Sierra Leone: The Democracy Consolidation project
A major part of the project is to facilitate and participate in consultations to achieve a peaceful settlement. Florella is very proud of the fact that CCSL, with the Inter-Religious Council (IRC), has been responsible for bringing together and facilitating consultation between key players such as the President Tejan Kabbah, government officials, RUF leader Foday Sankoh, rebel factions, traditional rulers such as the Paramount Chiefs, the United Nations Observer Mission (UNOMSIL), the President of Liberia, the British High Commission, the Nigerian High Commission and the US Ambassador.
The CCSL has been successful in mediating with both sides. President Kabbah has said that he is committed to peace and trusts religious leaders to facilitate the peace process. The RUF has also acted following mediation by CCSL. After a meeting with CCSL, Foday Sankoh ordered rebels in the bush to release 31 captured children.
Another major aim of the project is to change the attitudes of the people of Sierra Leone and prepare them for peace and reconciliation. 'It's happening,' said Florella, 'but extremely slowly. It is very difficult. Some people have lost several members of their family, others have become paupers overnight. It's hard for them to forgive. We are trying to establish co-existence but it's all happening very slowly.'
Florella feels that it is extremely important for ordinary people to play a part in the peace process. At regular meetings their views are listened to, documented and presented to key decision makers.
'CCSL is trying to make people feel responsible for their future. You have to take responsibility as an individual. However, it is difficult to get people involved. Sierra Leoneans are not an aggressive type of people and are quite nonchalant. They are very religious and believe that fate is in God's hands and not in their own actions. But, our motto is "faith without action is dead." We have a duty to God to act.'
Florella is extremely committed to the programme and believes its aims are of paramount importance.
'To effect positive change in Sierra Leone you have to change things at the top. Advocacy is the answer. I want to add my voice to decision making and make sure that important policies are implemented.'
'Many NGOs say it is important not to be political but for me there are no two ways about it. If you can't get a square meal on the table, it's a political issue. If you can't get the right medicine for your children, it's a political issue. It's the responsibility of the people at the top. We have to make a distinction between political and partisan. We are not partisan, we are political and we are fighting for positive change.'
CCSL provided footballs, volleyballs and nets for recreation for 3,000 surrendered soldiers, encouraging them not to resume fighting. Half of them were reintegrated into the army and half went into retirement under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. In keeping with the neutrality of CCSL, both sides were visited.
CCSL is monitoring evaluations of and collecting data on child soldiers. Both sides deny that they have them but CCSL is aware that they are using them as shields and spies. This aspect of the project is partly funded by UNICEF and forms part of a study to find out the truth about the involvement of child soldiers in the war.
Moratorium on small arms
A moratorium on small arms came into effect in November 1998 but by March 1999 there had been no statement from the government about this. As the government was playing down the new law, CCSL set about raising awareness of it. Firstly, they showed videos of the President signing the moratorium. Then they arranged several other events to raise awareness of issues surrounding small arms. CCSL is campaigning for small arms not only to be seized but also to be destroyed. Stockpiles of seized weapons in Sierra Leone have often fallen into the wrong hands.
The media is an extremely important tool for communicating the message to as many people as possible. Members of the Advocacy Office at CCSL and the Inter-Religious Council have given radio and television interviews and even produced their own documentaries to promote their work. Videos show the effect of civil war on the country and its people. They also supply regular press releases to the leading newspapers in Sierra Leone.