The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

October 1999
 

31 October: ECOMOG officials and officers from Sierra Leone's new army have confirmed new clashes between RUF and AFRC rebel forces at Makeni and Lunsar on Friday. They said the death toll from the fighting, which began two weeks ago, could be in the hundreds, and that tens of thousands of residents had been forced to flee their homes. Military officials said the RUF had brought an additional 1,000 fighters from Kailahun District to reinforce their positions. On Friday the BBC, quoting military sources, spoke of 500 new RUF troops having been moved to Makeni in recent days, while a press release circulated Friday by CCP Chairman and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma spoke of 2,000 heavily-armed RUF troops having arrived at Makeni since Wednesday. The reports have not been independently verified. Meanwhile, BBC Makeni correspondent Sylvester Rogers reported on Sunday that AFRC troops, including a number of senior officers, have begun to surrender to the RUF in Makeni. "According to civilians who arrived from Makeni yesterday, the surrendering of the AFRC soldiers followed a public announcement made through a megaphone by RUF Brigadier Issa Sesay that all junta troops must surrender to the RUF commanders in Makeni immediately," Rogers said, adding that the exact number of soldiers who had surrendered was not known, but said unofficial figures put it at more than 100. "Calm is said to have returned to the township, and thousands of civilians who fled into the bush to escape the fighting have started returning," Rogers said. 

Large numbers of RUF troops who had taken refuge in Liberia have begun returning to Kailahun District in the hope of taking part in the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, BBC correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported from Monrovia on Sunday. "Most of those who have recently departed Liberia were staying, along with thousands of other Sierra Leonean refugees, at the old Voice of America radio relay station just outside Monrovia," Paye-Layleh said, adding "It is impossible to determine exactly how many RUF fighters have gone home, because their departure has been spontaneous and sporadic." He said the fighters were returning in the belief that only combatants who were still armed would benefit from the DDR programme. Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salio-Gbao, said the Sierra Leone Embassy was preparing the repatriation of nearly 5,000 Sierra Leonean soldiers who had fled to Liberia. Salio-Gbao said 1,200 soldiers and their families had already registered for the first phase of the programme. The soldiers, who range in rank from private to colonel, are largely concentrated in Liberia's Lofa County, close to the Sierra Leone border.

30 October: United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Frederick Barton arrived in Freetown on Friday for talks with President Kabbah and, on Saturday, was expected to meet with RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma. On Wednesday, Barton held discussions with Guinean officials in Conakry on initiatives to promote peace and security in the region, and then visited Sierra Leonean refugee camps in Gueckedou. In a BBC interview on Saturday, Barton said the UNHCR was concerned about the effect recent cease-fire violations would have on the plight of some half a million Sierra Leonean refugees in neighbouring countries. "Our central concern is that if there is no peace, then the hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans who want to return home will not be able to," he said. "Violations of the peace agreement, such as what’s been happening over the past few days, are clearly not in the interest of the refugees who are desirous to come home, and we want to see what the parties who are responsible for these violations are doing about them." Barton said it was "absolutely not" safe for the refugees to return home until the peace was secure. "These are now very sophisticated refugees: They’ve tried to come home on several occasions," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "They recognize that what happened in Makeni with people fighting, with people being taken away, with looting following the fighting, with the town essentially being cleaned out, that that’s not a safe situation, and it appears as if people are taking these early days of the peace agreement, taking advantage of it for their own benefit." Barton said he would like to see evidence that Sankoh and Koroma were "ready to move" on issues which had not yet been addressed. "The verifying commission (the Joint Monitoring Commission) that’s been talked about, what they will do with future violations, whether they will be participants in the disarmament that we all hope will start this coming week—those are the critical tests." The UNHCR Deputy Director said "there seems to be some insincerity" in statements by rebel leaders that they were committed to the peace process. Responding to a suggestion that Sankoh and Koroma might have lost control over their men on the ground, Barton replied: "I think that could well be part of the situation, but I think they also have control that they are probably not exercising." He stressed that the vast majority of the estimated half a million Sierra Leonean refugees were eager to return home, but that "conditions have to be safe." He said the refugees would probably not return "until the U.N. (peacekeeping) forces are established here in the country and there’s evidence that is having a positive beneficial impact," adding: "I would like to think that the U.N. forces could be here within a matter of weeks, perhaps by mid-December."

29 October: National Security Advisor Sheka Mansaray accused RUF and AFRC rebel forces fighting in northern Sierra Leone have violating the Lomé Peace Accord signed in July. "What has been going on in the two towns is a gross violation of the peace agreement and the government believes this should be made known to both parties for an immediate halt to all hostilities," Mansaray said. "The government is seriously concerned over the violation of the ceasefire in Makeni and Lunsar. This concern has been expressed to the UN special envoy, Francis Okelo and the commander of the ECOMOG." CMRRD Chairman and RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh on Friday dismissed the fighting as "skirmishes" and claimed the area "had been quiet now for 72 hours." Referring to news accounts that some 100 AFRC troops had been killed, Sankoh said: "I don't know anything about heavy losses. I have not heard that from my men...These are allegations that have not been verified. There is not even a ceasefire monitoring committee on the ground." The BBC, citing "normally reliable military sources," said the RUF had moved about 500 more fighters into Makeni in the past few days in order to consolidate its hold on the town. "Sankoh's men first attacked Makeni two weeks ago when they moved in from their stronghold in the diamond rich east of Sierra Leone," BBC West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle said. "(Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul) Koroma's men who had been holding Makeni were forced to withdraw, the military sources said, but in retaliation they attacked Sankoh's fighters at another location nearer to the capital, Freetown." The Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) also reported Friday that RUF troops, led by Brigadier Issa Sesay, were converging towards Makeni and Lunsar.

Clashes between RUF and AFRC troops in northern Sierra Leone are continuing, according to an Emergency Report issued by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday. The report covers the period up to October 28. "During the fighting in Makeni last week food, trucks and other assets belonging to NGOs in the area were looted. Some NGO (non-governmental organisation) staff left Magburaka for Mile 91 due to the insecurity in Makeni," the report said. The WFP added that ECOMOG had been unable to grant road security clearance for the agency to deliver 60 tons of food from Freetown to Lungi via Rogberi and Port Loko. Due to the security situation, the WFP has planned needs-assessment mission to Kambia District on hold. Meanwhile, WFP implementation partner MSF/Holland is providing limited health and nutritional programmes in Kambia using transport by sea for both supplies and personnel, the report said, noting that when the security situation improved the WFP would go ahead with its mission. The WFP, in collaboration with World Vision International, is considering a mission to Daru to initiate a food-for-work programme to rehabilitate area roads, and also to address the needs of vulnerable persons in the area. "WFP has been meeting with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) in Freetown regarding the rehabilitation of roads between Kenema and Daru, and north to Kailahun," the report said. The mission is tentatively scheduled for the first week in November, once necessary security clearances have been obtained. 

ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber has pointed to fighting between RUF and AFRC rebels in northern Sierra Leone and the failure of the rebel groups to submit nominees to the Joint Monitoring Commission (JMC) and the Cease-Fire Monitoring Committee (CMC). The creation of the two committees, charged with monitoring cease-fire violations, is stipulated under Part One, Article II of the Lomé Peace Accord. In an ECOMOG press released, Kpamber said that 834 former combatants had so far reported to demobilisation camps at Lungi and Port Loko. 

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will make a one-day visit to Sierra Leone on November 5 for talks with President Kabbah, the Nigerian online newspaper The Guardian reported on Friday.

RUF rebels who overran Makeni earlier this month have taken hostage former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, his lawyer and acting APC leader Serry Kamal said at a press conference on Friday. Kamal said he had received letters from Momoh complaining that he was "slowly losing his eyesight and suffering from swollen feet." He said he had written to President Kabbah to protest Momoh's "continuous and illegal detention." In November 1998 Momoh was convicted by the High Court on two charges of conspiracy in connection with his alleged support of the former AFRC military junta, and sentenced to two concurrent five-year prison terms. He was freed from Pademba Road Prison during the rebel attack on Freetown in January. President Kabbah formally pardoned Momoh in July, following the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord. Two Freetown newspapers, the Standard Times and the New Storm, reported Friday that Momoh and his family were taken to Kailahun last weekend. In a widely-circulated press release issued on Friday, CCP Chairman and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma alleged that Momoh had been taken to Kangama, where the RUF planned to charge him before a "People's Court" with "crimes against the citizens of Sierra Leone." There has been no independent confirmation of the reports.

28 October: National Security Advisor Sheka Mansaray told reporters on Thursday that the Sierra Leone government was "seriously concerned" about fighting between AFRC and RUF troops at Makeni and Lunsar, and said the government had asked the United Nations Military Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) and ECOMOG to intervene. "What has been going on in Lunsar and Makeni in the past few days is indeed a gross violation of the ceasefire agreement," Mansaray said. He appealed to RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma to restrain their armed supporters.

406 child combatants and abducted girls have been turned over the to Catholic charity Caritas since the Lomé Peace Accord was signed on July 7, the agency's director, Ibrahim Sesay, said on Thursday. He said the children, ranging in age from five to seventeen years, had either surrendered voluntarily or had been released to ECOMOG by rebel forces before being handed over to the aid organisation. Sesay said that since a cease-fire went into effect on May 24, Caritas had "rehabilitated" some 2,000 children, enabling them to be reunited with their families. 

Health workers identified 781 cases of diarrhoea in Port Loko District in a 14-day period, according to a report by the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit of Sierra Leone (HACU). The report covers the period from 10 to 23 October. Preventative measures suggested by health workers included relocating the District Health Team to Port Loko, reopening the town's hospital, and setting up a therapeutic feeding centre. HACU said a mobile clinic was also being organised to serve the population there. The report described the health situation in Sanda Magbolontho as grave, with minimal health facilities. The is inaccessible to aid workers because the ferry has broken down, leaving the local population without any relief help since December 1998.

