THE MAKENI YOUTH SYMPOSIUM - A COMMENDABLE INITIATIVE

 

THE symposium organised by the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP) in collaboration with the National Forum for Reconciliation (NFFR) and the National Commission for the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) is a hopeful and encouraging development. The meeting was held from 23 to 25 April in the northern provincial city of Makeni, a rebel stronghold, where UNAMSIL has recently deployed a contingent of peacekeepers.

 

The event was hailed universally as a major breakthrough for the Sierra Leone peace process. We agree.

 

It proves beyond doubt that, far away from the sensationalism and fanfare of continuing warfare, there are dedicated men and women committed to the task of peace building and peacemaking. They pursue their tasks without histrionics and prejudice. They know from experience that this is one of the surest ways in which they can attract the people for whom violence has become almost a way of life, back into the mainstream of national life.

 

Yes, on this site we talk about ‘building the peace’ because as we have often argued, peace is not something that will be picked from trees. Nor will it descend like manna from Heaven without Divine providence and intervention. And, since our own demonstrably ungodly and uncharitable attitudes to each other are bound to cause even the Deities above to lose interest in us and continue to frown heavily upon our society, the prospect of a miracle happening to relieve us from our terrible ordeal remains very distant.  Peace has to be continuously worked at, carved out painstakingly, and delivered in bits until its effects can be felt gradually throughout the length and breadth of Sierra Leone even after, as we all hope, all the guns have gone silent. Events in Makeni are giving the lead in that direction.

 

The efforts of the organisers must be recognised and commended. As we often say in local Sierra Leonean parlance, this time Mohammed (the holy Prophet) has gone to the mountaintop rather than wait for the mountain to come down to Him. This is further vindication of our frequent calls that issues like the DDR programme should be taken where it matters most - among the combatants and their followers so that they can be won over, which is no mean feat. We cannot wait for the rebels to come into town to take advantage of the so-called benefits, for them to drop their guns and discard their fighting ways of life. It is right and necessary to get into their midst whenever there is an opportunity, to explain, sell and deliver the various options that have been established under this programme.

 

It is most encouraging and reassuring to know also, on the basis of this report, that there are oases of goodwill among even RUF militants, where the seeds of peace can be planted. That a conference as innovative, challenging and soul-searching as this one was even held at all, in one of the rebels’ own strongholds, ending with such positive messages of hope and commitment, is a remarkable development indeed.

 

We recommend the report to everyone concerned for lasting peace and security in Sierra Leone. Please study it, and in your own special ways put pressure on the authorities to ensure that the ideas it contains are implemented as a matter of priority. It is the sort of blueprint for the future that must be on the tables of all who are engaged in the current process to return the country to normality.  (See full report here in: Pdf or Htm)

 

As we look around, we do not see any other workable alternatives to this one. We know that there are those who do not believe in these kinds of activities and easily describe them as capitulations to the rebels, or as appeasement. Curiously, they never put forward alternatives of their own except those for more bloodlettings. Such people are in the minority and they are wrong.

So let’s remind ourselves about the four key objectives that served as the piston engine of this symposium. They were:

*        A call for peace with the RUF.

*        To build the RUF’s confidence and prepare them psychologically for disarmament.

*        To correctly inform, with proper documentation, those in RUF held areas about reintegration opportunities, the DDR, RRR and other relevant issues.

*        To prepare the RUF leadership for a face-to-face working meeting with the NCDDR, CDF, UNAMSIL, NCRRR and CCP.

 

No rational person could have quarrelled with them. So their conference went ahead and, from reading the report of it, it is evident that the organisers achieved all of these objectives. We applaud them for that.

 

But now what is important is for the expectations and aspirations of the participants and the people whom they represent, and the decisions that were taken, to be delivered without further delay. That, however, won’t happen without public, i.e. civic society’s support and the commitment of the required resources by the political authorities. But we are glad that UNAMSIL was involved as well, thus guaranteeing the interest and commitment of the international community. This is most certainly a worthy programme and the most important to date.

 

Congratulations to the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP), the National Forum for Reconciliation (NFFR), and the National Commission for the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) for their efforts. The CCP, in particular, has executed this programme as a joint/collaborative effort with the others. It proves beyond any doubt that when international and local NGOs, and the local people, work together on specific objectives like these, they can attain a lot without the bitterness and rancour that has bedevilled other similarly commendable causes in Sierra Leone.

 

Focus on Sierra Leone assures all of them of our encouragement and continued support.  If there are ways in which they feel that we and those who visit this site can help in anyway to further their aims and objectives, and in the implementation of their activities and decisions, Focus readily places our good offices at their disposal and encourages them to use it as often and whenever they wish.

 

Congratulations everyone!

 

© FSL