Sierra Leone - The State of Security and Governance

02 Sep 2003

46pages PDF

There was euphoria in Sierra Leone in 2002 as the country finally emerged from eleven years of war and entered a period of democratic transition and better governance. Since the successful elections on 14 May of that year, however, the donor community and the people of Sierra Leone have grown increasingly frustrated with stagnating reform and recovery. The government has failed to offer a clear direction, and there are consistent signs that donor dependence and the old political ways are returning. Many are questioning the government?s commitment and capacity to address the long list of internal challenges, ranging from security concerns and economic recovery through implementation of a broad spectrum of institutional reforms. The longer the issues are left unaddressed, the harder it will be to keep the peace process on track. Also worrisome are the troubles across Sierra Leone?s borders, especially in unsettled and violent Liberia. It is a moment of critical choice for Sierra Leone: difficult reforms that ultimately will pay high returns in stability and prosperity or politics as usual. The international community has invested billions of U.S. dollars to end the civil war and move the country toward peace. The UK, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continue to commit time and resources but they cannot stay forever. The government needs to take a stronger leadership role in the rehabilitation process. Its performance has been disappointing, and complacency appears to have set in. While reform rhetoric abounds, action has yet to follow. There are three main areas of concern. First, as UNAMSIL continues to draw down, Sierra Leone must increasingly take on responsibility for internal security and protection of its borders. Many question the ability of its armed forces, and even more contend the police have nowhere near the necessary capacity or training. In July 2003, the UN Security Council approved a plan that foresees the departure of UNAMSIL by December 2004. The government needs to show it can take over, but given the current situation, it would be wise for UNAMSIL to have contingency plans. Secondly, a number of internal issues must also be addressed in order to make the peace process irreversible. The Special Court handed down its first indictments on 10 March 2003 and dramatically announced on 4 June the indictment of then President Charles Taylor of Liberia for his role in Sierra Leone?s war. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began public hearings on 14 April. While both institutions are running reasonably well, concerns persist, particularly about the Special Court?s impact on the peace process and the surprising indifference shown by much of the population to the TRC. The government has been unable to disband completely the Kamajor Civil Defence Forces, which maintain their command structure and claim to be ready to mobilise if necessary. The ex-insurgents, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), have lost their command structure, and their political party struggles to keep offices and members. The reintegration program should finish in December 2003, but many ex-combatants have yet to complete training programs, and even with assistance, many are finding jobs scarce and believe the government should be doing more. Thirdly, the government has failed to make significant progress on governance reforms since its resounding electoral victory. There is no systematic plan for decentralisation. While elections for paramount chiefs have taken place in 2003, and some semblance of traditional authority has returned to most areas, these communities remain essentially isolated with little monetary or administrative assistance from Freetown. Local elections are scheduled to take place by the end of the year, but given inadequate infrastructure, they are likely to be postponed until early 2004, and few expect them to bring real change. Institution