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Thirty years after the civil war, Sierra Leone is still healing its wounds

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                Sierra Leone commemorates this Tuesday the 30th anniversary of the civil war that broke out on March 23, 1991. A painful date for this country which has seen 120,000 people disappear in a conflict triggered by the rebels of the RUF, the Revolutionary United Front.  Thirty years later, women, men and children, victims of clashes between armed factions and government forces, bear witness to this period and their shattered lives, difficult to rebuild.

                                    <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><em>With our special correspondent in Freetown,</em><strong>Christina Okello</strong></span></span></span></span></span></span></span>

In the village of Bomaru, in the east of the country, Vandy Gbosso Kallon, traditional chief, still remembers the day the war started. It was March 23, 1991. ” The rebels burned down all our houses, looted everything and tortured me. We have suffered a lot. It was only our faith that kept us going. »

Clashes between rebels of the Revolutionary United Front and government forces have led to the displacement of inhabitants and the recruitment of child soldiers, by the thousands.

Kumba Pessima, a bereaved mother, testifies. ” My two sons aged 7 and 17 were captured by the RUF rebels… Even today, I still haven’t heard from them. ».

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In town, where the war won the capital Freetown on January 6, 1999, Mohamed Sargo Saccoh, teacher, also tells of a separation. ” We were in the town of Bo when the war broke out. My mother had gone to Kono to visit my uncle, then the war caught up with her. She had to flee to Guinea on foot. She stayed there for ten years and recently returned. She found her youngest grown up son. »

These families, shattered by the conflict and who lost sight of each other, had to learn to live together again. A chance that nevertheless many did not have.

And while peace has returned since 2002, some Sierra Leoneans fear that the factors that provoked the conflict are still relevant.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission finished its report in 2004, it listed some of the causes of the war: corruption, injustice, lack of human rights in communities, poverty and a very low level. education, or even no education in some cases, but also the fact that there was no good distribution of natural resources. So I asked the women here, if, after the war, these causes had disappeared? They replied, “no, no, no,… in fact they came back”.

Patrick Fatomah, Residual Special Court Coordinator for Sierra Leone

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Preserve memory

The special court based in Freetown today aims to preserve the memory of the civil war. The first tribunal to be established at the very scene of the crimes is now partially transformed into a museum.

Images of mutilated bodies, statues of combatants, photos of broken peace agreements, line the walls and rooms of the former special court, now turned into a museum. « Right from the entrance to the Peace Museum, we wanted the public to know why this place exists Explains Patrick Fatomah, coordinator of the Special Residual Court for Sierra Leone.

« From 1991 to 2002, our nation suffered one of the most atrocious wars. A war that we have inflicted on ourselves. The Peace Museum is a place of memory, where we learn to participate and build a Sierra Leone where peace would be sustainable. »

A duty of remembrance hailed by civil society associations in a country where monuments are lacking. Sulaiman Jabati, of the organization of the coalition for justice and accountability, now wants to go further. ” The government is expected to establish March 23 as a national day of remembrance. March 23 is the day everything changed. »

The Peace Museum is trying to fill this gap. With support: the opening to the public of an archive room currently closed due to the health crisis. By the end of the year, a memorial garden will also be inaugurated in tribute to the victims.


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