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Peacebuilding and the depoliticisation of civil society: Sierra Leone [2002 – 2013]

Datzberger, Simone (2014) Peacebuilding and the depoliticisation of civil society: Sierra Leone [2002 – 2013]. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in funds made available by the international donor community to support local civil society actors in fragile states. Current peacebuilding and development efforts support and strive to recreate an active, vibrant and ―liberal‖ civil society. In the case of Sierra Leone, paradoxically, the growing support has not strengthened civil society actors based on that liberal idea(l). Instead of empowering individuals, enhancing democratic ownership and pro-active participation stemming from the civil sphere, Sierra Leone‘s civil society landscape appears to be neutralised, depoliticised if not instrumentalised to provide social services the state is either too weak or unwilling to deliver. In critically assessing how Sierra Leone‘s civil sphere became depoliticised during the country‘s peacebuilding and development phase, the thesis advances three main arguments. First, it supports the commonly agreed consensus in scholarship that postwar civil societies have become instrumentalised to serve a broader liberal peacebuilding and development agenda in several ways. Second, a deeper inquiry into the history of state formation and political culture of Sierra Leone reveals that Ekeh‘s (1975) bifurcated state is very much alive. In short, Western idea(l)s of participatory approaches and democracy are repeatedly challenged by a persisting urban-rural divide as well as socially entrenched forms of neopatrimonialism, elite-loyalism and tribalism. Sierra Leonean civil society finds itself currently in the midst of renegotiating those various intersections of a primordial and civic sphere. Third, the effects colonialism has had on African societies are still reflected in the current monopolisation of wealth and power among a few (elites) next to a vast majority living in abject poverty. More concretely, how abject poverty, human development and above all the lack of education affect activism and agency from below remains a scarcely addressed aspect in the peacebuilding and development literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Simone Datzberger
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hoffman, Mark

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