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Africa Books

From Africa Renewal: 
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Book Review
War, Politics and Justice in West Africa: Essays 2003-2014

by Lansana Gberie
Sierra Leonean Writers Series, Freetown, Sierra Leone; 2015, 309pp; pb$ $38.56

Conflict is no stranger to West Africa.  From Mali to Côte d’Ivoire, to Sierra Leone, to Liberia, the region has had its share of internal conflicts.  

The motives for such wars are numerous and complex and often take time and intense dissection to comprehend.  Understanding these conflicts from a personal experience is what author Lansana Gberie sets out to do in his book, War, Politics and Justice in West Africa: Essay 2003-2014. 

Trained as a journalist, Mr. Gberie aims to showcase his own reaction to war, politics and justice in the region through a collection of essays and articles that he has written for various publications, including academic journals, magazines and newspapers. 

Having attended university in his native Sierra Leone when civil war broke out, Mr. Gberie says the war captivated his attention, leaving him profoundly transformed by what he witnessed.  He then decided to become a journalist so he could document the brutal war that unfolded before his eyes. The book chronicles, in vivid details, Mr. Gberie’s experiences during the rebel wars in the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, from 2002 until 2014.

“I became fully engaged in reporting the war partly as a way of understanding it; comprehension as social inquiry, as much as journalistic vocation and earning a living, was key motivation for me,” he says.

Peter Penfold, former UK High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, praises Mr. Gberie’s writing style in the book’s foreword: “Mr. Gberie often focuses upon the individuals involved, which often adds flesh and colour to the stories told…The collection of articles is brought right up to date with a couple of articles about the latest scourge to affect Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – Ebola.  There are some interesting parallels between the Ebola crisis and the earlier conflicts.” 

The 309-page book has eight parts – each expanding upon a theme, such as ‘War and Memory,’ ‘War on Trial’ and ‘Pawns and Players in Sierra Leone’s War’.

A United Nations expert on West Africa, Mr. Gberie’s other publications include A Dirty War in West Africa; The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone; and Rescuing a Fragile State: Sierra Leone 2002-2008.