27 October: Marc Gordon, Head of Mission of the charity Action Contre la Faim (ACF - Action Against Hunger), told the BBC Wednesday that aid agencies were concerned about fighting in northern Sierra Leone, which has interrupted relief efforts in the area. Gordon said that while the security situation was difficult to assess, it was clear that all humanitarian aid to Makeni had been halted. "In the meantime whilst we try to negotiate with the leadership in Freetown, first of all for the return of all looted property and for the necessary assurances that we require to recommence operations in Makeni," he said. Gordon said ACF was continuing to operate its therapeutic feeding centre in Magburaka "albeit under relatively trying circumstances, bearing in mind that the vast majority of our medical food stocks were looted, and also our means of transport and communication." Other aid agencies were operating in Kambia, he said, "but as regards Makeni and further north this is not the case." Gordon stressed that when ACF and other agencies returned to Makeni in July, the found a "dire" humanitarian situation, adding that there had been "absolutely no humanitarian or commercial intervention" in the city since December 1998. "In fact we had some extremely alarming statistics which identified extremely high rates of malnutrition amongst the civilian populace," he said. "I must add that even after three months of of our programmes these conditions still persist." He described as "catastrophic" the break in humanitarian assistance to the north. "With our programmes and those of other agencies in the north, we had at least begun to address the serious problems that we’re seeing there," he said. "And to have a break in this delivery of humanitarian assistance will have grave consequences I fear for the civilian population. We are still seeing extremely high rates of malnutrition amongst the civilian population, and the assistance given by Action Contre la Faim and other agencies, be it in the form of nutritional assistance or be it medical assistance or even greater distribution of food to the population — that will alleviate the problem; that won’t solve it. There needs to be a long-term intervention, and if that is interrupted as it has been, then we could see some once again some very alarming and very catastrophic statistics coming back in mortality rates for the population."

The New York-based human rights monitoring organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement issued on Wednesday, called on the leaders of the RUF and the AFRC, Corporal Foday Sankoh and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, to "initiate criminal investigations against rebel soldiers who have perpetrated crimes against the civilian population" since the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord on July 7. "Over the last two months Human Rights Watch has documented numerous rebel violations of the July 7 peace agreement between the rebels and the Sierra Leone government. These violations include rape, torture, attempted amputation, shooting, abduction, vehicle ambush, and extensive looting of property in the central and western parts of the country," the HRW statement said. "These atrocities are not covered by the blanket amnesty, and the perpetrators must be held accountable," HRW's Executive Director of the Africa division, Peter Takirambudde, was quoted as saying. "The Sierra Leonean people have suffered enough. It is now time to break the cycle of impunity. Koroma and Sankoh must use their new government positions to end the terror." The human rights group said violations included those perpetrated during an October 15 attack on Makeni, numerous raids in the Port Loko and Masiaka areas, and an October 4 ambush of a government bus near Magbondo. Both Sankoh and Koroma have denied responsibility for the bus attack, blaming it on "bandits."

CCP Chairman and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma has disputed an Associated Press (AP) report published on Tuesday that he had refused to disarm his men until the RUF fighters and the pro-government Civil Defence Force ethnic militias also laid down their arms. The account report quoted an ECOMOG officer who spoke to the AP without attribution. "My men at Okro Hills who are presently the only stabilising buffer stopping the RUF from entering Freetown were requested to be the first to disarm," Koroma said in a letter to the AP Abidjan Bureau and copied to the Sierra Leone Web. "I privately raised concerns with a very very senior member of the government as to the safety of Freetown should Okro Hill be disarmed before Makeni. He assured me that security measures were in place to protect Freetown from any attempts by the RUF to run down to the city. I then instructed my men at Okro Hills to disarm and they have been doing so ever since." In his letter, Koroma expressed "disappointment" that the AP reporter, Clarence Roy-Macaulay, whom he alleged doubled as public relations officer for the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), "could report such a serious allegation against me based on a quote from an anonymous Nigerian officer." The Associated Press Abidjan Bureau chief informed the Sierra Leone Web Wednesday evening that the AP was standing by its story. He added that Clarence Roy-Macaulay has not worked for UNOMSIL for a number of months.

26 October: The BBC and Associated Press (AP) quoted local press accounts Tuesday of fighting between RUF and AFRC forces along the Makeni - Lunsar highway over the weekend, resulting in the reported deaths of some 100 AFRC soldiers. There was no independent confirmation of the extent of the fighting, and AP said government, RUF and AFRC officials declined to comment on Tuesday. However, an ECOMOG official said CCP Chairman and former AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma has refused to disarm his men until RUF fighters and the pro-government Civil Defence Force ethnic militias also lay down their weapons. BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers quoted an AFRC colonel as saying the five-day battle began when RUF rebels launched a surprise attack against the the rebel soldiers' barracks. "There are reported to be several casualties among the civilian population, while scores of AFRC soldiers and two on the RUF side are believed to have died in the battle," Rogers said. The renewed fighting has caused residents to flee the area, and has also forced aid organisations to withdraw from northern Sierra Leone. Last week the Catholic charity Caritas said it was forced to pull out following a sharp increase in armed attacks and banditry.

Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme warned Tuesday it would no longer accept combatants who surrendered without turning in their weapons. "These combatants will not be tolerated to undertake the process until they appear with their weapons and hand them over to ECOMOG," an official statement said. Official sources said combatants who fail to turn in their guns would lose a cash incentive of up to $300. Many of the hundreds of rebels who have surrendered to ECOMOG since the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord say their weapons were taken away from them by their commanders, but peacekeepers fear some of the fighters have hidden their guns in the bush. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told Reuters that the DDR programme was proceeding well since its official launch last Wednesday. "The programme continues to make progress. The rebels have been coming out of the bush and handing over their weapons," he said.

25 October: RUF spokesman Omrie Golley told the BBC Monday that the RUF "is cautiously welcoming" the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Sierra Leone. Referring to statement Saturday by RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie in which he told the BBC that RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Corporal Foday Sankoh was "unsatisfied" with the U.N. force's mandate which, under limited circumstances, would allow it to use force, Golley declared: "The position, and I can confirm the position to you, is that the Revolutionary United Front welcomes the peacekeepers into Sierra Leone — welcomes them on the basis that they have come to keep the peace, as it were, and to help with the consolidation of the already-existing peace process in our country." Golley, currently in London, refused to characterise Bockarie as a "loose cannon," saying: "He has been voicing concerns and worries which are being explained to him and the other soldiers in the field that peacekeepers do not become peace enforcers. And he was expressing his worry in this respect...The comments of Sam Bockarie did not in any way indicate that he was at odds with Chairman Foday Sankoh." The RUF spokesman denied that Bockarie's Focus on Africa interview was a sign of a rift within the rebel movement. "There are no splits within the RUF," he said. "From time to time there are personality and policy differences as in any movement. But I can confirm to you as a spokesman for the movement that there are no splits within the RUF." Golley also denied a suggestion that he had himself suffered a falling-out with the RUF leadership. "Absolutely not," he insisted. "I remain with very cordial relationships with all members of the RUF, including the chairman. These rumours abound from time to time. Of course there would be occasions when there would be differences of opinion in terms of policy, but that does not indicate that there are splits. As far as I’m concerned I continue to remain a respected member of the movement, and a respected member of the community in Sierra Leone."

23 October: President Kabbah on Saturday formally appointed RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma to chair key commissions set up under the terms of the Lomé Peace Accord. As agreed in the Accord, Sankoh becomes Chairman of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD), with the protocol rank of vice president. Koroma was named Chairman of the Commission for the Consolidation of the Peace, charged with "supervising and monitoring the implementation of and compliance with the provisions" of the peace accord "relative to the promotion of national reconciliation and the consolidation of peace." The appointments take effect retroactively to October 3, the date the two rebel leaders returned to Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone government has welcomed the United Nations Security Council decision to send up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone, charged with the disarming and demobilising of an estimated 45,000 combatants, many of them children. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai described the Council action as "a step in the right direction" and "an appropriate response to the needs of people traumatised by years of war" which "would bring stability to our country." Said Kaikai: "The government is extremely appreciative of the outcome." RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh said the U.N. decision should have come earlier, but also welcomed Friday's vote. "It's better late than never," he said. Previously, Sankoh had criticised the U.N. proposal to deploy a peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. "This is something we have to negotiate," Sankoh said a September 28 interview. "The U.N. proposal is not in the peace accord. We never asked the United Nations for a peacekeeping force. We talked about ECOMOG." Meanwhile, RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie told the BBC Saturday that the RUF was dissatisfied with the U.N. force's mandate which would allow it to use force in its own defence and in defence of civilians, which Bockarie interpreted as a mandate to compel combatants to disarm. "The U.N. has started confusing the entire programme. By giving such a mandate is purely jeopardising the peace process," he said. "No need to give them mandate of using force again to disarm. You cannot use force to disarm. U.N. is purely a peacekeeping force, not a peace enforcer. Using force to disarm [isn’t an idea] to resolve such a conflict. You cannot resolve such a conflict on force." Bockarie maintained that Sankoh, despite his statement welcoming the Security Council decision, was not satisfied with the UNAMIL force's mandate. "I will tell you as his field commander that he is not satisfied," he said. "If he is satisfied, then I have never noticed that from him. He never told me that he is satisfied. But as a field commander [words indistinct] as a commander in charge of the military wing, I believe it is my place to secure the movement and its people." Bockarie told the BBC Network Africa programme that "it is my place" to speak for the RUF. "I am permitted to do that, because I cannot do that without permission," he said, but when asked if Sankoh had authorised his statements said: "I know my duty. That doesn’t mean that he has to tell me everything what I can do." Referring to a previous Security Council resolution which authorised 210 unarmed military observers (the UNOMSIL force), Bockarie demanded "Why now 6,000?...Let them give peace a chance this time. If it is force then we are ready to meet with force." He called peace to be restored through negotiation and dialogue, but said the RUF was prepared to accept "Any kind of force, so long as it came with good faith. We don’t fear no force. We want the matter to be resolved genuinely and peacefully through dialogue."

The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, said in a press conference that the 6,000-strong UNAMSIL force to be sent to Sierra Leone would include 4,000 blue-helmeted Nigerian troops, with the balance of the force to be drawn primarily from India and Kenya. "The U.N. force would be fully equipped with a deterrent capability. It will include a special 210 (-strong) rapid deployment force to deal with any hostile situation between factions," he said.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed the U.N. Security Council's decision to send a 6,000-strong peacekeeping force to Sierra Leone to help implement the peace agreement. In a statement issued in Abidjan, the WFP noted that several security incidents had hampered humanitarian agencies'  efforts to assist persons in areas of Sierra Leone which have been inaccessible for months or even years due to insecurity. An estimated 1.5 million people have been cut off from all humanitarian assistance for over a year, the WFP said. "During the last two months, dozens of people including U.N. staff members have been abducted by armed combatants and relief trucks looted. Civilians continue to be attacked and forced to hand over their relief supplies. Recently, WFP was forced to postpone a food aid distribution in Port Loko, north of the capital Freetown, due to a tense security situation in the town and surrounding villages, the statement said. Paul Arès, the WFP's Regional Manager in the West Africa Coastal Region, called the deployment of the U.N. peacekeepers "an important step towards the stabilisation of the country and a lasting peace," adding: "It will also allow us to assist civilians living in areas where the safety of our staff has to be guaranteed."

