

Global Governance, Therapeutic Intervention, and War-Affected Girls


Park, Augustine S. J. 2009. “Global Governance, Therapeutic Intervention, and War-Affected Girls.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 34 (2): 157-82.

Author: Augustine S. J. Park


The victimization of girls in armed conflict has garnered increased attention, yet recent scholarship shows that postconflict measures fail to meet girls’ unique needs. This article examines gendered discourses employed in programming designed to assist girls following Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, drawing on fieldwork conducted as part of a continuing program of study on peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. Specifically, the article presents a case study examining discourse relating to war-affected girls in one Freetown-based NGO, Connecting for Peace, which delivered programming to boys and girls affected by the war.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Girls, Gendered Discourses, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2009

The Nexus between Social Capital and Reintegration of Ex-combatants: A Case for Sierra Leone


Leff, Jonah. 2008. “The Nexus between Social Capital and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants: A Case for Sierra Leone.” African Journal on Conflict Resolution 8 (1): 18–20.

Author: Jonah Leff


Following the end of the Cold War, the international community shifted its attention from duelling ideological warfare to the many intra-state, or internal armed conflicts occurring globally. In response, the United Nations, along with a wide array of aid agencies, have invested greater and greater time and resources in post-conflict environments. When peace is reached after conflict, economic and social conditions are not conducive for ex-combatants to reintegrate on their own. Programmes that address ex-combatants as well as broader post-conflict recovery are essential. Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) is one such programme that has received widespread attention. Policy analysts have debated the factors that contribute to a successful DDR programme. This study examines reintegration, the final phase of DDR, arguing that in order to achieve successful reintegration of ex-combatants, a community-focused approach that generates social capital must be implemented. Using a comprehensive literature review of social capital and community-based reintegration and a thorough case study from Sierra Leone, this paper will demonstrate the relationship between social capital and reintegration.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, DDR, Gender, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, Peace Processes, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2008

Gender and ICTs for Development: A Global Sourcebook


Odame, Helen Hambly, Guihuan Li, Minori Terada, Blythe McKay, Mercy Wambui, and Nancy Muturi. 2005. Gender and ICTs for Development: A Global Sourcebook. Amsterdam: KIT (Royal Tropical Institute); Oxfam GB.

Authors: Helen Hambly Odame, Guihuan Li, Minori Terada, Blythe McKay, Mercy Wambui, Nancy Muturi


Around the world information and communication technologies (ICTs) have changed the lives of individuals, organizations and indeed, entire nations. This book is a collection of case studies about women and their communities in developing countries, and how they have been influenced by ICTs. ICTs can have profound implications for women and men in terms of employment, education, health, environmental sustainability and community development.

Women want information and engage in communication that will improve their livelihoods and help them achieve their human rights. This represents a formidable challenge to all societies in today's world, and especially to developing countries. Due to systemic gender biases in ICTs and their applications, women are far more likely than men to experience discrimination in the information society. Women are not giving up on ICTs. On the contrary, even resource-poor and non-literate women and their organizations are aware of the power of information technologies and communication processes and, if given the opportunity to do so, will use them to advance their basic needs and strategic interests.

Five case studies illustrate the different contexts facing gender and ICTs for development, including e-commerce in Bhutan, entrepreneurship by women workers in China, post-war communication using radio and ICTs in Sierra Leone, sustainable fisheries production in Ghana, and information exchange related to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. An extensive annotated bibliography of the international literature on Gender and ICTs for development, rural development in particular, and relevant web resources, complement the papers.

Topics: Development, Gender, Women, Infrastructure, Information & Communication Technologies Regions: Africa, West Africa, Americas, Caribbean countries, Asia, East Asia, South Asia Countries: Barbados, Bhutan, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Trinidad & Tobago

Year: 2005

Girls and Small Arms in Sierra Leone: Victimization, Participation, and Resistance


Denov, Myriam, and Richard Maclure. 2005. “Girls and Small Arms in Sierra Leone: Victimization, Participation, and Resistance.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Honolulu, March 5.

Authors: Myriam Denov, Richard Maclure


Despite the protections provided to children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the issue of child soldiers has become a major global concern. More than 300,000 soldiers under the age of 18 are fighting in conflicts in 41 countries around the world. During Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, close to 20,000 children were actively engaged as participants in armed struggle. While there is ample descriptive evidence of the conditions and factors underlying the rise of child soldiery in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in the developing world, most of the literature has portrayed this as a uniquely male phenomenon. Yet in Sierra Leone an estimated 30 percent of child soldiers in oppositional forces were girls. So far, however, there is little empirical information that distinguishes the experiences of these girls from those of boys. In particular, very little is known about the forces that propelled girls into armed conflict, about their experiences and perceptions of war, or about their unique psycho-social needs. Likewise, while demobilization and reintegration have been recognized as essential to sustainable peace-building in Sierra Leone, there are clear risks that implementation of such programmes will proceed according to conditionalities that fail to acknowledge gender distinctions and the ideal of 'empowering' female and male youth. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 32 Sierra Leonean girls formerly in fighting forces, this paper traces girls' perspectives and experiences with small arms and the implications of their involvement in armed conflict. It highlights the multi-faceted world that girls were forced to contend with - one in which the realities of victimization, perpetration, and resistance were experienced in a shifting and dialectical fashion.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Girls, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Weapons /Arms Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2005


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