Category Archives: Sierra Leone

War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone, by Krijn Peters


With his book “War and the Crisis of Youth in Sierra Leone”, Krijn Peters presents an analysis that is exceptional by the materials it presents, intelligent by the way it uses the material and full of marvelous insights about the motivations and reasons why young people would not only take up arms but also commit horrendous atrocities as RUF fighters and others did in the Sierra Leonean war. For this reason alone, Peters’ book is precious and rare in the literature on civil wars, a diamond one would be tempted to say if this book would not make so brutally clear what a curse diamonds and its economy have been for Sierre Leone.

The book is a major contribution to research on armed conflict and most particularly on child soldiering as Peters manages to carve out the motivations of the combatants for joining and staying with the RUF. He reconstructs the internal organisation of this movement which has remained rather obscure and been subject to quite some phantasms, and he has found sensible explanations for the atrocities committed by RUF rebels, mainly in the second half of the 1990s. With this work that builds on former publications (some with Paul Richards) Peters successfully debunks the myth of a disemparaged youth run wild. He replaces it with a differentiated, fine grained and sensitive portrait of the mainly rural underclass of Sierra Leonean society that was surely out to take its revenge for the injustice and (violent) exploitation it had experienced before but which also pursued a project of a better society as any respectable revolutionary movement. Such a perceptive analysis is rare in war studies and particularly when it comes to organisations like the RUF which have made headlines for their brutal violence. Peters painstakingly pieces together interviews on a large range of topics.

The analysts of wars in Africa who actually go and talk to those who fought the war are few. There are a number of reasons for this: ongoing wars are particularly unpleasant fields of research, not only for the dangers they represent but also for the logistic and communicative difficulties of these environments: people engaged in armed combat are likely to have other things on their mind than talking to academics; the discussions one can have in war will most probably be fully subjected to the emotional and intellectual exceptionality of wars and might therefore not give further insights into the larger picture.

Krijn Peters is well aware of all these difficulties and the materials he collected as well as his presentation reflect the tremendous care he has taken to deal with the fallacies of doing research in these situations. Just like Mats Utas argues in his marvelous “Sweet Battlefields“, he contends that standard interviews or polls will not lead very far with these young people (Mats Utas admits that his method was “deep hanging out” with the ex-fighters and that this was a much better, complete and honest information source than the over 100 hours of formal interviews he did with youngsters in a demobilisation programme). The former combattants are far too experienced in delivering standard narratives to curious folks whether from NGOs, state agencies, media or academia. They also might have personal, psychological and reputational interests in not presenting their own story but what they assume others want to hear; Peters and Utas make this point particularly clear for the question of abduction. Although abducted, many young people might have, or actually, have chosen to stay with the armed groups they fell prey to. Whether this is the effect of brainwashing, of the Stockholm syndrome or the not unlikely discovery that, in the end, the abductees found something genuine positive in their new roles is something only careful interviewing over a long period of time can tell. Representativity of the the interview sample is, in this case, less important than getting into deep with the former combattants and just like Utas, Peters chose to follow “his” informants over a longer period of time in order to peel off the upper superficial layers of standard narratives and discourses. He nevertheless keeps his critical distance, true to his initial statement that “empathy does not mean sympathy”.

The care he has taken to choose his interview partners, to follow them over a longer period and especially to come back in well paced intervalls shows in the wealth of insights he produces from these sources. He is thus able to correct a number of received ideas about rebels and child soldiers in general and the fighters of the Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in particular. With respect to recruitment, he makes a plausible case that the RUF mainly recruited from rural poor, and here from the lowest social stratum, namely young men (mainly) who lacked patronage networks to protect them from exploitation in villages or mining areas: orphans, “foreigners”, descendants from former house slaves and similar social groups. He explains internal cohesion of the movement partly with this common origin and the replacement of a hierarchical, class-based and gerontocratic social structure of the Sierra Leonean countryside by a meritocratic one in the rebel movement. In the RUF recruits could gain position and respect through their fighting; even if not spellt out in sophisticated and intellectual-theoretical terms such a “base socialism” provided important ideological ferment for the RUF. Ideology also translated into praxis with the creation of communal farms and the communal organisation of mining. Peters thus amasses evidence against a common thesis that movements like the RUF was void of political vision, just as he makes plainly clear that material incentives played overall a minor role in the motivation of the fighters, in the origins of the rebellion and in its internal organisation. For those used to the standard narrative of a “lumpen youth” (as Abdullah calls them) run wild, Peters conclusion will come as a surprise that “the movement had a set of rules and regulations and a guiding ideology which it sought to instil in its fighters during their training period”.

