International Peace Day celebrations in Sierra Leone sponsored by UNIPSIL

23 Sep 2010

International Peace Day celebrations in Sierra Leone sponsored by UNIPSIL

21 September 2010 - In Sierra Leone, which in 2002 emerged from a decade- long civil war, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) partnered with the National Youth Coalition to celebrate the International Peace Day. Activities included live morning and evening radio debates, a peace march, football matches, and the unveiling of a peace pole.

Reflecting the spirit of this year's theme, approximately 500 young men and women marched through town, carrying banners of peace and playing traditional music. The march went to the "Peace Bridge" in Freetown, which is up to where, during the civil war, the rebels managed to intrude and devastate Freetown. At that location, the youths had erected a peace pole to commemorate the day and remind citizens of the need for peace. Mindful of the need to overcome divisions, youth leaders from the ruling and the main opposition political parties pledged to work together irrespective of tribal and political affiliation for the continued peace of the country and the common good of its people. Finally, a peace pole was solemnly unveiled by the Deputy Minister for Youths and Sport and UNIPSIL OIC.

In a festive mood, the participants walked back to the National Stadium, where a series of football matches were held. Two teams of amputees played against each other, during the civil war, rebels had hacked off one of their legs. Lucky were those that survived those barbaric acts, but today many of them lead lives of misery and destitution. With remarkable ease, energy and swiftness they pitched the ball across the field. Cheered on by the spectators, the match ended 3 to 0. After this truly graphic display of the consequences of the absence of peace, a team by the All Political Parties Youth Association played against a team under the banner of the National Youth Coalition. Maybe conspicuously, the match young politicians vs. civil society ended in a draw.

Throughout the country, radio and TV brought the events into peoples' homes. While similar events were hosted also by other organizations, they offered a welcome respite for some Sierra Leoneans from daily routines, and an opportunity for all to reflect on peace, as a precondition for development and prosperity. It was uplifting to see how eagerly Sierra Leoneans grasped that opportunity.