29 June: United Nations officials held a sea burial ceremony for two Zambian peacekeepers, Lieutenant-Colonel Timmy Kasamu and Lieutenant-Colonel David Kasonde, who died last November in a helicopter crash off the coast of Aberdeen. Their bodies were never recovered. Four Ukrainian crew members also died in the crash. A Zambian delegation which members of the two officers' families attended Thursday's ceremony.
28 June: The Sierra Leone Bar Association announced Friday that it had instituted an action in the Supreme Court challenging the government's swearing-in last month of Eke Ahmed Halloway as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice without the prior approval of parliament. The suit names the the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as the First Defendant, and Halloway as the Second Defendant. The Bar Association will argue in court that the appointment contravenes Article 56(2)(c) of Sierra Leone's constitution, which requires parliamentary approval for cabinet nominees, and will ask the court to declare the appointment "null and avoid and of no legal effect." The government has argued that Article 64 of the constitution establishes the post of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as a separate position which is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
Sierra Leone is holding discussions with Guinea on the pullout of Guinean troops who originally crossed into Sierra Leonean territory to pursue RUF rebels and have remained despite the end of the war, the Associated Press reported on Friday, quoting Foreign Affairs Minister Momodu Koroma. Koroma refused to say how many troops there were or when they had entered Sierra Leone, but he indicated that most were in Kambia District. "It was a very amicable meeting and they are now working out a process for Guinean troops to withdraw from the area," Koroma was quoted as saying.
At least 25,000 people have crossed the border into Sierra Leone since December to escape fighting between Liberian government forces and armed rebels, UNHCR spokesperson Delphine Marie told the Voice of America. Marie said the actual number was probably far higher, because many refugees enter Sierra Leone through uncontrolled border points. She said that eventually they end up in refugee camps. "They present themselves to the legal border crossings to be transferred from our way stations to the Liberian refugee sites, or they tend to stay by the border sometimes hoping that calm will come back in their areas and they can return," she said. Meanwhile, senior United Nations officials including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the UNAMSIL force commander visited the border towns of Gendema and Zimmi in order to assess the refugee and returnee situation in the area, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The U.N. officials also crossed to the Liberian town of Bo Waterside to seek assurances from Liberian officials that the refugees would be allowed to cross freely into Sierra Leone, and that appropriate reception arrangements were being made at the border. Lieutenant-Colonel Moses Ziah, the commander of Liberian army forces in the area, pledged his government's commitment to protect the refugees and returnees.
The chairman of the United Nations Security Council's Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, arrived in Freetown on Friday on a two-day visit to assess the peace process and political developments in the country, UNAMSIL said in a statement. During his stay, Zinser is due to hold meetings with President Kabbah and members of his cabinet, senior United Nations officials, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of civil society groups, as well as Peace and Liberation Party chairman Johnny Paul Koroma and the leadership of the Revolutionary United Front Party. Zinser will also visit the eastern towns of Kenema and Koidu, where he will meet with United Nations peacekeepers before departing for Monrovia on Sunday.
The Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF - Reporters Without Borders) has named Sierra Leone as one of 21 countries in which murderers, abductors, or torturers of journalists have been granted full or partial immunity by their government. In Sierra Leone, where 15 journalists died between 1996 and 2000, RSF highlighted the summary execution of African Champion news director Juma Jalloh in 1999 by members of the ECOMOG force, and noted the deaths of 11 other journalists thought to have been killed by RUF rebels. "No inquiry was expedited by the peacekeeping force to bring the murderers to trial and punish them," the report said. "Some of their immediate superiors are still carrying out official duties in the Nigerian army. As for the RUF rebels who probably murdered the journalists, they are still living in total freedom and with full impunity in what is supposedly a pacified country." Persons who committed war crimes in Sierra Leone were granted an amnesty under the terms of the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord, signed by the government and the RUF. The other countries named in the report were Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, China, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Nepal, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan and Ukraine.
The leaders of the world's wealthiest countries meeting in Canada have endorsed an African plan to exchange development aid and improved access to Western markets in exchange for a commitment to good governance. The plan, known as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), would see G8 nations earmark about $6 billion in development aid to African nations which commit themselves to democratic rule and work to promote human rights and to reduce corruption. The plan includes an agreement to provide training for African peacekeeping forces and support for African-led conflict mediation initiatives, a commitment to improving global market access for African exports by reducing trade barriers and farm subsidies by 2005, a promise to eliminate polio in Africa by 2005, and support for strengthening judiciaries, civil services and democratic institutions on the continent to uphold NEPAD's commitment to achieve "global standards of democracy." The G8 nations would also support a peer review process to encourage improved governance practices. The document promised "additional support to efforts...to consolidate peace in Angola and Sierra Leone within the next year," and efforts to address the linkage between armed conflict and the exploitation of natural resources. Some aid agencies in particular have suggested that the agreement did not go far enough in addressing Africa's needs. But South African President Thabo Mbeki (pictured left) insisted that it was a promising start. "There’s never been an engagement of this kind before — certainly not between Africa and the G8 where we would sit together with them having agreed to the priorities that we have decided as African countries," Mbeki told the BBC. "To sit together to say how do we respond to each one of these priorities in detail. It’s never happened before. It’s the first time and I think it’s a very, very good beginning." Mbeki acknowledged that African leaders were concerned about trade barriers in the West, but he noted that the opening of markets was an issue which was being negotiated within the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO). "They’ve gone further to say pending the outcome of those negotiations in the context of the WTO, they must look at existing instruments for the EU and the United States, they must look at existing instruments further to open up these markets," he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has completed what it is calling the largest distribution of assistance to farmers every carried out in eastern Sierra Leone. With the assistance of local leaders, some 20,000 farm families in Kailahun District and nearly 23,000 in Kono received farm packages consisting of 20 kg. (44 pounds) of upland seed rice, 20 kg. of swamp seed rice, 10 kg. of groundnut seed, and a large hoe. In all, the agency distributed 700 tons each of upland and swamp seed rice and over 300 tons of groundnut seed in six chiefdoms of Kailahun District and seven in Kono. In addition, an agreement was reached with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide the beneficiaries with a one-month food ration to ensure that the seed was planted and not eaten.
The United Nations will begin reducing its military presence in Sierra Leone beginning in December, UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on Thursday. "I have some ideas on how the downsizing will occur, but it is not yet finalized," Opande said. "We hope to start withdrawing the troops from December. It will be a phased withdrawal to avoid creating a security vacuum in Sierra Leone, but will depend on the situation in the country.” A United Nations team visited the country earlier this month to draw up a plan for the force's downsizing and eventual withdrawal. The proposals are expected to be included in U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report to the Security Council this coming September.
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2050 / 2250. [£] 2709 / 3162. Commercial Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 3000 / 3162. Frandia: [$] 2100 / 2250 [£] 2700 / 2950. Continental: [$] 2120 / 2250 [£] 2900 / 3250. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2016 / 2017 [£] 2980 / 3000.
