Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Formula for W. African Peace: Conciliation, Aid Sierra Leone Earned a Boost out of Civil War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Formula for W. African Peace: Conciliation, Aid Sierra Leone Earned a Boost out of Civil War

Article excerpt

Sitting on the terrace of her comfortable home overlooking this seaside capital and its white beaches, Agnes Kanu relishes the relative calm that elections and a cease-fire have brought her. A year ago she was struggling to shelter and feed some 40 relatives who'd fled their burned-out villages and come to stay with her. "Now, thanks be to God, I have half the amount gone," she says.

Sierra Leone was considered West Africa's most desperate case until neighboring Liberia's peace accord was broken earlier this year. Seven months after a presidential election few thought would happen, much less make a difference, the former British colony is pioneering a political and economic turnaround unprecedented in the region.

Though a final peace accord still hinges on two sticking points, a cease-fire negotiated shortly after the elections has more or less held. Its success may be due in part to the generosity President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's government has shown rebels known for committing some of the most gruesome atrocities on the continent. Many ex-combatants of the Revolutionary United Front have been released unconditionally, while others are scheduled for vocational training. There is no talk of a war crimes tribunal. "Taking them to court and jailing them or hanging them for all the evils is not really going to help us right now," says Omrie Michael Golley, an activist who helped bring the rebels and government together. "They've got to come out of the bush, and they've got to also play a responsible part in rebuilding our country." Even the former military rulers who tried to rig the elections have been shown goodwill. In a gesture described as part of the peace process, the United Nations offered scholarships to several former top brass and they are now studying international relations in Britain. ON the dusty streets of Freetown there is a new bustle as aid workers and development experts flood back into the country. …

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