DECEMBER 22, 2014 By Abu Bakarr Conteh
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its war victims”. These were the words of H.E. the President on the occasion of the launch of the special fund for war victims at the Miata Conference Hall on 9th December 2009.
In line with those poignant words of the President, and as the Reparations for war victims come to a close December 2015, the Government continues to address the issue of Reparations to restore the dignity of victims amidst this very trying times with the Ebola epidemic contracting our economy. A total of 1,618 Severely War Wounded Victims (SWWV) are currently receiving Rehabilitation Grant of Le3m each between December 2014 and March 2015. The import is for beneficiaries of the grant to plough into Income Generation Activities (IGA) so that proceeds could be used to address their bread and butter issues. Other war victims would have to undergo medical evaluation post-Ebola period to determine their eligibility.
It is important to note that the cash grants, though not a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report, replaces TRC recommendations of pension to victims and other social services like health and education for victims’ dependants. The victims themselves requested these cash transfers, hence shifted the Rehabilitation of victims in part to the victims themselves. The grants are meant to be invested on IGA after effective complementary training on how to manage business and finances.
The civil war in Sierra Leone raged for eleven years, during which public trust, human rights and the efficacy of our religious faiths were severely undermined. The war handed down to us a monumental problem of human rights violations all over the nation. The abuses were extreme, inhuman and they shattered human dignity and the peace loving image of our country.
The Government recognized the endurance and resilience of these victims and with support from the United Nations family, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other stakeholders, set up the Directorate of Reparations within the National Commission for Social Action NaCSA, headed by Director Obi Buya-Kamara. NaCSA has been implementing the programme since 2008. A total number of 33,863 victims from all five categories were registered. Reparations to these beneficiaries, which started in 2009, included the provision of two (2) bedroom housing facility to 888 amputees and severely war wounded victims, funded by the Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone. An incremental cash grants of Le300,000 was also provided for all registered and eligible beneficiaries, followed by Le940,500 and Le6,037,500 for amputees. The present payment is for SWW victims, each going home with Le3m in addition to the initial grant of Le300,000.
Other benefits were specifically for the Victims of Sexual Violence (VSV) who received training on vocational skills of their choice, tool kits and $500 grant each to engage on IGA. Psychosocial support to 16,500 traumatized victims in all the regions and symbolic Reparations were carried out in 40 chiefdoms out of 149 affected chiefdoms in the country. Emergency medical assistance to 151 victims who were seriously ill and some underwent surgery to remove bullets from their bodies. Others still with serious lacerations received body graft. Gynecological and fistula medical assistance was given to 235 VSV.
A beneficiary of the grant, Tiangay Nbawa from Bo district, in a eureka mood, registered her appreciation to President Koroma and his government. According to her, she lost one of her limbs during the war and husband killed living her destitute and in penury. Early this year, they went to the Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone (HRCSL) and later met with the President at State House to express their dissatisfaction on being left out of the Programme when only the amputees were paid RG of Le6,037,500 in 2013. She was delighted when she received her grant and promised to use it productively.
Director Buya-Kamara has intimated this press that the Reparations Programme is the last chapter in our country’s sad history and those final narratives will be written in 2015 and brings the programme to a close. He opined that a seven years Report and a Documentary will also be the final milestone of the programme. He said that NaCSA will be distributing the reports to major stakeholders and development partners that have so far contributed to the successful implementation of the programme.
It is however hoped that these materials will be used by the UN which was a cardinal donor of the programme as experience sharing and lessons learnt for other post conflict countries that have experienced similar war situations.
Bravo to President Koroma, NaCSA Commissioner, the Director and all staff at NaCSA for doing all that was possible with support from the Government and UN to help restore the dignity of victims. Bravo.