27 June: With just two seats in Sierra Leone's 124-member parliament, Johnny Paul Koroma's Peace and Liberation Party (PLP) is far overshadowed by the Sierra Leone People's Party and the All People's Congress. But Koroma, a former career soldier turned junta leader who later joined the government he once helped to overthrow as Chairman of the Commission for Consolidation for Peace, said he would work to improve the quality of legislation. "Basically it’s not only to oppose things that are not going right, (but) to give good suggestions as to how things should move forward," he told the Sierra Leone Web on Thursday. "Even though we are in the minority, we have few seats, but I think the ruling party which has the majority in parliament should see themselves as working in the best interests of the people, not only for their own party. I think if it’s anything that is in the best interests of the people, all of us will support it. If it’s not in the interests of the people, we should oppose it." The PLP's success in the special vote which preceded last month's general election raised fears in some quarters that Sierra Leone's British-trained army might still have reservations about supporting the government. The party's two seats came from the West-West electoral district, home to Wilberforce Barracks. Koroma argued that his vote totals reflected support from all of the security forces, not just from the army, and not only in West-West. He acknowledged, however, that his military background attracted support from the soldiers. "The way I see it is because of confidence, because maybe they think that I can advocate better for them. That is basically the reason," he said. But Koroma insisted that the PLP should not be seen as a party of the army. "I am not representing the military," he said. "I am representing the people." And he admitted that the transition from junta leader to sitting as a member of the minority might pose a challenge. "It’s not going to be too easy, but I will make it," he said.
The number of refugees fleeing from Liberia into Sierra Leone via the Gendema border crossing reached 6,600 in one week, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Thursday. Of these, 5,000 were Liberians and 1,600 were Sierra Leoneans returning home because of the insecurity in Liberia. Many of those reaching Sierra Leone were among those forced to flee when LURD rebels attacked their refugee camp at Sinje on June 20. In recent days, however, Liberians from villages in Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties have joined the exodus to Sierra Leone, fearing renewed fighting in the area. Some of those reaching Sierra Leone are reportedly in bad shape, with increasing numbers of vulnerable persons including several babies born in the bush. The refugees arrive exhausted, with bruised bodies and swollen feet from their several-day trek through the forest. Hundreds more refugees are reported to have crossed at some of the 27 unofficial border crossing points. Meanwhile, over 2,000 refugees have arrived in Kailahun District. Most have been taken to a makeshift camp at Buedu. The UNHCR said it was working to relocate the new arrivals away from the border, but was finding it hard to keep up with the influx. 3,000 refugees are waiting to be transferred to Buedu and another 2,000 at Gendema. 1,500 people are being housed at a way station in Zimmi designed to accommodate 800. The agency is sending daily convoys to transport the refugees and returnees to five existing camps in Bo District — at Jembe, Gerihun, Jimmi Bagbo, Taiama and Bandajuma — which together have a capacity of 33,000 residents. Already there are 23,000 Liberian refugees and 1,500 Sierra Leonean returnees in the camp. Plans are being drawn up for a sixth site at Gondama which could house another 15,000 persons if necessary.
Sierra Leonean refugees reaching Monrovia from Sinje, where they came under attack last week by LURD rebels, are being accommodated in camps near the Liberian capital while the United Nations refugee agency and the governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia make arrangements for their repatriation, Sierra Leone's ambassador to Liberia told the BBC. "The repatriation is going to be by sea, by air, and by road if the road opens as soon as possible," Ambassador Kemoh Salia-bao told correspondent Sam Howard. "And according to UNHCR leadership, they have confirmed to me that these things, they will be doing them as soon as they get the clearance from their headquarters." Salia-bao said there were unconfirmed reports that two or three Sierra Leonean refugees had been killed in last week's attack, which uprooted some 11,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and 13,000 displaced Liberians and left their refugee camp looted and in ruins. The ambassador said that many of the displaced were still stranded in the forest. "Very few have been able to come to Monrovia and towards the border," he said. "So we have appealed to NGOs who are now in the forest, we are now trying to get them together. The Liberian government has also changed the structure of the security force in the area and with instructions that they also should not harass anybody, especially the refugees, and also get them out of the forest to get them either to Monrovia or on the border or in the camp."
The opposition All People's Congress (APC) has named a shadow cabinet to better communicate the party's positions on issues coming before parliament, the Concord Times newspaper reported. APC parliamentary leader Ernest Bai Koroma told the newspaper that while his party's shadow cabinet was modeled after the British system, in differed because Sierra Leonean cabinet members are not members of parliament. Shadow ministers are Victor Chukuma Johnson (Finance), Dauda Sulaiman Kamara (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Abdul F. Serry-Kamal (Attorney General and Minister of Justice), Edward M. Turay (Development and Economic Planning), Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay (Transport and Communications), Alpha B.S. Kanu (Mineral Resources), Wusu B. Munu (Agriculture and Food Security and Marine Resources), Dr. Moses O.M. Sesay (Health and Sanitation), Usman S.A. Kargbo (Education, Science and Technology), Minkailu Mansaray (Works, Housing and Technical Maintenance), Musu Kandeh (Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs), Haja Afsatu Kabba (Lands, Country, Planning, Forestry and the Environment), Philpson H. Kamara (Local Government and Community Development), Cecil A. Osho Williams (Parliamentary and Political Affairs), Dr. Jengo Stevens (Energy and Power), Mohamed Kakay (Information and Broadcasting), S.B.B. Dumbuya (Internal Affairs), Ibrahim Bundu (Sports and Youths), Alhaji Buya Kamara (Tourism and Culture), Alie Sallieu Sankoh (Labour, Industrial Relations and Social Security), Edward Sembu Koroma (Public Affairs) and Ibrahim Sorie (Trade and Industry).
26 June: The leaders of the world's eight wealthiest countries will discuss a proposal for massive aid to Africa in return for good governance at this year's G8 Summit which got underway Wednesday in the Canadian village of Kananaskis, Alberta. The initiative, known as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), would tie development assistance to progress in a number of areas including the strengthening of mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution, the promotion of human rights and democracy, the strengthening of security and inter-regional cooperation, and efforts to reduce corruption. G8 countries — Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and Italy — would back initiatives to build peace and security, to address crises in education and health care, to strengthen democratic governance, in opening trade and investment, and in the areas of agriculture and water supply. NEPAD was conceived by the leaders of Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria, and has received strong backing from Canada and Britain. Among African leaders supporting the NEPAD initiative is President Kabbah, who told an international summit in Rome this month that "the international community, particularly the private sector, should be convinced that we in Africa no longer intend to do business-as-usual, and therefore should join us in matching forward improved conditions of living which the NEPAD initiative aims at bringing to the people of Africa."
Sierra Leone's army has sent more troops to the border with Liberia to prevent a spillover of the conflict between government forces and armed rebels, the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported on Wednesday. UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki (pictured left) told the news agency that the United Nations would also maintain "a lot of troops" in the five operational sectors adjacent to the border, including the cities of Koidu and Kenema, and would continue regular patrols with MI-24 helicopter gunships. She said the border area was hard to patrol because, in addition to the two official crossing points, there were 27 unofficial ones. She said the U.N. had so far identified about 50 armed Liberians who had crossed the border, while the army and the police were holding two more.
