31 August: Former RUF spokesman Fayia Musa said Monday that the Abidjan Peace Accord must form the basis for a peace settlement in Sierra Leone. Musa was an RUF delegate to the Abidjan peace talks which resulted in the signing of the accord in November 1996. In March 1997, following Sankohs detention in Nigeria, Musa returned as a Commissioner for a breakaway group, the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (CCP). He was arrested, denounced as a traitor, and sentenced to death by an RUF "Peoples Court" for plotting to overthrow RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "My message is that the military option which is championed by ECOMOG cannot restore peace in this country," Musa told the BBC. "We also believe that the only way forward for peace in Sierra Leone is to revisit the Abidjan Peace Accord. We therefore appeal to members of the international community and the moral guarantors to the Abidjan Peace Accord, namely the Ivory Coast government and people, the Commonwealth of Nations, the OAU, and the United Nations to bring pressure to bear upon the Sierra Leone government to revisit the Abidjan Peace Accord. And we know that the best way to do this is to consult and to send Corporal Foday Sankoh back to Abidjan. Once he is taken back to Abidjan, peace will definitely come to this nation, and we would also like to advise the Sierra Leone government to make it very possible for Corporal Foday Sankoh to talk to the combatants by any means, either before or after he is taken back to Abidjan, because most of them are longing to hear from him." Musa denied he was making his appeal under duress. "When I talk for peace I dont talk under pressure," he said. "Im talking freely and fairly. Nobody has any gun around me, in fact. Everybody here is harmless and, in fact, the greater part of the population around me here is civilian population." Musa acknowledged that the RUF continued to hold him prisoner in Kailahun District. "I am locked up in a goats pen," Musa said. "I am a prisoner here, and it is Sam Bockarie himself who has asked me to tell you that Im in prison and I will never be released here until we have a breakthrough in the peace process." RUF commander Colonel Sam "Maskita" Bockarie joined the interview to call on the international community to pressure President Kabbah for Sankohs release. "We are ready to listen to our leader, whatever he may say, for us to cease fire or lay down arms," Bockarie said. "We are only ready to take that order from him."
Authorities have freed 277 Sierra Leonean soldiers who were detained in March after they returned from peacekeeping duty with the ECOMOG force in Liberia. Military authorities said the soldiers had been held in prison because of fears some were loyal to the ousted military junta. Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe said no evidence had been found against the 277. "For those of you who think you can give loyal service to your country, we are ready to accept you after thorough screening," Khobe told the soldiers.
Defence lawyers were expected to begin addressing the jury on Monday on behalf of 20 civilians being tried for treason in a Freetown court. Before adjourning for the weekend, Judge A.B. Rashid warned the lawyers to be punctual. Court sources said some of the lawyers had failed to appear. "This is to guard against undue delay," Rashid said. "Should the defence engage in conducts that will snail the pace of the trial, I will left with no alternative but to ask the accused themselves to address the jury." Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa summed up the case against one defendant, 75-year-old former politician Nancy Steele, calling her the "beloved grandmother" of the junta. "This is a shameless woman who has no respect for her age," he said, adding that Steele had made broadcasts on the junta's behalf, leading them to believe that they could hold on to power.
30 August: Five of the 16 civilians sentenced to death for treason on Tuesday have appealed their convictions and sentences, their lawyer said on Sunday. A.F. Serry Kamal, who defended Victor B. Foh, Ibrahim B. Kargbo. Dennis A. Smith, William S. Bangura, and Christian S. Kargbo, said his clients had lodged appeals "challenging both the conviction and sentence passed by the High Court against our five clients." Sources at the Court of Appeals were quoted as saying that appeals from the remaining 11 were expected shortly.
The AFRC's former Secretary of State for Information and Tourism, Mohamed Sayoh Bangura, is seeking political asylum in Britain, according to a report in the Sunday Times. Bangura is reportedly hiding in a south London flat, and claims he would face execution if he were extradited to Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone government has accused him of being the junta's chief propagandist, and is demanding his return. British Home Secretary Jack Straw will make the decision on whether to grant Bangura asylum, the paper said.
28 August: ECOMOG jets bombed rebel bases in Bombali, Koinadugu, and Kambia Districts on Tuesday, killing at least 38 rebel fighters, ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu said on Thursday. "We are bombarding areas where we feel the enemy is located and concentrated," Ahmadu said. "Our military objective is to bring the war to an end as quickly as possible." The attacks were launched in response to a threat by the RUF on 17 August to launch "Operation Spare no Soul" if their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, were not released within one week's time.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Solomon Berewa said Friday that death sentences imposed on 16 persons convicted of collaborating with the former military junta had wide support in Sierra Leone. "There is overwhelming popular support for it. There is no doubt about it," he told BBC Radio 4. Sierra Leoneans were so angry that if the government had not moved quickly "mob justice would have taken place," he added. Berewa insisted that the British government's appeal for clemency was premature. "There is an appeals process that has to be exhausted," he said. Berewa denied that five of those convicted had been put on trial because they were journalists. "They played no less a role than a lot of the other members of the junta. Some committed murder, some did very atrocious things. They have not been tried for being journalists at all." Responding to the British government's call for clemency, Berewa said: "The people of this country wholly appreciate the assistance Britain has given to this country and the government to be restored. They would never forget that assistance. But I don't think that assistance was conditioned on the fact that, on the return of the government, the law of this land would not be implemented. We've tried to be fair. We've tried to be open. We've tried to be transparent. We've tried to give the accused persons every opportunity. I think that's what Britain wants us to do."
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International called on the Sierra Leone government Friday to commute the death sentences of 16 civilians convicted of collaborating with the ousted military junta, saying that the imposition of the death sentences "does not contribute to the process of reconciliation" in Sierra Leone. "Amnesty International acknowledges the government's responsibility to bring to justice and punish those responsible for these crimes and also insists that there should be no impunity for human rights violations," the statement said. "It is, however, unconditionally opposed to the death penalty. Nowhere has it been shown that the death penalty has any special power to reduce crime or political violence. Neither has it ever been shown to have any special power to meet any genuine social need. A difficult and daunting task faces Sierra Leone in achieving reconciliation within its society after the atrocities committed by the AFRC and RUF. Amnesty International believes that the use of the death penalty not only gives the false impression that preventative action is being taken, but perpetuates the use of cruel and inhuman punishment, and does nothing to contribute to the process of reconciliation."
The National Petroleum Company's only operational barge, the King Jimmy, sank in heavy seas on Wednesday night, according to a government Daily News Brief dated August 27 and issued on Friday. The captain and twelve crew members were forced to abandon the boat some 80 nautical miles southeast of Conakry-Dee. All thirteen crew members were rescued.
Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe has warned all soldiers absent without leave to return by Saturday or face "appropriate action." At a security briefing Thursday chaired by Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, Khobe said the strength of the Sierra Leone army in February was 6,324 soldiers. He did not specify how many soldiers might be AWOL, but said that after Saturday they would be considered to be backing the AFRC/RUF rebels. "Some of these AWOL soldiers may either be behind rebel lines or part of the 800 we understand are now in Lofa County in Liberia," Khobe added. Norman stressed that foreign mercenaries fighting alongside the rebels would not be eligible for the United Nations Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme. "They better give up their support to the rebels and return to their respective countries now that they have the time. Otherwise they will be tried if caught," he said.
United Nations Special Representative to Sierra Leone Francis Okelo told Chamber of Commerce members in Freetown Thursday that "All those guilty of atrocities must face the requisite justice in accordance with the law of Sierra Leone while respecting their human rights." Okelo made the remarks at a dinner in his honour. "At the same time, it may be necessary at times to bend backwards to accommodate those Sierra Leoneans who may show genuine signs of repentance and a genuine inclination to reform their lives," he added. A court in Freetown Tuesday sentenced to death 16 persons convicted of collaborating with the former military junta. The United Nations has made no official response to the death sentences, but a U.N. source was quoted as saying the U.N. would issue a global appeal for clemency once all the verdicts had been reached. Okelo said a major goal of his mission was to respond urgently to the vast humanitarian needs of Sierra Leone, a country which "has no business being poor, unstable and sorrowful for itself."
27 August: A Ministry of Defence spokesman said Thursday that Sierra Leonean troops had repelled a rebel incursion in the north. First Battalion troops, the so-called "old loyal" soldiers, led by Colonel Robert Yirra Koroma flushed the rebels out of Tonkolili District and "scored a string of victories from Bumbuna, Samaia, Bendugu, Alikalia, and Yiffin," the spokesman said. The troops then crossed the Sewa River to Kayima in Kono District, continued on to Yaya, and captured the towns of Tombodu and Yamandu, he added. Earlier in the week, AFRC/RUF rebels attacked several towns in Kambia District. According to a missionary priest quoted on Thursday by the AFP, Guinean ECOMOG troops responded quickly after the rebels looted and burned several houses. The priest cited reports of civilian deaths, but had no details. ECOMOG troops were now in full control of the towns and relative calm had returned to the area, he added. In Kailahun District, the AFP quoted "security sources" who reported that a massive ECOMOG operation to capture strategic rebel held villages was already underway. The ECOMOG troops were reinforced by well-armed Sierra Leonean soldiers, armoured vehicles, and heavy artillery, the source said.
British Foreign Office Secretary of State for Africa Tony Lloyd appealed to President Kabbah Thursday to grant clemency to 16 persons sentenced to death for collaborating with Sierra Leone's ousted military junta. "I have spoken direct to President Kabbah of Sierra Leone," Lloyd said in a statement. "I expressed, in the strongest possible terms, our concern about the imposition of the death penalty on 16 people convicted of treason. I said that Britain wanted to see peace and prosperity fully restored in Sierra Leone. We believed that the best way to achieve this was through a proper process of reconciliation. Showing clemency in these cases would be an important step in this process. President Kabbah said that it could be some months before the appeals process were completed. But he undertook to give our representations serious consideration at the point where individuals could appeal for clemency." Lloyd said he told Kabbah that he would watch the appeals process closely, and would renew the representations if the sentences were upheld. In an interview earlier Thursday, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook recalled that the restoration of President Kabbah's government had been strongly supported by countries which did not approve of the use of the death penalty. "Tony Lloyd will be vigorously making the case that President Kabbah should exercise clemency, precisely because he has had a lot of support from countries that do not support the death penalty," Cook said. "We would like to see that support being returned by him listening to these representations. Particularly in the case of the journalists. We would certainly want to make sure that the death penalty was not applied to any of those who have been accused, but I can well understand the very strong reaction particularly at the death sentences against journalists." Cook added that Britain was taking the issue seriously. "One should also put in perspective the fact that what is at issue here is the sentence," he said. "Both the United Nations and the Red Cross have observed the trials and said that they were free, they were open, they were fair." Cook acknowledged that there were strong feelings in Sierra Leone that those involved with the military regime should be brought to justice. "Sierra Leone did go through a period of being ruled by a particularly brutal, savage junta which killed a lot of people, raped a lot of women and was given to lopping the arms of people who criticised them," he said. "There is very strong feeling in Sierra Leone that justice has to be invoked against those who supported that junta but, nevertheless, our policy is firmly to oppose the death policy."
26 August: The British government will appeal to President Kabbah to commute the death sentences of 16 persons, including five journalists, convicted of collaborating with Sierra Leone's ousted military junta, Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa Tony Lloyd said Wednesday. "I am very concerned to learn that the death sentence has been passed on the first 16 people to have been found guilty of treason," Lloyd said in a statement. "I intend to speak to President Kabbah personally as soon as possible to appeal to him to show clemency in these cases. We are urgently contacting our European Union partners with a view to encouraging a joint E.U. response to the sentences." Lloyd added that Britain would continue to make clear to Sierra Leone the need to "pay due heed to human rights, due process, and international norms." Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to use his influence with President Kabbah, saying that Britain's closed ties to Sierra Leone put it in a unique position to intervene. "There will be profound dismay through the Foreign Office and indeed throughout Parliament at the idea that these executions have been proposed," Campbell said Wednesday. "It's barely 12 months since President Kabbah was a personal guest in Edinburgh of Tony Blair at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. That was necessary because he was then deposed...During the period when the handling of this business in Sierra Leone by the Foreign Office was under such severe scrutiny, the constant refrain from Government ministers was, `OK, things may not have been well handled here, but in essence, the good guys won'. Well, it will take something of the shine off the proposition that the good guys won if one of the actions of the good guys is to execute journalists." A Foreign Office spokeswoman denied that Britain was embarrassed by the sentences given the country's strong support for the Kabbah government. "The government is democratically elected, which is why we supported restoring it," she said. "We usually plead for clemency in cases when the death sentence is passed. We have a policy which opposes the use of the death penalty."
Following a meeting in Monrovia between Sierra Leone's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sahr Matturi, and Liberian President Charles Taylor, the two countries have pledged to further strengthen relations through a process of "confidence building," Liberian Star Radio reported Wednesday. A statement released by the Liberian Ministry of Information said the two countries agreed Monday that frequent interaction and consultation will enhance mutual understanding.
Over 500 Sierra Leonean refugee students have taken an aptitude test in Monrovia to complete for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency scholarships. More than 100 Sierra Leonean refugee students are currently benefiting from the the UNHCR Scholarship Program, which is administered by the Lutheran World Federation.