In the fifth chapter Peters actually provides a deep analysis of the causes for the atrocious violence deployed by, and this is an important qualification of his study, some RUF fighters and some points in time during the 12-year war and in some places. In previous chapters, Peters had explained at length the decentralized “cell” character of the movement which made consistent organisational training, monitoring and control extremely difficult, particularly during the “bush” years. This may account for the lack of discipline within the RUF but does not yet explain the actrocities committed (note that any war is brutal, the particularity here being the “specialisation” in certain types of violence like the amputation for which the RUF had gained its image as new barbarians in the onwatching world). Peters advances two sets of reasons and causes for the violence of the RUF: external influences and internal organisational dysfunctions. Among the external influences he notes that many of the atrocities committed in the early stage of war were so by Liberian fighters. This early stage settled the reputation of the RUF and the brutal repression of the rebellion by the army  (although ineffective) seem to have distanced the RUF from its natural constituency, hence, making violent antagonism between the RUF and villages escalate. Peters argues that this led to a strong paranoia among the RUF which was carried on into later phases of war and became particularly virulent in the phase after 1997 when the RUF took the bushes again. Internally, two organisational features supported the development of such paranoia and reinforced the key role particularly violent individuals could play. The RUF was organised in cells with flat hierarchies; in the beginnings, there were ony two military ranks and platoons were small. In this jungle guerilla warfare, paranoic suspicion towards civilians was actually an assett as it contributed to the group’s safety. With the rise and success of self-defense militias which would hunt down the RUF in the jungle, this paranoia became reinforced and was not mediated by a larger command or organisational movement. The second effect of this guerrilla organisation was that particularly “wicked”, i.e. violent individuals were not only difficult to control and punish for their behaviour, their aggressiveness might even be useful for the protection of the individual RUF platoons and therefore go unpunished despite the movement having a set of rules that prohibit unnecessary violence, rape and looting.

It is a pity that Peters does not engage with any of the theories of violence currently en vogue. Weinstein’s binomic and path-dependent distinction between low resource movements, who would engage in ideological training rather than loot and indiscriminate violence, from high resource organisations which will maintain adherence of fighters through lucrative material booty, does not fit at all to Peters’ descriptions. Kalyvas’ argument that indiscriminate violence will increase if territorial control, information and the loyalty of the population are contested fits Peters’ account much better. Yet, just as Elliott’s study of the Vietcong/Vietminh shows neither the material nor strategic or ideological position of these groups can fully explain how and which form of violence they employed. It appears from these two studies rather that the dynamics of violence in civil wars is also strongly determined by inner-organisational developments. For further research this is probably the most important conclusion from Peters book.

With respect to child or young soldiers, Peters book introduces also an important observation that is all too often missing from other accounts on child soldiering, namely that child soldiering is more frequent and more likely to happen if the youth that is recruited into the rebel movement had been already widely marginalised before; and that these young men take mature and responsible decisions despite their age. The latter leads us to having to rethink our understanding of childhood and youth as times of irresponsibility and immaturity. Rather, these young people have to be considered and their actions have to be analyzed within the social tissue of which they are part.



Charles Taylor, bustered! War narrative walled in.


So, they finally bustered the bastard…that’s what many might think at the 50-year  sentence Charles Taylor received by the Special Court for Sierra Leone yesterday. And indeed, it’s not in any way regrettable that someone like Charles Taylor should disappear in some prison for a couple of decades, yet what is utterly bizarre that he was not sentenced for whatever murder, deaths, cruelty, torture and killings that occured in the Liberian civil war but for “aiding and abetting” the RUF in neighbouring Sierra Leone. His apparent crime was to have sold weapons to the RUF and “advised” them on attacks on Sierra Leonean towns in 1998 and 1999. But of course, this alone would not allow to construct a case against Charles Taylor, so according to the prosecution, Charles Taylor’s real crime was to have elaborated a plan with Foday Sankoh in which the terrorization of the populations by all violent means available played a key role. As for any mundane murder, prosecution had to prove that the terror of the Sierra Leonean war was the planned, intentional and voluntary outcome of Charles Taylor’s plan. Hence, the entire indictment is built on the assertion that Taylor and Sankoh had met in the late 1980s in Libyan training camps and that they had elaborated such a devilish plan sometime 1988 or 1989 prior to the RUF entering into Sierra Leone.

