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Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 11:37 GMT


Sierra Leone - time to forgive and forget?



For lasting peace to ensue the seed of forgiveness and love must be sown now. We need to start real living from somewhere.
Oa Olaitan, The Gambia

Despite the fact that we are so hungry for peace and cessation of the killings and the mutilations, these men have to pay the price for killing and mutilating the hands and legs of innocent citizens.
Abdoul Kamara, Canada

Just two of the comments Talking Point has received so far - take part below

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Vote:
Sierra Leone - time to forgive and forget?
Yes No

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Background:

The civil war in Sierra Leone has left over 50,000 dead, 100,000 people mutilated and more than 2 million people displaced by fighting.

Sierra Leone
Now a peace deal has been struck, under which the rebel forces will disarm and receive senior posts in government.

Human rights groups say the deal effectively rewards the rebels for taking up arms and committing atrocities.

Others argue that major compromises are necessary to bring an end to eight years of fighting.

What do you think? Was the UN wrong to broker a deal that includes such a wide-ranging amnesty? Can such bitter opponents work together in building a better future for the people of Sierra Leone?

Is it time to forgive and forget?

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Your Reaction:

We are looking for lasting peace in that small tortured country. So far after years of fighting and killing we can't still solve the problems. The best solution is to forgive and forget for a new Sierra Leone!
Sallieu Kanu, Austria

The only people that have the right to forgive and forget are the ones with hands, legs cut off, because they are the one that will keep the pain for the rest of their lives. So let them choose if they want Sankoh and his butchers or not.
Billy B, Beirut

My house has been burnt and my family has been killed by the absent minded people and I was totally raped by the rebels. I will never forgive or forget about it till I die. I will always pray for them.
Fatmata Adams, USA

Although the atrocities committed by the RUF were hideous to all civilised people it is more important to focus on the future than the past. At least now Sierra Leone actually has a future to look forward to.
Thomas Mohr, Ireland

Civil wars in Africa are distinguished by their brutality. The war in Sierra Leone is marked by sheer brutality and senseless carnage, especially on the part of the so-called rebels.
Is it too much to ask that these senseless, drugged, power-hungry louts face the full force of the law? Because of their insatiable appetite for the gory, a generation of Sierra Leoneans will grow up sans feet or arms. Some liberation fighters, indeed!
Kofi Ellison, Ghana/USA

President Kabba has unintentionally signed his own death sentence by succumbing to pressure to grant blanket amnesty to terrorist murderers. The RUF will be doing exactly what the rebels did in Guinea Bissau. Just look at the similarity of their demands and you need not look any further.
Mohamed Savage, Australia

No one feels the real pain of what happened in Sierra Leone except those people that had their hands and legs cut off, because they will keep feeling the pain till they die.
Nido Peppel, Lebanon

Sankor and his henchmen should not be allowed to get away with it. As soon as anyone of them set foot on European soil, they should be arrested and charged with genocide and violation of human rights. We will do a 'Pinochet' on them.
Arnold Gordon, UK

Kabba should get the blame for all these problems, running away and leaving his people to die.
Gerald Cline-Cole

The evil that men do will leave after them. So let us pray for peace in Sierra-Leone. The time will come for all those who are responsible for all these acts against humans, and children in Sierra-Leone. Mr Foday Sankoh and your men I wish you best of luck.
Momodu Kamara, USA

It is a shame on the international community to sacrifice political decency for its inaction in the Sierra Leone crisis. They have only papered over the cracks. The atrocities in Sierra Leone are intolerable and unforgivable.
Alim Sesay, USA

Forgive and forget! It is easier said than done, after all what we've been through the past eight years. Do you think it will be easy for us to forget? Even though we were not in the country for the war, it did affect us a great deal. Do you know how much lives and properties have been destroyed by these so-called freedom fighters yet they want us to forgive and forget. It will take a lot more than words to convince me to visit that country let alone go back to work with people that I know for sure will never appreciate whatever contribution you give as long as it will not put millions in their pockets personally.
Benjamin Johnson, UK

Those who said killing and mutilation were the solutions to our social, economic, tribal and political problems have no right to rush us into forgiving them. We have our own ways of doing things and we will decide when we no why they did what they did and on whose behalf. As for forgetting you and your actions, do not even think of that. Sierra Leone will still be talking of you a hundred years from now.
Mohamed S P Koker, UK

