The Political Affairs and Peace Consolidation Section as directed by Security Council Resolution 1829 and 1886, provided “political support to national and local efforts for identifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflict”. Under this directive, the section led the mission’s efforts in promoting dialogue and the peaceful resolution of disputes among key national stakeholders to strengthen reconciliation and national cohesion; promote political tolerance and progressively instill a culture of mutual respect and non-violence.
The section was supported by its Regional Officers stationed in UNIPSIL’s Joint Offices in Bo, Freetown, Kono, Kenema and Makeni. Through these offices, the section monitored and reported on significant political, social and economic issues; sub-regional activities; identified trends/ threats (internal and external) to the consolidation of peace and; provided recommendations for further action. It also assisted the devolution and decentralization process by identifying challenges.
The Section fostered the peace consolidation process through proactive engagement with the political parties and other national stakeholders in order to overcome challenges of ethnicity, regionalism and political conflicts.
Participation and national ownership was the driving force behind its interventions. It therefore maintained an outreach strategy, and established and developed strong networks with government interlocutors, political parties, civil society actors including youth and women groups, local councils, traditional authorities and other relevant stakeholders.
Through regular attendance of meetings, briefings, forums, workshops and conferences the section maintained its visibility at all levels.
These various interfaces proved very useful in informing the section on devising strategies and programmatic interventions to strengthen peace countrywide.
The Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC)
In collaboration with UNDP, the section worked to raise the profile of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and build the capacity of its staff to adequately execute its mandate. UNIPSIL PAPCS promoted interparty dialogues in various parts of the country, strengthened its mediation capacity and, through consultations with stakeholders laid the foundation for a new structure of the Commission in preparation of the 2012 elections. It also worked to mobilize donor support /funding to ensure that the Commission retains its autonomy to function effectively.
The section served as member of the Restructuring Committee comprising of UNDP, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, and through these efforts the Government in its 2010 budget approved funds for the hiring of 30 staff for the Commission.
Jointly with UNDP, the Section ensured that unspent funds in the Election Basket Fund were applied for further technical assistance to the Commission to enable the hiring of experts in the areas of programming, conflict mediation and human resources.
The 2 April Joint Communiqué
In 2009, the section largely focused on implementing the 2 April Joint Communiqué (JC) which advocated for political tolerance and non-violence; strengthening of state institutions; recognition of the respective roles of the opposition and ruling party and; a bipartisan consensus on national issues. The UN Joint Vision also shaped the approach of the section's work and created the opportunity for more collaboration within and between UNIPSIL components and UN agencies.
Initiatives were developed to ensure a wider dissemination. The following are extracts of activities the PPCS Section developed and implemented:
Joint Communiqué (JC) Adherence Committee
The Joint Communiqué (JC) ushered in a renewed hope for mutual respect between the parties and UNIPSIL as a moral guarantor, continued engagement with the parties concerned to ensure adherence to the tenets of the Communiqué. Specifically UNIPSIL PPCS set up a JC adherence committee comprising of representatives from the political parties as well as civil society, inter-religious council and other key stakeholders. UNIPSIL and PPRC co-chair the committee which met once a month and the forum strengthened the relationship between the two parties. The section developed a matrix on the status of the implementation of the JC which the parties adopted, for ease of reference.
To ensure a wide dissemination of the Joint Communiqué (JC) message, the PPCS organized drama viewings in the 149 Chiefdoms. The section, after consultations with a consortium of national stakeholders including Talking Drums Studio, SLANGO and Civil Society Movement, developed a 30 minute drama on the message of the JC in five different indigenous languages and identified national partners to implement the viewings on market days in each chiefdom.
Concurrently, an abridged radio drama version and jingles were aired countrywide through the Independent Radio Network.
The Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry
The Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the incidents of rape and sexual violence that occurred in the attack of the SLPP Offices, in Freetown in March 2009, completed its assignment and presented its report to President Koroma within the stipulated time frame. UNIPSIL liaised with UNIFEM to provide a legal expert with experiences in sexual violence issues to assist the Commission.
The Independent Review Panel
Another Commission, the Shears Moses Independent Review Panel, to investigate the incidents of political violence that occurred in Freetown, Kenema and Gendema in March 2009 concluded its work in 2010.
The PPCS organized separate intraparty retreats for the APC, PMDC and SLPP parties’ female wings and general membership aimed at improving their respective internal democratic mechanisms. In collaboration with Talking Drums Studio (Search for Common Ground, the section developed a documentary, “Attaya Base,” which featured statements by locals in traditional tea shops, to stimulate discourse on addressing the concerns of common citizens.