25 June: Parliament convened for the first time on Tuesday following last month's elections. Justice Edmond Cowan of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party was elected as Speaker, and Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie as Deputy Speaker. The opposition All People's Congress delegation will be led by former presidential candidate Ernest Bai Koroma, with his vice presidential candidate, Dauda Kamara, acting as deputy leader of the minority. The Sierra Leone People's Party captured 83 of the 112 ordinary seats in parliament in the May elections, while the All People's Congress took 23. The remaining two seats went to Johnny Paul Koroma's Peace and Liberation Party. Twelve more seats reserved for paramount chiefs were filled in an election earlier this month.
The opposition All People's Congress (APC) will be watching proposed government legislation "very, very carefully to see how we can make a positive contribution towards finalizing them so that they can become applicable and really relevant to the nation," the party's deputy parliamentary leader said on Tuesday. Dauda Kamara, who spoke to the Sierra Leone Web from parliament by telephone, said he hoped that the Sierra Leone People's Party's overwhelming majority would not lead the government to push legislation through without scrutiny, "but for them to understand that when issues are openly debated they can make for really good laws." Kamara, who was both the APC party's vice presidential designate and a candidate for parliament from Kambia District in last month's presidential and parliamentary elections, said that if his party were in power, "we would be looking at all issues that would consolidate our peace, so that the nation can concentrate on the process of really developing its own democracy," especially in the areas of education and health care. He noted, however, that the APC was not in a position to set priorities, but would instead react to legislation proposed by the government. "But by and large, I think we could hope the government in power would see the need for us to work together so as to consolidate the peace that this country have been trying to achieve," he said.
Some 4,000 displaced Sierra Leoneans and Liberians who were forced to flee last week when LURD rebels attacked a refugee camp at the Liberian town of Sinje have reached Sierra Leone, and hundreds more have turned up in Monrovia, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday. Kris Janowski said that thousands more were still unaccounted for. Before Thursday's attack, the Sinje Camp was home to 11,000 Sierra Leoneans and — by revised estimates — 13,000 Liberians. On Monday, the UNHCR was informed that about 1,000 people, both Sierra Leoneans and Liberians, had gathered in the Gbah area near Kle Junction. They were being prevented from advancing further towards Monrovia by government security forces worried about the possibility of rebel fighters among them. Janowski said the UNHCR had contacted the government, which immediately sent senior officials to the area to help the refugees reach the capital. Meanwhile those refugees who managed to cross the border into Sierra Leone reported that the main road to the border was very insecure, and that thousands of people were still hiding in the forest trying to find a way to safety. Residents of the town of Sinje, which was thought to have between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants, also fled the attack, but some may have returned home. The refugee camp, however, was totally looted and destroyed. Five local nurses from the UNHCR implementing partner MERCI were abducted by the rebels and have not yet been released. The UNHCR is now looking at the possibility of sea transportation to help the remaining 35,000 registered Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia to return home as soon as possible.
Refugees International called on the international community Tuesday to provide more funds to care for tens of thousands of Liberian refugees and Sierra Leonean returnees who are crossing the Sierra Leone border to escape new fighting in Liberia. The UNHCR in Sierra Leone requested $2.9 million from its headquarters six months ago to assist new Liberian arrivals, but so far Geneva has provided only $200,000 — forcing local aid workers to try and cope with the current crisis with "totally inadequate resources," Refugees International said in a statement. The group suggested that the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people from Sinje Camp was the vanguard of what could be as many as 100,000 returnees and new refugees in the future. The current crisis was foreseen six months ago, the group said, adding that so far the UNHCR had failed to fund the humanitarian needs of the first wave of people arriving in Sierra Leone. The UNHCR recently approved the supplemental budget requested by the UNHCR in Sierra Leone, and Refugees International called on agency to present it to the donor community immediately to obtain the needed funds. In the meantime, the group said, the UNHCR in Geneva should make additional resources available pending the receipt of funds from donors.
24 June: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that the escalating fighting between government forces and rebels in Liberia could pose a threat to Sierra Leone's fragile peace. In his latest report to the Security Council, Annan said that as the United Nations prepares to reduce the size of its peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, it must work to strengthen "the capacities, accountability and loyalties of both the police and the army of Sierra Leone" as well as to establish an effective coordination mechanism to avoid a security vacuum when UNAMSIL finally leaves. The U.N. Mission's current mandate extends through September 30. Annan said that he would submit in September detailed proposals for the downsizing of the force and its eventual exit from Sierra Leone. The secretary-general also highlighted the necessity of extending state authority, which he said remains vital to the stabilisation of many areas which were not under government control during the country's civil war. Other challenges, he said, include the rebuilding of Sierra Leone's judicial system, and the implementation of a U.N.-backed National Recovery Strategy which focuses on short-term measures to address the needs of people in newly accessible areas, while laying the foundation for the transition towards sustainable development.
More than 1,500 displaced persons have arrived in Zimmi following an attack last week on a refugee camp in the Liberian town of Sinje, the U.N. refugee agency's representative in Monrovia told the Associated Press. On Thursday, members of the armed rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) attacked the town and the camp, forcing some 11,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and 8,000 displaced Liberians to flee. UNHCR representative Moses Okello said those who reached Zimmi included both Sierra Leoneans and Liberians. He added that about 500 others from Sinje had arrived in the Liberian capital. "The number of those arriving in Monrovia could be much higher because most of them, especially the displaced Liberians, are reluctant to go into camps. They go into the community," he said. Earlier Monday, the U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP representative in Liberia told Radio France International that the camp's 19,000 residents had gone missing. He said the U.N. had lost contact with the refugees, but speculated that they could be hiding between the towns of Kle Junction and Sinje along the road leading to Sierra Leone. The official said the refugee camp had been targeted by the rebels and completely looted. Some 60 personnel working with UNHCR implementing partners at the camps were also said to be missing.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Murshed Khan will make a three-day stopover in Sierra Leone beginning on Saturday to visit peacekeepers from his country who are serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force, the Associated Press reported. Khan left Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Monday for the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Khartoum, Sudan. The minister is also expected to meet with President Kabbah and with Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Momodu Koroma.
Evidence of war crimes committed during Sierra Leone's decade of civil war may already be beginning to disappear, the BBC reported. BBC correspondent Tom McKinley, reporting from Kono District, said he observed at least twelve skulls and other skeletal remains at a burnt down house in the diamond mining town of Tombodu. In an adjacent room there were four more bodies. "What’s particularly interesting about that is a lot of the people in Tombodu actually ran away during the war or were forced out of Tombodu," he said. "The rebels or the militia or whoever was here — they say it was AFRC — used Tombodu as a sort of killing ground, they say, for amputating people, killing people, burning people in houses as I can see in front of me. So there aren’t many people here who can give evidence to what happened, although I have met one person who tells me that he did see sixteen people just shot dead." McKinley said a U.N. team had visited the site in February, but that so far no steps had been taken to cordon off the area or to preserve the evidence. "In fact, the person who owns this house was trying to clear the bones away as we arrived," he said. "He was pulling grass up from around the bones, disturbing the evidence. And this clearly will have an effect on any trial if the evidence is disturbed in such a way." McKinley said there were rumours of another mass gravesite further down the road, at an old diamond mining pit. "I have seen lots of bones around the edge of that," he said. "I can’t say for sure if they’re human, but I’m told by the people in this village that there are human remains in there, and perhaps as many as 400 which does sound absolutely horrible. Those figures have varied greatly though, so it’s difficult to ascertain what the true facts are."