Let's have a new beginning in Sierra Leone but this should tempered with respect, value of life and understanding the predicament of "the other Sierra Leonean".
Samual M Conteh, USA

Any joker with a gun can start a war but it takes a real man to make peace. Lets all hope that real men have signed the peace accord. We must forgive and forget to be able to live a normal life. War sucks.
Sayborne Kamara, USA

Now that there is "peace" and cessation of killings, mutilations, looting and raping¿what has the rebel leader and his disciples have to say and give the hungry and sick they have left behind?
J B Boachie, USA

These rebels burned down my family house and destroyed my identity. I will never forget and my the almighty God visit them for me.
Jess Lawson, USA

I am not sure that it is correct to credit the UN with brokering the deal. It seems to me that much more credit is owed to Africans themselves for developing a regional solution. That issue aside, it was of course proper to include such a wide-ranging amnesty. Given the relative strength of the opponents, the war could have gone on for many more years. Making such allowances was regretfully a necessary evil to end the conflict. The opponents will either see the necessity of this course of action or continue to fight. This would be a tragedy given that since neither side could force an unconditional victory or surrender, they must eventually return to negotiations; negotiations that will include such unsavoury conditions as amnesty. Be wise forgive, but do not forget. Choose and build a peace.
John Pritchett, USA

The people of Sierra have always been kind and peace-loving people. They do not deserve what has happened to them. However, what else can be done to stop these cruel deeds of which mostly it is the poor people are affected. Peace must be accepted at all cost and I believe that the government of Sierra Leone had no choice but to accept the peace deal.
P Michael, Ireland

It's a crazy joke to even think about forgiving let alone consider forgetting what these barbarians with their destructive revolution did to our beloved people and country. The sight of stumps on children in particular will forever stay with us. Those who committed these crimes should be punished and not rewarded. May God bless the children of Sierra Leone.
M.Yongawo, Sierra Leonean, UK

I think people need a sense of reparation in order to begin to try and forgive, and move on. The examples of Rwanda, Yugoslavia where there was no attempt to address previous injustices show that these resentments remain simmering only to resurface another day.
Amolo, USA

History is bound to repeat itself if we forget what has happened. The logical thing to do would be to learn whatever it is that we can learn from such horrific chapter in Africa and Sierra Leone's history, welcome peace and move on.
Bereket Asefaw, Canada

We Sierra Leoneans are too ready to bury our heads in the sand. That is what has led directly to today's problems. Pretending that the atrocities did not happen will not make them go away. Many of us fled our homeland to live in the West because we believed that the Rule of Law applied more than it did in our country. How dare we, from our comfy chairs now tell those who have suffered to "forgive and forget"? It is an insult.
Ade Daramy, England

It has happened and what has been done can never be undone. The only thing we as Sierra Leoneans have to do is to forgive them but we will never forget. We need to forgive and move on with our lives and try, hope and pray that S/L will be a better place, a place where we will call home once again.
Onikeh, USA

Bravo to the peace accord! But Sankoh and his henchgang should never be trusted.They are still thirsty for power and diamonds. They will never lay down all their cards on the table. People can forgive but should never forget.
AG Jalloh, USA

Every time that I think my life is difficult or I'm depressed, I think about the Sierra Leonean refugees I met in Guinea with hands, ears, arms and legs hacked off. How do you forgive those that did these horrible things to another person for whatever reasons? How can I forget what I saw and what they told me? If it's that way for me, an American, how is it for the Sierra Leoneans that have suffered so much through this brutal campaign?
Kevin A. Urban, Senegal

For lasting peace to ensue the seed of forgiveness and love must be sown now. We need to start real living from somewhere.
Oa Olaitan, The Gambia

If we are going to forgive and forget the incidents in Sierra Leone, then why can't we forget and forgive Bosnia, Rwanda and other places where people were killed and tortured for nothing? The people responsible in Sierra Leone should be punished. They (the criminals) might think the time will not come to face their sins.
Tewaney Ayalneh, USA

I think everyone should forget and forgive about what happen in Sierra Leone, because we should concentrate on rebuilding our country, and making sure people have a better life chance.
Isatu Sesay, UK

An amnesty is the right way to proceed although I am not sure that rewarding murderers with government posts is. Perhaps the amnesty would be better received if this perk were removed and replaced with a bar on taking part in public life for a specified number of years.
GS, UK

