This Executive Summary provides a cursory overview of the Report and
its principal areas of analysis, as listed in paragraph 5, below.
Substantive detail is contained in the chapters that follow. It is
particularly important to read the Executive Summary in conjunction
with the Findings and the Recommendations. The Commission hopes those
who read the Executive Summary will take the time also to read the rest
of the Report. Only by so doing can a comprehensive understanding be
obtained of one of the terrible human tragedies that unfolded in the
last decade of the twentieth century.

1. On 23 March 1991, armed conflict broke out in Sierra Leone – a
tiny country on the coast of West Africa made up of just 4.5 million
people – when forces crossed the border from Liberia into the town of
Bomaru near the eastern frontier. An organization styling itself the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took credit for the incursion with the
declared objective being to overthrow the corrupt and tyrannical
government of Joseph Saidu Momoh and the All People’s Congress (APC)
which had ruled Sierra Leone since 1968.

2. The events that day were little more than a skirmish, but they
heralded the beginning of a decade of violence that devastated the
country. As the civil conflict exploded into appalling brutality
unleashed upon civilians, the world recoiled in horror as stories of
the tactics used by the RUF, its allies and opponents emerged – stories
of indiscriminate amputations, abductions of women and children,
recruitment of children as combatants, rape, sexual slavery,
cannibalism, gratuitous killings, and wanton destruction of villages
and towns. This was a war measured not so much in battles and
confrontations between combatants but essentially in attacks upon
civilian populations. Its awesome climax was the destruction of much
of Freetown in January 1999.

3. The war finally shuddered to a negotiated conclusion, reached
at Lom�, the capital of neighbouring Togo, in July 1999. Although the
fighting did not end entirely with the Lom� Peace Agreement, it began a
process that brought a fragile peace to the country. The subsequent
presence of a robust United Nations peacekeeping force, the United
Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), did much to ensure conflict
would not be renewed and the components of a lasting peace, notably
disarmament and demobilisation, would be effected.

4. Article XXVI of the Lom� Peace Agreement mandated the
establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The remit of
the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC or
Commission) is set out in several provisions of the enabling
legislation, adopted in 2000 by the Parliament of Sierra Leone.
According to section 6.1 of the Act:

[T]he object for which the Commission is established is to create an
impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights
and international humanitarian law related to the armed conflict in
Sierra Leone, from the beginning of the Conflict in 1991 to the signing
of the Lom� Peace Agreement; to address impunity, to respond to the
needs of the victims, to promote healing and reconciliation and to
prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered.

5. In response to its mandate and in order to create an impartial
and historical record, the Commission examined various aspects of the

? the historical antecedents and other preceding events;
? its causes, with a particular focus on issues of governance;
? the conflict itself, including military and political events,
its nature, the role of external actors, and circumstances that fuelled
it, such as mineral resources;
? its impact on various groups, particularly on women, children,
and youths;
? the relationship between the TRC and the Special Court for
Sierra Leone; and,
? the efforts made to help Sierra Leone reconcile with its past,
including the proposed reparations programme and the National Vision
for Sierra Leone.

6. In drawing its conclusions and preparing its Report, the
Commission took into account the testimony provided by victims,
witnesses, and perpetrators at its hearings and during an initial
statement-taking phase; the investigation and research conducted by the
Commission’s staff; and, the statistical analysis deriving from the
Commission’s database of violations committed during the conflict in
Sierra Leone.


7. How did a peace-loving nation become engulfed, seemingly
overnight, in horror? What are the underlying events that occurred in
the history of this country, which made this conflict possible?
Responses have varied from ?bad governance’, ?the history of the post-
colonial period in Sierra Leone’ to the roles of ?Liberia and its
former president Charles Taylor1′ and ?Libya’. The international
community initially dismissed the war as just another example of tribal
conflict in Africa, another failed state imploding in the context of
environmental degradation and acute economic crisis2.

8. Fulfilling the terms of its mandate to ??compile a clear
picture of the past” (Section 1 of the Lom� Peace Agreement, as
explained in the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons for the Act)
required the Commission to go beyond the temporal jurisdiction set out
in the Act (?the beginning of the conflict’ – 23rd March 1991 – to ?the
signing of the Lom� Peace Agreement’ – 7 July 1999). A meaningful
understanding of the conflict required an analysis of the historical
antecedents of the war, most notably the structural conditions that
laid its foundations, as well as placing the conflict within its
historical context.

9. Accordingly, the Commission examined the history of the country
from the colonial period through to the outbreak of hostilities. It
identified fault lines and other key moments which offer an explanation
for what happened and which can be regarded as warning signs or missed
opportunities. Had the political elite of the country responded to
them responsibly, the trajectory of Sierra Leone’s history might have
been radically different.

10. Central to this examination was the nature and extent of the
social and political interaction among the various groups that make up
Sierra Leone, which shaped perceptions amongst them. These perceptions,
in turn, provided the biggest challenge to the concept of nationhood
and citizenship. They undermined a sense of national identity needed
to build a nation out of disparate groups that came together to fight

11. The Commission identified four periods in the formation of the
Sierra Leonean state crucial to understanding the conflict and certain
challenges facing Sierra Leone today:

? The Colony and the Protectorate. The Colonial government was
responsible for creating two nations (one in the Protectorate and
another in the Colony) in the same land and developing them separately
and unequally as well as two legal systems that persist today (it
formalized the common law yet neglected the development of customary
law). The impact of these and other policies and practices (including
those relating to issues of citizenship, ownership of land, land tenure
rights and conflict of laws) were far reaching and affected access to
education, social, political and economic development. Their impact
bred deep ethnic and regional resentment and destabilized the
traditional system of Chieftaincy.
? The Era of Party Politics. Party politics provided the
greatest challenge to national cohesion and identity. With hindsight,
the euphoria and apparent perceptions of unity in the decade preceding
the post-colonial period appear to have been artificial. When stresses
tore at the fabric of the nation in the post-colonial years, the ruling
elite demonstrated that it was still hostage to ethnic sentiments and
other vested interests entrenched during this period.
? The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The 1962 elections
were characterized by ethnic and regional differences which impacted
upon the judiciary and the military as well as upon other institutions
of government. The first post-colonial government, that of the SLPP,
polarised public opinion in the country and laid the foundation for
military involvement in politics. This had terrible but foreseeable
consequences on the unity of the young state and served to deepen
existing cleavages.

