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Echoes of war: A journey around Sierra Leone

A U.N.-backed court on Thursday convicted ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor of war crimes during the conflict in Sierra Leone, making him the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal.

In advance of the ruling, Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly traveled around Sierra Leone to examine the legacy of the 1991-2002 war, which left over 50,000 people dead and became a byword for gratuitous violence, especially the amputation of limbs.

A decade later, the West African nation is peaceful, but remains among the world's poorest. It is due to hold elections in November. 

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

A woman uses a net to catch fish in a pool of water near the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone on April 20, 2012.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

Komba Nyanku, left, 12, who wants to become a lawyer, and his friend, Abdoulaye Marrah, 12, who dreams of being a pilot, pose for a portrait in the town of Koidu on April 21, 2012. Neither of the boys has the money to pay school fees.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

Kadiatu Kauma, 24, sits in a hospital with gunshot wounds to her arm, stomach and back after police opened fire on a crowd of protestors in the mining town of Bumbuna on April 19, 2012. A woman was shot and killed and several others were wounded when police opened fire on a crowd protesting wages and working conditions at the British mining company African Minerals, according to witnesses, hospital staff and police officials.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

A headstone marks a mass grave of rebel victims in the village of Bomaru, where the conflict started in 1991, on April 22, 2012.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

Guests attend a wedding in Koidu on April 21, 2012.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

A worker carries charcoal through a slashed and burned area in eastern Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. Logging is illegal in Sierra Leone, but remains the leading cause of environmental degradation, according to the European Union. Population pressure, common slash and burn methods and illegal logging mean the country's bountiful forests could disappear by 2018, according to the Forestry Ministry.

Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters

The remote border post between Liberia and Sierra Leone, where fighters from Liberia entered on March 23, 1991 and triggered the start of the civil war, is seen in the village of Bomaru, eastern Sierra Leone, on April 22, 2012.