The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

August 1997
 

31 August: ECOMOG field commander Major-General Victor Malu said that the sanctions against Sierra Leone have not been effective because the blockade has not been enforced. "We have not been enforcing an embargo up to now because it was not official," Malu said. "We know very well how to impose a blockade, and anyone who doubts our will or ability should look at the ports in Liberia we blocked with sunken ships."

Reaction: Eziuche Ubani, Nigerian newspaper ThisDay: "For its profile in the world, it does not look healthy for Nigeria to pack up and leave Sierra Leone without achieving the objectives of intervention. Delays in pursuing the military option have allowed the Koroma government room for consolidation." Benin President Mathieu Kerekou: "We have sent our troops to Liberia to ensure peace during presidential and legislative elections, not to fight in Sierra Leone." OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim: "(The OAU will) continue to support, strongly, the efforts of the countries of the region aimed at bringing peace, security and stability to Sierra Leone. (These efforts are) very much in keeping with the appeal made by the assembly of heads of state and government of the OAU in their session in Harare in June. Indeed, the action of the military in Sierra Leone constitutes a major setback to our collective efforts...(The challenge before Africa is) to maintain our cohesion in the pursuit of our common objective which in this particular case, is the restoration of constitutional legality and the return of President Tejan Kabbah to Sierra Leone as the country's democratically elected president...Our collective victory in Liberia has been dampened by the unfortunate developments in Sierra Leone." Liberian President Charles Taylor: "If the resolution of the Liberian crisis is to be used as model for conflict resolution, then we must de-emphasise the use of force since the Liberian crisis was resolved through dialogue and negotiations...(ECOWAS should) weigh with objective scrutiny the inescapable practical realities on the ground...We should be seen as acting with a firm resolution, showing tolerance for our differences of opinion, while respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each member state." Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema (Arguing that the crisis must not be allowed to degenerate into a war): "We always know when and how war begins but we don't know when and how it will end."

30 August: West African leaders on Saturday approved sanctions and an embargo against Sierra Leone, but stopped short of endorsing military intervention. A communiqué issued at the end of the ECOWAS summit set no deadline for the embargo to take effect, and did not specify what measures would be taken should sanctions fail to persuade the AFRC-led junta to relinquish power. The West African leaders also added Liberia to the Committee of Four on Sierra Leone. "The Authority expressed its determination to deploy all efforts towards the peaceful resolution of the Sierra Leone crisis," the communiqué said. Presidential advisor Desmond Luke said he was satisfied with the summit's decisions. "I am at least 80 percent happy with the outcome and it is what we expected," he said. "The wording of the document allows for whatever kind of action needs to be taken to ensure the junta leaves power." Another member of Kabbah's entourage wondered whether the junta would take the threat of sanctions seriously unless it is backed by the threat of military force. "Broadly speaking, it is what we wanted," ECOMOG field commander, Nigerian Major-General Victor Malu said. "Details like how long sanctions will be given before measures are reconsidered will be revealed later." The ECOWAS summit also extended ECOMOG's stay in Liberia for an unspecified period and resolved to set up a single monetary zone in West Africa by the year 2000. The communiqué said Nigerian military leader General Sani Abacha would continue as ECOWAS chairman for another year.

Sierra Leone runner Josephus Thomas won the 100-metre and 200-metre races at the British Athletics League Men's Gold Cup in Bedford Saturday. Thomas won the 100-metre event in 10.20 seconds, edging out world junior record holder Dwaine Chambers, who finished in 10.24 seconds. Thomas then won the 200-metre race over Olympic silver medallist Roger Black, even though both men crossed the finish line in 20.82 seconds.

29 August: ECOWAS heads of state meeting in Abuja, Nigeria have reportedly endorsed stronger sanctions against the AFRC-led junta, including a toughened embargo and the extension of ECOMOG's mandate to include Sierra Leone. The new force will be called ECOMOG 2, and will be placed under the command of ECOMOG in Liberia. "What has been agreed by the heads of state is what was proposed by the foreign ministers," one foreign minister said. The "Committee of Four on Sierra Leone" will become the "Committee of Five" with the addition of Liberia. Foreign ministers of the Committee of Five will travel to New York next week to seek United Nations support for the ECOWAS sanctions. The foreign ministers, who met prior to the summit, proposed that the sanctions be reviewed after a pre-determined period. ECOWAS (military) Chiefs of Staff recommended Sunday giving the sanctions four weeks before using military force to reverse the coup. The West African heads of state have been meeting in closed session in an attempt to reach a consensus on the Sierra Leone crisis. Nigeria favours a strengthened economic embargo against Sierra Leone, backed by the threat of military action if sanctions and diplomacy fail. Some of the Francophone countries and Liberia, on the other hand, favour a softer line, advocating dialogue to resolve the crisis. "It would be a great pity if we were now to squander the success we have so far achieved, through self-reliance and steadfastness of purpose, because we have suddenly lost courage and faith in our collective strength," Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha told the gathered leaders Thursday. Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore, who advocated a much softer approach, left Abuja abruptly Thursday evening without giving a reason, officials said. The ECOWAS summit must also elect a chairman for the coming year. General Sani Abacha, the current chairman, is believed to be a favourite to keep the post for a second year.

Leaders of the AFRC-led junta have reportedly told Non-Governmental Organisations in Freetown that they would "turn Sierra Leone into Somalia" rather than give up power.

AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma has declared Friday a national holiday and a day of fasting and prayer. Koroma asked God to intervene in the ECOWAS summit which is seeking ways to restore the government of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, SLBS (state radio) reported. "I Major Johnny Paul Koroma, chairman of the AFRC, give myself to Jesus Christ," Koroma said. "A new dawn has come to Sierra Leone. Corruption and bribery in government offices must stop. Righteousness and justice must prevail...God bless all at the ECOWAS summit and intervene in the deliberations."

The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation, which is responsible for development aid, announced Friday that it has barred Sierra Leone and 11 other countries from receiving financial assistance during 1998 "on account of their obvious negative and completely insufficient regard for the stipulated conditions" of the aid. Since 1991, German aid has been contingent on human rights, the rule of law, the existence of a market economy, and political pluralism. Starting in 1998, Bonn will require anti-corruption pledges from aid recipients as well. In addition to Sierra Leone, Cuba, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, Moldova, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Burma have been ruled ineligible for German economic assistance.

28 August: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah made an emotional plea to West African leaders attending the ECOWAS summit Thursday to restore him to power. "The people of Sierra Leone look up to you as their sword and their shield, they await your decision and action for the restoration of the security of their lives," he said. Kabbah said he had received constant reports of arbitrary killings in Sierra Leone. "Many atrocities have been committed, too horrendous to make public...the people of Sierra Leone look to the summit to end their nightmare," he said. Nigerian leader and ECOWAS Chairman General Sani Abacha told the leaders the coup in Sierra Leone poses a danger to peace and stability in the sub-region. "None of us would want us to have the experience that we have just passed in Liberia," Abacha said. "Our summit will consider and adopt appropriate measures for the speedy and peaceful resolution of the crisis. In this regard, we need to work closely with the international community. I do not envisage a long drawn out resolution of this problem in Sierra Leone." Diplomats said foreign ministers will recommend that the mandate of ECOMOG be enlarged to include Sierra Leone. The foreign ministers Committee of Four on Sierra Leone is expected to recommend a formal embargo against the junta, along with a request to the United Nations and the international community to respect the sanctions.

The AFRC said on Thursday that the clandestine radio station FM 98.4 is broadcasting from the guest house of Paramount Chief Komkanda II in Kafubullom Chiefdom at Lungi, and is heavily guarded by Nigerian troops stationed there. The statement said that while the AFRC respects the institution of the chieftaincy, "It is pathetic that Chief Komkanda can be so treacherous as to collaborate with foreign forces to destroy the future of this country." The statement said the AFRC "is never deterred or in any way affected by the propaganda activities for which the pirate radio station was established. It has not changed anything in the country, and will never change the course of the revolution."

ECOWAS foreign ministers met late into Wednesday night to discuss proposals which diplomats said involved a strengthened embargo against the military government in Freetown. "The foreign ministers must meet again this morning to ratify their decisions after more consultations with their delegations," an ECOWAS official said. Diplomats said the meeting lasted longer than expected because of the difficulty of changing the mandate of the ECOMOG force to allow it to take action in Sierra Leone. "The debate is not yet over and the question now is how to provide the mandate for the force which may take action in Sierra Leone," said one diplomat close to the talks. The ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone has proposed enforcing a formal embargo against Sierra Leone, replacing an appeal for sanctions which has been largely ignored. ECOWAS heads of state will take up the proposals at the summit meeting on Thursday and Friday.

The AFRC Thursday accused the Nigerian ECOMOG troops based at Lungi of trying to provoke a war prior to the commencement of the ECOWAS summit meeting. In a statement read over SLBS (state radio), the military said the Nigerians fired several long-range missiles from Lungi International Airport on Tuesday, with the intention of hitting the military barracks at Murray Town. The missiles missed their target and hit a residential area in Murray Town, the statement said, injuring or killing several residents. The AFRC said it is aware of a plan by the Nigerians to cause disturbances in Sierra Leone "between now and the 29th of August." The Nigerians have no democratic example to offer Sierra Leoneans, the statement said. "We know that their aggressive acts are not geared toward bringing democracy to Sierra Leone, but to convert Sierra Leone into a drug center from where they can transit their international drug network."

The Nigerian newspaper Thisday said Thursday that Nigeria and Ghana may disagree at the ECOWAS summit on the use of force to oust the military junta in Sierra Leone. The Nigerian Daily Times said ECOWAS may seek United Nations' help in enforcing sanctions against Sierra Leone.