? The 1967 Elections. These elections, marked by ethnic politics
and used by the political elite to sustain its privileges, were a
turning point in the political fortunes of the country and ultimately
led to the destruction of the multi-party system established in 1961.
The crisis in Sierra Leonean politics deepened when a standoff
developed between the SLPP and the All Peoples Congress (APC). This was
followed by a military coup which served to narrow the political space,
compelling some sections of the public to begin exploring alternatives
to power other than through free and fair elections, and set the scene
for the coups that were to follow.

12. Against this background of emerging and ever-exacerbating
ethnic and class tensions, the Commission examined the period in power
of the All Peoples Congress (APC). Its stifling of a nascent
democratic culture and the consequent economic decay and political
fragmentation made the onset of war in 1991 inevitable. The APC’s
corruption, nepotism and the plunder of state assets became standard
government practice operating, as did the system of power, through
patronage and exclusionary politics. These practices were replicated at
regional and local levels. Chieftaincies, created by the colonial
government and politicised by successive post-colonial governments,
became an increasing source of local resentment.

13. Sadly, neither the SLPP nor the APC made genuine efforts to
deal with the systemic failure and dysfunction in the politics and
economy of the country. While they claimed to be ideologically
different, in reality the politics of the two parties was all about
power and the benefits it conferred. Tragically these characteristics
persist today in Sierra Leone.

14. All in all, it became difficult for Sierra Leoneans to
distinguish the differences between the political parties. While the
government changed hands from one political party to another, many of
the faces remained the same. The popular adage about government in
Sierra Leone was that Sierra Leoneans board ?a different bus, but with
the same driver.’ Ordinary people in Sierra Leone lost faith in
government and the political process. The deep sense of despair about
the political elites led to a massive brain drain from Sierra Leone
which deepened the political and economic crisis even further.


15. It has been argued by both national and international observers
that the civil war in Sierra Leone was largely the result of
dysfunctional governance and institutional processes in the country.
Political actors failed to sustain the state’s capacity to meet such
critical challenges as the security, livelihood and participation in
decision making of the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans. The
Commission shares the view that the failure of governance provided a
context conducive for the interplay of poverty, marginalisation, greed
and grievance that caused and sustained the civil war. The Commission
hopes its examination of issues of governance – by identifying past
distortions in governance, evaluating the sufficiency or adequacy of
current remedies, and making recommendations to fill the gaps – will
enhance efforts towards national recovery, stability, and

16. Proper governance include laws, institutions, due process and
humane practices that lead to such desired ends as security, justice,
enhanced livelihoods, and participation. The perception of citizens
adduced during the Commission’s hearings show Sierra Leoneans yearn for
a system of governance that upholds the rule of law over the rule of
strong patrons; one that protects the people from the abuse of rulers
through a system of checks and balances made possible by the effective
operation of such institutions of horizontal and vertical
accountability as the judiciary, the auditor general’s office, the
electoral commission, the media and civil society.

17. The Commission’s analysis looked at the post-colonial
governments’ records on separation of powers, decentralization,
political participation, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law
and the existence and effective operation of oversight bodies and
institutions of horizontal and vertical accountability. It analysed
approximations or deviations from good governance at two levels.
First, the Commission reviewed fundamental country documents (such as
the Constitution, laws and regulations) to assess whether they
guaranteed ?indicators’ of proper governance, such as separation of
powers, decentralization, and political processes. Second, it assessed
these indicators in the actual operations of government institutions.

18. The Commission concluded that all the post-colonial regimes
contributed in creating the structural and proximate contexts that led
to the conflict in 1991. The duality of the country’s administrative
and judicial structures created manipulative possibilities utilized by
the various regimes of Sir Milton Margai, Sir Albert Margai, and Dr
Siaka Stevens. The provincial areas were the first to fall victim to
practices that undermined the rule of law and participatory governance.
For instance, institutions and other processes in the provinces were
manipulated to entrench the authority of the traditional elites
(chiefs) allied to the party in power and to stall opposition
activities. The continual assault on the rule of law weakened the
capacities of state institutions to perform: the judiciary could not
deliver justice, Parliament could not ensure accountability, the civil
service could not deliver services, and the army and police became
vectors of violence against the people they were established to
protect. Non-state bodies that ensure accountability – the media and
civil society – were undermined. Opposition political parties were
suppressed and then banned by the One Party Constitution of 1978.

19. Against this backdrop, Sierra Leoneans became increasingly
convinced that the structures of governance could only be changed
through violence. Although President Momoh’s regime tried to decelerate
the decline through the promulgation of the economic state of emergency
and a multi-party constitution, the measures were dictatorially managed
and abused. The measures were ?too little, too late’ and failed to
arrest the economic and political decline or to avert the armed
conflict that began in 1991.

20. Today, proper governance still remains an urgent challenge in
Sierra Leone. Corruption remains rampart and there is still no culture
of tolerance in political discourse. Many ex combatants testified that
the conditions giving rise to the conflict persist in the country and,
if given the opportunity, they would fight again. Yet, distressingly,
the Commission did not perceive any sense of urgency among public
officials to respond to the myriad challenges facing the country.
Indeed, the perception within civil society and the donor community is
that all efforts at designing and implementing meaningful intervention
programmes such as the National Recovery Strategy, the Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper or the Vision 2025 programme are donor
driven. This is lamentable.

