Sierra Leone is still a country where egregious violations of human rights occur, despite the fact that the civil war that ravaged the country for a decade ended officially in 2002. The country still struggles to gain political stability, but is still plagued by the atrocities of the civil that manifest in continuing abuses of women - women who suffer from genital mutilation, rape, and domestic violence. The entire country suffers from extreme poverty which keeps the country in turmoil.
To understand Sierra Leone's precarious position, it is necessary to look at some of the background of the civil war that contributed to the country's destabilization and one of the issues that started the war - diamonds.
In Sierra Leone, diamonds are far from a girl's best friend. In fact, diamonds are one reason that women were systematically raped as a form of torture in Sierra Leone. They were another reason that both men and women had limbs amputated and/or were beheaded in the civil war that went on in Sierra Leone for over a decade.
Diamonds were one of the reasons for the founding of the Revolutionary United Front, a group that was ostensibly formed to protect citizens in Sierra Leone from abuses involved in the diamond industry. The RUF quickly degenerated into a group that actually committed the atrocities it was supposedly working against. Civil war eventually broke out with both of the sides fighting engaging in unimaginable violations of human rights in order to win their war.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the violence in Sierra Leone was that much of the violence targeted children. Children were recruited to become "soldiers" Sierra Leone's civil war. Recruitment methods were brutal - sometimes children were abducted, sometimes they were forced to kill members of their own families so as to make them outcasts, sometimes they were drugged, sometimes they were forced into conscription by threatening family members. Recruits were subjected to inhumane treatment and by overwhelming the child to violence in order to completely desensitize them and make them mindless killing machines.
The civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, however, the country is far from stable. Those who suffered from the violence are still in the country, still carrying the scars of the war either on their bodies or in their hearts and minds. Many children, those who were desensitized to violence are now struggling to be reintroduced into society. The rapes, amputations, and genital mutilations that were the hallmarks of the conflict are still being carried out today perhaps as a result of those acts of terror becoming so commonplace during the war. Women, who were so devalued during the war are still denied justice or the access to the justice system, despite the passage of laws specifically designed to assist them in regaining and/or preserving their civil rights.
You can assist Sierra Leone by keeping awareness of the country's problems in the forefront of the media. You can support the Millennium Development goals designed to eradicate extreme poverty. You can call for all governments in all nations, including the United States, to enforce the protection of human rights for all - especially those who are the most vulnerable members of humanity.
*~Aisling Ireland~* is long time human rights activist, a active member of Amnesty International, a One Campaign supporter, writer, and an ordained Spiritual Counselor.
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