25 August: A high court judge on Monday sentenced 16 civilians to death by hanging, one day after a jury found the accused guilty of treason and conspiracy for collaborating with the AFRC military junta. Justice Edmond Cowan handed down the sentences after lawyers for the condemned made last minute pleas for leniency. Friends and family members wept openly outside the courtroom as the prisoners were taken away to Pademba Road Prison by police and ECOMOG soldiers. The condemned have 21 days to appeal their sentences. If the appeals are denied, their fate will be in the hands of President Kabbah, who has the power to commute sentences. Those convicted Monday were the AFRC's spokesman, Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Badara Kamara, former APC parliamentarian Victor B. Foh, Central Bank Governor Christian Sheka Kargbo, Hilton Fyle, a former BBC African Service presenter who operated an FM radio station in Freetown, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Director-General Gipu Felix George and SLBS reporters Denis Ayodele Smith and Olivia Mensah, New Citizen newspaper editor Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Petty Traders Association President Bai Hinga Kooray Bangura, former secretary to President Kabbah Sheku A.T. Bayoh, Mohamed Adkalie Bangura, William Sabana Bangura, Kaifen Saidu Tablay Kallay, Edward Akar, Ibrahim Mariti Foday Sesay, and Willie Ekundayo Taylor. Olivia Mensah, who gave birth in prison last month, was also convicted on an additional charge of murder.
18 African countries are facing "exception food shortages" caused by civil strife, bad weather, poor harvests, and economic sanctions, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday. The FAO report listed the affected countries as Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia. The food emergency in Sierra Leone was attributed to the country's civil conflict and the large scale displacement of the population.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sahr Matturi, acting as special envoy from President Kabbah, held talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor on Monday. The two met behind closed doors at Taylor's Congo Town residence. Matturi described the meeting as rewarding, and said he was carrying a special message from Taylor to President Kabbah. Ambassador Wilfred Kanu said the meeting was intended to strengthen ties between the two countries. The visit was Matturi's second to Liberia within two months.
Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia have appealed to the RUF to stop fighting, saying they were tired of staying out of their country, Liberian Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Speaking Sunday at Sinje Camp in Grand Cape Mount County, a number of refugees said they wished to return home but that their security could not be guaranteed. The refugees also appealed to humanitarian agencies to increase their food rations which, they said, had been reduced.
Neneh Kanu, the wife of Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Liberia, Wilfred Kanu, said the humanitarian needs of Sierra Leonean refugees at Sinje Camp were desperate. She attributed the worsening conditions to an influx of refugees from Camp Alpha in Lofa County. Neneh Kanu said many of the refugees were malnourished and required urgent attention. She added that she has launched an appeal to the business and international communities.
24 August: A jury in Freetown found 16 persons guilty of treason and conspiracy on Monday on charges of collaborating with the AFRC military junta. Two others were acquitted. The verdicts were read out in court by Justice Edmond Cowan following several days of deliberation by the 12 member jury. Those convicted were the AFRC's spokesman, Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Badara Kamara, former APC parliamentarian Victor B. Foh, Central Bank Governor Christian Sheka Kargbo, Hilton Fyle, a former BBC African Service presenter who operated an FM radio station in Freetown, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Director-General Gipu Felix George and SLBS reporters Denis Ayodele Smith and Olivia Mensah, New Citizen newspaper editor Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Petty Traders Association President Bai Hinga Kooray Bangura, former secretary to President Kabbah Sheku A.T. Bayoh, Mohamed Adkalie Bangura, William Sabana Bangura, Kaifen Saidu Tablay Kallay, Edward Akar, Ibrahim Mariti Foday Sesay, and Willie Ekundayo Taylor. Olivia Mensah, who gave birth in prison last month, was also convicted on an additional charge of murder. Dalinda Lebbie and Mohamed Kekuru Daramy were acquitted and released. Judge Cowan is expected to hand down sentences on Tuesday after listening to pleas for mercy from the defendants' lawyers. A conviction for treason carries the death penalty, but lawyers debated Monday whether the sentence was mandatory.
Several of those convicted apologised to the nation and pleaded for mercy. Victor Foh told the court that he was a man of peace, and that he respected democracy. Hilton Fyle said he had helped people affected by the war by raising funds for the displaced. "Whatever I did during the period was with the intention of bringing peace to Sierra Leone, he said. "My house was burnt down and my mother and sister humiliated." Allieu Kamara apologised "for the wrongdoings" he had committed, saying he had worked with the AFRC to try to find peace for the country. "If my actions created any difficulties for my brothers and sisters, I tender my apology," Kamara said. Christian Kargbo maintained that he did not realise that all he was doing was aiding and abetting the regime.
Sierra Leone is scheduled to meet Morocco in Casablanca on October 4 in the second round of the African Nations Cup. The Sierra Leone team will play Togo in Freetown on January 4, Guinea at Conakry on February 28, Guinea in Freetown on April 10, Togo at Lome on June 6, and Morocco in Freetown on June 19.
23 August: Liberia's Ministry of Defence has barred combatants in Sierra Leone's civil war from entering Liberia, Deputy Defence Minister Austin Clarke told a visiting United States congressional delegation and U.S. non-governmental organisations working in refugee advocacy. Clarke said Liberia would not permit a regrouping of combatants on its soil. He added that border security had been alerted to ensure that the Sierra Leone conflict did not spill over into Liberia.
More than 15 persons were killed and over 20 more wounded in rebel raids on several villages in Kono District on August 16, Liberian Star Radio reported on Sunday. According to a witness being treated at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, some 200 rebels dressed in military fatigues bypassed ECOMOG troops before launching their attacks.
22 August: Vice President Albert Joe Demby officially launched the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation (DDR) programme at Lungi on Saturday. On Thursday, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe said 2,224 junta soldiers were being turned over the the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).
The World Bank has reportedly agreed to assist Sierra Leone in developing its mining sector, SLBS (state radio) reported on Saturday. At the request of the Sierra Leone government, the World Bank sent a mining expert who helped draw up a new mineral resources development policy, the report said. The radio said the bank had approved a government request to provide short term assistance "to help reactivate mineral production to attract investment and improve small scale mining." Additional financing will be provided to cover medium and long term support for the implementation of a comprehensive mining sector development programme, the report said.
The Sierra Leone government is pressing three petroleum companies to pay arrears in rent, a Trade Ministry official said on Saturday. The official said that none of the three companies — Mobil, Safecon, and the state-owned National Petroleum Company — had paid any rent for at least the past two years. "In fact, we have no record in the ministry to show that Mobil has been paying the lease fee of 2,800 pounds sterling ($4,600) per annum since independence in 1961," the official said. Safecon, once a division of Shell but now mostly locally owned, should have been paying £8,500 per quarter, but Shell's lease expired in 1976 and has never been renewed, the official said. Mobil's lease also expired years ago. "They will have to be negotiated if they are to continue to do business in the country," the official said. He added that the Ministry had demanded sharp rent increases in meetings with the oil companies.
