“There is nothing that war has ever achieved that we could not better achieve without it.” (Henry Ellis)


One of history’s most brutal civil wars between the years of 1991 and 2002 devastated Sierra Leone, which is currently the second poorest country in the world according to the Human Development Index. It is estimated that 20,000 civilians were brutally raped and maimed by rebel soldiers who frequently used machetes and axes to amputate arms, legs, lips and ears.


Although there is a naturally abundant supply of diamonds in Sierra Leone, 60% of the nations wealth lay in the hands of 20% of the population prior to the outbreak of war. Hence it can be concluded that the initial cause of the civil war was corruption at government level. One might argue therefore that the rebel soldiers had every right to rise up against government in protesting against their mistreatment.

What must be taken into account however is the way in which the Revolutionary United Front set about achieving their aims. Forced recruitment of child soldiers was a common tactic of the RUF, as was the abduction and raping of innocent women. One girl who fell victim to the ruthlessness of the rebels, Safinatu Karoma, was only nine years old when the rebels came in to her home. She has described her experiences thus: “After they killed my parents, when I was still crying they burst my eye and they melted plastic in my other eye." When the civil war is studied in greater depth it soon becomes clear that the rebels are guilty of committing far greater crimes against humanity than the Sierra Leonean government. It is therefore evident that the rebels are to blame for the genocide, which has taken place here.


Some may presume that things are far better now that the country is not at war but sadly this is not entirely true. Although the killings have subsided, “over two thirds of the population are illiterate and the average life expectancy remains at a mere 34 years (Oxfam).” Ultimately there is still a great deal of work, which needs to be done to provide the youth with an education and the sick with medical care to relieve them of their unyielding suffering.

Sierra Leone-Development Action Support Agency


Action for the poor