The Meaning of a Militia: Understanding the Civil Defence Forces of Sierra Leone
Posted: 21 Jul 2009
This article is an adapted, narrative version of an expert witness report the author wrote for the Defence of one of the accused before the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The case against the Civil Defence Forces militia was predicated in part on the argument that the CDF was a military organization with military-style command and control. Based on a close reading of the Prosecution's military expert witness report and the author's ethnographic research with the militia, the article outlines a case for understanding the CDF as the militarization of a social network rather than as a military organization. This framing has implications not only for post-conflict adjudication, but for how we think about and intervene in violent contexts throughout contemporary West Africa.
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