The Kamajors in Battle: Magic, Tactics, and Success

  • Nathalie Wlodarczyk


These accounts of events that took place in combat situations paint both complementary and contradictory pictures of the role played by ritual and magic. On the one hand, it suggests that the use of drug infused potions altered the state of mind of the fighters and made them fiercer and braver, and in the case described above, more difficult to command while under the influence of the potion. On the other hand it suggests a very strong psychological dimension, something of a placebo effect that allowed the ECOMOG soldiers to use the diesel instead of the magic water and, feeling sure of its power, face battle as fearlessly as had they had actual magical protection. The second story was, interestingly, told by the Kamajor in the van, who wanted to demonstrate the power of belief amongst non-Kamajors as well as within the Kamajor ranks. But although he recognized the tangible psychological effect the diesel had on the ECOMOG soldiers, he also maintained that the real protection stayed with him in the van where the magic water was kept.


Secret Society Supernatural Power Magical Power Initiation Experience Intelligence Gathering 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 7.
    Interview, civil society activist, London May 2004, also described by a Kamajor fighter in Teun Voeten, How De Body? One Man’s Terrifying Journey through an African War (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002) p. 250.Google Scholar
  2. 26.
    Danny Hoffman, “The Civilian Target in Sierra Leone and Liberia: Political Power, Military Strategy, and Humanitarian Intervention,” African Affairs, 103/411 (2004) p. 222.Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    Ibrahim Abdullah and Patrick K Muana, “The Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone: A Revolt of the Lumpenproletariat,” in Christopher S. Clapham (ed.), African Guerrillas (Oxford: J. Curry, 1998) p. 186.Google Scholar
  4. 36.
    Paul Richards, “Green Book Millenarians? The Sierra Leone War within the Perspective of an Anthropology of Religion,” in Niels Kastfeit (ed.), Religion and African Civil Wars (London: Hurst, 2005).Google Scholar
  5. 37.
    This also featured as part of Kamajor initiation. Susan Shepler, “The Social and Cultural Context of Child Soldiering in Sierra Leone,” Workshop on Techniques of Violence in Civil War (Oslo: PRIO, 2004) p. 23.Google Scholar
  6. 44.
    Even if the power or the use of it was not approved of, its potency was acknowledged in a way similar to the approach of many civilians in northern Uganda to the alleged power of Joseph Kony. E.g., one ex-combatant, quoted by Richards and Peters, who after the war converted to Christianity, now condemned Kamajor practices as witchcraft, but did not doubt their power. Krijn Peters and Paul Richards, “Why We Fight’: Voices of Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 68/2 (1998), pp. 183–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 48.
    Voltaire et al., The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version (New York: Dingwall-Rock, 1927)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nathalie Wlodarczyk 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathalie Wlodarczyk

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations