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Centre of African Studies: Events


A Game of Pain: Youth Marginalisation and the Gangs of Freetown

A Game of Pain: Youth Marginalisation and the Gangs of Freetown
Speaker: Kieran Mitton # King's College London
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Date and Time
6th Nov 2019 16:00 - 6th Nov 2019 17:30
Seminar room 4, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Following Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2002), ex-combatants took centre-stage in security concerns. International peacebuilders feared a return to arms by thousands of disillusioned former RUF rebels, who were increasingly confronted with their limited prospects in peacetime. Nevertheless, the much-feared return to war never happened, and the country has since been regarded as a peacebuilding success story. In this talk, Kieran Mitton argues that a critical part of this story is missing. Presenting initial findings from field research in 2018 and 2019, he brings to light the rise of a new generation of rebels – Sierra Leone’s hitherto unstudied street gangs. Modelling themselves on US-style ‘Crips’ and ‘Bloods’, these groups have recently come to play a central role in political violence across the country. Widely feared, they remain poorly understood. Drawing on in-depth interviews with multiple gangs ‘kicking the game’ in Freetown, Kieran shows how this new generation points to the persistence of an old problem: the exploitation of youth by a divisive political system. Arguing that this intergenerational issue helped fuel war in 1991, he discusses its implications for Sierra Leone’s imperfect peace.