22 June: The United Nations has identified some 75 mass graves and execution sites scattered throughout Sierra Leone, and has been informed of many others, UNAMSIL Human Rights Officer Mauro Miedico told the Sierra Leone Web on Saturday. On Monday, a three-member Argentinean Forensic Anthropology Team arrived in Sierra Leone to carry out a preliminary mapping of some of the sites, and to advise the U.N. on how best to preserve evidence of war crimes carried out during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil conflict. Miedico said that where a number of grave sites were clustered together, as with the seven or eight mass graves in the Port Loko area, they were being treated as a single investigation. Even so, he acknowledged that the forensic team would not be able to visit all of the sites during its month-long investigation. "It’s just a first assessment," he said. "They are not going there to conduct exhumations, take bones and do a legal investigation or to take evidence, because the question of the chain of custody and these things will have to be respected." Once the preliminary mapping was complete, he said, an official request for an investigation could be made by the Sierra Leone government or the Special Court. Miedico stressed the urgent need to preserve evidence, especially in light of an announcement by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation earlier this week that the government would soon begin removing hundreds of corpses which had been dumped into water wells. While it is still too early to say with certainty who was responsible for executions in a given area, Miedico said the UNAMSIL Human Rights Section had identified grave sites around the country, including Port Loko, Kabala, Kono and Tongo Field, with different alleged perpetrators. In Tongo Field, he said, there had been reported massacres by the pro-government CDF, while in the Kabala area it was assumed that most of the killings had been carried out by the RUF rebels. Meanwhile Rodolfo Mattarollo, the Chief of UNAMSIL's Human Rights Section, explained to Radio France International what a forensic team could be expected to accomplish. "They can try to identify human remains," he said. "But if this is not possible, a forensic team in the case of a mass grave can determine the cause and manner of the death, for instance, to prove that the deaths were not natural but the result of a massacre. We think that here in Sierra Leone, given the nature of the abuses committed in this country, one possibility is to identify some victims, but another possibility for these kinds of investigations is to prove the existence of massacres."
21 June: Liberian rebels attacked a refugee camp near the border with Sierra Leone Thursday morning, abducting five nurses from the medical group MERCI and forcing some 11,000 Sierra Leonean refugees to flee, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday. An unconfirmed report from the Liberian government said four persons: two government soldiers, a rebel and a civilian, were killed in the attack, about 50 miles northwest of Monrovia. A commander from the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) who identified himself as "General Skeleton" radioed the UNHCR from MERCI's stolen ambulance and said the five nurses were being taken to the rebel stronghold at Voinjama. The UNHCR's last radio contact with the Sinje camp, which has been cut off from aid for over a month, came at 9:15 Thursday morning, when heavy gunfire could be heard from the direction of Kle Junction, midway between nearby Sinje town and Monrovia. Five minutes later the fighting reached Sinje, and the UNHCR advised that the camp's residents — 11,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, together with 8,000 displaced Liberians and 60 local NGO workers — leave the area. The 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants of Sinje may have fled as well. The UNHCR spokesman said that its office in the Sierra Leonean town of Zimmi was on alert for the arrival of refugees fleeing the fighting. As of Friday morning there had been no significant influx of people into Sierra Leone.
A United Nations team visited Sierra Leone last week to plan for the eventual reduction in size of the U.N. peacekeeping force, UNAMSIL commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande said on Friday. "Definitely we're going to reduce," Opande said. "We have a plan for gradually reducing the strength of both the military and civilian elements of UNAMSIL as time goes by. Last week, we had a group of officers from the U.N. headquarters in New York who spent the whole week with us working on our draw-down plan." UNAMSIL's current authorised strength stands at 17,500 troops through the end of September. So far, Opande said, there has been no decrease in troop strength "apart from those who perhaps we have lost through various deaths, but no major reduction has taken place. We're still full strength as of today." Last week Opande toured the region along Sierra Leone's border with Liberia, where new fighting on the Liberian side has sent as many as 25,000 refugees into Sierra Leone since the beginning of the year. "Apart from the refugees, we've also seen a number of armed or former combatants, government forces of Liberia who have across into Sierra Leone," he said. "Some have come who have surrendered their weapons; some have come without weapons. Sometime last week we had a figure of something in the region of between 45-50. These are former combatants or AFL soldiers who have crossed and are now in Sierra Leone and in various protective custodies by SLP or some who came much earlier and wanted to go back to their own country who were released and sent back."
20 June: As many as 25,000 Liberian refugees have crossed into Sierra Leone since January to escape fighting in their country, UNHCR Communications Director Francesca Fontanini told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Earlier this week, a UNHCR spokesman said about 67,000 Sierra Leonean refugees were still living in Liberia, including 36,000 in camps and another 31,000 who are living among the Liberian population. 11,000 are currently stranded at the Sinje camps, which have been cut off by fighting between Liberian security forces and armed rebels. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, has criticised rich countries for not doing more for the world's estimated twelve million refugees. Lubbers (pictured left) called the reluctance of donor countries to repatriate, protect and shelter refugees "short-sighted," the BBC reported. Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, Lubbers noted that desperate refugees often fall prey to human smugglers and traffickers. Helping them before this happens, he said, would reduce crime and instability in many parts of the world. "If we cannot offer adequate protection and programmes for refugees, as well as some hope of durable solutions, refugee camps can become breeding grounds for despair," he said. About 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, according to UNHCR estimates. "We must ensure that their voice is heard, that their potential is developed, and that their role is fully recognised," Lubbers said.
A non-governmental forensic team skilled in applying the principles of forensic anthropology to the investigation of human rights abuses is in Sierra Leone to carry out preliminary investigations into mass graves of people killed during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, UNAMSIL said on Thursday. The Argentinean Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) arrived in Sierra Leone on Monday. Over the next four weeks, the three-member team will map out the sites of mass graves, assess the amount of forensic expertise needed for further investigations, and give advice on preserving evidence. The EAAF's visit was organised following a preliminary gathering of information on grave sites by UNAMSIL's Human Rights Section, and after discussions with the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. The team's report will propose guidelines for carrying out future investigations in support of the work of the Special Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Sierra Leone Police have confirmed the desertion of a high-ranking Liberian military officer to Sierra Leone, first reported on the BBC a week ago. According to the Reuters news agency, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Tarawallie of the Armed Forces of Liberia crossed the border into Sierra Leone after his headquarters at Vahun was overrun by rebels of the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The Pan African News Agency (PANA) quoted CID Assistant Commissioner of Police Tamba Gbekie as saying on Tuesday that Tarawallie, alias "Mon amie" and 16 other defectors belonged to the Special Brigade of Liberia's Anti-Terrorist Unit assigned to Lofa County. He said Tarawallie told police his base had been captured on June 6. The Liberian soldiers are now asking for asylum in Sierra Leone. According to Reuters, the police said they had informed Liberia of more than 50 of their soldiers in Sierra Leone, but said the defectors would not be sent back against their will. Instead, Sierra Leone is planning to set up a "safe camp" to house Liberian military deserters.
