The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

January 1998
 

31 January: Sierra Leone's military junta ordered its security forces in the Western Region, which includes Freetown, on "red alert" Friday night "as a result of the present security situation." The Department of Defence announcement, repeatedly broadcast over SLBS (state radio), gave no reason for the order. "This is because, to the latest development, Nigeria is now resorting to terrorism," junta spokesman Amadu Bailoh Bah told the BBC Saturday. "They have abducted a said number of Guinean delegates who were here on a fact-finding mission to abreast themselves with latest developments," he said, adding that the Nigerian ECOMOG troops had detained the Guineans as they were on their way home, and taken them to an unknown location. Bah also cited a radio broadcast by exiled Vice President Albert Demby on 98.1 "that the only way out is to employ the use of force." Bah cited "intelligence reports" that Nigeria, along with the Kamajors, Executive Outcomes, and 600 Iranians, was preparing an attack "as was published yesterday by an independent observer newspaper." A diplomatic source close to the exiled Kabbah government suggested that reason for the "red alert" was the arrival of the exiled civilian parliamentarians in Lungi, and a broadcast by Vice President Albert Demby on Radio 98.1 which noted that force is the only thing the AFRC understands. He cited an unconfirmed report which indicated that those detained by ECOMOG were not Guineans, but Niger nationals caught with materials relating to arms deals. There has so far been no protest by the Guinean government over the arrests.

30 January: The United Nations Security Council Committee on Sierra Leone published on Wednesday its list of 57 AFRC members whose entry into, or transit through, other states is banned under the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1132. The list, which was adopted by the Committee on January 8, consists primarily of members of the AFRC Supreme Council and Secretaries of State. The Committee is currently considering additional names provided to it, including junta members' immediate families, and will update the list on a regular basis. The publication of the list is a departure from United Nations precedent, which would normally require that sanctions lists be distributed only to U.N. member states.

The United States Department of State issued its Sierra Leone Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997 on Friday. The report examines human rights abuses by government security forces, the Revolutionary United Front, and the Civil Defence Forces prior to and following the May 25, 1997 coup, concluding that, "Sierra Leone's human rights record worsened significantly and is now extremely poor." The report chronicles in great detail political killings and disappearances, torture, rape, arbitrary arrests, the collapse of the judicial system, and attacks on freedom of speech and the press. "Before the coup on May 25, government security forces and the RUF committed numerous human rights abuses," the report notes. "After May 25, the scale of violence and human rights abuses committed against civilians by the AFRC and RUF greatly increased. In addition, members of the Civil Defense Force allegedly committed serious human rights abuses."

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, a spokesman for exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, has expressed concern about frequent violations of the sanctions imposed on the military government. "We are aware that junta members and their relatives come in and out of Guinea and that goods are also smuggled into Sierra Leone via Guinea," Tejan-Sie said. "However, the issue has been raised with the Guinean authorities, who have assured us that their security agents would tighten the screws, and hence block this entry and exit route." The Guinean authorities are reported to have recently stepped up their security patrols on the highway between the two countries. Avayama Caulker, Chairman of the Movement to Restore Democracy, accused the Guinean authorities of assisting the junta in evading the sanctions. "The Guinean security forces certainly have something to do with the travel embargo violations committed by junta members and we cannot sit by and allow this to continue," Caulker said. The Guinean government has said it is committed to respecting the sanctions. "We are still committed to the ECOWAS peace plan for Sierra Leone and the sanctions. Guinea would not allow its territory to be used as a conduit by the AFRC military junta," a Guinean official said.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi has reportedly called a meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers on Sierra Leone in New York for early next week.

The Japanese foreign ministry on Friday introduced a five-tiered scale of foreign countries regarded as having security problems, in order to warn Japanese tourists and Japanese citizens living abroad. Six countries were rated at level 5, meaning that Japanese should leave the area: Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, most of Albania, Iraq, the Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

29 January: The Agence France-Presse (AFP), quoting local journalists Thursday, reported that the Kamajor militia had "pinned down" army troops in eastern Sierra Leone. "The situation is desperate as mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades are falling like rain as both sides try to dislodge each other," one soldier was quoted as saying. The two sides continue to make conflicting claims as to who controls Tongo. "(The Kamajors) are still in control in Tongo Field, giving government troops hell," Civil Defence Forces spokesman Arthur Koroma said. He added that the Kamajors had repelled government troops and taken a number of prisoners. AFRC Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Kamara has maintained that "loyal troops are still in total control."

Security officials in Makeni have reported a spate of armed robberies by men in military fatigues.

The Organisation of African Unity will hold a summit meeting on the prevention and settlement of disputes in Africa February 11-12 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The agenda will reportedly deal with crises in Comoros, Sierra Leone, Burundi, and Angola, and will also discuss Egypt's efforts to reconcile warring factions in Somalia.

28 January: More than 300 children aged between 5 and 10 died from measles in Koinadugu District between October and December, Dr. Al-Hassan Sesay said Wednesday on SLBS television. 3,000 more were affected by the disease, according to Sesay, who heads the Maternal and Children Health Programme. He said the provision of measles vaccines had been financed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Conakry, but that funding had dried up after the May 25 coup. "We are currently working with Plan International to launch a nationwide immunization exercise to forestall the spread of measles in other parts of the country," Sesay said. He disclosed that Plan International and UNICEF have committed to vaccinate all children in Bombali District under a measles control programme. The United Nations Report on the Status of the World's Children in 1998 classified Sierra Leone as having the third highest child mortality rate in the world, at 284 per 1,000. Sesay said this was "due to lack of proper preventive measures like vaccines."

Sources in Freetown have called into doubt a report of fighting on Tuesday between army troops and the ECOMOG force at Jui. Reuters news service cited statements by junta spokesman Amadu Bailoh Bah and an "unnamed official" in its report, and speculated that the army had attacked ECOMOG positions after the ECOMOG force fired at a cargo ship to prevent it from docking in Freetown. IRIN quoted an aid worker based near Jui, who said that no shots had been fired in the vicinity. Other sources in Freetown have also denied the report.

Two Sierra Leoneans detained at Monrovia Central Prison on suspicion of being mercenaries and colluding with the Kamajor militia have gone on hunger strike. Ahmed Tarawally and Joshua Kohan, who were detained in September, have maintained their innocence. "Five months they kept us behind bars on such fiction of being a mercenary, and nobody can try us," Tarawally said Tuesday. "Nobody can take us to court, nobody speaks to us. Instead, the other day the Deputy Justice Minister came here threatening us, telling us he will deal with us because the other day I spoke on the radio, but I told him I give a damn to that. As far as I know, I have committed no crime, and I know I am not a Kamajor, and neither am I subscribing to the movement that is opposing the government in Sierra Leone." Under Liberian law, a conviction for being a mercenary carries a sentence of death or life imprisonment.

