Scars of Conflict: The Delicate Line between Hatred and Peace
The task of reconciliation in Sierra Leone: Because forgiveness is the only way to Peace.
In 2002 when the war was officially declared over one third of the population had either left the country or was internally displaced. More than 20.000 people were mutilated and approximately 75.000 dead.
Sierra Leone is today one of the poorest countries in the world. A decade of conflict has left its legacy not only in loss of life, widespread poverty and destroyed infrastructure, but also in the severe depletion of the national capacity. The country is totally dependent on foreign aid even for paying the salaries of government officials, situation that has opened the way for corruption and increasing poverty.
The devastating civil war forced almost its entire population to leave villages/towns and become either refugee or IDP (Internally Displaced People). A large part of the population went to the bush and led bush life surviving on the nature, reducing animal population.
Grudge, malice, hatred, and poverty are rife among all the population and returnees due to the widespread atrocities committed against civilians by the combatants in those times. Nowadays, these acts of violence have created suspicion and fear about the prospect of ex-combatants returning to their communities hindering their reintegration in the society.
In addition to this, the increasing poverty in the country has also made difficult the reintegration process in the country. Securing employment for ex-combatants represents a major challenge. The danger of disgruntled ex-combatants drifting into criminality or even renewed conflict remains a potential threat.
Although the rehabilitation of 700,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and 140,000 refugees is in progress, the provisions extended to them do not commensurate to their minimum expectations due to lack of funds. The villages surrounding the Liberian border are frequently looted by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) soldiers, making of this a new threat to the population of bordering towns of the country.
A highly criticized and characteristic aspect of the conflict in Sierra Leone was the use of child soldiers. Many of them were abducted and forcibly recruited, and besides of being victims themselves, they also became involved in atrocities. Such situation has not only mired their reintegration process but also make of it problematic because in some cases some families have been reluctant to accept them back.
Further more over 5,000-child combatant who were forcefully dragged to fight often applied drugs and became victim of heinous ‘de-institutionalization’ process the RUF adopted. In many cases, these children were forced by the rebels to gunpoint and kill their family members and neighbors. Thus, by committing an act of violence against people close to them, they are not only traumatized, but also not able to return to their families and communities because of fear of retribution or shame.
All the problems that the country is now facing regarding the reconstruction of the social tissue can be attributed to the fact that reintegration was implemented in a hurry and with now further preparations. Additionally, many of the foreign aid that the country received was worn out in the disarmament and demobilization phase, leaving no much resources for the forthcoming and most important component of the process: reintegration and reconciliation.
The fragile peace on which the democracy of Sierra Leone rests hangs on a threat and there is no doubt that if the government does not reevaluate the reintegration and reconciliation process in Sierra Leone; the country is in danger of falling into violence once again. As Mr. Paul Collier says, while objective grievances do not generate violent conflict, violent conflict generates subjective grievances. This is not just a by-product of conflict, but an essential activity of a rebel organization…The task in post-conflict societies is partly, as in pre-conflict societies, to reduce the objective risk factors. However, post-conflict societies are much more at risk than implied by the inherited risk factors, because of this legacy of induced polarizing grievance (1).
After ten years of civil war the population in Sierra Leone was left with many scars; many of these are still visible, palpable and run the danger of becoming an open wound which nurtures hatred and risks the stability of the Peace in the country.
(1) : GBERIE, Lansana. « War and Peace in Sierra Leone ». In: The Human Diamonds and Security Project, Occasional Paper N° 6, Ian Simllie, 2002.
The authors of the file are Manirul Mohammad Alam, Abul Khair Muhammad Ahsan Habib Ahsan and Moshraf A M Hossain.