Sierra Leone's struggle

from Church World Service
Published on 29 Jul 2002
"Remember Bill Clinton's informal campaign slogan, 'It's the economy, stupid!'? asks Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, a participant in the recent CWS delegation to West Africa. "I thought about that slogan many times as I met ordinary citizens in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown in the south, Kambia District in the northwest, and Koinadugu District in the north.
"To a person, both men and women, and both youth and elders said that the key to lasting peace in their country is a strong economy.

"Quite consistently, they attributed their nation's nearly 11-year civil war to widespread unemployment and unequal division of their mineral-rich nation 's resources. Hungry, desperate youth with no jobs and no prospects turn to robbery and drugs and are easily recruited to fight, they said.

When asked what in his view would ensure lasting peace in Sierra Leone, Kandeh Bangura, 32, an ex-combatant now receiving vocational training in masonry, answered, "Opportunity for employment. The idle brain is the devil's workshop." He urged an emphasis on agriculture, education and health - the basic necessities for a good life."

Rev. John L. McCullough, Church World Service Executive Director who led the eight-member peace and solidarity delegation, says, "Sierra Leone's war was the culmination of 200 years of exploitation, first by colonial powers and later by corrupt government with the backing of greedy international interests. There has been a failure of government, of social services, of the economy, a lack of available health care and education. The years of pent-up frustration finally just blew up.

"It was evident in our travels across Sierra Leone that the will for peace is there. Elections in June 2002 were widely judged free and fair. The military is rebuilding roads, hospitals and schools. New houses are going up," says Fouke-Mpoyo.

Sierra Leone is working hard for reconciliation and reintegration of ex-combatants. Said community leaders in Wara Wara Yagala, "The ex-fighters aren't strangers. They are our children and relatives. For peace, we just have to accept them back into their families and communities. They are very, very repentant. With those who are employed or getting training, there's no problem."

To read all of this story and to find out more about CWS learnings and efforts in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Gambia, please check out the West Africa Delegation web page at