31 October: Without an international diamond certification system in place, African nations run the risk of new wars fueled by alluvial "conflict diamonds," Ian Smillie of Partnership Africa Canada warned on Wednesday. Smille served on last year's United Nations Panel of Experts which investigated the link between the illicit diamond trade and arms smuggling in Sierra Leone. "There have been a series of intergovernmental meetings that NGOs (non-governmental organisations) have been attending over the past eighteen months to try and come up with an international system of certification that would check the movement of diamonds in countries where they are mined as well as in countries like Belgium or the US or Canada where they’re also sold and traded," Smillie told Radio France International. Several international organisations have expressed concern that the so-called Kimberly Process was in danger of stalling due to half-hearted support from diamond-processing nations in particular, while Western sources have told the Sierra Leone Web that the certification process in Sierra Leone, put in place last year following a U.N. embargo on Sierra Leonean diamonds, was not living up to expectations. Smillie noted that while some RUF combatants had given up their weapons, the rebel group had not relinquished control of Sierra Leone's diamond-producing areas, where illicit mining was continuing unabated. "Let’s say they’re digging more diamonds now because they’re not being harassed by anybody than they were digging during the war," he said. "And my question is, what are they doing with these diamonds? Is it just for personal wealth? Are they stockpiling weapons? What are their intentions for the future?"
30 October: Over 100 RUF ex-combatants disarmed Monday at Kamakwie in Sierra Leone's northern Sella Limba Chiefdom, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The rebel fighters handed over a variety of weapons to U.N. peacekeepers, including hand grenades, mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns, AK-47 rifles, machine guns, and multi-barrel grenade launchers. Sella Limba Chiefdom was the last chiefdom to disarm in Bombali District. The disarmament exercise was witnessed by UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande (pictured left) and other UNAMSIL officials, along with RUF 5th Brigade commander at Kambia, Colonel Bai Bureh (right). Meanwhile, CDF leaders and paramount chiefs in Pujehun assured UNAMSIL on Monday that they were prepared to disarm their combatants. Disarmament in Pujehun and Tonkolili Districts is scheduled to begin on Thursday. On October 27, a joint team from UNAMSIL and the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) visited Kailahun to identify a suitable site for the establishment of a demobilisation centre. According to UNAMSIL, over 200 RUF combatants who now form the majority of Kailahun residents attended the meeting. The RUF's NCDDR representative stressed that the disarmament process had the full support of RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay, the UNAMSIL statement said.
UNAMSIL has now deployed a battalion of Pakistani peacekeepers in Sierra Leone's eastern Kailahun District, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told Radio France International on Tuesday. "Kailahun District is one of the last remaining areas controlled by the RUF," she said. "Our peacekeepers have deployed now in virtually every district in Sierra Leone, and it’s all with an aim of assisting the government and the people of Sierra Leone to achieve stability and security across the country." In a press briefing in Freetown, Novicki told journalists that 2,763 combatants had disarmed so far in Bombali District, including 2,318 RUF and 445 CDF. In Bo District, she said, 2801 CDF and four RUF combatants had handed in their weapons to U.N. peacekeepers. Novicki said the total disarmament figure in the country since January 1 stood at 25,864, including 3,440 child ex-combatants. The number included 9,361 RUF, 16,010 CDF, 263 AFRC and 16 others, she said.
29 October: Gibril Massaquoi said Monday that he remains spokesman for the RUF despite a flareup of differences last week with RUF interim leader Issa Sesay which reportedly led to his being removed from his position and expelled from Makeni. "There was really some misunderstanding between some men of General Issa and some other soldiers which I went to Tongo to try to investigate," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "I was misinterpreted, and that issue has been resolved since last week." According to BBC Freetown correspondent Lansana Fofana, Massaquoi was dismissed for refusing orders from Sesay. "The story is that he wanted to go to Tongo Field in the east to see his boys who were mining for him, and Issa said he could communicate with them through a VHF radio and not venture to go there himself," Fofana said, quoting local press accounts. "But the story is he flouted that authority, went there, and on his arrival there was an exchange of gunfire that created some amount of panic in the town. And Issa ordered RUF people to arrest him once he showed up in the north again. And my information is that he was arrested in Magburaka, brought to Makeni and eventually sent to Freetown." But Massaquoi insisted that he was in Freetown working on transforming the RUF into a political party, and he said he would return to Makeni in three days time. "You know I’m to head the National Youth Wing (of the RUF)," he said. "We are trying to prepare our offices and do other documentations in terms of blueprinting, printing our constitution and manifesto, and all the rest of it." He denied allegations he was engaged in illicit diamond mining. "I’m not in charge of mining," he said. "I am in charge of a different branch of dissemination of information and other issues. I am not in charge of minerals or finances...I do not have any single person mining for me." Massaquoi acknowledged that he and Issa Sesay had not always seen eye to eye. "Indeed, from time to time there has been some differences between him and myself," he said. "But at any given point it has been resolved...(We are) not actually taking arms to confront one another, not at all."
A United Nations Panel of Experts has recommended additional sanctions against Liberia for what it said was Liberia's continuing relationship with Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and for its role in the illicit diamonds-for-arms trade in the sub-region. The panel's report, released on Monday, comes in advance of Security Council deliberations on whether to lift or extend sanctions on Liberia, or to impose additional ones. In March, the Security Council voted to re-impose and broaden an existing arms embargo against the Liberian government, which took effect immediately, and imposed a ban on diamonds sales and restrictions on travel by senior Liberian officials which took effect in May after Liberia failed to convince the Council that it had taken steps to comply with the U.N. demands. In its 135-page "name and shame" report, the Panel recommended that the Council maintain the diamond ban, and also place an embargo on the export of Liberian round logs. It also called for placing revenues from Liberia's shipping register in escrow after finding that the country's Commissioner of Maritime Affairs had illegally directed payments totaling some $925,000 to persons with ties to known arms traffickers. "For as long as there is an arms embargo on Liberia, the funds from the registry will need to be protected from bureau misuse," the panel said. The panel recommended, however, that a U.N.-ordered grounding all Liberian-registered aircraft be lifted after finding that the registry had been cleansed of shadowy aircraft. But increased sanctions on Liberia may be unlikely, given opposition by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In his October 11 report to the Security Council, Annan insisted that sanctions on timber could hurt tens of thousands of ordinary Liberians, and deprive the government of a substantial part of its tax revenues, making it more difficult to import goods or pay government workers. The Panel of Experts found that the flow of illicit diamonds from Sierra Leone through Liberia had all but stopped, but it said RUF rebels had found alternate routes to smuggle diamonds out of the country. Nearly every nation in the sub-region was guilty of sanctions-busting, the panel said.
Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said Monday that Liberia had fulfilled all conditions set out by the United Nations Security Council for the lifting of sanctions, while denying that his government had done anything to deserve sanctions in the first place. The Security Council imposed a range of sanctions on Liberia earlier this year for its alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. In an interview with the Voice of America, Captan pointed to progress in the Sierra Leone peace process. "With all of those developments, and the fact that the Liberian government has engaged in a series of consultations with the Mano River Union member countries Guinea and Sierra Leone to build a sustainable base for peace and security, we do believe that the principal objectives of the Security Council have been met," he said, adding: "I think that the resolution was clear, that there were specific conditions that were to be met, and upon meeting those conditions that they would lift the sanctions." The foreign minister lashed out at his country's critics, accusing them of pursuing "internal political objectives by using the U.N. Security Council to achieve those objectives," and he claimed Liberia's motives had been misunderstood. "I believe that most people have misunderstood President Taylor," he said. "Most people have misunderstood the interests of the Liberian government. And I’ll tell you quite frankly — the interests of the Liberian government over the years has been misunderstood. It’s a question of national security. And the whole question of the fact that many demobilised combatants after a war, when they crossed our borders and started to reside in neighbouring countries, imposed a threat to our national security. And I guess our response to those issues has led to the type of speculations that people have engaged in. And this is quite unfortunate, because I believe that addressing the national security concerns and interests of our three countries in the Mano River Union is really the true path to peace."
24,079 ex-combatants have handed in their weapons nationwide since the disarmament process resumed in mid-May, NCDDR Executive Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai told the Sierra Leone Web on Monday. The number, he said, includes 8,518 RUF, 15,100 CDF and 461 others. "This week is very critical, as the disarmament process should kick off in the Western Area, and the Tonkolili and Pujehun Districts from 1 November," Kai-Kai said. "All arrangements are being firmed up by UNAMSIL and NCDDR (the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) in conjunction with the RUF and CDF commanders." Kai-Kai said that immediately after the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord, there were an estimated 45,000 combatants in Sierra Leone. 19,051 disarmed and demobilised prior to May 2000, when the peace process collapsed and resulted in a year-long "lull" in disarmament. "When we made a breakthrough in the process on 15 May 2001, the combatant groups gave NCDDR and UNAMSIL the estimated total figure of 25,000 (i.e., RUF 10,000 and CDF 15,000) to be disarmed," he said. "We added another 3,000 for other groups, including the SLAs (Sierra Leone Army soldiers) to be formally discharged. So our target in this phase — we call in Phase III — stands at 28,000 to be disarmed and demobilised. This is an estimate based on information from the respective High Commands." Kai-Kai said there were indications that there were already indications that this number would be exceeded, but added that it was still too early to tell by how much. One source close to the CDF told the Sierra Leone Web that the militia consisted of some 99,200 combatants. Kai-Kai acknowledged he had heard the larger number, but played down its significance. "The CDF officials have also been quick to point out that the 99,000 includes a large number of irregulars and civilians who are not under arms," he said. "The current disarmament process is perhaps the best way of getting to the bottom of the issue. We are observing it very closely."
26 October: 95 children formerly associated with fighting forces in Sierra Leone were reunified with their families Thursday in a ceremony at Wusum Stadium in Makeni. The children, three of whom were girls, were brought to Makeni from CARITAS-Makeni's interim care centre in Lungi. Many had not seen their families for three years. According to a UNAMSIL statement, an additional 130 children are expected to be reunified with their families next week.
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2300 / 2400. [£] 2829 / 3251. Commercial Bank: [$] 2250 / 2450. [£] 3100 / 3400. Frandia: [$] 2320 / 2450 [£] 2950 / 3150. Continental: [$] 2300 / 2450 [£] 3100 / 3400. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2350 / 2400 [£] 3150 / 3400.
25 October: An advance group of 170 Pakistani peacekeepers deployed Thursday in Sierra Leone's eastern Kailahun District, a stronghold of the RUF, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The main body of the more than 800-man battalion, PAKBATT-2, is expected to be airlifted to the district from October 28-31. This latest deployment will mean that UNAMSIL's Sector 5, which comprises Kono and Kailahun Districts, will be under the control of PAKBATT-2, the statement said.
24 October: The National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR), a co-sponsor of next month's National Consultative Conference on Democracy and Peace in Sierra Leone, has called for input from Sierra Leoneans living abroad, as well as participation by a wide range of groups within Sierra Leone. In a statement circulated issued on Wednesday, the NCDHR invited Sierra Leoneans living in the diaspora to submit suggestions "on any aspect of the proposed conference, which might improve its conduct and contribute to the process of peace and development" in their country. The conference is being organised by the NCDHR in collaboration with the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace, the Peace and Development Initiative, the Civil Society Movement, the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, the National Forum for Women, and the Independent Youth Forum.
In a new report issued on Wednesday, the International Crisis Group warned that the peace process in Sierra Leone could still be in jeopardy in the runup to next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, and it called on the international community to press for a robust "security first" policy in the country well ahead of the polls. The ICG called the RUF's commitment to peace "fragile and dependent on international pressure" by the international community against the rebel group and the Liberian government by Britain, Guinea, the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), and the United Nations. "'Security First' requires that UNAMSIL demand a far more stringent disarmament and demobilisation process and adopt a firmer approach in its negotiations with the RUF," the group said. The ICG also called for the reform of other "possible spoilers in the peace process," including the CDF and the Sierra Leone Army, which it warned was "still a potential source of instability." And the ICG warned that a lack of funding could threaten the Disarmament, Demobilistion and Reintegration process, and called for an improved public information effort to explain the proposed Special Court "to prevent fears of indictment from disrupting the peace process." The ICG also called for the elections to be run by the United Nations, and "not the Sierra Leone government" so that they would be perceived to be free and fair. "In short, Sierra Leone's history of stalled or collapsed peace processes may yet repeat itself if the crucial next seven months are not managed with care," the group concluded, adding: "The international community should proceed with more caution than optimism."
23 October: U.S. Ambassador Peter Russell Chaveas met with rebel leaders in Makeni Tuesday for what RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley described as "very fruitful discussions" on a range of issues, including the transformation of the rebel movement into a political party, the proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone, and "other issues affecting the peace process." Golley, who spoke to the Sierra Leone Web by satellite telephone from Makeni, said disarmament was continuing in Bombali District, with just under 1,600 RUF combatants having handed over their weapons to United Nations peacekeepers. He added that the RUF Military High Command was continuing with discussions Tuesday evening to work out its positions with respect to next month's National Consultative Conference.