22 senior police officers and 10 civilians suspected of collaborating with the former military junta have been released, the AFP reported Saturday, quoting SLBS (state radio). On Thursday, Reuters reported the release of 50 civilians and 31 police officers held at Pademba Road Prison. The released officers included a senior police commissioner, Christopher John, and the former head of the Special Security Division (SSD).
A "cholera-like illness" has killed at least 100 people in Sierra Leone over the past two weeks, an aid agency worker said Saturday. "Since the outbreak of the disease about two weeks ago at least 100 people have died," the aid worker said. He added that the number was likely much higher because many deaths have been reported in the bush or in towns with no access to medical care. The government has recorded 16 deaths, and about 300 people have been admitted to hospital with the illness, characterised by vomiting and diarrhoea. Medical authorities are conducting tests to determine whether the disease is cholera.
21 August: Heavy rains have caused severe flooding in northwestern Sierra Leone, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment Okere Adams said on Friday. Six experts have been sent to Kambia and Mambolo to assess the damage. In Kambia, all homes along the Kolenten River are reported to have been flooded, while in Mambolo hundreds of acres of rice farms were destroyed.
More than 30 people have died of diarrhoea in Freetown and Makeni, Liberian Star Radio reported Friday. The report cited Connaught Hospital sources as confirming the deaths of 22 people as of Thursday. No time period was given. 8 additional deaths were reported in Makeni. The report quoted authorities as saying that more than 300 are infected with the disease.
20 August: ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu said Thursday that both ECOMOG troops and RUF rebels had suffered heavy casualties in clashes in eastern Sierra Leone on August 15-16 and 19. The first clash took place Saturday at ?Niama in Kono District, followed by fighting Sunday at Alikalia, in Koinadugu District. Wednesday's fighting occurred at Jaiama Nimikoro in Kono. "ECOMOG and RUF rebels suffered heavy casualties," Ahmadu said. "In Alikalia in Koinadugu district several Guinean soldiers were killed." He did not provide details. The AFP quoted Ahmadu as saying that ECOMOG had suffered "some" casualties, "but we inflicted huge loss on the rebels and captured many." Ahmadu said ECOMOG had the capability to move decisively against the rebels, but was taking care not to harm civilians in the process. "Let me say that as from now we are going to pursue them heavily," he added. Ahmadu said the battles followed attacks by the RUF.
About 50 civilians and 31 police officers, including a deputy commissioner, detained in connection with the May 1997 coup were released from Pademba Road Prison Thursday on the orders of a special committee evaluating evidence against the detainees. Committee President Tejan Cole reportedly concluded that there was not enough evidence against the suspects.
A total of 2,224 junta fighters have been turned over to the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) as part of the Demobilisation, Disarmament, and Rehabilitation Programme, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe said on Thursday. Khobe said the men, from the former Sierra Leone Army, the RUF, and the Liberian National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), were encamped at Lungi.
The European Commission has approved ECU 6 million in humanitarian aid for victims of the Sierra Leone conflict. The aid, which will be managed by the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), will enable non-governmental organisations to carry out relief programs within Sierra Leone, and among refugees in Guinea and Liberia. ECHO's focus in Sierra Leone is primarily in the health sector, on food aid, and food security (ECU 3.57 million). In Guinea (ECU 1.1 million) and Liberia (ECU 760,000), ECHO is supporting agencies involved in the care and maintenance of refugees.
19 August: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh will appear in court to face charges of "crimes against humanity and the people of Sierra Leone," according to an SLBS (state radio) broadcast Wednesday quoted by the Associated Press (AP). "Orders have been given to the security forces to chase and capture the RUF's Eldred Collins," the statement said. "His statements are regarded as a threat to all Sierra Leoneans for the sake of one man." The AP also reported that jury deliberations began Wednesday in the trial of 18 alleged junta collaborators charged with treason.
18 August: The Sierra Leone government on Tuesday rejected an RUF demand for the release of their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh. RUF spokesman Eldred Collins told the BBC Monday that if Sankoh were not freed, the rebels would launch what he called "Operation Spare no Soul." Following their ouster from power in February, AFRC/RUF rebels launched a campaign of terror against the civilian population. "They (the rebels) are not in a position to dictate to the government about the terms of any kind of agreement or ceasefire," Presidential Spokesman Septimus Kaikai said. "These people cannot be trusted." Kaikai said the government had sufficient evidence to try Sankoh for atrocities committed against civilians by the RUF. "He will not be released until he goes through the due process of law in this country," Kaikai said. "We hope the business of this terrible war will be over by the end of this year." Kaikai renewed the government's call for the rebels to surrender: "We are still encouraging them to lay down their arms. We extended the amnesty deadline to August 8. Those who have surrendered benefit from a demobilisation and reinsertion programme."
At least 20 illicit diamond miners died Monday when their boat capsized on the Sewa River, Mokpendeh village in Bumpeh District, SLBS reported on Tuesday. Two people survived the incident. Local chiefs have reportedly moved to crack down on illicit mining in the area, and have reportedly imposed a ban on all mining activities until the rainy season ends in October.
Hundreds of students marched through Freetown on Tuesday in memory of 15 of their number killed by junta security forces during a pro-democracy rally a year ago. Similar marches also took place elsewhere in the country. The National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) called for the anniversary to be marked each year by a National Students Day. Students at the rally vowed to struggle for the defence and protection of democracy, regardless of the government in power.
United Nations Security Council Ambassador President Danilo Türk (Slovenia) issued an (informal) press statement Tuesday reaffirming the Security Council's determination to help the government of Sierra Leone restore peace and order, and welcoming the "rapid deployment" of the U.N. Military Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL). The statement urged "armed elements of the former junta and the rebels" to lay down their arms, and called on the Sierra Leone government to carry out its plan of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration. "The Security Council members urge all Sierra Leoneans to accelerate the process of national reconciliation and reconstruction," the statement concluded.
Japan will provide the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with $340,000 in emergency aid to assist Sierra Leonean refugees, Japanese foreign ministry officials said Tuesday.
Police in Freetown confirmed Tuesday that more than 100 civilians kidnapped by rebels drowned with their captors when the boat in which they were travelling struck a rock and sank. The victims were said to be mostly women and children. Survivors said they did not know where their abductors were taking them.
Rex Diamond Mining Corporation announced Tuesday that the the company had received written reconfirmation of its mining leases in Tongo Field and Zimmi from the Ministry of Mineral Resources. The company said it had been granted security clearance to resume mining operations in the two areas.
