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'Kieran Mitton has done a splendid job in his excellent volume on Sierra Leone. He has remained cool and dispassionate in discussing what terrible actions humans may accept, sustain and even defend …

Mitton has synthesised the literature on the civil war in Sierra Leone, analysed the various theories that purport to explain human behaviour in atrocities, interviewed former bloody combatants, and come to daring and controversial conclusions about the role of psychology in such inhumane behaviour …

The author has added a new dimension to our understanding of atrocious brutality in war. While assessing the theories and factors that allow ordinary people wantonly to kill, maim and rape, Mitton, himself, remains humane and just.'



- Robert Jackson (2016), The Round Table, June 2016

'Kieran Mitton goes beyond analysis of violence as “breakdown” or “strategy” to provide a compelling, fascinating and very insightful account of the psychological functions of violence in Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war.’

— David Keen, Professor of Complex Emergencies, London School of Economics

 

‘No author to date has been able to supply a convincing explanation of the reasons for the RUF’s extraordinary brutality, but in this lucid, well organised and well expressed book Kieran Mitton does just that. A significant and original contribution.’

— Stephen Ellis, Desmond Tutu Professor, Free University, Amsterdam and author of External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990

 

‘This outstanding study, so impressively and carefully researched, makes important contributions in a number of areas: to our understanding of the war in Sierra Leone, to the political economy of civil wars more generally, to the challenges of “reconciliation” after horrendous periods of blood-letting and, above all, to the dynamic and complex sources of atrocious violence in conditions of civil war. What makes the book stand out is, not least, the even-handedness, respect and sophistication with which the author critically assesses the many attempts that have been made to explain what many find inexplicable. As such, it is also a deeply humane treatment of the human capacity for extreme violence and evil.’ 

 — Mats Berdal, Professor of Security and Development, Department of War Studies, King’s College London

 

'Rebels in a Rotten State is an important and interesting addition to the remarkably vast, and growing, literature on the war in Sierra Leone. It is distinguished by its careful and learned attention to the causes and nature of the atrocities of the war, rather than to the war itself. The author is consistently informative and fair – even where he disagrees with the interpretation of others, including mine, he does so with reason, diffidence and charm.’

 — Lansana Gberie, author of A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone

 

'Contemporary theories about the origins of civil war often emphasize the rationality of rebel leaders, who organize violence in order to achieve certain political and economic aims … But as Mitton persuasively argues, such theories fail to explain the acts of wanton and dehumanizing violence that rebels perpetrated, including the often coerced savagery of child soldiers. …. Mitton has produced a useful addition to the burgeoning literature on civil wars, enriched by his detailed knowledge of the war in Sierra Leone and his numerous interviews with men who committed atrocities.'

- Nicolas van de Walle (2016), Foreign Affairs, March/April 2016 Issue.


'To write about violence and atrocity in a way that does not sensationalize or dehumanize is incredibly difficult. Kieran Mitton manages to find the right words in his excellent Rebels in a rotten state and in so doing provides an in-depth and thoughtful analysis of what makes people engage in brutal acts of violence... I came to it wanting to learn more about Sierra Leone, and left with an excellent understanding of the civil war and a greater understanding of the role of emotion in International Relations and methods of researching violence. It would be a great shame for this book only to be read by people interested in Sierra Leone, as it has so much to offer for understanding violence and civil war in the contemporary world. It is an impressive, accomplished piece of original research that will both contribute to and lead the debate on emotion in International Relations.'
- Sophie Harman (2017) International Affairs, 93 (3): 747-748. 

 

'A careful and enlightening book, Mitton is systematic in his consideration of counter-arguments. Having brought a diverse array of psychologists,sociologists and political scientists into conversation – all the while avoiding crude categorisations and oversimplifications – he has provided an additional lens through which to examine seemingly inexplicable violence.'

- Hilary Hurd (2015) The RUSI Journal, Volume 160, Issue 4, 2015

 

'Kieran Mitton’s readable book seeks to explain atrocity in the Sierra Leone civil war, rather than the causal factors of the war which occupy much of the literature, and presents a new and very plausible thesis to comprehend the incomprehensible. Mitton challenges assumptions of rationality or irrationality within explanations of the worst sorts of violence and offers thought-provoking analysis of why people who are not inherently violent become brutalised and brutal.’

— David Harris, Lecturer in African Studies, University of Bradford, author of Sierra Leone: A Political History

'Mitton’s convincing analysis is well structured and easy to follow. He builds on existing research and extends those approaches where appropriate. The narrative first-hand interviews present one of the book’s highlights that demonstratively enrich Mitton’s arguments. The systematic analysis paves the way for both a better understanding of combatants themselves and more effectively designed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes.' 
Cosima Meyer (2017) Political Studies Review, Feb 2017 


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 Augustine Adu-Frimpong (2016)Africa Today, Volume 63, Number 1, Fall 2016 pp. 104-105.

Other Select Publications

  • 'A Pragmatic Pact: Reconciliation and Reintegration in Sierra Leone', in Kirsten Ainley, Rebekka Friedman & Chris Mahony (eds) Evaluating Transitional Justice: Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)
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  • ‘Where is the War? Explaining Peace in Sierra Leone’, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 30, Issue 3, 2013.
  • Irrational Actors and the Process of Brutalisation: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leonean Conflict (1991–2002), Civil Wars, Vol. 14, Issue 1, March 2012.
  • ‘Rearmament, Remobilisation and Disintegration in Sierra Leone’, Conflict Security and Development Research Group, King's College London (2010). 
  • 'Engaging disengagement: The political reintegration of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front' in Reintegrating Armed Groups after Conflict: Politics, Violence and Transition, Mats Berdal & David Ucko, eds. (Abingdon: Routledge, May 2009).
  • 'Reconstructing Trust in Sierra Leone.' The Round Table, Volume 98, Issue 403, August 2009 
  • ‘Engaging Disengagement: The Political Reintegration of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front.’ Conflict, Security and Development, Volume 8, Issue 2, June 2008