From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Head of UNREC/RECSA Delegation Thrilled By Study Visit
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Sep 16, 2010, 17:04

Ambassador Ochieng’ Adala, head of the visiting nine-man delegation from the Regional Centre for Small Arms (RECSA) and the United Nations Centre for Disarmament (UNREC) respectively has described the sessions they have had at the head office of the Sierra Leone National Commission for Small Arms (SLeNCSA) as informative.

 

They are here to learn about the country’s DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) programme – its successes and challenges.


“We were more enlightened and got a better perspective of how the country was able to achieve peace,” he said, paying tribute to the presenters (former DDR officers) for their “brilliant” presentations.

Ambassador Adala underscored that although each country has its own peculiar difficulties and problems they however have common undercurrents that are a recipe for conflict, revolving around issues such as good governance, justice, equitable distribution of resources, youth unemployment, social injustice etc.

 

He cited Kenya which he said had long been a bastion of stability on the continent but eventually flared up and its citizens used crude weapons to massacre each other.


SLeNCSA Commissioner Rtd. Brig. M.L. Lymon


The Deputy Executive Director of Africa Peace Forum said that their learning exercise is geared towards maintaining Africa’s fragile peace and ensuring that it stands the test of time.

 

According to him, the Regional Centre for Small Arms which comprises 13 countries in the horn of Africa, EGAD and the Great Lakes region, has tried to expand its membership by including civil society and government representation so as to widen knowledge sharing to create more impact.

 

“It is a question of comparing notes, drawing best practice guidelines to prevent recurrence of conflicts. But we need political will to make this happen because we have to put into practice the guidelines, learn from failures to avoid pitfalls,” Ambassador Adala noted, reiterating that although no two situations can be replicated, there are certain underlying currents that contribute to these conflicts.

 

He lauded the African Union’s APRM (African Peer Review Mechanism) initiative which he said has helped bring out some of its issues during the reviewing process. “Experts come into any country, look at situations and come up with advice and recommendations as to what could be done to avert conflict. That is why I earlier talked about political will because at the end of the day it is up to our political leadership to implement these recommendations for the common good,” Ambassador Adala noted.

 

On why they chose Sierra Leone for their study visit, he said they were already familiar with happenings in that part of the continent where they desire to know about West Africa in order to draw lessons and guidelines.


The ambassador who spoke to this medium in an exclusive interview also showered praises on their hosts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Sierra Leone National Commission for Small Arms (SLeNCSA) which now has the mandate to control and dispose of light weapons in the country.

 

Coming into existence only in July this year after being assented by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma following parliamentary approval to graduate from a directorate, the Commission, under the exemplary leadership of Brig. (Rtd) Modibo Leslie Lymon (Commissioner of SLeNCSA) and his able assistant Col. (Rtd) Saa Anthony Sinnah (Deputy Commissioner), has already demonstrated its relevance by hosting such high profile global organizations for seven days.


This is the Commission’s second major assignment since its inception, the first being the mobilization of over four thousand light weapons to the Northern city of Makeni, collected by UNDP under its Arms for Demobilization programme which has now been taken over by SLeNCSA.

 

The Commission has received glowing commendations from several quarters for successfully hosting this event.    


The first presentation past Saturday entitled ‘General overview of the various components of the DDR Process’ was done by Mr. Sullay Sesay, former Social Reintegration/Programme Manager, Information and Sensitization Unit, supported by Sheik Kamara, former Information Officer/Officer-in-Charge Information and Sensitization Unit).


The next one was by Alimamy Marah, the Director of Regional Operations, Office of National Security and DDR Consultant, on the topic ‘Post DDR Challenges: A Security Sector Perspective’.


Mrs Melrose Kargbo, former DDR Project Officer/Agricultural Projects Officer, presented on ‘DDR Projects and Contracts’ while former DDR Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Mohamed Massaquoi, spoke on the DDR monitoring and evaluation process.


All the presentations were followed by Question and Answer Sessions, seeking clarifications on issues that needed further explanation. Critical questions posed by the visitors were brilliantly answered by their hosts. The visiting delegation will undertake study visits to the Talking Drum Studio which was DDR’s partner for information, SLRA (public works training for ex-combatants), AITH, PC Plus (computer training for ex-combatants), Office of National Security (ONS), Sierra Leone Police (SLP), Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and meeting with ex-combatants.

The delegation will depart tomorrow.     


The DDR programme was a voluntary laying down of weapons and ammunitions by all warring parties involved in the Sierra Leone conflict, supervised by UNOMSIL/UNAMSIL, the peace keeping mission in the country at the time.


It was made possible with the cooperation of the High Command of the respective fighting forces who ensured that their men reported at the designated locations with their weapons and ammunition for disarmament.


Demobilization, though, was the process of preparing ex-combatants to enter civilian life. Ex-combatants were expected to stay in the Demobilisation Centres for between one and four weeks during which time they should have gone through screening and finally discharged.


Pre-discharge orientation prepared ex-combatants on camp for their return to civil society for which they collaborated with appropriate partners in the facilitation of sessions.


The goal of the reintegration framework was to contribute to national reconciliation and conflict prevention. During demobilisation, reintegration benefits/assistance were defined for ex-combatants to choose.


The social integration aspect was aimed at promoting the social acceptance of the ex-combatants through a process of fostering and sustaining positive attitudinal change, reformation and reconciliation with their communities upon return while economic integration was to provide appropriate support for the ex-combatants to become productive through engagement in livelihood skills. To achieve this, implementing partners including the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), Ministry of Works, vocational training centres, higher institutions of learning and hair dressing saloons were brought on board. There were also Public Works, Agriculture/Community-based Reintegration Works, Vocational Training, Small Enterprise Promotion Programmes and Micro Credit scheme for the ex-combatants.



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