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Dr Kieran Mitton

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

mitton2014Room: K7. 24

Department of War Studies

School of Security Studies

King's College London


London WC2R 2LS





Contact Details


Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2670

Office hours: I am on research leave during 2017-2018 .   

I am Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Research Director of the Conflict, Security & Development Research Group, and co-Chair of the Africa Research Group. During 2017-2018 I am a Visiting Associate at the Violence and Safety Initiative at the University of Cape Town, South Africa: 

I joined the department in 2012, after completing my MA, MRes and PhD within the Department of War Studies (KCL). From 2007 I worked as a Research Fellow in the Conflict Security and Development Research Group (KCL), conducting extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone for a study of reintegration. I also worked with a range of research and development organisations, including the International Policy Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the United Nations Development Programme, and various risk intelligence consultancies.

My recent research has examined the causes and shaping dynamics of extreme violence during conflict, with a particular focus upon the role of emotions and psychology at both individual and group level. I am currently developing a multi-country research project examing urban violence and youth in 'non-war' contexts. I have also published on the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants; post-conflict reconciliation processes; and narcotics trafficking in West Africa. I have specialist area knowledge of Sierra Leone, West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa more broadly.

Research Interests

Urban Violence (working title: Life Between the Lines) 
My most recent research project (under development) explores various issues related to urban violence, youth marginality, and the crime-conflict nexus across a number of cities. To date these include Cape Town (South Africa), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Freetown (Sierra Leone) and London (UK). Several research visits were completed in each of these locations during 2016-2017. The project links with local research partners, related community organisations and security sector actors to provide a uniquely multi-disciplinary, comparative micro-level analysis of the various factors shaping urban and gang violence. Included in the planned output of this project is a feature-length documentary following individuals in each city as they navigate the day-to-day challenges of life in the margins.

Atrocities and Violence in Civil War
Since 2008 I have conducted regular fieldwork in Sierra Leone to interrogate the various causes and shaping dynamics of extreme violence in conflict, examining the concept of brutalisation and the social psychology of violence. Taking a broad inter-disciplinary approach, I am especially interested in violence characterised as ‘irrational’ and the role played by the emotions of disgust and shame. My book, Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War (2015, Hurst/Oxford University Press), draws on extensive interviews with perpetrators of violence to address the most seemingly ‘senseless’ acts of atrocity.

As part of a Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs –funded programme, based within the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group, I lead a newly established project that brings together leading international researchers from various academic disciplines to address the question of how we might better understand and tackle civil war atrocities. Further details available here.

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) 
I am interested in the challenges faced in war-to-peace transitions, particularly with regard to the disarmament and reintegration of armed groups through both formal and informal processes. Since 2007 I have conducted a longitudinal study of Sierra Leone’s ex-combatants and their experience of DDR, giving particular attention to the neglected area of political integration. I have published a series of journal articles for this project, further details of which can be found on the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group page.  

Narcotics Trafficking in West Africa
My research in this area seeks to assess and understand the impact that narcotics trafficking has or may have on West Africa, particularly with regard to the growth of trans-Atlantic cocaine trafficking from Latin America through the region. Specific areas of focus are the linkages between corruption and cocaine trafficking in source and transit countries, the development of domestic drugs markets in transit countries, and the relationship between trans-Atlantic trafficking, violence, local criminal networks and armed (or ex-combatant) groups.

• Mitton, Kieran (2015) Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in Sierra Leone (London: Hurst/Oxford University Press)

• Mitton, Kieran (2015) 'A Pragmatic Pact: Reconciliation and Reintegration in Sierra Leone', in Kirsten Ainley, Rebekka Friedman & Chris Mahony (eds) Evaluating Transitional Justice: Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone (London: Palgrave Macmillan)

• Mitton, Kieran (2013), ‘Where is the War? Explaining Peace in Sierra Leone’, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 30, Issue 3.

• Mitton, Kieran (2012), ‘Irrational Actors and the Process of Brutalisation: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leonean Conflict (1991–2002)’, Civil Wars, Volume 14, Issue 1, March 2012.

• Mitton, Kieran (2010), ‘Rearmament, Remobilisation and Disintegration in Sierra Leone’, Conflict Security and Development Research Group, King's College London, 2010.  

• Mitton, Kieran (2009), 'Engaging disengagement: The political reintegration of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front' in Reintegrating Armed Groups after Conflict: Politics, Violence and Transition, Mats Berdal & David Ucko, eds. (Abingdon: Routledge, May 2009).

• Mitton, Kieran (2009), 'Reconstructing Trust in Sierra Leone.' The Round Table, Volume 98, Issue 403, August 2009.  

• Mitton, Kieran (2008), ‘Engaging Disengagement: The Political Reintegration of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front.’ Conflict, Security and Development, Volume 8, Issue 2, June 2008.  

My publications are available on the Research Portal


I am on research leave during 2017-2018.

During 2016-2017 I taught the following MA courses:

    • 7SSWM140 Conflict, Security and Development.
    • 7SSWM069 Approaches to Understanding Violence and Atrocity in Civil Wars.
  • 7SSWM171 Comparative Civil Wars
  • 7SSWM071 Gender in International Politics and Security
PhD Supervision

I am currently unable to take on new PhD students.

I supervise PhD students in the following subject areas:

  • Conflict, security and development in Africa
  • Violence (war and post-war)
  • Social dynamics of armed groups
  • Reconciliation and transitional justice
  • DDR
  • Trafficking and organised crime in Africa
Expertise and Public Engagement

I have specific area expertise in Sierra Leone and the West Africa region. I regularly consult with international development, governmental and non-governmental organisations on a range of issues related to conflict, security and development in Africa. I have provided briefings to NGOs, governments, diplomatic and military personnel, global risk consultancies and various international organisations operating in sub-Saharan Africa. I have also provided commentary on contemporary political developments in West Africa to international broadcast and print media.

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