27 January: Sierra Leonean soldiers reportedly clashed with Nigerian ECOMOG troops at Jui on Tuesday, with each side blaming the other for starting the fighting. "Nigerian-led ECOMOG soldiers ventured into our own positions around Jui town with the intention of tactically expanding their territory and taking over our positions," junta spokesman Amadu Bailoh Bah said. Reuters news service, quoting an unnamed official, said the army attacked ECOMOG positions after the peacekeeping force prevented a cargo ship from docking in Freetown. Truck drivers fleeing the area reportedly said the two sides battled each other with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Bah confirmed that there had been casualties, but said he had no details. Witnesses were quoted as saying that ECOMOG began firing its artillery at the unidentified ship on Monday evening, and that fighter jets had been flying near the ship and over the capital. Fisherman reported that the ship, which was said to be carrying a cargo of rice, had pulled out farther to sea. A source in Freetown, citing reports by commercial drivers and radio reports monitored locally, suggested that the fighting had not involved ECOMOG troops, but resulted from a dispute between soldiers and RUF fighters.

Two Herald Guardian journalists detained by the Criminal Investigation Department three weeks ago, remain in police custody without charge. Herald Guardian owner David Kamara, who was also briefly detained, said the two were arrested in connection with an article which accused an AFRC member of participating in the looting of the Iranian Embassy. "They also were suggesting that, if the report that they had before the publication of the article were anything to go by, then it means that particular AFRC personality that was mentioned must be arrested, because he too participated in the looting of the Iranian Embassy," Kamara said. A report by the International Freedom Of Expression Exchange (IFEX) issued on Tuesday alleged the the two had been tortured, and that Koroma was said to have been hospitalised for injuries suffered since his arrest. Kamara said the two told him that "they are treated like animals, because they are victimised, beaten, tortured, and they are given inhuman treatment." Kanyako and Koroma have reportedly been transferred from police headquarters to an unspecified police station in Freetown, IFEX said. Three other journalists detained without charge were released last week, according according to the IFEX statement. Desmond Conteh of the newspaper We Yone and freelance journalist Anthony Swaray, who were accused of reporting for Radio 98.1, were released on January 21. Michael Danielson of the Independent Observer was released on January 22.

26 January: Kamajor militiamen ambushed a convoy of soldiers and civilians at Moyamba Junction Sunday, resulting in a highway battle that killed at least 47 people, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton said Monday. He said the dead included 15 civilians, 3 soldiers, and 29 Kamajors. Two traders who escaped the fighting said the death toll was likely much higher, as many civilians were trapped and burned alive inside their vehicles, which exploded during the fighting.

Over 800 soldiers, RUF fighters, and police personnel have given themselves up to ECOMOG forces at Lungi and Jui since last December, ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Max Khobe told the BBC on Monday. He said 300 Sierra Leone Army personnel, 180 police officers including some from the Special Security Division, and over 400 RUF rebels had voluntarily surrendered, some with their weapons. Khobe's claim was disputed by Khobe junta spokesman Amidu Bailor Bah, who called it "just another manifestation of hostile propaganda" by ECOMOG. "Definitely, it is baseless and it is unfounded," he said.

Junta spokesman Amidu Bailor Bah denounced 40 members of Sierra Leone's dissolved civilian parliament as "rebels" on Monday in response to an announcement that the M.P.'s intend to convene parliament on Sierra Leonean soil, on ECOMOG-held territory at Lungi. "We are confronted with a very funny situation here because, naturally, you will not have two governments in the state affairs," Bah said. "There is a government, and that government is a government of the AFRC." Bah said that if the parliamentarians were accepting the AFRC's invitation to return to Sierra Leone before the April 22 deadline for reinstating the civilian government, they must communicate that to the AFRC. "We want to first of all have their status clearly defined," Bah said. "If they are rebels, then we are going to treat them accordingly." He said the junta would continue "to extend the olive branch" to the parliamentarians, but that Sierra Leone's "government of the day" was the AFRC. "If any group of persons are claiming a government as traitors, naturally we refer to them as rebels. But in this case now, we are not going to treat them the way people expect rebels to be treated, that is, by fighting them or by waging war on them. We are tired of fighting war, but we will at the same time let them know that they are rebels."

25 January: AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma said Sunday he was "holding out an olive branch" to the Kamajor militia, inviting them to join the junta in the process of nation building. "Any Kamajors who give up their arms will not be harmed and will be amnestied," Koroma said. He said the junta would "embark on the registration of the (RUF) People's Army" and would absorb "willing and fitted" RUF fighters into the national army. "We have no doubt learned our lesson this bitter way and we must now keep and maintain an army with teeth strong enough to bite if and when our hard won freedom is threatened," Koroma said.

Some 40 members of parliament living in exile said Sunday they would return to Sierra Leone to convene parliament in the country for the first time since the May 25 coup. In view of the security situation, the session will be held on ECOMOG-controlled territory at Lungi, the M.P.'s said. Exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has reportedly given his full backing to the exercise. The AFRC's Under Secretary of State for Information, Allieu Kamara, called the move "cosmetic."

Four civilians were reported killed at Malanchor village in Yoni Chiefdom by armed militia members. A traveller reaching Freetown on Sunday said many residents identified the attackers as Kamajors, described as wearing green uniforms and carrying rocket-propelled grenades and new AK-47 rifles. The towns of Mafallah, Ronetta, Rogbanke, and Rorucks, all in Yoni Chiefdom, were said to have been abandoned because of fears of an imminent Kamajor attack. A military spokesman in Freetown confirmed that many villagers with "deep machete wounds" had been taken to Masiaka to be seen by the military before being sent to the government hospital at Port Loko.

Former ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu told the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper Sunday that Liberian President Charles Taylor had opposed ECOMOG using Liberia as a base for its operations in Sierra Leone because he wanted "to surround himself with proteges in neighbouring African states who would do his biddings." Malu denied that ECOMOG had provided assistance to the Kamajor militia. "That runs counter to our mission which is to restore democratic rule to that country," he said. "We cannot be seen to support parochial interests there." Malu said that the "main objective" of the Kamajors was to take control of the mineral-rich areas of Sierra Leone, and not to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power. Only the use of force would compel the junta to cede power to the civilian government of President Kabbah as agreed in the Conakry Peace Accord, Malu said.

24 January: Heavy fighting is reported to be taking place between the Sierra Leone Army and the Kamajor militia for the strategic Mano Bridge, on the Sierra Leone-Liberia border. Army forces launched an attack on Kamajor positions on Friday night, and were reportedly repelled after a six hour battle with heavy artillery exchanges on both sides, according to a BBC report on Saturday. The Kamajors were said to be strengthening their defences in preparation for a new attack.

23 January: The United Nations is prepared to send up to 1,600 peacekeepers to supervise the disarmament of warring factions in Sierra Leone, a diplomat in Freetown told the Xinhua news service Friday. The peacekeepers "will supervise the exercise when it gets underway in early February," the diplomat said. Diplomatic sources outside of Sierra Leone have have disputed this assessment. The disarmament process, which was to have begun in December, has fallen behind schedule following junta demands for the immediate release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria, for a reduced Nigerian role in the ECOMOG force, and for the non-disarmament of the Sierra Leone Army.

The Department of Information suspended the weekly newspaper Standard Times on Thursday following an article which suggested that exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as "annoyed with China and France...for propping up the military regime." On Friday, the Department suspended the bi-weekly Concord Times for failing to resolve a salary dispute with its journalists. "We have asked the management to resolve the matter, including the payment of salaries and other staff matters, before it can resume operations," a Department official said. Under the Newspapers Act, management is required to pay journalists on time.