27 August: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah arrived in Nigeria Wednesday for Thursday's ECOWAS summit, in the company of Guinean President Lansana Conte. Sierra Leone's former foreign minister, Shirley Gbujama, has been representing Sierra Leone this week at the preparatory meeting of the ECOWAS foreign ministers. Gbujama was welcomed by Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, who said that her presence was testimony to ECOWAS's resolve to isolate the junta. "This summit will be seized mainly in addressing the issue of Sierra Leone," Ikimi said in an opening address to the foreign ministers. "This meeting...will test our ability to fight to restore peace in Sierra Leone." Diplomats said Nigeria, which has pressed for military intervention, has reached a deal on toughened sanctions with Ghana, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. Ghana and Ivory Coast in particular had wanted more dialogue with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma, and were not convinced of the imperative of restoring President Kabbah, diplomats said. AFRC Foreign Minister Pallo Bangura explained the AFRC's absence from the summit: "We would have gone to take up Sierra Leone's seat, but if we haven't done so it is because we do not wish to embarrass people we hold in great esteem," he said.

The AFRC Wednesday asked Togo President Gnassingbe Eyadema to mediate the crisis between the Sierra Leone military junta and ECOWAS. Foreign Minister Pallo Bangura said in Lomé that he had delivered a letter to Eyadema from AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma requesting Togo's assistance. Koroma asked Eyadema to "examine Sierra Leone's present predicament and use his good offices to find a peaceful solution," Bangura said.

Sierra Leonean Ambassador to the United States John Leigh called for military intervention by ECOWAS to reverse the May 25 coup. In an interview Wednesday with the Voice of America, Leigh said any ECOWAS-imposed economic sanctions would fail. "They can tighten the sanctions all they want...but the Sierra Leone coastline is very long, and there are air fields in the interior," he said. "As long as there is money, the goods will flow into Sierra Leone, enough to keep the coup leaders in power. Ghana and Ivory Coast believe that peaceful means will resolve this dispute. They are completely wrong." Leigh strongly disagreed with U.S. support for a peaceful solution, saying that U.S. policy is a prisoner to its experience in Somalia. "Coups are the cause of disasters in Africa," he said. "I say each time the savages stage a coup they should know beforehand that the coup leaders will be captured and punished according to law. Unless that is done, American democratisation policy in Africa will fail." Leigh denied that Nigeria had shelled Freetown on June 2. "Nigeria never bombarded Sierra Leone," he said. "Nigerian warships 12 miles off shore fired warning shots up in the air. The shells fell in the water. What the RUF propaganda people did was to go and bomb Aberdeen and blame the Nigerians. In truth and in fact, a shell from a warship would have devastated all of Freetown. What happened in Freetown were light arms dropped by the RUF to mislead the people. The people believed it because of the bombing sound out over the ocean. But what really landed in Freetown were rocket-propelled grenades thrown by the RUF."

26 August: Nigeria's Chief of Staff told a meeting of West African army heads Tuesday that ECOWAS must decide whether to use force to eject the military junta in Freetown. "From all indications, peaceful resolutions through dialogue have failed," Major-General Abdulsalam Abubakar said in Abuja. "As military strategists and tacticians, I would implore you to proffer solutions on how best to conduct the mission that might be assigned to ECOMOG in Sierra Leone," he added. Abubakar said that ECOWAS is prepared to tighten sanctions on Sierra Leone's military regime. "The next option without recourse to the use of offensive action is the enforcement of sanctions/embargo on the regime through economic blockade," he said. Abubakar stressed that the crisis in Sierra Leone affects security in the entire sub-region, and that instability in Sierra Leone could reverse the gains made in Liberia. "If there is no peace in Sierra Leone, it will certainly be difficult, if not impossible, to fully establish stability and normalcy in Liberia," he warned.

Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings made a one day visit to Liberia Tuesday, and warned that the crisis in Sierra Leone could have consequences for other countries in the sub-region. "If we do not find a solution in Sierra Leone it will mean a threat to regional stability," Rawlings said after holding talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor. "We must find a quicker solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone, with whom Liberia shares a long border, before it runs out of hand."

25 August: For the second time this month, a planned meeting between AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and Guinean President Lansana Conteh did not take place. The Guinean helicopter sent to pick up Koroma returned to Conakry empty. AFRC Secretary of State Pallo Bangura headed an advance team that arrived in Conakry the night of August 23 to prepare for Koroma's visit, but on Sunday morning Bangura announced that "last minute developments of an unexpected and profound nature" in Freetown had prevented Koroma's travel. Privately, the AFRC cited security concerns as the reason for cancellation of the trip. Guinean Minister of Urban Affairs Alpha Diallo issued a short statement Sunday afternoon expressing the Guinean government's disappointment at the missed opportunity, and repeated a call for the unconditional return of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

The commander of the ECOMOG forces in Sierra Leone, Colonel Maxwell Khobe, has asked the AFRC to release detained Nigerian soldiers. Speaking on a clandestine pro-democracy radio station, Colonel Maxwell Khobe said the soldiers were being held on trumped-up drug charges. "ECOMOG is demanding their immediate release," he said. Khobe did not say how many soldiers were being held. AFRC Chief of Staff Colonel Samuel Williams denied the army was holding Nigerian soldiers. "We were holding four Nigerian soldiers with ECOMOG about three weeks ago but we have since released them," he said.

The ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone held preparatory talks in Abuja, Nigeria Monday, prior to the ECOWAS summit meeting beginning August 27. Delegates said the meeting of foreign ministers of Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria are reviewing the political situation in Sierra Leone. "The situation is becoming embarrassing so the ministers are expected to recommend tough actions against the junta," one delegate said.

The United States is sending Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch to West Africa for consultations with ECOWAS leaders on restoring Sierra Leone's democratically elected government, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Monday. "We fully support ECOWAS' efforts to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah through mediation and the use of sanctions," Rubin said in a prepared statement. "We support early and vigorous negotiations. If negotiations do not succeed rapidly, we are deeply concerned that force may be used instead. We deplore the abuse and brutality to which the people of Sierra Leone have been subjected by the military regime and call for the immediate end to such practices and for greater respect of human rights," Rubin said.

23 August: There was renewed fighting reported Saturday at Lungi International Airport between Nigerian ECOMOG troops and Sierra Leonean troops, backed by their RUF allies. Residents said both sides used heavy weapons. AFRC Chief of Staff Colonel Samuel Williams accused the Nigerians of starting the fighting. "The Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops based at the Lungi international airport started the fighting last night when they shelled our positions, he said. "Our troops are three miles away from the airport and they returned fire, shelling ECOMOG positions at and near the airport." Other sources close to the AFRC suggested that the Sierra Leoneans had fired first. There was no immediate word as to casualties.

The Kamajor militia is reportedly massing forces in the south in preparation for an offensive aimed at capturing Bo. A first batch of some 3,000 Kamajors began a push toward Bo on Friday from positions along the Liberian border, and are said to have already overrun some villages along the main highway linking Bo to southeastern Sierra Leone. The commander of one group of Kamajors headed for the front said he had been ordered to take Bo at all costs. The Kamajors are reportedly now well armed, with a huge arsenal of rocket-propelled grenades, bombs, and brand new assault rifles. SLPP Secretary-General Prince Harding, who was visiting the Kamajors, said recruits were arriving at an average of 300 per day. Harding denied AFRC claims that Liberians are fighting alongside the Kamajors.

The Liberian Heritage newspaper Saturday detailed extensive Liberian involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone. In a report originally published on August 18 and expanded upon on August 23, the newspaper quoted ex-AFL Sgt. Amos L. Kaiyea as saying there are currently more than 500 ULIMO-AFL fighters who have joined the Kamajor militia. The soldiers had previously fought for the Tejan Kabbah government against the RUF militia, Kaiyea said, until a former ULIMO executive, Armah Youlo, convinced them to fight on the side of the AFRC. "When President Kabbah was removed, the ULIMO executive fooled us to fight on the side of the military junta," Kaiyea said. "Now we have realized our leader was lying. This is why we have joined the Kamajors. We will ensure that the Kabbah government is restored to power." Kaiyea said the AFL contingent is being headed by Major Peter Zeh, who was a member of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU). Sgt. Kaiyea claimed that Armah Youlo, who now heads the Monrovia Transit Authority, was instrumental in overthrowing the Kabbah government. "He fooled about 300 men to join the RUF-military junta that dethroned Kabbah," Kaiyea said. "The ULIMO executive ran away when we realized that he has fooled us. Today he is in Monrovia." Soldiers captured in fighting between the army and the Kamajors at Zimmi told the Heritage that Youlo and some AFRC officers had trained about 600 men at the Second Battalion base in Kolubodo, in Pujehun District. Youlo also reportedly participated in training exercises of the Fifth Infantry Battalion in Dalu, in eastern Kailahun District. Kamajor spokesman Eddie Massali displayed identification cards which he said indicated that soldiers of the AFL, NPFL, and ULIMO were actively fighting alongside the RUF "People's Army." Massali said two AFL soldiers had been captured at Zimmi, but later had died from their wounds.

