Sierra leone civil war research paper

According to Bernard in purposive sampling, the investigator consciously decides which respondents are likely to serve in his study. The Mende people are one of the most populous ethnic communities in the whole of Sierra Leone. In addition, the practice of the Bondo secret society is thought to have originated with the Mende see Little, ; Walter, Our sample targeted both proponents and opponents of the practice of Bondo initiation.

Overall, we interviewed 70 people and held 5 focus group sessions over a period of nine months of anthropological fieldwork. While 52 female respondents were members of, 4 others had renounced their Bondo society membership. Additionally, 22 Bondo society leaders Soweis of different ranks 2 10 lived in IDP camps in Free-town while the other 12 resided in villages surrounding Bo were interviewed.

An Examination of the Role of Women in Conflict Management: Sierra Leone A Case Study

Interviews were also conducted with fourteen men who were purposively sampled to address key aspects of the study such as the intersection between Bondo society and politics and the different forms of power accessible to Bondo members in community organisation. The interviews were complemented by participant observation. Following Bernard , p. Finally, we held five focus group discussion sessions with the main interest groups in relation to the practice: i. Bondo initiators, community leaders and NGO operatives championing the eradication of FGC in the research sites, as well as members of the wider public.

Following Edwards and Talbot , p. This formed the general framework for analysis. Next follows an exploration of the intersection between the Poro and the Bondo secret societies and wider political dynamics including the double appropriation of the human rights discourse in regards to ritual female circumcision in Sierra Leone. Despite differences in opinion among its members regarding the law, it continues to enjoy the support of the Poro in which most of the ruling male elites hold membership because of its symbolic power and high stake in local politics owing to its mobilizing ability.

Despite tensions and crosscutting differences between various Bondo chapters, and its reliance on patronage with the Poro society, it continues to maintain cohesion and a united front, by appropriating a combination of common knowledge Chwe, , interaction and interpenetration of discourses through networks Ansell, as well as the use of both restrictive and elaborated linguistic codes Atkinson, The Sowei council which is the mouthpiece of the Bondo secret society mobilizes its members by constructing frames and through the condensation of symbols Geertz, , p.

The intersection between secret society membership and politics is best captured by the interdependent role of these secret societies in Sierra Leonean politics. The embers of the decade long civil strife — that embroiled Sierra Leone were ignited by pent up anger and frustration among the masses resulting from decades of exclusionary governance processes by successive kleptocratic regimes whose members privatized and siphoned off diamond proceeds with impunity Zack-Williams, The war pitted the Revolutionary United Front RUF forces against the government for control over political power and diamond.

Various scholars have provided detailed ethnographic accounts and theories about the causes of the war see Abdullah, ; Bangura, ; Clapham, ; Ian Smillie, This war witnessed the appropriation of local governance structures such as Chieftaincy, local vigilant groups and the Poro and Bondo secret societies as well as marauding youths.

The youth appropriated these cultural resources by putting into practice what they had been watching for their war efforts.

Tabi Chama-James Tabenyang

These teenagers who were soldiers and commanders saw their aspirations for schools and jobs dashed. The youths were disaffected with the state and with local chiefs who controlled land and resources needed for marriage fee so as to establish a family and settle down. The RUF took advantage of this patriarchal oppression and recruited the youth with which it brutally attacked the existing local governance structures, especially the Native Administrative architecture. In some cases, including the Moyamba District, chiefs grudgingly gave only barren land for the planting of annual and biennial crops- generally for subsistence—but not perennials.

This suggests the preclusion of the youth from the more lucrative cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa or coffee which could effectively give long-term control over the land. Both warring factions desecrated the sacred bushes of the Bondo and Poro secret societies for magical charms and their associated mystical powers for their respective war efforts, killed initiators, Paramount Chiefs and lesser chiefs. Local community members however protected their chiefs and herbalists who were shielded away from the rebels. Secret societies in conjunction with the locally recruited Civil Defence Forces provided physical security, law and order in the townships.

The Poro and Bondo secret societies and all other social groups broke down during the war because of insecurity. Although initiation ceremonies were scarce during the war, they served as vehicles for mobilisation Richards, , p.

During the war, Chiefs co-opted youths and women in their governance structures, a more participatory approach to governance that has persisted. Like in most of Africa, the state of Sierra Leone does not only maintain a direct relationship with its citizens as individuals, but this relationship is mediated through rural governance systems that were in place prior to colonialism and have greater legitimacy than the central state itself Mamdani, ; Vincent, , p.

Though the war ended in the effects of the war were devastating and are still felt in present day Sierra Leone. In a country of six million people 3 World Bank, that was bound to shake the stability of the society in a profound manner and for a long time. This brief cultural-historical background and the general dynamics and transformative effects of war is important for understanding the contemporary situation and the intersection between secret societies such as the Poro and the Bondo on one hand and wider political dynamics including the double appropriation of the human rights discourse in Sierra Leone on the other.

Although both tradition and modernity are invented and mutable see Ranger, , Sierra Leonean politics is characterized by the co-existence of tradition and modernity as well as by a symbiosis between the main male and female secret societies.

