Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 January 2022:
On Tuesday, 18 January 2022, the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone in collaboration with the Freetown-based think tank – Centre for International Law and Policy in Africa (CILPA), commemorated today the 20th anniversary of the formal end of Sierra Leone’s civil war and the signing, two days earlier, of the Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone which set up the Special Court.
The declaration of the end of the war put an end to a conflict which saw tens of thousands killed and maimed, and hundreds of thousands displaced or in refugee camps.
The signing on Tuesday was followed by a ceremonial burning of arms in Lungi, across the river estuary from the capital Freetown.
On 16 January 2002 the Special Court Agreement was signed between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone, setting up the world’s first hybrid tribunal, mandated to try those deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for serious crimes committed during the war, after 30 November 1996.
The Court closed in December 2013 after successfully completing its mandate.
Tuesday’s event, held at the Sierra Leone Peace Museum on the grounds of the former Special Court, heard from representatives of Parties to the Agreement, with UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary representing the United Nations, and former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Anthony Y. Brewah representing the Government of Sierra Leone.
Justice Jon Kamanda, the President of the Residual Special Court gave the welcoming statement on behalf of the Court and the Judges. Welcoming and opening remarks were also given by RSCSL Registrar Binta Mansaray, and CILPA founder Prof. Charles C. Jalloh.
Other keynote speakers were David M. Crane, the Special Court’s first Prosecutor, Simone Monasebian, the Special Court’s first Principal Defender, and Madam Musu Jatu Ruhle, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.
A panel discussion, Reflections on the Legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, moderated by Prof. Charles C. Jalloh, was comprised of representatives of the Residual Special Court, Civil Society, academia, and a representative of Sierra Leone’s Paramount Chiefs.
A second panel discussion, Reflections on the Legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, moderated by former Special Court Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, included former national and international Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, former principals of the Special Court, a representative of the Paramount Chiefs, and a representative of the War Wounded and Amputees Association.
The event ended with a tour and dedication of the Peace Museum’s Memorial Garden. The Garden was dedicated in a solemn ceremony by Sierra Leone’s former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice, the President of the Residual Special Court, and war victims.
The Memorial Garden includes symbolic mass graves from each of the country’s 16 districts, which were unveiled by war victims
The last time (2021) that I went to the Nyanza Prison in Rwanda to interview a Rwandese prisoner, I was asked by the prison authorities as to whether or not I would like to see the Sierra Leone prisoners who are in a Luxurious complex situated within the prison yard. This was when they saw my passport which I had to surrender at the gate. I emphatically deny. In a subsequent discussion with the prison authorities after my formal work, I was informed that the Sierra Leone prisoners are very rowdy and that Issa Sesay for example is extremely boastful and loud. He does not behave as if he had cause unrepairable damages to so many lives. Those who died have ended their sufferings. But imagine for the young girls and boys whose arms were amputated and they have to live with this for the rest of their lives.
It pains me every time I hear that the President of the Residual Special Court has granted early release to the SCSL prisoners. Nyanza is where they are supposed to be. The prison is about 10 Kilometers from Nyanza town which is the home of the last Tutsi King. The next big city is Butare now call Huye. It is about 35 Kilometers from Nyanza.
This memorial service held under the auspices of the centre for international law and policy for Africa and former spacial court for Sierra Leone officials,the United Nations the diplomatic corps , and other international development partners, that have invested heavily in our peace dividends is a constant reminder war and peace building are not two sides of the same coin. You can start a war but you will not know how it will play out in the end.wars how ever long they last, always ends in peace treaties . But peace building never ends . It always requires trust and sacrifice. And is something nations work on for ever so they don’t repeat the same mistakes. This memorial service that celebrated the formation of the residual Court for Sierra Leone, to bring to justice those individuals that bare the greatest responsibility for the war, was the best thing that could have happened after the end of the brutal civil war. Because without justice, there will be no peace.
Some the victims of war might have forgave but they will never forget.This memorial service is a constant reminder of our past, the present and future efforts we as a nation are making to maintained and enhance the peace dividends we enjoy today.The first special court prosecutor Simone Monasebain, Registra Binta Mansaray, Deputy Special court prosecutor Fitzgerald Kamara, Professor Charles Jalloh, David Crane and Jon Kamanda president of the residual Court, and all the dignitaries present have once again reminded us, the peace we enjoye today came at a heavy price. So as a nation we should all strive to work in maintaining it. The peace memorial Garden in the grounds of the special Court should act as pilgrimage for the youths or our young generation that never experienced the RUF wars, nevertheless is still suffering from its effects today.
Every government henceforth should continue to build on the pyramid of peace. Never again should we fall into the trap of selfish individuals, that has no interest in developing our country, or are always busy stocking divisions amongst our peoples.Creating a national cohesive society, that promote greater understanding among ourselves should be the work of every single person in Sierra Leone. It will take us an other fifty years of hard work to recover from the destructions caused by the RUF wars, politically, economically and socially.