Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War

Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War

by Kieran Mitton


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Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War by Kieran Mitton

The atrocities of civil wars present us with many difficult questions. How do seemingly ordinary individuals come to commit such extraordinary acts of cruelty, often against unarmed civilians? Can we ever truly understand such acts of 'evil'? Based on a wealth of original interviews with perpetrators of violence in Sierra Leone's civil war, this book provides a detailed response. Moving beyond the rigid bounds of political science, the author engages with sociology, psychology and social psychology, to provide a comprehensive picture of the complex individual motives behind seemingly senseless violence in Sierra Leone's war. Highlighting the inadequacy of current explanations that centre on the anarchic nature of brutality, or conversely, its calculated rationality, this book sheds light on the critical but hitherto neglected role played by the emotions of shame and disgust. Drawing on first-hand accounts of strategies employed by Sierra Leone's rebel commanders, it documents the manner in which rebel recruits were systematically brutalised and came to perform horrifying acts of cruelty as routine. In so doing, it offers fresh insight into the causes of extreme violence that holds relevance beyond Sierra Leone to the atrocities of contemporary civil wars.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190241582
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Kieran Mitton is a lecturer in International Relations in the Department of War Studies, King's College London. He has conducted extensive fieldwork on civil war atrocities in Sierra Leone and has published various articles on the reintegration of ex-combatants and electoral violence.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Atrocities and the Sierra Leonean Civil War
Explanations for Sierra Leone's Atrocities
The Problem of Irrational Violence
Challenges in the Study of Civil War Violence
Fieldwork and Interviews
Terminology and Conceptual Clarifications
Chapter Overview

2. Anarchy
Introduction: 'New Wars' and Conflict as Collapse
Neo-Malthusian Madness: Sierra Leone and New Barbarism
Breakdown and the Sierra Leonean Civil War

3. Order: Violence as Rational
The Political Logic
The Economic Logic

4. Shame
Shame and Extreme Violence
From Powerlessness to Pride
Eliminating the Threat of Shame
Strengths and Limitations of the Shame Argument

5. Disgust
Disgust and Extreme Violence in Sierra Leone
Rebels in a Rotten State: Division and Disgust in Sierra Leone
Atrocities of Disgust
Strengths and Limitations of the Disgust Argument

6. Systematic Brutalization
The Evolution of Systematic Brutalization
The System of Brutalization
The Irrational Violence of the Brutalized
Irrational Violence Unleashed

7. Conclusion
From Anarchy to Order
An Irrational Violence Framework
Variations in Violent Behavior
Beyond Sierra Leone
The Future

Annex I: Recorded Interviews

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