RSCSL: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 March 2021:
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL), along with its Civil Society partners, today commemorated the 30th Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s Civil War.
On 23 March 1991, thirty years ago today, fighters from the Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front (RUF) crossed into Sierra Leone from Liberia and launched an armed conflict that lasted more than a decade.
When the war ended in 2002, it had cost tens of thousands of lives and left countless others mutilated and displaced.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in 2002 by an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone with a mandate to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for committing, and for aiding and abetting, crimes committed against civilians during the conflict.
The Special Court tried and convicted leaders of the three warring factions, handed down sentences of 15 to 52 years, and established judicial precedents that have been adopted by other international tribunals.
Human Rights Commissioner Simitie Lavaly recalled that the first shots fired at Bomaru three decades ago had degenerated into an eleven-year war in which thousands were killed, mutilated, displaced, made sex slaves and child soldiers, with major infrastructural damage to criminal justice institutions.
She noted that the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission had found that potential causes of conflict remained unaddressed.
She then called for a moment of silence “in solidarity with those who were maimed, injured, raped, displaced, tortured and suffered other unmentioned sufferings.”
“May your suffering not be in vain but lead us as a nation to look for lasting peace,” she prayed.
Sierra Leone’s first prosecutor, David M. Crane, recalled the aftermath of the conflict which, he said, had brought nothing but pain and suffering to millions. “Sierra Leone is now on a path for a better future,” he said. “I was proud to have led an amazing team that helped put Sierra Leone in that path.”
The Court’s innovative Outreach Programme, engaging with civil society organizations through the Special Court Interactive Forum (SCIF), student groups, traditional leaders, and many others, worked to promote the rule of law in Sierra Leone, and to contribute to the fight against impunity.
In observation of this anniversary, the RSCSL in Freetown sponsored an event at the Sierra Leone Peace Museum which brought together civil society organizations, former victims and fighters, members of the Sierra Leone Police, the Military, and the Prisons Service.
Students from seven schools in Freetown and Waterloo, along with youth groups from Waterloo, Allen Town and Freetown, were invited to attend. They heard speakers from the Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Democracy, and the Sierra Leone Police.
The Residual Special Court, the successor to the Special Court, works to preserve the Special Court’s legacy, and to ensure that what happened in Sierra Leone will never be repeated in the country.
As the special court celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the RUF war, it will be naive of us to think the war just happened out of the blue. Foday Sankoh’s RUF fighters, supported by Charles Taylor’s NPLF that invaded our country on that fateful day March 1991, might have come as a surprise to many, but for the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, it was like an accident waiting to happen.From the mid 1970s and onwards, and after the political trials and excecution of men like MO Bash Taqi, John Amadu Bangura, Dr Jim Fornah, Conrad Inish and many more that were wrongfully accused of coup plots. The 1977 students riots, the hosting of the OAU in 1980, spending our country’s resources beyond our means, was a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. Just like under this Bio government, there was growing unease in the country.
I hope this government pay attention to concerns raised by all Sierra-leoneans. We don’t want a repeat of that war. The first war in Africa that was fought not about religion, regional or tribal. Just Greed. Simple as that. We might as well christened it the war against corruption. Also other events in and out of country were bubbling under the surface, like a volcano waiting to erupt. Like the attempted coup by Tomash Quiwonkpa on President Doe of Liberia, whose fighters were trained and supported by the government of Sierra Leone. Indeed for few hours the Coup against Doe appeared to be successful, as Sierra Leone police registration number plates can be seen driving around Monrovia. And when you store problems they will erupt. Erupt it did, in which we lost more than fifty thousand in a sensless war and untold suffering caused on our fellow countrymen, like amputation, mental scars, and being made homeless in your own country.
It seems to me all the ingredients that force Foday Sankoh and Sam Bockarie to take up arms against the state is rearing its ugly head. Unchecked corruption, abuse of the justice system, suppression of Free speech and a government that has no qualms in driving rough shod on its perceived enemies real or imagined. We need to learn from history, lest we repeat it again.
Giving heartfelt speeches and observing a moment of reverence in utter silence in honor of mutilated victims and those who lost their precious lives is an admirable thing to do but caring for those displaced traumatized people who are still alive should be loudly applauded. Fine speeches don’t fill empty stomachs and they certainly do not put a roof over the heads of war victims struggling to make ends meet in a harsh,abjectly poor terrain like our Sierra Leone. What kind of country allows disabled people without arms and legs to struggle for a bite to eat on the mean unforgiving streets of Freetown?
Its been 30 long years since the winds of War blew over our nation – 30 years of giving flimsy excuses,of lack of compassion towards bereaved families and communities that were brutally erased by the merciless hands of War. Answer – where are the financial incentives designed to help victims stand on their own two feet and the affordable housing for those now totally incapable of caring for themselves because of the unfixable physical injuries,heartbreaking emotional and mental trauma sustained during the long War?
Who is it in our State House refusing to give a helping hands to people without hands to receive help in my cold, indifferent Sierra Leone? A country of heroes where Lions once roamed freely and growled from mountaintops has now become an eerie place where only deplorable rats can be seen nibbling, hurrying from place to place with huge chunks of stolen cheese in their greedy SLPP mouths.(lol)