'Fused in combat': Unsettling gendered hierarchies and women's roles in the fighting forces in Sierra Leone's civil war

    In recent years attention has been given to the gendered nature of 'bushlife', especially to the gendered roles, hierarchies and socialization processes within warring factions in civil conflict situations in Africa. In this article, I explore the hierarchies and patterns of interaction that defined gender relations between combatants in two fighting forces - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Kamajor militia faction of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) - during the civil war in Sierra Leone. I argue that although gender differences between female and male combatants was much transformed, albeit aggressively, during the war, they were shaped by the origin and character of the warring factions, and the pre-war perceptions of women's sexuality. I explore how women's sexuality shaped their mobility within the 'rebel camps,' and with it, the patterns of gender relations in these forces. I conclude that although new gender identities were created (and some dissolved) during the war, the power relationship between men and women remained undisturbed within the armed factions. And, although women enjoyed positions of power within these factions, they worked within a patriarchal hierarchy and towards patriarchal ends.

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