24,127 combatants, including 3,307 children, have disarmed in Sierra Leone since the first of the year, UNAMSIL said on Tuesday. The numbers include 8,311 RUF, 14,816 CDF, 262 AFRC, 214 ex-SLA and 16 others. In the latest disarmament exercise which began on September 24, 1,589 RUF and 339 CDF combatants have disarmed in Bombali District and 2,029 CDF and one RUF have given up their weapons in Bo District.
The National Recovery Committee, a body established to lead the post-conflict recovery effort and to guide the restoration of government authority, has set November 2 for a donors meeting aimed at mobilising funds for the rehabilitation of Kono District, which has suffered massive devastation as a result of years of civil war. According to a UNAMSIL statement, key government ministries, United Nations agencies, multilateral development institutions and non-governmental organisations are expected to discuss a report on the immediate recovery needs of the district. The report was prepared following a three-day needs assessment mission last month by representatives of the Sierra Leone government, non-governmental organisations, U.N. agencies, and UNAMSIL.
22 October: CDF ex-combatants and their senior commanders handed over more than 50 weapons to U.N. peacekeepers on Saturday in a symbolic disarmament exercise at Moyamba attended by senior United Nations officials, UNAMSIL said on Monday. At Gerihun, more than 80 combatants disarmed and were later transported to the Gondema demobilisation camp outside of Bo.
21 October: Friday's helicopter crash in eastern Sierra Leone has temporarily left the government without an operating helicopter gunship, the pilot said on Sunday. In April 1999, three months after a bloody rebel attack on Freetown, Sierra Leone purchased two rebuilt Russian-made Mi-24V helicopters from Ukraine, which have been widely credited with helping to shift the momentum in the country's decade-long civil war back to the government side. "The other (gunship) has auxiliary power unit problems and needs a replacement," pilot Cassie Nels told the Sierra Leone Web. "That should be in place very soon — we hope within two to three weeks." He added that Sierra Leone owned a third Mi-24 in a hanger at Lungi which "was written off three or four years ago" and had subsequently been stripped of parts. "We will most probably send her to the Ukraine for a complete overhaul," he said.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has called for economic aid to countries such as Sierra Leone, Yemen and Azerbaijan, the Associated Press reported. The 56-member OIC ended a four-day meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. "Building economic cooperation between member countries is essential, both to enhance the private sector and for economic development," said Abdul Wahid Belkeziz, the OIC conference secretary-general. Member states also agreed to strengthen ties between small businesses in the Islamic world and to set up a mechanism to fund development projects.
Dr. James S.A. Funna, former Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and Minister of Finance, died Saturday, October 20 at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. after a brief illness. Funna was born in Petifu, Yonibana Chiefdom, and educated at Magburaka Boys' Secondary School and the Prince of Wales Secondary School. He received his BA degree in Economics from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, his MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts, and his Ph.D in Economics from Trinity College at Oxford University. His career included positions at Sierra Leone's National Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the National Authorising Office. He served as Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and Executive Director at the World Bank, and was Minister of Finance for President Momoh and then in the NPRC regime. He also served as an economic advisor to President Kabbah. He was Director of Economic and Legal Advisory Services at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London from 1993 to 1995.
20 October: Officials in the Eastern Provincial capital of Kenema have pledged to assist the RUF in obtaining party offices in the town, a necessary step before the rebel movement can register as a political party, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web. Golley, accompanied by UNAMSIL officials and RUF commanders Mike Lamin and Kaisuku Kai-Samba, flew to Kenema Saturday, for discussions with the Minister of State for the Eastern Province, Sahr Randolph Fillie-Faboe, and other government officials and traditional leaders. "We had a good series of meetings, and hopefully this would result in moves being made to locate a property that would complete the (National Electoral Commission) requirements for the (party registration) certificate," Golley said. "They have made a commitment, particularly the House of Chiefs, that they’re going to assist us in locating a premises, and if there are any stumbling blocks in relation to us acquiring any available properties, they’re going to to whatever they can to iron out these problems." The rebel group currently has offices in Freetown and in the provincial headquarters towns of Makeni and Bo, but has complained of difficulties in obtaining an office in the government-held town of Kenema.
422 RUF ex-combatants disarmed on Friday, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web by telephone from Freetown early on Saturday. In order to ease crowding at the demobilisation centre in Makeni, he said, a fast-track system has been devised "where ex-combatants disarm and then are given a certificate" to return later and go through the demobilisation process.
The crash Friday of Sierra Leone's Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship occurred during a routine mission from Kenema to Sulima, in Soro-Gbema Chiefdom, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Tom Carew told reporters on Saturday. "Shortly after taking off, about 7:15 a.m., the aircraft developed mechanical difficulties which resulted in an emergency landing as the pilot was returning to Kenema," Carew said. "There were six people aboard the helicopter, who all managed to escape. However, one passenger was seriously injured and sadly subsequently died." A British officer, Major Vanessa Lang, who was Media Operations Officer for the International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT), died from her injuries. Brigadier-General Nick Parker, the commander of British forces in Sierra Leone, stressed that the crash was an accident. "It is terrible when these incidents occur, and every one of us here would wish to be able to turn the clock back. But we cannot," he said. "All of our us are soldiers, and we are deployed here to play our part in rebuilding Sierra Leone. And we understand that the conditions that exist here can be dangerous. This was an accident. There was no enemy involvement. Indeed, I would like to pay particular tribute to the pilot of the aircraft who by his skill has managed to save five lives."
19 October: Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali joined President Kabbah Thursday to launch a synchronized regional effort aimed at administering polio vaccinations to 80 million children in 16 African countries by the end of the month. As the oral vaccines were given to children in the Lungi Peninsula town of Mahera, the three presidents signed a declaration renewing their commitment to eradicating the disease by the year 2005, in line with the goals of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which is underwritten by U.N. agencies and Rotary International. The campaign will be conducted in Sierra Leone from October 20-22, and throughout the region from October 20-26. "Partnership has been key to the success of the polio eradication initiative in the sub-region," Kabbah said in his welcoming remarks. "This partnership must be strengthened. It must be strengthened with all the resources we can muster, at all levels — in particular at the international level, because the struggle against the deadly but preventable childhood diseases such as polio and measles is far from over." Last year's campaign resulted in the vaccination of 76 million children, and dramatically reduced transmission of the virus in the region. So far this year only 20 cases of the disease have been reported, down from 1,199 cases in 1999, the U.N. said in a statement.
