Sierra Leone to compensate women victims of civil strife

Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio

The Sierra Leonean government has launched a scheme to compensate the women victims of the country’s long civil war.

The initiative comes after nearly two decades following the end of its war.

The Reparations Programme was a key recommendation in the post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report, and it is geared towards providing social justice and rehabilitating victims of the conflict.

The scheme is expected to hand over monies to the individual beneficiaries by the end of next December.

Over $1 million (Le12bn) has been provided by the government for distribution to thousands of war widows and women who suffered sexual abuse during the 11-year insurgency.

The women groups are two of the five categories of victims recommended in the TRC report released in October 2004. The others are amputees, war wounded and child victims.

Sexually abused

According to a UN report in 2009, nearly 30,000 women were registered as war widows and the sexually abused.

Each beneficiary will receive $100 (Le1.2m), according to the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), which is implementing the programme.

The Sierra Leone civil war, which ran from 1991 to 2002, claimed some 50,000 lives and occasioned the displacement of about 250,000 other people.

The insurgency, which holds the record of being one of the most brutal in the world, was waged by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels who were particularly notorious for their chopping off of the limbs of their victims and the slicing of the bellies of pregnant women.

Many of the victims who survived have lived their lives begging in the streets of Freetown and other cities. Many others have died waiting for compensation.

NaCSA is designed to complement the social sector ministries and local governments in delivering services to the deprived and remote communities.

Former combatants

In 1996, at the height of the war, the government of the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabba created the Ministry of National Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (MNRRR) to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis resulting from the civil war. It was also tasked with handling the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of the former combatants.

However, because the ministry could not cope with the urgency required to deliver, largely due to the typical government bureaucracy, it was downgraded to a Commission.

But the demobilised soldiers received assistance in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, a move the government said was necessary to guarantee a lasting peace.

“This has been a long wait but we were always determined we would realise it,” said Mr Obi Buya Kamara, the Director of Reparation at NacSA.

Deputy Finance minister Patricia Lavally hinted at the possibility of further support to the women. She told journalists that the Le1.2million was within the parameters of the programme initially finalised in 2009.