The people of Sierra Leone can forgive but they will never forget. They have no choice they have to learn to live with those people (EX-REBELS). Those that are responsible should not go free. The international body should help to bring those people to justice. May God bless Sierra Leone and its people again so that they can live as brothers and sisters. May God help us all. The rest of the world put the past of the Germans behind them, but they never forget.
Williams, Sierra Leone living in Norway

It is very difficult to be happy about the peace treaty that has been signed between the government of Sierra Leone and the rebel movement headed by Mr. Foday Sankoh. After eight years of the most vicious and barbaric war aged anywhere on the African continent, there is no doubt that many people will welcome the peace. However, the real question that we must ask ourselves, is peace at what price? The fact is the price is justice. Moreover, without justice there can never be any real peace. We can forgive but we cannot forget if there is no justice.
Francis Stevens George, Norway

It is possible to forgive but it is not possible to forget. More important is that people honestly examine why it happened and what can be done that this carnage does not happen again. Otherwise there will come again a revenge tribal war just like in Rwanda and Burundi.
Mrs. Ute Norman, Togo

Are you telling me that 10,000 lives are worthless. As we say in krio God go pay foday sankoh he and all his goons will die an ugly death. Let them enter Freetown and let them see what they have done. Yet they are rewarded with our diamonds. I guess African lives are not worth those of Kosovars. We are Africans, so we are worthless.
James Williams, Sierra Leonean

The RUF has now succeeded in terrorising the people of Sierra Leone into submission, just like Charles Taylor did in Liberia. If violent take-overs of countries were limited to elites killing and slashing one another in coups and counter-coups to gain access to national treasuries one could live with it. We've had that for years. This new method of literally butchering the populace into submission is a new dimension of evil in the name of politics.
President Kabbah should be ashamed of himself for giving in to these bandits. All of civil society in West Africa will rue this day. Get ready for rebel movements of a new kind. Does Kabbah think that these bandits are going to actually settle for half the pie when the have cowed him into even allowing them into government? Death or dismemberment is not the worst that can happen to the residents of Sierra Leone; having RUF in government is.
Ibezim Okehie, USA

First, you question assumes that the RUF was the only group that committed atrocities. That is not the fact. The Kamajors, Kapras, ECOMOG etc. have all done their bit. Go back and check your reporting on this war and you will find out these atrocities did not happen until 1996 when the ethnic militia was introduced to the conflict. Frankly, Sierra Leoneans are ready to move on with their lives. Why don't you, BBC and UN, who are talking of war crimes allow us to do that. LONG LIVE PEACE TO SIERRA LEONE.
Safroko, USA

No, despite the fact that we are so hungry for peace and cessation of the killings and the mutilations, these men have to pay the price for killing and mutilating the hands and legs of innocent citizens. As far as I am concerned this is rewarding whomever have the ability to kill his/her brother. This is not justice, this is a precedent that Mr. Kabbah and his group have set, for the next disgruntled soldier. Whatever they agreed upon, these killings are not going to stop. All those have committed these crimes should be brought to justice.
Abdoul Kamara, Canada

Even in a time of war, there are ethics and laws, and those who violate them should be held accountable. Every effort should be made to achieve peace in Sierra Leone, but the peace must be a sustainable one and it should not set a precedent which might invite others to try and topple the government in such a ruthless, brutal and inhuman way with incentives such as broad amnesty and government posts. Those who have committed grave atrocities should not be rewarded and given the power to make or influence decisions affecting the population they have terrorised in the most unimaginable ways. It sickens me to think that such heinous deeds as have been committed in Sierra Leone would go unpunished.
Alma, USA

For now, let the rebels be cajoled to lay down their arms. In fact, the UN should move in quickly to disarm all the factions minus ECOMOG. By this, there will be a level playing field for all and then they will be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. If there is a blanket amnesty and supported by the UN then we could say that the UN is not neutral when it comes to the black race. All the ring leaders should be pursued and placed among the wanted list with Milosevic and others. No country should harbour them.This will be a deterrent to others that they can never be paid for killing innocent people. Let the UN move in now to disarm the rebels as they are doing now in Kosovo. We have seen enough of Kosovo but the world has not seen Sierra Leone yet. I am appealing to the international media to move to Sierra Leone.Thank you BBC for allowing some of us to vote on this important issue.We want peace for Sierra Leone but not pieces.
Henry Williams, Sierra Leone, living in Canada

No matter the outcome justice must be attained under all cost. Peace in the atmosphere without justice served in the mind would always be vaporized within the populace.
Max, USA

