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Greater public awareness of Sierra Leone rights report aim of UN-backed review

Greater public awareness of Sierra Leone rights report aim of UN-backed review

Ongoing efforts to implement the findings of Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), meant to help heal rifts left by 11 years of bloody civil war, are the focus of a two-day meeting that began today in Freetown under the auspices of the United Nations and the country’s main human rights body.

In 2004, the seven-member Commission made a number of recommendations to deal with past abuses and violations and foster reconciliation as the West African nation seeks to consolidate its hard-won peace.

They included the payment of reparations by the Government to amputees and other wounded victims, those who were sexually violated, and the widows and children who suffered deprivation, displacement, or worse between 1991 and 2002.

In determining payment, the panel recommended meeting victims’ needs in health, housing, pensions, education, skills training and micro-credit, community reparations and symbolic reparations.

The meeting that began today in the capital aims to review the status of the recommendations, increase greater public awareness about them and facilitate their implementation, according to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), which organized the event together with the national Human Rights Commission and a number of civil society groups.

Addressing the gathering, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative in Sierra Leone noted that the Commission’s recommendations “seek to address root causes of the conflict, promote healing and national reconciliation, respond to the human rights needs of the victims of the conflict, address impunity, and prevent a relapse into conflict.”

Victor Angelo, who also heads UNIOSIL, stressed that a genuine foundation for peace, security, economic and social development can only be laid in Sierra Leone if the recommendations are fully implemented.

He added that the UN and the Government have together identified the reparations programme as one of the priority areas for assistance under the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which provides funding to help address the root causes of conflict and facilitate the consolidation of peace. “The outcome of this Conference will be a tremendous assistance in moving forward on this programme,” Mr. Angelo stated.

Also in Freetown today, UNIOSIL’s Police Section began the first phase of a two-week training programme on traffic management, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Police.

The programme aims to enhance and facilitate the free flow of traffic, particularly in the capital, as well as to re-organise the entire Traffic Department of the Police Force towards better service delivery.

Speaking at the inauguration of the training, Mr. Angelo noted that in a country like Sierra Leone, where 25 per cent of the population is concentrated in the capital and there are no rail services, people are completely dependent on road networks.

Stressing the vital need to ensure the free flow of traffic on the roads, he pointed out that “traffic congestion not only creates delays and inconvenience, but more importantly it has a direct effect on the national economy due to the loss of productive hours.” Therefore, addressing traffic problems is critical to a country’s development, as well as to its ability to compete in the global market.

A total of 125 officers across the country will benefit from the training.