21. Government must be accountable and the institutions that
monitor and oversee government activity need to be strengthened and
capacitated. The Government needs to promote a culture of tolerance to
encourage Sierra Leoneans that indeed the war is behind them and the
country is laying the building blocks for a strong democratic order.
The executive needs to demonstrate ownership, leadership and
determination in developing and implementing goals, indicators and
effective programmatic interventions. Only then will the boundless
energies of Sierra Leoneans be released for economic and social
transformation and Sierra Leone freed from the tragedy unleashed in
March 1991.


22. The Commission recounts the story of the decade-long conflict
by charting key events and dynamics in the military and political
spheres. A description of the factors that led to the outbreak of
hostilities is followed by a detailed accounting of the conflict
itself, divided into three distinct ?phases’: Phase I
(Conventional ?Target’ Warfare: 1991-93), covering the conventional
warfare period of the conflict; Phase II (?Guerrilla’ Warfare: 1994-
97), reviewing the guerrilla warfare period until the 25 May 1997 coup;
and, Phase III (Power Struggles and Peace Efforts: 1997-2000),
describing the alliance between the AFRC and the RUF, the peace
agreements, the resumption on hostilities and the final end of the
conflict. Although each ?phase’ had a slightly different character,
each shared one devastating characteristic: gross violations of human
rights and international humanitarian law by all warring factions.

23. In the pre-conflict stage, the innumerable failings in
governance caused Sierra Leonean activists to seek alternative outlets
for expression of their dissent and dissatisfaction with the one-party
system. In the late 1980s, a small group of would-be revolutionaries
formed a nascent programme for change, which included the idea of
undertaking ?self-defence’ training in Libya. The
original ?revolutionary’ programme never materialised in the form it
was intended to take. It was supplanted by a deviant, militant agenda
spearheaded by Foday Sankoh, who elicited support from foreign
contacts, notably Charles Taylor, and conceived a plan to organise and
lead an armed insurgency into Sierra Leone. Sankoh assembled and
trained in Liberia a force comprising 385 commandos, who became the
vanguards of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor authorised
nearly 2,000 of his own men from the National Patriotic Front of
Liberia (NPFL) to become ?Special Forces’ and operate jointly with the
RUF in Sierra Leone. Shortly after dawn on 23 March 1991, a band of
fighters from Taylor’s NPFL attacked the town of Bomaru, Kailahun
District. It sparked a conflict that was unprecedented in its
intensity, nature and characteristics.

24. Phases I and II outlines the role of the Sierra Leone Army
(SLA) and the APC Government’s failure to properly supply it at the
outset of the conflict; the April 1992 coup establishing the National
Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC); the tactics of the various actors
(including the trademark RUF ?false flag’ attacks in which they were
dressed in full SLA military uniforms); the breakdown in trust between
the civilian population and the SLA; the ?Palace Coup’ and the role of
Julius Maada Bio in securing the transition from NPRC military rule to
democratic elections in 1996; the new Sierra Leone People’s Party
(SLPP) Government headed by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah; the cease-
fire, the Abidjan Peace Talks in 1996 and the miscalculations made
therein; the SLPP Government endorsement of the Civil Defence Forces
(CDF) as an arm of the state security apparatus; as well as the role in
the CDF of the Kamajors (militiamen of the Mende tribe from the South
and East of the country) and the impact of their psychological and
physical torturous initiation ceremonies.

25. Phase III reviews the May 1997 coup and the appointment as Head
of State of Major Johnny Paul Koroma; the large-scale shift in
allegiance away from the SLA towards a ?new’ fighting force known as
the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC); the military and
political alliance between the AFRC and the RUF resulting in
the ?People’s Army’ with its brutal and systematic violations of human
rights; the efforts of President Kabbah’s War Council in Exile in
Guinea to mobilise a military force led by Deputy Minister of Defence
Chief Samuel Hinga Norman to oppose the AFRC military junta; the
February 1998 forceful intervention to restore the exiled SLPP
Government led by West African ?peacekeeping’ troops under the banner
of ECOMOG; the four-year State of Public Emergency declared by the
reinstated SLPP government and the illegal acts carried out by private
and public actors on the premise of pursuing ?justice’; the impact on
the ongoing conflict of the execution of the 24 SLA soldiers in
contravention of international human rights standards; the January 1999
devastation of Freetown by the AFRC-led attackers; and the Lom� Peace
Agreement of 7 July 1999, which was cast as a military (the disarmament
of combatants) and political solution (the implementation of a
political power-sharing arrangement) to the conflict; the AFRC’s
perceived marginalisation resulting from its inadequate representation
at the Lom� talks; the failure of all parties to the Lom� Peace
Agreement to fully comply with its terms; and, the particular role of
the RUF combatant cadre in breaching the cease-fire, their outward
contempt for the ethos of the peace process and their unjustifiable
hostage taking of several hundred UNAMSIL peacekeepers.

26. Phase III and the chapter on military and political history
closes with a description of the decisive enforcement actions by the
state security apparatus against the RUF in May 2000 through the so-
called ?Peace Task Force’, a force of armed vigilantes tasked to raid,
arrest and detain members of the RUF. As part of its analysis, the
Commission notes that many of those arrested in May 2000 remain in
detention today. In the Commission’s view, this ongoing detention is
tantamount to a continuation of the conflict itself, is corrosive to
the prospect of national reconciliation and is evidence of the
continuing struggle for justice in Sierra Leone.


