Sierra Leone: Democratic Election After 10 Years of Civil War

«A triumph of peace and tolerence,» Says bishop of Makeni

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ROME, May 15, 2002 («A triumph of peace and tolerance,» said Bishop Biguzzi, defines these elections, the willingness of the people to «write the word ´end´ to the war.»

Xaverian Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi of Makeni is finally happy. After years of vehement defense of human rights in this tormented West-African nation, today before his eyes was a nation where history may really have resumed its time

The 2.3-million voters of Sierra Leone were called to elect a new parliament and President.

Up until now, some 50,000 inhabitants of this West-African country of 5.4 million were killed throughout the civil war begun in 1991. Many had their hands hacked off, were raped or robbed, and more than 2 million people were driven from their homes, a third of the population.

“The voting took place in great calm, many people chose to go to the polls early in the morning – explained Bishop Biguzzi, contacted over the phone by LA AGENCIA MISIIONERA Misna– in fact, even before the stations opened there were long lines.»

“Today was positive,» continued the prelate, «I see in the great and peaceful turnout to the polls that these people want to put an end to this terrible period of war and mark a new moment in history.»

“The new government and renewed parliament» underlined Bishop Biguzzi, «will have to seriously confront all the problems all nations face.»

According to Bishop BiguzziThere are two priorities: “First of all continue on the road toward reconciliation, because there are still some unresolved problems; and the re-launching on a national level of reconstruction of structures damaged by war.»

The bishop remarks that the presence of the international community in Sierra Leone is considerably helping the nation to revive from a very dark period. But there is a risk. The UN peace mission (which will last until September 30), the NGO’s and the aid groups, will eventually leave.

“When in a few years this occurs, there may be some difficulties to face,» observed the Bishop, «and only if the nation has acquired the necessary equilibrium will it be possible to continue on a path toward peace.»

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