The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, on Tuesday 10th December 2019, re-launched the refurbished Peace Museum at the former Special Court compound in Brookfields. The SCSL Public Archives are located in the Peace museum. In his welcome address, the President of the Residual Court, Jon Kamanda, said the court has gone through a remarkable transformation, after it was badly dilapidated. He said “… the Civil war, the rebel war, the 11 year war, to call the war by all its popular names is on record as the bloodiest experience in either the civil or armed history of Sierra Leone.” He noted that most people have forgotten all the horrors of those times since the war ended almost 20 years ago. Justice Kamanda noted that “this museum is the place toi utilize in the quest for a reminder of the horrors of the war.” He called on all to visit the museum, hoping that the visitors will leave with the message “which the museum is meant to pass on … Never again, Never again, Never again.” The Registrar of the Residual Special Court, Binta Mansaray, said the museum was launched in 2012 and handed over to the Government of Sierra Leone in 2013. “To ensure that what happened is not forgotten. It was not meant to re-awaken old wounds but to reflect upon them inorder to avoid its recurrence.” It was the vision of the government of Sierra Leone. She disclosed that between 2014 and 2018, the building became dilapidated and they saw the need to refurbish it. Mrs Mansaray explained that they got a $50 thousand donation from the Government of Netherlands, with which they were able to rehabilitate the museum, and were also obliged to repair some artifacts. She said the museum has six exhibition areas depicting different tools, monuments, equipment used during the war and also pictures of war victims and war fighters, which can serve as important learning centre for pupils, students and researchers.
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According to the Director of Tourism, Foday Jalloh, the refurbished museum will be part of the heritage and culture of Sierra Leone, noting, “our cultural history is very significant.” He said the museum will tell a comprehensive history of the war, before, during and after the entire exercise. The Representative from the Dutch Government, Gijs Bakker, said, the opening of the Peace Museum “coincides with the 71st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As Article One of the Declaration states, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’” He said the availability of the archives and museum will contribute to reconciliation of society and it will strengthen the effective outreach programs of the residual mechanism on the ground. The Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, Desmond B. Edwards, said the Peace Museum is a collection of evidence primarily on materials from the civil war. He said it is a symbol to honour the victims of the war and also stand for those persons that played pertinent roles before, during and after the war. The Chief Justice made mention about the lack of maintenance culture in the country, and pledged that the judiciary will be supporting the Museum with a small bursary for its maintenance and upkeep. Giving the keynote address, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Priscilla Schwartz, said despite the civil war, Sierra Leone has undergone massive transformation, as Sierra Leone was the first international Court to sit in the home where the crime took place. She said museums are set up around the globe to preserve and manage historical materials and called on Sierra Leoneans to take ownership of the museum. The Minister said the Peace Museum will serve as a tool for transforming war related issues of darkness to shining light. Minister Schwartz said the museum will pass on the memories of Sierra Leone to the rest of the world, noting that “it is up to us not to repeat the mistake of the war.” The launching was witnessed by former judges of the Court, defense counsels, members of the judiciary, war victims and a host of other guests. The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established by an Agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations in 2002. The goal of having the Peace Museum, TRC records and SCSL Public Archives is to help explain the decade long war and make the archive and documents more accessible to the people in Sierra Leone.
By Mohamed J. Bah
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