27. In analysing the nature of the conflict, the Commission
examined various factors including: the violations themselves; their
characteristics and patterns; the victims of the conflict; evidence of
targeting; the profiles of the perpetrators; and, the general trends
underlying the conflict. The Commission examined sixteen specific
types or categories of violation, although the scope of analysis for
each of these was broad. For example, acts of rape were considered in
the context of abduction, sexual slavery, during attacks on villages,
and as part of encounters at checkpoints or in the bush.

28. Some violations were discussed separately (such as amputations
and forced displacement) while others were divided into three violation
categories: 1) violations perpetrated in the context of abduction and
outside abduction, 2) mistreatment violations and 3) economic
violations. The violations discussed include: amputation; forced
cannibalism; abduction; mistreatment violations (forced labour,
assault, physical torture, and rape); arbitrary detention; economic
violations (looting and extortion); forced displacement; killing; and,
cannibalism among others.

29. From the Commission’s review emerged the devastating impact of
the nature of the conflict. Most notably, it had a destructive impact
on families and communities, people’s belief systems and cultural
heritages. Faith and community meeting spaces and institutions were
destroyed and desecrated as people were forced to commit sacrilege
against religious and community symbols. Certain groups were targeted
(such as property owners, chiefs, figures of traditional authority,
representatives of government institutions, etc.) for revenge, economic
appropriation, and because of their ethnicity.

30. The link between the conflict and ethnicity lies in the use of
ethnicity by local leaders against perceived opponents or groups.
Because of their ethnicity, people of Northern origin were targeted in
the Southern and Eastern regions during the war. The Kamajors targeted
victims from such ethnic groups as the Temne, Koranko, Loko, Limba, and
Yalunka. There were other cases of targeting in the conflict as well,
such as the RUF targeting the Lebanese, Fullahs, Mandigos, Nigerians
and Marrakas.

31. Understanding the violations committed during the war requires
understanding those who perpetrated them. The Revolutionary United
Front (RUF) was behind the majority of violations and abuses committed
during the conflict. The RUF pioneered the concept of forced
recruitment in the conflict (including of child combatants) and bears
overwhelming responsibility for the widespread use of drugs by its

32. While most of the violations were attributed to the RUF, other
significant perpetrators include the AFRC and the CDF. They committed
violations that included amputations, abduction, forced labour,
assault, physical torture, and rape. The second highest perpetrator of
violations and abuses was the AFRC, most notably committing atrocities
on a massive scale in the Northern region and in Kailahun. The AFRC
also demonstrated a specialization in amputations in the period from
1998 to 1999.

33. Of the various groups that comprised the CDF, the Kamajors
received the most scrutiny by the Commission as they were responsible
for largest number of violations committed by the CDF after 1996.
Forced cannibalism is attributed only to the Kamajors. A defining
characteristic of the CDF is the initiation ceremony, described by many
witnesses before the Commission as entailing gross abuses and
violations of human rights.

34. Perhaps most notably, the Commission found certain
characteristics and tendencies spanned across all factions in the
conflict. There existed an astonishing factional fluidity among the
different militias and armed groups. Overtly and covertly, gradually
and suddenly, fighters switched sides or established new units on a
scale unprecedented in any other conflict. Another common feature was
the almost identical composition of the ground forces: impressionable,
disgruntled young men eager for an opportunity to assert themselves,
either to ensure that no harm was done to their own people, to fight
against perceived injustice, or for personal and group aggrandizement.


35. The management of state resources is central to the quality of
governance in any country. This is particularly the case in Sierra
Leone. Despite its huge mineral resources (primarily, extensive
alluvial and kimberlite diamond deposits, bauxite, rutile, iron and
gold), Sierra Leone has remained one of the poorest countries in the
world. Because Sierra Leone’s economy depends essentially on revenues
from its mineral resources, it was important to examine how the mineral
resources were used by successive governments, how they may have
contributed to the war and the extent to which combat groups exploited
mineral resources to sustain and replenish their activities.

36. There is a widely held belief in the Western World that the
conflict in Sierra Leone was initiated and perpetuated because of
diamonds, the country’s most important mineral resource. According to
this version, the RUF (backed by Charles Taylor and the NPFL) initiated
an armed rebellion in Sierra Leone to gain control of the diamond
resources. In the years following the initial attack, the proceeds
from the diamond trade enabled the RUF to finance its war effort
through the purchase of weapons abroad.

37. In the Commission’s view, this version of the conflict is
simplistic. It fails to capture numerous complexities, the reasons for
the failure of the state in Sierra Leone, and the role minerals played
prior to and during the conflict. It also does not reflect what
unfolded on the ground in Sierra Leone. There were many causes of the
conflict and reasons for the involvement of Liberian and other foreign
actors. Although it is true the RUF partly financed its war effort
through diamond trafficking, diamonds did not represent significant
revenues for the movement before 1997.

38. Simply put, diamonds were both indirect causes of the war in
Sierra Leone and fuelling elements. As indirect causes, the
misapplication of the diamond resources in a country with a single-
product economy (diamonds) created huge disparities in the socio-
economic conditions of people. While the elite and their business
cohorts in the diamond industry lived in grandeur and affluence, poor
people in the communities rued how the collective common wealth had
been appropriated by a few in the name of the many.

39. From the outset of the post-colonial period, the state and its
resources were for the plunder and aggrandisement of those in power,
without any form of real development or accountability. Political
power became a means to economic wealth and the predatory accumulation
of the political elite led to the appropriation of state offices and
resources for personal gain. This led to their functional contraction
as they could no longer provide services to the people. In no time,
questions began to be asked by the people as to the role and mission of
the new political elite.

40. Successive post-colonial governments of Sierra Leone mismanaged
the diamond industry and placed its effective control in the hands of
outsiders in a way that has not benefited the Sierra Leone economy. An
entrenched culture of diamond smuggling by key members of the political
elite exists, as do appalling labour conditions in mining operations
with children today still being used as miners.

