Conflict and consequences in Sierra Leone

Map Sierra Leone Duration of the conflict
 From 1991 to 2001

Nature of the conflict
In April 1991, a civil war broke out between the government and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. The main reason for the conflict was to gain control of the country's diamond mines.

Humanitarian aspects
Human Development Index 20071: 177, lowest ranking(2006: 176) An estimated 75,000 people died in the war, 40,000 of whom were children. During the war, there were 2 million refugees and displaced persons. The number of wounded in Sierra Leone was 10,000. An estimated 20,000 children were raped.

Child soldiers
Between 10,000 and 15,000 child soldiers fought in the war.

Country's current phase
Post-war recovery. The situation has stabilised and the country is in transition to development phase. Massive unemployment is the main obstacle to development2.


Sierra Leone is still experiencing the consequences of a ten-year civil war that had a devastating effect upon the country and its people. Many lost family members, were victims of physical or sexual violence and/or were forced to flee. Most refugees have now returned home. The people of Sierra Leone are trying to rebuild their lives, but the recovery process is long and difficult. Social structures and feelings of solidarity have declined.

Nevertheless, the relatively peaceful change of government following the 2007 general election is a positive indication that the country is stabilising. The new government now faces the difficult challenge of lifting the country out of extreme poverty.

Little attention has been paid to the rights and psychosocial needs of children. They are not supported by adults and many are negatively influenced by their peer group. Moreover, 70% of all young people (aged 15-35) are unemployed. The TRC3 considers youth unemployment a major cause of the war and the main threat to lasting peace.

Children in armed groups
During the war, thousands of children were recruited as child soldiers. When the war ended, most of them reintegrated into their original communities or into other communities; however, not all of them did so successfully. In June 2007, the Special Court for Sierra Leone set a historical precedent by convicting three people for recruiting child soldiers during the war.

1 Human Development Index 2007: This United Nations index is a classification of countries based on their level of development (in terms of poverty, illiteracy, education, and life expectancy).
2 World Bank Country Study on Sierra Leone
3 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an independent body in Sierra Leone formed after the Lomé peace agreement between the Sierra Leonean government and the RUF was signed. It was essential to the reconciliation process and the recovery of all civil war victims.

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17 year old Sorie from Sierra Leone

17 year old Sorie from Sierra Leone was kidnapped by rebels when he was very young. Extreme violence became part of his daily life.

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