Hundreds of rebel soldiers from the AFRC's stronghold near Okra Hill were ferried by helicopter on Friday to the demobilisation camp at Lungi after deciding to disarm, a Western diplomat said on Saturday. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted witnesses as saying a privately-owned helicopter company made several trips to ferry the troops to Lungi. Each flight carried about 50 fighters. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai confirmed the report, but declined to reveal how many rebels had been involved. "This is an operational matter which I am not at liberty to comment on," he said.

22 October: The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Friday to send a force of up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone. Under the British - sponsored resolution the the U.N. force, to be known as the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), is authorised for an initial period of six months, and will be charged with overseeing the disarmament and demobilisation of an estimated 45,000 combatants throughout the country. The resolution also disbands the unarmed United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) with immediate effect. Sierra Leone's new Permanent Representative to the U.N., Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, said the Security Council's action reassured Sierra Leoneans that their plight was not at the bottom of the U.N.'s agenda. Kamara stressed that the presence of the ECOMOG force, which is responsible for maintaining security, would be crucial for the implementation of the Lomé Peace Accord, and he appealed to the Council to do everything it could to ensure that the force remained. Citing a provision of the resolution which authorises the U.N. force to "take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel," and also to protect civilians, Kamara called it "an insurance policy for international peacekeepers and innocent civilians" which would send human right violators a clear message. Nigeria's U.N. ambassador, Arthur Mbanefo, commended the Security Council for agreeing to the U.N. force, saying it "relieves us of a disproportionate burden in human and material resources." He did not say whether Nigerian troops would remain in Sierra Leone, but said his country "stands ready to play its part" in UNAMSIL. Bernard Miyet, the U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping, said he expected the force to be deployed within 30 to 60 days.

It was initially proposed that the UNAMSIL force would be dominated by Nigerian ECOMOG troops, but on Wednesday Nigerian Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma was quoted as saying that Nigeria would begin withdrawing its remaining 9,500 troops from Sierra Leone next week, eventually reducing the Nigerian contingent to about 500. Danjuma's statement was confirmed by military spokesman Colonel Felix Chukwuma. "Since the United Nations is taking over, we have to withdraw our troops," Chukwuma told the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The Nigerian announcement came despite a pledge by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Monday of an additional $11 million in logistical assistance for ECOMOG. 

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, (pictured left) welcomed the Security Council decision to authorise the UNAMSIL force. "By adopting today's resolution on Sierra Leone, the Council will be doing much more than merely deploying another U.N. peacekeeping force," Holbrooke said. "We will be acknowledging the end of one of the most brutal civil wars and the beginning of one of the most well-deserved transitions to peace...Roughly half the population of Sierra Leone remains internally displaced," he said. "Over 500,000 Sierra Leonean citizens became refugees. Many Sierra Leoneans have lost their lives, families and homes. As many of the victims have told us, the most important objective was to end the war." The United States has pledged to pay a quarter of the cost of the UNAMSIL force. British Ambassador Steward Eldon also hailed the Council vote. "The current situation in Sierra Leone is a test case," Eldon said. "It will be seen by many as a litmus test of the commitment of the international community (to)... Africa as to other trouble spots around the world."

The French charity Action Against Hunger said Friday it was suspending its operations in northern Sierra Leone because of renewed fighting in the area. The charity said recent fighting at Makeni between AFRC and RUF rebels has made it difficult for the organisation's employees to remain in the region. It said it had no word on the whereabouts of 150 local staff members or on the fate of some 550 severely malnourished children who disappeared from its therapeutic centre. 

Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai has defended the government's decision not to offer one of three senior cabinet ministries referred to by the Lomé Peace Accord — justice, finance and foreign affairs — to the RUF. "The Accord indicates that (the government was) supposed to give...RUF/AFRC four cabinet positions and four deputy positions. In addition to that, one of the senior cabinet appointments such as finance, foreign affairs and justice were supposed to be looked at in terms of apportioning one of the senior positions to the RUF/AFRC," Kaikai told the BBC late on Thursday. "I believe that President Kabbah’s government complied with that. What we simply did was to identify another senior cabinet position — in this case Trade and Industry — that was assigned to the RUF." Kaikai also said that complaints by former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma over the AFRC having received only one cabinet post versus three for the RUF "has been resolved." He did not elaborate, but maintained there would be no change to cabinet list submitted by President Kabbah. Kaikai also was not specific as to Koroma's future role in the government. "Whatever discussions have taken place have not been completed yet, to the best of my knowledge," he said. "And once that is done, I believe an announcement will be made concerning whatever it is he’s supposed to do in light of the new arrangement." In a separate interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Koroma said he was optimistic that grievances over the composition of the new cabinet could be resolved shortly. "As of now we are on the verge of resolving the problem. We have reached some understanding," Koroma said.

Canada's Minister of International Cooperation, Maria Minna, announced Friday a grant of Canadian $500,000 ($US 337,000) to help Sierra Leone's children. "Almost 5,000 children in Sierra Leone between the ages of 7 and 14 have been forced to serve as soldiers, child laborers, or sex slaves," with millions of others suffering as victims of war, said Minna (pictured right). The aid will be used to buy wheelchairs and crutches for handicapped children, and farm tools and household items for others affected by war. This latest contribution has brought to $10.5 million (about $US 7 million) Canadian aid to Sierra Leone since December 1998. 

A planned visit to Makeni by RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma has been cancelled, the Agence France Presse (AFP ) said on Friday. The decision came following several days of fighting at Makeni and Lunsar between supporters of the two rebel leaders, resulting in the expulsion of the AFRC contingent from Makeni. No official reason was given for the cancellation of the trip, but Koroma said that "security was not in place" for him to go into the town. Sankoh and Koroma had also planned to visit Magburaka before heading to Bo and Kenema to explain the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme to their followers.

21 October: President Kabbah reshuffled and expanded his cabinet on Thursday, adding four ministers from the RUF and AFRC in a power-sharing arrangement agreed to in Lomé Peace Accord signed between the government and the RUF in July. Brigadier Mike Lamin (RUF) was given the Ministry of Trade and Industry; former AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Alimamy Pallo Bangura (RUF) received the post of Minister of Energy and Power; Peter Vandy (RUF) becomes Minister of Lands, Housing, Country Planning and the Environment, and Captain (Rtd.) A.B.S. Jomo-Jalloh (AFRC) is Minister of Tourism and Culture. The AFRC/RUF also received four deputy ministerial posts: Dr. Emmanuel Fabai (Rural Development and Local Government), Susan Lahai (Transport and Communications), Idriss Kamara (Labour and Industrial Relations) and Francis Musa (Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Resources). RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh expressed his displeasure with the new cabinet, calling it totally in breach of the Lomé Peace Accord. He said the Accord called for an expansion of the cabinet from 15 to 18 ministers, but that Kabbah had expanded it to 21. "We were to have at least three senior cabinet positions, but now look at what we got, this is not fair," he complained, adding that the RUF High Command would be meeting Thursday and that the outcome of the meeting would be presented to the government. According to the Lomé Peace Accord, the RUF was to receive four ministerial posts, including "one of the senior cabinet appointments, such as finance, foreign affairs and justice." It had been widely believed that the RUF would receive one of these three portfolios, but the posts were retained by Dr. James O.C. Jonah, Dr. Sama Banya and Solomon Berewa, respectively. According to presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai, the finance, foreign affairs and justice ministries had only been given as "examples" of senior posts, and he insisted that the Trade and Industry Ministry offered to Mike Lamin was "senior." "That is a wrong interpretation of the peace accord," said Sankoh, who added that the agreement was being interpreted by "doctors and professors, and not people who speak plain English." Said the RUF leader: "Why did they mention these ministries in the agreement if that was not what they really meant?" AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma also complained that only one of his supporters, A.B.S. Jomo-Jalloh, had been included in the proposed cabinet. "Initially they came up with a list that I was not too happy with, and I made the complaint, and we went to President Kabbah, and it was agreed that I should make my own nominations and, of all the people I nominated, I had only one in the list that was announced as a cabinet minister," Koroma told the BBC. He said it had been agreed that the RUF and the AFRC would receive two ministerial posts each. "I have to pick up that with President Kabbah, because I am having a lot of pressure from the rank and file," he said. "Everybody is bitter, they are all bitter about the announcement." Koroma denied that he was threatening to pull out of the peace agreement unless the AFRC were offered more posts, but said "We do not want something that will bring problems within the rank and file and that would spark off something. That is why we should handle all this thing with care." He said he was calling on his followers to "just stay cool, not to create any problems because this issue, I will have to meet the president and we will have to discuss it and we will have to see how best we can solve it."

Other ministerial appointments: Dr. Kadie Sesay (Development and Economic Planning), Dr. Alpha T. Wurie (Education, Youth and Sports), Charles Margai (Safety and Security), Okere Adams (Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Resources), Dr. Ibrahim I. Tejan-Jalloh (Health and Sanitation), Momoh Pujeh (Transport and Communications), Dr. S.U.M. Jah (Works and Maintenance), Alhaji Mohamed S. Deen (Mineral Resources), Sierra Leone Teachers Union Secretary-General Alpha Timbo (Labour and Industrial Relations), former Vice President James B. Dauda (Rural Development and Local Government), Dr. Julius Spencer (Information and Broadcasting), Shirley Gbujama (Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs), Abu Aiah Koroma (Political and Parliamentary Affairs).

Ministers of State: Momodu Koroma (Presidential Affairs), Dominic Ngombu (Public Affairs), Foday Sesay (Southern Region), Ibrahim Sesay (Northern Region), S.R. Fillie-Faboe (Eastern Region). 

Other deputy ministerial appointments: Captain (Rtd.) Sam Hinga Norman (Defence), M.B. Daramy (Finance), Nathaniel S.B. Wellington (Development and Economic Planning), Sahr Matturi (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Teresa Koroma (Trade and Industry), Sia Ngongou (Works and Maintenance), Mohamed Foday Yumkella (Mineral Resources), Abass Collier (Education, Youth and Sports), Sidique Brima (Health and Sanitation).

