Sunday, November 15, 2009

Transitions not made in Sierra Leone

Those of us who teach in the areas of international criminal law or transitional justice know well the literature that holds Sierra Leone out as something of a success story. (map credit)
Commentators point to the Special Court, established to prosecute a handful of high-level defendants, and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that in 2004 both published a 5,000-page record of the 1990s civil war and recommended changes. Articles often make laudatory, albeit vague, references to post-conflict rehabilitation programs. Few, however, mention the record of non-implementation of truth commission recommendations, nor the fact that the country remains destitute.
A series running in the Los Angeles Times is correcting the latter omission. Today's "Forgotten Countries" installment discusses problems in sectors as varied and health care, employment, and politics. Here's an excerpt:

Sierra Leone is one of those nations where decades of foreign aid have failed to appreciably lift the fortunes of the people. The country is a charity case: 60% of its public spending comes from foreign governments and nonprofit organizations. Since 2002, it has received more than $1 billion in aid.
Yet it has the second-highest rate of infant mortality in the world, behind Angola; even Afghanistan ranks lower. The United Nations says 1 in 8 women die giving birth in Sierra Leone; the rate in the United States is 1 in 4,800. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 41 years; in Bangladesh it's 60.
Keep an eye out for the series' 2d installment (here, on drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau).

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