Elizabeth Drew and Dr. Alexander Ramsbotham, 2012
Liberian and Sierra Leonean youths have faced alienation and economic hardship. This has led some into violence. Peacebuilding initiatives have sought to educate, employ and empower youths. But political reforms so far have not met the scale of the challenge and excluded young people are still involved in political violence, criminal gangs and mercenary activity: the cycle has not been broken.
This article discusses young people’s experiences and perspectives before, during and after the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is based on semi-structured interviews conducted by the authors with 30 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 from both countries: 17 men and 13 women; ex-combatants and non-combatants; from rural and urban communities. Interviews were conducted in June and July 2011. Interviewees were selected based on their age and personal experiences of youth issues and the challenges faced by young people in their countries. The article also draws on past interviews and research conducted by the authors and others from 2004 to 2011.
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