By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma*
Restoring lasting peace in a nation is an everyday process, from making a society were respect for the rights and freedoms of the individuals are protected, to the independence of its democratic institutions and the independence of the judiciary to name a few can be of help in enhancing a lasting peace for a post war nation like Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone experienced one of the worst civil conflicts in the world between 1991– 2002 in which tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes, thousands lost their lives and left untold suffering on innocent civilians and completely broke down all democratic institutions in the country. The causes of the war were according to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC) was endemic greed, corruption and lack of respect of the human rights of individuals in the British West African nation.
“The Commission found that the central cause of the war was endemic greed, corruption and nepotism that deprived the nation of its dignity and reduced most people into a state of poverty,’’ TRC No. 34.
The Commission made recommendations for the former war-torn nation to having a lasting peace, from having a new constitution, respect of its citizens fundamental human rights and freedoms, respect for freedom of expression to name a few. To enhance this, the Commission further encourages artistic activities in which victims, ex-combatants, as well as other members of the community can express themselves through drama, music, song, and storytelling, and art, poetry in order to promote tolerance, respect, and non-violent means of conflict resolution.
One institution or body that has been using art and music to preach peace is the Artist for Peace Sierra Leone; an organisation made up of several artists, Dj’s, musicians and entertainers from various sectors including comedians MCs’, dramatist actors among others doing music for the purpose of preaching peace and national cohesion in this once war-torn country and has succeeded in disseminating messages across all facets and kinds of people in Sierra Leone. During elections and even after the elections they have continuously played a key role. Experts say this is one way to earning a lasting peace and making a united country. Young people love music, they see most of these musicians and singers as their role model, they copy their styles, attitudes and way of dressing, they are better messengers to preach peace, and they were used by the United Nations Peace Building in Sierra Leone and other UN agencies to develop songs in order to end of war in the country. The impact they created was strong and far reaching with songs ‘Salone Me land ‘which calls for patriotism and nationalism that only Sierra Leone we have and we will proud to call home.
Chairman of Artist for Peace, Hassan Daramy popularly known as (Ceejay mark) said they as artist saw the need to come together in their own way to contribute to the nations peace and in 2007 they formed the group in order for them to help in promoting and preaching peace in the presidential and parliamentary elections in the country and even after the elections period then in 2007.
“As a group our motto is peace for development and we believe that there’ll be no development without peace in Sierra Leone We tour the length and breadth of the country impacted the general public with our Go Vote No Violence campaign through songs and roads shows in all 12 districts across the country ,’’ he said.
He added that the group has continued to preach peace and development even after the 2007 elections ended stating that during the 2012 and 2018 elections respectively with support from UNIPSIL and UNDP and other various UN branches in the country.
“We currently working on putting ideas and strategies for the coming 2023 elections because we strongly believe this is going to be the most crucial of them all given the political tension that have already been mounting. We are looking forward to more partnership and collaboration. Our major partners in promoting peace good governance and free and fair transparent elections are NEC , NCD , PPRC ,UNDP and other major institutions to name a few,’’ the Artist for Peace Chairman lamented.
For Mohamed Kamara, a graduate in Peace and Conflict Studies from Fourah Bay College said music and arts is a great tool to disseminating information and messages adding that research have shown how useful these tools can be when well utilised thus welcoming the intervention of the artist for peace and others in the entertainment industry in promoting peace and national cohesion.
He said that consolidated peace and national cohesion is a continuous process and required all hands on deck for it to be achievable stating that for a nation that has tasted the bitterness of war, it is important for the country to guard our democratic institution and freedoms of individuals be respected in that way he said we can have a lasting peace.
“Musicians, dramatist, comedians played a crucial role in the ushering of peace in mama Sierra Leone immediately after the war and have still continued to amazing work especially the Artist for Peace.
They are one group I have so much respect for, they should be funded by government,’’ Mohamed Kamara added.
“Guarding our peace is a moral duty and it is our responsibility to do so, lets us make Sierra Leone peaceful and united for our future generation and generations yet unborn. As a nation we have come a long way, let us be patriotic and nationalistic and know that we only have one Sierra Leone and there is no other one’’