From the Field

Issue No. 2: Women in Peacebuilding

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West African women like women all over Africa are faced with the dire reality of violent conflicts in the subregion. Atrocious wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone have resulted in scores of internally displaced persons and refugees, most of whom are women and children. Intermittent inter-communal violence disguised as religious continues to ravage the lives of women in Nigeria as well.

Peacebuilding initiatives in the subregion are growing and have only recently begun to realize the need to include and involve women in conflict transformation and Peacebuilding processes.

Women are rising to the occasion. They now actively participate in decisions that affect their lives in very encouraging ways. For instance, Sierra Leonean and Liberian women are increasingly been heard and seen demanding from political leaders and the international community their right to be included in processes that affect their lives and the lives of their children.

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Issue No. 3: Peacebuilding and Conflict Intervention: A Critical Review of Training (December 2001)

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This publication would be posted soon.

Issue No. 5: Female Combatants in West Africa: Pregress or Regress? (December 2002)

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Recent wars in West Africa have introduced a phenomenon that is not popular in the history and mythology of West Africa. The voices of women, stereotypically known to be romantic, affective, and soothing now echo with the masculinity and monstrosity common among warriors of old. Gone are the days when women sang the praises of warrior men. They too are warriors, capable of defending their nations and ideals (whatever that means in contemporary African warfare). Large numbers of women were in active combat in the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Some of them rose to the rank of commanders, generals, and senior intelligent officers. They were fierce and feared by all including women and children.

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Issue No. 4: Returning the Girls Home: A Case Study from Sierra Leone (September 2002)

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I would not like to recall the bad and ugly days with the RUF. I have been psychologically traumatised due to my own experience of the war. I have been a victim, eyewitness in the event of unimaginable brutality, amputation, rape, and other physical assaults on women and other victims. (A quote from Frances, who was abducted by the RUF during a raid on her village at the age of 11 years)

Sierra Leone is emerging from what is generally acknowledged as the most inhuman and cruel conflict in recent times. The amount of damage, mayhem, rape, arson, torture, and other horrific acts that characterised Sierra Leone’s 11-year conflict are unparalleled anywhere in the world. The girl child unfortunately became easy prey to the cruelty and barbarity of the combatants and even, sadly, to some of the peacekeepers that were sent to protect her. Like many other poor countries around the world, women and girls in Sierra Leone continue to be the primary victims of discrimination, exclusion, poverty, illiteracy, family violence, and armed conflict. Women and children are not considered in the planning stages of wars and conflicts, nor do they usually feature much in development planning during times of peace. Yet they end up bearing the brunt of violence, war, poverty, and the effects of poor social and political planning.

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Issue No. 6: Establishing Early Warning Networks in Refugee Camps: Problems and Possibilities (November 2003)

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Conflicts in Africa, and particularly the West African sub-region, are becoming increasingly regionalized in nature. With the presence of cross-border rebel groups and hostile neighboring states these “civil wars” are very much inter-state affairs. Refugees play a major and complicated role in the regionalization of these conflicts. By their very nature, refugees bring the effects of war across borders. They are victims of war and hostile reception from host communities and states. But beyond this refugees can also become perpetrators of violence in their host communities and state—bringing along with them the violence from which they are fleeing. Recent conflicts in Africa provide us with numerous examples of refugees participating in the destabilization of the social, political, economic, and security systems of their host countries. The case of Hutu refugee camps of Eastern Congo who exploited humanitarian assistance to revive their war machine and the exportation of the Liberian civil war to Sierra Leone through fleeing refugees are fresh in the minds of humanitarian actors.

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