AOAV has been working with partners in Sierra Leone since 2011. This programme builds on the Liberia programme, initiating a regional approach to programming in recognition of the cultural, social and economic links throughout the Mano River Union countries.
AOAV conducts programming in Sierra Leone in close partnership with the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA) and the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA).
AOAV began working with SLeNCSA in 2011 to facilitate the review and development of its National Action Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). This review ensured that the plan is in accordance with international and regional agreements and best practice. Following the adoption of the Sierra Leone Arms and Ammunition Act in August 2012, AOAV has been working with SLeNCSA to assist in the implementation of the Act. AOAV supported a sensitisation campaign of the Act in November 2012, which was undertaken jointly by SLeNCSA and SLANSA. This campaign was a first step to implementation and informed Government and civil society of their obligations under the new Act. AOAV continues to work with SLeNCSA in 2013 to design and implement a nationwide registration system for SALW.
In order to build a better understanding of armed violence in Sierra Leone, AOAV and SLANSA jointly conducted a baseline assessment of armed violence in Sierra Leone in 2012. This assessment provides insight into the perceptions and experiences of armed violence at a community level, and provides evidence for targeted policies and programmes that will effectively reduce the incidence and impact of armed violence, concentrating on highly affected areas. AOAV has plans to work with SLANSA to facilitate feasible alternative livelihoods for SALW manufacturers.
Sierra Leone is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with a long Atlantic coastline to the west, and bordered to the north by Guinea and by Liberia to the south-east. Together with Cote D’Ivoire, these four countries comprise the Mano River Union, whose goal is to foster economic cooperation among member countries.
Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in 1961. This was followed by thirty years of one-party and military rule by the All People’s Congress, during which period the emphasis of the security forces was on supporting the regime, rather than state or human security. Greed and mismanagement of natural resources by successive governments led, by the 1980s, to the almost total collapse of state provision of public services.
Sierra Leone experienced a brutal ten-year civil war between 1991 and 2002. While there is much debate about the causes of the war, most agree that it is impossible to ignore the impact of the economic decline described above. It helped to create a large cohort of unemployed and barely literate young people in rural Sierra Leone, who were easily conscripted by both political and criminal organisations. Many commentators highlight the continuing presence of the drivers of the conflict in contemporary Sierra Leone.
It is estimated that approximately 460,000 people died as a result of the conflict (27,000 as a direct result of violence). An additional 4,000 people had their limbs deliberately amputated, and 215,000-257,000 women may have been victims of sexual violence.
The war was enormously destructive to a country already in economic and social crisis, destroying infrastructure and government services, especially in rural areas. However, Sierra Leone has made substantial progress in the eleven years since the war ended, including improvements to life expectancy at birth, under-five mortality rate, and GDP. In 2012 Sierra Leone held its third peaceful election since the end of the war.