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”Simple Soldiers?” : Blurring the Distinction between Compulsion and Commitment among Rwandan Rebels in the Eastern Congo

  • Anna Hedlund
Publiceringsår: 2017
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 720-738
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Africa
Volym: 87
Nummer: 4
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Cambridge University Press

Abstract english

Media descriptions of the conflicts in the Eastern Congo usually depict violent events as being systematic attacks by rebels and militias (perpetrators) on the civilian population (victims). While much attention has been given to the victims of such violence, less effort has been made to understand the perspectives and underlying motives for violence of those who are actively engaged in fighting the war. Using anthropological arguments, this article argues that the use of the terms ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ are scientifically problematic when attempting to explain contemporary conflict(s) in the Eastern Congo and other similar war situations in Africa. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), whose leadership was an orchestrating agent in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, I demonstrate that not only is the victim/perpetrator dichotomy unclear, but also that combatants may frequently regard themselves as being both victims and perpetrators at one and the same time. I argue that the main factor behind this dual identity is that, while combatants in the Congo may be under a compulsion to commit violence, they may simultaneously be fully committed to their armed group and to its collective political ideology. While our conventional understanding of the membership of armed groups tends to make a sharp distinction between compulsory participation and commitment to a cause, I show how, in the context of the Eastern Congo, these categories are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.


  • Social Anthropology


  • ISSN: 0001-9720
Bild på Anna Hedlund, foto: privat
E-post: anna [dot] hedlund [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se


Sociologiska institutionen



Anna Hedlund är forskare i socialantropologi och disputerade 2014 vid Lunds Universitet. Hon har varit anställd som postdoc vid University of Johannesburg, Sydafrika och Danish Institute Against Torture i Köpenhamn, Danmark. 2015 var hon gästforskare vid Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Tyskland, i 3 månader. Anna Hedlund är affilierad forskare med South African Research Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg.


Anna Hedlund har gjort fältarbete i Östra Kongo (Demokratiska Republiken Kongo) för sitt avhandlingsprojekt 2009-2014.

År 2016 gjorde hon fältarbete i Kinshasa/Kongo och Beirut/Libanon för ett postdoc projekt. Som student i antropologi gjorde hon fältarbete i Israel/Palestina och i Nuba Bergen, Sudan.

För närvarande gör hon fältarbete i Malmö (med start i April, 2019).

Sociologiska institutionen
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