A helicopter crash in eastern Sierra Leone early Friday has claimed the life of a British army press officer, news services reported. Major Vanessa Lang, the media operations officer for the International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT) was a aboard the Sierra Leone Army's Mi-24 helicopter Hind gunship when it crashed in a swamp at Bandama, one kilometre south of Kenema, during what a military spokesperson described as a routine reconnaissance mission. "We do not know why the accident happened," Major Lorna Swinyard said in Freetown. She added that there would be an investigation into the cause of the crash. In an email, the helicopter's pilot said he had "a single engine cut which probably blew up and damaged the second engine" resulting in double engine failure. "The engines caught fire and the helo burnt out," Cassie Nels said. He told the Sierra Leone Web that the crew and the other two passengers escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Major Lang, 40, joined the British army in 1979. She was the widow of an army officer and had no children. Her career included service at several locations in the U.K. and tours of duty in Northern Ireland and Cyprus.
An advance party of 185 Nepali peacekeepers arrived in Freetown on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for the deployment of the Nepali battalion which, along with its equipment, is due to reach Sierra Leone during the second week of November, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The deployment of more than 800 Nepali troops should bring UNAMSIL to its authorised strength of 17,500 military personnel, including 260 military observers.
Nearly 300 CDF combatants disarmed Tuesday and Wednesday at Petifu Malal in Port Loko District, UNAMSIL said on Friday. The combatants handed about 100 weapons over to UNAMSIL military observers, including AK-47 rifles, SLRs, G3 machine guns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The disarmed combatants were transported to the Lunsar demobilisation centre.
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2300 / 2400. [£] 2789 / 3207. Commercial Bank: [$] 2000 / 2400. [£] 2900 / 3200. Frandia: [$] 2300 / 2400 [£] 2950 / 3150. Continental: [$] 2300 / 2400 [£] 3100 / 3350. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2350 / 2500 [£] 3200 / 3400.
18 October: A total of approximately 208 RUF ex-combatants disarmed in Makeni on Wednesday, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web late Thursday. Meanwhile, former RUF cabinet minister Mike Lamin (pictured left), who was released from detention last month, has said that the rebels were committed to disarming. "We hope to disarm about 250 to 300 combatants a day to continue the momentum, so that RUF will keep to the time scheduled," Lamin said in a Voice of America programme broadcast late on Wednesday. "We want to reassure you that we will continue the process and we are committed to the peace process. "
17 October: 399 RUF ex-combatants disarmed in Makeni between Monday and noon on Wednesday, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web by telephone from Freetown. "I left Makeni at about twelve midday today, and there were over 100 that were waiting to be disarmed when I left," he said. Golley noted that the demobilisation camp at the Rokel Tobacco Leaf compound, was fast nearing its capacity. "The camp appears to be getting full, and I believe that by close of business today that the camp will be full," he said. "We’re all trying at the moment to devise a scheme that would keep the flow of disarmament and not slow the process." Golley said he met with RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay and other members of the RUF leadership in Makeni to discuss the future of the disarmament process in accordance with the agreement reached at last Thursday's Tripartite Talks in Freetown. "I found a real commitment to carry on the process as speedily as possible," he said.
President Kabbah was among ten African heads of state who met in Dakar on Wednesday to discuss ways to combat terrorism. The draft document which resulted from the meeting, the "Dakar Declaration Against Terrorism," called for a free exchange of information with countries outside Africa, and for African nations to prevent suspected terrorist groups from making, transporting, or storing arms and equipment, the Reuters news agency reported. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that the OAU (soon to be the African Union) would build on the Dakar conference. "We are expecting there to be an OAU extraordinary summit that will take over where this meeting stops," he said. The OAU adopted an anti-terrorist pact in 1999, but to date only three countries have ratified it, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade was quoted as saying.
16 October: More than 200 RUF combatants, including 27 women and 16 children, turned over their weapons to U.N. military observers Tuesday at the Makeni Town Hall, UNAMSIL said in a statement. BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana put the number at over 250. "You had adult people, you had young girls, you had teenage girls: lots and lots of people," he said. "They were coming from all directions and surrendering their weapons at the Makeni Town Hall. It was a very colourful ceremony." Fofana said that some of the children appeared to be traumatised. "They looked downcast — very, very troubled," he said. "Some of them haven’t made contact with their families for months and months, or even years. And these kids were very excited to join their families, although you had some who were very hesitant about going back to normal communities. In fact some of them came from other parts of the country and they are here in the north. They are not sure what their future is and where they will be going to." Present for Tuesday's disarmament exercise were Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General; UNAMSIL force commander General Daniel Opande, Chief Military Observer Major-General Syed Athar Ali, NCDDR Executive-Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai, and senior RUF officials, including interim leader General Issa Sesay, Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley, and former cabinet ministers Pallo Bangura and Mike Lamin.
U.S. President George W. Bush has awarded former Ambassador to Sierra Leone Joseph Melrose the Presidential Rank Award as one of America's top 65 federal senior executives, a State Department source told the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday. Melrose, a career diplomat, served in Freetown from 1998 until last month. "This is a tremendous honour, and well-deserved," the source said. Meanwhile Melrose's successor, Ambassador Peter Russell Chaveas, presented his credentials to President Kabbah on Friday.
President Kabbah is expected to join other African leaders Wednesday in Dakar on Wednesday for discussions on how to tackle the problem of international terrorism, the Reuters news agency reported. The conference was called by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to promote his African "Pact Against Terrorism" which Senegal's parliament ratified last week. Also expected are the presidents of Cape Verde, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Nigeria and Uganda, Reuters said. Vice presidents and heads of government from a dozen other countries are also expected to attend.
More than 70 Sierra Leone Police officers deployed Monday in the city of Koidu, in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District, UNAMSIL said on Tuesday. Ultimately, about 180 police are expected to be stationed in Kono. According to the PANA news agency, the deployment was led by Senior Assistant Commissioner Francis Munu, and included members of the Special Security Division.
Tens of thousands of health workers expect to vaccinate some 80 million children in 16 West African countries against polio this month, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Rotary International. The programme will be launched on October 19 in Lungi, Sierra Leone in a ceremony which will include the presidents of Sierra Leone and Mali. National Immunization Days will then be held in Sierra Leone from October 20-22, and across West Africa, including border areas and refugee and nomadic camps, from October 22-26. The campaign is part of a global effort to eradicate the disease by the year 2005.