41. In the conflict, diamonds were highly coveted because they
yielded tremendous revenues, which enabled armed factions to procure
arms and ammunition. Possession of arms conferred power as the parties
could control large areas of the country, which could be further
exploited for economic purposes. The desire to capture more territory
for exploitation subsequently became the motivating factor for the
armed groups and some of the local commanders, thus triggering further
conflict in those parts of the country, and fuelling conflict in areas
already engulfed by it.

42. The international diamond industry was largely indifferent to
the origin of ?conflict diamonds’, even when reports of atrocities
relating to the conflict in Sierra Leone were widely disseminated in
the global media. This indifference promoted the trade in illicit
conflict diamonds and thereby encouraged the prolongation of the

43. Although the government of Sierra Leone has recently made
progress at tackling diamond smuggling, largely due to the introduction
of the new international Kimberley Certification Process (KCP),
smuggling is far from eradicated. The KPC has two major weaknesses:
there is no global monitoring of each country member’s own
certification system and countries with no diamond resources have been
accepted as members.


44. Although the armed conflict was not a war imposed from outside,
it did receive substantial support from external actors. There were
essentially two main parties to the conflict in Sierra Leone, the
government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). All the factions
that took part in the conflict were affiliated to one of these two
entities, each of which received external support during the course of
the war.

45. External support to either the government or to the RUF came
from countries, non-state actors such as private security groups,
regional organizations, and international organizations. Countries
that provided external support included Libya, Liberia, Guinea, Burkina
Faso, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United Kingdom. Mercenary groups
involved in the conflict included private security forces, such as the
Ghurkas Security Group, Sandline, and Executive Outcomes. ULIMO
(United Liberation Movement), a group of Liberians living in refugee
camps and in other parts of Sierra Leone who were organized into a
fighting force to fight alongside the government, was also involved.
There were various international organizations lending humanitarian and
other assistance throughout the war, including the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) whose actions were not without
controversy. Finally, international organizations also intervened in
the conflict, primarily ECOWAS and the United Nations.

46. The involvement of the United Nations can be traced back to
1994, when it sent an exploratory mission to Sierra Leone in December
1994. However, the presence of a UN Special Envoy in Sierra Leone did
not stop the RUF’s terror campaign. In July 1998, the UN Security
Council established the UN Observer Mission to Sierra Leone to monitor
the security situation and to advise on the disarmament and
demobilization of former combatants. The Mission never achieved full
strength and is remembered more for its lack of impact. On 22 October
1999, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of the UN
Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) whose robust mandate contributed
significantly to the return of peace following the Lom� Peace


47. Women and girls became the targets in the brutal conflict in
Sierra Leone. They suffered abductions and exploitation at the hands
of their perpetrators. Their vulnerability was deliberately exploited
in order to dehumanise them. Women and girls were raped, forced into
sexual slavery and endured other acts of sexual violence, including
mutilations, torture and a host of other cruel and inhumane acts. They
were taken from their homes and villages by force. Refusal often met
with death. For those fortunate enough to escape, displacement followed
either in exile or camps inside or outside the country. They were not
safe even in these camps as humanitarian workers meant to protect them
also violated their rights. Women and girls were compelled to barter
their bodies in order to survive and access aid to which they were
rightfully entitled. Girls as young as 12 were forced to pay for aid
with sex in order to gain assistance for their families.

48. The Commission was enjoined by statute to give special
attention to the needs of women and girls particularly in regard to
sexual violence. Why was so much violence perpetrated against women?
Did the origins lie in the cultural and traditional history of Sierra
Leone? Did the fact that women enjoyed such a lowly status in the
socio-political life make them easy targets? Is it because men
perceived women to be mere chattels symbolizing their honour that made
them the deliberate target of an enemy determined to destroy the honour
of the other?

49. In seeking answers, the Commission reviewed the role of women
in the armed conflict, recognizing that women often took on the role of
perpetrator and/ or collaborator usually out of conviction and/ or the
need to survive. It also assessed the impact of the conflict on women,
notions of honour and the breakdown of the traditional extended African
family structures and social fabric; the extent to which women’s issues
were addressed by disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
efforts; their access to education and the impact of the practice of
early and forced marriages on the education of girls; and, areas in
which women suffer discrimination (both under common and customary
laws), including marriage, divorce, inheritance, property rights,
domestic violence and political participation. Overall, it captures
the gendered experiences of women and girls at a political, legal,
health and social welfare level. The significant role women played in
peacemaking was noted as well as the fact they are beginning to play a
bigger role in the public life of Sierra Leone.

50. The main armed groups accused of perpetrating sexual violence
against women and girls during the conflict were the Revolutionary
United Front (RUF), the Civil Defense Forces (CDF), the Armed Forces
Ruling Council (AFRC), the Westside boys and the Sierra Leone Army

51. While peace has returned to Sierra Leone, many of the wounds
still remain open. Women and girls bear the scars of their horrible
experiences. Many have borne children as a result of rape and sexual
slavery. These women are shunned and punished by society for giving
birth to children of ?rebels’.

52. The Commission believes that it is only when the legal and
social political system treats women as equals with men, giving them
full access to economic opportunities so as to enable them to
participate freely in both public and private life that they will
realize their full potential. Developing accountability mechanisms for
those who perpetrate gender crimes is a necessary part of this
evolution in order to ensure that women are not dehumanised. The
Commission is of the view that an opportunity exists in the post-
conflict period to address the plight of women and girls and to give
effect to the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All
forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and of the Protocol to
the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women
in Africa in order to improve the quality of life for women and


53. Like women, children were violated by all of the armed factions
involved in the Sierra Leonean conflict. They suffered abductions,
forced recruitment, sexual slavery and rape, amputations, mutilations,
displacement, drugging and torture. Children were also forced to
become perpetrators and were compelled to violate the rights of
others. Thousands of children were killed during the conflict in
Sierra Leone. In addition, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and
Children Affairs (MSWGCA) has estimated that more than 15,000 children
suffered separation from their families and communities during the ten-
year war. This resulted in them becoming refugees in countries such as
Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Many became
internally displaced persons within the country. Many children were
used as soldiers and forced labour by the armed groups. Although the
RUF was the first to abduct and forcibly recruit children as soldiers
and forced labour, all the armed factions recruited children and
deployed them to such ends.