Other appointments: former Minister of Trade, Industry and Transportation Alie Thorlu Bangura becomes High Commissioner to Ghana, and Kanja Sesay was appointed Commissioner of Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation. New appointments require confirmation by Parliament. 

Sierra Leone's new Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, presented his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday. Kamara formerly served as Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the OAU. He is a former member of Parliament and held the post of Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Development under the APC government. He later became National Chairman of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Kamara holds a bachelors degree in Land Surveying Science from North East London Polytechnic, University of East London.  

20 October: In a ceremony at Wilberforce Barracks attended by President Kabbah, RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, Sierra Leone formally launched the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme aimed at disarming the country's estimated 45,000 combatants. "Let us forgive and join together to build our nation," said Kabbah (pictured left), as he urged Sierra Leoneans to welcome the ex-combatants back into society. Sankoh and Koroma both reiterated their commitment to the Lomé Peace Accord. "We are now demonstrating what we said when we arrived in our homeland," Koroma said. United Nations Special Representative to Sierra Leone Francis Okelo said the process of disarming the combatants, already weeks behind schedule, could last two months. "We have come to the crucial stage where all stakeholders should demonstrate their commitment, including the U.N. and the international community," Okelo said. The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a British-sponsored resolution that would send up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone to supervise the DDR process. 

RUF fighters who arrived in Makeni last Thursday have expelled AFRC forces who were previously based there, Makeni CARITAS director Ibrahim Sesay told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). He said the fighting was sparked by the arrival of RUF troops from Kailahun and Magburaka led by Brigadier Issa Sesay. After taking over the Teko Barracks on the outskirts of Makeni, they moved into the town itself. "Makeni is now divided into two parts, each part controlled by the RUF," Ibrahim Sesay said. "One part is controlled by Dennis Mingo, the other by Issa Sesay." He added that the AFRC contingent evicted from Makeni had moved to Kamabai. On Monday, former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma confirmed that his soldiers had withdrawn from Makeni. "Upon my instructions, by Saturday, my men had withdrawn from the town without firing a single shot at innocent civilians," he told the Sierra Leone Web. IRIN quoted a source in Freetown as saying, "This was a clash between personalities, not an organisational skirmish." Meanwhile, Makeni Bishop George Biguzzi described the disturbances in Makeni for the BBC on Wednesday. "I saw of course the tension and the fear and I saw one SLA soldier dead on the ground," Biguzzi said in Freetown. "I know that others, and perhaps of RUF, they were involved in an ambush outside of Makeni on the way to Lunsar and there were some people who died there. They were all either RUF or SLA soldiers; no civilians were involved in that thing, but the civilians of course suffered because of the looting and you can imagine the fear for the security. So, the town was tense. That is what I saw personally and a lot of people were staying inside their own houses." He said combatants remained on full alert Monday amid rumours of fighting in Lunsar, but that while residents remained indoors there was no fighting in Makeni on Monday. "Nobody knows how the fight will spread, but as far as I hear now, even the one in Lunsar has been brought under control," he said. "So, at this point there seems to be no fighting anywhere." Biguzzi said he and 15 aid workers, including two priests, had not actually been kidnapped. "We were not technically abducted because they told us, there is nothing against you and the NGOs, but we were caught in that thing and not having our vehicles which were commandeered, therefore we were in a sense detained and we could not move."

Aid agencies have expressed concern that the recent clashes at Makeni and Lunsar could have severe consequences for the implementation of aid programmes throughout the north. "Makeni is the gateway to northern and north-eastern parts of the country," a humanitarian source in Freetown told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). "If relief agencies are unable to access Makeni town activities over a far larger area will have to be curtailed." Another humanitarian sources said on Monday that ECOMOG was not allowing aid agencies to travel north past Rogberi Junction. Freetown-based humanitarian agencies have had difficulty establishing radio contact with their staff in Makeni since Friday, IRIN said. An ECOMOG official was quoted as saying a lull in the fighting in Makeni and Lunsar on Tuesday had extended into Wednesday.

19 October: The United Nations Security Council has finalised a draft resolution authorising the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, and is expected to vote on it Friday, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web early on Tuesday. A compromise wording for Paragraph 14 of the resolution, which invokes Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, authorises the UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone) force to "take necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and within its capabilities and areas of deployment, afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking into account the responsibilities of the Government of Sierra Leone and ECOMOG." The draft resolution calls for up to 6,000 military personnel, including 250 officers, for an initial period of six months. They would be deployed at three or more locations throughout the country to supervise the disarmament and demobilisation of combatants. The resolution stresses the the "urgent need to promote peace and reconciliation and to foster accountability and respect for human rights in Sierra Leone," and calls on the government to ensure the prompt creation of three committees called for by the Lomé Peace Accord: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace. The draft resolution also notes the urgent need for more money to finance the peace effort and for humanitarian assistance.

The Catholic Bishop of Makeni, George Biguzzi, and a group which included two priests and a number of aid workers who had been reported kidnapped in northern Sierra Leone on Friday said in Freetown Tuesday they had merely been cut off in Makeni by fighting between RUF and AFRC factions. "No one ever intended to kidnap us," Biguzzi told the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA). "We were just trapped in Makeni." Xaverian missionary priest Father Vittorio Bongiovanni said his group, which included Biguzzi and about 30 aid workers, was trapped in the northern provincial capital after violent clashes broke out on Friday afternoon. "At 15:30 local time (3:30 p.m.) the city of Makeni was overwhelmed by a heavy exchange of fire that lasted until 19:00 local time," Bongiovanni said, adding that the group had sought shelter with the Sisters of Charity in Makeni. "At around 21:00 local time the shooting resumed, gaining intensity, and during the evening armed men entered our home. We were robbed of our personal belongings and two of our vehicles. The following day, Saturday morning, we were visited by various leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who reassured us regarding the situation, emphasising that no harm was intended. They told us that it was a dispute between RUF factions and the former military junta of Major Johnny Paul Koroma. We were then transferred, as a precaution, to the residence of the supreme leader of the RUF in Makeni, known as 'Superman' (Dennis Mingo)." Bongiovanni said that Monday the group set out Monday toward Lunsar, but because the area was insecure they decided to head for Bumbuna where they were rescued Tuesday by a World Food Programme (WFP) helicopter. "We were therefore hostages of a 'situation' and not of armed groups," he said. 

The Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported Tuesday that armed clashes between RUF and AFRC forces in northern province had spread beyond Makeni, with fighting reported Monday near the town of Lunsar. Meanwhile, RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh told reporters Tuesday that it was rebel soldiers loyal to former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma who had attacked his forces' positions at Makeni on Friday. "We will displace the AFRC former soldiers once and for all if they continue to attack our positions in the north as they did on Friday in Makeni and yesterday at Lunsar," he said. "My concern today is the fighting going on at Makeni." He added that rebel soldiers based at Makeni and in the Okra Hill area should embrace the peace accord and stop intimidating officials, or be made to do so. Koroma, for his part, has blamed the clashes on the RUF. Government officials also confirmed clashes between the two rebel factions in Makeni, but spoke of a lull in the fighting on Tuesday. They said, however, that thousands of civilians had been forced to flee into the bush. Meanwhile, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade said "skirmishes have taken place but there has been no full-scale combat" between the RUF and the AFRC. "ECOMOG is deeply concerned about the situation, and we see this as a violation of the ceasefire, but we are trusting the machinery of the peace accord to resolve the situation," Olukolade said, adding that ECOMOG had been in contact with the various factions and believed "the situation had already calmed down." 

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh denounced Britain Monday for shipping arms to Sierra Leone, three months after the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord. "We are talking about peace and they are bringing in arms," Sankoh said. "It's a violation of the ceasefire... the British government is not respecting the Lomé peace agreement." According to British Foreign Office press secretary John Wood, a shipment of weapons arrived in Freetown on Monday. The arms are part of a £10 million package announced by Britain at a July donors conference in London, and is meant to provide logistical support for ECOMOG and to help train and equip a new Sierra Leonean army. On October 6, Britain informed the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee of its intention to ship the weapons to Sierra Leone, to include 132 general purpose machine guns with two million rounds of ammunition; 24 81-millimetre mortar systems and more than 2,000 81-mm mortar bombs; 24 handheld mortar computers; 24 mortar sights; 7,500 self-loading rifles; 3,000 uniforms and boots; and 800,000 rounds of training ammunition for the rifles. Wood said he did not consider the arms shipment "inappropriate" because many of the weapons already in Sierra Leone would be taken back to Nigeria when the ECOMOG force left the country. "The British arms are for training purposes and will be used accordingly" once a programme that "instills democratic values," is complete, Wood said.

Irish Justice Minister John O'Donoghue (pictured right) has notified hundreds of failed asylum seekers that they are about to be deported, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The move comes against the background of a serious refugee housing shortage and a growing number of persons seeking asylum — 4,446 so far this year, as opposed to 39 for all of 1992. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform said the main countries of origin are Sierra Leone, Romania, Poland, Nigeria, Kosovo (Yugoslavia), Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first to be deported will be those who entered Ireland from a third country. According to the European Union's 1996 Dublin Convention, refugee must seek asylum in the first EU country they enter. "Other EU countries have agreed to take back these persons and process their asylum claims," O'Donoghue said in a statement. Most of the refugees arrive from Britain and France.

