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Sierra Leone War Victims Sign Up for Reparations

In Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002, thousands of people were raped, had their limbs cut off by rebels with machetes, or were otherwise maimed. Now some of these people may receive money as well as education and health benefits to compensate for their loss.

In the northern town of Makeni, the government was interviewing those who say they are victims to decide who should receive reparations.

Ebrahim Sherif is a war amputee and father of nine. While his wife picks through palm nuts to process into oil to sell, Sherif watches. Before the war he was a farmer and a diamond digger, but now he can no longer work.

"This is where my right hand was that they cut off by RUF rebels," Sherif said. "Before they cut it off, they sliced up my head, my back, my shoulder, my foot." Sherif says they also raped a woman in front of him.

Victims like Sherif are coming to the government's National Commission for Social Action to receive reparations.

"If your tongue was cut it has a percentage," Regional coordinator Sainku Fofanah said. "If your eye was damaged it has a percentage, your arm...any part of your body that was damaged during the war, they are going to look at it on a percentage basis."

To register, a photo is taken of the alleged victim and their family members, and they must give an oral testimony about what happened to them.

An applicant must show identification or paperwork proving he or she was wounded in the war. Amputees have formed associations, so many of them have ID cards. But victims of sexual violence often have no proof.

Government officials say patience is needed to make sure victims of sexual violence are also compensated.

Sherif says amputees face stigma in society. He hopes reparation money will make life easier.

Because former fighters received cash after the war to disarm, Sherif says it is only fair that victims should receive something also.