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This project will outline the causes of the Sierra Leone civil war of 1991-2002. It will also evaluate its impact on the affected region and the country as a whole. Sierra Leone is a small country situated on the west coast of Africa. It’s bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Liberia. It has an estimated population of 5.4 million. The country is divided into four geographical regions: the Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western area ( not a province), which are subdivided into fourteen districts. Freetown is the capital, the largest city, and the economic centre, which is located in the western area. Sierra Leone is rich of natural resources and minerals, including iron-ore, bauxite, gold, and diamonds. . This information can be found online http://www.atlapedia.com. Although, the country has rich minerals it is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world. There has been a political power struggle since the country was granted its independence in 1961. It saw said these struggles are rooted from colonialism, Alie (1990). It was also said that the main factor for civil war outbreak in Sierra Leone was the struggle over the diamond trade, and the political situation.
According to Alie (1990), many problems stemmed from the colonization of Sierra Leone by the British. He believed Sierra Leoneans were very independent upon themselves before the British came along and inflicted their ways upon them. Since the country ways of survival and life were different from those of the British, they were deemed, dependent on the British and the British were to show Sierra Leoneans a better and new way of life. He implies that Sierra Leoneans ‘‘were made to believe that anything African was bad and inferior and anything European was good and superior, and Sadly enough, this attitude has persisted to this day and some sierra Leoneans continues to measure their own way of life by western standards’’. His statement indicates that……………… It is also stated that colonialism denied Sierra Leoneans the right to self-determination, and this ‘‘weakened the traditional institutions of chieftaincy and destroyed the indigenous system of government’ Alie (1990). For instance, British forces conquered the tribes inland, and ‘introduced their own system of ruling houses among the mende tribes, Alie (1990). The natives believed on emphasises on individual qualities, and achievements rather than on birth right in the acquisition of political leadership, Alie (1990). This creates tensions between the countrymen (people from the inland protectorate) and the Krios (or descendants of the freed slaves from America and elsewhere) that had a better relationship with the colonial administration. The tension creates separations between the krios, and the countrymen, this was never recovered, and a new government was formed after the country achieved it independence in 1961.
Sierra Leone achieved its independence from British rule in 1961 under the leadership of Sir Milton Margai and the Sierra Leone People’s Party. During its time under British rule, Sierra Leone adopted a parliamentary democracy. Margai died in 1964 and his half brother Albert Margai, succeeded him. In 1967 there was a general election the army overthrew the government and established a National Reformation Council (NRC) which was in turn overthrown in April 1968. In 1967, Siaka Probyn Stevens who won the elections was reinstated as Prime Minister, http://www.atlapedia.com. According to Alie (1990), there were widespread riots. Steven created a mass hysteria amongst the people, and he destroyed people’s faith in the state and the government itself. During his years serving as leader of Sierra Leone, chaos and corruption started to peak. He adopted a new republic constitution and eventually passed a law making Sierra Leone a one party state. This made it very hard for anyone to oppose his party or leadership. However, Steven retired in 1985, and army officer, Major-General J.S. Momoh was the elected President of the APC. Widespread corruption continued, and the economy further deteriorated, Britannica world data. Momoh was later accused of perpetrating the rule of Stevens. In 1987 there was an unsuccessful coup attempt 14 conspirators were arrested, of which 4 were sentenced to death, including the former Vice President, Francis Minah. In 1992, ‘‘President Joseph Momoh ousted in military coup led by Captain Valentine Strasser, apparently frustrated by failure to deal with rebels…, as reported on the BBC News (2011).
It could be argued that Political problem and mismanagement may very well be the reason for the civil war outburst, since the facts seem to be pointing in the direction of politics. The political situation in Sierra Leone was a never-ending battle amongst the political groups, it people, and the revolutionary groups. As a reaction to the corruptions, and greed the Revolutionary United Front known as the RUF was formed by the aid of former president Charles Taylor to start a war in Sierra Leone.
In 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) began a rebel war in Sierra Leone. It was the most brutal civil war of recent times, with at least 50,000 people died in the fighting, and around 100,000 people mutilated. Half the country’s population were forced displacement in neighbouring countries (guinea, Liberia), according to J. Lahai Samboma. Foday Sankoh led the RUF into Sierra Leone took control over the diamond fields, Bergner (2004). The RUF stated its purpose was to overthrow the government, demanding fair elections and social and economic justice. After carefully looking into Sankoh past history it is clear that his motive could be to seek revenge. He was a corporal in the army government, then a prisoner for plotting a coup. He was sentence by Steven, to seven years; upon his release he went to Libya to train to become a guerrilla fighter under Moammar Gadhafi. The RUF captured hostages in this expansion of hostilities. They took full controlled of the mined area in the Kona, Tongo and Pujehun districts in the eastern and southern provinces of Sierra Leone. Children as young as six years old were taken away from their families, and were manipulated with the use of drugs and alcohol, to adapt the way of a soldier. Young girls were used as sex slaves. The raping of young girls and women, as a result being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, most common of which is AIDS, was the most inhumane and largest violation of human rights. According to Lansana Fonsana, an estimated of 4,500 children were forced to commit various atrocities. These children were said to be armed by not only by the RUF, but also by the military junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). These innocent children were in the middle of fighting senseless bloody war.
Civil war is ‘a war between opposing groups of citizen of the same country. In this case of Sierra Leone, it was tensions that formed early in the country’s history. People were frustrated by the poor conditions of service received by the government. The struggle for power to take over the government was the only hope the younger generation had in mind, they were manipulated by the RUF to believe that they will be given a better position in the government and in return very wealthy. Through this many lives have been destroyed. The death, violence against women and children has been the most severe. We can see that the war in Sierra Leone was not necessarily fought for political gain or victory, but to engage war over the lucrative and profitable diamond trade.
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