19 June: Sierra Rutile Ltd. is seeking a $114 million loan from the World Bank to restart work at its rutile mine in Mobimbi, Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Swarray Deen told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday. Deen told correspondent Christo Johnson that the government would also work to secure a $25 million grant from the European Union to help restart operations at the mine. "Sierra Rutile has requested a $114 million loan from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank to restart mining within a year," Deen said. "Now that the country has achieved peace and the government is in full control, it is government's determination that Sierra Rutile should reopen." Rutile, a feedstock of titanium dioxide, was once Sierra Leone's largest foreign exchange earner. The mine was attacked by RUF rebels in early 1995 and the installation was subsequently looted by soldiers. Sierra Rutile Ltd. was previously owned by Consolidated Rutile Ltd. of Australia and U.S.-based Nord Resources Corporation. Under financial pressure, Nord sold its 50 percent stake in the company to MIL (Investments) S.A.R.L. in 1999, while Consolidated Rutile sold its interest to U.S. Titanium in 2001.
Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation has begun the task of clearing corpses from hundreds of wells where they were dumped during the course of the country's decade-long civil war, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday. "I cannot give the exact number of corpses that have been dumped into wells...but I believe we are talking about 1,000," said Arthur Williams, the ministry's deputy director-general. Williams told Reuters it was essential that the wells be cleared and chlorinated as local residents returned to their homes. He added that the ministry was also searching for mass graves which could contaminate nearby water sources.
The names of 3,096 Sierra Leoneans have been drawn in this year's visa diversity lottery, the Kentucky Consular Center said on Wednesday. The diversity lottery makes available 50,000 visas for persons from countries which traditionally have a low rate of immigration to the United States. The names of 87,000 applicants were drawn, as it is likely that not all of the first 50,000 selected will qualify to receive visas. The winners were selected from 6.2 million qualified entries which were received during the one-month application period last October. Winners have until 30 September 2003 to complete the application process. During their visa interview, they must provide proof that they have a secondary school education or its equivalent, or that they have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation which requires at least two years of training or experience.
18 June: Sierra Leone at year's end was home to 10,501 refugees, according to a new report by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which was released on Tuesday. The figures, from December 2001, showed a total "population of concern" of 103,105, including 274 asylum seekers and 92,330 returned refugees. In recent months, aid agencies have worked to resettle the returnees in their home areas, while recent fighting in neighbouring Liberia has forced more than 20,000 new refugees to flee to Sierra Leone since the beginning of the year, according to numbers given by the UNHCR earlier this month.
Sporadic clashes between government troops and armed dissidents are hampering efforts to repatriate Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday. Some 11,000 Sierra Leoneans are still stranded in the Sinje refugee camps, about 25 miles from the border. UNHCR staff attempting to reach the area on Monday were turned back by government soldiers. The agency is currently looking at other options, such as repatriation by sea or by using convoys of trucks sent directly from Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, the UNHCR has registered a group of Sierra Leoneans who had been living among the local population in Lofa and Bong counties and who were recently displaced by fighting. About 400 of these were found near the town of Totota, southwest of Gbarnga. A convoy to repatriate the refugees, which had been planned for Thursday, has been put on hold. There are currently some 36,000 Sierra Leoneans living in Liberian refugee camps and an estimated 31,000 more living among the local population.
A ten-member Bangladeshi army delegation is in Sierra Leone this week to assess the welfare and performance of the United Nations peacekeeping force's Bangladeshi battalion, UNAMSIL said on Tuesday. The delegation, led by Major-General Mohammad Abul Hossain, Director-General of Medical Services of the Bangladeshi Armed Forces, will also assess humanitarian activities being provided by the troops. The Bangladeshi battalion, which is based in the northern town of Magburaka, provided a "permanent patrol presence" in Kono District a year ago during the early stages of the disarmament process. They also provided logistical assistance last month during Sierra Leone's presidential and parliamentary elections.
17 June: Members of civil society and professional groups announced Monday the creation of a new anti-corruption organisation, the National Accountability Group (NAG), to back the efforts of the government's Anti-Corruption Commission, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. Western donor nations, especially Britain, have warned the Sierra Leone government that future aid would be tied to a reduction in the level of corruption in the country. And in a radio broadcast a week ago, Deputy Anti-Corruption Commissioner Brendan Gibb-Gray, a British national, asserted that the Anti-Corruption Commission was ineffective. Gibb-Gray noted that of 57 cases submitted to the attorney-general's office, three-fourths had not yet been acted upon. This included the case of sacked Transport and Communications Minister Momoh Pujeh, who along with his wife was arrested last November for allegedly mining and smuggling illicit diamonds. The group's public relations officer, journalist David Tam-Baryoh, insisted that the new group was not intended to replace the Anti-Corruption Commission, but would assist the government in dealing with corruption. "From the onset we’ve been making it clear to every other person who has an ear to listen that the National Accountability Group is a result of this need to help Anti-Corruption Commission, and that we are just trying to augment their efforts to minimize corruption in Sierra Leone," Tam-Baryoh said.
Women from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea meeting in Freetown have called on the Liberian government and the LURD rebels to engage in dialogue to end the growing conflict in the border region, Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis reported on Monday. "People in Liberia, and some people who support President Charles Taylor, always say in the media that they will not dialogue because the president was elected by his people," said Agnes Taylor-Lewis, vice president of the the Sierra Leonean chapter of the civil society group Mano River Union Women’s Peace Network. "I say, and the network says, that this is wrong approach. The government is elected by the people, for the people. If a government cannot protect its citizens, then there is no government...There is chaos in Liberia, and the security situation is so tense at the border that the network is now calling on the Mano River Union Security Council to meet again and look into this problem at our border." Taylor-Lewis said the group was also calling on LURD to enter into dialogue "to save the lives of the Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans who are running away from the war at the border."
President Kabbah, on his way back to Freetown following last week's U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conference in Rome, met in London Monday with British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short and Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Africa Baroness Amos. A British official told the Sierra Leone Web that the British side would be "pushing hard the same messages, as expressed by Ms. Short in Freetown in February, about anti-corruption and our bilateral programme of assistance, particularly now that President Kabbah has received a strong mandate from the people of Sierra Leone." Meanwhile, Kabbah addressed a crowed of some 300 to 350 Sierra Leoneans in London Sunday at an event sponsored by his Sierra Leone People's Party's U.K. and Ireland branch, according to Mano Vision Editor-in-Chief Ade Daramy.
