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From the Field

Issue No. 4: Returning the Girls Home: A Case Study from Sierra Leone (September 2002)

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I would not like to recall the bad and ugly days with the RUF. I have been psychologically traumatised due to my own experience of the war. I have been a victim, eyewitness in the event of unimaginable brutality, amputation, rape, and other physical assaults on women and other victims. (A quote from Frances, who was abducted by the RUF during a raid on her village at the age of 11 years)

Sierra Leone is emerging from what is generally acknowledged as the most inhuman and cruel conflict in recent times. The amount of damage, mayhem, rape, arson, torture, and other horrific acts that characterised Sierra Leone’s 11-year conflict are unparalleled anywhere in the world. The girl child unfortunately became easy prey to the cruelty and barbarity of the combatants and even, sadly, to some of the peacekeepers that were sent to protect her. Like many other poor countries around the world, women and girls in Sierra Leone continue to be the primary victims of discrimination, exclusion, poverty, illiteracy, family violence, and armed conflict. Women and children are not considered in the planning stages of wars and conflicts, nor do they usually feature much in development planning during times of peace. Yet they end up bearing the brunt of violence, war, poverty, and the effects of poor social and political planning.

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Issue No. 5: Female Combatants in West Africa: Pregress or Regress? (December 2002)

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Recent wars in West Africa have introduced a phenomenon that is not popular in the history and mythology of West Africa. The voices of women, stereotypically known to be romantic, affective, and soothing now echo with the masculinity and monstrosity common among warriors of old. Gone are the days when women sang the praises of warrior men. They too are warriors, capable of defending their nations and ideals (whatever that means in contemporary African warfare). Large numbers of women were in active combat in the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Some of them rose to the rank of commanders, generals, and senior intelligent officers. They were fierce and feared by all including women and children.

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Issue No. 7: Patriotic Rebels: West Africa's Architects of the New Patriotism? (December 2003)

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When I was growing up in the hilly suburb of Kishiy-Kimbo, in north western Cameroon, the names of West Africa’s patriots taught in our general knowledge and civic education classes were not only revered; they were celebrated. To a large extent, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sékou Touré of Guinea, Houphouët Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon, Leopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and recently Thomas Sankara and Jerry Rawlings are immortalized for their patriotic sacrifices that restored the dignity of their people. These were not necessarily great democrats, but they left their mark as great symbols of national grandeur. Sékou Touré called on his fellow countrymen and women to choose poverty in freedom over affluence in chains. His unrelenting position humiliated the West, especially France that craved for the wealth of Guinea. Nkrumah appealed to Africans to unite and expand their vision for self-rule. He snubbed the myopic identity of fragmented states for a united Africa. Today, Nkrumah stands vindicated. Senghor represented the intellectual capability of the African mind and demonstrated the richness of African poetic life in his leadership. He implored his people to explore the wonders of their minds and intellects. Houphouët declared that a free people are those who feed themselves. The land of Côte d’Ivoire was cultivated to the maximum, making his nation the richest in West Africa. Ahidjo played his game and refused to be maneuvered by France as he turned his back on appeals to recognize the break-away state of Biafra by steering clear of the Nigerian civil war. Though this was a political snare, Ahidjo refused to allow Cameroon to be used as a launching ground for a neighbour’s destabilization, sealed its borders to the secessionists and allowed refugees the free corridor.

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Issue No. 6: Establishing Early Warning Networks in Refugee Camps: Problems and Possibilities (November 2003)

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Conflicts in Africa, and particularly the West African sub-region, are becoming increasingly regionalized in nature. With the presence of cross-border rebel groups and hostile neighboring states these “civil wars” are very much inter-state affairs. Refugees play a major and complicated role in the regionalization of these conflicts. By their very nature, refugees bring the effects of war across borders. They are victims of war and hostile reception from host communities and states. But beyond this refugees can also become perpetrators of violence in their host communities and state—bringing along with them the violence from which they are fleeing. Recent conflicts in Africa provide us with numerous examples of refugees participating in the destabilization of the social, political, economic, and security systems of their host countries. The case of Hutu refugee camps of Eastern Congo who exploited humanitarian assistance to revive their war machine and the exportation of the Liberian civil war to Sierra Leone through fleeing refugees are fresh in the minds of humanitarian actors.

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Issue No. 8: ECOWAS' Sub-regional Conflict Prevention: Learning through Experience (January 2004)

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In the framework of the Capacity-Building Programme for Conflict Prevention and Good Governance for ECOWAS and Civil Society Organizations in West Africa, WANEP was commissioned to conduct an assessment of ECOWAS‟ Conflict Prevention Mechanism, both capacity and training needs.

Although looking at the larger context of ECOWAS as an institution, this assessment will focus on ECOWAS‟ Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security; and ECOWAS‟ supplementary (to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention) protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

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