Staff of the Concord Times launched a new newspaper on Friday, the Express.

22 January: Thousands of civilians fleeing fighting in southern Sierra Leone are wandering in the bush and are badly in need of food and other assistance, aid groups said Thursday. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Relief Coordinator Diego Thorkelsson said at least 25,000 civilians in three chiefdoms in Moyamba District were in need of food aid, and urged West African countries to help. The group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) expressed similar concerns about civilians in the south and east who had fled fighting between the army and the Kamajor militia. Thorkelsson said ECOMOG had repeatedly denied aid agencies permission to bring food into the country on the grounds that the modalities had not yet been worked out. "We urgently need to get food to them but we can't because we have no food," he said. "We are appealing to the task force to allow the ICRC to bring food to alleviate the suffering of these people. We expect their condition to have deteriorated more than in November when we carried out our assessment and found that 25,000 of them were suffering from malnutrition. Since then they have had no access to food whatsoever." Medecins Sans Frontieres Head of Mission Martha Carey expressed concern about villagers who had disappeared across the south and east because of the fighting. "It looks like they have gone into the bush. We are worried about how they will survive or get food," she said.

21 January: Civil Defence Forces leader Sam Hinga Norman has denied a claim by Sierra Leone's military junta that to have recaptured Tongo from the Kamajor militia. Norman told Radio 98.1 on Wednesday that the Kamajors remain in control of the town.

Former President Joseph S. Momoh Wednesday rejected as "baseless and unfounded" charges made last month by Nigerian Director of Defence Information Major Godwin Ugbo accusing Momoh and the Ukrainian government of assisting the junta's military buildup. "I wish to state most categorically and emphatically that (I have) no knowledge whatsoever of any military buildup in Sierra Leone, and I have never in all my life had any dealings with the Ukrainian government," Momoh said in a press release distributed by SLBS. Momoh also termed as "a figment of his imagination" Ugbo's assertion that he, rather than Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, is actually leading Sierra Leone's military government. "My most burning desire for Sierra Leone is to see my country restored to constitutional rule, and whatever I can do to aid and further that process will be done with all the emphasis at my command," Momoh said. "Sierra Leone has been bleeding for the past six years, and I stand to gain nothing by creating chaos in the only country which I have in the world."

Relief workers expressed concern Wednesday about the plight of refugees fleeing the fighting around Tongo. Local humanitarian sources said villages around Bo and Kenema had been deserted in the past few days. They expressed concern residents might be afraid to venture into towns for help because of the presence of soldiers.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Wednesday awarded the Secretary's Award for Heroism to Mary Ann Wright and Jeffrey C. Breed "in recognition of their exceptional service in Sierra Leone during the May 1997 military takeover and the subsequent U.S. military evacuation of 2500 civilians," according to a press statement issued by State Department Spokesman James P. Rubin. Wright was the Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy and, as the highest ranking U.S. official in Sierra Leone at the time, took personal responsibility for American citizens and embassy employees in the country. She established a dialogue with rebel leaders to seek a peaceful conclusion to the crisis, and planned and directed the evacuation of Americans, embassy staff, and other endangered foreign nationals from Freetown. Breed, who was the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's Regional Security Officer at the time of the coup, coordinated the Embassy's security response to the crisis, and was instrumental in maintaining order among the thousands of people seeking to escape Freetown during the evacuations.

20 January: ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate said Monday that consultations among ECOWAS leaders are underway to put together a 15,000 member peacekeeping force to disarm the warring factions in Sierra Leone. "If our experience in Liberia is anything to go by, only those who contributed to ECOMOG in that country might contribute to the latest effort," Kouyate said. He said he believed that a disagreement between the United Nations and ECOWAS on troop deployment could be resolved amicably. "The U.N. wants ECOMOG to deploy into Sierra Leone first, but we are disagreeing. We think they should land there before us, Kouyate explained." Kouyate confirmed that ECOWAS will insist that Sierra Leone's military government turn over power by April 22, saying that the junta was not in a position to impose new conditions on the international community. "The international community condemned the coup," he said, adding that it was ECOWAS' prerogative to determine the tenure of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. A meeting of the Committee of Five foreign ministers on Sierra Leone will take place in Abuja in February to review the political situation in Sierra Leone, Kouyate said.

A clash between soldiers and RUF fighters in eastern Freetown Monday left at least three of the combatants dead, police and witnesses said Tuesday. The clash broke out after a woman driving a truck filled with fertiliser told RUF fighters that soldiers, after asking for documents to show who owned the fertiliser, had illegally seized the vehicle. Junta spokesman Amadu Bailoh Bah said both sides had been warned against a repeat in such behaviour. He warned civilians not to involve soldiers or RUF fighters "in matters that are purely civilian," adding that such matters should be left to the police.

The group Action by Churches Together (ACT) announced Tuesday that it plans to raise $2.1 million during 1998 to benefit 100,000 internally displaced persons, primarily in Bo District. ACT, working through the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, Christian Aid, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sierra Leone, plans to carry out a comprehensive emergency programme to assist families, communities, and vulnerable groups to rehabilitate their homes and community structures. The churches will also provide local level trauma counseling, and work toward reconciliation, and to facilitate the demobilisation and resettlement of ex-combatants.

About 130 people were killed in fighting at Tongo over the weekend, half of them Kamajors, Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Kamara said Tuesday. He said 30 people died in fighting for the town on Saturday, and about 100 on Sunday. SLBS (state radio), quoting Military Spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton, accused ECOMOG of instigating the Kamajor attack. "The fighting in Tongo Field has been perpetrated by the Nigerians who are aiding and abetting the Kamajors," the statement said. Some of the civilian killings were reportedly the result of old scores related to the chieftaincy and land disputes.

19 January: A force of 800-1,000 soldiers of the Army 4th Battalion, along with RUF fighters, has recaptured Tongo after a night of heavy fighting with mortars, anti-aircraft guns, and rocket-propelled grenades, military commanders in Bo said Monday. They said more than 50 Kamajors and 8 soldiers were killed overnight, but that they expected the number would rise as more bodies were discovered in destroyed houses. One commander put the total number of casualties in three days of fighting at over 100. "It was when we began to search the town this morning that we discovered the true extent of the massacre that took place in heavy fighting over the weekend," he said. "Many of the bodies are lying in the streets and beginning to rot." Local relief workers reported meeting Kamajor militiamen retreating from Tongo with their wounded on makeshift stretchers. They quoted the Kamajors as saying they had lost control of the town, but would return with a larger force to recapture it in the next few days. Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Kamara accused the Kamajors of setting fire to Tongo as they left. "Our men are in full control of Tongo Field although they are trying to put out the fires the Kamajors started to burn down the town when they fled," he said. Civil Defence Forces leader Sam Hinga Norman told the BBC he was unaware of the current situation, denied that the loss of Tongo would be a blow to the militia. "Tongo is going to be a tug of war," he told the BBC. "I can tell you that all civil defence fighters throughout the country will be summoned to retake Tongo."

Military commanders in Bo said Monday they recaptured the town of Grima, near Koribundo, in a dawn raid on Sunday, killing 50 Kamajors. Aid workers in Bo reported an influx of refugees from the town.