17 August: RUF commander Lieutenant Eldred Collins demanded Monday that the government release RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, and threatened that the rebels would launch what he called "Operation Spare no Soul" if Sankoh were not released within seven days. "We have continued to be provoked by the SLPP Sierra Leone People's Party government of keeping our leader in continued detention in Freetown against his will," Collins told the BBC. "And as you know, he signed a peace accord in Abidjan in 1996. He was in Nigeria in jail in Abuja. Now he has been brought to Freetown and then we are in full knowledge of what is being meted to our leader, Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, in Freetown...He is still in detention, he is under duress, as you know, and then we, as a revolutionary movement, we cannot stand that. We are demanding an immediate and unconditional release of our leader so that he can come to us, so that calculated terms can be worked out to bring lasting peace to our country, Sierra Leone. We are therefore asking the international community and all the guarantors to the Abidjan Peace Accord to prevail on President Kabbah to pay attention to our demand. We are giving the government on that side one week — seven days — cease-fire so that this problem can be solved peacefully." Collins said that the RUF would launch "Operation Spare no Soul" at the end of the one week ultimatum, directed "Not at Sierra Leonean souls. The Nigerians, the mercenaries, the British mercenaries, the Guinean mercenaries, the Nigerian mercenaries, and all those who are killing the souls of our Sierra Leonean people will be driven out of our land." Collins rejected a suggestion that the RUF had targeted mostly Sierra Leonean civilians. "Our movement is against killing or maiming any Sierra Leoneans," he said. "It is not our intention, we have never done that. That is the reason why we have been listening keenly to the BBC on the cheap propaganda from the government side saying that the RUF is maiming and this and that, which are all lies. But one day, the world will know the truth."
More than 100 civilians abducted by rebels in northern Sierra Leone drowned Friday in a boating accident, the Concord Times reported Monday. The rebels were taking the people, who included women and children, toward an unknown destination on the Mawolokon River when the boat foundered on rocks, a survivor said. The article was quoted by both the AFP and the BBC, with the BBC adding that there has been no independent confirmation of the report.
Sierra Leone will meet Morocco, Guinea, and either Togo or Sao Tome and Principe in the second round of the African Nations Cup. Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Eritrea advanced to the second round when their first round opponents, Gambia, Mauritania, and Ethiopia, withdrew from the competition. Complete matchups: Group 1: Cameroon, Ghana, Eritrea, winner of Mozambique - Botswana. Group 2: Morocco, Guinea, Sierra Leone, winner of Togo - Sao Tome and Principe. Group 3: Ivory Coast, Mali, Namibia, Congo (Brazzaville). 4. South Africa, Angola, Gabon, winner of Mauritius - Lesotho. Group 5: Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Burundi. Group 6: D.R. Congo (Zaire), Zambia, Kenya, winner of Madagascar - Swaziland. Group 7: Tunisia, Algeria, Liberia, Uganda.
15 August: Fierce fighting between AFRC/RUF rebels and ECOMOG troops was reported Saturday as the ECOMOG force, strengthened by reinforcements from Guinea, attempted to flush the rebels out of their stronghold at Kailahun town. "The Guinean troops have in the past two days captured the main highway leading into the town and are now shelling rebel positions in the town and pushing forward," a source close to ECOMOG said in Freetown. With Nigerian troops advancing from the west and the Guineans from the east, ECOMOG is hoping to corner the thousands of rebels reported to be in Kailahun, the source said.
Germany is sending 20 vehicles to help strengthen police operations in Sierra Leone, Interior Minister Charles Margai said on Friday. Earlier, President Kabbah said his government intended to create a police force that would be a credit to the nation. "The Sierra Leone police will assist in returning our communities to peace and prosperity by acting in a manner which will eventually remove the need for the deployment of military and paramilitary forces in our villages, communities and city streets," Kabbah said. "It will ensure the safety and security of all people and their property and respect human rights of all individuals."
14 August: ECOMOG has "chased the rebels out of" Yormandu, in Kono District, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Friday, quoting local brigade commander Colonel Rafiu Adeshina. Adeshina said the rebels suffered heavy casualties, but gave no figures. The AFP, quoting "defence sources in Bo" said 32 AFRC/RUF rebels were killed in fighting leading to ECOMOG's capture of Ngandorhun. Reuters quoted Kamajor commanders on Thursday who put the number at "at least" 60. AFP said ECOMOG, backed by the Kamajor militia, is continuing to conduct mopping-up operations in the area.
Soldiers from the former Sierra Leone Army have captured the rebel base of Kurubonla, close to the Guinean border, a senior ECOMOG spokesman said on Friday. "We have been trying to destroy this base for the past three months. Our warplanes have been bombing it, but the thick forest and the mountains around it had made the task difficult, so we sent in troops of the former Sierra Leone army who had surrendered and they captured the base after heavy fighting," the officer said. It was reportedly from Kurubonla that the rebels mounted their attack on Kabala on July 27. Villagers fleeing the area said one group of rebels had freed seven civilians to deliver a letter to the ECOMOG commander at Kabala. "The rebels said they wanted to surrender, as they are fed up with living in the bush," one villager said. ECOMOG sources said Friday they believed AFRC Chairman Lt.-Col. Johnny Paul Koroma was hiding in the hills near Kurubonla. ECOMOG Information Officer Colonel Jimoh Okunlola said ECOMOG would be intensifying its fight against rebels in the east, now that Guinean reinforcements have arrived. The Guinean troops pushed into Kailahun District from Guinea, repairing bridges damaged by the rebels as they advanced, he said.
The Niger government announced Friday it would send 500 troops to join ECOMOG in Sierra Leone for a renewable six month period.
