Sunday, July 22, 2007

Where are the Reparations For Sierra Leone’s War Victims?

On the 23, March 1991 a civil conflict broke out in Sierra Leone when a group of rebels crossed the border from Liberia into Bomaru in the Kailahun district in the Eastern province of the country. Apparently, the former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) claimed responsibility for the incursion and declared that their objective was to over throw the government of the All People Congress (APC) headed by late President Joseph Saidu Momoh.
During the rebel war, women and children were forcefully abducted and recruited into various warring factions.
Women and young girls were sexually abused and even forced as “bush wives”. There were also reports that the abducted victims were injected with psychotropic substances that made them commit barbaric acts against humanity.
According to the TRC findings, the amputations did not occur throughout the conflict but during notable periods following the 1996 elections, the expulsion of the AFRC from power and the January 1999 attacks on Freetown.
The report also indicates that RUF was responsible for the highest number of amputations during the war. “Operation stop elections” was conducted as a campaign of violence in 1996 by hacking off limbs of civilians in order to prevent them from voting. According to the findings, Tamba Amara, an adult farmer, had his limb amputated in a village in Bo Ngleya and several others.
However, since the war officially ended in 2002, much has not been achieved by the victims who are still visibly seen in the streets of Freetown begging for a living.
As a result of this impotency, a considerable number of them are now unemployed, others have become destitute and cannot have the basic necessities of life.
The African (Banjul) Charter on Human and People’s Rights adopted on 27th June, 1981 and which came into being on the 21st October, 1986 was effected as a result of Decision 115 (XVI) of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments at their Sixteenth Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia, from 17 to 20th July, 1979.
Article 16 of the Charter states that (1) every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.
(2) States parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick. Even though Sierra Leone is a signatory to this Charter, she has failed to practice this provision.
In fact, most of the amputees can’t afford a square meal a day much more to talk about health insurance. Where does the money come from to pay for the high medical fees charged by the doctors?
Article (18) of the Charter indicates that “the family shall be the natural unit and basic of society. It shall be protected by the state which shall take care of its physical health and moral.
In essence, there are women and children amputees whose family cannot afford them the opportunity to be educated due to economic difficulties. Most of them have instead resulted to doing odd jobs such as apprentices or bus conductors on lorry parks, or drug peddlers in the streets while others have become beggars and others endue with the times in schooling.
Article 17 of the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and People’s Rights clearly states that “every individual shall have right to education”. But most doubtful is how the much desired educational process can take place considering the high cost of the educational sector makes it a point that these people and their children cannot afford spending their entire lives on the streets begging whilst their perpetrators are engaged in meaningful development.
Therefore, the TRC recommendation mentioned about the reparations of the victims of the war. It may be recalled that through the support of the donor countries, the government established the DDR which successfully demobilized, disarmed and rehabilitated these wicked actors of the war theater.
Nevertheless, it is evident that the perpetrators are now basking in the realm of pleasantness whilst those who suffered immensely at the hands of their extremism and madness are now languishing.
The victims such as the amputees have been totally marginalized. Are they entitled to the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? However, it is imperative for the next coming government and the international community to look into the question of the reparations because the victims were human beings with very large families that needed compensation. As Article 22 of the Charter states that “All People shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom of identity, and the enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind”, it is the belief that the victims have a right to social development. They were not born amputated rather it’s a result of their predicament encounter with the war which caused them to suffer today.
The establishment of the TRC was an agreement between the SLPP government and the international community to ascertain what brought about the war and to create the necessary atmosphere for reconciliation. Also, the commission was mandated to put forward the necessary recommendations.
If the government succeeded in training and educating the perpetrators, why did they abandon the victims? This question definitely needs an answer. Therefore, the issue of reparation should not be kept under the carpet but to be addressed.

African Path