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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Sierra Leone TRC to begin work
Sierra Leone soldiers
The war has left a terrible legacy

A newly inaugurated Truth and Reconciliation Commission is beginning work in Sierra Leone.

Loosely modelled on the commission set up in South Africa to investigate apartheid era crimes, the Sierra Leone version aims to help heal divisions caused by 10 years of brutal civil war.


They [Commission members] want to give people a chance to tell their stories

Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, TRC Executive Secretary
But already there are concerns that it will not have enough money to carry out its work properly.

"The guns may be silent, but the trauma of the war lingers on," Sierra Leone's democratically-elected President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, said.

He was speaking as the seven members of a special Truth and Reconciliation Commission were sworn in.

Impartial record

The commission has been set the task of documenting human rights abuses committed during Sierra Leone's decade long civil war.

The aim is to create an impartial record of what happened so as to promote greater understanding and aid the healing process.

Sierra Leone Defence Minister Chief Hinga Norman, left, embraces interim Rebel Leader Issa Seesay in January 2002
Rebels and ministers celebrated the end of the war
Tens of thousands of people were killed, maimed or tortured during the conflict - most by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.

But the executive secretary of the Commission, Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, says that the work of her team is in danger of being undermined by a lack of resources.

"The Commission and the Commission's staff, they want to do the job properly. They want to go to the communities where this war was fought, they want to bring about reconciliation, they want to give people a chance to tell their stories.

"But no matter how committed we are we cannot walk around Sierra Leone. And if we are not able to hire sufficient people to take the statements, then we will not be able to do the work."

Former combatants hand over weapons for burning
Rebels have handed in their weapons
So far the Commission has been given $1m to do its job - but the projected budget is in the region of $9m.

The United Nations has appealed for donors to bridge the gap.

Unless that appeal is heeded, there is a real danger that Sierra Leone's efforts to bring about a lasting peace, will be thwarted - not because of a shortage of will to confront the past, but because of a shortage of hard cash.

See also:

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