Sierra Leone formed the Office of National Security after its civil war in 2002 in an effort to provide a clear process to respond early to tensions in its cities, provinces and along its borders.

Shared leadership from the military and police, as well as civilians such as Ismail Tarawali, have been key to its success.

Early on in the process, the Office of National Security saw the benefits that could come from government and civil society collaboration, and Ismail and Kellie Conteh, National Security Coordinator, have been key in pushing forward the thinking on how to deal with border insecurity. 

When I joined the office in 2002 I didn’t know anything about security.

A number of us used to feel that security issues are the responsibility of the police and military. But the new concept of security embraces every aspect of development, including community involvement. 

We learned these lessons as a result of the uncoordinated way we received security information during the war. There was no war council. There were so many informants, and most of the time the President was ill-informed, making it very difficult to make proper decisions.

That’s why it’s important to have these structures in place to keep the peace and inform the government, but also ensure that the community is heard at the highest level. 

Human nature being what it is, there will always be tension, as we have so many social and economic challenges in this country.

But the good thing is that as a result of our success in diffusing tension in certain areas, communities have come to have confidence in our provincial security committees to address issues immediately.

Ismail S.T. Tarawali, Security Director and Peacekeeper