a1 Nuffield College, Oxford University, New Road, Oxford OX1 1NF, United Kingdom
Intergenerational solidarity and reciprocity are fundamental building blocks of any society. Simultaneously, socio-generational groups constantly struggle for influence and authority. In Africa, disproportionately male, gerontocratic and patrimonial systems governing economic, social and political life lend a special explosiveness to the social cleavage of generation. This paper draws on the concept of the generational contract to explore whether Sierra Leone's civil war – labelled a ‘revolt of youth’ – catalysed changes in the power asymmetries between age groups. I argue that youth question fundamental norms of intergenerational relations, and challenge local governance structures demanding changes to the generational contract. Amidst a strong continuity of gerontocratic dominance and counter-strategies from elders, youth draw on organisational forms and a local human rights discourse to create spaces for contestation and negotiation. These openings hold potential for long-term rearrangements of societal relations.