Sierra Leone Essay, Research Paper
Just about the size of South Carolina, Sierra Leone is a tropical country in west Africa. It s more than 71,000 square kilometers and has a population estimated at 4.8 million. It was colonized by great Britain in 1808-1961. With over twelve ethnic groups, and several languages, Sierra Leone is very diverse. The official and commercial language of the country is English, and each group has its own ethnic language, but, an important vehicle of communication is Krio, the ‘Lingua Franca’, which is widely spoken within the country. Sierra Leone’s natural resources include diamonds, bauxite, chromite, gold, iron ore, rutile, and timber. Most Sierra Leoneans depend on subsistence farming. Cassava, cocoa, coffee, millet, palm oil, peanuts, and plantains are the major crops grown in the country. Like many African countries, the people of Sierra Leone went through great political turmoil since gaining their independence. They had their first free and fair election in May 1997, since 1967. ( Sierra Leone)
Before hand, Sierra Leone was, and still is a battle ground, used for murder, rape, abduction, slavery, and torture. This was all a result of the Revolutionary United Front rebels, or RUF. The conflict began in march 1991, when armed combatants crossed the border from Liberia into the south-eastern part of the country, attacking and subsequently occupying the border town of Bomary in the Kailahun district(Background Paper).
In retaliation, the government of Monoh increased its military force from three thousand, to fourteen thousand men during the first two years of the conflict. After the first month of the conflict, many different military factions were born. Some were allied, and the rest fought each other. The RUF quickly rose during this time, and the government was forced to get assistance from foreign mercenaries. With the revenue of the diamonds the government sold, they were able to pay off the mercenaries (Background Paper).
The mercenaries stayed in Sierra Leone for 22 months. Within that time, they successfully launched attacks against the RUF, which cause them to withdraw from a number of bases they had established around the area. This was also followed by RUF captives surrendering to them as well(Background Paper).
Because the captives were treated well, this caused fear among the RUF, and was also dangerous to them too. So in turn, they committed new and more atrocities against the civilians. Attempts to reach a peace agreement was postponed, because the government wanted peace before negotiations, and the RUF wanted all foreign troops withdrawn from the country. A peace agreement was finally reached on November 30, 1996, but violent acts on the civilians still continued to be inflicted by the rebels and soldier(Background Paper).
They had no specific targets. People were selected at random. They would gun down people in their house, burn them alive in their cars, cut off various parts of their body, and gouge out their eyes with a knife. The women and girls were sexually abused, the children and young people were abducted from their homes, school, or while out getting food. These atrocities were usually carried out in the way of a game. RUF rebels would dress up as ECOMOG soldiers, and punish all civilians who came to them for help, and talked bad about the RUF. They would light houses on fire, hide, then shoot the people running out of the house. They would also hide, and shoot people who went out to help their family or friends that lie in the street. Upon gaining control of a neighborhood or suburb, the rebels went on systematic looting raids, in which families were hit by wave after wave of rebels demanding money and valuables. Those who didn’t have what the rebels demanded were often murdered, even the ones who gave them what they wanted were still murdered. While rape and abduction were widespread throughout the offensive, the pace of the executions, amputations and burning of property picked up dramatically as the rebels were forced to withdraw. The abuses committed in the last several days of rebel occupation of any given neighborhood were of immense proportion. It was stated that this was their punishment for supporting the existing government(human rights).
This civil war is being waged through attacks on the civilian population. Soldiers capture them, and commit these atrocities in hope to instill terror. The soldiers further terrorize their victims by forcing them to participate in their own mutilation, asking them to make choices about which finger, hand or arm to have amputated. The vast majority of victims are males between the ages of sixteen and forty-five, but women, children, and the elderly are not spared. They use this method to gain political and military control. The abuse done to civilians is used to send a message. They want ECOMOG to leave the country, and they also want the release of their leader, Fadey Sankoh, who is being held in a Nigerian prison(sowing terror).
The most horrible act of human abuse, is considered to be, the use of children in combat. Children have been recruited by the CDF s (civil defense force) for many of the same reasons that the AFRC/RUF abduct them into their ranks: children are often easily indoctrinated, fearless, and have little sense of what is morally right or wrong They are taken from their families, and sometimes forced to kill them, or watch. They are then
taking into the woods and receive military training, then become a soldier. They are the most feared of all rebels. They usually acted under the influence of drugs. There were many different units, which had their own specialty of killing people. Such units were known as, the burn house unit, cut hands commando, and blood shed squad(sierra leone).
Both the U.S. and U.K. have played significant roles in recent political and military developments in Sierra Leone. The U.S. is the single largest donor in response to the Sierra Leonean crisis, having contributed $53 million in food, humanitarian and other aid in the year of 1998, including support for ECOMOG. This support for ECOMOG should be accompanied by close monitoring of its conduct and efforts to protect human rights(sowing terror).
Finally, things are making turn-around for the people of Sierra Leone. The National commission for Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Will be responsible for the rebuilding, and revitalizing of Sierra Leone. The NCRRR, which started out as a ministry until being turned into a commissioned organization, will work very closely with the human rights division on the co-ordination of resource mobilization activities. They will be responsible for the resettling of some five hundred thousand refugee s in neighboring countries, cater to some two million internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups, and also the resettlement of some six hundred thousand internally displaced persons in various camps around the country(NCRRR).
Following all the atrocities that were commited upon them, from being beat up, to being mutilated, raped, and murdered. They have managed to come out of it, and are ready to rebuild their great country. We can only hope and pray, that they find peace at last among all the death and destruction around them.
Sierra Leone(http://gbgm-umc.org/africa/sierra-leone/sprofile.html) march 18, 2000
Background paper on refugees and asylum seekers from Sierra Leone(http://www.unhcr.ch/refworld/country/cdr/cdrsle.htm#1.2) March 20, 2000
NCRRR (http://www.sierra-leone.gov.sl/nbt/NCRRR.html) March 20, 2000
Sowing Terror in sierra leone (http://www.sierra-leone.org/pratt042399.html) March 17, 2000
Human Rights (http://www.sierra-leone.org/usds013098.html) March 17, 2000