Understanding Atrocity – A view from Sierra Leone


20 April 2016


Orange Room, Egmont Palace at Place du Petit Sablon 8, 1000 Brussels

Egmont – the Royal Institute for International Relations is pleased to invite you to the Brussels launch of the book ‘Rebels in a Rotten State – Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War’. Dr. Kieran Mitton, King’s College London, will discuss his book and the lessons it holds for understanding present-day acts of extreme violence, with Dr. Yvan Guichaoua, an expert on dynamics of insurgency in the Sahel based at Kent University.

The atrocities of civil wars present us with many difficult questions. How do seemingly ordinary individuals come to commit such extraordinary acts of cruelty, often against unarmed civilians? Can we ever truly understand such acts of ‘evil’? Based on a wealth of original interviews with perpetrators of violence in Sierra Leone’s civil war, the book provides a comprehensive picture of the complex individual motives behind seemingly senseless violence in Sierra Leone’s war. Highlighting the inadequacy of current explanations that centre on the anarchic nature of brutality, or conversely, its calculated rationality, the book sheds light on the critical but hitherto neglected role played by the emotions of shame and disgust. Drawing on first-hand accounts of strategies employed by Sierra Leone’s rebel commanders, it documents the manner in which rebel recruits were systematically brutalised and came to perform horrifying acts of cruelty as routine. In so doing, it offers fresh insight into the causes of extreme violence that holds relevance beyond Sierra Leone to the atrocities of contemporary civil wars.


Koen Vlassenroot – Director of the Africa Programme at Egmont Institute/Director of the Conflict Research Group, University of Ghent


Dr. Kieran Mitton, Lecturer in International Relations and Research Director of the Conflict, Security & Development Research Group, Department of War Studies, King’s College London

Dr. Yvan Guichaoua, Lecturer in International Conflict Analysis, Brussels School of International Studies – Kent University
Places are limited, so please register in advance, deadline 19 April, by registering online. On-site registration for the conference starts at 13.45.