Sierra Leone

Witness to truth: Report of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Originally published

1. After years of brutal conflict in Sierra Leone, there existed a need to confront the past. The nation wanted to know what precipitated the wave of vengeance and mayhem that swept across the country. How was it that the people of Sierra Leone came to turn on each other with such ferocity? Why did so many abandon traditions of community and peaceful co-existence? Why were long held and cherished customs and taboos so wantonly discarded? It is only through generating such understanding that the horrors of the past can effectively be prevented from occurring again. Knowledge and understanding are the most powerful deterrents against conflict and war.

2. The Commission accordingly recommends the widest possible dissemination of its Report and its different versions, including the Children's (1) Video (2) and Pictorial (3) versions. The Commission encourages the production of popular versions and summaries in different local languages. Dissemination committees should be organized to distribute the Report at the national and local levels. In particular, the Commission encourages the use of the Report and its different versions to promote dialogue and debate in workshops and other events around the country. The contents of the Report should be incorporated into education programmes from primary to tertiary level. The full Report and its appendixes will be made available on the internet.

3. Those who negotiated the Lomé Peace Agreement recognized that Sierra Leoneans as a nation had a need to express and acknowledge the suffering which took place, a need to relate their stories and experiences, a need to know who was behind the atrocities, a need to explain and contextualize decisions and conduct, a need to reconcile with former enemies, a need to begin personal and national healing and a need to build accountability in order to deal with impunity. The Lomé Peace Agreement required Sierra Leone to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to meet these different needs. The Sierra Leone Parliament made provision for such a commission in early 2000 by virtue of the Truth and Reconciliation Act, 2000 (the Act). The chapter of this Report entitled "Mandate" sets out in detail the mandate of the Commission as provided for by the Act, including the context of the establishment of the Commission.(4)

4. Various principles and concepts that underpinned and guided the work of the Commission. These included the concepts of truth and truth telling. The Commission also addressed the concepts of a 'just war', 'just means' as well as who constituted a 'victim' and 'perpetrator. The views of the Commission on these core concepts are set out in the chapter entitled "Concepts".(5)


(1) Produced in collaboration with UNICEF. The Children's Version was written with the assistance of children.

(2) Produced by WITNESS, in collaboration with the Commission. The Video Version has been produced in English and Krio. It provides a visual account of the Commission's Report.

(3) Produced with the support of the International Center for Transitional Justice.

(4) Chapter 1, Volume 1.

(5) Chapter 3, Volume 1. For the Commission's views on the concepts of reconciliation and reparations see the chapters entitled 'Reconciliation' at Chapter 7, Volume 3B, and 'Reparations Programme' at Chapter 3, Volume 2.