Demagogues of hate or shepherds of peace? Examining the threat construction processes of warlord democrats in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


How are threat images framed and constructed by the so-called warlord democrats (WDs)? Societies that have suffered from large-scale civil wars are commonly permeated by inter-group fear and hate. In these contexts, former military or political leaders of armed groups sometimes become involved in post-war politics. These WDs can act as reconciliation spoilers by making securitising moves, i.e. they construct threat images that are potentially very costly for fragile post-conflict democratisation processes. It is therefore crucial to explore WDs’ speech acts. Yet, the literature on post-war politics has largely overlooked these individual aspects. This article argues that the central components of securitisation theory can be useful in understanding this phenomenon if adjusted to the contextual circumstances of post-war societies. By analysing speech acts by seven WDs in post-war Liberia and Sierra Leone, two forms of framing strategies stand out as particularly relevant. First, WDs’ securitising moves are often framed as veiled threats of violence, as it is often deemed too risky for these individuals outside formal power positions to overtly express threats in a generally de-securitised setting. Second, when WDs construct threats, they often chose to frame themselves or their constituencies or followers as the referent object of security.


External organisations
  • Folke Bernadotte Academy
  • Nordic Africa Institute
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Liberia, Post-conflict politics, Securitisation, Sierra Leone, Threat construction, Warlord democrats
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-583
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number3
Early online date2017 Jul 4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch