It is one thing to rebuild the physical structure of society after conflict; however rebuilding social capital is quite another feat. Social capital is the rebuilding of social relations through reconciliation and cohabiting together. Effective social reintegration of former combatants, which is understood to mean a return of social and psychological wellbeing of citizens - is a complex and subtle process, which is an essential element of peace-building mechanism in post-conflict societies. Traditionally, reintegration was seen as impossible unless founded on the re-establishment of trust between members who were previously in conflict, and based primarily on conventional measures of reintegration like economic and political indicators.
This thesis offers an alternative perspective to reintegration of former combatants by assessing the impacts of conflict on social capital, and exploring ways in which the effective social reintegration of former combatants may facilitate the restoration of social capital destroyed through the course of the conflict in Sierra Leone, and promote the achievement of sustainable reintegration and reconciliation. Using workshops and training courses, detailed literature review and six-month fieldwork in Sierra Leone as ethnographical research methods, this study investigates how civil-conflict disrupts social capital and how the successful social reintegration and reconciliation of former combatants can restore it. It shows that where reintegration occurs without reconciliation built on trust, coexisting peacefully might be an alternative to trust.
The study finds that bridging and bonding social capital has evolved in Sierra Leone, and that trust appeared as some kind of transitionary mechanisms that initiated with peaceful coexistence at the local level. It also finds that social reintegration does not rely solely on conventional measures like economic and political indicators, but may also benefit from using alternative perspectives and methods. The study enhances current understandings of social capital dynamics and generates functional conclusions that can be used to create a fuller response to the changing dynamics of social capital as a result of civil-conflict in the future - and generate hope and aspiration for post-war Sierra Leone.