The Sierra Leone civil war took place from 1991-2002. The 2004 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Sierra Leone spoke of pre-conflict Sierra Leone as a "fragmented, exploited and deeply insecure country". The TRC found that the pre-conflict and conflict period reflected "a colossal failure of leadership at all levels of public life" (Vol. 2, ch. 2, par. 67). The state had collapsed and many grievances and unresolved disputes existed across the country.
With the official declaration of the end of the war in 2002, Sierra Leone has moved from a period of insecurity to a steady progress made towards achieving good governance and sustainable peace. In this context, three successful elections including Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections have been held and widely acclaimed as peaceful and credible, particularly, the 2007 democratic elections that saw a peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent to the opposition party. This was a highly significant achievement.
What remains a challenge is the sustained efforts and ownership of the peace consolidation process at the face of the withdrawal or scaling down process of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). This makes a point for the institutionalisation of a national infrastructure for peace to work with national and international actors to sustain the peace dividend.
After the Lome Peace Accord, a transitional ‘Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP)' was established which briefly helped to move the country from violent conflict to stability. This Commission was under resourced and as such could not stand the test of time. Beside the absence of the CCP, other institutions were set up to complement the efforts of the CCP such as National Commission for Democracy, the Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the National Electoral Commission, to name but a few. The PPRC facilitated negotiations between all political parties to built a relationship of trust. Negotiations led to a Code of Conduct. The PPRC established district code of conduct monitoring committees (DMCs) in all districts. These committees played a major role in ensuring the relatively peaceful nature of the elections in 2007 and 2008.
Another entry point is the effort of the UN to support and strengthen the peace consolidation process in the country. In this regard, the UN selected Sierra Leone as a client of the Peace Building Commission and the Peace Building Fund. This has led to national cohesion paving way for nation building, peace and reconciliation.
Similarly, the civil society organisations are presently complementing government efforts in peacebuilding and reconciliation as evidenced in pre-conditions of the Agenda for Change – Poverty Reduction Strategy II. Among these efforts are the WANEP-Sierra Leone Regional and District peace structures aimed at monitoring conflict and risk factors as well as generating information for policy advocacy on more inclusive and safer communities.
In addition, WANEP-Sierra Leone led advocacy sessions in the House of Parliament to raise the awareness and understanding on the need to create a Ministry/Commission of Peace in post-conflict Sierra Leone. To deepen consultations and participation, a Parliamentary-Civil Society Action Group comprising of 30 members (20 Parliamentarians and 10 civil society actors) has been established, focusing on coordination and policy advocacy on the formation of a national peace infrastructure.
Another effort the establishment of a functional District Human Rights Committees to monitor Human Rights abuses and violations as well as hold duty bearers accountable and rights holders to be responsible. However, what is important to note is that these structures are new and need to be capacitated.
Civil society organisations, as WANEP-Sierra Leone, Women's Forum and the Civil Society Peacebuilding Engagement Committee are interested in a national peace infrastructure with branches in all the regional and local levels to support and enhance their work.