Unity Now has become the latest Sierra Leonean newspaper to launch an internet edition, with unveiling of its new website, http://www.unity-now.com.
15 October: Disarmament got underway early Monday morning in the RUF headquarters town of Makeni, with 102 combatants turning in their weapons by the afternoon, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web by telephone from Freetown. He added that the number was expected to double on Tuesday. Golley said he would accompany the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the UNAMSIL force commander to Makeni on Tuesday to oversee the process. "Things have been going very well," he said. "I’m very happy with the turnout. The hope is that we would continue the process and complete disarmament in Makeni by the target date, which is the 31st of this month." In a separate interview with the BBC, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said more of the estimated 1,500 combatants in Bombali District had originally been expected to disarm on Monday. "Because the SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) and the force commander were not around, we decided to call it off and assiduously work toward that again tomorrow when they are present," he said. Massaquoi said that he expected to move from Makeni to Freetown, where the RUF took possession of its new offices on Lightfoot Boston Street last week, "when I feel the atmosphere is very conducive for me to be there." "You know some time back I had a lot of problems with some government officials," he said. "But I’ve been there quite recently; I spent some time there. I feel that things are neutralizing, but one will have to watch in front and at the back as well before you take such a venture." Massaquoi dismissed a suggestion that he was worried about his personal security. "After all, I have been in the struggle, one would expect that either you live or you die on behalf of this nation," he said. "Not that I’m afraid of my life, but I want things to be done straight...I think some Sierra Leoneans do also see that people like Gibril Massaquoi will have to live to make sure that this peace process goes through, because I have been doing my level best to make sure it is on track and that it will proceed in that vein."
14 October: Disarmament has resumed in the rebel-held Bombali District, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley said on Sunday. "To date about 55 combatants have disarmed in Batkanu, Kamabai and also in Binkolo," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "The process will continue tomorrow. We expect to have larger numbers coming tomorrow in these areas, as well as in Makeni town itself." Disarmament in Bombali District stalled in September, but Golley said some rebel combatants from Makeni had actually disarmed earlier in the nearby Port Loko District. "379 combatants left Makeni and disarmed in Lunsar, so for all intents and purposes 379 additional ex-combatants have disarmed in Makeni since the start of the process some months ago," he said.
Thursday's Tripartite Meeting in Freetown involving the government, the RUF and UNAMSIL marked the beginning of the end of the disarmament process, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa (pictured right) told Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis in an interview broadcast on Sunday. "This really has pushed the process very much more to the end," Berewa said. "Let me call it a wrap-up meeting. I would hope it’s going to be that. There was no issue left which we did not deal with, and exhaustively." Gibril Massaquoi (left), the spokesman for the RUF, said that problems which had led last month to the rebel group suspending disarmament in Bombali District had now been ironed out. "Disarmament is going on as I speak to you now," he said. "We have disarmed a total of 379 of our combatants as of the 26th September. And even this morning disarmament is going on at Kamabai, and we have released two ECOMOG tanks on the 6th of October which we agreed to release, and that we would be disarming full-fledged in the Bombali District starting the 14th of this month, starting this Sunday." Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande, the commander of the UNAMSIL force, also expressed optimism that the disarmament process could now be accelerated. "The disarmament in Bombali will definitely pick up in a much more energetic manner as a result of today’s meeting, and recommitment by the parties to the conflict that they will disarm," he said. "And also, as soon as the DDR camp is ready to accept more combatants, we should have no problem."
A Sierra Leone Army spokesman announced that the army will begin conducting patrols along the Sierra Leone - Liberia border, in an effort to prevent armed dissident groups from launching cross border attacks, Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis reported on Sunday. The announcement follows an agreement by ministers of the Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to mount joint military patrols along their common borders.
13 October: A Liberian government spokesman has again denied government support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and blasted United Nations sanctions on the country. "They've put sanctions on us because they don't like us ... the accusation is a big lie," Information Minister Reginald Goodridge told the Associated Press. Goodridge's comments followed an October 5 report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan which found that additional sanctions would likely harm ordinary Liberians and damage the country's already battered economy.
12 October: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize in equal portions to the United Nations and to its secretary-general, Kofi Annan for what it called "their work for a better organised and more peaceful world." The Committee lauded the U.N. for being "at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world, and of the international mobilization aimed at meeting the world's economic, social and environmental challenges." The world's largest United Nations peacekeeping operation, UNAMSIL, is deployed in Sierra Leone, working to help the country recover from a decade of civil war. The Committee praised Annan for upholding the U.N.'s traditional roles in peace and security while emphasising its obligations with regards to human rights. "He has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the U.N.'s modest resources. In an organization that can hardly become more than its members permit, he has made clear that sovereignty can not be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations," the Committee said.
Sierra Leone's disarmament process, which stalled last month, will resume on Saturday, according to the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji (pictured right), who chaired Thursday's Tripartite Talks in Freetown. Adeniji told the BBC that concerns raised by the RUF had been addressed. These included concerns over local arrangements for the surrender of weapons and security guarantees for RUF supporters, the BBC said. Meanwhile, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley (left) told the Sierra Leone Web that his delegation to the talks had raised the issue of the RUF's transformation into a political party, and asked the government to assist them in obtaining an office in Kenema. Political parties are required to secure offices in Freetown and in the provincial capitals of Bo, Makeni and Kenema before they can be issued a certificate of registration. Government representatives "promised to assist in looking for an providing an office in Kenema," Golley said. Keys to the RUF's office at 15 Lightfoot Boston Street in central Freetown "were handed over to (former RUF spokesman) Eldred Collins the day before yesterday," Golley added. The RUF delegation also urged the government to expedite the release of the remaining RUF detainees, he said. The government delegation reportedly said it would continue to review its position in light of developments in the peace process. Imprisoned RUF leader Foday Sankoh was not mentioned by name, Golley said.
The Sierra Leone Police are due to deploy next week in the rebel-held eastern Kono District, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told reporters on Friday. She added that that UNAMSIL engineers were working to rehabilitate the Masingbi - Kono highway, which has fallen into serious disrepair following a decade of civil war. According to Novicki, 37 RUF combatants disarmed in Bombali District on Thursday, and 188 CDF turned in their weapons in Bo District. "The total disarmament for Bombali District since 24 September is 61 RUF and in Bo District 1,254 CDF," she said.