There are a number of things that are very fishy in the entire trial, from its timing to the final court announcement of the sentence in which allegedly one of the judge’s microphones was switched off to silence his reservations over the trial’s procedures. These are footnotes to the much larger problem of international criminal justice and how it (im)possibly can render justice, all of these having been brilliantly discussed by Martti Koskenniemi. What I found interesting for this post is how this judgment contributes to the construction of a particular narrative of the war in Sierra Leone that is less and less based on documentary evidence, of which very little was presented at the trial, and more and more on hear-say as well as retrospective reconstruction of ideas, motives and interpretations of events. The Sierra Leonean war is an excellent case to observe how war narratives are constructed. The country was too small and insignificant before the war broke out to have attracted huge amounts of research into its political, economic and social structure and yet, as an anglophone country, it had already served as case study for the state failure literature, notably with the analysis of William Reno, in the wake of Zartmann’s “quasi-state” analysis. It is actually this mixture of a little evidence we have, which, despite its internal thoroughness and consistency, comes together to a picture that conveniently suits some powerful states in this world (see also Chris Mahoney’s comment on the Charles Taylor trial).

The merits of Reno’s excellent analysis notwithstanding, this partial, generalized ignorance of Sierra Leone’s social conflicts prior to the civil war lent itself conveniently to uphold three basic claims throughout the war and now in its aftermath: a) the government of Sierra Leone, i.e. Siakah Stevens,  mismanaged the country for personal motives but the basic governance structure of the country, which was not fundamentally changed since the colonial times,  is by and large ok; b) the only problem of the lopesidedeness of the Sierra Leonean economy which relied/s heavily on multi-national companies for the exploitation of its mineral resources is that the government was/is too corrupt (see a.); and c) consequently, Sierra Leoneans would live happily if only the government were not corrupt OR, to talk in the present time, without a corrupt government they have all reason to live happily. This three-layered argument conveniently conceals the detrimental nature of multi-national companies’ engagement in the mineral exploitation of Sierra Leone, it hides from our eyes the miserable living conditions of notably the rural populations before the war and also after, which have been, additionally, hardened after the ravishing effects of the structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s, and it finally points exclusively to the domestic government as main actor of politics, hence silencing the numerous external influences on Sierra Leone’s politics, from the IMF to the former colonial power Great-Britain.

However, if these three elements are re-integrated into the analysis the narrative of the war in which Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh played Risk in large scale on the Liberian-Sierra Leonean border appears overly simplistic and actually not that right anymore (some this can actually be pieced together through a careful reading of the rare literature on Sierra Leone before the war, whether by Paul Richards, Alfred Zack-Williams, William Murphy, Caroline Bledsoe or Marianne Ferme) . The real problem with the verdict’s thin documentary base lies exactly there: for all these other aspects, too, there are only very few documents. Whether it is the shadowy role of the British FCO, army and secret services or the ghost-like appearance and disappearance of private security companies all over the country, whether we look at lack of serious analyses of the Sierra Leonean economy before the war and its criminal features or at the ways the Sierra Leonean political structures shape social forces in a way that violent dissent is “the last way out” (to take up Jeff Goodwin’s title), and if we simply, for just a moment, assume seriously that Sierra Leoneans maybe did not live happily before or even now after the war…then we quickly stumble over questions we need to ask about the appropriateness of the global economic structures, the role of international organisations and of former colonial powers, of neighbouring countries like Nigeria or South-Africa, and about the inappropriateness of tools like peacekeeping and peacbuilding in these contexts.

Yet, the documents that could answer these questions are well hidden or simply inexistent. We will have to wait at least another 10 if not 30 years until we can access the archives of the British FCO and MI5 in order to understand the role the British forces played in support of the private security companies and the so-called Self Defence Forces of Sierra Leone (and the same is true for South Africa which is the country from which many of these private security companies originated and which might also hold valuable documents on them); we will probably never be able to access any documents which will tell us much about the transnational networks of money and diamonds through which people like Jamil Sahid Mohammed financed the Sierra Leonean and the Lebanese war; nor will we probably ever have any access to any documents which might exist on the overall very unglamourous role of the African Union peacekeepers; and we will most certainly never find any documents that tell us anything about how it comes that in the current economic situation of Sierra Leone the large majority of businesses engaged in the mineral exploitation sector are financed through British, Israeli or American capital.