18 October: U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in Freetown Monday with President Kabbah, former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh,  government officials, and members of civil society groups. Sankoh failed to show up for an initial meeting which was attended by President Kabbah, but his absence was attributed to logistical problems in returning from his base in Kailahun District. Albright later met the two rebel leaders at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Joseph Melrose where, according to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice, she planned to deliver a "tough message" and "express very strongly the world's outrage at the atrocities" committed in Sierra Leone, and to appeal to the two men to cooperate in order to make the Lomé Peace Accord work. "She will be urging them to demobilize and to do all the things required in the agreement and to cooperate as the process moves forward,'' Rice added. "She will call for swift disarmament, the release of prisoners and co-operation with the international community." Asked whether the presence of Koroma and Sankoh at the ambassador's residence meant an end to the rift between them, she replied: "No. (Albright)  wants to encourage them to cooperate. The fact that they met in the same room does not mean that everything is okay...There are significant problems between the two rebel leaders." In a news conference following the meeting, Albright said the United States would give Sierra Leone $55 million in humanitarian aid to help it recover from eight years of civil war and would waive $65 million in debt if it embarked on an IMF programme. "We and the international community will be watching to see that the rebels make good on their promises to end the fighting and disarm,'' Albright said. "The United States wants to support reconciliation and peace although we understand very well where the greatest share of responsibility for the violence lies.'' The $55 million would reportedly consist of $32 million in food assistance, $12 million for disaster aid, $4 million for education, $5 million for refugees in Guinea and Liberia, and $1 million for civil society programmes. Albright also announced $11 million in additional logistical aid for ECOMOG, and $1 million for the Strategic Minerals Commission aimed at marking diamonds to verify those that had been exported legally. While Sierra Leone is estimated to produce from $300 million to $450 million in diamonds each year, industry analysts say most of them are smuggled out of the country through Liberia. In Belgium during 1997 and 1998 a total of 8.3 million carats in rough diamonds worth $601 million were imported from Liberia, although the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Liberia's diamond industry is capable of producing only about 60,000 carats per year. Diamond buyers in Antwerp routinely label Sierra Leonean stones as Liberian, a diamond industry analyst told the Washington Post. During her one-day visit to Sierra Leone, Albright visited a some of the victims of atrocities at the Murraytown Amputee Camp, an experience she described as "heart wrenching and stomach churning." She said she could understand the feelings of those who had been mutilated "for no reason except that somebody hated them — it's a great tragedy." Still, she said, she found a glimmer of hope among the residents. "I had the feeling they were willing to do something different," she said. The Secretary of State said the United States still wanted to see justice done, and pledged U.S. support for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for in the Lomé Peace Accord. Without justice, she said, peace and reconciliation would not be easy to achieve. "The international community has been watching Sierra Leone fall apart for years," she said. "I hope that now the international community can help Sierra Leone knit itself back together."

The Catholic Bishop of Makeni, George Biguzzi, who along with two priests and a group of aid workers was abducted on Friday, is now safe in Bumbuna, the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) said late Monday. Earlier in the day, MISNA reported that Biguzzi (pictured left), Father Vittorio Bongiovanni, Father Paul Kabbah Mansaray and a 13 aid workers had been abducted on the Makeni - Lunsar stretch of highway near the town of Masungbo by what were believed to be rebel soldiers loyal to former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma. The charge was denied by Koroma, who said that in fact his men had rescued the bishop from "imminent death" at the hands of a contingent of RUF fighters who arrived at Makeni on Thursday. "Civilians fleeing from the carnage in Makeni have confirmed to me that (Brigadier) Issa Sesay, who led the RUF invaders, is openly driving the Mercedes Benz of Bishop Biguzzi along the streets of Makeni town," Koroma told the Sierra Leone Web, adding: "Upon my instructions, by Saturday, my men had withdrawn from the town without firing a single shot at innocent civilians." The U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) quoted a "reliable source in Freetown" as confirming that Biguzzi's car had been taken over the weekend. A Xaverian missionary source also confirmed that Biguzzi, the two priests, and 13 NGO personnel had indeed been kidnapped. "They have been rescued and they are safe. Their vehicles were all taken," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "They are in a compound defended by a large contingent of Government soldiers. They'll be flown back to Freetown by helicopter." MISNA reported that Biguzzi and his group were expected to arrive in Freetown on Tuesday.

BBC reporter Fergal Keane was awarded the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents in the television category Saturday for his coverage of the conflict in Sierra Leone.

U.S. President Bill Clinton vetoed Monday a bill passed by Congress to fund foreign policy in the next fiscal year, H.R. 2606, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2000." In his veto message to the House of Representatives, Clinton described the bill as the product of a "new isolationism" which did not address America's interests or fulfill the country's obligations abroad. "Life-saving peace efforts, such as those in Sierra Leone and East Timor, are imperiled by the bill's inadequate funding of the voluntary peacekeeping account," the message read in part.

16 October: In a possible setback to the peace process, AFRC and RUF troops clashed at Makeni on Friday, sources in Freetown confirmed on Saturday. A humanitarian source told the Sierra Leone Web that between 300 and 500 armed RUF troops from Kailahun District arrived in Makeni on Thursday evening in ten trucks, with possibly more coming on foot, and occupied quarters in the Teko Barracks. The RUF fighters, under the command of Brigadier Issa, reportedly announced they had come in peace, with the intent of meeting RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and participating in the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. "However, they put up ten checkpoints on the approach to the barracks," the humanitarian source said. "Fighting began in earnest around 4:00 p.m. Friday between RUF and AFRC and continued until last contact with Makeni at 19:30 (7:30 p.m.)." NGOs and other sources at Makeni described "heavy, sustained fire with semi-automatic weapons," as well as occasional fire from rocket-propelled grenades, the source said, adding that unconfirmed reports Saturday morning indicted the fighting had quieted down. There has so far been no information as to which side may have gained the upper hand, or on casualties. On Saturday morning, a diplomatic source close to the Sierra Leone government quoted RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh as saying his men in Magburaka and other areas where they had been widely dispersed had travelled to Makeni in connection with his visit to that city. Under the terms of the May cease-fire agreement, later incorporated into the Lomé Peace Accord, combatants were required to "maintain their present and respective positions in Sierra Leone...and refrain from any hostile or aggressive act which could undermine the peace process. In a statement circulated on Friday, AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma alleged the RUF troops had been ordered into Teko Barracks by RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie. "However, when I requested an explanation from Chairman Sankoh, he flatly denied ordering this troop movement," Koroma said. "I have instructed my men in Makeni and the Northern Province, including Brigadier Mani (the commander of the AFRC faction loyal to the late Solomon A.J. (SAJ) Musa), to refrain from engaging the incoming RUF personnel in warfare inside Makeni. However, there is an obvious mounting tension in the township between the two groups." In a further communication on Saturday, Koroma confirmed that "the RUF troops have actually opened fire inside the township last evening" and accused Sankoh of being responsible. "Last night, on my VHF set, we monitored a conversation between Foday Sankoh and Issa Sesay which shows beyond all doubts that Sankoh is fully behind the Makeni deployment," Koroma alleged. 

Hundreds of civilians and RUF fighters turned out Friday to meet RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh as he returned to his base at Buedu for the first time in three years. Accompanied by ECOMOG and UNOMSIL officials and flanked by senior RUF commanders, including Major-General Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, Brigadier Mike Lamin, Eldred Collins, and People's War Council Chairman Solomon Y.B. Rogers, Sankoh told his fighters that the war was over. According to BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers, Sankoh told his supporters that the RUF would be transformed into a political party and that they should prepare to enter politics. Some of them, he added, would be recruited into the new national army. "I want you to accept among yourselves who went into armed struggle against corrupt and selfish politicians that we have succeeded," Sankoh said. "We will not use the weapons any more." Bockarie said that he and other fighters on the ground would comply with all the rules governing disarmament and demobilisation. "We are ready to comply with the Lomé Peace Accord signed by you and President Kabbah," he said. "We are also ready to join you again to fight through the ballot box when the next general elections come next year." A diplomatic source close to the Sierra Leone government told the Sierra Leone Web Saturday that Sankoh had extended his stay in Kailahun District, and the ECOMOG/UNOMSIL helicopter returned to Freetown without him. He reportedly will arrive in Freetown on Monday for the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Sankoh had originally been expected to return to Freetown on Sunday. 

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Saturday it had been forced to cut back on emergency food assistance to the three neediest countries in Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. In a statement issued at the WFP's regional headquarters in Abidjan, Paul Areas, WFP Regional Manager for the West Africa Coastal Region, said donors had provided less than 20 percent of the $106 million needed to feed some 1.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the region. "In Sierra Leone, for example, since August, we have been operating at 35 percent of our expected level," Ares said. "WFP's food aid crisis in the region is also having an impact on the planning for Sierra Leone of other humanitarian agencies." The WFP and other humanitarian agencies have begun to go into areas of Sierra Leone which have been inaccessible for years due to the war and insecurity. In some areas, people are living in the bush, with high levels of malnutrition and disease. "Lack of resources has made it virtually impossible to provide sufficient assistance to these people," Ares said. "As access improves in coming weeks, this problem will become even more acute. The lack of donor commitment to help us feed the most needy people will be absolutely incapacitating." Increasing numbers of refugees in Liberia and Guinea will be dependent on relief food, as recent insecurity in the border area between the two countries means many refugees are being relocated to safe areas where they do not have access to land for farming, the WFP said.

ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber announced Friday that the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme would begin on Wednesday. Kpamber made the statement in Buedu while accompanying RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh on his trip to Kailahun District. "Let me announce for the first time in your main base that the official commencement of disarmament will be launched on Wednesday October 20, 1999 in Freetown," Kpamber said. "Senior (rebel) commanders who wish to travel to Freetown to witness the occasion may do so."

15 October: The French medical charity Médecins sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its "pioneering humanitarian work on several continents" and for its speed and fearlessness in providing medical aid. The organisation, whose budget of $230 million comes primarily from private donors, has championed a right of "humanitarian intervention" and sometimes helps victims in countries despite government opposition. MSF international president James Orbinski said in Paris Friday that the award was "an important high-level confirmation of the fundamental right of ordinary people to humanitarian assistance and protection," but cautioned that the prize was "in some ways a risk for MSF because it in some ways reinforces the institutionalisation of humanitarian assistance." Aid to the distressed "is a right and not something that should be dependent on charity," he said, adding: "We look upon this as an opportunity to highlight the forgotten populations of the world who exist in extremely precarious situations, for example in Congo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and in many of the other 80 countries around the world where we work."

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is expected to spend much of Monday in Sierra Leone, where she will meet with government officials, rebel leaders and ECOMOG officials, and visit with some of the victims of the country's eight-year civil war. She will fly into Freetown by helicopter from Conakry on Monday morning, then return to Guinea in the afternoon, and arrive in Bamako, Mali on Monday evening. Albright made some last-minute schedule changes in her six-nation African tour so she could represent the United States in Tanzania next Thursday at the funeral of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. Nyerere, whom Albright described as "a giant on the world stage," died last Thursday of leukemia and a massive stroke.

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and about 15 RUF officials reportedly flew to Kailahun District on Friday morning, where he will meet with his followers and chair an RUF People's Congress. Last week Sankoh asked President Kabbah to delay naming four RUF ministers, as stipulated in the Lomé Peace Accord, until he could consult with his rank-and-file. "We are going to set up a Peoples' Congress to decide the future of RUF and to decide the ministers, chairmen of state agencies and ambassadorial appointments,'' Sankoh said on October 6. The RUF leader is reportedly due bank in Freetown on Sunday.