In his First Progress Report on the United Nations Military Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) dated August 12 and released on Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that while the security situation in the country had improved somewhat since the end of June, with a sharp reduction in reports of rebel atrocities, "I remain deeply concerned about the plight of innocent civilians in the country, who may still be suffering from the depredations of the rebel forces or at risk from future attacks." Annan said that along with efforts being made by ECOMOG to restore law and order throughout the countryside, "I continue to believe that every effort should be made to end the threat posed by the rebels." He expressed his believe that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan adopted by the Sierra Leone government, to be implemented with the assistance of ECOMOG and UNOMSIL, "represents the best hope in the immediate future for consolidating the stability of the country and bolstering the authority of the Government throughout the territory of Sierra Leone." Annan renewed his call to donors to contribute to the Inter-Agency Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance to Sierra Leone, noting that to date only 5% of the $20.5 million requested from the international community had been received. "Humanitarian assistance continues to have a significant impact on the dire health and nutritional status of hundreds of thousands of war-affected Sierra Leoneans," Annan concluded. In the countryside, the report said, elements of the former junta are concentrated in Kono and Kailahun Districts, with smaller groups operating in the north and central part of the country. "Sometimes these groups have harassed ECOMOG units and the civilian population, perpetrating atrocities and destroying property, but on a much smaller scale than was the case in June." Annan added that while reports of rebel atrocities against civilians were down, rebel forces were still estimated to hold several thousand civilian hostages, including women and children, "used as porters, human shields and for forced sexual activity." The report highlighted civilian casualties and property damage caused by "the rebel campaign of terror and their military activities" since the juntas ouster in February, including 700 civilian deaths, 1,600 war-related injuries and 1,619 destroyed homes in a survey of nine chiefdoms; 600 destroyed homes in three other chiefdoms, and a "reliable" report that 663 bodies were buried in Koidu following fighting there in mid June. "A significant percentage of the dead were women and children. At the same time, the killing of some 44 of the 144 paramount chiefs during that period indicates a deliberate attempt to target them," the report concluded. Since February, at least 350,000 persons have been forced from their homes. Some 250,000 have become refugees in Liberia and Guinea, while the rest are internally displaced. Annan also pointed to reports of "unruly and criminal behaviour" by members of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) outside their home districts. "Some members of the Force have also been accused of human rights violations and criminal acts, including looting, confiscation of vehicles and civil disturbances, although allegations of summary killings and the torture of prisoners have dropped sharply since the end of May, apparently as a result of intervention by the Government and ECOMOG."
13 August: ECOMOG, backed by the Kamajor militia, has captured the diamond mining town of Ngandorhun in Kono District after ten days of heavy fighting, a senior ECOMOG officer said on Thursday. He described the fall of Ngandorhun as "a backbreaking blow" to the AFRC/RUF rebels who had been occupying it. "It was with the diamonds they mined in Ngandorhun that they bought large quantities of arms and ammunition from across the border in Liberia," he said. He declined to give casualty figures, but Kamajor commanders reaching Freetown told Reuters that at least 60 rebels had died in the fighting.
11 August: Justice Edmond Cowan continued a second day of summation Tuesday in the treason trial of 18 civilians accused of collaborating with the former military junta, and officials said verdicts could be handed down this week. "Most of the accused persons admitted in their statements to the police that they knew that the AFRC was an illegal regime," Cowan told the jury. If convicted the defendants, who include the AFRC's Under Secretary of State for Information Allieu Kamara and Central Bank Governor Christian Kargbo, could face the death penalty.
Five persons have died and 105 admitted to hospital in Freetown with cholera-like symptoms, a UNICEF official said on Tuesday. The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea. "Doctors at the Connaught Hospital have carried out tests in the past two days to confirm whether the disease is cholera but so far have not been able to confirm this," the official said. Aid workers confirmed that other health centres and clinics in Freetown were treating similar cases.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun airlifting returning Sierra Leonean refugees from Kissidougou, Guinea, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva Tuesday. More than 6,000 refugees have registered to be voluntarily returned to Sierra Leone under the repatriation programme which began on Sunday. "UNHCR will fly as many of these home as possible with the funds it has available," Janowski said. About half of those who have registered to return are professional workers, many of whom fled the country following last year's military coup. Some, however, have been refugees since 1993, Janowski added. 115 persons arrived on two aircraft on Sunday, on the first of ten flights per week the agency expects to use to return some 3,000 of the refugees to Sierra Leone. The 115 were met by members of the National Commission for Reconstruction, Resettlement and Reintegration. Refugees are also reported to be returning from Liberia, where the number of Sierra Leoneans in refugees camps has fallen to 39,000 from 58,000 a few months ago.
10 August: Dozens of AFRC/RUF rebels have surrendered to ECOMOG, Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai said on Sunday. He added that the surrendered rebels came from Kono District, Daru, from the Liberian border area in the Eastern Province, and from Kabala and surrounding villages. ECOMOG Information Officer Colonel Jimoh Okunlola said military intelligence reports from the front line indicated that more rebels were expected to surrender to ECOMOG in the near future. He said plans were now underway to transfer all surrendered rebels to Freetown. Okunlola appealed to the rebels to give themselves up, saying that despite the expiration of an August 8 deadline for amnesty, the way was still open for them to surrender. "Our objective is to bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone," he said. "Those who give up fighting in the bush will be treated under the terms of the Geneva Convention granting amnesty to war prisoners."
Six Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff reported missing following the July 27 attack at Kabala by RUF rebels have turned up safe, a CRS official said in Freetown on Monday. The official said the six had fled into the bush after fighting between the rebels and ECOMOG had disrupted a CRS food distribution. Four other staff members had managed to reach Guinea in an agency vehicle. "They were in the middle of the distribution when the rebels attacked," he said. "But all our staff are accounted for now."
Heavily armed ECOMOG soldiers continued to stop and search vehicles throughout Freetown on Monday. On Sunday, ECOMOG, the Special Security Division and police forces set up roadblocks, codenamed "Operation Undesirable", to search for arms, ammunition, and rebel suspects. ECOMOG troops were also deployed at the U.S. Embassy following the bombing of embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Friday.
President Kabbah, on a tour of the provinces on Saturday, said the war in Sierra Leone was nearly over. "Over 90 percent of the country is now liberated," he said. "Pockets of resistance remain only in remote parts of the north and Kailahun District where the rebels have had their base since 1991." Kabbah ruled out talks with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, now in detention in Sierra Leone. "How can you talk about peace with somebody who does not believe in peace, who cannot be trusted?" he asked.
8 August: Iran will close diplomatic missions in Freetown and five other countries in order to save hard currency, the Tehran Times reported on Saturday. "Hard currency in Iran is in a shambles and we have to do all we can to keep the national economy sound," the newspaper quoted a government official as saying. "For that, we have to cut off all expenses which are not worthwhile in terms of trade and politics." Missions in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Gabon, and northern Afghanistan will be closed, while Iran will reduce staff at its consulate in Trabzon, Turkey. The consulate in Hyderabad, India may also be closed in the near future. "We are going to close our diplomatic missions in countries which do not have very friendly relations with Iran and those which do not have significant economic cooperation with our country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi said on Wednesday.
Six members of the Catholic Mission at Kabala missing since the rebel attack on Kabala July 27 remain unaccounted for, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said Saturday. "We are still not sure whether they were abducted by the rebels or they dashed for safety somewhere else," a CRS official said. Those missing include the head of CRS in the north, Philip Kamara, and Florence Sesay, Emmanuel Kanu, F.K. Dumbuya, Samuel Bangura, and Amadu Bah. "We are keeping our ears to the ground to locate them," the official said.
