The Pentagon guys

A brief introduction to street life in Freetown filmed by anthropologist Mats Utas who conducted fieldwork in the area for two years between 2004-2006.

The Pentagon Guys is a loosely structured group of about 15 young people making their living mainly from washing cars, but also from selling marijuana, stolen goods and involvment in various forms of theft. Many of them fought in the Sierra Leonean civil war, either on the rebel side (RUF), as irregular government soldiers (SLA), as part of the renegade army (AFRC/West Side Boys), or as Civil Defense Forces (chiefly Kamajors).

Yet despite having fought against one another during the war their discords are not central in their current lives – a fact demonstrating that ideological differences at a leadership level of the various war movements was seldom shared among combatants. Today they co-exist, and whatever political tensions existed during the war is down-played in the post-war setting. Instead, the ongoing fight for survival, searching for a feasible future, being able to fend for one’s children, girlfriends and obtaining social respect are common denominators in the marginal lives of these young people.

To the Pentagon Guys as well as to a larger segment of the Sierra Leonean population the state offers little social and physical protection as citizenry is supposed to include – rather the state contributes actively to the uncertainties of everyday life.

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