During the initial community meetings local people established a mechanism to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes. Peace monitors were identified by the community to help resolve palavers and conflicts and to ensure a just solution. Because the communities are predominantly Muslim, the personal qualifications sought in peace monitors were facility in Koranic reading and respect in the community. Each chiefdom section nominated one person, mainly Koranic teachers or mwalimus, to provide early warning of conflict within their section and to intervene before the conflicts became severe. To be able to intervene effectively, the peace monitors were trained in basic conflict-handing skills to deal with local militia personnel, community relations, human rights issues and reconciliation.
Each peace monitor was expected to work for twelve days every month, covering between ten and fifteen villages. They were given a bicycle to get around. A small stipend was provided so that each monitor could commit the required time to this work. From within their ranks the monitors nominated a principal peace monitor, through whom the project managers received their reports. The head monitor and his deputy are invited to workshops organised by the SFCDP.
When there are local grievances, the people call the peace monitors instead of turning to the native court system. The peace monitors use dialogue and the Koran to solve problems. When they encounter more complex conflicts, such as political disputes between villages or tensions between communities and the CDF, they call for the assistance of a grievance committee established at chiefdom level with representatives of all segments of the community.
These strategies have proven very effective to date. However, as this alternative service is free of charge to the parties in conflict, one consequence has been that the district administration is unable to generate revenue. This has led to growing official resentment. When the district officer of Pujehun District sent a treasury clerk to count returnees in the chiefdom, re-institute collection of local taxes and re-establish the native authority court, people refused. They were just starting to rebuild their lives and their communities and they had no means to generate funds for taxes. Local people also remembered the heavy fines imposed by the courts and unfair decisions based on favouritism towards one of the parties. Rebuilding that system is seen as a recipe for ongoing conflict within the community.
In individual cases, peace monitors have reported that attempts at resolving conflicts that called for financial restitution have not been successful because financial obligations are not always honoured and there are no serious measures taken against defaulters. To rectify these problems, community leaders are looking at combining all future grassroots peacebuilding efforts with a component of human rights and 'good governance' advocacy to strengthen voluntary compliance. They also hope to find some common ground with traditional leaders and local court officials through workshops on officials' and citizens' responsibilities and obligations to their community and to the state.
Thomas – aged 14
Interviewed by Ambrose James in March 2000We were attacked at Telu. My family and I ran in two different directions. My father was shot in the foot while he hid in a mosque. I was not captured. I escaped in the thick of the fighting, but this was the work of the almighty God. I came to Bo, where I met a woman who took care of me. Later she left Bo, so I went to another woman, who took me to sell ice for her. But I broke a flask in her house and I was driven out. I joined my friends and we used to sleep on verandas. My friends told me about an NGO, which deals with child protection. While I was there I was provoked by other kids and it led to me wounding one of them. So I was starved for a week and I decided to leave and found the Unaccompanied Children and Street Children Project. I think there will be hope for me because the war is coming to an end now and opportunities are coming for the young, more so with the RUF now in town.