Data Dictionary

This document describes the structure and variables for the data file from the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To protect the privacy of the people who suffered or reported violations, all personal identifying information about the victims or witnesses of the violations described in the data has been removed. Some statements included the names of the perpetrators alleged to be responsible for the violations described therein. Consistent with the TRC policy on the naming of perpetrators, such details are also excluded. 

The unit of analysis for each record in this structure is the violation:

  • Each violation was of a particular type, and happened at a particular time and place.
  • Each violation was committed by unknown, one, or several organizational perpetrators.
  • The violation was committed against zero or one named (individually identified) victims, and zero or more anonymous (unidentified) additional victims. Violations against anonymous individuals and groups have been filtered from the data so each record refers to an individual for whom, at a minimum, the first name or family name were given.

Note that where more than one perpetrator group is reported as responsible for a violation this implies collaboration between the factions. The exception to this is the Forced Displacement (FODI) violation as victims may be fleeing from fighting between factions e.g. abandoning their homes to escape conflict between the SLA and ‘rebels’ or the Kamajors and RUF.

To some degree, the statement giver’s perceptions of perpetrator responsibility are likely to be a little more subjective for the Looting (LOOT) and Property Destruction (DEST) violations because these violations may have happened in their absence without their encountering the perpetrators directly. Similarly for Forced Displacement (FODI) because people often fled because of fear of perpetrator groups believed to be in the area rather than because of a direct encounter.

The definitions of the various violation types considered by the TRC are given in the Violations Vocabulary. This is available This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also see the Methodology section for notes on some specific coder led interpretations of the violation definitions.

In order to count the number of violations recorded in the dataset, users should simply count records. A violation may have been committed against one or many persons in the same place at the same time, with the data containing one record per victim. Where statements described a violation being committed against more than one person, the records share the same actid. The variable actorid identifies unique victims, so in order to count victims, the user should count the unique values of actorid. Note that the value of actorid is repeated where a victim suffered more than one violation. A victim may suffer the same type of violation more than once on separate occasions, applying the counting rules given in the violations vocabulary.


Violation variables

Variable name

Variable type


roleid long Unique identifier for a victim suffering one violation.
violt str23 Violation
Hcode str12 Hierarchical location code
namer str15 Region of violation
named str9 District of violation
locac str5 Chiefdom TRC code for violation
namec str22 Chiefdom of violation
UNgeocode long Chiefdom code as provided by UN OCHA
actid long Unique identifier for a violation. 
n_yr long Year of alleged violation
n_mo long Month of alleged violation
n_dy long Day of alleged violation


Victim variables

Variable name

Variable type


actorid long Unique identifier for a victim. 
gendc str1 Sex code ( m=Male, f=Female, ?=Unknown )
ethn str9 Ethnicity of victim
ethn1t str9 Aggregation of ethnic groups (see table below) *
langt str25 Language of victim
age int Age of victim in years
agecat6 str5 Age categories with 6 year period ( 0-5, 6-11, … , 66-71, 72+ )
agecat5  str5 Age categories with 5 year period ( 0-4, 5-9, … , 75-79, 80+ )
arngt str13 Age range of victim (Child, Adult or Elder)
occut str16 Occupation of victim


Perpetrator Aggregations

This is the perpetrator classification list used by the TRC to classify perpetrators cited in statements. Each of the P* variables contains a 1 if this perpetrator was involved in this violation; blank otherwise. 

pd_* list all the actors in the Sierra Leonean conflict (see the table below).

p3_* is a refined aggregation separating the AFRC from the SLA. In this case SLA means the Sierra Leonean national army prior to the 25th May 1997 coup. The AFRC refers to the post-coup soldiers who initially formed a government and then fled Freetown after the ECOMOG intervention. Note that the Westside boys are considered to be aligned with the AFRC, not the RUF.

