UCL logo

UCL Discovery

UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Why We Fight: Voices of Under-age Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone

Peters, K; Richards, P; (1998) Why We Fight: Voices of Under-age Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone. Africa , 68 (2) 183 - 210. 10.2307/1161278.

Full text not available from this repository.


Young people are the major participants in most wars. In the African civil wars of the last twenty years combatants have become increasingly youthful. Some forces are made up largely of young teenagers; combatants may sometimes be as young as 8 or 10, and girl fighters are increasingly common. The trend to more youthful combatants also reflects the discovery that children—their social support disrupted by war—make brave and loyal fighters; the company of comrades in arms becomes a family substitute. There are two main adult reactions. The first is to stigmatise youth combatants as evil (‘bandits’, ‘vermin’). The other (regularly espoused by agencies working with children) is to see young fighters as victims, as tools of undemocratic military regimes or brutally unscrupulous ‘warlords’. But many under-age combatants choose with their eyes open to fight, and defend their choice, sometimes proudly. Set against a background of destroyed families and failed educational systems, militia activity offers young people a chance to make their way in the world. The purpose of this article is to let young combatants explain themselves. The reader is left to decide whether they are the dupes and demons sometimes supposed.

Type: Article
Title: Why We Fight: Voices of Under-age Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone
DOI: 10.2307/1161278
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1161278
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © International African Institute 1998
Keywords: voice
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/32591
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item