Yet, whereas in the one case, namely Charles Taylor’s trial, the lack of written evidence was taken as prove that the hear-say is true, the lack of written documents will be for a very long time considered as prove that there is not and never has been any other problem in Sierra Leone than that of too greedy elites and weirdo, illuminated warlords. By the time historians will be able to access those other documents, this narrative will have become the standard narrative in history books and that conflict analysis that does not like to look far beyond the policy reports of the same international organisations which have constructed exactly this narrative (as for instance the Uppsala Conflict Encyclopedia).


Opaque not pure: Global Witness and the Kimberley Process


In December 2011, Global Witness left the Kimberley Process with a shouting letter from the NGO’s chairman: “The Kimberley Process’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated”, writes Charmian Gooch in the press statement on the NGO’s webpage. She then goes on to list all the failings of the Kimberley process, from governments who have used violent means to extract diamonds to companies who haven’t put in place decent labour conditions for miners and are benefitting from the violent coercion of governments. This all sounds very right and righteous. Obviously, a NGO which is supposed to monitor the good practices of an agreement must withdraw if it esteems that these good practices are not kept to. There is only one hitch in Mrs Gooch’s outrage; it was never the objective of the Kimberley process to restrict governments or government licenced companies to brutally exploit diamond mines. Actually, it was never the violence of diamond mining as such that was at stake but only violent mining by some, namely those which were in standard narratives of international agencies and Western governments labelled as “rebel” or even “terrorists” (and which keep being reproduced for instance in the Uppsala Conflict Encyclopedia, see my post). Those “rebels” were those, who deprived both, governments and big international companies from huge profits, and it is this the only reason why they agreed to the Kimberley Certification Scheme.

The program of certifying diamonds had been started on the distinction of legitimate and illegitimate diamonds (see for instance here), and all UN resolutions, whether of the General Assembly or the Security Council, whether on Angola or Sierra Leone, argue that certificates shall stop “conflict diamonds” or “rebel diamonds”. Never, anywhere, was diamond trade as such in question! The foundation document of the Kimberley Certification Scheme is even more explicit: “CONFLICT DIAMONDS means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. The Certification Scheme was never about the methods of mining, the fairness of governmental concessions, labor rights or the like but solely about the question who has the right to exploit diamond mines. And the answer is unambiguous: governments and the companies concessioned by them. By the fiat of this text, those governments additionally become “legitimate governments” although one could believe that the shere fact of having a major rebellion in the country could mean that these governments are anything but legitimate.

The entire logic of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is, in an essential and fundamental way, built upon two constitutive beliefs. First, an absolutely unquestioned liberal belief that the diamond industry is an industrial activity, which is as legitimate as any industry and ultimately creating wealth for a larger group than solely the immediate stakeholders, i.e. that the diamond industry will benefit the country in question (as illustrated in a number of overly optimistic reports of Western development agencies like DFID or USAID). In this belief mining is the exact contrary of that activitiy which, by its very conception, can only exist because it brutally exploits people and the environment for the sole and exclusive benefit of a couple some. Yet, mining was not beneficial for those countries  before the wars and there is little reason to believe that it would be so after. Diamonds have little, or actually no use value. The only reason people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for them, is that they have become pricy tokens for “eternal love” as they symbolize rarity, purity and exclusiveness.  However, diamonds are, in fact, abundant and they are, contrary to other mineral resources, easy to produce as large quantities can be found on the surface and do not need large upfront costs of prospection. It often needs only a shovel and sieve to dig for diamonds. Consequently, diamond traders have a strong, indeed a very strong interest to control the quantity of diamonds available on the market in order to artificially create scarcity– this is what De Beers has understood very early on, and why they have in fact built up a powerful cartel through which they control the entire chain from production to polishing passing by several stages of trading. Although De Beers has lost market shares to competitors over the past 20 years, they still control the large majority of the market and have kept the number of competitors low. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a formidable tool to exclude potential competitors from the big deal. Additionally, the huge profit margins of several 1000% percent in the diamond industry are only possible if all costs at the very beginning of the production chain remain significantly low. Diamond miners in Africa are paid commonly between 1 and 4 US Dollars per day…A 1-carat engagement ring at Tiffany‘s is sold for anything up from 9,000US Dollars. Obviously, it would be a pity to loese those formidable profits just for some labor rights or environmental protection costs…