Over 3,000 Sierra Leonean refugees have returned from Liberia to Kailahun District, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Sierra Leone, Kingsley Amaning, said on Friday. UNHCR is currently making further investigations to clarify the extent of return," Amaning said. He added that most of the returnees were in "relatively good condition" because they had been able to farm near the refugee camps in Vahun, in Liberia's Lofa County. However, most of the refugees had not returned to their original villages in Kailahun. Amaning said lack of shelter was of crucial concern, as many villages had been badly damaged during the country's eight-year civil war. "UNHCR needs to establish a permanent presence in Kailahun to monitor refugee return, but we cannot do so in the current climate where there is no administrative presence, no political, security or judicial structures and a prevalence of armed groups,' he said. "It is crucial that we have regular access to populations in need for humanitarian purposes."

14 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma met with their followers, including hundreds of rebel solders, at Port Loko on Wednesday to "sensitise ex-combatants on the need and importance for maximum participation in the DDR Programme," the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported on Thursday. "The war is gone, no more war," Sankoh told the ex-combatants. "The guns are silent. They will not be sounded again. From the day the peace accord was signed, we have stopped atrocities. The harassment of civilians must stop, the people have suffered...We have all made sacrifices. What I am telling you is that you should be prepared to give up your arms." According to local journalists, the two rebel leaders received an enthusiastic response from their followers. Also present, SLENA said, were ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber, United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) commander Brigadier-General S.C. Joshi, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe, and other senior ECOMOG and UNOMSIL officers. Sankoh and Koroma began a nationwide effort on Wednesday to explain the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme to their fighters in the bush. Koroma called the trip to Port Loko "quite successful," but denied news accounts published Wednesday "about my trip with Chairman Sankoh to the provinces on a long convoy," adding: "We only spent few hours at Port Loko and came back to Freetown, just as we did for the Lungi visit. No long convoy has left town for the provinces." In his address, Koroma stressed the benefits of disarming, explaining to the rebel soldiers that they could be reintegrated into a new army or trained for a return to civilian life. "The international community will not spend a cent on Sierra Leone if you don't disarm. You must prepare yourself to disarm," he told them. A DDR camp housing some 800 former combatants has been set up at Port Loko. On Wednesday, Sankoh ordered rebel soldiers in the Okra Hill area to "stop molesting commuters," adding: "You have no right to erect checkpoints. This is the work of ECOMOG. This is the time to for all of you to put your guns away and join the DDR programme. What we were fighting for has now been achieved." 

A contingent of 100 ECOMOG soldiers returned to Nigeria on Wednesday, including one dead, three seriously wounded, and 12 former Prisoners-of-War, Nigeria's Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. Nigerian Defence Minister Lieutenant-General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd.) said that troops withdrawals from Sierra Leone would recommence before the end of October and that a total withdrawal would be effected before the end of the year. Priority would be given to soldiers who had spent more than a year in their operational areas, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will arrive in Guinea on Monday morning, where she will fly by helicopter to Freetown for talks with government officials, rebel leaders, and ECOMOG officials. Ahead of Albright's visit, the New York-based human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Secretary "to express strong support for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body which is envisaged in the Sierra Leone peace agreement but has not yet been established." In a press release issued on Thursday, HRW said that while it believed the blanket amnesty extended to those who had committed war crimes "is a mistake and will undermine the peace agreement in the end," it urged Albright to do everything possible to ensure that "these terrible crimes" become part of the public record. The group also urged Albright to back "a stronger mandate" for a United Nations peacekeeping force to enforce the Lomé Peace Accord. 

13 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma left Freetown in a large convoy on Wednesday to brief their followers on the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the BBC. Officials said the convoy's first destination will be Masiaka, near the Okra Hill area where former Sierra Leone Army soldiers loyal to Koroma have their base. The group will continue on to Makeni, Magburaka and Lunsar before heading to RUF bases in Kono and Kailahun Districts, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). They are also expected to visit southern Sierra Leone. "We don't know how long the group will be on the road but we are hopeful that things will work out," a State House official was quoted as saying. Before leaving Freetown, Sankoh and Koroma met with Francis Okelo, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Sierra Leone, to discuss the DDR programme.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) opened an office in Bo on Thursday to improve its capacity to monitor health conditions in rural areas, the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported. "The Bo office will facilitate more systematic collection of health data," said Dr William Aldis, WHO's representative in Sierra Leone. "It will also enable us to work more closely with our local partners and facilitate the provision of technical health assistance." WHO's office in Bo will include on doctor and five support staff, and could also serve as a base for technical staff from other U.N. agencies, Aldis said. He added that the monitoring of maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and polio eradication were high priorities for the agency in Sierra Leone. WHO plans to open in office in Makeni when the security situation there improves.

The fragile security situation in parts of Northern Province has impeded the implementation of humanitarian programmes in the area, the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said in its weekly update covering the period from October 3 - 9. "On the road between Magburaka and Matatoka the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide has been prevented from re-starting relief activities by RUF/AFRC commanders who are demanding that food be distributed in areas under their control, the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) quoted the HACU report as saying. "Villagers are forced to give food to the paramount chief who then passes it on to the armed combatants." HACU said food shortages continue to be reported in many areas of the north, such as Fadugu and Kabala. In Makeni the food situation is deteriorating despite a a recent distribution, and some agencies are recommending a second distribution, the report said. In Kambia District, there have been "persistent reports" of armed groups seizing property, demanding money and beating civilians, causing many to flee to refugee camps in Guinea or to border villages. In Port Loko District, one aid agency reported that groups of rebel soldiers were harassing civilians along the road from Port Loko to Lungi. In the south the security situation remains generally calm, although elements of the Civil Defence Force (CDF) have reportedly harassed civilians in Bumpeh Chiefdom, south of Bo, the HACU report said. During September, CARE, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) distributed 3,946 metric tons of food to 276,190 displaced and war-affected persons, according to HACU. The other primary food supply agency, World Vision, did not have distribution figures available at the time of the report.

12 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh argued Tuesday that the government should not hurry the process of disarming and demobilising combatants in the bush. "We should not rush... After all we are keeping the peace," Sankoh said, adding: "Everybody is talking about disarmament but nobody is talking about provisions in the Lomé Peace accord that mandates the RUF to turn itself into a political party for which we are ready." According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Sankoh said he had ordered his men to release some 100 children detained in the north of Sierra Leone. The children had been turned over to the Catholic charity CARITAS, he said. In addition, he said, about 500 other civilians abducted from Waterloo, Newton, Hastings and Wellington had also been released in the north. In an address to members of the Sierra Leone Marketing Association Tuesday, Sankoh called on Sierra Leoneans "to team up in building a solid foundation for succeeding generations." "Sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation are the price people have to pay to consolidate peace," Sankoh said. "I am working with all sincerity for the implementation of the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation) programme."

552 more Sierra Leonean refugees who fled fighting in northern Lofa County, Liberia were transferred Monday from the village of Tarvey to Sinje Camp, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski said in a statement issued in Geneva on Tuesday. In the past three weeks, the UNHCR has moved more than 3,000 of the refugees to Sinje from the Tarvey transit point. The Sierra Leoneans began moving to Tarvey in late August after armed attacks by Liberian rebels on villages around Kolahun left some of the refugees dead and forced aid workers to pull out of the area. There are still some 9,000 refugees at Tarvey, although new arrivals from Kolahun have stopped. Janowski said the UNHCR had still not received Liberian government approval to evacuate the last group of some 200 ill and elderly refugees and their caretakers from Kolahun. "The military have continued to ban humanitarian agencies from using area roads since the August incidents. The remaining group are still assisted by MSF and UNHCR by helicopter," he said. "UNHCR is urgently working to get approval for the move." Janowski described the situation in northern Liberia as "still unstable," adding: "The army has commandeered more UNHCR vehicles last week from our office in Vahun." There are some 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, of whom 35,000 were in northern Lofa County before the recent insecurity there. 

The United Nations Security Council continued informal discussions in closed-door session Tuesday on a revised draft (revision four) of a British-sponsored resolution which would send up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone. A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web that the most important element of the new draft was that the question of an explicit reference to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which deals with enforcement, was "almost resolved." The operative Paragraph 14 of the new draft now states that the U.N. force "Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, decides that in the discharge of its mandate UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone) may take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel." According to the source, there are still differences within the Security Council over the issue of the protection of civilians. "Some members argued that it was not enough for UNAMSIL to ensure the security and protection of its personnel. They would like to add that UNAMSIL should 'afford protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence,' the source said. "Others argued that the job of protecting civilians had been given to ECOMOG, and that there was no need to rewrite the functions of ECOMOG. They also argued that in any case, the model rules of engagement, under Chapter VI of the Charter, do provide for the use of force if necessary." He said consultations on the draft resolution would continue in the next few days, during which time Britain "will conduct informal consultations and try to come up with a formulation which would address the issues of protecting UNAMSIL personnel, the task of ECOMOG, and the need to deal with any threat to the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement."

Nord Resources Corporation has completed the sale of its 50 percent interest in Sierra Rutile Limited to MIL (Investments) S.A.R.L., the company said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

11 October: The Mano River Bridge linking Sierra Leone and Liberia was re-opened Monday in a colourful ceremony attended by delegations led by Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman for Sierra Leone and Defence Minister Daniel Chea on behalf of Liberia. The border had been ordered closed by Liberian President Charles Taylor in December 1998, officially to prevent the Sierra Leone conflict from spilling over into Liberia. Liberian state radio noted that "The reopening follows four days of delays from the Sierra Leonean side," while Liberia's Star Radio quoted defence authorities as blaming the delay in reopening the border on transportation problems faced by the Sierra Leonean delegation. According to BBC correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Sierra Leonean refugees began to cross the border as soon as the ribbon was cut. "They said they wanted to see their soil for the first time in ten months, because some of them were there farming when the border was just abruptly closed," Paye-Layleh said. "So they crossed in a large number, but I’m afraid the pronouncement made by the deputy defence minister (Norman) we will have to make some of them maybe to hold back for awhile...Unfortunately and surprisingly he came out to say that 'well we are happy the border is reopened but our citizens going back home should the situation is still the same in terms of the civil emergency'."

The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss on Tuesday a British-sponsored draft resolution to send up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone.

