The 1991-2002 war in Sierra Leone was infamous for mass amputations, widespread sexual violence, and forced recruitment of children into rebel forces. It was not an ethnic war, but one that tore families and communities apart in ways that could not be sustained in peacetime. After the war, the Sierra Leone government and civil society organizations encouraged combatants to return home and communities to accept them, even when the combatants, or forces they were associated with, had committed horrendous crimes in those very villages.
This book describes how excombatants and civilian survivors in Sierra Leone struggled to reconcile and build trust in their communities a year after the war ended. It explores the contribution of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reconciliation and justice, and questions whether reconciliation is always a good thing. And it examines how the seemingly nebulous concept of reconciliation can be understood so that the term is useful for peacebuilding and consistent with justice. Finally the author argues that Sierra Leone has much to teach peacebuilders in societies emerging from intra-communal violence and much to contribute to comparative analyses of post-conflict transitions.
About this book
‘Stovel avoids the temptation of simply presenting findings; instead, she takes the reader on her “research journey”. This serves to be a crucial feature of the anthropological leanings of her study, and lends a sense of readability for even the lesser informed audience. Stovel immerses herself in the research, speaking warmly about local acquaintances and providing anecdotes of her travels. It is in these intimate spaces that some of her most intriguing insights emerge. Furthermore, most crucially, it is here that she uncovers the unconscious, yet deliberate hypocrisy of the social integration of excombatants. [...] Against this setting, the fragility of restorative justice in Sierra Leone is revealed. [...]there is a fundamental tension between the human rights of victims and perpetrators, which runs through Stovel’s work. [...] Stovel navigates these nuances admirably, objectively addressing the factual and theoretical dimensions of the study while humanising the people and personalities most affected by the process and progress of reconciliation and trust. Her text covers an important and underrepresented area of study.’
Shibu Sangale in Acta Crimonologica 23 (2010) 126.
‘Stovel’s bottom-up research approach is particularly helpful in revealing the nuances of post-conflict reconciliation processes. Her book is littered with direct quotes from and reflections by ordinary Sierra Leoneans – taxi and mini-bus drivers, war victims, amputees, child soldiers and women ex-combatants, among many others. This alone makes it a valuable resource and provides insights into the minds of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.’
FranklinOduro in International Journal of Transitional Justice (2013) 558
About the author
The author has a PhD in Sociology from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She has taught in the fields of peacebuilding and international development at Carleton and Wilfrid Laurier Universities in Canada. She is currently working for The Carter Center as an international long-term observer of the peace and constitution-building processes in Nepal.
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION: THE RESEARCH JOURNEY (p. 1)
EPILOGUE (p. 253)
APPENDIX: CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS (p. 267)
BIBLIOGRAPHY (p. 273)
Countries emerging from long periods of authoritarian rule must often confront a legacy of gross human rights abuses perpetrated over many years. During the past two decades, these age-old issues have been termed “problems of transitional justice”, both by academics and policy makers around the world. Given the frequency with which these problems arise, as well as the complexity of the issues involved, it is striking that no book series has taken the issue of transitional justice as its point of focus.
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