Reparations for Sierra Leone's War Victims Essential for Country's Future
The reparation needs of Sierra Leone's civilian victims of war must
not be overlooked if there is to be real peace-building in the
country, says IOM on the eve of a donor and investment conference
for the West African country in London this week.
The conference, which takes place on 18-19 November, is a
critical opportunity to help redress some of the worst consequences
of the human rights abuses and violations of international
humanitarian law during the 1991-2002 conflict. Such redress would
also ensure that public anger at the lack of reparations, which has
been undermining peace and reconciliation efforts, would abate.
The setting up of a reparations programme, a key recommendation
of Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in
2004, has taken time, not just because of the difficulties in
defining the worst atrocities and in identifying the most
vulnerable among the war victims, but crucially in raising the
funds to provide eventual and actual assistance.
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target="" title=""> "background-color: rgb(153, 204, 255);">What Hope of Reparations
for Sierra Leone’s War Victims?”
"The war ended seven years ago. Ex-combatants who committed the
atrocities benefited from disarmament, demobilization and
reintegration programmes in the immediate aftermath of the
conflict. But it is only this year that work began to acknowledge
the atrocities that were inflicted on civilians, including women
and children," says IOM's head of reparations programmes, Norbert
Wühler. "It's a small step in the right direction but there is
a long way to go because the needs are so great and the resources
Although it will never be known just how many civilian victims
of war there are, the range of atrocities committed were enormous.
In addition to children being press-ganged into becoming
combatants, each warring faction committed wide-spread sexual
violence on women and girls including rape, sexual slavery, genital
mutilation, forced marriages as well as chopping people's limbs in
acts of needless violence to terrorise the population.
Of all Sierra Leone's war victims, amputees, civilian war
wounded, victims of sexual violence as well as war widows and
orphans, have been deemed to be particularly vulnerable and in
pressing need of relief now.
"Not only do victims have to live with the trauma and
consequences of amputations or sexual violence, they are also
shunned by society. In one of the poorest countries in the world,
their poverty is made more desperate by an inability to compete for
scarce jobs or other opportunities. Reparations are essential
– not only to lessen the stigma they face as victims, but
also to reintegrate them as full members of the society," adds
With its experience on reparations and compensation issues, IOM,
with funding from the German government, has been providing
technical assistance to Sierra Leone's National Commission for
Social Action (NaCSA), the government agency which has been given
the job of implementing the reparations programme. The programme
itself had received USD 3 million of start-up money for 2009 from
the UN Peace Building Fund with additional money contributed by the
Sierra Leonean government.
So far, the programme has registered 28,000 applications and a
first payment of about USD 100 of micro-credit or educational
support has been made to 20,000 war victims to show commitment to
the process. Fistula surgery and basic medical treatment has also
been provided to 200 women victims of sexual violence along with
the organization of psycho-social sessions and symbolic reparations
events in communities across the country.
Unless funds are raised beyond 2009, many tens of thousands of
victims will have no redress, reinforcing their sense of
"There is also the question of whether what we are delivering
now constitutes sufficient reparations in the eyes of the victims.
The amounts of resources we foresee being required for this kind of
work are significant. The government has the responsibility of
providing these but its resources are very limited. We need
external support to help the victims and to consolidate peace,"
says NaCSA's Commissioner Saidu Conton Sesay.
NaCSA, the United Nations and IOM, working together on the
issue, are looking for immediate support for 2010, as part of a
three year strategy, to reach out to as many people as possible
with basic reparations. This would allow victims to be given
livelihood skills training with micro-grants, much needed medical
assistance as well as education support for child victims.
"Let's not forget that civilian victims of war were mostly the
youth. By acknowledging not only their hurt but also empowering
them to generate their own livelihoods and move forward with their
lives, the basis for a more stable future in the country would be
set," concludes Sesay.
Media please note, a photographic exhibition by Nick Danziger
and commissioned by IOM, highlighting the stories of and issues
civilian war victims face will be on display at the conference
site, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.
Images will also be available for media use, please contact IOM
on the contact details below.
For further information, please contact: