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Sierra Leone’s 1991 Civil War Essay

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2019

The civil war that broke out in Sierra Leone was caused by political instability and disenfranchisement of the youth by subsequent governments in office since the country’s independence. According to Zack-Williams, the political turmoil experienced prior to the start of the civil war was very important in pointing out the rot in the government and its degenerative monolithic rule which were the fueling factors of the civil war (144).

In the broad sense, this led to decay of the society and loss of democratic accountability on the part of the ruling class or elite. Just as it was the norm for the majority of African post-colonial governments, the Sierra Leone government was based on the principle of oppressive state propagandas.

In the end, a disgruntled RUF (Revolutionary United Front) was formed and instigated an armed struggle against the government of All Peoples’ Congress (APC) (Zack-Williams 145).

Although in 1991 the RUF initiated an attack on the APC government by the Liberia based militia group led by Charles Taylor, other militia groups joined in the war as well. The ideology of these armed groups was based on ideas of ethnic and economic liberation, and their aim was to get power in their hands.

Despite the fact that RUF was the main armed group and the core of the struggle, it increasingly grew unpopular with such undertakings as the use of child soldiers in its guerrilla warfare. There has been a big debate on the issue of funding of this costly civil war and it is speculated that the answer lies in the natural minerals, such as diamonds, found in the country.

Like many other African countries, the military personnel of Sierra Leone are poorly paid and therefore both the soldiers and RUF guerrillas looted the country’s minerals to fund the war. It has also been argued that much of the armed struggle was around the mineral rich regions of the country (Zack-Williams (144),

The civil war in Sierra Leone had devastating effects on the country which pushed the country many years back in terms of economic development. First, more than 50,000 people, both civilian and combatants, lost their lives with the majority being women and children.

Secondly, another even larger population of the country was condemned into being refugees and ran into the neighboring countries to avoid being killed (Zack-Williams 149). To make matters even worse, the country was almost on the verge of total collapse in matters of pertaining to governance and economic infrastructure.

After truce was denounced by the international community led by the UN (United Nations), rebuilding of the nation from scratch was started. It however took some time before the warring factions were brought together to agree on restoration of civilian rule (Maconachie 76). The peace treaty signed by the warring factions under the supervision of the international community worked and peace has prevailed to date.

Conclusion

After much lobbying and support from the international and donor community, the rule of law was finally established in Sierra Leone. The deeply entrenched poverty in the country was fought using a two pronged attack. On the one hand, good governance and eradication of endemic corruption were being tackled while, on the other hand, natural minerals were used to revive the economy.

All these undertakings are articulated under the National Recovery Strategy (NRS) which is a collection of policies crafted by economists from the government and the international community (Maconachie 72). Democracy and rule of law have been restored and some form of normalcy has returned to the country with regards to the decade of civil war witnessed in 1991.

Works Cited

Maconachie, Roy. “Diamonds, Governance and ‘local’ Development in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Lessons for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa?” Resources Policy, 34(2009): 71-79. Print.

Zack-Williams, Alfred B. “Sierra Leone: The Political Economy of Civil War, 1991-98”. Third World Quarterly, 20.1(1999): 143-162. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Sierra Leone’s 1991 Civil War'. 15 April.

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