Civil War in Sierra Leone
According to Paul Collier and Marguerite Duponchel (2010), Sierra Leone was at the lowest level of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) after the civil war came to an end. The aim of this paper is to draw attention on how this civil war was carried out, the efforts made to resolve the conflict as well as the effects the war brought on its economy and civilians. Therefore, section one of this paper will examine how the resources of Sierra Leone contributed to the civil war.
Section two will demonstrate the demographics of the parties involved in the war. Section three will focus on the repercussions that the civil war brought on Sierra Leone and the final section will show the efforts made to bring peace into Sierra Leone. II. Section one: How have Sierra Leone’s natural resources contributed to the war? Let’s begin with a background history of the political situations that mainly caused the civil war in Sierra Leone.
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In the years after the death of Sierra Leone’s first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai in 1964, the politics of the country was progressively distinguished by several negative factors, such as corruption and mismanagement, hat led to the weakening of the civil society resulting in the frustration of a large amount of the youth who engrossed themselves in the unruly message of the RUF. This was because of leaders, such as Albert Mergai, who used Sierra Leone for their own selfish interests rather than in the people’s interest.
Mergai, unlike his brother Milton Margai, used the country for his own personal gain by even using the military to curb multi-party elections which threatened to end his rule. When Siaka Stevens succeeded, there was continued destruction of state institutions. His rule was haracterized by corruption and pet projects financed by the treasury, which eventually became bankrupt, only benefiting those closest to him. After turning Sierra Leone into a one-party state, Stevens finally stepped down in 1985.
Major General Joseph Momoh received the position of Prime Minister and followed in the footsteps of Stevens by welcoming corruption resulting in complete economic disintegration. The fact that the leaders used the abundant resources of Sierra Leone for their own self-aggrandizement made the country one of the poorest countries in the world by the time the civil war took place in 1991. (Gberie, 1998) The Sierra Leone war began on March 23 d 1991, when the student-led RUF began its revolt against the Serra Leone government, which commenced in Liberia and spread to the border regions of Kailahun and PiJehun.
Several members of this insurgent group were Jobless dissatisfied young men who were motivated by Charles Taylor’s rebel National Patriotic Front invasion in Liberia. With the backing of Lybia and Charles Taylor, RUE’s goal was to remove from power the government of the All People’s Congress (APC) that was run by the presidencies of Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh which prolonged corruption, among other things. Humphreys and Weinstein, 2008) Several researches indicate that the presence of alluvial diamonds, found in regions such as Kono and Kenema, ushered in a civil war in many ways.
Firstly, during the presidency of Stevens, the highly uneven benefits of the diamond mining frustrated everyday Sierra Leoneans. Profits from the National Diamond Mining Corporation (DIMCO) only enriched Stevens, government members, and influential business people that were close with Stevens. Subsequently, the government lost direct control of the diamond mining areas when DeBeers, one of the world’s leading iamond companies, ceased doing business with the Sierra Leonean government in 1984. As a result, there was illegal smuggling and trading of Sierra Leone’s diamonds with the proceeds going into the private investor’s pockets.
Although the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) seized power in 1992, with the goal of diminishing corruption and restoring the revenues of the diamonds back to the state, the RUF acquired control of these abundant alluvial diamond areas to finance the purchase of weapons and ammunition obtained from countries like Liberia and Guinea. The imple availability of these diamonds was an incentive for violence. (Harsch, 2007) Although diamonds were a noteworthy commodity, other ways to fund the Sierra Leone Civil war were also present.
A mixture of iron, bauxite, coffee and cocoa were in abundance in the country. There was gold mining in some areas of Sierra Leone as well as cash crop farming which were even more common through forced labor. Along with the high demand of diamonds, several of these minerals financed the fghting in Sierra Leone with exports revenues as high as USD 25 million and USD 125 million a year. Sierra Leoneans who Joined the rebel group RUF also ransacked cars, livestock and money which helped them in gaining more energy and force. (LuJala, 2005) Ill.
Section two: The demographics of the parties involved in the war When the RUF was first founded by Foday Sankoh, it was popular among several Sierra Leoneans because of the resentment they felt towards the corrupt Freetown elites. It had a slogan that read “No More Slaves, No more Masters. Power and Wealth to the People” that pledged free education, health care and a fair sharing of the diamond proceeds to the people. It did not claim to fight for a particular ethnic group or district and did not support any Marxist, Socialist or Communist way of thinking.
Its only goal was to remove the corrupt government from power although they provided little insight on what kind of government would follow it. (Denov, 2010) However, as time passed, the RUF developed a reputation for being a massively brutal rebel group during its ten year war. Although there is no precise data to verify the number of children that were involved in the war, it has been found that the RUF were the first to recruit children as soldiers. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone ( over 1 000 children ot botn sexes were involved in the fighting in one way or another.
They were kidnapped in their villages and towns during attacks executed by the RUF. With their allies, the African Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), girls and boys were organized in separate units such as the Small Boys Units (SBUs) and Small Girl’s Unit (SGUs) which were commanded by several officers. The difference between how girls and boys were used is that, in addition to being used as fghters, girls were also sex slaves. Younger girls were primarily used or domestic labor, since they could not properly fight yet, and then became sex slaves as they grew older.
The brutality of the war had frozen their senses, which were also damaged by drug abuse. In order to stay alive, they had to frequently become merciless. Most of these children had to either amputate or kill their loved ones to show that they were loyal. (Denov, 2010) An additional feature of the mobilization of children against their will was the “re-enlistment” of children after the disarmament process took place in 1998. Several children were re-enlisted back into the armed groups. This especially concerned children who did not have families to go back to even before the war started.
Children who were let go from centers like the Interim Care Centre, which was a center created to help displaced children, had no other place to go after demobilization. They eventually got captured by the rebels and were forced to tell them if they had any brothers or sisters that ran away. cow, 2004) The Sierra Leone government also followed in enlisting children under Momoh’s rule. Momoh’s government encouraged chiefs and district leaders to arrange civilians into local unofficial groups to add soldiers into the Sierra Leone Army (SLA).
When Momoh fled to Guinea, the NPRC government of Valentine Strasser was mainly responsible for the highest recruitment of children into the army to boost the amount of soldiers they previously had. There was an illicit enlistment of children while the income and benefits of the deceased soldiers was stolen by senior officers for whom this war had become a money-making business. Cow, 2004) When the war was over, many children did not return to their existing families. This was mainly because some of them were abducted so young that they did not even have any recollection of their families.
Some were so afraid of being rejected by their families like others have been that they refused to go back home. Girls were especially afraid of rejection for being sex slaves to the rebels especially if they had babies from them. Rather than face shame, a number of these people ended up on the streets with significant health problems since most of them were addicted to the drugs that were initially forcibly administered by the rebels during the civil war. (Kamara, 2004) IV. Section three: Efforts made to stop the civil war In March 1995, a few years after the war started, a military group known as