Peace and Unquiet: The Failure of Transitional Justice Mechanisms in Sierra Leone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis uses Nancy Fraser’s theory of justice and participation as a tool of critical analysis to critique transitional justice initiatives in Sierra Leone.
The decade long civil war in Sierra Leone was one marked by some of the most violent and heinous violations of human rights in the twentieth century. Since the end of the conflict the nation has been regularly highlighted for endemic poverty and unemployment. In Fraser’s theoretical framework of justice, these phenomena are not mutually exclusive; the endemic poverty – or injustice of maldistribution – is directly related to, and mutually supporting of, violent outbreaks and cultural segregations – or the injustice of misrecognition. Regardless, or perhaps because of, the establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a truth and reconciliation commission and numerous grassroots development projects, both misrecognition and maldistribution remain prominent in Sierra Leonean society.
This thesis argues that institutions of transitional justice in Sierra Leone have failed to engage with or understand root causes of civil strife or hostilities and as such have led to the development of inappropriate measures for resolving conflict in Sierra Leone. As a result the current research argues, mechanisms of transitional justice in their capacity as justice mechanisms, serve to re-establish and further entrench injustices that initially led to the civil conflict. As a means of overcoming this cycle of injustice, this thesis discusses the necessity of situating transitional justice mechanisms locally, engaging comprehensively with local perspectives of both the injustice suffered and the justice mechanisms implemented. The voice of local populations must be heard and materially realized if the judicial endeavours that will shape their future lives are to be relevant and binding.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPenelope Green (Supervisor) & Benjamin Bowling (Supervisor)

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