By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (TRC) remained an indelible mark towards the building of a better, peaceful, and democratic Sierra Leone whose tenets should be based on respect for human rights, freedoms of individuals and the independence of its democratic institutions whilst upholding its values and objectives for which they are created.
The report has been widely hailed as a frank and honest account of one of the darkest histories of our nation; highlighting the causes of the war, its findings in addition to many imperative recommendations to be done by the government in order not for this small West African nation not to repeat its ugly history again and to facilitate the building of a new country.
“The recommendations contained in this chapter are designed to facilitate the building of a new Sierra Leone based on the values of human dignity, tolerance and respect for the rights of all persons. In particular, the recommendations are intended to help create an open and vibrant democracy in which all are treated as equal before the law,’’ TRC No. 2
Like the TRC recommendation said, it is geared towards the creation of a new country considering the experience we have had in the eleven years civil war which led every thing in our small nation to broke down completely and tear apart our democratic institutions and credentials, thus it’s no gainsaying that the report ought to be taken seriously for the betterment and development of the country. It has been almost two decades since this report was put together in 2004, however, government’s implementation of some of the recommendations of this important report still remains a huge challenge. No doubt those who work on the TRC meant well for this country and it is us that has the responsibility of making our country an ever-lasting peaceful nation on the face of the earth.
The recommendations are many from political, legal and administrative reforms to be taken by the government and also the need for a new constitution so as to review some of the discriminatory laws, in addition to need for an independence judiciary among others.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2000 (“the Act”) requires the Commission to make recommendations concerning the reforms and measures, whether legal, political, administrative or otherwise, needed to achieve the object of the Commission; namely, providing an impartial historical record, preventing the repetition of violations or abuses suffered, addressing impunity, responding to the needs of victims and promoting healing and reconciliation,’’ TRC Report No 1. Stated.
The causes of the country’s civil war are still evident even today from lack of good governance, delay in court trials, lack of respect for human rights of citizens among others are part and parcel of our challenges as a post war nation but many believed that we are almost more two decades from our bitter war experience that should be at least enough for us to have learnt from the many challenges we have gone through. Many people do not have access to the TRC report, some do not know much about what happens during the internecine war and why it is important for them to get understanding of their recent past cannot be over emphasised although regrettably past and present governments, and even civil society institutions have failed to disseminate this all-important document to every citizen and every school, universities and education centres across the country in local languages as recommended by the report.
“The Commission recommends the widest possible dissemination of its Report. The Commission calls upon the government and civil society to facilitate the accessibility of the report to all, literate and illiterate, in local languages,’’ TRC report No. 543.
However, it is important to note that the country have made many progresses with the establishment of democratic institutions like the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, reforming the country’s judiciary, police, the military, and more recently the passing into law the National Peace and Social Cohesion Commission among others.
More than ever, the country has a freer media than at any other time in the history of our nation, there is at least much improvement of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of individuals although there is also an abundant need to review the almost thirty years multi-party constitution in order to address issues of rights and freedoms of the individuals and to make review on some of old laws that discriminates some individuals as dictated by the TRC recommendation.
History Professor and former lecturer at Fort Valley State University in the United States of America, Professor Peter Dumbuya had this to say “the TRC’s overarching objectives were to create a record of the atrocities the various warring factions committed during the civil war and to seek the truth about the war’s origin in order to promote reconciliation.
“Historians have utilized the report to (re)construct the modern political history of Sierra Leone society. I don’t know whether we’ve learned the lessons of the past. Partisan, ethno-regional politics are rampart, and so is corruption. Political violence mars elections as evidenced by recent parliamentary elections. The fact that these societal issues continue to exist, it underscores the failure of post-war governments to implement the TRC’s recommendations, ‘‘Professor Dumbuya added.
Professor Dumbuya further added that when the TRC Report is fully implemented, the recommendations would have transformed the country into a liberal democracy where an individual’s talents matter more than their ethnicity or region and human rights are respected.
“I hope we don’t see a repeat of the conflict. The people of Sierra Leone have to remain engaged in how their country is governed. They have to hold their leaders accountable at periodic elections,’’
Like the report said, the commission is of the view that the adoption of its many recommendations will help the people of the country and to rise above our bitter conflicts we experienced.
“The Commission is of the view that the adoption of its recommendations will assist the people of Sierra Leone to rise above the bitter conflicts of the past, which caused unspeakable violations of human rights and left a legacy of dehumanisation, hatred and fear,’’ TRC Report No. 3
Thus, it is important as a nation to fulfil the many recommendations especially the imperative recommendations of the TRC by the government as this will cement our nation towards a lasting peace. Peace they say cannot be sustained without respect for human rights and freedoms of the individuals and the independence of its democratic institutions.