Military Patrimonialism and Child Soldier Clientalism in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars


Murphy, William P. 2003. “Military Patrimonialism and Child Soldier Clientalism in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars.” African Studies Review 46 (2): 61-87.

Author: William P. Murphy


This article uses a Weberian model of patrimonialism to analyze clientalist and "staff" roles of child soldiers in the military regimes of the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It thereby examines institutional aspects of child soldier identity and behavior not addressed in other standard models of child soldiers as coerced victims, revolutionary idealists, or delinquent opportunists. It shifts analytical attention from nation-state patrimonialism to the patrimonial dimensions of rebel regimes. It locates child soldiers within a social organization of domination and reciprocity based on violence structured through patronage ties with military commanders. It identifies child soldier "staff" functions within the administration of a patrimonial regime. A Weberian focus on the institutionalization and strategies of domination and dependency provides a corrective to views that exoticize child soldiers, decontextualize their behavior, or essentialize their "youth" as an explanatory principle.

Topics: Age, Youth, Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Girls, Boys, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2003

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