To complete the aggregation, the following operations are applied to the data: 

  • AFRC abuses prior to the 25th May 1997 are moved to the SLA category
  • SLA abuses from the 25th May 1997 onwards are moved to the AFRC category
  • Abuses occurring either at some unknown date in 1997, or on an unspecified day within May 1997, are moved to an additional category AFRC/SLA as the correct group is ambiguous.

Arguably the AFRC/SLA category could be eliminated, with the abuses categorized as AFRC. The abuse profile for the AFRC/SLA category is comparable to that of the AFRC.

The 'unknown' category covers abuses where no mention was made of the responsible institution or violations where the presence of several perpetrator groups made it impossible to distinguish which was responsible for a specific abuse.

Perpetrator variables

Variable name

Variable type


p3_ruf int RUF - Revolutionary United Front
p3_sla int SLA - Sierra Leone Army
p3_afrc int AFRC - Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (inc. Westside Boys)
p3_army int AFRC/SLA - 1997 abuse by either SLA or AFRC where actual factional responsibility is ambiguous
p3_rebel int Rebels - Abuses attributed to 'rebels' where the statement giver was unable to name a specific faction
p3_cdf int CDF – Civil Defence Force
p3_police int Police - Police officers including SSD division
p3_gaf int GAF - Guinean Armed Forces
p3_ulimo int ULIMO - United Liberation Movement for Democracy
p3_ecomog int ECOMOG - Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Military Observer Group
p3_unknown int Unknown - Abuse not attributed to any perpetrator group
p3_misc int Miscellaneous - Abuse attributed to miscellaneous minor perpetrator group.
pd_airwing int Air Wing
pd_afrc int Armed Forces Revolutionary Council
pd_rebels int Rebels
pd_ruf int Revolutionary United Front
pd_nprc int National Provision Ruling Council
pd_sla int SLA - Sierra Leone Army
pd_westside int Westside Boys
pd_sobels int Sobel (Soldier / Rebel actor)
pd_armed int Other / Unknown Armed Faction
pd_cdf int Unspecified CDF Militia
pd_kamajors int Kamajors
pd_donsos int Donsos
pd_gbethes int Gbethes
pd_tamaboros int Tamaboros
pd_kapras int Kapras
pd_hunters int Hunters
pd_cdu int Civil Defence Unit
pd_ssd int Police SSD Division
pd_police int General Police
pd_civillians int Civilians / Persons Unknown
pd_duress int Person/s Under Duress
pd_gaf int Guinea Armed Forces
pd_npfl int National Patriotic Forces of Liberia
pd_ulimok int ULIMO-K
pd_ulimoj int ULIMO-J
pd_libforce int Unspecified Liberian Force
pd_mercs int Mercenaries
pd_ecomog int ECOMOG
pd_un int UN peacekeepers


Note: The perpetrators information is a faithful reproduction of allegations made in the statements, as perceived by the statement giver, and without the application of any judgment or other evaluation. This accounts for the few occasions where, as with the two violations attributed to the UN, further investigation led the TRC to conclude that the institution was not responsible for violations, contrary to the statement.


Perpetrator Aggregation Table 





Sierra Leonean Perpetrators

  Armed Forces    
  Air Wing ARM/AIR SLA
Rebels ARM/REB Rebels
Sierra Leone Army (SLA) ARM/SLA SLA
Westside Boys ARM/WEST AFRC
Sobel (Soldier / Rebel actor) ARM/SOB Rebels
Other / Unknown ARM/? Unknown
CDF (Civil Defence Militias)    
  Kamajors CDF/KAM CDF
Tamaboros CDF/TAM CDF
Civil Defence Unit CDF/CDU CDF
Undefined CDF Militia CDF/? CDF
Civil Authorities    
  Government CIV/GOV Misc
Judiciary CIV/JUD Misc
General Police CIV/POL Police
  Person/s Under Duress CIT/DUR Misc
General Civilian / Persons Unknown CIT/GEN Misc

