As part of the implementation of the Reparations Programme, the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) has been busy organising symbolic reparation activities across the country. The first activity was organised in Bomaru, Kailahun district on 23rd March 2009.Since then symbolic reparations activities have been organised in Bandajuma and Kpanga Kabonde chiefdoms in Pujehun; Bombali Sebora chiefdom; and Tene chiefdom, Tonkolili district.
Symbolic reparations refer to measures that facilitate the communal process of remembering and commemorating the past. They are measures to restore the dignity of victims and survivors, and include reburials, erecting tombstones, memorials and monuments and the renaming of streets and public facilities.
Speaking during symbolic reparation programme in Pujehun on 30th May, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, Alpha Kanu, who represented the President, expressed government’s commitment to the reparations programme which he said is a major step towards consolidating peace in the country.
Lamin Jusu Jakka a war victim shed tears while recounting how he was amputated during the war and said they will forgive but will not forget. He thanked government for implementing the reparations programme, which he said will go a long way in healing the wounds of the conflict.
In Bombali, where the ceremony was organised on 12th and 13th June, the Paramount Chief, Kasanga Shebora, expressed gratitude to government for making moves towards restoring societal ties and showing respect to victims killed and buried without proper respect during the conflict. The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Joseph Koroma explained that symbolic reparation is particularly important because it not only acknowledges the harm done and the sufferings of victims, but it shows that no amount of money or service will be sufficient to compensate the victims. He said the war affected all Sierra Leoneans and that in every part of the country societies were affected. He also stated “as we are one people we have no where to go but to forgive and reconcile”. This, he said, is why government is committed to implement the recommendations of the TRC.
The Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights, Edward Sam, called on the local people to take ownership of the programme and to let the memorial serve as a symbol that never again will people resort to violence.
Major activities undertaken during the programme in the chiefdoms included cleansing of secret society bushes, vigils and reburial of symbolic corpse, quranic recitals and cultural displays.
Elaborating on the significance of symbolic reparations, the Deputy Commission of NaCSA, Charles Rogers explained that the Sierra Leone conflict not only affected individual lives, but also communities, people’s belief systems and cultural heritages: Traditional and community meeting spaces and institutions were demolished and desecrated; people were forced to commit sacrilege against symbols of their religions or faith; traditional authorities and institutions, including secret societies, were brought to disrepute; and people were killed and buried (some in mass graves) without any observance of religious or traditional rites or ceremonies.
Symbolic reparations, consisting of certain public acts and civic rituals seek to restore social ties broken during the conflict and symbolic observance of certain rites and ceremonies (e.g. funeral rites) are mechanisms to restore the dignity of victims and survivors. Symbolic reparations also provide continued public acknowledgement of the past and address the demands on the part of victims for remembrance.
NaCSA is implementing the reparations programme as recommended by the TRC to respond to the needs of victims and promote healing and reconciliation