The Sierra Leone Civil War broke out in 1991, bearing similarity to the situation in Iraq in that it was closely interconnected with the civil war then ongoing in the neighboring Liberia. The war devastated the country, leaving more than 50,000 dead and over 2 million displaced as refugees. In 1996, the then military leader, Brigadier Bio, stated that he was committed to ending the civil war and returning the country to being governed by a democratically elected civilian government. Months later, he fulfilled his promise, handing power over to the democratically elected Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. In 1999, the United Nations approved of sending peacekeepers to Sierra Leone. Two years later, UN forces began to move into rebel-held areas and disarm rebel soldiers. By January 2002, the war was finally declared over.
The Peacebuilding Commission, established in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council during the reform process initiated during the 60th session of the General Assembly. During its first year of operation, the Commission focused its efforts on Burundi and Sierra Leone. In 2007, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone, and called on the government of Sierra Leone to continue to engage closely with the Peacebuilding Commission. In the same year, the Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework was issued, which laid down the principles for cooperation and analyzed the priorities, challenges and risks for peacebuilding in the context of Sierra Leone. It identified the role of the Commission as “to bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and advice on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery”; that is, compared with direct involvement in the reconstruction of post-war Sierra Leone, the Commission’s role is more of an intermediate that investigates local needs, comes up with effective peacebuilding strategies, and channels resources offered by the international community. From then on, the Peacebuilding Commission has held biannual reviews of the Framework’s implementation.
The peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone has been progressing steadily over the years. A major milestone was the 2012 elections, widely seen as a core criterion for peace consolidation. In order to ensure the elections were peaceful, free, and credible, the Commission has led joint efforts with the government of Sierra Leone and other major stakeholders to prepare for them, tackling both technical and political challenges.
The elections also marked the start of a new phase of the peacebuilding process. In the briefing by the Chair of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission to the Security Council, several points are emphasized for the post-election period: that some significant peacebuilding challenges, including youth unemployment and combating corruption, are long-term in nature and take sustained effort in spite of past peacebuilding successes; that the United Nations should continue to play a crucial role in coordinating international actors under the framework of a well-developed, nationally owned peacebuilding approach; and that post-election transitions may create strategic and funding gaps, which calls for intensive and sustained multilateral and bilateral assistance.