Evolution of marginalisation in Liberia : from youth to neglected veteran
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This study focused on presenting an analysis of the concept of marginalisation of former fighters after the Liberian civil conflict and how the web of connections such as status, identity and networks were central to any proposed establishment of a debate. The study had two aims. The first aim was to give a voice to the ex-soldiers who became neglected after the war, allowing them to tell their own stories of marginalisation before, during and after the conflict. The second aim was to help establish a debate on the notion of marginalisation that existed before the war and impacted the soldiers after the war. Within this, the study aimed to assess how the evolution of identity of individuals from youth to neglected veterans had occurred and to further the knowledge of the empirical literature in this regard. A secondary aim was to evaluate the success of reintegration of the ex-soldiers into Liberian society post-conflict and how far marginalisation hindered this attempt. To achieve these aims, the study focused on the use of a qualitative research methodology as the central research component. As well as considering the view of the empirical literature, the researcher wished to provide an account of marginalisation from those that had experienced it first-hand. Therefore, the study dispensed with the use of quantitative surveys and instead carried out personal conversations face to face that would reveal the former fighters’ feelings and attitudes in a more rounded and richer way. This methodological approach aimed to give a voice to the ex-soldiers and whether or not they perceive themselves as part of society. Using these interviews, the thesis aimed to analyse the influence of internal and external factors that caused the former fighters to perceive themselves as being either included, excluded or marginalised within Liberian society. The interviews, combined with the results of the review of the empirical literature, enabled the researcher to draw a number of salient points regarding the concept of marginalisation. The study found that the creation of the feeling of marginalisation for former fighters was composed of a variety of psycho-social factors. These included detachment from family, marginalised primary identities, the development of war-connected networks and a resilient sense of belonging, all of which combined to create a distinct group identity of the neglected veteran that currently exists in Liberian society. This has been because the former fighters have been unable to homogenise their status and identity with the rest of the population. This has stemmed from their perception of the failure of the reintegration process to eliminate the gap between former fighters and civilians and has led to serious problems within Liberian society. The study concludes that Liberian youth developed a war-family identity (collective group identity) and gained a strong sense of belonging. The actions of DDR led to this disintegration of the war family and triggered a series of reactions psychologically and socially. Moreover, reintegration attempts have proved unsuccessful due to the lack of education and skills held by the former fighters. Attempts to be accepted into society has not led to real integration. This has increased the perception of former fighters that they are now neglected veterans. Recommendations for further study are also provided in this work.