Despite progress in the so-called Kimberly Process, the illicit trade in "conflict diamonds" continues to fuel wars in Africa, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said in a new report released on Monday. In its January 2000 report "The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone, Diamonds and Human Security," PAC linked the conflict in Sierra Leone to the mining of alluvial diamonds by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. Now, the group says, a similar situation exists in the Central African countries of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ian Smillie, who co-authored the report on Sierra Leone and later served on the United Nations Panel of Experts which investigated the link between diamonds and arms smuggling in that country, said that until the international community addressed the issue of conflict diamonds, countries which produced alluvial diamonds would not be in danger of conflict. "Other parts of Africa have the same problem as Sierra Leone where diamonds are concerned, and plugging one or two holes is no good," Smillie (pictured left) told the Sierra Leone Web. "Sierra Leone and other diamond producers will never be safe from conflict diamonds if all the holes are not plugged and regularly inspected." Said Smillie: "The bigger point is that as long as diamonds fester in a criminal underworld, they will not do Africans any good and (they will) open the doors to more conflict."
14 June: There have been eight "rebel incidents" since the beginning of the year in the border area around the town of Buedu in Kailahun District, a Pakistani commander told the commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force this week. Major Tahir Sultan, who commands the Delta Company of PAKBATT-2 told the visiting Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande (pictured right) that this included recent defections into Sierra Leone by troops from the Armed Forces of Liberia and from the armed dissident group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD). In a three-day tour of the border area to assess the security situation in light of the increased hostilities in Liberia, Opande held consultations with officers from UNAMSIL and the Sierra Leonean and Guinean armies deployed in the border area. According to a UNAMSIL statement on Friday, there were no reports of threats to Sierra Leone's security, but some commanders expressed concern over the large influx of Liberian refugees fleeing the renewed fighting in their country. Meanwhile, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told journalists in Freetown that security in the border area remained a cause for concern, the Associated Press reported. "The security situation in Liberia is worsening and a cause for concern to UNAMSIL, which has to see that the Sierra Leone side of the border with Liberia is calm and secure," Novicki was quoted as saying.
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2000 / 2200. [£] 2580 / 3020. Commercial Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 2900 / 3200. Frandia: [$] 2100 / 2250 [£] 2700 / 2950. Continental: [$] 2100 / 2200 [£] 2900 / 3250. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2150 / 2160 [£] 2900 / 3000.
13 June: The African Development Bank (ADB) has approved $42.81 in debt service relief for Sierra Leone, amounting to 80 percent of the country's debt service obligations, the ADB said on Wednesday. The relief was extended under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and funded both by the ADB and by contributions from bilateral donors and the European Union. According to the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Service (IRIN), the relief would help Sierra Leone set aside additional resources for poverty reduction by promoting good governance, improved social services delivery, a revived economy and a consolidation of the peace process. It would also focus on improving living standards for the most vulnerable Sierra Leoneans, such as returned refugees and war victims, by providing them with income generating activities and better social services.
President Kabbah appealed to Italian parliamentarians Wednesday to help Sierra Leone to develop as the country seeks to recover after more than a decade of civil war. In an address to the parliament's Commission of Foreign Affairs, Kabbah said that while Sierra Leoneans were committed to the principles to democracy and good governance, "We have to translate principles into substantive action, in the form of programmes and projects that will improve the lives and livelihood of our people." Said Kabbah: "The people of Sierra Leone...are aware that the primary responsibility for their economic and social development lies in their own hands. However, we live in an inter-dependent world, a world where international cooperation among nations, big and small, developed and developing, must be strengthened for the survival of the human family."
Members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Sierra Leone Contact Group are meeting in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this week to discuss ways of helping Sierra Leone to recover following a decade of civil war, the Associated Press reported. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who is hosting the two-day meeting, estimated that billions of dollars would be needed. He said the OIC would establish terms of reference for an international fund for Sierra Leone, with particular emphasis to be given to agriculture. "You need to build up the agricultural sector so that people will be self sustaining," he said. "At present a lot of people depend on the government for everything, they are landless." The minister said OIC countries would make pledges to the fund, but that the problem was too big for the organization to handle on its own. Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Momodu Koroma was quoted as saying he expected to know the details of the OIC pledges by the time the group's foreign ministers meet in Khartoum, Sudan later this month.
12 June: Traditional leaders from six of Sierra Leone's twelve districts were elected Monday to seats in parliament reserved for paramount chiefs, the National Electoral Commission announced. In Kambia District, P.C. Bai Kelfa Sankoh II of Mansogbala Chiefdom defeated P.C. Bai Shebura Sumano Kapen III of Mambolo Chiefdom. In Bombali District, P.C. Kandeh Luseni III of Sella Limba Chiefdom won over P.C. Massa Yalie Tham II of Makari Gbanti Chiefdom. In Koinadugu District, P.C. Alhaji Alimamy Lahai Mansaray of Dembelia Sinkunia Chiefdom was elected over P.C. Sheku Magba Koroma III of Diang Chiefdom. In Tonkolili District, P.C. Bai Sunthuba Osara III of Gbonkolenken Chiefdom beat P.C. Bai Kurr Kana Gabro Sanka III of Kunike Chiefdom. In Kenema District, P.C. Madam Mamie G. Gamanga of Simbaru Chiefdom defeated two rivals: P.C. Sally Satta Gendemeh of Malegohun Chiefdom and P.C. Alhaji Amara Jobo Goway - Sama V of Tunkia Chiefdom. In Bonthe District, P.C. Madam Margaret Thompson Seibureh of Bum Chiefdom won over P.C. Samuel Murana Koroma of Bendu Cha Chiefdom. Six other paramount chief candidates were declared duly elected in May after being nominated without opposition.
A senior RUF official has been taken into custody by police in Kenema after being attacked by his own men in the diamond-mining town of Tongo Field, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. "The whole problem started when Morris Kallon travelled to Tongo Field two days ago, allegedly to collect diamonds from his ex-RUF mining boys," Fofana said. "In apparent anger, the former rebel commander was mobbed by his own supporters who demanded monies from him for diamonds, which they claim they had given him for onward sales." Kallon reportedly sought the protection of Zambian peacekeepers deployed in the town. He was later detained at the Kenema police station "for his own protection" while police took statements from both sides. Kallon was due to be returned to Freetown on Wednesday under police escort. Brigadier Morris Kallon, who currently holds the post of Southern Region Chairman of the RUF Party, once ranked second only to field commander Issa Sesay in the RUF's military wing, and was seen as one of Sesay's key supporters. But on Wednesday, Sesay said he had no knowledge of the the incident in Tongo Field. "Morris Kallon is my brother," Sesay (pictured right) told the Sierra Leone Web (in Krio). "And we were all in the RUF, you know, until we carried on the elections. We lost the elections, and I sent messages all around to advise everybody to calm down. So even this trip of his to Tongo, I’m not aware of that." Sesay said there had been a recent "misunderstanding" between the two men over Kallon's desire to leave Sierra Leone for Europe. "I didn’t support the idea of going anywhere, because I said we’ve just given our people peace in the country," Sesay said. "So for us to consolidate the peace process it will be fine after the election, whether we win or lose, as a political party we still have to organize ourselves. So after the election we should all stay in the country and let our people see us, so that everyone will have faith that total peace has come to the country. So that was the conflict between him and me for the past two weeks now." Sesay said Kallon had left for Makeni after the election. And despite his insistence that he and Kallon "don’t have any serious misunderstanding," he said he had no immediate plans to meet with the former brigadier when he returns to Freetown. "Before I go see him, I will have to ask," he said. "I’m not just going to rush to go see him, because it’s not different people who started against him. It was his own RUF boys who started against him. I don’t know what the discussion was, so I’m not just going to rush there to go talk with him."