18 January: The Kamajor militia captured the diamond mining town of Tongo on Saturday, disrupting a key revenue source for Sierra Leone's military junta and forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes. Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton said Sunday the Kamajors had besieged the town for two weeks, ending in "three days of bitter fighting" with many casualties. "It is not clear how many of them finally attacked, but our men defending the town said there were close to 1,000," he said. "Yesterday, finally, the Kamajors overpowered our troops and drove them out of town, but skirmishes are still going on the outskirts...The 200 soldiers based in Tongo Field put up a brave fight before they ran out of ammunition and were forced to make a tactical retreat to Panguma." Milton said reinforcements were being sent from various towns with orders "to take back Tongo Field at any cost." Milton described the Kamajors as "well-armed with G3-type weapons used by the Nigerian contingent in the ECOMOG base in Freetown." There was no immediate response from ECOMOG, but in the past the peacekeeping force has denied suggestions that it was providing assistance to the Kamajors. Aid workers said the dead and wounded were being taken to Kenema, 12 miles away. About 20 bodies had been brought there from Tongo, most of them civilians, they said. Civilians who fled to Kenema seeing dozens of corpses on the roads leading from the town and in the bush. Soldiers who returned to Freetown told of bodies of army troops, Kamajors, and civilians littering the streets. Three diamond merchants--a Lebanese and two Malians--were reported to be among the dead. International Committee of the Red Cross Relief Coordinator (ICRC) Diego Thorkilsson said in Freetown that thousands of residents were fleeing along the road to Kenema, bound for refugee camps organised by international and local relief agencies. He said it was not yet clear how many people had left Tongo, as the exodus was still underway. Staff of other aid agencies working in the area were quoted as saying that 8,000 to 10,000 had fled so far; local journalists put the number who had reached Kenema at 4,000. Thorkilsson said staff from the ICRC, Merlin, the World Food Programme, Africare, and other non-governmental organisations were co-ordinating their efforts to provide food, shelter, and medicine for the thousands of refugees arriving at the camps. "We have food stocks in our camps in Kenema and Segbwema that can feed 2,000 families (of six) for one month," Thorkilsson said. He said the agencies would take blankets, plastic sheeting, and buckets to the camps by road as soon as possible. "The Kamajors issued a press release yesterday in which they said they would not attack or interfere with any transport carrying humanitarian aid," he said.

17 January: The Kamajor militia captured the diamond mining town of Tongo Saturday, after a three day battle with government troops, the BBC reported.

Two Herald Guardian journalists arrested in Freetown last week are still being held without charge, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) said Saturday. "They should either be charged and released on bail or set free," an SLAJ statement said. "There is no case against them." Sylvanus Kanyako, a reporter for the Herald Guardian and David Kamara, the newspaper's owner, were said to be in poor health and have bruises on their hands. Production Editor Mohamed Kallon, who had also been detained, was reportedly released on January 15. The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres linked the arrests to an article calling on parents not to send their children to school because of insecurity in the country.

All newspapers will have to re-register starting at the end of January, according to a Department of Information, Broadcasting, Tourism and Culture press release. The statement said the decision was taken as a result of "recent disturbing developments leading to the brutalisation of journalists by some sections of the public." It warned printers and vendors to verify that the newspapers they sell were registered "to avoid any further embarrassment."

16 January: United Nations Special Envoy Francis Okelo said Friday that news talks between Sierra Leone's military junta and ECOWAS were needed to put the peace process back on track, and called for all parties to the Sierra Leonean conflict to redouble their efforts for a peaceful solution. "We are recommending that the ECOWAS Committee of Five and the AFRC meet as early as possible to iron out the problems the military government say are hampering implementation of the peace plan," he said. "If we don't do that we might fall behind the deadline of April 22, 1998 for the return of constitutional order to the country." Okelo said he continued to hope that both sides were committed to implementing the accord within the framework of the Conakry Peace Agreement, adding that this meant the restoration of the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "We are now at the half way point. We have three months to go. We are calling on all the parties...to assist vigorously in the implementation of the accord," Okelo said. He described as successful the eight-member United Nations technical team's three day visit to assess the infrastructures in the country for the deployment of U.N. military observers.

The Kamajor militia has stepped up raids in the south, east, and north, according to a Reuters news report Friday, which quoted civilians as saying that the bodies of civilians or soldiers killed in ambushes lie alongside the main highways. Travellers reaching the capital Friday said they counted over 25 bodies along the Bo-Freetown road. One witness said Kamajors ambushed a commercial truck near Bo, killing 6 passengers. Others claimed the Kamajors were diverting trucks carrying vegetables to Freetown. According to the Democrat newspaper, "About 15 villages between Sumbuya and Moyamba Junction have been completely burned down" in clashes between junta forces and Kamajor militiamen.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises issued a statement Friday accusing Nigerian ECOMOG troops at Jui of detaining commercial vehicles passing their checkpoint. "Sierra Leoneans have every right to engage in any commercial activity in their God-given land without hindrance from any external aggressor, and we view the action of the Nigerians as an act of piracy," the statement said. Local journalists report that Nigerian soldiers have confiscated bags of locally-grown rice and garri from traders, accusing them of violating the sanctions. The sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone's military government by the United Nations Security Council and ECOWAS cover only fuel, arms, and ammunition.

AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma Friday stressed the junta's "overwhelming commitment" to the Conakry Peace Plan, and proposed the immediate formation of a number of technical committees to address "salient issues" contained in the agreement, according to a SLBS news release. Koroma told the United Nations technical team, led by U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okelo, that membership of the committees "must reflect the major stakeholders, as well as the technical and political realities on the ground." The proposed committees would include the Coordinating and General Purpose Committee, the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Committee, the Humanitarian Assistance Coordinating Committee, and the Committee on the Formation of the Broadly Based Government of National Unity. The proposal was first alluded to by AFRC Secretary-General A.K. Sesay in a January 9 press briefing, which sources close to the military government indicated would form the basis for the junta's working paper for the talks with the United Nations technical team.

15 January: AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma told U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okelo Wednesday that Sierra Leone's military government could have problems in meeting the deadline to restore the country's civilian government, according to sources close to the talks. Koroma reiterated junta demands for the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria, for a diminished role for Nigeria in ECOMOG, and for the non-disarmament of the Sierra Leone army. Koroma told Okelo he was not prepared to disarm Sierra Leone's armed forces, but that he would cooperate in restructuring the military. Okelo, who is leading an eight-member United Nations technical team to assess modalities on returning Sierra Leone to civilian rule, described the three issues as "legitimate." He said he had taken "very careful" note of the junta's concerns and suggestions, and would report them to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "I think that one of our recommendations will be that there shall be a meeting between the two sides as soon as possible to review these concerns," Okello was quoted as saying.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Wednesday contributed $500,000 toward the disarmament of warring factions in Sierra Leone. The donation, which was taken from the OAU's Peace Fund, was made to the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), OAU spokesman Ibrahim Dagash said.

14 January: An eight-member United Nations technical team led by U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okelo arrived in Freetown Wednesday to hold talks with Sierra Leone's military junta on returning the country to civilian rule. The team will assess prospects for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, and an increase in humanitarian aid. The visit, which was originally to have taken place Friday, was postponed over a disagreement on whether the team should operate from ECOMOG-held territory in Lungi, or in Freetown proper. Okelo, after misgivings on security grounds, is staying at "a major hotel" in Freetown. Shortly before the team arrived by helicopter, ECOMOG troops turned back a junta welcoming committee.