22 August: Two independent bi-weekly newspapers, the Standard Times and the Vision, announced Friday they were suspending publication immediately "due to insecurity." The two are the latest on a number of newspapers forced to close since the May 25 coup, including the Punch, For Di People, the Democrat, New Tablet, Freedom Now, Unity Now, and The Sierra Leonean. The editors cited "harassment by security officials as the cause of their decision to close down. Standard Times editor Philip Neville said, "I decided to suspend publication because I was virtually haunted by fierce looking men at night. They will knock on my door and smear paint on my windows." Neville was beaten up by uniformed men three days after the coup. So far no one has been charged. Other journalists who have been harassed or detained by the military include Unity Now editor Frank Kposowa, Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis, and BBC correspondent Victor Sylver. Of the 52 newspapers operating under the civilian government, only eight continue to publish. They include the government-owned Daily Mail and Expo Times, both with strong times to the AFRC; Concord Times, the Point, The Pool, Torchlight, Herald Guardian, and We Yone. Commissioner for Information and Broadcasting Sedu Turay said the editors are blaming the government for their own shortcomings. Journalists should keep in mind that they are responsible for what they are reporting, he said.

ECOWAS officials confirmed Friday that ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is expected to attend the 20th ECOWAS summit meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on August 27-29.

Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha said Friday that there were positive signs for a resumption of talks on the crisis in Sierra Leone. "Positive signs are pointing to a resumption of dialogue," Abacha said in Burkina Faso. "We are going to analyse and evaluate these signs in line with our stated objective, which is the re-establishment of normality." Abacha has been visiting West African heads of state in advance of next week's ECOWAS summit meeting in Abuja, Nigeria. The summit is expected to take a decision on the three options advocated by ECOWAS foreign ministers to return President Kabbah to power: negotiations, economic sanctions, and the use of force. In a pre-summit briefing Thursday, Nigerian Information Minister Walter Ofonagoro said, "Koroma should know that time is running out for him. No time to play game anymore." Ofonagoro said the AFRC could not last 24 hours if engaged militarily. "Koroma is no match for ECOWAS or any of the countries that make up the sub-region," he said. ECOMOG commander Major-General Victor Malu has said that ECOMOG is building capacity for a military strike, once the go-ahead is received from ECOWAS.

Samuel Powers, acting general manager of the National Power Authority, said the arrival of a limited supply of lubricants had allowed Wednesday's restart of Freetown's electrical generators. "Every customer should have light every other day," Powers told SLBS (state radio). He said electricity generation was limited to night time as lubricants remained in short supply. Sources close to the Ministry of Energy and Power said the lubricants had been brought in by road from Guinea.

21 August: The Kamajor militia attacked the 38th Battalion headquarters near Koribundu Thursday morning, in a bid to capture the area's military garrison. The Kamajors were reportedly repelled after five hours of heavy fighting, in which both sides used heavy artillery. The military reportedly captured a number of weapons from the fleeing Kamajors, including bombs, grenades, and quantities of AK-47 assault rifles. Eight Kamajors and one soldier were reported killed in the attack, and a woman died in the crossfire. First Infantry Brigade Commander Lieutenant Colonel Boysie Palmer said that the Kamajors, who were well armed, were backed by former militia fighters of the defunct ULIMO-K from Liberia. Traffic on the Bo-Koribundu Highway Thursday was reported at a standstill, and civilians from nearby villages were seen travelling to Gondama, seven miles from Bo. Military reinforcements from Bo were reportedly sent to the area on a mopping up operation.

Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings arrived in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Wednesday for his first official visit to that country. The three-day visit is aimed at cementing ties between the two neighboring countries. Rawlings will seek ways to settle energy disputes between the two countries in his talks with Ivory Coast officials. The crisis in Sierra Leone is expected to be on the agenda as well, as both Ivory Coast and Ghana are members of the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone.

20 August: Nigerian Planning Minister Ayo Ogunlade, who is in charge of ECOWAS affairs, said Wednesday that West African leaders attending the ECOWAS summit next week will agree to the use of military force to remove Sierra Leone's military regime from power. "The ECOWAS leaders are aware that time is not on their side so after the summit's decision, coercion will definitely come to force to flush out Koroma and his junta since all dialogue has failed," he said. "We will see how Koroma's military force can withstand the military forces of 16 West African countries," he added. Ogunlade said that Koroma had not been invited to the ECOWAS summit because the AFRC government has not been recognised. "Tejan Kabbah is the recognised leader of the country and is eligible to attend, but I must say I don't know whether his colleague heads of state have invited him," he said. The Nigerian newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday quoted Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha as saying Monday that the military option is inevitable. Abacha made the remarks during a visit to Conakry, Guinea. The Ivory Coast newspaper Fraternite-Matin quoted Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings Wednesday as saying that both sides must draw lessons from the crisis. The military must return to the constitution, he said, adding "President Tejan Kabbah must also take into account certain realities."

A group calling itself the Sierra Leonean Democratic Salvation Movement issued an ultimatum to the military junta Tuesday, saying it should relinquish power by August 30 or face a full scale battle. The statement was issued in Lagos, Nigeria, where the groups leader, Alpha Mohamed Calone, said Wednesday that the group is capable of mounting military action against the military government. "We also are trained and dedicated soldiers," he said. "We have real professional soldiers; professional soldiers, well trained, well disciplined, and they are with us." Calone said the group would welcome military intervention by ECOWAS, but that the organization has been too slow to act while Sierra Leoneans are dying of starvation. "The people of Sierra Leone need to compliment their efforts," he said.

19 August: The AFRC Tuesday imposed a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on the Western District, which includes Freetown. An AFRC spokesman said the curfew, which came a day after the military crushed student demonstrations in Freetown and Bo, was a response to growing internal unrest, and in anticipation of military intervention by ECOMOG forces. "More important is that the curfew has been declared in anticipation of foreign military intervention," he said. Military sources said they had received intelligence reports that Nigerian troops at Lungi were training Kamajors in preparation for an attack on AFRC positions from Lungi International Airport. The Kamajors were planning a sea-borne attack on Freetown next week, the sources said. The AFRC has banned boats and canoes travelling from the Lungi Peninsula to the capital. "Any boat violating the ban will be seized and its owner arrested," a statement read on SLBS (state radio) said. "We would go as far as to sink any boat which violates the order," a Sierra Leone Navy officer said. The military also announced stepped-up army patrols to deal with looting, armed attacks, and carjackings.

The AFRC announced that the Makeni-Kono road, which has been blockaded by the Kamajor militia since shortly after the May 25 coup, was recaptured by the army Tuesday in a five hour battle. The army said the Kamajors were completely routed, with large numbers of them fleeing into the bush. The military said it captured one of the Kamajor leaders, and seized arms and ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. The AFRC/RUF forces now claim to be in total control of the highway. No casualty figures were given, but one witness said eight to twelve villages along the highway had been burned.

Troops stormed a Lebanese shop in Freetown Tuesday after a soldier on patrol was shot in the foot. Soldiers fired their automatic weapons into the building on Kissy Street, which serves as a store and the home of the Lebanese shop owner. The soldiers reportedly believed that the shot had come the building, and riddled the upper floors with bullets while several soldiers took up positions in the store front. The store is located in the mostly-deserted business district, and is run by one of the few Lebanese remaining in the city since the May 25 coup. There was no word as to the fate of the shop owner, and it was unclear who had fired at the soldier.

The United Nations Security Council said it is preparing to take measures against Sierra Leone's military government if the AFRC does not return to talks on restoring the country's elected government. Security Council President John Weston said it is important that the Council coordinate its actions with ECOWAS before moving forward. "When we move, as we have said formally we shall, when we move to adoption of measures, in the absence of compliance by the junta, with the objectives set out by the Security Council, when we move to that we are doing so in full knowledge of what the ECOWAS group of countries themselves have decided, and in a way which reinforces the efforts of the Security Council and the ECOWAS group," Weston said. He said he expects the Security Council to take action on the issue within a few days.

18 August: The AFRC and its RUF allies moved violently to stop a student-led pro-democracy demonstration Monday. Soldiers and former rebel fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and machetes made numerous arrests and blocked off streets in Freetown to prevent a march organised by the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS). One student was reported killed in a clash with soldiers outside the Sierra Leone Nursing School, where students had taken refuge after troops cordoned off the area. Demonstrators were seen beaten, kicked, and thrown into the backs of military vehicles. A NUSS spokesman said two students were seriously wounded, one by gunshots and another by machete. Even before the march began, RUF units sought out and detained suspected activists. A student leader, David Bockarie, and 26 members of NUSS were arrested and taken to Pademba Road Prison, along with the chairman of the Civil Rights Committee, lawyer Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie. Other student leaders have reportedly gone into hiding. The march was to have begun at Kissy Road, and to proceed via the turntable to Siaka Stevens Street, ending at the law court. Soldiers, firing into the air and driving through the streets at high speed, made arrests anywhere a group of people had gathered. Many students were prevented from reaching the site of the planned march by troops who combed the streets, manned checkpoints, and blockaded the main road to Fourah Bay College. Shops in Freetown were closed and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, the only bank currently operating in Freetown, also closed its doors. The radio claimed that only 7 of 35 persons arrested were students, and that at least two students had been caught with AK-47 assault rifles before the demonstration. Students in Bo also went ahead with demonstrations, despite a show of force by soldiers, RUF "People's Army" fighters, and SSD contingents, all armed with automatic rrifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and backed up by trucks carrying anti-aircraft guns. After marching for a short distance, the students were confronted by AFRC forces along Prince William Street. The students sat down peacefully, but were quickly dispersed by soldiers using teargas. The students later regrouped in another part of town, but were again chased away by security forces. The security forces later celebrated their victory over the students by driving through Bo in a fleet of vehicles, singing and brandishing their guns. Sierra Leone's police inspector said on SLBS (state radio) that all security forces will remain on alert to maintain law and order in the country.

AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara denied reports Monday that the military had used excessive force against student demonstrators. "We have not been beating up students. We have not been chasing them around," Kamara told the BBC. "All we are trying to do is contain them because we do believe that peace is paramount...because without peace the word democracy will not, in fact, flourish." Kamara said the AFRC had invited student leaders to sit down with them "so that they can explain to them exactly what they want the AFRC to do," but that the students had declined. "They ignored our request, but they were determined definitely to come out on the streets and disrupt." Kamara rejected suggestions that military personnel were beating up opponents. "What they are trying to do is to make sure that there is peace on the streets of Freetown and I assure you that nobody will tell you that they have been beating people indiscriminately," he said. He said those arrested during the demonstrations were "people that have been stoning, people that have been harassing the personnel that are moving around town to make sure that there is peace and quiet. So all we are trying to do is to contain them." Kamara alleged that the students were armed and had fired upon the soldiers. "Students are armed with AK-47's," he said. "We have proof and I will assure you that pistols were taken away from them. We got those equipment we don't know."

Electrical power was restored to Freetown Monday after a three-week blackout.

ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said in Monrovia over the weekend that ECOMOG troops will be redeployed to fortify Liberia's border with neighbouring countries, particularly Sierra Leone. The crisis in Sierra Leone following the May 25 coup is reportedly having an adverse effect on the security situation in Liberia Recent fighting in the border area has driven a large number of refugees across the border, including about 200 disarmed militia fighters. Malu called upon Sierra Leone's military government to accept an international call to restore ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, saying his forces are ready and capable of reversing the situation.

Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha, speaking in Ivory Coast where he held talks with Ivorian President Henri Konan Bedie, said that force will be used against the military junta in Freetown only as a last resort. "The dialogue is still open, but then if the leadership in Sierra Leone is not reasonable, will not look at things objectively as already enunciated by United Nations supported by OAU and other international organizations, then we will look at so many other options like the issue of sanctions, the issue of embargo, and where necessary, force can be used." Abacha said that time was running out for the AFRC regime. "Actually, there isn't much time because so far now, since the incident has happened, we have wasted a lot of time," he said. The Nigerian leader declined to say whether military action might take place before the August 27 ECOWAS meeting in Abuja. "I am not in a position to tell you that," he said. "We have to consult. We have to coordinate."

In a report to the United Nations Security Council on Liberia, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed that "the situation in Sierra Leone remains a potential threat to Liberia's stability." There are an estimated 130,000 Sierra Leonean refugees currently in Liberia. In response to the situation in Sierra Leone, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stopped assisting voluntary repatriation to the country.

A press release issued by the central organ of the OAU Secretariat on Monday expressed its full support for measures being taken by ECOWAS countries to exert maximum pressure on the coup leaders in Freetown. The statement asked the international community to maintain the isolation of the military regime by refraining from recognizing the AFRC and avoiding "all that could reinforce the capacity of the so-called junta to remain in power against the democratically expressed will of the Sierra Leonean people."

17 August: The National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) has called for pro-democracy demonstrations in Freetown and other towns for Monday, and has invited labour unions and professional associations to take part. The military government has retaliated with an order from the AFRC's education secretary that all students living on college campuses leave immediately. Educational institutions have been closed since the May 25 coup, but hundreds of students have remained on campus. The AFRC has accused these students of planning the demonstration. The AFRC has threatened to deploy additional forces to prevent the demonstrations from going ahead.

The AFRC Sunday ordered the cancellation of an inter-religious worship service scheduled for Freetown's national stadium Sunday evening. The Secretary-General of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, Alimamy Koroma, said he was picked up at church Sunday morning by security forces and told to cancel the program. The service was to have been broadcast live over SLBS (state radio). Those who attempted to reach the stadium Sunday evening were turned back by security officers. A request by the Inter-religious Council that they be allowed to host some form of worship at their headquarters was refused. The AFRC said it had intelligence reports indicating some sort of infiltration, and so the service could not be allowed.

There was a brief exchange of heavy gunfire near Freetown late Sunday as a ship carrying rice berthed in Freetown in defiance of an ECOWAS-imposed embargo. The first shots were heard from the direction of Lungi International Airport, which is held by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. The fire was returned from the Sierra Leone Navy Depot. The exchange lasted less than 30 minutes. The ship later docked under a Sierra Leone naval escort and unloaded 10,000 tons of rice. It was the third consignment of rice to reach Freetown in the last two weeks.

Sierra Leone defeated Ghana 2-0 in Accra Sunday in their Group 5 World Cup qualifying match. Morocco (5-0-1) had previously clinched the Group 5 qualifying spot, but the win put Sierra Leone (2-2-1) into second place ahead of Ghana (1-2-3) and Gabon (0-4-1). In other matches played over the weekend: (Group 1) Guinea 1, Nigeria 0; Burkina Faso 2, Kenya 4; (Group 2) Egypt 5, Liberia 0; Tunisia 4, Namibia 0; (Group 3) South Africa 1, Republic of Congo 0; Zambia 2, Congo 0; (Group 4) Togo 1, Angola 1; Zimbabwe 1, Cameroon 2; (Group 5) Ghana 0, Sierra Leone 2; Morocco 2, Gabon 0. Qualifying for the World Cup from Africa are Nigeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Cameroon, and Morocco.

The AFRC accused Nigerian troops Sunday of planting land mines at Lungi International Airport. According to the statement, which was broadcast over SLBS (state radio), a Nigerian tank was blown up Friday with the loss of 15 Nigerian soldiers. "This development is of great concern to the Sierra Leone government and we would like the international community to be alerted to this callous act," the statement said. The radio also accused the Nigerian forces holding the airport of using it as a base for the illegal trafficking of cocaine. The statement also accused the Nigerians of being behind student demonstrations planned for Monday, which it said were "aimed at destabilising peace and security in Sierra Leone.

16 August: AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Alimamy Paolo Bangura again dismissed reports Saturday that he had defected after the collapse of peace talks in Abidjan. "I have not quit. I am back in Sierra Leone, and I am continuing with my job," he said. "I was carrying out what is my style, and that is quiet diplomacy." Bangura declined to give any details as to his mission, saying "If it was quiet and it was diplomatic, it was so as to avoid the glare of publicity. We are now deciding on the next step to take." He called his efforts "very successful" and said, "Now we're looking forward to a positive next step." Bangura rejected reports that a disagreement with his wife over his accepting the position of foreign minister had prompted his disappearance. "There is no such quarrel...I respect her views and she respects mine. She knows that I took a conscious decision to serve in the AFRC. She respects that, only the detractors want to put a different interpretation on that and that wouldn't work. My family stays intact." Bangura said he is in agreement with the AFRC and has no regrets about accepting the job of foreign minister. "I have a responsibility to the nation, and I am given the opportunity to pursue the peace process and to seek progress and development in my country," he said. "That is a challenge I nurture, I am proud of, and I will give it my best shot." Bangura said he is looking forward to progress in dealing with the crisis in Siera Leone, but declined to comment on the upcoming summit meeting of ECOWAS heads of state. "I do not want to pre-empt them. I am sure they are going to get in touch with us and when they do get in touch with us, we will respond appropriately," he said.

The Kamajor militia has begun a new offensive to regain complete control of Zimmi, attempting to reverse gains made there by junta forces on Wednesday. Civilians fleeing the area Saturday said the fighting was advancing west of the highway linking Zimi and Gofor. The Kamajor effort began after 500 Kamajor reinforcements canoed into Silima earlier in the day. More refugees from Bo and Kenema District have been arriving at the Liberian town of Tieni over the past three days, telling stories of food shortages, harassment, and rape by junta forces who have accused them of collaboration with Mendes who form the nucleus of the Kamajor militia. The fresh influx has forced the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to set up a new transit camp at Tieni due to overcrowding at other camps in the region.

Three Sierra Leonean soldiers were wounded late Saturday by a detachment of Nigerian ECOMOG troops manning at the Jui checkpoint outside Freetown. The Nigerians fired six shots into a Sierra Leonean military vehicle when the Sierra Leoneans ignored an order to stop for a weapons search. The vehicle was transporting 10 soldiers to the military training centre at Benguema. The wounded soldiers were taken to Benguema for emergency surgery and were flown to Freetown by helicopter three hours later. The AFRC has protested the incident over SLBS (state radio), and the commanding officer at Benguema, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Kargbo, condemned the Nigerian action. "The Nigerians are itching for a fight," he said at the hospital in Benguema. "This is purely a provocation, and why should they want to search our vehicles on our own soil? We see a major battle flaring up soon if the Nigerians continue their provocation." The incident brought dozens of heavily armed Sierra Leonean soldiers out of trenches about a mile from the Nigerian base, chanting "Blood will flow in defence of the motherland." Civilians reportedly immediately began fleeing their homes.

15 August: Foreign ministers of the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone ended a two day meeting in Accra, Ghana Friday, to prepare details of tougher sanctions on Sierra Leone, which they will present at the ECOWAS summit August 27 in Abuja, Nigeria. Details of the proposal were not released. The foreign ministers reportedly also discussed the possibility of including RUF leader Foday Sankoh in a four-way negotiation for a full settlement of the crisis in Sierra Leone. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said he "could not rule out the possibility of Sankoh's being released and being part of some final settlement along with the RUF." The four foreign ministers, from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Guinea, acknowledged that a blockade of Sierra Leone's port had failed to prevent shipments of rice and fuel from reaching Freetown. Nigerian troops have not enforced the port blockade, apparently fearing that it could cause violent clashes in the capital. But Nigeria might take more aggressive action if the ECOWAS summit endorses a plan by the foreign ministers for the use of force.

AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Alimamy Paolo Bangura met with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma Friday, after returning to Freetown by helicopter from Conakry Thursday evening. United Nations sources in Conakry had reported that Bangura, who headed the AFRC delegation to Abidjan, defected after peace talks collapsed on July 30. AFRC sources in Freetown said he had remained in Ivory Coast or had gone to Ethiopia. Bangura dismissed reports that he had defected. "I never left my job but was on an extended stay in Abidjan thrashing out domestic issues," he said.

An Envoy from Guinean President Lansana Conte delivered a special message to Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings on the crisis on Sierra Leone. The envoy, Lamine Kamara, was in Accra to attend the two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone. Kamara told Rawlings that a scheduled meeting last week between President Conte and AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma failed to take place. A delegation led by former President Joseph Momoh subsequently met President Conte to express regret that Koroma could not attend the meeting. Momoh said that Koroma was still willing to meet the Guinean leader. "Therefore, President Conte has asked me to inform you about the proposed meeting with Major Koroma and at the meeting he will reaffirm the stand of ECOWAS and the OAU on the crisis," Kamara told Rawlings. President Rawlings noted that the people of Sierra Leone "are facing hardship and could face more," referring to the sanctions. Rawlings described the ECOWAS response as "gracious" until now, but said that Koroma's time is running out and that he has one last chance to accept a peaceful solution.

Ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah will head a six-member delegation to the ECOWAS summit meeting on August 27, a clandestine pro-democracy radio station reported Friday. The radio did not reveal the other members of the delegation, but at least 15 of Kabbah's former ministers joined him in Conakry, Guinea after the May 25 coup. Kabbah will hold talks with Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings on his way to the meeting in Abuja, the radio said. Diplomatic sources said AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma is unlikely to attend the meeting for fear of getting a hostile reception from the delegates. "While it is certain ECOWAS leaders would accept to seat a Sierra Leone delegation representing the ousted civilian government, it is certain that a rival delegation from the military would be snubbed," one source said.

15 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in fighting around Lungi Airport, medical officials said Friday. Residents said there was further fighting overnight near Lungi Airport between Nigerian ECOMOG troops and soldiers backed by RUF fighters. Sierra Leonean military officials would not confirm the fighting, saying that their troops had pulled back after being shelled Thursday morning. Chief of Army Staff Nelson Williams said Friday, "Our troops are now 2½ miles from the airport." On Thursday, AFRC Chief of Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma said Sierra Leonean troops had withdrawn to Port Loko, some 35 miles from the airport. However, a senior member of the AFRC said, "We don't want the Nigerians at the airport. We will continue to harass them to leave there." Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, attending an ECOWAS foreign ministers meeting in Accra, condemned the fighting. "It seems to be a pattern of the elements in Sierra Leone that any time talks are going on, they attack our men," he said. Ikimi said the ECOMOG forces would not give in. "We have the backing of the international community. I hope they will give us the material support as well," he added.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has suspended mail services to and from Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone postal official said Friday. "Universal Postal Union wrote a letter dated August 11 to the Sierra Leone postal services, Salpost, suspending it. The letter said Sierra Leone will remain suspended until the country is restored to democracy, which will bring an atmosphere of greater public security and stability," an official said.

Nigeria has accused the AFRC of dressing its soldiers in ECOMOG uniforms in an effort to discredit the ECOMOG forces in Freetown. "The Sierra Leonean coupists had provided some segments of their troops and rebel allies with ECOMOG troops uniforms specifically to commence maximum wanton destruction of important facilities, lives, properties and other nefarious activities," a statement by the Defence Headquarters of Nigeria said Friday. "This action is aimed at generating condemnation of ECOMOG and whipping up sentiments and support from the international community and their relevant agencies," the statement added. "It is very important that this information be made timely so that the entire world will be abreast of their propaganda and gruesome tendencies." The Nigerians also accused the AFRC of planning to poison ECOMOG's primary source of fresh water. The pro-democracy clandestine radio FM 98.1 Friday claimed the uniforms were being tailored in a shop in Cline Town, and at a Kissy Low Cost Housing compound in the east end of Freetown, and were discovered at the scene of a recent road accident involving a military vehicle.

The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Sierra Leone (MRD) will form a military wing comprising all the civil defence units in the country, the SaLone News Agency reported Friday. At a meeting of the MRD executive committee Friday in Conakry, the group said it would unite all the civil defence militias and hunting societies under "one united command," to be known as the Civil Defence Forces (CDF). The MRD, while continuing to support diplomatic and other pressure on the AFRC, will now pursue a military option designed to restore the government of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The CDF will turn to ECOMOG and other external bodies for military assistance, the report said, while maintaining the "national character" of the movement.

14 August: Renewed fighting broke out at Lungi Wednesday night between Nigerian ECOMOG forces and Sierra Leonean army troops backed by the RUF "People's Army," with both sides blaming the other for the violence. AFRC Chief of Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma said Nigerians holding Lungi Airport bombarded Sierra Leonean troops with mortar fire for more than six hours until dawn on Thursday, driving them from the airport. "Our forces have been pulled back to Port Loko about 35 miles from the airport," Koroma said. Nigeria, however, accused the Sierra Leonean troops of attacking ECOMOG positions. A statement issued from ECOMOG defence headquarters said the attacks "are contrary to the ceasefire agreement and the impressions created by some respected Sierra Leoneans on the need for continued talks with ECOWAS." The statement accused the AFRC of breaching the ceasefire agreement and said that, under the circumstances, ECOMOG troops would continue to defend themselves and to take any other actions as directed by ECOWAS. "(The AFRC) and its cohorts have violated the ceasefire by its unwholesome actions against ECOMOG troops and the innocent citizens of Sierra Leone," the statement said. A report by the SaLone News Agency said the army and its rebel allies "launched a three-pronged attack on ECOMOG troop positions from the Port Loko, Conakry Des area and the Tagrin Axis, west of the Lungi International Airport, from 2210 hours Wednesday 13 August to 0320 hours today, Thursday." A pro-Kabbah clandestine radio station said, "Troops of the People's Army attacked the ECOMOG troops at Lungi International Airport last night but ECOMOG wiped them out." AFRC sources said the Sierra Leonean forces did not suffer any casualties in the fighting, but said several civilians had been killed in the ECOMOG bombardment. Hundreds of residents fled from the area and a number of homes were destroyed, mostly by ECOMOG, the sources said. AFRC spokesman Major Andrew Milton accused Nigeria of "unnecessary shelling of towns and villages near the airport."

The Kamajor militia has reportedly been forced to retreat from Zimmi under heavy mortar and artillery fire from the army and its RUF allies. The fighting reportedly began at dawn on Wednesday when soldiers began a new offensive to regain control of the town. Retreating Kamajor forces said Wednesday that troops had sneaked behind their defences to launch the attack. On Thursday, a large number of Kamajors were forced to retreat to Gofo, east of Zimmi, from where they attempted a counter-offensive. Civilians carrying personal effects reportedly fled in the direction of Portoru, to the west of Zimmi. "We will never give up this fight. We will fight back," Kamajor Commander Eddy Massali said. Kamajor units were also driven out of Tongo by AFRC forces in Kenema District on Thursday. The Kamajors now call their withdrawal from Tongo a tactical retreat, and vow to retake the town in a matter of days.

The National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) said Thursday that it will defy a police ban on a planned march Monday to demand an end to military rule. "No threats or intimidation will stop us protesting against the junta," a student leader said. "We want them to step down and Kabbah to return as the legitimate president."

Nigeria will host a two-day ECOWAS summit in Abuja beginning August 27. One of the major items of discussion will be the crisis in Sierra Leone. The summit will be preceded by a preparatory meeting of its Council of Ministers on August 23.

13 August: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released Wednesday warns that the food supply situation in Sierra Leone has deteriorated and that there is a real possibility of famine in the country. The report, "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa," says that the already precarious food situation has been aggravated by widespread civil unrest. The planting and weeding of rice crops between April and June was seriously interrupted by large numbers of refugees crossing into neighbouring countries, the report said. The FAO called the prospects for 1997 bleak, and said that Sierra Leone will require a large amount of food aid this year. Before the upheaval, the cereal import requirement for 1997 was estimated at 260,000 tons and the food aid requirement at 80,000 tons.

The United Nations Security Council is considering imposing a travel and arms ban on Sierra Leone if the military insists on holding onto power, diplomats said Wednesday. A formal Security Council statement issued on August 6 threatened "appropriate" action against the AFRC and its supporters. The sanctions may be imposed as early as next week.

The AFRC Wednesday denied a local press report that it plans to deport foreigners from Sierra Leone. "The AFRC assures the public that, while it is a government policy that all foreign nationals endeavor to register, no such action has been taken to deport foreigners," an AFRC statement said.

The Nigerian government has agreed to pay the Sierra Leone contingent of ECOMOG troops in Liberia, ECOMOG announced Wednesday. The Sierra Leone government has failed to pay the troops since late last year. ECOMOG commander Major-General Victor Malu said Monday that a number of Sierra Leonean soldiers had spread panic in Monrovia by firing into the air to protest their unpaid allowances. ECOMOG commanders sent troops and tanks to quell the disturbance and arrested the soldiers. The ECOMOG statement released Wednesday said Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha had "graciously approved the welfare payment takeover following a passionate appeal to him by ECOMOG commander, Major-General Victor Malu." The Nigerian government has released funds for the payment of the Sierra Leonean soldiers' allowance starting from the beginning of June. The payment of the 8 months of arrears was not discussed, ECOMOG said, as it is the sole responsibility of the Sierra Leone government. "With the takeover of the payment of their allowance and their feeding by the Nigerian government, the ECOMOG high command expected the troops to be of good behaviour and maintain the high standard of discipline being displayed by all the other contingents of ECOMOG," the statement said.

Officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. denied reports Wednesday that Ukrainian ships are carrying goods to Freetown in defiance of an ECOWAS-imposed embargo. "We are part of the U.N., and respectful of international laws. The reports are untrue," an official said.

The AFRC Wednesday condemned the murder of a mechanic on Tuesday, while implying that the killer, who was dressed in military fatigues and carried an automatic weapon, was not a member of the armed forces. A statement read out over SLBS (state radio) said the AFRC "expressed grave concern at the practice by people who do not belong to the Armed Forces and who dress in military fatigue, going around committing criminal acts."

12 August: Sierra Leonean troops executed a soldier in Freetown Tuesday after he shot and killed a mechanic for refusing to hand over a can of petrol. An angry crowd pursued the soldier to a police station. Other soldiers rushed in and dragged him out. "The soldiers stripped off his uniform and shot him at least five times," one witness said. The mechanic, 27-year old John Koroma, worked for a petrol station in the east of Freetown, and was shot several times in the stomach after asking for payment for about five gallons of gasoline. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

11 August: The first shipment of gasoline since the May 25 coup reached Freetown Sunday night. Shipping agents said the Hong Kong-registered Jian She 31, which arrived from Dakar, Senegal, carried 55,000 tons of gasoline and 2,000 tons of gas oil. "The head of state went to inspect the petrol and talk to the crew," AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said. There was no indication as to how the ship had managed to elude the ECOWAS-imposed blockade.

Former President Joseph Momoh described his talks Saturday with Guinean President Lansana Conte, saying his sole aim was to enlist Conte's aid in resuscitating the talks between the AFRC and the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone. Momoh told the BBC that the Guinean president as "quite receptive," but said that Conteh would want to meet first with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma "which will form the basis of whatever action he intends to take." Momoh said he met with Koroma Monday afternoon and that Koroma "has expressed a desire now to see President Lansana Conte." He said the AFRC has invited Conte to a meeting to take place before the end of the week. Momoh said it was of little consequence whether the meeting took place in Freetown. "I think the most important thing is to get them to meet," he said. "If he doesn't want to come, I am sure Major Johnny Paul Koroma should be prepared to go to meet him." Momoh downplayed any future role for himself in the negotiations. "If this present initiative does not materialize, then perhaps I will try again to see if I can talk to some other people who will do it, but I have great faith that President Lansana Conteh is just the right man to be able to undertake this responsibility," he said. Momoh said the crisis should be resolved through negotiations, not military intervention. "Right from the word go I have been totally opposed to the idea of military intervention," he said. "Military intervention will just make matters worse. Once they start raining bombs on the city, you can never tell. Quite a good number of innocent people will get hurt, and quite a lot of destruction will take place." AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Monday that President Conte has agreed to visit Sierra Leone before the August 27-29 ECOWAS meeting. Kamara said the purpose of the AFRC mission's talks with Conte on Saturday was to secure recognition of the military regime and to ask Conte to prevent Guinean ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone from taking part in any military intervention.

ECOMOG field commander General Victor Malu said Monday there has been trouble with Sierra Leonean ECOMOG forces in Monrovia. "This morning they decided to take the law into their hands, hold their peers to ransom, and started indiscriminately firing in the air," Malu said. "I had to send troops there quickly to get there, disarm them, and the matter is being investigated with a view of taking very severe disciplinary action against them." Malu said the disruption was caused by a small number of Sierra Leone's battalion of 358 troops in Liberia. "The elements involved are just the headquarters elements of less than a platoon," he said. Malu said that the Sierra Leonean troops had not received their operational allowances for eight months prior to the May 25 coup, and that the AFRC is not in a position to undertake their upkeep. Malu said Nigerian President General Sani Abacha had agreed to treat the Sierra Leoneans as part of the Nigerian contingent. "The only saving grace was the fact that the chairman of the ECOWAS accepted to undertake to administer them and take them on the strength of the Nigerian contingent, but otherwise I don't know how they would have been surviving till today," Malu said.

Abdula Wai, coordinator of the group Prison Watch, said Monday that conditions at Pademba Road Prison are bad. "By the time we got there this time, they were just a handul of prisoners and the gates there...The prison sells were broken into and the general condition was chaotic." He said there were 111 prisoners, mostly schoolboys, military men, and civilians. "Most of them told me they were brutalized and beaten during the arrests and during interrogation, and all of them told me they were just bundled up and picked up on the streets and taken to the prison," Wai said. Wai said that food was a major problem, because most of the contractors had refused to cooperate with the prison, and that the prisoners had not had access to legal counsel. "All of them told us they had never got access to any legal representation and they really craved for it and most of them told us they wanted it," he said. Wai said Prison Watch had presented its report on the conditions at Pademba Road Prison to military authorities and some of the prisoners had been released. He said the group would continue to work on behalf of others who are still being detained. "We will continue to advocate peacefully for their release," he said. Wai said the group has not been harassed by military authorities. "In fact, we have got very good cooperation from the military officials and officers that we have spoken to so far," he said.

Military sources in Kenema said Monday that 22 people were killed over the weekend in clashes between AFRC forces and the Kamajors. A dozen Kamajors died and 20 were injured Sunday in Zimmi, a military official said. 10 soldiers, including a radio operator, were also killed. A Kamajor spokesman said the militia had imposed "sanctions on food and electricity supplies in the southeast," but declined to discuss casualties. "We are keeping a close watch on vehicles taking vegetables and other consumer items to the capital and stopping them," he said. Electricity officials said "unknown persons" had removed the main fuse at Dodo Electricity Station near Kenema, cutting off electricity to a large area. The Kamajors have claimed responsibility for the action.

Over 68 people have reportedly died of starvation and related diseases in four chiefdoms in Moyamba District, the BBC reported Saturday. Most of the deaths occurred because no food or medicine was available after two aid agencies pulled out of the area last month, citing harassment by security personnel who regularly seize relief supplies. A Care International official confirmed that the agency had suspended operations because their vehicles were constantly being impounded. The security forces say they were impounding the goods because they believe they were being used to supply the Kamajor militia. The relief agencies deny this, saying that the supplies were meant only for civilians in the Moyamba region.

10 August: Former President Joseph Momoh held talks Saturday night with Guinean authorities in an effort to find a peaceful solution to Sierra Leone's crisis. "We are all unhappy with the present situation in the country. I thought I could use what little remaining influence I have with the Guinean authorities and with the foreign ministers of the sub-region to help resolve the present impasse in Sierra Leone in a peaceful manner," Momoh said. Momoh did not give details about the outcome of the talks, saying he had to discuss the negotiations with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma before making anything public.

9 August: Sierra Leone's military government has expressed its desire to reopen peace negotiations with ECOWAS, but a meeting which was to have taken place between AFRC envoys and Guinean officials was cancelled due to security concerns. An advance party, which included Chief of Army Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma, travelled on Thursday to the Guinean border town where the talks were to have taken place, but AFRC officials, who were to have left by helicopter Friday, were worried about being kidnapped. "Another meeting is now being arranged between Major Johnny Paul Koroma and President Lansana Conte, as the Sierra Leone side is anxious, perhaps more so than the Guineans, to get the talks restarted," an AFRC source said.

8 August: The AFRC has hired Ukrainian shipping companies to carry food and fuel to Sierra Leone in defiance of the sanctions imposed Wednesday by ECOWAS. Diplomatic sources said there was no official confirmation of the arrangement, but that such a move could lead to a confrontation between the Ukrainians and ECOMOG forces. The Expo Times newspaper, which supports the military government, said Ukrainian vessels brought food and fuel to Freetown before ECOWAS announced sanctions on Wednesday. The newspaper quoted the captain of the Ukrainian ship MV Kapitan as warning ECOMOG forces not to interfere with the shipments. "In the event that we are attacked while delivering food and other essential supplies to Sierra Leone, we will prove to Nigerians what military might we also have. Ukraine has one of the largest naval fleets in the world and Nigerians know the might of Ukraine where the most deadly military weapons are made," the captain was reported as saying. A Ministry of Trade official said the AFRC will no longer make public the arrival of shipments. "We shall no longer announce any consignment that comes in, but simply put them into the market without publicity," the official said. He said previous consignments of rice and diesel had been publicised to prevent merchants from hoarding or increasing prices.

AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma visited Kambia Friday, his first trip outside of Freetown since the May 25 coup. Koroma, who made the trip by helicopter, said he wanted "first-hand knowledge" of the conditions suffered by civilians who had fled Freetown in fear of an ECOMOG attack. "I am very disturbed over their plight and we shall embark on measures to return those who wish to go back," Koroma said.

The AFRC Friday declared the ECOWAS-imposed sanctions against Sierra Leone illegal. In a statement read over SLBS (state radio), the AFRC said that "no country or organization has imposed legal sanctions" on Sierra Leone and that Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi and ECOMOG commander Major General Victor Malu "have no authority or justification to unilaterally impose sanctions on the sovereign people of Sierra Leone." The statement called for a negotiated end to the crisis and rejected Nigerian intervention. "As a member of the international community, we have stressed that the best method to help Sierra Leone in the crisis is to allow or create a forum for peaceful negotiation and diplomacy. Ikimi and Malu "should concentrate on the legal sanctions imposed on their country, Nigeria, by the United Nations Security Council, and the Commonwealth, and leave the peaceful people of Sierra Leone to their own problems," the statement said.

