Sierra Leone youth need jobs for peace: World Bank


Sierra Leone needs donors’ help to create jobs for disarmed but unemployed youth if the West African nation is to maintain the peace achieved since the end of a decade-long war, the World Bank said.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick praised steps towards promoting democracy and fighting corruption. But his visit coincided with the country’s president accusing some officials of corruption, chasing away investors and undermining his rule.

Sierra Leone’s 11-year war ended in 2002 and the country, whose minerals were central to the conflict, has enjoyed steady economic growth. But critics say not enough progress has been made to fight corruption and find jobs for former combatants.
“It is vitally important that the World Bank support this cause as it is important to keep the peace in Sierra Leone,” Zoellick said during a visit to the country.

According to the World Bank, 2006 figures showed that 30% of men aged 20-24 were unemployed or out of school, with the problem being particularly acute in urban areas.

The World Bank is helping disarmament and reintegration programmes and has provided Sierra Leone with $117 million since 2005. It is supporting nine projects costing about $160 million and Zoellick announced a further $20 million for job creation.
“This support is also important because it will look into the area of youths who were disarmed and do not have anything to do,” he added.

Analysts have long-warned of the dangers of the thousands of boys and young men, who fought in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia’s inter-linked wars, of stirring trouble at home or being recruited into other conflicts in the region.

Sierra Leone announced in November it would give voluntary jobs to 1000 Freetown youths to help police patrol in the fight against armed robberies and other crime.

While Zoellick praised Sierra Leone for progress made towards democracy, fighting corruption and improving transparency, his host, President Ernest Bai Koroma, was instead lambasting senior government officials for corruption.

Koroma was quoted on state radio as accusing senior ministers and security officials of being complicit in illegal activities, ranging from facilitating the drug trade to issuing fake passports and fleecing investors in the mineral sector.
“This is done with the knowledge of people sitting in this room at state house the police know this is happening on a grand scale,” he said in a speech made to ministers and senior officers involved in law enforcement.

Customs, immigration and police departments were picked out for their involvement in corruption.
“I am not satisfied with the way and manner in which virtually all these institutions have been conducting their affairs from evidence available to me, there seems to be collaboration to undermine the efforts of my government.”

Pic: Sierra Leone child solider