54. The Lom� Peace Agreement provides that the government of Sierra
Leone shall accord particular attention to the issues of child soldiers
and that the special needs of children should be addressed in the
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. In addition,
the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act directed the Commission to
give special attention to the experiences of children in the armed

55. The Commission examined the experiences of children prior to
the conflict in the economic, social and political spheres. It dealt
with issues of education, health, law, tradition and customs and how
they impact on the rights of children. It also examined the impact of
the armed conflict on children and their experiences at the hands of
different armed groups. The status of children following the conflict
was considered together with measures taken by state and non-state
actors in responding to their needs.

56. While the full impact of the conflict has yet to be measured,
children have been affected at all levels of their development, in
particular their education and health. During the conflict, children
in Sierra Leone were denied their childhood. A major area of concern is
the child-headed household, a direct result of children having lost
parents or guardians in the war. The breakdown in family and community
structures and the loss of social values have affected children
materially and psychosocially and their effects are far reaching. A
number of ex-combatant children are still bearing the brunt of their
forced participation in the war as their families and communities have
rejected them because of their former armed affiliations. Girls
particularly have experienced both derision and rejection because they
were forced to become ?bush wives’ or sexual slaves.

57. The Commission has found that the abduction of children and
their forcible recruitment as child soldiers constitutes a grave
violation of international law for which the leadership must be held
accountable. In addition, The Commission is of the view that the Child
Rights Bill needs to be passed into law as a matter of urgency.


58. Forty-five percent of Sierra Leone’s 4.5 million estimated
population in 2002 are youths, falling within the age bracket of 18-35
years. Members of this age group were major perpetrators and victims
of abuses and violations during the civil war. The Commission examined
the nature, causes, and extent of the abuses and violations perpetrated
and/or suffered by youths; the impact of these violations on them; and,
the current interventions geared towards addressing the youth question
in Sierra Leone.

59. During the years of the APC dictatorship, youths constituted
the only viable opposition to the government. The 1980s saw an
emergence of radical groups and study clubs on university campuses that
carried out demonstrations against the APC. Student demonstrations in
1984 and 1985 led to the dismissal of students who later sought asylum
in Ghana. There, contacts and ties were eventually developed with the
Revolutionary Council of Libya and the nascent movement geared towards
revolutionary warfare in Sierra Leone took root.

60. When the Pan African Movement (the coordinating body for the
youth resolved to change the government by revolutionary warfare)
became engulfed in internal ideological and strategic differences,
Foday Sankoh exploited the vacuum in the leadership of the
revolutionary project. While in Libya, Sankoh met Charles Taylor.
They struck a deal: Sankoh and his group would help Taylor liberate
Liberia after which he would be provided with a base to launch his
revolution in Sierra Leone.

61. Sierra Leonean youths were recruited (either by force or by
persuasion) from Liberia, Ivory Coast, and parts of Sierra Leone for
the rebellion in 1991. At the launch of the rebellion, the RUF was
essentially dominated by youths less educated and less ideologically
conscious than those who had in the mid 1980s toyed with the idea of an
armed struggle. Sunk in the abyss of unemployment and despair, the war
was a viable alternative to many youths; for others, it was not a
choice as they were forcibly abducted into the conflict. In both
cases, the rebellion was a marginalizing process as youths were
alienated from their communities when forced to commit atrocities
against their own people. The ten-year conflict further compounded
their problems and has had negative consequences on their overall
development, particular vis-�-vis educational opportunities. Simply
put, they lost their childhood and youth and many have become bereft of
stabilizing ties of emotional support through the loss of, or rejection
by, family.

62. In an effort to address the problems facing youth in Sierra
Leone, the Ministry of Youth and Sports was established in 2002. One
of the initiatives taken by the ministry is the publishing of the
Sierra Leone National Youth Policy, approved and launched by the
government in July 2003. The policy will be translated into projects,
which can be undertaken by NGOs and youth agencies. This initiative,
however, is constrained by a lack of financial resources and of well-
trained people experienced in working with youth.

63. Another programme to assist the youths of Sierra Leone is the
National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration
(NCDDR) Programme established in July 1998 to disarm and demobilize
combatants and to support their reintegration into society through the
learning of trade skills. Unfortunately, the poor state of the
country’s economy is hindering the translations of these skills into
livelihood sustaining ones. In addition, many ex combatants leave
these programmes inadequately trained.

TRC and the Special Court for Sierra Leone

64. The Commission worked alongside an international criminal
tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Special Court was
tasked with prosecuting those persons who bore the greatest
responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law
and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since
30 November 1996. The Special Court impacted upon the work of the
Commission. The simultaneous operation of the two bodies brought into
sharp focus their different roles, as well as the need for
harmonisation and an operational model designed to mitigate inherent
tensions and avoid potential pitfalls in future instances where both a
TRC and criminal court work in tandem.

65. Most truth commissions have operated as an alternative to
criminal prosecution. Given the pardon and amnesty provisions of the
Lom� Peace Agreement, the Sierra Leone TRC was proposed as a substitute
for criminal justice in order to establish accountability for the
atrocities that had been committed during the conflict. The creation of
the Special Court stemmed from President Kabbah’s request to the UN
Security Council to establish a special court to bring prosecutions
against members of the RUF, following the taking hostage of hundreds of
UN peacekeepers and the outbreak of violence in 2000.

