Security Sector Reform

Linking development and security – the case of Sierra Leone

8th May 2008
Department for International Development, London


This panel discussion on Sierra Leone aimed to give the audience an understanding of what linking security and development can mean in practice, with a particularly focus on security sector reform (SSR).

The meeting was held as part of the project which GFN-SSR and International Alert are implementing that aims to map out SSR in Sierra Leone: ‘Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone, 1999-2007’. This project is one of the most in-depth and comprehensive analyses of an SSR process undertaken with support from the (G)CPP, based on a relatively long process of analysis and engagement of a large number of people, in both the recipient and donor countries.

In support of the project, a Working Group has been established, consisting of key experts from Sierra Leone and the UK, all of whom have been engaged extensively in the Sierra Leone SSR process. The output will be working papers by each of the Working Group members, policy briefs based on the working papers, and a book-length narrative.


The panel was hosted by Garth Glentworth, retired Senior Governance Adviser from DfID. Giving speeches on the panel were:

  • Kellie Conteh, National Security Coordinator, Sierra Leone
  • Kadi Fakondo, Assistant Inspector-General Training, Sierra Leone Police (SLP)
  • Brigadier Barry Le Grys, Former Commander, International Military Assistance Training Team (IMATT)
  • Brigadier Alfred Nelson-Williams, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Sierra Leone

In addition, a number of key actors were also in attendance to make contributions and respond to questions from the audience:

  • Desmond Buck, Assistant Inspector-General South, Sierra Leone Police
  • Osho Coker, Director of the Public Service Reform Secretariat, Office of the President, Sierra Leone
  • Rosalind Hanson-Alp, West Africa Programme Coordinator, Conciliation Resources, Sierra Leone
  • Al-Hassan Kondeh, former Deputy Secretary of Policy and Procurement in the MoD, Sierra Leone
  • Mark White, SSR Adviser, DfID



The event was a rare opportunity to bring together the key actors engaged in a country’s SSR programme, to reflect on the process and to field questions and share experiences with audience members from government departments and other relevant organisations. The discussion touched on core debates echoed in SSR processes throughout the world, including local ownership and the need for a comprehensive approach to reform, as well detailing achievements and difficulties specific to Sierra Leone.

The meeting began with introductory remarks from four of the key individuals who have played a vital role in driving Sierra Leone’s SSR process forward: Kellie Conteh, Sierra Leone’s National Security Coordinator; Kadi Fakondo, Assistant Inspector-General Training, SLP; Brigadier Alfred Nelson-Williams, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Sierra Leone; and Brigadier Barry Le Grys, Former Commander, IMATT. The remainder of the event was given over to a discussion between the panel and the audience, of which many had been involved in SSR in Sierra Leone.


Local ownership

The UK has been heavily involved in all areas of development, including SSR, in Sierra Leone. However, though the SLP, for instance, has received substantial international support, it was noted that the organisation had taken the lead and ownership of the process. Because of this the SLP has been able to continue the reform process. An initial group of individuals committed to change were able to convince those who were hesitant about the reform process to come onboard.

Comprehensive reform

All the participants emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach to reform. However, this applies not just to the security sector but also to other state institutions. For instance, the judiciary and prison services have lagged behind the SLP in their institutional development. Despite some improvements, there is a creeping lawlessness due to the lack of capacity within the judiciary.

While security-related ministries have received substantial commitment and resources, other ministries have been relatively neglected, and this is a source of inter-departmental disquiet. The Ministry of Internal Affairs needs greater funding and oversight. While the Ministry of Marine Resources has received funding, lack of progress means that the country has not benefited from its natural resources as much as it could have.

More broadly speaking, the civil service throughout all government ministries is in need of reform, particularly with regards to pay and working conditions. Reviews have covered both the quality and quantity of the service but it is only now that the government is looking at joined up government. Immediately after the war, the focus was on ‘fire-fighting’ but now the aim is to reduce the size of the civil service; the cost savings may in turn be used to increase civil servants’ pay.

As a further broad point, developmental and security-related programming should be seen as concurrent activities and a breadth of issues should be tackled at the same time to avoid debilitating time lags – for example where ex-combatants are seen to be deriving greater benefits from reform initiatives than local communities.

Regional Commitment

Sierra Leone resides in an insecure neighbourhood. A similar commitment to SSR and development witnessed in Sierra Leone needs to occur throughout the region and to the Manu River countries (Liberia and Guinea) in particular. This can help to reduce the threat of renewed conflict and risk of losing gains made to date, while also requiring that fewer resources are spent on Sierra Leone’s security.

