The conflict in Sierra Leone began in March 1991 when rebel fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched their first violent incursions from Liberia to overthrow the government. Led by Foday Sankoh, the RUF ousted President Joseph Momoh in 1992, which plunged the country into turmoil. Sierra Leone soon became entangled in the Liberian war, when Charles Taylor sought to exploit the internal chaos by supporting RUF fighters in exchange for mineral wealth, notably what came to be known as "blood diamonds" which partly funded the war in Liberia.
Since the end of civil conflict in 2001, Sierra Leone has been making efforts to rebuild the country with the support of the international community. The successful conduct of polls in the 2007 presidential elections, in which Ernest Bai Koroma won the presidency, and the local council elections in July 2008 were commended by the international community as a model electoral process in West Africa. However, there are still big challenges facing the majority of the population, including widespread poverty, food insecurity and high rates of unemployment, especially among the socially marginalized youth. Sporadic clashes between partisans of the ruling All People's Congress (APC) party and the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) are a reminder of the regional political rivalries that persist.
The PBC at Work
Sierra Leone was one of the first two countries to be selected for the PBC's consideration, following a request from the Security Council in June 2006. In its first country-secific meeting held on 12 October 2006, the PBC began to identify critical challenges that needed to be addressed in the country to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development, including youth employment and empowerment; anti-corruption efforts and good governance; strengthening of state institutions; and energy sector development.
Led by Amb. Frank Majoor of the Netherlands, the Sierra Leone Configuration worked with government authorities and the UN country team (UNIOSIL) over a 14-month period developing a Cooperation Framework for Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone.
The Framework comprises an analysis of priorities, challenges and risks for peacebuilding, in consistency with existing national strategies and frameworks:
- Youth employment and empowerment.
- Consolidation of democracy and good governance.
- Justice and security sector reform.
- Energy sector development.
- Sub-regional dimensions of peacebuilding.
And the cross-cutting issues:
- Gender equality.
- Human rights.
The Framework also identifies the constraints in the implementation of existing strategies and outlines mutual commitments of the PBC, government and the UN system; the roles and responsibilities of bilateral and multilateral partners and States in the West African region in support of the Framework; and a matrix for review of progress in the implementation of commitments.
On 19 Jun 2008, the Sierra Leone country-specific configuration had its first biannual review of the progress made and remaining challenges in the implementation of the Cooperation Framework.
The biannual review involves an analysis of trends and review of progress in the key priority areas identified in the Framework, as well as a review of mutual commitments of the government, the PBC, the UN system and other international partners. Conclusions and recommendations emerging from the biannual review seek to inform the continuing work of the PBC in the country. Read More about the Biannual Review.
Sierra Leone has been showcased as a "success story" for the PBC, as the intergovernmental body ponders its eventual disengagement with the country. At the High-Level Special Session for Sierra Leone in June 2009, the national authorities launched the President's "Agenda for Change," which sets out a robust national framework for existing and future strategies in national peacebuilding activities. The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) announced the launch of the Joint Vision of the UN Family, which brings together 17 different UN agencies in additional to UNIPSIL that are active in the country. The victory of Ernest Bai Koroma in the first non-UN supervised presidential elections in 2012 was considered a considerable step towards the autonomisation of the country.
The break out of the Ebola pandemic in 2014 strongly affected the country and put a dent in the peacebuilding efforts after having serious economic and social repercussions. The state of emergency was declared even as the country was exiting the Security Council agenda. The trust between civil society and the authorities remains fractured by te severity of the mesures that had to be taken in order to limit the propagation of the pandemic. Click here for graphs of the impact of Ebola in Sierra Leone and in West Africa.
The next presidential elections will be held in 2017; their success will determine whether the efforts of reconstruction in Sierra Leone have been sufficient or if the PBC will have to remain involved in the country's internal affairs.