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Warlords to Politicians: The Transformation of Rebel Leaders in Africa (on the Example of Sierra Leone)

T. S. Denisova () and S. V. Kostelyanets ()

Outlines of global transformations: politics, economics, law, 2020

Abstract: The paper analyzes the processes of transformation of leaders of rebel movements and tribal militias (warlords) into leaders of political parties and senior government officials after the end of the Civil War (1991‑2002) in Sierra Leone. It is argued that the opportunities for an anti‑government (or, on the contrary, pro‑government) armed group to become an officially recognized political organization, and for erstwhile field commanders to become its leaders, emerge either in the event of a rebel victory or after the signing of a peace agreement (as it happened in Sierra Leone) and the beginning of the integration of former militants into the post‑war society. It is usually the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs that allows former rebels and their leaders to escape punishment for crimes committed during conflicts. At the same time, the opportunity to “earn forgiveness†is not the only incentive for a warlord to evolve into a peacetime politician. Indeed, gaining political power in African countries entails access to various sources of enrichment, and since running armed groups requires their leaders to possess organizational and entrepreneurial skills and charisma ‑ naturally, along with less positive character traits ‑ many warlords who have not yet fulfilled their political ambitions or secured their financial situation try to “adapt†their wartime skills and experience to peaceful life. A proven way of gaining power peacefully is by participating in presidential and parliamentary elections. It is assumed that the development of a political career by former rebels in the context of peacebuilding should prevent the unfolding of another spiral of violence, but this is far from always the case: accustomed to achieving goals by military means, they often attempt to solve political issues through violence in peacetime. The paper considers the reasons for certain former rebel leaders to remain committed to peacebuilding and for other warlords to prove unable to achieve political goals by peaceful means.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.23932/2542-0240-2020-13-3-12

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