Rebuilding Lives and Regenerating War Torn
Communities: Is Sierra Leone’s Peace Dividend now at
Abdul R Thomas
Editor -The Sierra Leone Telegraph
8 June 2010
Ten years of peace and political stability in Sierra
Leone have brought enormous social and economic
dividend and rewards, for a people that deserve much
more than just food handouts from the international
community to survive. For the people of Sierra
Leone, coming to terms with the effects of the war
has been painfully slow.
But political tension appears to be returning.
Politicians are once again ratcheting the
temperature. Is this the beginning of the end of the
There are new and worrying threats of resumption of
‘political and tribal skirmishes,’ as the government
decides to re-open investigations into the killing
of its senior police officers, military personnel
and civilians by the NPRC military junta, during the
country’s civil war.
The hard won peace has been tortuously built and
consolidated by a quartet comprising of the
international community, the people of Sierra Leone
and the three main political parties – the All
People’s Congress (APC), the Sierra Leone People’s
Party (SLPP), and the People’s Movement for
Democratic Change (PMDC).
It would now seem that the peace dividend enjoyed thus
far, is about to be put at risk, if events of the
last week are not quickly and peacefully resolved by
the government, the opposition political parties and
more importantly – the international community,
especially the UN.
The issue of re-opening investigations of crimes
committed during the country’s civil war, at this
critical stage in Sierra Leone’s political, social
and economic cycle, must be a matter for the UN, and
should be at the top of the UN Chief – Ban Ki Moon’s
agenda when he does visit Sierra Leone in the next
The UN in New York continues to promote and highlight
Sierra Leone as a good example of the success of a
nation state and its people working hard towards
peace building and consolidation.
Billions of Dollars have been invested in Sierra Leone
by the international community, especially through
donor Aid and foreign direct investors. Two of the
country’s main mineral mines have re-opened with
Hundreds of Millions of Dollars invested by African
Minerals Ltd., and the London Mining company,
Thousands of jobs are expected to be created in the
next twelve months in the northern province of the
country, which is expected to have a significant
multiplier effect across the country's economy.
Investment in the country’s tourism industry is
beginning to show encouraging signs of recovery, as
new hotels are being constructed. The World Bank is
investing in the refurbishment of the international
airport at Lungi.
The African Development Bank, the Arab Bank and the
European Union, have all invested in consolidating
the fragile peace in Sierra Leone, by funding the
construction of highway networks across the country,
and the rehabilitation of feeder roads to ensure the
free movement of goods and people.
The Japanese have invested Millions of Dollars in
helping President Koroma’s government achieve its
Energy provision agenda. New diesel powered
electricity generators have been located at the
Kingtom and Blackhall Road Power Stations in
Freetown, to help cope with the intermittent supply
of electricity from Bumbuna - the country’s
The work of Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative,
with funding support from the Bill Gates Foundation,
the British government, the EU and the World Bank,
have helped to promote the potential of Sierra Leone
for foreign direct investments. A lot of work and
effort has gone into helping government departments
and ministries introduce good governance structures
The London Donor and Investors Conference in November
2009 highlighted the tremendous progress the peace
quartet of Sierra Leone has achieved since the end
of the war.
State and civil society institutions have been
re-established. The return to full democracy and the
strengthening of the rule of Law brought in a fresh
and invigorating sense of civil liberty, freedoms of
expression and political tolerance. Many countries
in Africa would overzealously protect this
remarkable peace dividend gained by Sierra Leone’s
The country’s soil, sand and sea are rich with natural
resources. But poverty, youth unemployment, the
global recession, and the recent steep rise in party
political rhetoric – threats of settling old scores
are now dangerously poised to derail the peace and
destroy years of industrial investments.
Although the country’s economy, battered by the war,
has been on a roller coaster since 2002 when GDP
growth had hit a high of 27%, economic growth in the
first quarter of 2010 fell to 4% compared to 5% in
President Koroma’s government will shortly be meeting
with the IMF Mission to discuss progress and review
the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Arrangement. A
second quarter decline in GDP is expected, as the
country’s productive capacity continues to suffer
from weak investment.
Government’s borrowing is currently running at
Hundreds of Billions of Leones a month, as
ministerial and departmental costs continue to rise
above budget. Increase in government borrowing is
further jeopardizing the economic recovery, with
private sector investment hampered by high interest
rates and poor economic climate.
Although the collection of taxes by the country’s
national Revenue Authority improved significantly in
the first quarter of 2010, there are further signs
of slowdown in the business, consumer and personal
tax receipts, as economic activity remain sluggish.
