Journal Article

The Gift of Violence: Ex-Militias and Ambiguous Debt Relations during Post-War Elections in Sierra Leone

Mats Utas and Maya Mynster Christensen
African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review
Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 2016), pp. 23-47
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/africonfpeacrevi.6.2.02
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/africonfpeacrevi.6.2.02
Page Count: 25
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The Gift of Violence: Ex-Militias and Ambiguous Debt Relations during Post-War Elections in Sierra Leone
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Abstract

This article explores the political mobilization of ex-militias for support during post-war elections in Sierra Leone. Taking its point of departure from the tension between ex-militias' potential for deployment and displacement of violence, it illuminates the ambiguous ways in which ex-militia members engage with political big men. The article suggests that the notion of debt can be employed as a prism to explain the complexities of social relations between ex-militia rank-and-file members and political elites and thus aims at shedding novel light on how big men systems and patronage work in post-war society, most notably in the political domain. By tracing particular relations between ex-militia members and political big men over time, the article empirically unravels the enduring yet ambiguous nature of debt relations and how they are shaped by and give shape to “the gift of violence.”