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Mystical and Modern Transformations in the Liberian Civil War
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.
2016 (English)In: Transforming Warriors: The Ritual Organization of Military Force / [ed] Peter Haldén and Peter Jackson, London/New York: Routledge, 2016Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London/New York: Routledge, 2016.
Keyword [en]
Cohesion, identity, Liberia, military professionalism, peacebuilding, rebels, soldiers
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research; Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283197OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-283197DiVA: diva2:918763

This essay investigates military transformation within the context of the Liberian civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). Military transformation is understood as a process of turning a civilian into a fighter, and in Liberia two ideal types of fighters materialized: the trained soldier and the mystical combatant. Whereas the first drew from their professional military training and international military culture, the second drew on mystical protection. These two ways of transformation also became sources of authority within the military organizations that fought the wars. It was ultimately training that offered more than protection alone: the former military personnel dominated command positions. Training also succeeded in the creation of forming a shared identity, which continues to date. Whereas most combatants demobilized and not fought again since, the identities of soldiers are still very much alive. This has partly to do with the fact that the Liberian government continues to pay pensions to those that have served in the armed forces, which has led to the institutionalization of these identities. The view of military personnel as security professionals also helps to maintain these identities as relevant. While constructing and maintaining this kind of professional cohesion is important during conflicts, it can have long-term consequences for peace-building.

Available from: 2016-04-11 Created: 2016-04-11 Last updated: 2016-04-11

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