Gender discourses and state practices in civil war: a case study of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone
Sumah, Awo Yayra
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The post-colonial period in many African countries was, and still is, marked by political breakdown, authoritarianism and war. African state institutions saw fragmentation, breakdown and in some cases, failure. For many Africanist scholars "state weakness" is a main cause for political violence. State weakness results from pre-colonial and colonial legacies which created authoritarian structures, supported the rise of autocratic political leaders and entrenched dysfunctional state practices. Dysfunctional state practices manifest themselves during civil wars when governments and national armies exploit and rape their civilian population, failing to provide security from rebel violence. This paper argues that dysfunctional state practices during civil war are enabled by a history of gender discourses and beliefs. In the wars of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Sierra Leonean war, when army soldiers abused and raped civilians, they were enabled by gendered hierarchies, norms and beliefs, which they employed to legitimize and normalize their actions.