As the Co-leader of the MBB Sierra Leone Project, Loretta Raider is adamant about local peacebuilding responses to the current Ebola outbreak and the country’s recent 11-year civil war. We recently caught up with Loretta, and her call to action for support of activities in Sierra Leone testifies to the immediate opportunity to heal wounds there, both new and old. MBB’s work empowers Sierra Leonean leaders to transform local conflicts, decreasing the likelihood of a return to violence. The project is systemic—convening different segments of civil society including, NGO and youth leaders, women’s groups and tribal chiefs—building community resilience through trainings in leadership development, conflict transformation, dialogue, and trauma relief.
From Civil War to Fragile Peace
Sierra Leone is a nation still recovering from a devastating civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, destroying nearly every part of the country’s political, social, public health and economic fabric. Today, 70% of the population lives below the poverty line and Ebola has destroyed nearly 75% of the public health infrastructure. Tension, inequality and conflict dynamics persist despite the country’s fragile peace.
MBB’s national engagement in Sierra Leone began in 2012 at the invitation of local peacebuilders in Freetown, who convened to prevent violence ahead of scheduled general elections. What began as a coalition of seven organizations quickly grew into a movement of 40 groups from three regions. MBB led a training for 250 stakeholders – including youth, women, media, and security, religious, tribal, and political leaders—to promote dialogue and mediation skills in support of conflict prevention. There were no incidents of violence during elections.
Sierra Leone now faces a grave Ebola epidemic, with current fatalities standing at 3,159 as of January 2015. Local leaders now play a crucial role in mitigating epidemic related conflicts resulting from mistrust of state agencies and between different communities. MBB is responding with a new approach: a Train the Trainers Online program in conflict transformation, delivered via webinar to leaders across the country.
Present Challenges and Opportunities
Travel restrictions within the country have prevented in-person trainings, encouraging Loretta’s team to creatively re-envision their work using a virtual platform. The current project is equipping NGO leaders from Kenema, Bo, Makeni, Freetown, Kona, and Magburaka with skills to immediately work with conflict and trauma resulting from the Ebola crisis. Since the New Year, 19 participants have completed the first portion of the curriculum, covering modules on group dynamics and facilitation, dialogue facilitation, and conflict transformation. Upcoming sessions will cover public speaking and trauma and reconciliation. Following the course, ongoing coaching will support graduates as they apply their skills locally. Participants report significant skills growth and are optimistic that MBB is equipping them as peace leaders to respond to current crises.
Loretta’s call for support will empower MBB to deliver additional trainings and grow local peacebuilding responses in this critical period. Please consider making a contribution by clicking HERE. Please specify Sierra Leone in the box which asks where you want to apply your donation for— to help sustain this worthy initiative.