Future stability in Sierra Leone means putting people to work — especially the ex-combatants who fought in the country's decade-long civil war, President Kabbah told the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA). "The future of the child soldiers and former rebels that for decades caused bloodshed throughout the nation depends on a development still to be created," Kabbah said. "To guarantee them a future we must create work opportunities, particularly in the agricultural field." These efforts, he said, will require the backing of the international community. "It is extremely important to offer a future to Africa and to my nation through international co-operation," he said. "It is not only a matter of confronting the battle against hunger. It is necessary to go beyond this to create conditions of well-being and peaceful cohabitation on a global level." Officials representing more than 180 countries gathered in the Italian capital this week for a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference aimed at finding ways to reduce world hunger. Kabbah played down concerns expressed by some delegations over the absence from the summit of leaders from the world's more affluent countries. "What counts in this moment is facts," he said. "I can understand that the agendas of the ‘world leaders’ are full of engagements. What is important is the definition of concrete strategies that offer operative solutions." Kabbah said he did not travel to Italy only to attend the summit, "but also to meet with entrepreneurs of the nations that want to help, because Sierra Leone needs intelligent investments to create jobs." And jobs, he said, were the key to putting the horrors of war into the past and to building a future for Sierra Leone's people. "The recent elections demonstrated my people’s will for peace and determination to achieve it," Kabbah said. "Work is the best war deterrent. I am very optimistic because in Sierra Leone there is a real will to turn the page."
11 June: President Kabbah appealed to developed countries Tuesday to cut their agricultural export subsidies and to accelerate aid to highly-indebted nations to allow countries like Sierra Leone to develop their agricultural sectors. In his statement to the plenary of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Conference which opened in Rome on Monday, Kabbah said his country was adopting a "right to food policy" to increase the average daily calories consumed by Sierra Leoneans from "the present unacceptable level of 1800" to at least 2200 by the year 2007. Kabbah pledged that over the next five years, Sierra Leone would significantly increase the proportion of the national budget dedicated to food security issues. In the short run, he said, the country would focus on producing enough food to supply its domestic needs. He added that Sierra Leone was looking in the future to export a variety of agricultural commodities, including rice.
A Sierra Leonean woman who sought refuge in the United States a decade ago from her country's civil war has been honoured for her work in helping new refugees to resettle in the U.S. and to adapt to American society. Salamatu "Saly" Sesay, who volunteers at the International Institute of New Jersey — the same organisation which helped her when she arrived in the United States, received the AmeriCorps "Getting Things Done" National Achievement Award at a ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah. "God gave me the ability and the patience to help in my community," Sesay said in a press statement. "I believe there are so many people in my community who can do what I do, but they are not aware of their capabilities. I have been blessed with the ability to help others and perhaps I can inspire my fellow community members to do likewise." Sesay recently received an Associates degree in Human Services from Hudson County Community College, and will seek a Bachelor's degree in Sociology at New Jersey City University beginning this September. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with her husband and seven year old daughter, and is seeking to bring her four other children to join her in the United States. And Sesay says that she will continue to focus on the special needs of refugee children, and to give them support. "I have to build up the children," she said. "I believe there are people in Sierra Leone helping my children. There are people there influencing them for good or bad. I believe I must help the people here. I want to influence them in a positive way. I want to give back to my New Jersey community. They were there when I needed them once, so now I want to give back."
A man identifying himself as a Liberian general surrendered to Sierra Leonean authorities Tuesday at the border town of Bomaru and has been handed over to police in Kenema for questioning, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. The man, who gave his name as General Mohamed Tarawallie, said he was in command of the army division at Vahun before embarking on a three-day trek through the bush to reach Sierra Leone. Fofana quoted journalist Siaffa Moriba as saying that Tarawallie cited military pressure against his forces by the LURD rebels, the delay in payment of salaries, and the weak morale among his forces.
10 June: At least 43 Liberian combatants, most of them members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, have surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone since April, UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande said on Monday. The Liberians were handed over to Sierra Leonean authorities for questioning, the Associated Press reported. Opande is preparing to leave for eastern Sierra Leone Tuesday on a three-day trip to examine the security situation along the Liberian border. "The other side remains unpredictable," Opande said. "Fighting is still going on, and armed men are crossing over to Sierra Leone, so we have to take precautionary measures against them."
President Kabbah and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan held a private meeting on the periphery of the Food and Agriculture Organisation summit which opened in Rome on Monday, Annan's spokesman said in New York. The subject of the talks was not disclosed.
8 June: Six Liberian soldiers who crossed the border into Sierra Leone's Kailahun District were arrested at the town of Buedu on Friday and were taken to Kenema for interrogation by police, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. "They keep crossing the border into Sierra Leone to forage for food and whatever logistics they want," Fofana said. "And this is not the first instance of them being arrested there. My understanding is they had been arrested before in little batches. But this time around they came with six Kalashnikov rifles and a single-barrel gun, and also they had 306 (rounds of) live ammunition on them." Last week Brigadier Tom Carew told the Reuters news agency that 50 Liberian soldiers had been captured during an incursion into Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone government subsequently issued a statement denying the claim.
7 June: President Kabbah is due to leave for Rome on Friday to attend the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) conference "World Food Summit - Five Years Later" which opens on Monday. Kabbah is also expected to address the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Parliament sometime next week.
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2000 / 2150. [£] 2580 / 3020. Commercial Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 2900 / 3200. Frandia: [$] 2100 / 2250 [£] 2700 / 2950. Continental: [$] 2100 / 2200 [£] 2900 / 3250. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2150 / 2180 [£] 3050 / 3120.
6 June: Senior government and United Nations officials and traditional leaders were on hand Wednesday for the dedication of rebuilt district offices in Kono and a rehabilitated police station in Blama. The reconstruction was done by recently-disarmed ex-combatants with funding provided by international donors, UNAMSIL said in a statement.
