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‘Getting in, getting out’: militia membership and prospects for re-integration in post-war Liberia*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2008

Morten Bøås*
Fafo – Institute for Applied International Studies, P.O. Box 2947 Tøyen, 0608 Oslo, Norway
Anne Hatløy*
Fafo – Institute for Applied International Studies, P.O. Box 2947 Tøyen, 0608 Oslo, Norway


Liberian ex-combatants are generally seen as uprooted urban youths with a history of unemployment, underemployment and idleness. The data that form the basis of this article suggest another picture. What caused the Liberian youth to fight were mainly security concerns, suggesting that the effects of ‘idleness’ and ‘unemployment’ are overstated with regards to people joining armed groups. They went to school, worked and lived with parents or close relatives prior to the war. They are not Mkandawire's (2002) uprooted urban youths or Abdullah's (1998) ‘lumpens’. They lived quite ordinary Liberian lives, and based their decision on whether to join an armed group on the security predicament that they believed that they and their families were facing. This suggest that disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation approaches are in need of re-thinking that links them more directly to social cohesion and societal security.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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Funding from the United States Institute of Peace (grant SG-157-04F), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (grant QME1064107) and the Norwegian Research Council (grant 174582/S30) is gratefully acknowledged. Comments from Kathleen M. Jennings and three anonymous reviewers are also highly appreciated.



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