The Sierra Leone Peace Accord - Peace Lacking Justice
Lonely, desperate and filled with wounds, Sierra Leone is cautiously reaching to wipe the pouring blood from her forehead. What has happened to this beautiful African nation is a repeated version of what has happened and is still happening to many African nations: agonizing civil war accompanied by poverty, corruption, and most of all, the world's apathy.
After 8 years of brutal civil war between rebels led by United Revolutionary Front (RUF) and the Sierra Leonean government, a peace treaty was finally signed on July 7 to bring an end to the most gruesome killing campaigns.
Yet, the peace treaty, which grants the rebels the chance to take part in a joint government, leaves the people of Sierra Leone outraged, for the criminals are rewarded for devastating the lives of thousands.
In the latest major offensive executed by the rebels in January, over 5,000 are believed to be killed, while entire neighborhoods were leveled to the ground. The blood bath was brought to a temporary close after the Nigerian-led regional Intervention Force was able to push the RUF rebels out of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown.
The official Sierra Leonean army is almost non-existent after years of vicious war. Instead, the West African Intervention Force, dominated by over 11,000 Nigerian troops has been playing the role of the Sierra Leone outgunned army.
The July peace agreement, rather than easing the people's fear, has provoked worries and ignited mistrust regarding the future of the country. But, even the government itself knows that the deal was anything but fair and that they had to accept its provisions, for they had no other way to stop the killings. The people however are not convinced.
The treaty speaks of a power-sharing government that includes both the RUF rebels and the President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, along with his government. When the West African Intervention Force finishes disarming the two parties, and the Nigerian troops complete their proposed withdraw, other provisions in the path of peace are counted upon to be carried out.
Until now however, the rebels are roaming the streets of Freetown, passing by massacre scenes which they barbarously committed, laughing and jeering, while their leaders are residing at the capital's fanciest hotels, briefing reporters on what they call, peace talks.
The RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, still refuses to return to the country, however for his safety is at risk, he claims.
If the thousands of crudely murdered Sierra Leoneans are unable to protest the government's compromise of their blood, then thousands of amputated children, and youth sold as sex slaves have no interest in forgiving after their incomprehensible losses.
The amputation campaign followed the 1996 presidential elections. The rebels then warned the people that anyone who votes will lose his arms and legs.
Thousands of innocents were dragged to the streets, forced to kneel while extending their arms on leveled benches, to receive the prescribed amputations. Atrocities were reported of mothers buying the lives of their young ones by being raped with flaming logs.
Now, many of the people residing in Freetown are amputated, hundreds have no ears, tongues, and nearly the entire population is distressed and traumatized. With no money to care for the amputated, and only two psychiatrists in the entire country to heal the emotional scars left by the war, the recovery process seems unfeasible.
The ghost of the civil war has not left the devastated city to come back and to haunt it again. Earlier this week, the Nigerian troop pullout was halted, for fear has grown that the withdrawal of the only reliable protector of Sierra Leone might be seized by the RUF, as a golden opportunity to resume its killings.
Predictions of internal conflict among the once allies rebel groups have been on the rise, following the kidnapping of two RUF commanders by an ousted military junta, Allied Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) earlier last week.
The kidnapping rebels are outraged, for the newly signed peace accord made no mention of them as a part of final peace arrangements. The second leader of the RUF, Mike Lamin and a RUF commander, Dennis Mingo, also known as Superman, who were ambushed Monday of last week, were set free on Sep 7, after the kidnappers received orders to do so by the junta leader, Johnny Paul. If the intensity of the rebels' conflict intensifies however, waves of violence are anticipated to once again sweep through the temporary peaceful capital and surrounding areas.
Peace and justice are two inseparable and interdependent concepts. Although the July 7th agreement between the rebels and the government is not expected to satisfy the minimum requirements of neither peace nor justice, the Sierra Leoneans have no other choice but to patiently wait. Whether the fighting will resume or the fragile peace will hold a bit longer, the people of the African nation have no interest in giving up hope.
Topics: Conflicts And War, Sierra Leone