Football and Post-War Reintegration: exploring the role of sport in DDR processes in Sierra Leone

Growing enthusiasm for ‘Sport for development and peace’ (SDP) projects around the world has created a much greater interest among critical scholars seeking to interrogate potential gains, extant limitations and challenges of using sport to advance ‘development’ and ‘peace’ in Africa. Despite this interest, the role of sport in post-conflict peace building remains poorly understood. Since peace building, as a field of study, lends itself to practical approaches that seek to address underlying sources of violent conflict, it is surprising that it has neglected to take an interest in sport, especially its grassroots models. In Africa, football (soccer) in particular has a strong appeal because of its popularity and ability to mobilise individuals and communities. Through a case study on Sierra Leone, this paper focuses on sports in a particularly prominent post-civil war UN intervention—the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process—to determine how ex-youth combatants, camp administrators and caregivers perceive the role and significance of sporting activities in interim care centres (ICCS) or DDR camps. It argues that sporting experiences in ddr processes are fruitful microcosms for understanding nuanced forms of violence and healing among youth combatants during their reintegration process.