The National Committee on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) began paying reinsertion benefits Wednesday in five locations around the country. An estimated 42,000 ex-combatants nationwide will receive the 300,000 leone reinsertion package in phases, the NCDDR said on Friday. The reinsertion benefits replace the original Transitional Safety Net Allowance (TSA), which was suspended after hostilities resumed in May 2000. Ex-combatants who received full TSA benefits are not eligible for the reinsertion package, the agency said. Apart from the cash payment, many ex-combatants have gone through skills training programmes underwritten by the NCDDR. Female ex-combatants, the wives of ex-combatants and disabled former fighters have also been offered micro-credit programmes.
Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, who is also the National Coordinator of the pro-government Civil Defence Force (CDF), denied on Friday reports of disturbances by CDF militiamen in Bo District. "That is a complaint that has been going out, but whenever I go on the ground I find differently," Norman told the BBC. "I am saying that they have not been causing any problem, and that if there is any problem alluded to them, (it) is that their case has not been probably looked into very well and addressed as it should be." Norman rejected a suggestion that combatants might not understand what benefits were due them when they handed over their weapons as part of the disarmament programme. "The combatants on the ground...ought to (understand), because we sensitised them, and then finally when it happens outside of what they have been sensitised of, then of course they are always angry about that change of situation," he said. Asked whether he regarded the RUF as "enemies," Norman responded cautiously. "Well you see it is very difficult to synchronize them to call them an enemy," he said. "We are all Sierra Leoneans. They may be having their own intention and we having our own. And if one’s intention is at variance with the people then you become maybe an enemy to the people. But I will rather call them the other side, or maybe the RUF, rather than to call them enemies. After all, we are trying to resolve this issue. But as brothers we have to meet again in the same home."
Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2200 / 2300. [£] 2769 / 3183. Commercial Bank: [$] 2000 / 2300. [£] 2900 / 3200. Frandia: [$] 2250 / 2350 [£] N.A. / 3150. Continental: [$] 2300 / 2390 [£] 3000 / 3300. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2300 / 2350 [£] N.A. / N.A.
11 October: Representatives of the Sierra Leone government and the RUF met in Freetown on Thursday, where they reaffirmed their commitment to the disarmament process and agreed to implement decisions taken at the monthly meetings of the Joint Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. The two sides, which met under UNAMSIL auspices at the Mammy Yoko Hotel, agreed that their commanders would disarm along with the combatants they lead in their respective districts, and that previously-established criteria for group disarmament would be applied uniformly. In a communiqué issued following the talks, government and rebel delegations said they reviewed progress in the disarmament process, and committed to the completion of disarmament in Koinadugu and Moyamba Districts by October 22, and in Bo and Bombali Districts by the end of the month. The two sides also agreed to conduct disarmament exercises in the Western Area between November 1st and 7th, in Tonkolili and Pujehun Districts from November 1st to 14th, and in Kenema and Kailahun Districts between November 15th and 30th. The government agreed to launch an effort to collect those weapons not covered under the DDR programme, primarily shotguns, with the assistance of U.N. peacekeepers.
Further sanctions on Liberia could harm hundreds of thousands of ordinary Liberians and due serious damage to the country's already battered economy, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council last week. The secretary-general's report to the Security Council examined possible bans on timber and rubber exports and, and restrictions on its ship registry. In March, the Security Council adopted a broadened arms embargo, and bans on diamond exports and travel by senior Liberian officials because of Liberia's alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. Annan said a ban on timber sales could destroy up to 10,000 jobs, depriving 90,000 to 95,000 persons of their primary means of support. It would also deprive the government of nine percent of its revenue, resulting in higher taxes, higher prices on imported goods and an inability to pay government workers, the report said.
10 October: RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley will lead a 16-member rebel delegation to Thursday's Tripartite Talks in Freetown, Golley told the Sierra Leone Web on Wednesday following a meeting with senior RUF officials in Makeni. Golley returned to Sierra Leone on Monday, following an absence of more than four months. He said he expected the government, the RUF and UNAMSIL would review progress to date in disarming the country's warring factions, and to seek solutions to problems which have stalled disarmament in Bombali and Bo Districts. Golley said the RUF expected to raise the issue of transforming the rebel movement into a political party, and to repeat its call for the convening of a national consultative conference — "what is done to encourage it, to get the participation of all groups in finding a way forward." The RUF delegation will include former Minister of Energy and Power Pallo Bangura, and three members of the Political and Peace Council: Andrew Kanu, Patrick Beinda and Jonathan Kposowa, Golley said.
Sierra Leone has voiced support for measures that would provide greater protection for United Nations operations all over the world. Recalling the near-collapse of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone in May 2000, when more than 500 U.N. peacekeepers were abducted by RUF rebels, Allieu I. Kanu, Sierra Leone's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, noted that UNAMSIL's experience was "a testimony of the risks that peacekeeping operations can face." Kanu said Sierra Leone would back changes to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and suggested the adoption of a protocol to the convention which "would offer the proper means to establish a more comprehensive protection regime and, in particular, to extend the scope of the Convention to cover all United Nations operations, regardless of the security situation."
9 October: The European Commission will contribute €5.1 million ($4.68 million) to aid refugees and displaced persons in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the EC said on Tuesday. In Sierra Leone, the focus will be on providing for the basic needs of some 80,000 former refugees who have not yet been able to return to their homes. In recognition of the fact that a large influx of displaced persons can put pressure on host communities, services provided to the returnees such as health care, water supplies, sanitation and education will also be extended to local residents. In Guinea, where there are estimated to be 200,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and 30,000 displaced Guineans, the money will go toward health, water and sanitation, shelter and non-food items. The bulk of the resources will go to support UNHCR operations, with the funds being channeled through the EC's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the EC statement said. The latest funding is in addition to €11 million in EC aid provided to Sierra Leone this year.
8 October: Hundreds of ex-combatants demonstrated in Freetown Monday to demand the payment of reintegration benefits from the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. "The riots started this morning when about 1,000 ex-combatants stormed the...office of the NCDDR in the west end of town to have their names registered ahead of payment of reintegration benefits," Fofana said. "When they realised that most of them were not going to be registered because their names did not fall under the current batch, the ex-combatants went on the rampage, throwing stones and vandalising property." In an separate interview with the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), NCDDR Executive Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai denied suggestions that the demonstration was a protest. "The ex-combatants went to a registration centre in Freetown and on finding that their names did not appear on the list of those being paid the subsistence allowance today or this week, they decided to march through town and come to our headquarters seeking an explanation," he said. Kai-Kai said the ex-combatants "were largely orderly, although a few tried to cause trouble but both the police and the U.N. security teams were there to check on that." He said that after a meeting between NCDDR officials and representatives of the ex-combatants that the group dispersed after being told they would receive their allowances beginning next week. "The problem is that these people are usually very impatient and all want to be given first priority," Kai-Kai said. Another official, NCDDR Information and Sensitisation Officer Sullay Sesay, told Fofana that the ex-combatants threw stones at NCDDR staff and at members of the security forces who attempted to restore calm. One ex-combatant claimed that two of the demonstrators were shot and wounded by U.N. peacekeepers. "This claim was refuted by Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Francis Munu, who admitted that warning shots were indeed left off by security personnel, but that there were no serious injuries," Fofana said, adding that the disturbance brought traffic along Freetown's busy Pademba Road to a standstill.
