Internationally, war in Sierra Leone (1991–2002) is regarded as an instance of violent conflict driven by economic factors (attempts to control the mining of alluvial diamonds). Fieldwork (2000–01) in rural areas recovering from war suggests a very different picture. War victims and combatants from different factions stress the importance of political decay, corruption, injustice and the social exclusion of young people. Other studies confirm the picture. There is broadly based discussion in rural communities about how to address the injustices held to have been responsible for the war. It seems in line with wider debate about human rights. Are people being converted to international ideals? Applying a neo-Durkheimian perspective, the article shows that this discourse about rights is a product of local social changes brought about by the war itself. The article concludes by asking how it might be consolidated by rights-oriented reconstruction activity. Human rights in Sierra Leone are as much a local development as an imposed change. In this respect the study confirms the importance of local agency already argued by anthropologists who have studied the process of conversion to world religions.