The size of the country’s public sector as epitomized
by the large number of ministries and departments
must come under sharp focus, if the government’s
structural deficit and borrowing is to be reduced.
Sierra Leone’s public sector spending expansion will
not bring about economic growth.
The international donors are contributing $300 Million
in propping up the government’s finances. They are
investing Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in
supporting President Koroma’s free health care
programme for lactating mothers, pregnant women and
children under five years old. The question of
sustainability of funding is now on the agenda.
The March 2010 IMF Review reported that; “In February
2010, inflation jumped to 17 percent, reflecting
largely the challenges in implementing the new Goods
and Services Tax in January, and higher domestic
Inflation and rising food prices in particular is
causing grave concern for the poor in Sierra Leone
as Aid Agencies step up their efforts in averting
Last week, the European Union (EU) Representative to
Sierra Leone, accompanied by two Representatives of
the Ministry of Education, Youths and Sports and the
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Country
Representative, visited a EU funded Food Aid
Programme being delivered at Kroobay - one of the
country's many inhumane slumps situated in Freetown.
This nationwide feeding programme is costing the EU
2.7 Million Euros.
The World Food Programme’s Christa Rader says that
“this generous donation from the EU, which has
largely been used to procure bulgur wheat, vegetable
oil, corn-soya blend, salt, sugar and beans, enables
WFP to work with the government and other partners
to boost safety net interventions to urban areas and
areas on the outskirts of cities in response to high
The Kroobay School Feeding Programme is just one of
the schools in Freetown that receives assistance
from the World Food Programme since the start of the
food price crisis, as farming production output in
the country struggles to meet demand.
A total of 70,000 vulnerable communities in the
Western Area as well as Port Loko and Moyamba
districts are benefitting from this WFP safety net
intervention in collaboration with the Government of
The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sierra
Leone, H.E Jean-Pierre Reymondet-Commoy, believes
that the aim of the Food Programme is “to assist the
most vulnerable women, children and youths of Sierra
Leone to cope with the effects of high food prices,
compounded by the recent economic crisis, and to
help them remain productive.”
WFP commenced the delivery of two pilot cash for
work projects in February this year, at a cost of
US$ 700,000. The youths of various communities in
Freetown are receiving cash in return for
participating in vital community work programme
activities, such as; road maintenance, drainage
cleaning, compost pit construction and the making of
ceramic water filters.
Sierra Leone’s economy is as fragile as its hard won
peace. That the tax payers of richer nations have
taken the risk to invest Hundreds of Billion of
Dollars in re-building and regenerating war torn
communities, and in consolidating the peace, is a
testament of the faith they have in the people of
Sierra Leone not to put that peace at risk.
The economy is suffering, as foreign direct investors
continue to stay away. Poverty and youth
unemployment is on the increase. Critics say that
finding innovative solutions to reduce Sierra
Leone’s massive structural deficit of more than Le 1
Trillion, should currently be regarded by President
Koroma’s government as a key priority of state
polity, rather than trying to open up old political
wounds that may take even longer to heal once they
There is no doubt that the thousands of lives lost in
the civil war and all those killed during the
interregnums are precious. The Truth and
Reconciliation Commission had carried out its
investigations, and the recommendation for
forgiveness and reconciliation had been accepted by
all parties to the conflict and the people of Sierra
The price of peace is always high and millions of
people across the country continue in their own way
to pay that price. But the results of ten years of
peace and political stability are obvious for all to
see. Many are arguing that the investigations must
not be selective and should cover all politically
motivated killings and extra-judicial executions
that have taken place in Sierra Leone since the
country’s achievement of independence. Where do you
draw the line?
Most Sierra Leoneans may be disinclined towards
another Commission of Enquiry into atrocities
committed during the war, but would be more than
happy to see those bearing the greatest
responsibility for those atrocities, who are still
alive, to reconcile with the families of all those
that died whilst in the custody of the NPRC regime.
This reconciliation process should be facilitated by
the UN Chief – Mr. Ban Ki Moon, as part of his
itinerary when he arrives in Freetown shortly. The
people of Sierra Leone have been traumatised enough.
Politicians must continue to work towards saving the
people from any further suffering.
The country’s economy is far too fragile to withstand
the ratcheting of political instability, let alone
another civil war. Western governments and their tax
payers are enduring massive and painful public
spending cuts, while they vow to maintain financial
support for poor countries such as Sierra Leone.
Let us not throw away that goodwill and jeopardise the
peace dividend that has been achieved by Sierra
Leone's peace quartet: Presidents Koroma's
government, the people, the main opposition parties,
and the international community.
May common sense prevail.
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