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What Did the Surveys Tell Us About Security Concerns?

Overall, the Government of Sierra Leone’s strategy was for security actors to provide security for the population as a whole, and the survey suggests that the Government has made significant strides towards achieving this goal. However, the survey also suggests that there is still significant room for improvement in terms of security delivery and the perceptions of people on the ground.

Survey results indicate that many of the deep-rooted causes of conflict have changed little since the Government published the Security Sector Review in 2005. Threats identified by the survey include those that have been or are being addressed, whilst others have been identified as priorities. The following is a summary of survey results:

Social v io lence (including sexual violence)

‘Classic’ SSR security threats

Wider env iro nmental threa ts from outside the co mmunity


Gend ered vio len ce

Street violence

Drug taking

Youth unemploy men t

Armed theft

Unlawfu l allocation of land

To wn minin g

Chiefs’ misallocatio n of land

In ad eq uate co verag e of security fo rces

To o few SLP n ight patro ls

Brib ery o f security fo rces

Lack o f screen in g of secu rity person nel

Us e of ex-co mbatants as security perso nnel

Poor ju dicial system

In ad eq uate con ditions of serv ice for security perso nnel

Lo w levels of educatio n

Political in terference

Predomin an ce o f small arms an d smugglin g

In ternatio nal smug gling

Criminal activity related to dru gs

Smugglin g o f people, es pecially children

Table 3: Perceived Security Threats

There were, of course, significant localised concerns that differed across the districts. In Bombali (Makeni), for example, there were concerns about political violence and marginalization and increases in HIV/AIDS. Kambia was more concerned with theft and smuggling of food and drugs. Survey results also indicated concerns about human trafficking and drugs as major security threats.

Above all, given the level of activity surrounding security system transformation

at top levels of government, there seemed to be little knowledge of these efforts at the local level.

Issues in Bo were different; they appear to be far more concerned with political violence and marginalisation due to political beliefs. This was also a serious issue in Kenema, where political tension was exacerbated by deforestation through commercial logging and in Kailahun, the Yenga border crisis with Guinea was mentioned. Given that it is the main area for diamond activity in the country, Kono was, not surprisingly, dominated by the presence of significant numbers of people from outside the district and from West Africa who believe that they can make quick money in the diamond fields. At the same time, pressure on land and access to land has led to accusations of bias amongst chiefs, forced migration, land degradation, illegal mining and corruption regarding compensation claims. The presence of former combatants as security guards for some of the mining operations also adds to the sense of insecurity in the area.

The Western Area around Freetown was different again. Following the rapid urbanisation during the war, Freetown’s main security problems rest with the large number of youths who inhabit the growing slum areas and engage in low- grade crime, including street crime (sometimes violent), theft and use of marijuana. At the same time, as the capital of the country, Freetown exhibits an element of political violence and criminal activity related to organised crime connected into the metropolitan elite.

While it is extremely difficult to rank all of these factors in any meaningful way, it is clear that detailed results from all districts show that there is some consistency amongst the top threats that recur from district to district. These include crime (especially violent and street crime); drug abuse and smuggling;

rape and domestic violence; child trafficking; and youth unemployment. Overall, the picture is one in which serious threats of political violence or abduction from rebels has almost entirely disappeared, only to be replaced by domestic threats supplemented by external criminal networks.

Clearly, domestic violence remains a key issue in the countryside in particular.

This is also complicated by the number of women who identify a lack of access to traditional systems, in particular, paramount chiefs, that operate outside the formal legal system. This is critical, given that in many areas most people use the formal system for conflict resolution only as a last resort. In fact, the lack of faith in the formal justice system is reflected across all of the districts, but it is not wholly clear whether this is the result of lack of trust, lack of knowledge or lack of resources (in all probability it is a combination of the three). It is certainly related to lack of people, particularly lawyers, who are familiar with the formal system outside Freetown. Traditional justice does serve as a relatively quick, effective and accepted source of justice, but it still clearly excludes specific groups, particularly youth and women.