Visit to Sierra Leone – May 1998

The Special Representative visited Sierra Leone from 26-29 May 1998 to assess first-hand the situation of children affected by years of armed conflict in the country. The Special Representative met with government officials, officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the leadership of Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), leaders of armed insurgency groups, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, as well as affected communities. Special Representative had The OPportunity to witness the terrible plight of internally displaced people, including hundreds of unaccompanied children who had recently emerged from the bush

Throughout his visit and in all his discussions, it became clear that one of the most pressing challenges facing Sierra Leone was the “crisis of the young’ – the plight of children affected directly and indirectly by the conflict. There were many serious manifestations of the impact of the prolonged conflict on children, such as street children, child combatants, Displaced Children, unaccompanied children, and victims of atrocities, as well as the collapse of health and Education services. It was also striking that so many people expressed their alarm at the rapid erosion of local value systems within the society, especially among the youth.

The Special Representative identified five areas requiring urgent action by the international community:

  • Demobilization and reintegration of child combatants;
  • Resettlement of internally displaced persons;
  • Tracing of families of unaccompanied children;
  • Rehabilitation and support of victims without limbs;
  • Provision and rehabilitation of medical and Educational services.

Commitments from the parties to the conflict which were obtained by the Special Representative