Louisa Lomax Sankoh, described by Liberian Star Radio as the reputed wife of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, appealed to President Kabbah Saturday to allow Foday Sankoh to talk to his fighters to end the war. She told Star Radio hundreds of people, including foreigners, were being held hostage behind rebel lines. She said the fighters were on a rampage, killing and maiming civilians, because there was no direct control. Mrs. Sankoh denied claims that rebels were leaving Liberia to fight in Sierra Leone.
7 August: Sierra Leone's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Charge dAffaires, Foday Dabor, said in New York Friday that the Sierra Leonean government's desire to restore peace and security in the country appeared realisable, considering impressive pledges of aid by donor government at the U.N. Special Conference on Sierra Leone last week. ''The response from the international community during the special conference was very good. All were sympathetic, and I think, everybody wanted to do something to assist us to come out of the doldrum,'' Dabor said. The Conference designated a contact group with Britain as coordinator to liaise with donor countries and redeem their pledges. The assistance, Dabor said, was not just for rehabilitation and reconstruction, but also to assist the ECOMOG force in ridding the country of rebel activities. He added that the government expected the assistance to arrive soon, so that the security situation in the areas still under rebel control would be resolved once and for all. ''We have a lot of resources in our country, but presently the areas where they are located are under attack by the rebels,'' he said. Dabor said the country would need millions, if not billions, of dollars to restore facilities and services to their pre-coup levels.
RUF Commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie said Thursday that the RUF will ignore the ceasefire called for by RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh because, he said, it was made under duress. Bockarie told the BBC he wanted Sankoh to be released so that the RUF could discuss the Sierra Leone peace process. Liberian Star Radio reported Friday that Sankoh would face trial in Freetown shortly.
The Sierra Leone government has said the two week amnesty which expires on 8 August will be the final one, and that rebels who flee to neighbouring countries will be extradited, Liberian Star Radio reported on Thursday.
Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe has dismissed Liberian accusations that Sierra Leone is plotting to destabilise the Liberian government. Khobe said it is the Liberian government which intends to destabilise Sierra Leone. He said he had not come across any Liberian dissidents, and denied allegations that Liberian former militia leaders Roosevelt Johnson and Alhaji Kroma were in Sierra Leone. Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer earlier described the accusations as false. He expressed surprise at the allegations and called for an investigation into the matter.
Deputy Defence Minister and National Coordinator of the Civil Defence Forces Sam Hinga Norman said in Washington, D.C. on Friday that the war is Sierra Leone was over. "There are small pockets of resistance on the outskirts of the eastern parts of the country," he said. "But in due course they should be crushed." Norman said that AFRC/RUF rebel strongholds and their camps had been destroyed. "They have no battalions left to fight as an unit," he said. Norman said the new military force being formed to replace the Sierra Leone Army would "represent all four corners of the country."
6 August: Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings and Mauritanian President Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya have called on the international community to provide the necessary humanitarian and economic assistance to the people of Sierra Leone to ensure lasting peace. In a joint communiqué issued at the end of their three day meeting in Accra, the two presidents reaffirmed their countries' commitment to democracy and the maintenance of peace in Africa.
Sierra Leone's ambassador to Liberia, Wilfred Kanu, denied on Thursday a newspaper report which appeared Wednesday linking Sierra Leone to a plot to destabilise Liberia. According to Liberian Star Radio, the newspaper quoted a Liberian defence spokesman who said Sierra Leone and the People's Republic of China opposed the Liberian government. Kanu described the report as unfortunate, and said the allegation was a ploy to undermine relations between Sierra Leone and Liberia. He said Sierra Leone remains committed to a recent agreement between President Kabbah and Liberian President Charles Taylor not to let their territory be used to destablise each other's countries. Kanu urged a careful investigation of the matter, and said such serious allegations should be handled through diplomatic channels. On Monday, President Taylor alleged he had evidence that Guinean ECOMOG troops due to be transferred to Liberia were plotting to destabilise his government. ECOMOG denied the allegations.
Two patients at Connaught Hospital died Wednesday during a day-long strike by dozens of nurses over the reinstatement of allegedly unqualified student staff. Radio FM 98.1 quoted doctors as saying the patients died of neglect. Reacting to the protest, which included a march by hundreds of nurses, Deputy Health Minister Sidique Brima said "nurses should not go on strike over such a very, very trivial matter." Director-General of Medical Services Sheku Kamara, who is Chairman of the Board of the National Nursing School, said the student nurses, who had been dismissed by the hospital's principal, had worked at Connaught for over a year and had passed the introductory exams "with flying colours."
5 August: Guinea has handed over 77 suspected junta supporters to the ECOMOG force at the border town of Pamelap. Most of the 51 soldiers and 26 civilians had turned themselves over to the Guinean authorities after fleeing across the border after the junta was ousted by ECOMOG in February.
Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings has called for the resolution of conflicts in Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in order to pave the way for development and the integration of economies in Africa. "We cannot expect to integrate our economies if conflicts continue to take hold of our continent," Rawlings said at a dinner for Mauritanian President Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya Tuesday night. "We must commit ourselves to peace within our individual countries and peace among our countries. I earnestly call on all parties involved in these conflicts to let reason prevail and the love of their people guide their actions," he added. Rawlings said the fragile economies of most African countries called for closer integration to prevent marginalisation of the continent in the next century. President Taya also echoed Rawlings' call for a speedy resolution of conflicts in Africa.
Some 120,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea are in danger of an epidemic, Franz von Roenne of Germany's Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (Agency for Technical Cooperation) said in Eschborn, Germany on Wednesday. He said international aid was necessary to improve catastrophic health care in the hospitals, and to supply more food and medicines to the region. Roenne said that since February about 120,000 refugees had fled to Guinea to escape fighting in Sierra Leone. He said they were living in newly erected camps or in shelters that had been erected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last year, primarily for Liberian refugees. The camps were now overflowing, he added. United Nations estimates of the number of refugees having fled Sierra Leone since March — most of them to Guinea — stood at 237,000 in June, bringing the total to about 500,000. Some have cautioned that the figures may be somewhat inflated, due to some refugees having registered more than once.
4 August: At least 35 persons died over the weekend when a boat carrying more than 150 people from Conakry, Guinea overturned in stormy weather off Kasire, north of Freetown, boat owners said Tuesday. "We started experiencing problems about 15 nautical miles from Conakry and as we approached Kallay near Kasiri, the engine developed problems and a raging storm split the boat into two as it was drifting," said Alimamy Sankoh, one of the survivors. Officials of the Sierra Leone National Boat Workers Union said 35 bodies had been pulled out of the water by Monday. Rescuers were able to save 110 passengers, but had given up hope of finding any more survivors.
