AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - “The people want peace, but the high unemployment among youth is a time bomb,” missionary tells Fides
Agenzia Fides REPORT – "Sierra Leone has undoubtedly made progress in recent years, however it must still be observed and encouraged by the international community," Fides has been told by Fr. Gerardo Caglioni, a Xaverian missionary with a long experience in Sierra Leone, commenting on the decision of the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo on the African country.The UN Security Council has removed the arms embargo as a sign of confidence in the complete control of the territory by the government in Freetown and the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of militias that fought one another in a bloody civil war that ended in 2002."The people want peace, there is no doubt about it," says Fr. Caglioni. "At the same time, however, we must pay close attention to certain social and economic indicators that may take their toll on peace in the country.""The high unemployment among youth is a time bomb," said the missionary, echoing what Fides was told by Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown and Bo, Sierra Leone (see Fides 14/9/2010)."The global economic crisis is having a major impact on Sierra Leone, as there are significant decreases in the immigrants' remittances, which are often the only source of livelihood for families," said Fr. Caglioni."Even the natural resources of the country, if they are not well managed, can be a source of destabilization," says the missionary. What was at stake in the war of 1991-2002 was the control of diamond mines in the country. “In addition to diamonds, we are now evaluating the reserves of iron, petroleum, bauxite, and ruthenium. We must be careful that these riches do not attract the interest of forces that act without scruple and then end up placing national peace in jeopardy.""I should also mention that Sierra Leone has become a stop-over point for cocaine traveling from Latin America to Europe, with consequences in terms of security and corruption," added Fr. Caglioni.The missionary then focused on the role of religions in Sierra Leone. "The various religious denominations, the Christian churches, the Muslim community, have played an important role in convincing people to make peace, as well as in the early stages of the peace. Now, however, they seem to have lost some of their role as social agents of integration to the benefit of governing structures. But I think that politics alone is not sufficient to continue the work of pacification and there should be a reevaluation of the role of religious denominations."