War does not produce any good future but poverty and hardship; it doesn't matter where you live or what you do for a living. Let us all forgive and turn to another page to rebuild our beloved country Sierra Leone.
Alex Kamara, USA

Human rights abuses would decrease significantly if these criminals thought they could be brought before justice. Now that we have a certain momentum of prosecuting war criminals achieved it would be a pity to stop.
Karim Moukaddem, Spain

Outrageous!!! Rebels who torture the people like that don't stand for the people but for themselves. They should be tried like criminals, even serial killers. They don't deserve recognition in the political circle.
Dagmawi WodleAregay, USA

Those rabels that actuallly committed crimes against humanity should be prosecuted and sent to prison or they should set up some kind of truth commission to investigate the culprits and then ban them from participating in politics and they should not allow them to leave the country.
Julius Bankole, USA

Too many people have died in Sierra Leone. So for the sake of the children, the living and and for posterity we need to have peace now, after 8 years of a brutal war that has paralysed every aspect of the country.
Mohamed Khalil Kanu, USA

The International Court should deal with the RUF for the atrocities committed to civilians. I vote NO.
Rosemond Jones, UK

It is going to be extremely difficult to convict individuals of war crimes beyond reasonable doubt. Secondly, some of us had long had reliable eye witness reports from family members accusing all sides in the conflict of horribe crimes like summary executions, rapes, and amputations. Finally, the UN should not be making such irresponsible statements like rejecting the amnesty provision, when the UN has never and will more than likely, never provide any military protection for our defenseless people if the war continues. The UN does not value Sierra Leonean lives like those in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Patrick Bockari, USA

If peace is to be made possible people must be prepared to forgive each other no matter how bad the crimes were. Without forgiveness there will never be peace. And this does not mean to incourage violation of human rights. In Sierra Leone the rebels came out of the bush because there was a prospect for peace. That goodwill should not be betrayed on the pretext of war criminality. Had the rebels been defeated it would be proper to punish them for war crimes. Searching for war crimes among the rebels will jeopardise peace and prospects for peace in other parts of the world where there are conflicts will be doomed. Forgiveness is the proper way of restoring peace in Sierra Leone.
S M Sanka, Tanzania

No one can forget this nasty episode of Sierra Leone history in a hurry. And for those who actually got the raw deal, I doubt they will ever be able to forgive and forget. But to assuage their pains, some respnsibility must be borne by the perpetrators. A blanket amnesty is likely to cause further social problems a little way down the road. Remember, (for those who have seen, or know, or can empathise) Sierra Leone will never be the same again. I am glad the UN seems to have swallowed its words about war crimes. Amnesty, yes, but crimes against humanity shold not go unpunished. Otherwise where will justice be? Will it have to mean rewarding people for crimes against humanity? What example will it set? If another group emerges and does the same thing, will it also be treated the same? Would we ever be able to restore the Rule of Law?
Arthur Abraham, Sierra Leone

Letting rebels who've commited all those crimes go free is surely showing them that they can get away with such despicable acts, and of course stands in stark contrast to the way the UN or the West is going after Yugoslav war criminals. If the UN is going to be involved to show that it remains commited to all people then it should really act so, and send in troops or reinforce the ones that are already there, and it should not have double standards in the way it deals with victims and their agressors. It is really disapointing, I dont know who to blame, the human race? the white race? With all these past and present known facts of racism, the UN and everyone else continues to commit them hypocritically.
Wondi, Ethiopia, living in USA

You can forgive, but I don't think anyone will forget all the terrible things that happened in Sierra Leone.
Elizabeth, USA

While people debate giving amnesty to the rebels there are other parties that seem to have escaped unnoticed: the Canadian & UK mining companies that invested millions in supplying arms & military advisors to reinstall the government have yet to answer for their role. Is prolonging a civil war, in a foreign country, for financial gain, not a crime?
Chandler, Canada

Whether people decide to forgive and forget is a personal decision each person should make on their own. The peace deal in any case must be welcomed because with the international community unwilling to help, militarily as they did in Kosovo there was really no choice. The war had become unwinnable and the suffering of the people had to be brought to an end. But it is not enough for the RUF to be held responsible. The actual individuals involved in crafting and executing this devilish policy of mass amputations must be brought to justice. Then and only then can a decision be made to forgive and forget. If these crimes are allowed to go unaddressed they are sure to be repeated, if not in Sierra Leone then somewhere else in the world.
Mambu Kawa, USA

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

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