The programmes implemented in Sierra Leone constituted the first time that SSR was developed in such a wholesale, if at times disjointed, manner. This is now an asset that the UK should be sharing and indeed, many UK-based consultants are now working in similar roles in other developing countries. Sierra Leoneans working in the security sector are themselves visiting other countries to share their experience and knowledge of SSR and learn further lessons that they can take back home.


Significant resources have been expended in Sierra Leone over the past decade and while DfID has committed to the country at least until 2012, the issues of domestic resource allocation and self-financing need to be addressed if the reforms achieved so far are to be sustainable over the longer term.

Different UK departments have different perspectives on where Sierra Leone is on the development continuum. However, tough questions such as where to prioritise resources (security or health/education, for instance) have been raised, often to the detriment of security-related activities that still are not regarded as core DfID business.

One down-side of the strong role that the UK played throughout Sierra Leone’s SSR process is that other bilateral donors have shown limited interest in engaging. In the future, it might be better to spend time bringing different organisations onboard with different sectors.

Intelligence and Strategic Direction

The SSR process created a political space in which the president and his advisers could take decisions with reduced interference from self-interested external parties. The newly created Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) is able to act as a filter between security agencies and the president, to analyse intelligence and focus on issues of security concern – not politics.. This has helped overcome a major problem early on as conflict erupted in Sierra Leone: that the president received intelligence reports from across the country from various sources that had been neither verified, analysed nor prioritised. The JIC also includes local and regional committee participation. Significantly, under the new Government in Sierra Leone, the National Security Council, the highest political authority on security matters, has recommenced meetings.

Paramount chiefs and community groups have been incorporated into the security framework through the establishment of District and Provincial Security Committees (PROSECs/DISECs). These forums provide an early warning and local dispute resolution mechanism, and have assisted in the monitoring of border activity where state institutions cannot reach due to lack of resources and capacity. Ideas are currently circulating about establishing Community Security Committees.

Sierra Leone Police (SLP)

Training within the SLP has taken place from the junior ranks to the most senior level, and officers have become more motivated as a result. The 2007 elections stand out as a success story as they were very well policed. In addition, ‘local needs policing’ is working well at the community level. The police had a base of no trust immediately after the war and have been working hard to change this. An internal complaints department has been established to tackle corruption and dismiss corrupt police officers. This is further enhancing public trust in the SLP.

Significant progress has been made in tackling women and children’s issues. These two groups fared particularly badly during the war, for instance because of abductions and sexual offences. Family Support Units (FSUs) have been established and are working well, though resource constraints have meant that they are currently unable to meet demands for their services. The SLP are sharing their knowledge by training a Liberian equivalent.

Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF)

The army has been reduced in size from 17,000 to 10,500 and is soon to be reduced further to 8,500, with the hope of a switch from quantity to quality. Downsizing was deliberately incremental as part of a strategy not to put too many young and unemployed ex-combatants on the street all at once (such as was done in Liberia). The MoD was reformed with the help of an external push and is now a military-civilian integrated department under civilian leadership.

Under the Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) policy the military proved to be effective in assisting the police during the 2007 elections. However, there should be caution against too great a military role in internal security.

Where in particular is there room for improvement?

  • A more clearly defined responsibility for security forces, creating the “political space” for reform, and keeping the security forces out of politics.
  • General communication can be enhanced in an effort to build stronger national consensus and involve the public in the reform process.
  • In 1998-1999 DfID was constrained in its security-related programming by SSR being a new and thus undeveloped concept. It was not integrated with development and before the advent of the African and Global Conflict Prevention Pools (ACPP and GCPP) cooperation between DfID, FCO and MoD was limited. Over the past decade, UK and international approaches to integrated SSR programming have changed significantly and this trend needs to continue.
  • In new phases of the SSR process, the establishment of an integrated advisory group to provide input to further reform was proposed. Ideally, this group, either based in-country or on regular visit to Sierra Leone, would consist of experts who have already served in Sierra Leone.


SSR is a process and it is vital that this process continues. The panel spoke of their pride in what has been achieved in Sierra Leone and stressed that it was important that lessons were shared with other countries (visits to Guyana and Liberia have been undertaken to provide expert input). As one of the earliest and most high-profile security sector reform processes to be implemented, Sierra Leone provides invaluable knowledge on how SSR programmes can – and should not – be implemented in post-conflict contexts.

Working Paper Series:
‘Security System Transformation in Sierra Leone,

The working paper series on Sierra Leone is part of the research programme ‘Security System Transformation in Sierra Leone, 1997-2007’. These working papers present perspectives from both Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom regarding the implementation of activities broadly defined as security sector reform (SSR) in the period towards the end of and following the Sierra Leone war.

The working paper Series ‘Security System Transformation in Sierra Leone, 1997-2007’ is now available online.