Grassroots perspectives of peace building in Sierra Leone 1991-2006

  • Sue Cutter

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This study is about peace building in Sierra Leone, during and after the civil war (1991-2002). The initial hypothesis was that the impact of externally driven peace building activities was reduced because of insufficient attention to local culture and priorities. This hypothesis was underpinned by a number of assumptions based on the author’s personal experience and the views of Sierra Leoneans met in the early post-war period. Firstly, that local culture and priorities were the most appropriate in the context of peace building. Secondly, that divergence from local culture and priorities by externally driven activities would inevitability be detrimental to peace building. Thirdly, that local culture and priorities would always have the capacity to inform externally driven peace building activities.

    In 2003, when this study was planned, the post-war literature mainly described the war and its causes or examined the success of peace building activities and programmes. There was also considerable interest in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Court. Informants included external actors, Government and NGO personnel but grassroots perspectives were largely missing. This study set out to remedy this omission; trained local researchers used participatory methods to collect grassroots perspectives at six locations, with different war experiences. In all 76 Sierra Leoneans participated in focus groups and other key stakeholders informed the study.

    Findings within and among the focus groups were heterogeneous. The three prominent themes of grassroots concern that emerged were need, governance and societal relationships. Although the hypothesis was not substantiated in all respects, the findings
    related to societal relationships were supportive. Forgiveness, expressed according to local culture and tradition, was a local priority not always given prominence in externally driven
    peace building activities to the apparent detriment of peace building impact. In other cases (such as shelter or beneficiary participation) where the ‘local’ and the ‘external’ diverged,
    the influence on peace building impact was more tenuous. Incidental findings suggested that practice-preach dichotomies within external peace building activities may be detrimental to impact although to be certain, further research would be required.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorBruce Baker (Supervisor), Roy May (Supervisor) & Andrew Rigby (Supervisor)

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