27 rebels have surrendered to ECOMOG in eastern Sierra Leone near the Liberian border, the BBC reported Tuesday. The rebels, along with more than 70 people they were holding captive, were taken to Kenema in trucks, the BBC said, adding that the surrender marks the first time AFRC/RUF fighters had given themselves up to ECOMOG since President Kabbah extended an amnesty until 8 August. Slightly different numbers were given by Brigadier-General Subhash Chand Joshi, leader of the United Nations Military Observer Mission (UNOMSIL) in Sierra Leone, who said that 39 rebels and 86 camp followers had turned themselves in to ECOMOG. He said it was the first time such a large number of rebels had surrendered to ECOMOG, adding that there had been previous rebel surrenders in Makeni and Kabala.
Some 30 civilians, 3 ECOMOG soldiers, and an unspecified number of AFRC/RUF rebels were killed in last week's fighting at Kabala, according to missionaries in the town. The report said around 70 houses were burned in a seven-hours clash. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed since the incident. UNOMSIL leader Brigadier-General Subhash Chand Joshi said Tuesday he had visited Kabala on Monday. He said he was unable to determine the number of casualties, but said the accounts of the destruction carried by the media had been exaggerated. He added that there had been looting after the fighting.
Youth miners uncovered a 100 carat diamond in Kono District this week which could be worth as much as $1 million, diamond appraisers in Freetown said on Tuesday. "It is a flawless, crystal-clear, octagon shape and must be ranging close to a million dollars in price," one diamond appraiser said. Diamond dealers were refusing to buy the stone because of the mining ban still in force in Kono.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners have begun relocating some 5,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in western Liberia, the UNHCR said in a statement issued Tuesday. The statement said the refugees were being transported from Alpha Refugee Camp in lower Lofa County to the Sinje Refugee Camp in Grand Cape Mount County in trucks supplied by the European Union and the UNHCR. The refugees, who had fled fighting in Sierra Leone, had settled in lower Lofa County where they had become involved in mining and logging. They agreed to relocate because of the lack of food, medicine, shelter, and sanitation after mining and logging operations were stopped due to the rainy season. The statement said 605 refugees, mainly malnourished children and pregnant women, had already been moved to Sinje. More than 4,000 others have registered to be relocated to the Sinje Refugee Camp, where they will access to food, medication, safe drinking water, and proper sanitation, the statement said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement Tuesday that it had distributed seeds and food aid to around 9,000 farm families, most of them persons who had returned from Liberia. The ICRC said the aim of the program was to assist residents and returnees to regain self-sufficiency. Each family will receive a three month food package to help them until the harvest.
A number of Liberian refugees scheduled to be returned to Liberia from Sierra Leone on Tuesday aboard the vessel Overbeck have been delayed because the number of refugees who had registered for repatriation was insufficient. Alexander Kalue, Executive Director of the Liberian Refugees, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission said the UNHCR had anticipated that 150 refugees would register. So far, only 58 had signed up for the trip.
3 August: The Sierra Leone government has instituted a requirement for exit permits for all citizens travelling abroad as a measure to check rebel activity, Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Administration Charles Margai announced on Monday. He cited the recent rebel attack at Kabala as evidence that the nation still faced a threat to its security. Margai said Sierra Leoneans would be required to obtain a police exit permit 72 hours before leaving the country. "The government has taken this decision to ensure security in the entire country," Margai told reporters. He added that the government would also reintroduce the issuance of identity cards and erect checkpoints at strategic areas in the near future.
Senegal and Sierra Leone have qualified for the second leg of the African Cup of Nations slated for the year 2000 in Zimbabwe following the withdrawal of their respective opponents, Gambia and Mauritania. Other first-leg preliminary match results: Botswana-Mozambique 0-0; Togo-Sao Tome and Principe 4-0; Mali-Cape Verde 3-0; Namibia-Malawi 1-0; Benin-Angola 2-1; Gabon-Equatorial Guinea 2-0; Lesotho-Mauritius - 1-1; Burundi-Tanzania 1-0; Kenya-Djibouti 3-0; Swaziland-Madagascar 1-2; Libya-Algeria 1-3; Niger-Liberia 2-1; Uganda-Rwanda 5-0. The match between Ethiopia and Eritrea was postponed because of their border conflict. Return matches will be played August 14-16.
2 August: The Italian Coast Guard said Sunday it had rescued 92 occupants of a refugee boat in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily. Most of the passengers were reported to be Sierra Leoneans and Moroccans. According to the authorities, the boat sprung a leak 45 miles off the island of Lampedusa.
1 August: ECOMOG Commander General Timothy Shelpidi has said that ECOMOG forces in Sierra Leone will be able to crush AFRC/RUF rebels as soon as promised support from the international community arrives. Speaking at the United Nations Special Conference on Sierra Leone, Shelpidi said ECOMOG needed more logistic support, troops, and an end to the resupply of rebels. He said he was confident that getting the required support would not take much longer, judging by pledges made by the international community at the conference. "The international community is very sympathetic, and they showed an understanding approach to the request made by both ECOMOG and the Sierra Leonean government and they made positive pledges to assist us as quickly as possible," he said. Shelpidi said flushing out the rebels from the remaining parts of Sierra Leone had taken longer than expected because the rebels are now operating from difficult terrain which has been their base since 1991. "The terrain is thickly forested and mountainous and because most members of the RUF come from those areas, they know the terrain very well. And right now they are resorting to guerrilla type of tactics. They have destroyed many bridges and created craters so that is slowing down the movement of ECOMOG," Shelpidi said. He expressed the hope that a recent mini-summit between the leaders of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia would end the supply of arms, ammunition, and other logistics to the rebels. At the conference, President Kabbah and Liberian President Charles Taylor pledged not to allow their territory to be used to destabilise each other's countries. Shelpidi claimed there was ample evidence that former NPFL fighters were fighting alongside AFRC/RUF rebels and providing them with supplies. "Once the rebels have no resupplies, certainly, they will have nothing to fight with, they will have no food and so will have to give up," he said. Shelpidi said that a military solution was possible, and that while a political solution was preferable, many Sierra Leoneans oppose negotiating with the rebels. Referring to RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, Shelpidi said any decision on what to do with him rested with the Sierra Leone government. ECOMOG's role was only to protect him from harm, he added. "If he gets on the street of any town in Sierra Leone, people will be struggling to to get an inch of his meat," he said.
Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe said Friday that rebels who attacked Friday on Monday had carried out widespread looting. Khobe told reporters that ECOMOG reinforcements had found a number of corpses in the town. He said ECOMOG was carrying out "mopping up operations in the area" but that civilians who had fled the fighting would not be allowed to return until the area was secure. "We want to ensure their safety for all time," he said.
A Catholic church in Kabala, newly restored after an earlier rebel attack, was badly damaged in the rebel attack on Monday, a Catholic priest was reported as saying.