U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday signed a proclamation suspending entry into the United States of any members of Sierra Leone's military junta or their families. The proclamation followed Wednesday's issuance by the United Nations Security Council of its first list of junta members and their families, to be affected by a travel ban imposed under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1132. The list will be transmitted to Member and Observer states of the United Nations, as well as international organisations and agencies, and will be updated on a regular basis. The Security Council is currently considering the additional names provided to it, including adult members of the immediate families of junta members.

The United Kingdom will sponsor an ad hoc donors meeting in New York on Thursday, 15 January for donors and others interested in Sierra Leone. In a letter of invitation dated 9 January, Britain's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sir John Weston, stressed that the task of disarming and demobilising the warring parties in Sierra Leone will require both material and financial support. "We therefore believe it would be a good moment for potential donors and others with a close interest in Sierra Leone to consider what more can be done by the international community to support ECOWAS’ efforts," Weston wrote. A statement issued by the exiled government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah welcomed the British initiative, and acknowledged the role played by Britain in the international community in seeking the restoration of the country's civilian government. The statement also welcomed the British foreign secretary's appointment of John Flynn as his Special Representative for Sierra Leone.

A five-member delegation from the Coalition for Democracy in Sierra Leone (CODISAL) and Ukrainian Embassy officials met in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to discuss reports about Ukrainian involvement in Sierra Leone's crisis. Ukrainian Embassy First Secretary Vasyl Holovenko acknowledged that he had heard unconfirmed reports of activities by Ukrainians. "These allegations are very serious, and because Ukraine is a member nation of the U.N. my government will do everything possible to investigate fully," Holovenko was quoted as saying. Because Ukraine is a "young democracy" trying to build a market economy, it was difficult for the government to control "certain facets" of the economy, Holovenko explained, adding that people might be selling arms and assisting illegal regimes for commercial gain. "These are criminal behaviours. If any groups or businesses are found to be part of these activities, they would be prosecuted," he said.

New ECOMOG force commander Major-General Timothy Shelpidi said Wednesday that he will make peace in Sierra Leone his top priority. "My priority is going to be on the implementation of the Conakry Accord in Sierra Leone and to see to the peaceful coexistence in the area," Shelpidi said before leaving for ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia.

Some 400 prisoners freed during the May 25 coup have voluntarily returned to jail, Secretary of State Ajibola Manley Spaine said on Wednesday. Many of the prisoners "just walked back to the prison and gave themselves up," Spaine said. Police are still searching for another 300 prisoners, some on death row, Spaine added.

13 January: Guinea will recall its estimated 600 troops serving in the ECOMOG force in Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to an unnamed military source in Conakry quoted Tuesday by the news service Xinhua . The pullout from Liberia was in line with the withdrawal of the ECOMOG force from that country, while the departure from Sierra Leone was to save money, the source was quoted as saying. A diplomatic source questioned the report's accuracy, saying that Guinea has not made any decision to withdraw its troops from the ECOMOG force.

Kamajors have attacked two villages near the town of Rotifunk, 55 miles from Freetown, according to junta spokesman Amidu Bailor Bah, quoting travellers arriving in Freetown. "People arriving in Freetown yesterday from villages around Rotifunk said they saw heads dripping with blood, hung on stakes at Kamajor roadblocks," Bah said. There was no independent confirmation of the attack. A diplomat, citing an account by a humanitarian source who described the attackers was wearing dreadlocks, suggested that the attack may have been carried out by elements of the disbanded Liberian ULIMO militia, rather than by the Kamajors.

Paramount Chief Krogba Bangura, Section Chief Alimamy Oluia Mala Sesay, and two tribal councilors were shot to death Tuesday in Tonko Limba Chiefdom in an apparent robbery. Four other persons, including the paramount chief's wife, were wounded.

Soldiers beat a number of teachers at the Collegiate Secondary School compound on Wilkinson Road Monday, after students reported that the teachers were refusing to hold classes, according to a source in Freetown. The Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) has been on strike since the May 25 coup, citing lack of pay, educational, and security concerns.

The European Community Tuesday approved ECU 1.9 million for medical and food aid for Sierra Leone. The money is intended to provide basic health care and food aid in Freetown, Bo and Kenema, as well as assistance in remote rural areas. The aid will be distributed through Concern Universal, the British Red Cross, Medicens Sans Frontieres, Merlin, and Action Aid.

12 January: The planned visit to Sierra Leone by a United Nations technical team led by U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okelo has been postponed over differences in where the team should stay, junta spokesman Amidu Bailor Bah said Monday. "The problem of where the U.N. special envoy to Sierra Leone will stay and work from in Sierra Leone remains a problem that has not yet been resolved," Bah said. "We welcome his permanent transfer from Guinea to here. What we are against...is his position of coming to Sierra Leone and setting up his office in Lungi." Diplomats were quoted as saying that the junta, ECOMOG, and the United Nations were discussing where Okelo should be based. "There seems to be fear on the part of the envoy and the assessment team about their security in Freetown, but they have said that they will leave for Freetown before the end of the week," one diplomat said.

The Paris-based organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has reported the detention of Daily Guardian journalist Sylvanus Kanyako on January 10. No reason was given for Kanyako's arrest, which followed an article urging parents not to send their children to school because of "insecurity in the country." On Friday, The arrest Secretary of State for Information Kandeh Bangura warning journalists against "destructive practices." Any newspaper not following government regulations "will pay the price," Bangura was quoted as saying.

Outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu said in Lagos Monday he was hopeful the April 22 deadline for the restoration of the civilian government in Sierra Leone could be met. "There are five thousand ECOMOG troops already in Sierra Leone, and once they are joined by the 10,000 soldiers from Monrovia, disarmament of all factions in Sierra Leone and other assignments will be completed without delay," Malu said. "It is clear that ECOMOG will have to redouble its efforts, but I can assure you that once the order is given by the ECOWAS leaders, the troops will move in and the job will be accomplished in record time."

10 January: British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has appointed former Ambassador to Angola John Flynn as his Special Representative to Sierra Leone. Flynn will work to galvanise regional and international efforts to restore the democratically-elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

9 January: AFRC Secretary-General Colonel A.K. Sesay told reporters on Friday that Sierra Leone's military junta is still committed to returning power to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah by 22 April 1998, the date stipulated in the Conakry Peace Accord. Sesay said AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma's statement to the BBC on December 18 that the junta is unlikely to meet the deadline for handing over power had been misinterpreted. "The Chairman of the AFRC made it clear that if all the issues are are to be addressed, then the deadline of April 22, 1998 might not be met for handing over," Sesay said. "For us to meet this deadline, all concerned must work harder conscientiously." Sesay reiterated the three concerns which have been raised by the AFRC: the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria, the non-disarmament of the Sierra Leone Army, and the dominant role played by Nigeria in ECOMOG. Sesay said the "contentious issues," which have been widely interpreted by the international community as an attempt by the junta to block implementation of the Peace Agreement, had been raised during the negotiations in Conakry with the expectation that they would be clarified at a later date. "Time was not in our favour and therefore (we) settled at the consensus that they be settled by ECOWAS," Sesay said. "For us not to return without signing the Peace Plan (would have sent) the wrong signals to our people." In order to meet the schedule for implementation of the Peace Accord, Sesay called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, relocation of the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy Francis Okelo from Conakry to Freetown, the immediate convening of an ECOWAS summit to consider the release of Corporal Foday Sankoh and a programme of restructuring, rather than disarming, the Sierra Leone Army, and a review of the dominant role of Nigeria in ECOMOG. Sesay proposed the formation of four committees, each to be chaired by a member of the ECOWAS Committee of Five: Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-Integration of Ex-Combatants; Committee on the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance; Committee on the Formation of the Broad-Based Government; and Committee for the Coordination of all the Above Activities. Sesay's proposals reportedly will form the basis of the working document the AFRC will present to Okello and the United Nations technical team. "It is hoped that the U.N. and the rest of the international community will give every support in terms of resources for the effective and quick implementation of the Conakry Peace Plan," Sesay said.

Exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah travelled to Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday to hold discussions with Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha in advance of the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers meeting scheduled for next Wednesday. Abacha was said to have met Kabbah personally at the airport and escorted him to State House.

Sierra Leone's military government expressed concern Friday about the continued detention of vehicles and travellers by Nigerian ECOMOG troops at the Jui checkpoint outside of Freetown. A Department of Information statement read over SLBS (state radio) appealed to ECOWAS and the international community "to urge Nigeria to stop this complete affront to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1132." A Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture press release called on Nigerians troops "to stop this act immediately as it goes against the Conakry Peace Plan. Sierra Leone is a sovereign state and her territorial integrity should be respected." Over 15 trucks, some with Guinean license plates, are still at the checkpoint since being impounded nearly a week ago. The trucks, including a state-owned National Petroleum tanker carrying 1,800 gallons of petrol, were bound either for Guinea or for the interior. A Nigerian captain at the checkpoint explained that there was evidence that the their cargoes, including cocoa and coffee, were being taken to Guinea for sale overseas. "When we inspected the trucks, we found papers signed by the inspector-general of police for the vehicles to go through checkpoints manned by Sierra Leone soldiers and documents from Sierra Leone Trade officials giving clearance for the goods to be shipped overseas," he said. "Obviously, these violate the sanctions and embargo now in force in the country."

Outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu expressed regret Friday that he was unable to leave Liberians with a national army that was acceptable to all. "Remember that the eight armed factions who fought in Liberia were only disarmed and have not disappeared completely," Malu said during a departure ceremony in Monrovia. "What we see here is that the present restructuring exercise is an attempt to transform the factions into the army. This poses a new security threat to the peace process in Liberia." He called on his troops to work to cement the peace to prevent "our return to start it over." Malu then left for Freetown to address ECOMOG troops at Lungi International Airport. Malu said his replacement, Major-General Timothy Shelpidi, would arrive in Liberia next week.

8 January: A United Nations technical team is expected to leave New York for Freetown on Friday. The mission, which will be led by U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okello, will assess the conditions on the ground and the role of the United Nations in implementing the Conakry Peace Accord. The team will present its findings to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is expected to issue his second 60-day report on Sierra Leone in early February.

AFRC Public Relations Officer Amidu Bailor Bah welcomed the visit by the United Nations technical team, but questioned the timing of the plan to restore civilian rule in Sierra Leone. "We need to revisit the entire timing of the peace plan," Bah said, emphasising that the timetable agreed to in the Conakry Peace Plan was behind schedule. Diplomats in Conakry, Guinea said the U.N. team would assess the prospects for humanitarian assistance and the deployment of ECOMOG and United Nations peacekeepers. "The U.N. is gravely concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone and with the increasing clashes between the Sierra Leone military and the civil defence forces in the country," one diplomat said. The U.N. has decided to take urgent steps to avert a humanitarian catastrophe."

Paris-based Action Contre la Faim said its feeding centre at Durbar, near Bo, was ransacked Sunday. The group urged both sides not to block humanitarian aid.

Information Director of the ECOWAS Executive Secretary Adrienne Yande Diop on Thursday called on Sierra Leone's military government to respect the peace plan to end the country's crisis, and called for strengthening of the sanctions against the junta. Diop said the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers has reiterated that the Conakry Peace Accord, signed between the junta and ECOWAS on October 23, remains the best framework for the restoration of constitutional order.

Former BBC reporter Foday Fofanah was expelled from Guinea on Wednesday, after being detained without charge for three months. Fofanah, who worked for an independent newspaper in Conakry, was escorted across the border to Sierra Leone. Journalists have accused the Guinean government of targeting reporters critical of the administration in the run-up to forthcoming elections, the BBC reported.

The Secretary of State East A.Y.K. Mansaray Thursday deplored as "undemocratic and inhuman" the Kamajor militia's blocking of roads in the country. "They are also killing innocent civilians and impeding the free movement of people and goods with the support of Nigerian troops in ECOMOG," Mansaray told the executive members of the Amalgamated Transport Union in Kenema. Mansaray warned that his administration "will not hesitate to take action against Kamajor supporters," including any paramount chiefs suspected of covertly aiding the Kamajors.

A battle between army troops and a well-armed Kamajor militia band reportedly continued a second day near Zimmi on Thursday, after a lull in the fighting on Tuesday. The military high command in Kenema confirmed the fighting, but was unable to give casualty figure. A military communiqué said sporadic fighting was continuing near Tongo, with the army "consistently beating them back." The army account is disputed by the Kamajors, who say they have killed over 20 soldiers and surrounded the government forces. There has been no independent confirmation of either claim. Military forces in Bo say they killed 35 Kamajors and lost 5 army troops in fighting on the outskirts of the city. Residents reported that the fighting died down on Tuesday, but that the area remained tense.

RUF War Council Chairman Solomon Rogers dismissed reports Thursday of a split between the military government and the RUF following disciplinary action taken against looters of the Iranian Embassy. Of the eight men implicated, six were from the army and 2 were from the RUF People's Army. RUF Captain Browne was dismissed from the People's Army, while RUF Battle Group Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Issa Sesay will lose three months pay. "There is no split because of the decision," Rogers said. "This action will not in any way bring cracks in the alliance since the Anti-Looting Decree was agreed by all in the alliance." Rogers is also Secretary of State for Agriculture and Forestry.

7 January: Sierra Leonean troops fired anti-aircraft guns at a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet at about 8:00 Wednesday morning after it twice flew over Freetown. Reuters quoted "witnesses and military sources" who said the plane, which is attached to the ECOMOG force, returned fire at gun placements in the Aberdeen Beach area of western Freetown. Reports filed by the Xinhua and AFP news services said that the jet dropped at least three cluster bombs on the city. The firing lasted less than ten minutes and briefly created panic in the city, but there were no reports of injuries. Troops were quickly deployed to the area to restore order. Director of Defence Information Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton denied reports that the plane dropped bombs. "The jet flew suspiciously over Freetown as if it wanted to drop bombs on the city," Milton said. "That was a violation of the cease-fire and provocation. That is why our anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the jet. We wanted to scare it away." AFRC spokesman Amadu Bah, in a BBC Focus on Africa interview, denied that junta troops had fired on the jet, and asserted that the plane dropped its bombs into the ocean. Outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu insisted that there had been no attack. He confirmed that a plane had been dispatched to check reports of sanctions violations by ships in the area, but had returned to Monrovia because of poor visibility. IRIN quoted humanitarian sources in Freetown who expressed skepticism that the plane had dropped bombs on the capital. "I heard a crackle of gunfire--the usual anti-aircraft shots, but no detonations," one source said. "If a bomb had been dropped we would have known about it," another source was quoted as saying.

Outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu confirmed Wednesday that ECOMOG will increase its military presence in Sierra Leone to 15,000 troops, from its current strength of around 5,000. The Concord Times quoted Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo as saying that the military buildup was in response to "intelligence reports from Sierra Leone that the junta is still importing arms into the country through the northern region."

Under-Secretary of State for Information Allieu Kamara confirmed on Wednesday news reports that a group of soldiers and RUF fighters, led by several dismissed AFRC members, were involved in a shoot-out near AFRC Chairman Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma's Sport Road residence on Sunday evening. Residents and security personnel attached to Koroma's residence reported hearing sporadic gunfire for about 30 minutes until troops loyal to the junta restored order, Kamara said. The Expo-Times newspaper reported Wednesday that Lance Corporal Tamba Gborie and five others dismissed for their role in the looting of the Iranian Embassy, along with a number of their supporters, are being detained at Pademba Road Prison.

Professional Drivers Association president Abu Sillah said Wednesday he is negotiating with Nigerian ECOMOG troops for the release of 15 drivers detained at the Jui checkpoint since Saturday. Sillah said ECOMOG troops impounded five trucks carrying produce and essential foodstuffs from from Kono, Kenema, and Bo. A National Petroleum tanker headed for Makeni with 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel, and 9 trucks bound for Guinea were also intercepted, Sillah said. He said passengers were allowed to remove perishable foodstuffs, but were not allowed to take away cash crops such as coffee or cocoa. Some of the drivers were airlifted without explanation to the ECOMOG base at Lungi International Airport, Sillah added. Sillah said he visited the ECOMOG base at Jui to make enquiries, but was referred to the ECOMOG Military Intelligence Unit at Kossoh Town, two miles away. "The officers said they had received orders from the ECOMOG High Command in Liberia to intercept commercial vehicles," Sillah said. He quoted the officers as saying that their action was part of the enforcement of sanctions against Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone's military government has protested to ECOWAS headquarters in Nigeria about what it referred to as "the inhuman treatment" of two RUF People's Army lieutenants on Sunday. Defence sources said the two, in separate incidents, were punched, kicked, and stripped naked by Nigerian ECOMOG troops when they found a pistol and some light arms on board their vehicles.

6 January: AFRC Public Relations Officer Amidu Bailor Bah on Tuesday denounced a statement made by outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major-General Victor Malu, who said he expected that 10,000 additional ECOMOG troops would be deployed in Sierra Leone "with or without the consent" of Sierra Leone's military junta. "The statement disregards Sierra Leone's territorial sovereignty and tantamount to a declaration of war," Bah said. "It is an act of aggression which we as a government are capable of resisting. ECOMOG has no such mandate of unilaterally bringing in troops just like that. It proves how Nigeria is taking unilateral decisions in the guise of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)."

A Reuters report Tuesday, quoting a source close to Sierra Leone's military junta, said that Tamba Gborie and over a dozen of his supporters tried to storm the residence of AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma on Sunday evening, but were disarmed after a brief exchange of fire. Gborie, who first announced the coup over SLBS (state radio) last May, was dismissed from the AFRC Supreme Council and reduced in rank from sergeant to lance-corporal earlier in the week for his role in looting the Iranian Embassy. The source said the supporters included disaffected members of the RUF. All are said to be detained at Pademba Road Prison. A conflicting report was filed by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), which said Gborie had been arrested in connection with the embassy looting. The AFP report quoted a military official who said five persons had been arrested along with Gborie for encouraging RUF fighters to mutiny. A military spokesman interviewed by the Voice of America denied the Reuters report, and said that Gborie had not been arrested.

Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo Tuesday denied AFRC claims made Saturday that a number of Nigerian ECOMOG officers of Yoruba extraction had been arrested in Sierra Leone and brought back to Nigeria for trial. "There is no iota of truth in the allegation," Ugbo said. He described the junta's claims as "mischievous and malicious," noting that it was aimed at causing disharmony among the Nigerians. Ugbo accused the junta of using the claims to cover a break-up in its ranks, citing the arrest and dismissal of several leading AFRC members for their role in the looting of the Iranian Embassy in Freetown.

5 January: Nigerian Defence Headquarters named Major-General Timothy Shelpidi as the eighth commander of ECOMOG on Monday, replacing current ECOMOG force commander Major-General Samuel Victor Malu. The change takes effect on Thursday. Shelpidi is currently Chief of Military Training, Operations and Planning. Malu, who has headed the ECOMOG force in Liberia since September 1996, and who earlier served as ECOMOG Chief of Staff in 1992/93, returns to Nigeria to take command of the Nigerian Army's Second Division, based in Ibadan. Malu told the BBC Monday he expects an ECOWAS decision shortly which would allow the ECOMOG force to deploy 10,000 more troops in Sierra Leone, in addition to the approximately 5,000 already in the country. Malu said ECOMOG would deploy the new troops with or without the consent of Sierra Leone's military junta and, if necessary, by force of arms.

Director of Defence Information Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton said Monday that the army repelled a Kamajor attack on government troops at Bo and Gondama on Saturday and Sunday, killing scores of Kamajor militiamen. "We have so far found the bodies of 10 Kamajors killed yesterday in heavy fighting for Bo," Milton said, adding that 25 more Kamajors were killed south of Bo by pursuing troops. He put the army's losses at two dead. There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures. Milton said government troops and RUF fighters used heavy guns mounted on jeeps as well as rocket-propelled grenades to battle the Kamajors. He said traffic into Bo resumed on Monday, "because we had been able to push the Kamajors off the the Bo-Kenema-Moyamba highway," Milton said. "The road is no longer closed and commercial vehicles are now going through." In a press release issued Monday, Secretary of State South Major A.F. Kamara denounced Sunday's BBC Focus on Africa report, which described the fighting at Bo. Kamara described the report as "not only unfounded and misleading, but geared to create unnecessary panic and undermine the effort of the Secretary of State Education to present schooling in the country."

Director of Defence Information Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton said Monday that government troops killed 25 Kamajor militiamen in a "hot pursuit" battle at Dodo, near Kenema. Milton said the Kamajors were "pursued from Dama in the south to Dodo where the battle took place." Two soldiers died in the fighting at Dama Tongay, he said. Milton said Kamajor militiamen attacked army positions at Tongo Field early Monday, but were repelled. The army captured 15 Kamajor militiamen, Milton said, adding that there were no army casualties. Milton accused ECOMOG troops in Liberia of "making their way towards villages on the border with Sierra Leone to team up with the Kamajors to launch attacks on Sierra Leone government soldiers." He said large numbers of ECOMOG troops were being airlifted to ECOMOG positions at Jui and at Lungi International Airport. "These movements are in complete violation of the Conakry Peace Agreement, which outlawed any troop movement or violation of the ceasefire. They are bent on derailing the ceasefire," Milton said.

AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Alimamy Pallo Bangura held secret talks in Abidjan Monday, saying he was seeking ways to break the deadlock in efforts to bring a peaceful end to military rule in Sierra Leone. Bangura said he team, which included Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning Victor Brandon, was not on an official mission for the military junta. Bangura would not say which officials he met with in Abidjan, but he suggested that his consultations were preparatory to an anticipated ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers meeting on Sierra Leone. "We are wasting time and lives are being lost in the process. Destruction is taking place. We do not think that should really be allowed to continue," he said. Bangura said that the peace process has stalled because the junta has been excluded from talks on Sierra Leone, including the December 17 ECOWAS summit in Lomé, Togo. He said his talks in Abidjan are aimed at seating a junta delegation at a meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Five, to be held in Abidjan before March. "Cote d'Ivoire has been involved in the Sierra Leone crisis much before any of the other countries," Bangura said. "It's role is more historical and a lot more positive. But it's caught in a situation where it is part of the (Committee of) Five. It is part of the decisions within the Committee of Five and it cannot go outside that, which is unfortunate," he added. There has been no comment from the Ivorian government on the talks.

Dozens of primary and secondary schools remained closed in Freetown Monday, despite appeals from the military government for them to reopen. Teaching in Kenema and Makeni was reported to have resumed. Schools in Sierra Leone have been closed since the May 25 coup, after the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) ordered teachers to stay away from classes until democracy was restored to Sierra Leone. "We are utterly shocked over the development as the Department of Treasury had fully met one of the conditions of the teachers, which is the payment of all delayed salaries. We now owe them just the salary for December," a senior Department of Education official said. SLTU Secretary Alpha Timbo said "problems still remain which are hampering the commencement of effective schooling." He said the government should pay school and examination fees for students who were unable to sit for public exams because of insecurity following the coup. "Many of the students forfeited their cash because they could not go to the various examination centers due to insecurity at the time," he said, adding that the government must either pay or provide a loan to the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to facilitate the marking of examination papers. In December, the SLTU cited security concerns, saying that schools would reopen if combatants were disarmed under the Conakry Peace Accord and armed fighters occupying school premises were removed.

Education officials have published the 1998 schedule for the primary and secondary school terms. The first term for primary schools will run for a 14 week period from January 5 to April 8, the second term from April 20 to June 30 with a break from July 1-10, and the third term from July 13 to September 18. The first term for secondary schools will run from January 5 to April 8 with Easter break from April 10-14. The second term will be from April 20 to July 30 and the third term from August 4 to September 18.

4 January: Army troops and the Kamajor militia fought for control of Bo on Sunday, according to international aid workers in Freetown who contacted their colleagues in Bo by radio. Soldiers using using heavy guns and rocket propelled grenades fought Kamajors armed with AK-47 rifles, machetes, and spears. "Heavy fighting between the Sierra Leone army and several hundred Kamajors has been going on since last night and has continued well into the afternoon today," one aid worker said. "The Kamajors have not been able to push the heavily armed junta troops holding the town. Likewise the junta troops have been unable to repel the Kamajors." Aid workers reported several deaths on both sides, but were unable to determine the extent of casualties because of the ongoing fighting. Hundreds of Bo residents were leaving the town to seek shelter in outlying villages, the aid workers said.

Hundreds of youths attacked six soldiers who had seized bags of corn meal from a trader in Freetown on Sunday. The youths chased the soldiers into a church, where Sunday services were in progress, and dragged them into the street. They attacked the soldiers with sticks and stones before a military intelligence patrol intervened. A similar clash took place at Susan's Bay Wharf on Saturday, but soldiers were able to disperse the civilians by firing into the air.

3 January: Seven senior members of the AFRC have been disciplined in connection with the looting of the Iranian Embassy in Freetown on December 31. Hassan Bangura, Foday Kallon, Brima Kamara, Mohamed Kallon and Alfred Brown (RUF People's Army) have been sacked from the AFRC Supreme Council of State and the armed forces, Under-Secretary of State for Defence Colonel A.B.Y. Kamara said in a statement issued on Saturday. Tamba Gborie, who first announced the coup on SLBS (state radio) May 25, has been reduced in rank from sergeant to lance-corporal, and has been sacked from the Supreme Council and the AFRC government. Lieutenant-Colonel Issa Sesay has been deprived of three months salary "and will be dealt with severely if he embarks on any further anti-revolutionary inclination," the statement said. Kamara called the looting "a deliberate act of sabotage," adding that the Department of Foreign Affairs had issued a letter of apology to the Iranian government.

Soldiers and Kamajors clashed at a town in the southeast Friday, causing civilians to flee across the Liberian border, about 20 miles away. Several soldiers were reported killed during two hours of heavy artillery exchanges. Kamajor reinforcements were seen Saturday heading for another town occupied by junta forces.

2 January: Military authorities in Freetown said Friday that a number of people were killed near Bo Thursday night in a Kamajor attack on the country's second-largest refugee camp. They declined to give casualty figures, but a civilian source said he counted about 35 dead. "Some of them were hacked to death by the Kamajors, while others were killed by crossfire (with the army)," the source was quoted as saying. Aid workers in Bo confirmed the attack by Kamajor militiamen armed with AK-47 rifles, machetes, and spears. "We have no idea of casualties, although we know that people in the camp and the village were killed," one aid worker said.

1 January: Two soldiers and six Kamajors were reported killed New Year's Eve in a shoot-out at a village ten miles east of Kenema. Bo was described as calm, despite reports of Kamajor militiamen gathering near the outskirts of the town. Government troops are searching all vehicles entering or leaving the town. A source in Freetown quoted reports that Kamajors have also searched vehicles along the Freetown-Bo highway, but have allowed them to pass. The Kamajors have threatened to prevent government buses from travelling in the interior, claiming they are earning revenue for the junta. Currently, only private vehicles are said to be travelling up-country. In the north, the Secretary of State for the Northern Region said "it is the quietest of all times." News service reports say Kamajors have seized several roads in the northeast. Freetown was reported quiet, as soldiers and RUF fighters obeyed a directive from the Department of Defence not to fire their guns to celebrate the New Year. Gunshots fired during New Year's celebrations a year ago killed 10 civilians and wounded over 30.

ECOMOG force commander Major-General Malu said Thursday that ECOMOG would resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone during 1998. In his New Year's message delivered in Monrovia, Liberia, Malu commended ECOMOG soldiers for their exemplary conduct, enthusiastic dedication to duty, honesty, and loyalty. He pointed to ECOMOG's success in bring peace and security to Liberia, and said the same could be done in Sierra Leone. Malu called the ECOMOG force West Africa's first attempt at conflict resolution, adding that he wished the force would make ECOWAS proud of it at all times.

Rice has become increasingly expensive in Freetown, with a cup now selling for Le 350. Bags of rice are said to be hard to find, but sold just before the New Year for Le 50,000. On Wednesday, soldiers at barracks in Wilberforce and Murray Town were reportedly asked to share bags of rice, but refused, demanding their full ration. At the police barracks in Kissy, 38 bags of rice were delivered to supply 200 policemen. A shortage of petrol in Freetown has caused taxi fare to increase to Le 500.