66. The Special Court was created, however, by abandoning certain
amnesty provisions reached at Lom� due to breaches by certain elements
within the RUF of the Lom� Peace Agreement. In the Commission’s view,
the international community has signalled to combatants in future wars
that peace agreements containing amnesty clauses ought not to be
trusted and, in so doing, has undermined the legitimacy of such
national and regional peace initiatives.

67. Although the relationship between the Commission and the
Special Court was mostly cordial, tensions arose following the refusal
of the Special Court to permit the Commission to hold public hearings
with the detainees held in its custody. The President of the Appeals
Chamber denied the hearings because of their public character and
because it would appear to mete out justice by reaching findings of
fact, which was, according to Judge Robertson, the ?special duty’ of
the Special Court. The decision rejected the right of the detainees to
testify in an open and transparent manner before the TRC and denied the
right of the Sierra Leonean people to see the process of truth and
reconciliation done in relation to the detainees. The Commission
disagrees with Judge Robertson’s conclusion, and considers that it does
not sufficiently take into account the special role and contribution of
truth commissions in building accountability and in the search for
peace and reconciliation.

68. The operational difficulties that arose stem from the different
approaches to addressing impunity each mechanism represents and because
they also share many objectives: both seek truth about a conflict,
although in different forms; both attempt to assign responsibilities
for atrocities; both work with similar bodies of law; both are aimed at
establishing peace and preventing future conflict. Where there is no
harmonisation of objectives, a criminal justice body will have largely
punitive and retributive aims, whereas a truth and reconciliation body
will have largely restorative and healing objectives. Where the two
bodies operate simultaneously in an ad hoc fashion, conflict between
such objectives is likely and public confusion is inevitable.

69. Harmonisation of objectives means that the two transitional
institutions should not operate in a manner incompatible with the aims
and objectives of the other. It requires the development of a
framework which would allow the pursuit by both bodies of their
objectives in a manner that is respectful of the other’s mandate and
which ultimately leads to the same goals of achieving justice and

70. The Commission holds that the right to the truth is
inalienable. This right should be upheld in terms of national and
international law. It is the reaching of the wider truth through broad-
based participation that permits a nation to examine itself honestly
and to take effective measures to prevent a repetition of the past.


71. The Commission recognizes that the term reconciliation evolves
from a notion of restorative justice. A system based on restorative
justice focuses on restoring relations, as far as possible, between
victims and perpetrators and between perpetrators and the community to
which they belong. Helping to restore relations between these various
actors is a long-term process that entails a number of measures. These
measures include accountability, acknowledgment, truth-telling, and
reparations. To be effective, reconciliation must occur at the
national, community, and individual level.

72. National reconciliation begins with creating the conditions for
an immediate cessation of the armed conflict and the return of the
country to peace. Then, the state and other stakeholders must work
towards the prevention of new conflict, which is dependent on a number
of factors: the improvement of the socio-economic living conditions of
the people; good governance; strong and functional oversight
institutions; and the implementation of a reparations programme. The
Commission believes the leadership of Sierra Leone must make more of an
effort to promote reconciliation at the national level, particularly as
national reconciliation is a long-term project. The government must
commit itself to the process of reconciliation and it can do this by
ensuring that the recommendations made by the Commission are carried

73. Community reconciliation entails restoring relations between
the community and the perpetrator. It is fostered by understanding and
sharing experiences and by creating the conditions for community
acceptance of the wrong done. Like national reconciliation, community
reconciliation is a long-term project. The Commission noted some chiefs
have been discredited for perpetrating violations and many did not
appear before the Commission. In order for community reconciliation to
foster, it is essential that chiefs commit themselves to the process.

74. Individual reconciliation entails that the victim and
perpetrator meet. It is neither imperative for the victim to forgive
the perpetrator nor for the perpetrator to express remorse.

75. In attempting to restore relations between victims and
perpetrators as well as perpetrators with their communities, the
Commission is guided by the mandate of the TRC. The mandate calls upon
the Commission to base reconciliation activities on the country’s own
culture, tradition, and values. For this reason, religious and other
traditional leaders are to be used as much as possible in the process.
The TRC is also mandated to use existing structures as much as possible
so as not to reinvent the wheel. Recognizing the short life-span of
the Commission, provisions were made for the continuation of
reconciliation activities. District Reconciliation Committees were
established in partnership with the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra
Leone in order to continue the Commission’s long-term activities on

76. The Commission’s activities on reconciliation have been
varied. They include: sensitisation activities (targeted at specific
groups of victims and perpetrators so they partake in reconciliation
activities); reconciliation ceremonies (bringing together victims and
perpetrators and perpetrators with their communities); memorial
ceremonies (the naming of victims who died during the conflict and the
establishment of monuments and memorials where the hearing was held or
at the site of a mass grave); national activities (the National
Reconciliation March, with participants from the various political
parties, the police, army, and victim organizations); and, workshops
and consultations with civil society (with various stakeholders
discussing factors that help and impede reconciliation).


77. Section 15(2) of the TRC Act mandates the Commission to make
recommendations to help: 1) prevent the repetition of the violations or
abuses suffered; 2) respond to the needs of the victims; and to 3)
promote healing and reconciliation. To achieve these objectives, the
Commission recommended the implementation of a reparations programme
for Sierra Leone. The specific purpose of a reparations programme is
to provide redress to the victims of human rights violations and the
needs of the victims can be used to determine what benefits to accord
them in a programme.

