Non-Linearity and Transitions in Sierra Leone’s Security and Justice Programming

Peter Albrecht, Paul Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores how transitions produce non-linearity in Sierra Leone’s security and justice programming, as it unfolded from the late 1990s and onwards starting in open conflict. Transitions have received limited detailed analytical consideration in the literature on interventions because they are mundane and inevitable, and therefore taken for granted. However, they definitively condition how programmes evolve. We show that transitions can be seemingly small as well as comprehensive, but commonly have unpredictable, hidden and often unmanageable transformative effects on the trajectory of security and justice programmes. To conceptualize the logic of transitioning, ritual theory–and specifically liminality that is a central component of rites of passage–is used to capture the inherent diffuseness and unpredictability of transitioning. Transitions in programming are liminal moments, ‘neither here nor there’, and as such characterized by ambiguity and indeterminacy. The ambiguity, and importance, of transitions stems from their potency to disturb the direction of programming, requiring the suspension of routine, which internationally funded programming is notoriously ill-suited to deal with. Empirically, the article looks at three types of transitions in Sierra Leone: (1) war to peace; (2) turnover of staff; and (3) elections leading to change of the party in power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-837
JournalInternational Peacekeeping
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Sierra Leone
  • Transition
  • liminality
  • non-linearity
  • ritual theory
  • security and justice programme

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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