By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma*
Sierra Leone experienced one of the worst human catastrophes witnessed in the world’s community of nations during the 11-year civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, properties destroyed, economy shattered and left democratic and good governance institutions in ruins.
The effect of the war in the country still continue up to today even after the war was declared over in 2002 with the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord in Togo. The country has made tremendous progress from setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (TRC) which provided an impartial recommendation on some of the things to be done for a peaceful nation and also tasked with addressing the hard lessons that must be learned about the causes of the war to setting up the Special Court for Sierra Leone through the finance of the United Nations to try those who bear the greatest responsibility during the country’s internecine war has been hailed to be one of the greatest steps for Sierra Leone towards its lasting peace consolidation.
According to the Truth and Reconciliation report in recommendation 207 stated that “Years of lapses in governance and unrestrained corruption produced the deplorable conditions that set the scene for bitter civil war in Sierra Leone. There is no option but to address bad governance and corruption head on. It would not be an overstatement to say that the survival of the nation depends on the success of society in confronting these issues’’.
Since the war ended , there has been some progress with the establishment of democratic institutions in the country like the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone , the Anti- Corruption Commission , and many other democratic institutions in order to strengthen the good governance of the state. “ A Human Rights Commission (HRC) can serve as both a watchdog and a visible route through which people can access their rights. Such a commission can help create a national culture of human rights through its advocacy, research and legal functions. Above all it must monitor and assess the observance of human rights throughout the country. Individuals who claim that their human rights have been violated should be able to submit complaints for investigation’’ Recommendation 98 TRC Report stated.
The report further recommended in 136 that Government should work towards the creation of an independent judiciary. This includes providing the judiciary with budgetary independence or self-accounting status.
On 8th December 2020, the country’s house of parliament unanimously passed into law the independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion a bill that was presented by the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis. This is in fulfilment of a statement made by President Julius Maada Bio in 2018 upon assuming office to establish a peace and National Cohesion commission.
The Peace Commission and National Cohesion is part of recommendations by the TRC as said by Professor Joe A. D Alie , which has been welcomed by many Sierra Leoneans including peace experts, Historians as well as citizens as the country need such kind of democratic institution to strengthen our democracy. The Commission experts believed will foster and strengthen the country’s peace which has guarded so well for the last decades after experiencing the effect of war.
History Professor in the University of Sierra Leone and Dean of the Faculty of the School of the Post graduate studies , Prof. Joe A. D Alie , welcome the news for the establishment of such a commission but said such an institution has been long overdue, adding that as a country, this is something we would have had not long after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission submitted it report.
“There a very strong case was made for the establishment for a peace Commission but unfortunately, we didn’t take it seriously. You see a lot of people think that because we do not hear the sound of guns, you know there is peace, That’s not very true. We need such a commission particularly more so when this is a multi- national or multi-ethnic country,’’ he said.
He said that like most other countries, Sierra Leone as a country is a multi-ethnic country, stating that there are 17 ethnic groups and even though they have co- existed peacefully over the years, once in while there are tensions and several things creates this tension one of which is the political environment.
“we see that normally Sierra Leoneans live peacefully but when we have elections, particularly national elections mischievous people try to play the ethnic card and that usually creates tensions in the country. The Governance systems have not been very people friendly. People friendly in the sense that it has not been particularly in the recent past catered adequately for the needs of the majority people and all of these creates some kind of conflicts and tensions which will eventually lead to conflict,’’ Prof. Alie said , adding that the country need a commission that will actively foster peace , as well as national cohesion because as he put it this is not a matter of choice, we are in this country, all the ethnic groups are in this country, we don’t have a choice, we have to live in a peaceful way, we have to create a peaceful environment.
The History Professor added that, when there is peace, it goes with development, stating that there is no way development can thrive without peace, referencing even in our homes if there is no peace it will be difficult for family to sit together and plan properly for the future thus the need peace as a pre-requisite for development, national cohesion and national integration.
The History Professor believes that peace plays a key role in every one lives in the carrying of our day to day activities adding that Peace starts with us.
“First there has to be a national awareness campaign for us to realise as a people and as a nation irrespective of our ethnic connections , irrespective of our political connections that injustice to one means injustice to all , that what ever befalls one group is likely to affect other groups and that the future , prosperity of this country doesn’t lie in the hands on one ethnic group or one political party or one region. We all have to work collectively for the good of this country and that what I’m sure the commission I suspect will be preaching,’’ the History Professor recommended.
The Dean of the Faculty of the School of the Post graduate studies further said the growth, prosperity of the country doesn’t lie in the hands of one ethnic group, or one political party, its everybody, adding that everyone have to be on deck regardless of political loyalty, region or even regardless of your social standing to make Sierra Leone a prosperous nation for us all.
“If Sierra Leone becomes a prosperous country not one ethnic group enjoys, not one political party will enjoy it is all Sierra Leoneans and all ethnic group similarly if there is conflict, if there is a problem it does not affect one group of people, it affects every body. I will give you one example, the rebel war didn’t choose one ethnic group ,it didn’t choose political parties , it didn’t choose region everybody even if you were not directly affected , a member of your family or a friend or some body you know may have been affected so in one way or the other , you were also affected,’’ Dean of the school of Postgraduate studies Dean of the school of Postgraduate studies said.
The Dean of the school of Postgraduate studies said consolidating peace is a continuous process stating that if the country has been a united country not deeply divided the rebel war that ravaged the country couldn’t have taken such a huge dimension.
“If Sierra Leone was a united country, if we were not deeply divided, even if we have had a rebel war here it couldn’t have taken the dimension it took, you know if we had unity in this country if we had freedom, justice and these are three words of our motto of the country. unity Freedom and Justice. If those things had been present in our body politic, if those things had been practiced individual and collective levels in this country even if we had a rebel war it couldn’t have disastrous as it was. But it became so dastardly because we are not a united people, there was no peace or freedom, there was no justice in this country. ‘’
The Well renowned History professor said the peace commission will further consolidate the peace of Sierra Leone, but it is the responsibility of everyone to support the government and its would be commissioners to attain this great milestone.
TRC Recommendation 39 stated that “The Commission found that, prior to the start of the conflict, government accountability was non-existent. It concluded that democracy and the rule of law were dead. The Commission accordingly makes recommendations to strengthen democracy and institutions of accountability. In particular, the Commission highlights its recommendations in respect of the independence of the judiciary, the role of parliament and the holding of free and fair elections.’’ With this in mind I believe Sierra Leone has made another landmark history into putting the recommendation of the TRC into reality as it continue to create Institutions to strengthened democracy and good governance as it is the only pathway to consolidating peace in Sierra Leone. .It is important to note that, there are many recommendations that are yet to be fully implemented but however we should tap ourselves for the progress we have made as a country so far.