Truth report spares no parties

18 October 2004 by Thierry Cruvellier

For those who have followed the tribulations of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for almost three years, its official report, which was published on 5 October, constitutes a small miracle. No one could have predicted such a logically structured, abundantly detailed, and well-written report two years ago when the Commission almost dissolved itself through sheer negligence. Even a year ago when the report was first due out, hopes for a turnaround were not high.

To accomplish its task, the TRC first had to broaden its scope beyond the official period - from the start of the civil war in March 1991 to the Lomé peace accords in July 1999. The Commission was not only mandated to document the serious human rights violations that took place during this period of terror (which witness testimony puts at 40,242), it was also charged with finding the causes. The Commission delved further back into pre-civil war history. No one who reigned over the small West-African country is spared a portion of the blame, from the colonial government to the two political groups that dismantled it before civil war broke out. The TRC commissioners write that until 1991, "corruption, nepotism and the plunder of state assets became standard government practice operating, as did the system of power, through patronage and exclusionary politics." They continue: "By the start of the conflict, the nation had been stripped of its dignity. Institutional collapse reduced the vast majority of people into a state of deprivation. Government accountability was non-existent. Political expression and dissent had been crushed. Democracy and the rule of law were dead.

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