The second necessary belief is the conception that the civil wars in those countries — Angola and Sierra Leone foremost, but also Liberia, Congo and others — were not political struggles which were caused by social grievances but in any respect “diamond-fuelled” as Charmian Gooch herself asserts — the “greed” wars that World Bank economists Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler had fuzzed about in the 1990s (and whose oh-so statistic proves have been, nowadays and luckily, widely disavowed even by their fellow positivist friends); as they claimed,  the wars were not financed by diamonds, they were basically and firstly fought for diamonds. Yet, as many area experts have already pointed out during the wars, “greed” has, if ever, been only a marginal motive. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone emphasizes (a quote worthy to be reproduced in full lenght): “There is a widely held belief in the western world that the conflict in Sierra Leone was initiated and perpetuated because of diamonds, the country’s most important mineral resource. According to this version, the RUF, backed by Charles Taylor and the NPFL, initiated an armed rebellion in Sierra Leone to gain control of its diamond resources. In the years following the initial attack, it is alleged, the proceeds from an illicit diamond trade enabled the RUF to finance its war effort through the purchase of weapons abroad. In the Commission’s view, this version of the conflict is simplistic. It fails to capture numerous complexities, the reasons for the decay of the state in Sierra Leone and the role minerals played prior to and during the conflict. It also does not reflect what unfolded on the ground in Sierra Leone. There were multiple causes of the conflict and reasons for the involvement of Liberian and other foreign actors. Although it is true that the RUF partly financed its war effort through diamond trafficking, diamonds did not yield significant revenues for the movement before 1997.”

Rather these countries had been caught in complex social conflicts, which had been fuelled by a large variety of sources, not least by the agendas of third states like the former colonial powers, neighbouring states or the US. Ironically, one of motives in these wars has been, at least in Sierra Leone, the fury of young men and women who had been brutally exploited in a largely dysfunctional state and difficult economy (see here for this argument). Yet, if diamonds were not in any way causes of the wars but merely a way of financing them, then, of course, there is no reason to expect that a certification scheme would set an end to the conflict or to violence.

Charmian Gooch, who prides herself of the extensive research she and Global Witness did for the Kimberley Process, and her colleagues know all this, of course. So, why now this indignated hue and cry? Did they really think that this scheme would set an end to the exploitation of diamond mining or end civil wars in Africa? Difficult to believe, maybe true, and yet hardly convincing. It rather seems that this is just one more case where a NGO has found for some time an wonderful topic to build its reputation and existence with a nice cocktail of cheap morality (who would not pity diamond mining boys, whether in war or peace?), glamour (blood diamonds and Leonardo di Caprio) and pompous talks (norms and world politics), all of which needs just as little regard for what is really happening on the ground as do all those other celebrity projects like Live Aid or Angelina Jolie’s UNICEF ambassadoring. For sure, the Kimberley Process was hailed by researchers (also here) and politics alike as huge step in global corporate responsibility and the new governance of the world. Since its foundation in 1993 the organisation has grown to over 60 members and has offices around the world. Members of Global Witness were regular guests at the meetings of the World Diamond Council (which certainly were not hosted in Johannesburg’s YMCA hostel). Global Witness and Partnership for Africa were also consultants on the Hollywood blockbuster “Blood Diamond”. And Charmian Gooch was elected “Young global leader” by the World Economic Forum. All that red carpet and fame, however, have faded as media and public eyes have turned to other humanitarian horror shows and that neither child soldiering nor blood diamonds are really flashy anymore. Charmian Gooch’s sudden realization that this scheme is a bad joke now sounds like a hollow pretext to get rid of this issue which now, as the glitter has come off, is nothing but ugliness and misery.


The deadends of counting the dead


In his article “The Libyan Model?” Vijay Prashad points out that there has not been yet a forensic mission to Libya, counting the dead before UN Security Council resolution 1973 or after in order to assess if the humanitarian intervention was really humanitarian. This lack of serious counting of the dead is not an exception and any account of dead in armed conflicts remains fiercly disputed. In some cases like the wars in Sierra Leone estimates vary enourmously, ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 (similarly the numbers put forward for the IDPs in Sierra Leone vary from 250,000 to 4.5 Million, the latter meaning that almost all of the country’s population was displaced).

In Congo, the estimates even vary in numbers of millions, with the International Rescue Committee advancing 5.4 million dead while the Human Security Report of 2009 contended that “only” 3.9 million people died (a summary of the debate can be found here). In those conflicts were forensic missions have been deployed, they sometimes have found much lower numbers than those put forward during the conflict by policy makers and observers in NGOs, think tanks or media. In the case of the war in Bosnia, the figure of 250,000 dead circulated for a long time until it was corrected to be rather around 100,000 in 2005 (see notably the works of Ewa Tabeau and others).