Civil War in Sierra Leone Free Essays -

This implies that though men occupy major domains of power-women—in particular Bondo members—also appropriate some forms of power. The Bondo whose conditio sine qua non for membership involves ritual female circumcision teaches women the art of home keeping, good social relations with in-laws, sex education, child-bearing and aspects of motherhood. The Poro inculcates notions of family unity and community cohesion, the art of war and masculinity at large.

Both secret societies therefore prepare young people for marriage since graduation from these secret societies has traditionally been the prerequisite for social adulthood among the Mende. In the Bondo affiliate secret society called humui , charged with the regulation of sexual control and behaviour, the woman in charge inherits this status through kin in a patrilineal descent.

This implies that the powerful humui secret society, though headed by a woman, is controlled by the ruling class through patriarchal patrilineal descent. In this regard, the female leaders of the humui only enjoy power as accomplices in upholding patriarchy and the patriarchal interests of the ruling class. Additionally, the humui secret society prohibits sexual relations between kin. This is a further instance of how patriarchy co-opts some women by granting them privileges in order to maintain the status quo in which some women are given the semblance of autonomy and egalitarianism.

In other words, the Bondo and the humui which are led by women, are in essence performing the role the patriarchal order wants it to. These societies retain power through hereditary paternal descent aimed at maintaining the status quo. It is clear that the Bondo is about personal economic and political gain to some adherents. This explains why they indulge in human rights violations to safeguard these privileges in the name of defending culture.

Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta

Although the Poro is an exclusively male institution, for a woman to become a paramount chief, she has first to give up her Bondo membership and be initiated into the Poro before she takes leadership. The mabole oversees initiation of boys and men into the Poro.

Sierra Leone Civil War 1991 - 2002 War For Profit Documentary

The Bondo Soweis therefore hold leverage in the local political economy by virtue of the role they play in the preparation of girls for marriage Phillips, , p. The displacement ushered in by the civil war has been both a blessing and a curse for the Bondo secret society. Before the war, sponsoring Bondo society initiation was a kind of symbolic status signifier to men who enriched themselves through the then lucrative diamond deals and initiates were spoiled with gifts. Many of the other avenues of raising income like prostitution are not appealing especially to women well schooled in Bondo ethics.

The Soweis charge a fee for initiating girls into the Bondo and are also given foodstuffs by the parents of the initiates. The rush for Sowei credentials has led quacks becoming Soweis and the Bondo has lost its intrinsic value and significance as the practice has now been compromised and reduced to a ritual cut. It might be suggested that the social upheaval orchestrated by the decade long civil strife has brought to the fore the notion of individual and community identity and old traditions have been adapted to the new context.

This is the case even when all traditions are invented. Following Eric Hobsbawn , p. Although the economic plight of the Soweis and the deterioration of standards of the ritual practice in the Bondo society culminating in harmful health effects is blamed on the recent civil war, there is some tension here. Although there are those still guided by the pursuit of intrinsic significance of the Bondo, individual economic needs and interests of the Soweis in contemporary post-war Bondo practice are so pressing to ignore. Although the effects of war are often more magnified on women, they are not solely victims of wars.

Although decision-making about war is often the preserve of men, women are involved in many other roles in the field Badmus, War significantly transformed gender relations and the balance of power. Women became breadwinners, gained leverage over household decision-making, became more active in rural economy than prior to the war.

They are increasingly challenging the oppressive features of customary law- particularly the infliction of corporal punishment by a man on his wive and children. Women now have a more proactive role in NGOs and advocacy organisations, but not in government and the private sector. Additionally, displacement has paradoxically opened a new window of opportunity for the Bondo to access political leverage in parliamentary and presidential election campaigns thereby making the Bondo to be much sought after by politicians.

Traditionally, the mandate and some forms of political power and leverage available to the Bondo were mainly confined to rural villages.

War and local collective action in Sierra Leone

Although often practiced in cities, with displacement the Bondo is now significantly practiced in urban areas and cities. In King and Albrecht exploration of a particular variety of urban secret societies, the Odelays, and their central role in making order in Freetown, they demonstrate the security functions of the Odelays which encompass working in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Police SLP in apprehending criminals, investigating and solving crimes, at times through their expansive social networks. Furthermore, the Odelays give members a position of authority from which to engage with centres of power.

Despite contradictions, there is the coexistence of African and European cultural and ethical paradigms in the human rights discourse. They point to the need to protect cultural values inluding ritual female genital cuttings from perceived negative Western influences. The debate between universalism and relativism in the field of human rights is premised on a fixed and abstract conception of both culture and rights. The debate focuses on the relative merits of adopting a universal system of rights in comparison to protecting cultural diversity.

When presented as such, the debate becomes one between culture and rights, in which the natures of both appear uncontested and self-evident. However, both concepts are fluid and changing, theoretically as well as empirically. Merry, , pp. Both culture and human rights are not static—they are continuously evolving and undergoing redefinition. Similarly, Hernlund and Shell-Duncan also contest the popular notion that human rights is a Western construct imposed by First World countries on the rest of the world, arguing that human rights has relevance and robustness to all humanity.