5 June: The trial of RUF leader Foday Sankoh and 49 co-defendants, which was transferred last week to Sierra Leone's High Court, was adjourned until July 10 following a brief hearing on Wednesday, Reuters correspondent Christo Johnson reported. Sankoh and the others face a 70-count indictment for murder and related charges stemming from the shooting in May 2000 of protestors demonstrating in front of Sankoh's Freetown residence. No plea was taken at Wednesday's hearing and the 12-member jury, while present in court, was not sworn in. "We are looking into this indictment. We do not want to rush into this, as we are going to add fourteen other people," said Brima Kebbie, the Director of Public Prosecutions. The dreadlocked former rebel leader spoke to reporters briefly following the hearing, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. "Although he was rambling for most of the time, he said that the whole political process and his trial in his words was 'the same old game'," Fofana said. "And he also described himself as the "inner god," whatever that means, and said that he was the true leader of Sierra Leone." "Elections? I am the elections, I am the leader here," Sankoh was quoted as saying. Present in court for the first time were three of Sankoh's children. "They were all weeping and they were all saying ‘daddy, daddy'," Fofana said. "He managed to speak to one of them, who was 18-year old Mbalu Sankoh, and she said she was living in Abidjan. She badly wanted to see her father, she had missed him for so long. She was weeping in court." Sankoh also had words for his Nigerian lawyer, Edo Okanya, whom he has refused to accept as his counsel. "I don't know this lawyer, I am planning to get my own lawyer," Sankoh told Reuters. Okanya, who has not yet received accreditation to practice law in Sierra Leone, was warned by Judge Patrick Hamilton Wednesday to stop discussing the case in the media or face contempt charges. It is widely expected that Sankoh's case will be transferred to the Special Court, a war crimes tribunal being set up jointly by the United Nations and the Sierra Leone government while will have precedence over the Sierra Leonean courts. But Sierra Leone's new Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Eke Halloway, told the Voice of America that in the meantime the former rebel leader would be tried under Sierra Leonean law. "He has been in breach of the laws of this country, committed crimes within the laws of this country, and so he is facing trial within the local courts," he said. "So, it's important and necessary that he faces trial in our courts. We don't know what will happen in the Special Court." Sankoh faces a death sentence if convicted under Sierra Leonean law. The Special Court will not have the power to impose capital punishment. Meanwhile, some 70 members of the renegade West Side Boys militia are due to appear in court Thursday on charges of murder and robbery.
A devout Christian and Western-educated intellectual, a one-time diplomat and above all a latecomer to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement, Alimamy Pallo Bangura seemed an unlikely last-minute choice to replace the charismatic and volatile jungle fighter Foday Sankoh as the RUF Party's presidential candidate. But with hours to go before the nomination deadline, the party apparently had few options. Foday Sankoh was arrested in May 2000 after his rebel group abandoned a ten-month old peace accord with the government and units from the RUF's northern faction struck out from Makeni to threaten a new attack on Sierra Leone's war-scarred capital. Even as the last troops from the Nigerian-led ECOMOG intervention force flew out the country, Sankoh's fighters fell upon the inexperienced and thinly-deployed U.N. peacekeepers who replaced them, killing several African soldiers and abducting hundreds. On May 8, Sankoh's bodyguards opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in front of his Freetown residence, leaving more than twenty people dead and many others wounded. The rebel leader disappeared from public view for 22 months, detained without charge at a secret location outside of Freetown under Sierra Leone's then two-year old State of Public Emergency law. He resurfaced in March to face murder charges stemming from the May 8 incident after President Kabbah lifted the State of Emergency to allow political campaigning to begin.
A new U.S. State Department report lists Sierra Leone as one of 52 countries failing to meet minimum standards to prevent the "horrific practice" of forced transport of human beings across international borders, but making "significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance." The report, released on Wednesday, highlights the problem of trafficking of thousands of victims who are taken from their homes and forced to work in sweatshops, construction sites, brothels or farms. Another 19 countries — none of them in Africa — were deemed to be making little effort to put a halt to the practice.
4 June: An estimated 3,400 Liberian refugees crossed into Sierra Leone in the past week, bringing to over 20,000 the number of refugees who have arrived from Liberia since the beginning of the year, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday. 2,400 of the newly-arrived Liberians have been moved to camps away from the border, leaving about 1,000 still in the border zone. The number of formally-registered new arrivals declined slightly last week, but there were reports that increasing numbers of refugees are entering Sierra Leone through unofficial crossing points along the Mano River, where the Sierra Leone army has reported that makeshift camps are being erected by the refugees. Meanwhile, the UNHCR is continuing to register Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia who wish to return home. With "somewhat improved security" on the Monrovia - Sierra Leone highway, overland convoys are expected to resume. Sierra Leonean refugees at the Sinje Camp, about 50 miles northwest of Monrovia, are said to be especially anxious to return to Sierra Leone. Some have endured harassment from armed groups who entered the camp.
An estimated 50 million births in 2000 were unregistered, denying those children the right to an official identity, a recognized name and a nationality, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a new report released on Tuesday. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the report said, as many as 70 percent of children are born without a birth certificate. In Sierra Leone, the report said, "the national average for birth registration in 2000 was 47 percent, but this disguises crucial discrepancies, with the Western and Southern Regions demonstrating far higher rates of coverage than the Eastern and Northern Regions (81 and 67 percent respectively, compared to 50 and 27 percent)." In addition, the report said, war in countries like Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Somalia "have completely undermined birth registration systems." The UNICEF report suggested that the low birth registrations in Sierra Leone's Eastern and Northern Provinces were responsible for lower primary school enrollments and vaccination rates for the same period. In 2000, large parts of eastern and northern Sierra Leone were under rebel control and thus inaccessible to government workers and non-governmental organisations. In a similar report published four years ago, UNICEF put Sierra Leone's live birth registration rate at under 10 percent — the lowest in the world for countries which made a systematic attempt to register births.
3 June: Sierra Leone has captured some 50 Liberian troops as they were looting Sierra Leonean border villages, Brigadier-General Tom Carew told the Reuters news agency on Monday. Carew told Reuters correspondent Christo Johnson that the Liberians had been disarmed and handed over to police. "Within the past few weeks many of the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) fighters who have been searching for food have entered these villages and put civilians at gun point, stolen their food and in some cases taken money from them forcefully," he said. Carew added that Sierra Leone was sending reinforcements to key border areas, while his troops were conducting joint helicopter patrols with United Nations peacekeepers. The incursions come only days after an undertaking by Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea to work to prevent cross-border raids by Liberian troops into Sierra Leonean territory.
2 June: In his meeting last week with Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea, UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande raised concerns over cross-border raids into Sierra Leone by members of both Liberian solders and armed rebels, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told the BBC. "In addition to how the refugees were being handled on the Liberian side of the border was also the fact that Armed Forces of Liberia had been crossing over the border onto the Sierra Leonean side — not only armed forces but also the rebels had crossed over and were undertaking raids on some of the border villages," Novicki said. "General Opande asked the Liberian defence minister to see to it the Liberian side of the border was more carefully monitored to prevent these kinds of raids from taking place." Novicki said Chea had pledged to do what he could to bring the situation under control, but she stressed that monitoring the border would not be an easy task, either for the Liberian government or for the United Nations. "Part of the problem is that as fighting increases in some of the border counties, it may not really be under anybody’s control to be able to monitor these activities," she said. "The border is a very long border, and borders in this part of the world are very porous, so we can’t be in every single village, but we do hope that with the undertaking given by the government on the other side of the border that they will also assist to see to it that any kind of cross-border activity is stopped."
1 June: Justice ministers from the 15 ECOWAS member states are due to meet in the Nigerian capital Abuja Tuesday to adopt procedures for the regional group's Court of Justice, the Xinhua news agency reported. The one-day conference will be preceded on Monday by a meeting on Monday of legal experts who will focus on a proposed amendment to the protocol which established the ECOWAS Court of Justice. The court consists of seven justices from ECOWAS member states who were sworn in on 30 January 2001 in Bamako, Mali.