The on-going struggles of disability movements worldwide have been examined from multiple perspectives. As of yet, however, research into this topic has largely overlooked experiences on the African continent. This article seeks to address this gap by presenting a case study of the disability movement in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The study finds that on the one hand the Sierra Leonean disability movement is fragmented (referring to the tendency of groups to work individually as opposed to operating in a collective manner), thus limiting synergy. Three main ‘centrifugal’ forces underlying fragmentation are identified: resource scarcity, impairment specific interests and capacity differences between impairment types. On the other hand, the movement somehow manages to survive and even achieve modest successes. The research shows that interdependence, shared experiences of marginalization, and a clear identification of the ‘other’ have a unifying effect.
- The disability movement in Sierra Leone is fragmented, meaning it struggles to formulate a unified position and act collectively, yet somehow survives and even manages to achieve some successes;
- The fragmentation is fueled by competition between groups, a hierarchy between impairment types and interests that are impairment specific.
- The movement is kept together by mutual dependence to achieve key goals and raise funds, shared experiences of marginalization and negative experiences with ‘outsiders’.
- The research offers recommendations to disability groups and donors to mitigate fragmenting forces while strengthening unifying forces.