• December 18, 2023

TRC Report says it all, but we ignore it all

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By Alusine Fullah

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most times, I find it arduous to answer why these coups are fought. When the dust settles, the fire dies and the soil of the earth is no longer drenched with blood, we then ask why it happened in the first place. For instance in Sierra Leone, we are still asking why the 11 years’ war? The simple truth is we only have bits and pieces. Most say the problem behind it is out approach to everything. How we feel for there to be peace there must be conflict, how we feel we most sacrifice a great deal for the peace of the future, a peace that doesn’t last forever.

It’s crazy how we evolved from swords and shields to horrific and chronic political malice. Weapons so powerful and witch-hunt that we now hang in the balance of fear and peace. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves, what are we fighting for? These, resources and lands, are they really worth the blood shed? Our beliefs and greed are they really worth the millions of death?  Our quest for expansion and power are they really worth the end of humanity itself?

The TRC is tasked with addressing the hard lessons that must be learned about the causes of the war, as well as the systemic and institutional weaknesses that still exist. Getting to the core of the problem in Sierra Leone, and identifying those critical reforms that might improve the country and prevent further conflict, will be key.

When we ask ourselves these questions, we realize that we are just killing and fighting for things that don’t really matter, no matter our differences in kind we are all still human beings and that should count for more than just race but unity.

Really, as a country, we have come too far, so many a time I am remain baffled why we keep on fighting one another. In line with that, for this article, I want to swim into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC). So relax and have a taste.

According to the report, the Government shall faithfully and timeously implement the recommendations of the report that are directed to state bodies and encourage or facilitate the implementation of any recommendations that may be directed to others. However, government has come and gone, and to some extent no effort has been made to fully implement the recommendations of the report, TRC.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up in 2002 to find out the truth about the war in Sierra Leone and make recommendations to ensure it never happen again. It collected a lot of information about the recent history of Sierra Leone and about the war and its causes and consequences.

According to the report, the Government shall faithfully and timeously implement the recommendations of the report that are directed to state bodies and encourage or facilitate the implementation of any recommendations that may be directed to others.

A series of attacks on military barracks and prisons in Sierra Leone on the 26th November, 2023 was a failed coup attempt according to the Inspector General of Police. Information Minister Chernor Bah said that 13 military officers and one civilian have been arrested following the incident. Apart from the foregoing event, the August 10 riot is another horrific riot in the history of Sierra Leone.

How does a peace-loving nation become engulfed in recent such horror? What events occurred in the history of the country to make this conflict possible? As a writer, I thought we have far away from that. Why do we want to go back to those horrific and dark days? No!! I think we don’t deserve this.

There have been several causes since Adams days. But, for the sake of time, let me give you a tip of the ice bag.

The elections of 1967 were affected by bitter power struggles based on ethnicity, personality and party association. Although the APC won the most seats, the leadership of the SLPP adamantly refused to concede defeat. The resultant fight between the SLPP and the APC signaled a turning point in the political fortunes of the country and ultimately led to the destruction of the multi-party system. The head of the Army sabotaged the swearing-in of the APC Prime Minister and declared martial law.

When it became apparent that this move was engineered to favor the SLPP leadership, junior-ranking soldiers staged a coup. The consequent period of military rule served to narrow the political space in Sierra Leone and compelled others to seek alternative routes to power, other than free and fair elections. It set the scene for multiple further coups and coup attempts in the following decades.

Also, the eleven-year civil war in Sierra Leone was marked by extreme violence and brutality on both sides. The Sierra Leone Army and the government-aligned Civil Defense Force, with the backing of some West African regional forces, fought the anarchic Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which was best known for its practice of amputating limbs of innocent civilians, perpetrating widespread sexual violence and sexual slavery, and kidnapping youth to compel them to join its fighting force.

Bad governance has been a chronic illness for the two major political parties (SLPP and APC) in Sierra Leone. Successive governments diminished the state’s capacity to meet such critical challenges as the security and livelihood of its citizens, let alone to provide for democratic participation in decision-making processes.

The report shares the view that unsound governance created the situation for the incidence and growth of poverty marginalization, greed and grievances that caused and sustained the conflict.

The instruments of proper governance include laws, institutions, due processes and humane practices that lead to such desired ends as security, justice, improved livelihoods and democratic participation. The people of Sierra Leone want a system that upholds the rule of law over the rule of strong patrons and protects the people from abuse by rulers through a system of checks and balances.

They wish to see horizontal and vertical accountability through the effective operation of such institutions as the judiciary, the auditor general’s office, the electoral commission. While the RUF’s brutality is well known and horrific, all parties committed atrocities. After several unsuccessful peace negotiations and accords and nearly losing control of the capital to the rebels in early 1999, the war finally and slowly came to a close around the signing of a peace accord in Lomé, Togo, in July 1999. Hostilities briefly re-erupted in 2000, however, and peace was only finally and formally declared in January 2002.

In the opinions of many Sierra Leoneans, the judiciary has been made weak and corrupt. Many Sierra Leoneans have questioned the credibility of judiciary of Sierra Leone. Few months, we saw and felt from the main opposition party, APC about their non-court decision. It has been abused by successive governments; several politically motivated appointments being made by all post-independent governments. This largely compromised the independence of the judiciary. The lack of security of the tenure of judges during successive regimes, it has permitted the government to interfere with the judiciary.

Without budgetary independence, the judiciary has been unable to plan for an efficient justice delivery system. Thus the independence of the judiciary has been systematically destroyed.

The judges and lawyers failed to stand up to state tyranny. They failed to give any meaningful content to the rule of law. Lawyers should be the first line of defence whenever the human rights of the people are violated. This did not happen in Sierra Leone. Indeed lawyers, through their collective inaction, contributed substantially to the massive abuse of human rights before the war.

The TRC Report made huge recommendations. The Commission divided the recommendations into three main categories, namely “Imperative”, “Work Towards” and “Seriously Consider.”

Calling upon leaders at all levels to commit themselves to new principles of committed leadership;

  • calling on all those in the public sector to usher in a new culture of ethics and service to fight the problem of corruption which weakens the soul of Sierra Leone;
  • protecting the right to human dignity and the abolition of the death penalty;
  • upholding freedom of expression which is the lifeblood of a vibrant democracy;
  • introducing a common and equitable citizenship which will promote a new patriotism and devotion to Sierra Leone;
  • strengthening democracy, the rule of law and institutions of accountability;
  • establishing new principles of National Security, which reflect the will of Sierra Leoneans to live in peace and harmony;
  • bringing government and service delivery to people throughout Sierra Leone.

The foregoing imperative commendations are fine and succinct for the betterment of democracy and humanity. But, have we implemented them?

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