Perspectives on "New wars" in Africa: the case of Sierra Leone

Krige, Greta (2008-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.

The primary goal of this thesis is to explore, analyse and apply the New War theory to the West African case of Sierra Leone. The motivation for conducting a study of this nature was that much literature exists on the assumption that the Sierra Leonean conflict equates to a resource war. This research project attempts to bridge the gap between the New War schools of thought and those who maintain a resource war approach. Although Kaldor’s (2006) work on New Wars is significant, she does not place much emphasis on Africa. In order to supplement this, William Reno (2001) and Paul Collier (2000) have also been studied. Both write about Africa. The RUF virtually razed the Sierra Leonean society to the ground. The overtly violent methods employed were dissimilar to the interstate and intrastate wars of the past. Blatant exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth aggravated the situation. In attempting to reach a relevant finding, this study is divided into distinctive sections. Chapter two documents the theoretical background. The writings of Kaldor (2006), Reno (2001) and Collier (2000) are explored and applied. The third chapter investigates the factors in the conflict. Issues such as the resource factor (diamonds) and poverty are discussed; the failed state in Sierra Leone; criminal networks; social conditions; arms; and the role of youth and children. The general finding of this chapter indicates that Sierra Leone fits this model. Chapter four describes and analyses the actors. Identity was not an issue in the Sierra Leone war; thus a large part of Kaldor’s theory becomes redundant. In the final assessment the study establishes what Sierra Leone’s position is: New War or merely resource war? The bulk of the applied theory proved to be applicable to this case; but the study also acknowledges the mistaken views regarding Kaldor’s identity theories. Collier and Reno’s works prove to be significantly more relevant. This study was able to determine that Sierra Leone was indeed an example of New Wars, albeit considerably affected and influenced by greed.

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