IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

‘Our brothers who went to the bush’: Post-identity conflict and the experience of reconciliation in Sierra Leone


  • Gearoid Millar

    () (Center for International Conflict Analysis and Management, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen)


A number of distinct subfields within conflict resolution share foundational theories and emerge from similar understandings of social conflict. One of the most influential of these theories assumes that conflict environments give rise to ‘otherizing’ dynamics between competing groups. This theory assumes that conflict occurs between and further reifies identity groups. It follows from this theory that conflict resolution practice, and particularly that within the subfield of peacebuilding, must undermine dyadic ‘in-group/out-group’ conflict through processes of reconciliation and transitional justice. However, the theorized dynamic does not always pertain. In Sierra Leone the truth and reconciliation commission was tasked with fostering reconciliation between the perpetrators and victims of wartime violence. This article describes, however, how former combatants in Sierra Leone are described by many as brothers and friends, as opposed to hated members of a collective ‘other’. These findings attest to a distinct lack of ‘otherizing’ dynamics and demand a reconsideration of peacebuilding practices after what are often considered ‘new wars’ or ‘postmodern conflicts’ in sub-Saharan Africa. The article argues that some contemporary conflicts might best be considered post-identity because they are based less on national, racial, religious, or ethnic identity than on circumstance, need, and opportunity. In addition, after post-identity conflicts truth commissions may create new competing identities, such as those between victims and perpetrators. In such cases the applied conflict resolution interventions must emerge from new conflict resolution theory which can adequately understand contemporary conflict dynamics and begin to develop non-identity focused interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Gearoid Millar, 2012. "‘Our brothers who went to the bush’: Post-identity conflict and the experience of reconciliation in Sierra Leone," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(5), pages 717-729, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:5:p:717-729

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:5:p:717-729. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (SAGE Publications). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.