In This Review

Child Soldiers: Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front
Child Soldiers: Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front
By Myriam Denov
Cambridge University Press, 2010, 246 pp


The estimated 100,000 soldiers under the age of 18 currently fighting in African conflicts have gained notoriety in recent years, notably through movies, such as Blood Diamond. One of the great merits of Denov’s book on the civil war in Sierra Leone is her refusal to either mythologize or demonize that war’s child soldiers as she meticulously chronicles their abduction by rebels (almost invariably the method of recruitment), their experiences during the war, and their attempts to reintegrate into society after the conflict ended in 2002. Through interviews with them, Denov shows how some were horrified by the violence but reveled in the power over civilians their guns afforded them. She criticizes the existing literature for focusing almost entirely on male child soldiers, even though a large proportion are girls, many of whom have been victims of systematic sexual violence at the hands of fellow soldiers and commanders. She reports that female child soldiers also remain largely ignored by donor-funded disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs.