Sierra Leone: National Security Not an excuse to deploy security — -UNDP

By Stephen V. Lansana

Deputy Head of Governance of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Edward Kamara said “the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report recommended that those in power must never again use national security as an excuse to deploy security forces for political ends.”

Edward Kamara, made this statement during the celebration of Faculty of Social Sciences & Law day on the topic: “Situational Analysis of Current Sierra Leone and Vision for the Country in the Years Ahead: 2018–2028” at FBC in Freetown.

In taking about the state of security in the country, he said that the youth element Versus Police in the words of the TRC Report pointed out that, “the last twenty years of Sierra Leone’s history are, in reality, the story of Sierra Leone’s youths.” He said that the TRC found that youths were both victims and perpetrators of the civil conflict that lasted from 1991–2002 adding that today much hasn’t changed as the recent violence in Kono, Kailahun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Moyamba districts demonstrate. He stated that the serious concern is the fact that, Sierra Leone as of 2014 has 1.7 million young people, which means that 75 percent of the country’s population is under the age of Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). 2004. Witness to Truth: Report of the Sierra Leone Truth.

“In the lead up to the 2018 elections, the centrality of youth is particularly salient. Also of equal and seemingly important concern is the continuous lack of public confidence in the Police for alleged lack of political neutrality. Majority of Sierra Leoneans, particularly the youth do not have confidence in the SLP in their application of laws,” Kamara said.

He emphasized that in other to tap into the constructive potential of the youth of this nation, it is necessary to understand the overall conflict drivers, and the progress of peace building in multiple sectors including youth promotion, police reform and local governance. He added that in the analysis of conflict and gender, the association between the civil conflict and the issue of youth has given strong resonance in Sierra Leone, adding that youth’s marginalization had catalyzed and exacerbated the conflict.

Kamara asserted that one political regime after the other had manipulated these marginalized youth into engaging in political violence against their opponents, making them increasingly captive to handouts from their political masters.

He said as for the state security apparatus before the conflict, all the regimes abused their authority over the security forces, including the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and unleashed their dictatorial power against political opponents in the name of national security. The regimes strengthened the paramilitary police, the Special Security Division (SSD), to protect political elites, not general citizens.

“The TRC recommended that those in power must never again use national security as an excuse to deploy security forces for political ends,” he said. The state of security system as positioned in the TRC has not made such difference in the current situations that are unfolding in the country.

Kamara noted that Sierra Leone still maintains dual governance structure, emanating from the historical divide between urban-modern (the Colony) and rural traditional (the Protectorate), including pluralist legal system (English common law and customary law) as enshrined in the 1991 Constitution. Prior to the conflict, dual injustice emerged — the central regimes manipulated Chieftaincy structures to political advantages and the traditional Chiefs exploited poor rural youth. Customary laws were abused by way of exploitation of youth labour, exclusion of “strangers” and youth of weak lineages from access to land or marriage, the imposition of harsh and arbitrary fines and discriminatory practices against women.

He pointed out those wealthy chiefs accumulated wives not just for reproduction and domestic work but also for exploitation of male youth labour through “bride service.” Discriminatory gerontocracy (governing elders) in Chiefdoms drove youth to resonate with the RUF slogan ‘no more master, no more slave.

Kamara said people with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could deprive our young generation of better schooling, or even send our ill-equipped soldiers to another senseless war or police to shoot at innocent and unarmed civilians for demonstrating, or allow another economic disaster as we now experience, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Sierra Leoneans are fighting for, and some have even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, regions, and political parties, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we