10 October: Some 9,600 Sierra Leonean refugees who fled fighting in Liberia's northern Lofa County remain stranded at the town of Tarvey because of poor road conditions. According to BBC correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh, the number of refugees at Tarvey had swollen because many who had been awaiting assistance in other towns — most of them women and children — decided to travel by foot to Tarvey where the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was better established. The refugees were to have been transferred to a camp at Sinje, but the relocations were halted last week to allow road engineers to repair damaged bridges. Now heavy rains have made it impossible for vehicles to reach the refugees. "As a result of the deplorable road conditions, only a little over 2,600 refugees have been relocated to Sinje since the exercise began last month," Paye-Layleh said. "At Sinje itself the transit tents built to accommodate the newly-arrived refugees for only about three days to enable them to build their own permanent shelters are currently fully occupied due to the rains." Prior to the recent fighting between Liberian rebels and government security forces, about 35,000 of the more than 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees resided in Lofa County. "The UNHCR has not been able to account for all of them since the latest fighting, because a lot of them have not been registered by the agency," Paye-Layleh reported.

Liberia will reopen its border with Sierra Leone beginning on Monday, Liberian Defence Ministry spokesman Philbert Brown said on Sunday. Brown said ministerial delegations from both countries would meet at the border for a reopening ceremony. The BBC quoted immigration officials as saying that tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees wishing to return home would not be able to cross the border until the official ceremony had been held.

8 October: The Sierra Leone government and several non-governmental organisations will launch a five-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign in Sierra Leone on Saturday, in an effort which will involve thousands of health workers and volunteers. The World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International will join national authorities to target some 800,000 children under the age of five, and represents a major step in efforts to eradicate the disease worldwide by the year 2000. On the opening day of the campaign, President Kabbah will administer oral polio vaccine to children, the WHO said in a press release. Due to the country's eight-year civil war, Sierra Leone is the last country to begin the necessary campaigns for polio eradication. The first National Immunization Days in Sierra Leone win November 1998 were interrupted by fighting between the government and rebel forces. "As a result, only 70 percent of children were immunized - and they received just a single dose of polio vaccine instead of the two doses that had been planned," WHO said. According to the WHO, polio eradication relies on four main strategies: "High routine immunization coverage with Oral Polio Vaccine; National Immunization Days that vaccinate millions of children under five in a single day; effective surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis and wild poliovirus; and door-to-door immunization known as "mopping-up" campaigns."

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma addressed some 800 former combatants and hundreds of local residents Lungi on Friday in a show of support for the government's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. "Soldiers should not engage in banditry. You already have a bad name. No more guns, no more machetes, no more amputations. We are concerned about your attitude to the civilians," Sankoh (pictured left) told the former soldiers. "I don’t have much to say, and I think it is better for all to join together and cooperate with the ECOMOG peacekeeping force, the United Nations Observer Force, the DDR department, and all the international communities for their support and their concern for our beloved country." Koroma (right), waving a white handkerchief to symbolize peace, told the cheering soldiers that the war was over, and appealed to them to "say bye now to the guns." He urged the former combatants to support the DDR programme because of the benefits in it for them. Some of them would be reinstated into the army, relatives of dead soldiers would receive benefits, and those who left the military would be adequately prepared to enter other spheres of life, Koroma told them. "Both men repeatedly warned ex-combatants to desist from acts of banditry, kidnapping, and assaults on civilians," BBC correspondent Lansana Fofanah reported. "They said that pretty soon, they will both be off to rebel-controlled areas in order to kick-start the disarmament exercise proper. Both men also insisted that former combatants must show some remorse and ask for forgiveness from the civilian population which they had wronged."

Former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma dismissed Friday as "complete rubbish" a suggestion that he was not in control of rebel Sierra Leone Army soldiers. On Thursday Reuters quoted a "military source" who questioned whether Koroma would visit rebel soldiers based in the Okra Hill area, as it was "not entirely clear" that Koroma still commanded their loyalty. Koroma also denied that rebel forces were responsible for Monday's attack on a charter bus near Masiaka. "The attack by unidentified armed men done five miles after Masiaka was not undertaken by any member of the RUF or AFRC alliance," Koroma told the Sierra Leone Web. "There are no combatants deployed after Masiaka all the way to Mile 91. That is a stretch completely controlled by Kamajors and ECOMOG soldiers," he added.

Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman told Reuters on Thursday that he was prepared to work with rebel leaders in order to end more than eight years of civil war. "You have to accept these people for there to be peace," said Norman, a retired army captain who heads the Kamajor militia and is coordinator of the pro-government Civil Defence Force. He said he had a working relationship with both former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma and RUF leader Foday Sankoh. He said Koroma has "charisma to lead," and described Sankoh as a man he could trust. "Foday Sankoh and myself have been Sierra Leoneans with almost identical problems," he said. "We were both thrown into the streets, frustrated young men...His intention was good in the beginning because it was blatant injustice that was reigning in this country." He said he could also understand Koroma's frustrations, but believed he should have given Kabbah more time to solve the country's problems. Referring to the ethnic militias which made up the Civil Defence Force, Norman said: "These are people whom I have led and I am not ashamed of leading them. I am very sure they will fight for Foday Sankoh, they will fight for Johnny Paul, if Johnny Paul and Foday Sankoh win a truly democratic election and anybody takes up arms against them. Believe me these men will fight."

Kenyan Defence Department spokesman Bogita Ongeri said Friday that his country would send two infantry companies to join U.N. peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone and East Timor in late November. "It is a great honour for our country. When you are invited for such a mission, you are recognised as a good team which can work well," he said. 

7 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma have formally joined the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), and together with President Kabbah, who chairs the committee, have resolved to make a symbolic start at disarmament even before a proposed United Nations peacekeeping force is in place. According to state radio, Sankoh and Koroma will travel to RUF strongholds to brief them on the accord. Accompanying them will be Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, who also heads the pro-government Civil Defence Force. "They will carry the disarmament message not just to RUF centres but also to Kamajor strongholds around Bo and Kenema," said a source who participated in a NCDDR meeting on Wednesday. Asked whether Koroma would travel to the Okra Hill area to meet with his followers, a military source said it was "not entirely clear" whether Koroma still commanded the loyalty of the former soldiers. Reuters quoted military sources as expressing concern about a concentration of rebel solders camped at Okra Hill, and said they had intelligence reports that this group was planning attacks along the highway. Meanwhile, the BBC reported Thursday that Bo residents, impatient of delays in the DDR programme, have launched their own scheme to demobilise combatants. Local officials and church leaders appealed for donations to a so-called Citizens' Fund for Disarmament, and so far have collected the equivalent of $20,000. "Two weeks ago, the people of Bo launched a citizens' initiative to repair the damage to their town by contributing money or labour every Saturday," the BBC said.

At least 40 persons have died in Port Loko District in the past ten days from an epidemic of a cholera-like disease linked to the inadequate burial the bodies of war victims, health officer Clifford Gamanga said on Thursday. He said more than 200 people a day, most of them children or the elderly, were being treated for the disease which has all the symptoms of cholera but has not yet been formally identified. "The reasons for the epidemic are the hurried and unhygienic burial of hundreds of bodies in and around the town after rebels attacked the town late last year and this year," Gamanga said. "The rains, which are coming to a close, have washed many of these bodies to the surface and exposed them to surface water, flies and dogs." According to the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU), cholera cases have risen by nearly 25 percent on the Freetown peninsula, from 633 on September 22 to 863 by September 28. However, the death rate from the disease is declining, with 8 dead as of September 30, HACU said. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation said it has pre-positioned large consignments of oral dehydration salts and IV fluids in affected areas, and has launched cholera preparedness campaigns in other parts of the country.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade accused Sierra Leone's rebel forces Wednesday of violating the five-month old cease-fire by continuing to carry out attacks and robberies against civilians. In the latest such incident, rebels seized a bus near Masiaka, reportedly raping women, looting property, and abducting some of the passengers. Olukolade urged the rebels to abide by the Lomé Peace Accord, which formally ended the country's eight-year civil war in July. "We are registering protest over the cease-fire violations," he said. 

6 October: Rebel soldiers handed over some 100 child combatants at Port Loko on Tuesday, their spokesman Colonel Mohamed Kallon said on Wednesday. "We are going to release more children within two weeks as we try to assemble them from surrounding areas of Lunsar," he said. The children, who Kallon said ranged in age from 6 to 17 years, were released to ECOMOG and UNOMSIL before being handed over to the Catholic relief organisation, Caritas. On Tuesday a joint AFRC and RUF delegation arrived in Port Loko from Lunsar for a meeting at the ECOMOG headquarters there. During what was described as a confidence-building and reconciliation ceremony attended by ECOMOG and UNOMSIL officials and about 50 senior AFRC commanders, Kallon formally apologised and asked for forgiveness for abuses perpetrated against the civilian population. According to the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA), "The meeting concluded with a friendly football game between the Port Loko team and that of Lunsar."

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh said Wednesday he had asked President Kabbah to postpone the formation of a new government of national unity until he can consult with his followers in the RUF stronghold of Kailahun District. Under the Lomé Peace Accord, the RUF is allocated four ministerial posts, one of them senior, and four deputy ministerial portfolios in a cabinet enlarged somewhat from 15 to 18. "We are going to set up a Peoples' Congress to decide the future of RUF and to decide the ministers, chairmen of state agencies and ambassadorial appointments,'' Sankoh said. "(Kabbah) has agreed. He has nothing against that." Sankoh said he was not dictating to Kabbah, but was determined to see that things were done democratically by the RUF. Under the Accord, the rebel movement is to transform itself into a political party. "Transforming my movement into a political party is something you can't take away from me because I have been fighting for democracy for so long," he said. Sankoh told Reuters he didn't care which of three possible senior ministerial posts — foreign affairs, finance or justice — was given to the RUF. "As far as I am concerned it doesn't bother me what positions you give us," he said. "What matters is peace. The people of Sierra Leone first," No time was given for Sankoh's trip to Kailahun District, but RUF officials indicated it was imminent. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai confirmed that Kabbah was waiting for the RUF's ministerial nominations, but stressed: "They will make recommendations to Kabbah. But what they get will be up to Kabbah.'' Under the Lomé Peace Accord, Sankoh is to become chairman of a newly-formed Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development. Kaikai said that former AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma could also head a government commission — a possibility hinted at by Koroma himself — but that both men would need to be confirmed by Parliament.