78. Reparations are the primary responsibility of the government
and it must ensure the implementation of a reparations programme. It
is an accepted principle in international law that states may be held
liable for human rights violations either committed by them or their
agents. A violation of international human rights law or international
humanitarian law imposes on a state to afford adequate reparations.
The state may also be responsible in certain circumstances for
providing reparations for violations by non-state actors. In addition,
the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone mandates the provision of redress
for the violation of fundamental human rights.

79. In devising its recommendations on reparations, the Commission
considered the feasibility of implementing these recommendations based
on the state’s available resources. This determination proved
problematic given the inability to determine the potential universe of
victims eligible for specific benefits of this programme.

80. For a victim to be eligible for reparations, the Commission
determined that the event or injury had to have occurred between 23
March 1991 and 1 March 2002.

81. In determining the categories of beneficiaries for the
reparations programme, the Commission first considered those victims
who have become vulnerable after suffering human rights violations.
Subject to practical limitations relating to state resources, the
Commission recommends, the following list of victims be considered
beneficiaries of the reparations programme: amputees and other war
wounded, victims of sexual violence, children and war widows. Each
category should be carefully defined to specific circumstances and
conditions. For example, children beneficiaries should include those
who, as a result of the conflict, suffered physical injuries or
psychological harm, were abducted or forcibly conscripted, lost parents
as a consequence of a violation as described in the Report or were born
out of sexual violence and whose mother is single. In certain cases,
various categories of indirect beneficiaries should also benefit from
certain reparations measures, such as wives and children of the
eligible victims.

82. In determining what reparations should be accorded victims, the
Commission relied on the needs of the victims as expressed by them as
well as on extensive research and consultations with a large number of
international organisations and NGOs with relevant experience. The
Commission’s recommended measures deal with the needs of victims in the
following areas: health; housing; pensions; education; skills training
and micro-credit; community reparations; and symbolic reparations.

83. The Government of Sierra Leone should carry out symbolic
measures of reparations that include the entire universe of victims of
the conflict.

84. The Commission proposes that the reparations programme be co-
ordinated by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), which
would also serve as the implementing body for the programme and be
entrusted with governing the Special Fund for War Victims and ensuring
the decentralization of programmes in conjunction with different
ministries. The NaCSA should be assisted by an Advisory Committee.

85. The ability of reparations to foster reconciliation must not be
underscored. A reparations programme has the potential to assist those
victims whose lives have been most devastated to move beyond the
position they are currently in as a consequence of the conflict.
Providing victims with the assistance they urgently need also serves to
restore their dignity which, in turn, helps foster conditions necessary
for reconciliation.

National Vision for Sierra Leone

86. The Commission looked not only to the past but also to the
future in order to describe the future society that its recommendations
were designed to achieve. This strategy then required the Commission
to get a sense of the expectations, hopes and aspirations of the people
of Sierra Leone. Instituted by the Commission as a complementary
project to reconciliation, the National Vision for Sierra Leone
(National Vision) invited the public to supply individual ?visions’ for
a future ?roadmap’ for Sierra Leone.

87. The collection of ?visions’ began in September 2003 with a call
for contributions. During the following two months hundreds of
contributions poured in. Among the contributors were adults and
children of different backgrounds, religions and regions, artists and
laymen, amputees, ex-combatants and prisoners. The contributions
include written and recorded essays, slogans, plays and poems;
paintings, etchings and drawings; sculptures, wood carvings,
installations and even a sea-worthy boat. Common themes included
references to the country’s violent past, justice, peace, unity, and
love. The contributions form part of the national heritage of Sierra

88. The contributions were displayed in the National Vision Exhibit
launched in December 2003 and remained on display at the National
Museum in Freetown until May 2004. Over 400 people attended the launch
and many more have visited the Exhibit at the National Museum.

89. The National Vision has been praised and endorsed by the
Government, receiving a personal endorsement by President Kabbah who
also attended a nationally televised tour of the Exhibit. It has also
been endorsed and praised by others, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu
of South Africa.

90. Through the National Vision, Sierra Leoneans of all ages and
backgrounds have claimed their own citizenship space in the new Sierra
Leone and made their contributions to the country’s cultural and
national heritage. The National Vision for Sierra Leone uniquely and
effectively complements the Vision 2025. Vision 2025 is a government
policy document that outlines implementing strategies for the
development of Sierra Leone over the next 21 years. As the National
Vision for Sierra Leone serves as a non-partisan intergenerational
forum for dialogue, it raises awareness around the existence of such
dialogue, encourages individual Sierra Leoneans, especially the youth,
to participate in this dialogue. The National Vision has great
potential to serve as a vehicle for continuing popular input into
Vision 2025.

91. The Commission decided that the momentum generated by the
National Vision should be nurtured even after the closure of the
Commission. The Commission accordingly recommended that the National
Vision should become a permanent open, interactive civic space for all
stakeholders in Sierra Leone to engage in dialogue through artistic and
scholarly expression on political, moral and social issues of the past,
present and future.

92. The National Vision for Sierra Leone must remain true to the
founding principles underlying the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission. As such all future National Vision activities must serve
the preservation of peace, strive for unity and promote healing and
reconciliation. In order to achieve these objectives the National
Vision must remain independent and non-partisan.

93. The National Vision has emphasized the significance of each
individual contributor to Sierra Leone. The work of building a new and
better Sierra Leone belongs to every stakeholder in Sierra Leone. The
individuals who have lent their hopes and dreams for Sierra Leone are
vehicles for change.


94. Building a lasting peace in Sierra Leone can only begin with a
comprehensive understanding of the country’s past and the many lessons
it holds for forging a politically and economically healthy Sierra
Leone. The Commission hopes the adage ?history repeats itself’ will
never be able to be said in relation to Sierra Leone’s decade-long
tragedy unleashed in March 1991. In closing, therefore, the Commission
reiterates its call to readers to take the time to read and widely
discuss with others as many of the other volumes and chapters of the
Report as possible.

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