Britain has donated a large quantity of military equipment and supplies, including weapons and uniforms, to the restructured Sierra Leone Army, PANA correspondent Pasco Temple reported on Monday. Included were rifles, machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, trucks and other vehicles, medical equipment, 25,000 uniforms and 7,000 pairs of boots.
The Sierra Leone government has voiced its support for American and British attacks in Afghanistan following terrorist attacks in the United States last month, PANA correspondent Pasco Temple reported on Monday. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have been linked to Saudi exile Osma bin Laden and his al Quada network, which continue to receive the support of Afghanistan's Taliban regime. "The Government of Sierra Leone fully supports the global campaign against terrorism by whatever means, and our government believes all the areas considered to be breeding grounds for terrorist activities should be attacked," Foreign Minister Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya (pictured right) was quoted as saying. "The call for a religious war pointed out how dangerous this man, Osama Bin Laden is," he added.
7 October: The European Union has pledged to bankroll Sierra Leone's upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, President Kabbah told reporters following his return to Freetown. According to Awoko editor Kelvin Lewis, Kabbah said EU ministers promised to come up with five million euros ($4.6 million) this month, with an additional five million euros to be paid between now and December, to help pave the way to the polls. At a meeting with the ministers in Brussels, the president said, the EU also promised to fund road construction projects and programmes to create jobs for youths and ex-combatants. Kabbah said that based on promises of financial support, "and based on the security situation as I know it to be, and the intentions of the RUF," he expected elections to go ahead next May as planned. "I do not think that there will be a need for a state of emergency to continue beyond February, so that people can feel free to go around and campaign as much as they want," he was quoted as saying. Kabbah told reporters he was planning to ask the Commonwealth to provide a high-level advisor to the National Electoral Commission — someone, he said, of sufficient stature that in case things went wrong he would be in a position to sound the alarm and so allow the matter to be addressed immediately. With an all-Sierra Leonean electoral commission, he said, people "will be pointing fingers, but when there is somebody that is so well known as being impassioned, objective, fair-minded, then hopefully we will have addressed all these controversies about fighting and all the rest of it and put that behind us." Kabbah, who returned this week from a tour abroad which was shortened by the cancellation of several major events in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, insisted that the trip had nevertheless been productive. In Britain, he said, he met with the ministers for the army and the Department for International Development, and the minister responsible for Africa and Commonwealth issues. He said he had received "reassurance in the areas of development, that Britain will continue to support us," adding that the British were "pleased with our development so far," Lewis reported.
6 October: The pro-government Kamajor militia called a halt to disarmament in Bo District Friday to protest what they claimed was a new condition the U.N. was imposing on CDF ex-combatants wanting to disarm, BBC Bo correspondent Richard Margao reported. This condition, according to the BBC, was that combatants wishing to enter the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme were now required to turn over a weapon and 60 rounds of ammunition to U.N. peacekeepers. "Less than 700 out of 14,000 Kamajors were disarmed before this stalemate at Dambala yesterday," Margao said. "The situation at the disarmament centers was so tense yesterday that the Deputy Defence Minister Chief Sam Hinga Norman, who is also the national CDF coordinator, paid a surprise visit to the area. Chief Norman told me that Kamajors in the area have also expressed to him their unwillingness to disarm until UNAMSIL changes the new condition. Asked what he intends to do, Chief Norman said the matter is such a serious development that he now intends to discuss with government." But in a BBC interview on Saturday, UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande (pictured left) denied that the U.N. had imposed any new rules on disarming combatants. "Whatever rules that exist or that are there today are the rules that have been agreed upon by the parties to the conflict; that is, the CDF and the RUF," he said. During our last Tripartite Meeting we agreed on how many rounds of ammunition and what type of weapons have to be brought in at the disarmament centre so that it qualifies a combatant for disarming." Opande said U.N. peacekeepers were following guidelines set down by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, which had been agreed by the two sides. He attributed the problems in Bo District to a breakdown in communication. "In a peace process like this one of ours there are always problems along the way, and normally we iron them out," he said. "We have a Tripartite Meeting next week, and whatever difficulties that arise along the way, the Tripartite Meeting tries to iron them out. And I hope if there is a problem it will be brought up. If it is not brought up by whoever is aggrieved, then of course UNAMSIL will bring it up, and then we will go and hopefully we will find a solution."
5 October: CDF ex-combatants seized an NCDDR (National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) vehicle along the Bo-Kenema road on Thursday, and threatened to burn it to protest non-payment of their subsistence allowances, BBC Bo correspondent Richard Margao reported on Friday. "A team of armed police personnel was sent to the scene, but the ex-combatants overpowered them and forcibly disarmed them," Margao said. The standoff ended following negotiations between the ex-combatants and the Regional Police Commissioner and NCDDR officials, and "an amount of cash was finally paid late last evening," Margao said. In an interview with the BBC on Friday, NCDDR Executive Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai (pictured left) insisted that the agency was doing its best to serve some 14,000 ex-combatants under often difficult logistical circumstances. "Once in awhile if there are delays because of one reason or the other, we expect ex-combatants to understand," he said. "But we are dealing with people who are most times very, very impatient, and they think they should be given top priority in most circumstances. And the reality of life doesn’t really say so. Sometimes they have to understand and they have to obey procedures and understand that we are doing our best as an institution to serve their interests and welfare." Kai-Kai said there might have been a delay in the paying of reinsertion benefits to ex-combatants enrolled at educational institutions. "It occurs only in cases where people try to check on them, whether they are really attending, and they don’t see them at all," he said. "And when it comes to payment they show up and suddenly they want their money. So sometimes they have some argument there with our officers. So yes, in those circumstances we have had such problems, and I think this is what has happened in Bo."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday he had been following recent efforts by the Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to restore confidence among the three nations and to promote stability in the sub-region and, in a statement released through his spokesman, that he looked forward to the convening of a proposed Heads of State Summit "as another milestone towards restoring good neighborliness among them." Annan said he hoped "the spirit of frank and constructive dialogue that characterized the meetings of the Joint Security Committee and of Foreign Ministers will eventually be applied to addressing some of the root causes of the problems affecting the MRU countries," and promised United Nations support in assisting the Mano River Union "to create the necessary conditions for enhancing security and disseminating a culture of peace in the sub-region."