Roman Catholic Bishop George Biguzzi said Wednesday a report that the aid agency Caritas has suspended operations is "totally false." The report, which was issued August 4 by the Paris AFP news agency, quoted Bishop Biguzzi as attributing the Makeni-based agency's closure to "insecurity in the area," and that "funding to the agency has also ceased from Italy." Bishop Biguzzi was reached by Catholic church officials in Makeni, where he was chairing a Caritas meeting.

7 August: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is reportedly in Nigeria for talks with government officials. There has been no official confirmation of his visit, but a Nigerian newspaper reported that Kabbah arrived in the country earlier in the week. His visit to Nigeria coincides with ECOMOG's announcement of heightened sanctions and an economic blockade of Sierra Leone. The ECOMOG statement, which because effective Wednesday, urged all countries to observe "full sanctions and economic blockade against the junta in Sierra Leone." Nigeria this week also began diplomatic initiatives to bring about full United Nations sanctions of Sierra Leone.

The National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) has reversed its decision to call off a student strike imposed after the May 25 coup, and is calling for national demonstrations for August 18, NUSS leader Egerton McCarthy said Thursday. NUSS had called off its indefinite strike on the understanding that the AFRC would "retract their position," McCarthy said. "Now that the chairman has gone ahead to announce a four-year plan, then I think NUSS now has come up again to say our strike has been called off indefinitely, and now, definitely, we will go back to college not before January 2002." McCarthy said the strike is not meant to influence the AFRC. "Our action is being meant to influence the world out there, for people to know that students in Sierra Leone are against this junta, and as far as we are concerned, the best thing that can happen to Sierra Leone is for the AFRC to walk out kindly to allow us to resume our normal life."

6 August: The Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) released a statement in Monrovia Wednesday warning all ships and aircraft to keep out of Sierra Leone's territorial waters and airspace in a tightening of sanctions against the ruling military government. "Any action in contravention of this warning is at the peril of the ship or aircraft," the statement said. "ECOMOG reserves the right to mete out appropriate reprisals if this warning is violated." In Freetown, AFRC Secretary-General Abdul Sesay warned that Nigeria could face difficulties if it tried to intervene militarily in Sierra Leone. "We are not capable of fighting the Nigerians but we are capable of resisting them," Sesay said. "The Liberian case was meant to last six weeks but lasted seven years." Sesay said the AFRC is still open to a negotiated settlement. "Our doors are still open for negotiations to solve the impasse," he said. However, Sesay rejected a key demand by ECOWAS and the international community for the reinstatement of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "Any attempt now to bring back Tejan Kabbah as president will be met with very sharp difficulties as the RUF does not trust him," he said.

Kamajor militia commanders Thursday displayed large amounts of captured of arms and ammunition as well as prisoners of war following battles with soldiers and RUF fighters near Zimmi. The captured weapons, which were displayed in Fiero, on the road to Zimmi, included 50 AK-47 rifles, four cartons of assorted ammunition, 60 rounds of antiaircraft mortar shells, and a large number of hand grenades. Eddie Massali, a regional Kamajor coordinator, said the weapons were captured when an AFRC carrying reinforcements from Kenema to Zimmi was ambushed. "Our men have been fighting with machetes and spears," Massali said. "They see this as an opportunity to properly arm themselves for the ongoing battle with the AFRC." Massali said that by Friday the Kamajors would have advanced beyond Zimmi and would engage the AFRC's Kenema-based 8th battalion. He declared some of the towns of Pujehun along the Mano River as safe havens for civilians wishing to leave Kenema ahead of the planned attack. "We will enter and take Kenema at all cost," Massali said. "We will use arms collected from the so-called People's Army to battle them out."

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement Tuesday blaming the AFRC for the collapse of the talks in Abidjan, and underlining again the need to implement the Abidjan Agreement. "(The Security Council) deeply regrets the breakdown of these talks, and considers that the responsibility for this failure rests entirely with the military junta who refused to negotiate in good faith," the statement said. "The Security Council considers that the military junta's attempt to set conditions for the restoration of the democratically elected government is unacceptable, and calls upon the junta to renounce its declared intention to remain in power and to resume negotiations with the ECOWAS Committee of Four Foreign Ministers without delay." The statement said that the Security Council will "in the absence of a satisfactory response from the military junta, be ready to take appropriate measures with the objective of restoring the democratically elected government of President Kabbah." The Council called on the AFRC to cease all interference on the delivery of humanitarian supplies in Sierra Leone, and condemned continuing violence and threats of violence by the AFRC towards the civilian population, foreign nationals, and ECOMOG personnel. The statement also expressed concern about the influx of refugees into neighbouring countries, particularly Guinea, and called on international organizations to help these countries in dealing with the refugee problem.

AFRC Chief of Army Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma accused Nigerian ECOMOG forces Tuesday of detaining 10 soldiers ambushed near Freetown three weeks ago. Koroma said the men were captured near Jui, the site of one of Nigeria's main military bases in Sierra Leone. "We have asked for their release but they have ignored our request," Koroma said. I suspect they want to bargain the men against two Nigerians we have seized for espionage." Sierra Leonean authorities arrested two Nigerians carrying maps and photographic equipment in a village west of Freetown last weekend, believing they were scouting for strategic locations from which to launch an attack on military installations. A senior Nigerian officer said the charges of spying were "totally unfounded."

The Paris-based Reporteurs Sans Frontiers (RSF) has accused the AFRC of using violence and repression against journalists. In an open letter to AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma on August 6, the RSF said it was aware of the arrest, often without explanation, of more than a dozen journalists and newspaper employees in July. Several newspapers suspended publication because of threats and raids by the military, and some journalists have gone into hiding. Soldiers also burned copies of some publications and detained newspaper vendors, the RSF said. "Reporteurs Sans Frontiers reminds you that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that 'detention, as punishment for peaceful expression of opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights,'" the letter said. "Consequently, we ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that journalists throughout Sierra Leone are not harassed in the course of their work."

5 August: Radio France International reported fighting between the Army and the Kamajor militia continued Tuesday. The report said 10 Kamajors and 5 soldiers have been killed since August 3, and some 40 civilians have been seriously wounded. On Monday, Kamajor commander Samuel Hinga Norman announced that the Kamajors had captured the town of Zimmi. Norman's claim was disputed Tuesday by the AFRC's Regional Secretary for the southern region, Major Augustine Kamara, who termed it "preposterous." Major Kamara said government troops and the People's Army are still in control of Zimmi, Gofor, and Wunde. "We are in control of Zimmi and no attack has ever taken place at Zimmi," he said. Witnesses in Kenema said Tuesday they saw troops heading for Zimmi, while in Bo a truckload of soldiers from Freetown was seen heading to the area.

AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Tuesday the AFRC had received no official correspondence from Alimamy Paolo Bangura about his unwillingness to be a minister in the AFRC. "I have a feeling that Mr. Paolo Bangura stayed behind to tie up some loose ends that will see the resumption of the talks, because of our commitment to seeing the crisis in Sierra Leone settled without the used of force," Kamara said. Reports from Abidjan say Bangura's disappearance could be linked to a private meeting he had with Ivorian Foreign Minister Amara Essy after the collapse of the talks, requesting help from that government in settling what he called "a very private family matter."

Nigerians living in Sierra Leone have reportedly begun leaving the country amid fears that military intervention by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces is imminent. The Nigerian newspaper ThisDay reported Tuesday that the countdown to ECOMOG intervention against Sierra Leone's military government may have begun, with Nigerians fleeing the country in droves to avoid being caught in fighting between the two sides. However, the Nigerian government has not ordered the evacuation of its nationals from Sierra Leone, who are estimated to number more than 5,000.

SLBS (state radio) announced Monday evening that the AFRC delegation was warmly welcomed back by AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma, who congratulated delegates on their posture at the talks.

4 August: Kamajor commander Samuel Hinga Norman said Monday that the Kamajor militia has captured the town of Zimmi. Speaking from Monrovia, Norman claimed the Kamajors inflicted heavy casualties on the army and captured arms and ammunition. He said the Kamajors are now involved in "mopping up inside and outside Zimmi." Norman said Zimmi is "a gateway large town from the southern part of Sierra Leone connecting Liberia, and so its importance is very, very high to both sides...It is important because from (there) we can link up to the outside world, and again it was our intention to create a safe area, a safe zone for our disturbed people within the country. From that area we can organise a lot of other military and civil administration." Norman said the Kamajors will next targed other militarily strategic areas "and then head on toward the combined forces of the AFRC, if they don't decided to give in and surrender to the elected government and president of Sierra Leone." He denied that the Kamajors have bases inside Liberia, or that they are coordinating their military efforts with ECOMOG forces. "When the AFRC came up and said that they were not going to give up their power to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, we then decided to take up battle with them and now they have a battle on their hands. We say the only condition is that they should hand over to the democratically elected government and the president for whom the people voted. Short of that, there is no dice."

The AFRC's foreign minister, Paolo Bangura, has defected after heading the delegation to the failed peace talks in Abidjan. "Paolo Bangura, the Sierra Leone foreign minister, defected from the Sierra Leone delegation in Abidjan and is still in Abidjan," a United Nations official reported from Conakry. An official source in Freetown had said Bangura had since gone to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There has been speculation in Freetown that other members of the delegation have defected as well. Former ambassador Dauda Kamara is reported to have applied for asylum in Britain. According to "well placed sources," Bangura and Kamara met with Ivorian Foreign Minister Amara Essy on Friday, and afterwards failed to return to the Hotel Ivoire where they had been staying. One member of the AFRC delegation said that Bangura approached Essy and asked to remain in Abidjan immediately after AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma announced the military would remain in power until 2001. Bangura has not been seen since July 31, the delegate said. Diplomats in Abidjan confirmed that the two diplomats did not show up when the rest of the 20-member negotiating team flew back to Freetown. An AFRC official said, "We have heard that some members of the delegation we sent to Abidjan have defected, but we don't know for sure. We are waiting for the delegation to come back, which they are supposed to do today."

