WANEP Capacitates Traditional Leaders on Transitional Justice

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The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) on Tuesday 16th February 2021 ended a day’s training for 15 traditional leaders from Grafton and surrounding communities at the Negus Nagas Entertainment Complex, Grafton outside Freetown.

The project, funded by Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (ATJLF) and titled, ‘Join Han’ to supporting victims and community initiatives to access reparation and institutional reform and in the market place for justice and accountability as well as enhance cohesion in Sierra Leone, seeks to strengthen the use and application of alternative dispute resolution methods to enhance peace and local accountability at community level.

The project is for women not to waste time and money in court but to seek alternative redress mechanisms.

Giving an overview of the project, the National Coordinator of WANEP, Dr. Isata Mahoi articulated that the overall objective of the project is to enhance the capacity of victims of the civil war to engage the state in the implementation of a transparent and inclusive reparation program in the country and to ensure that the processes and procedures of traditional dispute resolution are complaint with basic human rights standards stressing that most of the laws in Sierra Leone are drafted by men and that traditional leaders represent the people and therefore the need for them to know and understand their roles and responsibilities need not be overstated.

Dr. Mahoi also highlighted the different types of conflicts-intra, inter and international.

She furthered that the project seeks to particularly contribute to establishing and expanding spaces for women, especially market women, to access gender-responsive needs in addition to ensuring that the processes and procedure of traditional dispute mechanism are complaint with basic human right standards using traditional dispute resolution systems through increased understanding and raising awareness by building the capacity of traditional leaders who are often caught up between being the perpetrator and the ones executing the laws as well as build on the capacity of war-affected and wounded victims to interact with the state and enable them participate in reparations programs.  

Mr. Bami J. Sesay, Assistant Director, Gender, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, recalled the history of the civil war, that women and children are most affected by wars and disasters, citing the war during which they were raped and suffered heinous crimes in addition to the Ebola and Corona pandemics.

According to Mr. Sesay, women must register their marriages with the Local Councils, dilated on the Devolution of Estate Act, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women, the Child Rights Act, the 3 Gender Justice Laws, the Gender Offences Act 2012, appealed to them to sensitize others on the knowledge gained at the training and revealed that the Ministry has opened a One Stop Shop in six districts in the country for victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence with plans to open more in other parts of the country as well as involve men in the campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence and that there is also a special court for such offences.

The ATJLF project is being implemented in the Western Area Rural and Koidu City, Kono District and aims to strengthen the capacity of women leaders (including market women) to effectively dispense justice through alternative dispute resolution in their communities, enhance the capacity of victims of the war to engage the state in the implementation of reparations and develop the capacity of traditional leaders to effectively work with their communities in addressing grievances and promoting social cohesion.

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Nineteen years after the official end of the civil war in Sierra Leone, its reparation program is in trouble. While the international community provided much of the support in the beginning, the program is now largely left to itself. The scale of suffering of the war victims has continued to escalate daily. Sierra Leone’s reparation program challenges those who pay attention to think about sustainability.

Government reluctantly agreed to implement the recommendations but failed to take any action for four years. It required pressure from the country’s largest survivor organization, the Amputee and War–Wounded Association for government to among others provide pensions, free housing and healthcare, educational benefits and much more for victims.

Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CRC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone were preferred transitional justice choices adopted to address the legacy of past human rights violations committed during the eleven years civil war. Two traditional justice tools emerged out of exhaustive nature of fighting between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). This subjected the belligerents to grab the most comprehensive available alternative option that set the stage for transitional justice mechanisms after serious cost-benefit analysis. The country adhered to proponents’ claims that accountability measures are needed for societies to move on from violent past to begin rebuilding sustainable peace and development.

Furthermore, the TRC identified the lack of public access to justice as both a cause of the decade-long civil war and a factor that helped sustain it. This explains that Sierra Leone’s complex and difficult political history is reflected in its present ineffective justice system and lack of respect for the rule of law. Likewise, nineteen years after the end of the civil war and the closure of the accountability mechanisms, wounds are still fresh in the minds of victims, facilities underprovided; capacities are low, while the country is still confronted with several justice sector challenges.

There is also an overwhelming perception and expectation of the local populace regarding the political evolution that has taken place after the implementation of some of the imperative recommendations of the TRC.

There are several indications to also affirm that claim that Sierra Leone is still not fully recovered from the legacy of the civil war. This also implies that the country is also marked by a largely unaddressed legacy of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The country remains profoundly affected by its past, as well as deeply divided along and across community lines with mutually exclusive understandings and interpretations of the past. It is thus in need of a comprehensive, inclusive, gender-sensitive, victim-centered and consultative process of transitional justice.

Participants expressed thanks and appreciation to the organizers for the sensitization and promised to do same to others who were unfortunate to attend the training while the question and answer session, group work and presentations climaxed the interactive training.

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