Sierra Leone’s bitter experience with civil war garnered international attention only after the May 1997 coup, though the conflict between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and successive governments has raged for at least a decade against the backdrop of more than three decades of progressive state collapse. John Hirsch traces Sierra Leone’s downward spiral, drawing on his first-hand experience as U.S. ambassador in Freetown in 1995-1998.

Hirsch analyzes the historical, social, and economic contexts of the ongoing struggle, as well as the impacts of regional and international powers. Topics covered include the exploitation of mineral resources in the country, the involvement of private security forces, and the flawed efforts at peace negotiations. Without sustained international intervention, he cautions, it is unlikely that Sierra Leonea microcosm of much of Africa’s post-Cold War experience can achieve stability and a renewal of democratic institutions.

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