Outside Perpetrators

  External Forces    
  Guinea Armed Forces (GAF) EXT/GAF GAF
NPFL (Ntnl. Patriotic Front of Liberia) EXT/NPFL RUF
Liberian Force EXT/LIB Misc
Mercenary Forces    
  Gurkhas MER/GUR Misc
Executive Outcomes Mercenaries MER/EXEC Misc
Sandline Intl. Mercenaries MER/SAND Misc
Other / Unknown Mercenaries MER/? Misc
Interventionist Forces    
UN Peacekeepers INT/UNP Misc


Ethnicity Aggregations 

This is the ethnicity classification list used by the TRC to classify the ethnicity of the statement-giver and of the people he or she cited in their statement. The traditional areas or homelands of the various ethnic groups are mapped here.

ethn1t: The initial aggregation of ethnicity was designed to test research questions on whether perpetrator groups had targeted victims according to a broad allegiance, either to the North or South; in other words, Temne and Mende respectively. The proposed ethnic allegiances were verified by TRC researchers.




Northern Temne, Koranko, Limba, Loko, Yalunka
Southern Mende, Sherbro, Krim, Vai, Kissi
Other Krio, Fourah Bay, Kru, Kono, Susu, Lebanese, Mandingo, Fula, Other
Foreign Caucasian, Liberian, Nigerian, Burkinabey, Guinean

Note that the Fourah Bay group was included on the recommendation of some of the coders, denoting a person of Krio descent who practices Islam. This is in contrast to the majority Krio group who will tend to follow a denomination of Christianity. Fourah Bay is a neighbourhood of Freetown and its Muslim Krio residents might more properly be known as the Oku people:

A second aggregation was used to consider more specific targeting according to ethnicity. For example, research suggested that the NPFL targeted the trading peoples – Mandingo and Fula – because of the perception (by perpetrators) that they were loyal to the former Liberian head of state Samuel Doe. Though the aggregation is not included in the data file the definition is included here for completeness. 



Northern Temne, Koranko, Limba, Loko, Yalunka
Southern Mende, Sherbro, Krim, Vai, Kissi
Krio Krio, Fourah Bay
Trader Mandingo, Fula
Kono Kono
Other Kru, Susu, Lebanese, Other
Foreign Caucasian, Liberian, Nigerian, Burkinabey, Guinean


Locations Vocabulary

Consistent with the TRC’s mandate then the small number of violations reported outside of Sierra Leone have been filtered out of the data. Locations cover Sierra Leone as a whole and are grouped geographically at three levels, from the top level of regions down to districts and then chiefdoms:

  • Regions: Also known as provinces, the regions are the North (NTH), East (EST), South (STH) and the Western Area (WST). The latter is the peninsula that includes the capital Freetown and a rural hinterland.
  • Districts: Twelve in total, residing within the North, East and South regions. Each district is coded by its first 3 letters with the exception of Bo District where an X was appended giving ‘BOX’.
  • Chiefdoms: Totalling 149, a chiefdom is contained within one district. Across the districts there are two instances where two chiefdoms have identical names; Koya chiefdoms in Kenema and Port Loko districts and Bumpeh chiefdoms in Moyamba and Bo districts. Being governed differently, the Western Area is not divided into districts and chiefdoms so it is covered by just two codes, for urban Freetown (WST01) and the surrounding rural area (WST02).

Chiefdoms are specified with both the location variables used by the TRC and, for compatibility the ‘geocodes’ recommended by the UN-OCHA. It is hoped that inclusion of the UN codes will facilitate mapping of violations using GIS software. The TRC location codes are available here and a 2002 map of Sierra Leone chiefdoms including the geocodes is given here

Note: In its original form the TRC locations vocabulary contained an additional entry at the chiefdom level, the Bonthe Urban District Council. This corresponds to a historical local government division including Bonthe town so violations at this location have been aggregated into the Sittia chiefdom which contains Bonthe town.

As spelling of chiefdom names varies between sources, the names used in the vocabulary are consistent with those given in the 2002 UN-OCHA map. Subsequent to the work of the TRC more thorough maps of Sierra Leone have now been produced – see the UNIPSIL website.