A nine-man delegation from Uganda which comprised of academicians, civil society activists and representatives of the office of the Prime Minister are currently in Freetown on a week post-conflict learning mission.
The host, Conciliation Resources (CR) West Africa Programme Director- Sofia Goin, maintained that the purpose of the visit was to learn from Sierra Leone’s peace process and post-conflict reconstruction and also share experience between the two countries.
She disclosed that the delegationwould also be looking at how Sierra Leone has addressed issues such as transitional justice, community reconciliation and youth mobilization.
CR’s Uganda and Sudan Borders Programme Director- Kennedy Tumutegyereize gave a brief background about the conflict in Northern Uganda, noting that they have worked with several journalists and members of other institutions to help them educate the population on what was happening in Northern Uganda; and of course through concerted efforts from CR and other institutions, the problem of Northern Uganda is now on the national agenda.
He explained that the delegation “comes from different background, as some are from the government; others are student; whilst others are practioners in the peace building arena in Northern Uganda.”
We came to Sierra Leone for a number of reasons, said Tumutegyereize “we think that Sierra Leone is at the peak of the phase of the peace building process compared to Northern Uganda and hence we are here to talk to a number of people, basically to see the lessons we can learn that are applicable to northern Uganda.”
“Specifically the group comprisedof members who work with youth issues or young people generally affected by conflict or who are themselves victims of conflict,” he said and maintained that the mission is also to see how these youth are integrated into the society.
Members of the delegation explained some of the experiences they have gathered in Sierra Leone during their short stay, in what they described as a “wonderful country with friendly people.”
The most intrigue experience was their discovery at Fourah Bay College (FBC) that Peace Studies is a module which runs through all faculties.
The delegation would be going to Bo City to get a firsthand experience of the Bo Peace and Reconciliation Movement (BPRM) operations at the grass root level. Northern Uganda suffered from civil unrest since the early 1980s. Hundreds of people were killed in the rebellion against the Ugandan government, and an estimated 400,000 people were left homeless. Political violence increased in Kampala with the 1998 and 1999 bombings of several popular restaurants nightclubs, and other public places. Eight foreign tourists, including two Americans, were murdered by an Interehamwe guerilla group in Bwindi National Forest in March 1999. Rebels were active in the Northern and Western Sections of Uganda. Notwithstanding this horrific development the country has made tremendous growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and some amount of reduction in infant and maternal mortality.
By Ophaniel Gooding