Much of the confusion in accounting for the dead derive from the varying methodologies and the conflation of numbers of battle casualties with civilian deaths (see Adam Roberts on this) and in this latter category the conflation of civilians killed in military actions and “war-related” deaths which may include death by diseases, malnourishment or psychological trauma, whether induced by exposure to violence or by the consequences fighting had generally on the lives of people through economic breakdown, expulsion and flight, breakdown of essential infrastructures etc. Counting the dead is by itself an extremely difficult exercise, so does it really matter?

As the Congo disaster neatly shows, the real problem is that numbers actually do not really matter in the decision whether to intervene or not. Rather they appear to be tools in the political battles over the question if an intervention is justified or not. At the times of the Kosovo war, Tony Blair heralded a new age of humanitarian intervention with reference to 2000 Albanians reportedley killed; in Congo we are talking of millions and in Darfur of hundreds of thousands killed. When it arranged the US Department of State under Colin Powell, they swiftly produced the “Atrocities Documentation Survey” in 2004, which, the authors, mainly lawyers of the Coalition for International Justice, claimed to be based on “hard” statistic facts. Subsequently, Powell declared that the situation was well to be called a genocide, yet that this would not change US policy in Darfur. When Colin Powell was replaced by Condoleeza Rice, the State Department changed the assessment team, the assessor’s expertise (public health instead of law) and, surprise, found a much lower number of deaths, leading to the conclusion that the situation could not be labelled genocidal (see for a full account the excellent article by Ron Levi and John Hagan: Lawyers, humanitarian emergencies and the politics of large numbers in Dezalay/Garth 2012: Lawyers and the Construction of Transnational Justice, p. 13-47).

This came in handy as the Bush administration had to fight back extremely high, some would even say genocidal estimates of war deaths in Iraq. Yet, the debate over how many people died subsequently to the military invasion of Iraq has not yielded any slightest change in policy, even though the WHO estimate of 104,00 to 223,000 is appalling enough. All these number games only show that minimum conditions of just war, mass atrocities on the one hand, and the criteria of commensurability of means, are simply irrelevant in the decision making for or against interventions. What seems much more important is the political bartering over military interventions and this can or cannot be based on reliable or unreliable figures.

However, if carefully analysed and cautiously contextualized, those figures and their debates are extremely relevant for our understanding of conflicts. First of all, they demonstrate (of course, one wants to add) how widespread and generalized armed fighting is and the stretch of the social capillaries affected by armed combat. Second, it can give an indication of the social groups affected, the geographic areas and of other characteristics of fighting groups. It is here where careful contextualization is, however, extremely important in order to avoid biased (hence, conflict reproducing) accounts of what happened. Third, as Guha-Saphir and van Panhuis pointed out almost 10 years ago, they can tell a lot about the state of the population’s health before the conflict, which is in turn an important indicator of conflict causes.

If it is not for a thorough examination of world power politics, then it is at least for the sake of research that thorough forensic missions to war zones should be undertaken.

As an example of diverging numbers, I have summarized below the numbers found for the conflict in Sierra Leone:

Death count Distinction combatant/ non-combatant? Displaced/refugees Secondary source Primary source
50000 No Half of population Nnadozie, Emmanuel/ Abdulmelik, Siham, 2009, The role of te private sector in Sierra Leone’s post-conflict reconstruction efforts, in Besada, Hany, From Civil Strife to Peace Building: Examinig Private Sector Involvement in West African Reconstruction, Waterloo, CA, Wilfrid Laurier U.P., p. 146
20,000 No Half of the population Douglas, Ian, Fighting for diamonds, in Cilliers, J., P. Mason, et al. (1999) Peace, profit or plunder? : the privatisation of security in war-torn African societies, Halfway House, South Africa, Institute for Security Studies. p. 175
75,000 No Half of the population refugees, 4.5 Million displaced (adds up to more than the population in 1990) The heart of the matter report, p. 8
No 1999: 600,000 in neighbouring countries; 2/3 displaced inside Reno, William. 2003. Political Networks in a Failing State. The Roots and Future of Violent Conflict in Sierra Leone. Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft(2).
50000 to 75000 No Half of the population Mateos, Oscar, Beyond greed and grievance, in Bowd, R., A. B. Chikwanha-Dzenga, et al. (2010) Understanding Africa’s contemporary conflicts : origins, challenges and peacebuilding, Pretoria, Institute for Security Studies. “some UN agencies”