State Building through security sector reform: the UK intervention in Sierra Leone

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UK support to the reconstruction of the Sierra Leonean state has been widely held up as an example of successful state-building with the development of basic capacity and trust in public institutions, particularly security. Sierra Leone came to shape the now commonly used concept of security sector reform (SSR). At the same time, SSR shaped attempts to build peace and a state in Sierra Leone. This paper explores how the United Kingdom (UK) supported this process through military support to win a war and the parallel establishment of several security organisations, including intelligence and national security agencies, defence, police and justice institutions. Despite being hailed as a success the sustainability of a state-building effort that is driven by concepts of the Weberian state, a polity form that never existed in Sierra Leone, is in question. Unrealistic expectations of progress driven by planning imperatives of development agencies remain a key issue and obstacle to sustainability and consequently Sierra Leone raises a number of questions about the state-building project more broadly.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-99
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • SSR, Sierra Leone, peacebuilding, statebuilding, security, justice, intervention