Political Parties Outreach Forums
The section partnered with the National Youth Coalition to organize community outreach programmes with the political parties to enhance tolerance, confidence building which resulted in a collective and voluntary denunciation of violence by youths and commit to issues of national development. Due to this continuous engagement, there was a significant reduction in violent confrontations involving political party youth.
Political Parties Youth Executives Leadership Workshop Retreats
The section in collaboration with UNDP funded inter party youth executive leadership workshop which resulted in the formation of working groups consisting of members drawn from different political parties, to organize joint outreach events in all districts, replicating and disseminating the message of peace and tolerance to stakeholders. The process of confidence building between the youth wings of the political parties culminated in the formation, under the auspices of the PPRC, of the All Political Parties Youth Association (APPYA). The section provided support to the association.
The PPCS helped establish a resource center for members of the all the political parties and other interested persons at the PPRC premises. The resource centre which included reading material, audio-video resources and internet access computers was intended to provide political party members with a forum for the research and adoption of issue-based policy, as opposed to ethnicity-based alternatives.
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Headquarters Repair
The section partnered with the UNDP to ensure that the project was appropriately executed.
Monitoring and Reporting
As mentioned previously, the section constantly monitored and reported on significant socio-economic and political developments in the country.
Monitoring gave an insight into existing and potential threats to the consolidation of peace. The section through its regional offices highlighted a string of emerging concerns some of which the timely intervention of officers and Headquarters forestalled a fresh eruption of violence. Such concerns included, land/ boundary disputes, mineral rights, cross border issues, chieftaincy issues, decentralization issues etc. Boundary/ Land disputes were noted in the Eastern Region in Sandoh Chiefdom, between Ngiyehun and Ngahun in Gbane Chiefdom in Kono District; Northern Region in Neini /Neya in Koinadugu District, Kafe Simera-Kaslasongia Chiefdom in Tonkolili District, Mapalbo-Kamalu in the Kambia District; in the Western Area in Angola Town and Hamilton. Mineral Rights in the Eastern Region in Tankoro and Nimikoro Chiefdoms, Gbense and Fiama Chiefdom. With the proliferation of such issues, UNIPSIL PAPCS has developed a proposal to train a national group of mediators but in the meantime, partners with NEC, PPRC and the Provincial and District Security Committees (PROSEC/DISEC) to mediate in such disputes to avoid prolonged confrontations.
In most instances the mediations yielded positive outcomes. Notable among these were: 1) the tensions between the community residents and stone miners at Angolo Town, Lakka, Western Area, 2) the religious disturbances in Mambolo Chiefdom, Kambia District, 3) the conflict between the Petty traders of Kholifa Rowala Chiefdom in the Tonkolili District and Paki Masambong Chiefdom, Bombali District, 4) the intra-party conflict in PMDC over resistance to replace party representatives in DMC and APPA and, PMDC dispute between PMDC Members from Port Loko branch and the Northern Regional Executive over withholding of funds intended for delegates to the National Delegate Conference.
Community Outreach Forums/Engagement
Through UNIPSIL’s operational Joint Field Offices in the Regions, the Section also organized regular community outreach visits to disseminate the JC and Joint Vision Strategy. This JC dissemination programs were executed by Regional officers in partnership with the DCMC’s. The section organized discussions with civil society groups to form programmes that had a direct impact on the consolidation of peace.
The section participated in forums organized by the Decentralization Secretariat, the City and District Councils to monitor the challenges encountered in the decentralization process and also gives its support to the devolution of functions to local councils and a review of the Local Government Act.
The sectioned teamed up with the NEC, PPRC and other civil society organizations to monitor the conduct of by-elections in various parts of the country. The Paramount Chief elections were also extensively covered.
The section was an active member of the UN gender theme group and closely monitors gender sensitive events particularly on increasing women participation in decision making. The section had strong links with the Caucus of female parliamentarians, councilors, female organizations and continues to take an active part in fostering the cause of women.
Civil Society Engagement
The section maintained close contacts with civil society organizations through its regional offices countrywide, conducted meetings and attended forums to encourage participation and ownership of democratic processes and governance.
Constitutional Review Process
In concert with the government of Sierra Leone, the section promoted extensive participation from the political parties and citizenry on the constitutional review and referendum.