Seventy participants from all 14 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District attended a one-day Truth and Reconciliation Commission sensitisation workshop in Koidu Thursday, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The workshop, which was aimed at educating local residents about the work of the proposed commission and instilling a culture of human rights in the country, was sponsored by UNAMSIL's human rights section and a number of non-governmental organisations, including the Northern Area Working Group, the National Forum for Human Rights, the World Council on Religion and Peace, and Caritas-Makeni.
Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the United Nations called on U.N. member nations Friday to agree on a "precise and comprehensive definition" of terrorism, and to engage themselves in finding solutions to those problems which terrorists use to justify their actions. "Our involvement must be seen to be fair, just, transparent and neutral," Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara said in an address before the U.N. General Assembly. "We must not allow ourselves to be seen as supporting without mitigation only one side of the conflicts, for these rightly or wrongly give succour to those who engaged in the abominable acts we witnessed within the United States on September 11." Kamara said that where prima facie evidence existed that individuals or groups had committed an act of terrorism, they should be be brought before a national or international court "to account for their crimes against humanity, war crimes and possibly genocide." The ambassador called for the U.N. to give regional organisations and agencies a mandate to deal with matters relating to international peace and security, along with the necessary resources to carry out that mandate. "My delegation would wish to insist that those states which continue to provide support and solace to terrorists must be swiftly and definitively punished," he said. "They must be sanctioned and their political and military leaders must be individually held responsible for crimes committed by the perpetrators."
3 October: Members of the United Nations Security Council have expressed concern about the RUF's slow progress in disarming its combatants in Sierra Leone's northern Bombali District. In a statement read out following a briefing by the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Council President Richard Ryan of Ireland said the RUF concerns, which the rebel group has cited as a reason for slowing disarmament, were being addressed. "These concerns are, however, no excuse for the RUF to delay the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) process," he said, adding that the RUF would have the opportunity to air their concerns at the next tripartite meeting on October 11. "The members of the Council continue to urge the RUF — and the Civil Defence Force — to participate fully in the DDR programme," Ryan said. "This is essential for the long-term stability of Sierra Leone." Ryan also called on donors to contribute to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support the DDR process in Sierra Leone.
2 October: Ten Sierra Leoneans were among 20 illegal immigrants detained by Greek authorities Monday on the eastern Aegean island of Kos, north of Athens, the Greek merchant marine ministry said on Tuesday. The rest were reported to come from Sri Lanka and Ethiopia. The would-be immigrants said they had been transported from nearby Turkey aboard a fishing boat.
14 RUF combatants and two CDF have handed over their weapons in Bombali District since disarmament began in Bombali and Bo Districts on September 21, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told reporters on Tuesday. In Bo District, 481 CDF members and one RUF combatant have surrendered their arms. Novicki noted that the RUF had raised objections to disarming at the St. Francis Secondary School compound in Makeni, after having first agreed to the site. "Alternative arrangements have since being made by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, and the demobilisation centre is to be located at the Rokel Tobacco Leaf building in Makeni," She said. "Work is ongoing as we speak to get that building ready to receive combatants." Novicki said the U.N. was "speaking to the RUF on a daily basis and encouraging them to fulfill the commitments that they have made to disarm."
The Sierra Leone government has rejected suggestions by RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi that further progress in the disarmament process would be linked to the government providing offices for the RUF, and to the lifting of a United Nations international travel ban on RUF leaders. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the government noted that under agreements signed with the RUF it was only obliged to remove the legal impediments to its transformation into a political party, but acknowledged it had agreed to help the RUF obtain offices in Freetown. To that end, the statement said, the government has identified a property in Freetown occupied by a tenant whose lease had expired, but who had not yet vacated the premises. "The government has now given notice to the occupant of that property demanding vacant possession of the property," the statement said. "Representatives of the RUF have been taken round to the property and they have declared that the property is acceptable to the RUF." The RUF has opened party offices in Bo and Makeni, but has alleged government interference in securing an office in Kenema — a charge the government denied. The statement noted that the U.N. travel ban was based in part on the "unlawful possession of large caches of arms and the reckless use of them to the detriment of the people of this country," and suggested that disarmament would remove the conditions which led to the ban's imposition. "Instead of the existence of the travel ban being given by the RUF as a reason for their delaying to disarm, that should rather be the very reason for their accelerating the process of disarmament," the government statement said.
1 October: Sierra Leone will likely reopen its common border with Liberia on Monday, Safety and Security Minister Charles Margai (pictured left) told the BBC at the weekend. The border was ordered closed in March by Liberian President Charles Taylor, and President Kabbah responded by sealing the border from the Sierra Leonean side as well. Taylor announced the reopening of the border Friday, following a meeting of the Mano River Union Joint Security Committee in the Liberian capital Monrovia. Margai, who spoke to BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh on Sunday, said he would push to have the border reopened when he returned to Sierra Leone. "I can assure you as soon as I get back I shall discuss the urgency with the vice president, who is currently acting in the absence of the president who is out of the country," he said. "And I want to believe that by tomorrow the roads will be open." The border was originally closed amid tensions among the Mano River Union states of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, who accuse each other of supporting armed dissidents in one another's countries. Margai, however, played down the differences. "We have always believed President Taylor," he said. "What has troubled us in the past is, why have we not been able to overcome the insecurity that has long plagued our people? But from my listening to President Taylor when we went to visit him, he left me no doubt that he means well, that he intends to give peace not only to the people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, but beyond. And let us take his word for it." The Mano River Union's Joint Security Committee, which brought together justice, defence and internal affairs ministers from the three countries last week, has recommended that dissidents in the sub-region be repatriated to their countries of origin. Margai acknowledged there were legal questions to be resolved before such a move could be made. "In addressing the question of dissidents, you know there are legal ramifications which can only be addressed by legal people," he said. "It is not surprising that the JSC (Joint Security Committee) thought it prudent to put together a team of legal experts from the member states to work out the modalities and to come up with recommendations for the immediate implementation of this very important step."