The wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been linked to the condition of urbanized youth. Recent research in southeastern Sierra Leone and northwestern Liberia suggests the rural context is of greater significance. The fighting was mainly in rural areas, involved mainly rural youth, and adapted itself to their local concerns. A model of war as the work of urban criminal gangs, reflecting local student politics in the 1970s and embraced internationally, is ripe for replacement by a model of war as agrarian revolt. This would open up the possibility of a more coherent regional analysis of recent West African conflicts. The key to conflict resolution in the region, it is suggested, is an emphasis on agrarian justice, including reform of customary land and marriage law.
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