Red Cross officials in Makeni said 15 people died of starvation in Sierra Leone over the weekend, due to food shortages caused by the ECOMOG blockade. They said the deaths occurred in Mapaki and Mabonto in the north, and Lalehun in the southeast. "The situation is precarious and if it continues, many people will die," a Red Cross official said. Residents of Bo have reportedly resorted to eating sapling stems because farmers consider it unsafe to plant.

Three banks, Barclays, Standard, and Union Trust, have failed to meet a Tuesday deadline to reopen. On Wednesday, AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma ordered the banks to open by August 4 or face liquidation, saying that the military would provide adequate security. Dr. Christian Kargbo, the Interim Governor of Sierra Leone's Central Bank, said he could not understand why the banks remained closed. He cited letters of assurance which were sent to officials of the three banks, as well as a letter written by Major Koroma. Kargbo declined to comment on whether the Central Bank was prepared to withdraw the banks' operating licenses or force their liquidation, saying "That is above me, and my job is professionally guided." Bank officials were unavailable for comment, but some staff members in Freetown pointed out that there is more to banking than assurances of security. They emphasized that resumption of banking operations would depend on factors ranging from financial solvency to statutory obligations.

ECOWAS chairman General Sani Abacha has ordered full scale sanctions and an embargo against Sierra Leone's military government, the Nigerian newspaper New Nigerian reported Monday.

3 August: A Hong Kong owned ship flying the Panamanian flag evaded the ECOMOG blockade and reached Freetown with a cargo of fuel on Saturday. An official of the National Power Authority said that the vessel unloaded 28,000 tons of diesel and fuel oil Sunday, saying that the supply will "now prolong daily electricity output for about five months." However, an oil industry source disputed this assessment. "The ship has brought only marine fuel oil, or what is known as black oil for electricity powerhouses and generators, not the much-needed petrol," the source said. "There is not even a tea-cup of petrol left in the tanks of Mobil or NP (National Petroleum Company)," the source added. Military spokesman Allieu Kamara had announced Thursday that a shipment of petrol was expected over the weekend. Power cuts have become common in Freetown, but an oil industry source said the black oil would do little to improve the situation. "There was already some black oil in the city. The main problem with the powerhouses, which is responsible for the blackouts, it's that they have run short of lubricants for the engines and cooling oil to cool the engines," the source said. The ship's captain said he had encountered "no difficulty in bringing the cargo to Freetown." He declined to say where the fuel came from. The fuel shortage in Sierra Leone has become acute. Taxis are scarce in Freetown, and black market petrol is selling at three times its pre-coup price. Food shortages are reported to be due in part to a lack of fuel to transport supplies. One report said that the price of a liter of petrol in Freetown has risen from about Le 3,000 before the crisis to Le 10,000. Officials in Freetown say another two vessels carrying petrol and kerosene are expected to arrive soon.

The RUF has denied a BBC report that AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma is under house arrest and is taking orders from the People's Army. SLBS (state radio) quoted RUF Lieutenant Gilbert Collins as saying that the BBC statement "is not only meant to damage the good relationship between the national Army and the People's Army, but to plunge the entire country into another pool of blood." He called Koroma "a free born, patriotic citizen who shares common ideals with the People's Army" and affirmed that Koroma's leadership "is well recognised by the People's Army and it is a calculated lie for people to claim that he is under house arrest."

ECOWAS chairman General Sani Abacha has advised all those with business interests in Sierra Leone to withdraw from such transactions in their own interest. Speaking in Monrovia, Abacha said that with the successful conclusion of the Liberian peace process the attention of ECOWAS will soon shift to Sierra Leone.

2 August: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will tighten sanctions and an economic blockade against Sierra Leone's military government, ECOWAS chairman and Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha said in Monrovia, Liberia on Saturday. "I am constrained to say that the full sanctions and embargo will be applied," he said. Abacha said details of the sanctions would be worked out. "I hope that the elements in Sierra Leone will see reason and return to the negotiating table," he said.

1 August: New clashes have broken out near Zimmi as the Kamajor militia began an offensive Friday to take control of the town. The attack was reportedly ordered by Kamajor leader and former Deputy Minister of Defence Sam Hinga Norman in response to the collapse this week of peace talks in Abidjan. Norman said the militia is fighting because the military government has refused to accept that peace is better for the people of Sierra Leone. Speaking at the town of Gonfo, 6 miles east of Zimmi, Norman said, "We have no choice but to fight and bring back democracy and reinstate the government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah." BBC correspondent Nyenati Allison described the scene at the Kamajor camp: "Shots of 'Upward Tejan Kabbah, Down With Johnny Paul Koroma' filled the air as the ragtag crowd of Kamajors milled around the area, brandishing machetes, spears, and hunting rifles. Morale in the Kamajor camp was visibly high as gunfire echoed from the direction of Zimmi while the stench of rotten bodies filled the air." Norman said the Kamajors are creating safety zones along the Sierra Leone-Liberian border to pave the way for the return of more refugees.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah Friday condemned the military's decision to hold on to power until 2001, and accused politicians of manipulating the AFRC. "This is an affront to all lovers of democracy and smacks of hostility," Kabbah said on a clandestine pro-democracy radio station. "Those who are bent on destroying the country would themselves be destroyed...They will be hunted down even if they hide in rat holes," he said. Kabbah said the AFRC had adopted a "defiant and uncompromising stand" on the advice of certain politicians who "are manipulating the soldiers and urging them to stay in power. But they shall not succeed." He accused the politicians of "inciting the military to seize power and promising them that the international community would recognize them."

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Friday protested the seizure of all of its food stores in Freetown, and said that since the May 25 coup enough food to feed 150,000 people has been taken. The WFP said that the AFRC has seized 2,000 metric tons of various commodities from WFP stores. WFP Director Catherine Bertini said that another 500 metric tons have been lost to "systematic and violent looting by armed men and some civilians." She said that's enough food to feed 150,000 people for a month. "The international community's food aid is destined solely to needy Sierra Leoneans and should not be used to feed men in arms," Bertini said. She added that the WFP has been transferring food supplies to more secure locations up-country.

An Organisation of African Unity spokesman said Friday that the OAU will support "all appropriate measures to be taken by ECOWAS countries aimed at restoring constitutional legality in Sierra Leone" now that efforts at peaceful means have failed. OAU spokesman Ibrahim Dagash attributed the collapse of the talks in Abidjan "to the negative position taken by the military junta" and called the overthrow of Sierra Leone's elected government "totally unacceptable." Dagash said the decisions taken in July at an extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS foreign ministers in Conakry, Guinea are still valid. The foreign ministers agreed upon a three-pronged approach to the restoration of constitutional rule in Sierra Leone: dialogue, sanctions, and military intervention as a last option.

The Canadian Globe and Mail reported Friday it has obtained documents showing a conspiracy to use mercenaries to overthrow Sierra Leone's military rulers. Momodu Koroma, Minister of Presidential Affairs for the government-in-exile of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Rakesh Saxena, head of Vancouver-based Tidewater Management Corp, and Tim Spicer, the head of Sandline International, a military consulting firm similar to Executive Outcomes. Saxena is an Indian citizen and former Thai bank official who is fighting extradition to Thailand in connection with a financial problems with one of Thailand's largest banks. Saxena holds a bauxite concession in West Africa and is looking to expand his operations there. Sandline International's chairman, Tony Buckingham, is a major shareholder in DiamondWorks Ltd., a Vancouver company which holds six diamond mining properties in Sierra Leone. The documents show Saxena paid Spicer $70,000 in consultancy fees plus expenses to prepare a realistic appraisal of the situation in Sierra Leone by the end of July. "Our offer of assistance to the Sierra Leonean government is undoubtedly motivated by our desire to establish and perhaps consolidate our position in that part of the world," Saxena wrote in a letter to Spicer. On Monday, Saxena denied helping the Sierra Leone government-in-exile, or meeting with government officials. "When you are doing business you just have to assess all of the options. I don't think anything has come of it...We re not in the business of politics," he said. In a separate document, Momodu Koroma outlined to Saxena what was expected of Sandline International. The group would help train Kamajors to convert them into an effective military force that could overthrow the coup leaders, he wrote. According to Koroma's letter to Saxena, the government-in-exile wants the mercenaries to help plan the "strategy, logistics, and training that would convert 40,000 militia into an effective fighting force." Reached in Guinea, Koroma denied any knowledge of the countercoup plans. On Monday, President Kabbah said that he would not consider hiring mercenaries and denied any involvement in planning a countercoup. He said his government-in-exile lacks funds for such a venture and prefers to rely on the help of other governments. "We have a military agreement with a country like Nigeria," he said. "Why would we abandon that and go and hire somebody?"

Reaction: Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku: "I am very disappointed that [the talks have] broken down. I believe that the talks did offer the last chance for the coupmakers in Sierra Leone to respect the will of the people of Sierra Leone and the international community as a whole. There will now be a blockade by the Economic Community of West African States whose ships are outside Sierra Leone. I don't think the sanctions busters would be able to overcome the weight of the international opinion and international action that will surely follow." U.S. State Department Spokesman James Foley: The United States is "deeply concerned" at the AFRC's decision not to hold national elections until 2001. Washington deplores "the negative positions taken by the junta representatives during the meeting with ECOWAS ministers in Abidjan — positions which condemn the people of Sierra Leone to continued suffering."