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh complained to Reuters on Wednesday about the low turnout of supporters to meet him at Lungi International Airport when he and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma returned to Sierra Leone on Sunday. "We were expecting our people to meet us at Lungi Airport — or even in the stadium," Sankoh said. He suggested that President Kabbah might have blocked what he expected would be a hero's welcome. "They thought we would gain political advantage," he said. "People had been expecting that Foday Sankoh would bring peace. And they were not around, and they were not allowed (to attend the welcoming ceremony)."

Britain has notified the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee that it is exporting a shipment of arms and ammunition to Sierra Leone for use by the country's new army. Notification of the supply of arms and ammunition, as well as the port of entry, is required under U.N. Resolution 1132 which imposed sanctions on Sierra Leone. According to a letter circulated Wednesday by the chairman of the sanctions committee, Britain intends to export 132 general purpose machine guns with two million rounds of ammunition; 24 81-millimetre mortar systems and more than 2,000 81-mm mortar bombs; 24 handheld mortar computers; 24 mortar sights; 7,500 self-loading rifles; 3,000 uniforms and boots; and 800,000 rounds of training ammunition for the rifles.

40 persons were still missing on Wednesday, 36 hours after unidentified armed men attacked the bus in which they were riding on the main highway near Masiaka, according to an official of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation. Mainly elderly people were left on the bus, but the other passengers were forced to carry the looted goods into the bush.

The United Nations Security Council met in closed-door session on Wednesday to consider a draft resolution sponsored by Britain to send up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone. According to summary of the draft obtained by the Sierra Leone Web, the function of the force would be: "(a) to assist the Government of Sierra Leone in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration plan; (b) to that end, to establish a presence at key locations throughout the territory of Sierra Leone, including at disarmament/reception centres and demobilisation centres; (c) to ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel; (d) to monitor adherence to the cease-fire in accordance with the cease-fire agreement of 18 May 1999, through the structures provided therein; (e) to encourage the parties to create confidence-building mechanisms and support their functioning; (f) to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance; (g) to support the operations of the U.N. civilian officials, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his staff, human rights officers and civil affairs officers; (h) to provide support, as requested, to the elections, which are to be held in accordance with the present constitution of Sierra Leone." Regarding the future role of the ECOMOG force, the draft resolution "commends the readiness of ECOMOG to continue to provide security for the areas where it is currently located, in particular around Freetown and Lungi, to provide protection for the Government of Sierra Leone, to conduct other operations in accordance with their mandate to ensure implementation of the Peace Agreement, and to initiate and proceed with disarmament and demobilisation in conjunction and full coordination with UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone)." A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web that the Security Council was divided on a provision of the draft resolution "that UNAMSIL may be required to take action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel in the discharge of its mandate." According to the source, "One group of members wanted it deleted because on the premise that the operation is not one of enforcement under Chapter 7 of the Charter, but one intended to support implementation of a peace agreement, in cooperation with ECOMOG which has been a security task. Others want the paragraph retained, arguing that the credibility of the Council is at stake because the situation was no different from that in East Timor, where the Council's resolution had a clear reference to Chapter 7." He added that a possible compromise, possibly a reference to self-defence, "may emerge in the next couple days." The diplomatic source also noted that the UNAMSIL force "shall comprise up to 6,000 military personnel," and not the 6,000 contained in Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation. "According to the draft, the Council would express the need for close cooperation between ECOMOG and UNAMSIL in carrying our their respective tasks, and would welcome the intended establishment of joint operations centres at headquarters and, if necessary, also at subordinate levels in the field," the source said.

Life in Makeni under rebel control is "appalling" with no central command, while rival AFRC factions war with one another in the north of the country, Forestry Department employee Abubakar Sesay told the BBC on Wednesday after returning to Freetown. "The situation in the town is very appalling," he said. "There is no central command. Life is very unpredictable in the town. Anything can happen to you. There is nobody to control anybody. There are no policemen, there are no cops. It is very difficult in Makeni." Sesay said Makeni was "totally under the control of the AFRC and RUF," but told the BBC's Network Africa programme that there was "a big split" in the AFRC. "The signs are loud. There are always sporadic gun battles. And when I was there yesterday, there was one battle that took place around the St. Patrick Secondary School...Some civilians were killed and even some of the rebels were killed," Sesay said. "This group living around Kamabai and Kamakwie are saying that they are not part of the AFRC in Makeni. They say they are a special group who wants to be recognised as a special group. That is why they are always fighting each other."

5 October: One day after the return to Sierra Leone of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, rebel forces seized a bus on the Freetown - Bo stretch of highway, a short distance from Masiaka, according to officials of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation. "The charter bus, No. T-42, was reportedly loaded with 52 passengers and an unspecified amount of goods when it was stopped at the rebel-manned checkpoint and all the passengers ordered to climb down," BBC correspondent Lansana Fofanah reported on Tuesday. "Eyewitnesses say the rebels forced all the young men and women to carry the looted goods into the bush while releasing the elderly. They also diverted the bus halfway into the bush where it was subsequently abandoned." The fate of those passengers taken into the bush was not immediately known. "When escapees from the incident yesterday reported the matter to the nearest ECOMOG base, troops of the regional peacekeeping force stormed the area, but then the rebels had all fled," Fofanah said.

Liberian President Charles Taylor has reopened his country's border with Sierra Leone, closed nine months ago after the Liberian government was accused of providing support for the RUF, and because of "increased military operations" in Sierra Leone. According to a statement issued in Monrovia late Monday, Taylor ordered all security personnel "to cooperate fully with the re-opening order...to enhance free movement of people, goods and services between the two nations." According to the BBC, the move to reopen the border comes ahead of the arrival in Monrovia of a Sierra Leonean delegation led by Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, which was expected to hold talks with Liberian Ministry of Defence officials over the border situation.

The United Nations is in a poor position to finance peacekeeping operations around the world this year, primarily due to an arrears in dues by the United States of $1.7 billion, U.N. Undersecretary - General for Administration and Management Joseph E. Connor said on Tuesday. The U.N. is "running on empty" with little money to fund peacekeeping operations in Kosovo this year, much less new operations in Sierra Leone, East Timor or the Democratic Republic of Congo, Connor said. He added that while the U.N. would have $727 million in December, all but $2 million of that amount was owed to countries which had fielded peacekeeping troops but were never paid.

The humanitarian situation in RUF-held towns between Kenema and Kailahun is "bad but not desperate, the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said in a report on the ten-member humanitarian assessment mission conducted in the area between September 29 and October 1. However, the report said, interventions in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education and shelter were urgently needed. The mission, led by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), included representatives from the UNHCR, UNICEF, World Vision and HACU, flew to Kenema before travelling by road to Buedu and Kailahun, stopping en route at the towns of Segbwema, Daru, Kuiva, Mobai and Pendembu. According to HACU, while missions had been undertaken by air to Buedu and Kailahun earlier in the year, this was the first U.N.-led mission to Kailahun District by road in nearly a decade. The mission reconfirmed that humanitarian agencies could move freely in Kailahun District, provided they provided information on their itineraries to the RUF's humanitarian wing, the Organisation for the Survival of Mankind (OSM). The mission found no signs of malnutrition among the population, although some essential food items such as rice were either not available or in short supply. Considerable war-related damage to buildings in some RUF-held towns in Kailahun District had caused residents to flee into the bush but, according to the mission, some 3,000 refugees had returned home. 

535 Sierra Leonean refugees who fled fighting in Liberia's northern Lofa County were transported Monday from the town of Tarvey to a refugee camp at Sinje, about 50 miles northwest of Monrovia. This brings to around 2,500 the number of Sierra Leoneans who have been transferred from Lofa County to Sinje since the Liberian government gave its permission for the relocations last month. About 500 more people were to have arrived in the camp on Tuesday, but their arrival has been delayed by at least two days while road engineers work to repair damaged spots on the highway.

Former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma broke down in tears Tuesday when he met civilian amputees mutilated in rebel attacks after paying a surprise visit to the amputees' camp. "He himself shed tears when he saw a 13-year-old girl who lost both hands,'' Muctarr Jalloh, the chairman of the amputee community, told Reuters. "Most of us were so bitter, so offended." Koroma apologised to the thousands of amputees and their families living in the tent camp. "He apologised and said he tried to stop these people but he could not reach them from where he was staying,'' Jalloh said. "He said those who did this to us will be judged by God.'' Koroma went to the camp accompanied by an armoured car, but had the vehicle parked a distance away and walked in with an armed ECOMOG soldier. Camp residents complained about the weapon and the soldier returned it to the armoured car. "Koroma told us he never supported amputations; that he never took part in it and that he never ordered anyone to cut people's arms,'' said Jalloh. "I told him his men amputated us, killed our parents and burned our houses. Here we are languishing under plastic sheeting." Koroma said he was trying to arrange for artificial limbs, food and clothing to be brought to the amputees. In a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday, Koroma said he had directed his troops not to kill or harm non-combatants. "Each time I have the opportunity to talk to my men I always tell them that make sure you don’t get yourselves involved in civilians, harmless civilians, and unnecessary atrocities in the war. You have to make sure you go for your objective and nothing else," Koroma said. He acknowledged that his being out of contact with his followers had contributed to abuses against Sierra Leone's civilian population. "It is partially responsible, because for about 18 months I was not in contact with them," he said. "The only time they can hear my voice over the radio is when there are some problems in some particular areas that they cannot handle. Then they will call upon me to come and talk to them, and once that issue is resolved then I have no more in contact with them. But I am sure that is partly responsible." Koroma said he understood that some of those who had suffered as a result of the war would find it difficult to forgive. "But what I’m saying, or I’m appealing to all of them to forget about the past," he said. "If we want this country to move forward we have to forget about the past. Then we reconcile. Even God, what we are committing to God, every day, if he decides to retaliate or do something to us, I think all of us would have been dead in the whole world. But God is a faithful God. Once you repent he’s ready to reconcile with you. So I’m asking everybody to make sure we forgive each other, we reconcile. Of course I was against all those things that were committed — these amputations, when I heard about that I was very very furious. I was against that, and I’m still against that. I’m appealing to everybody to forgive one another, love one another, and reconcile."

A team of the AFRC/RUF High Command, including Brigadier Mike Lamin and Colonel Idrissa "Leather Boot" Kamara met in Kenema with the Brigade Commander of the 15th ECOMOG Brigade, Brigadier David R.A. Ndefo, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported on Tuesday. The two sides agreed to an immediate reopening of the Kenema - Kailahun highway to human and vehicular traffic, SLENA said. The RUF officers proceeded on to Daru, where they met with the Commanding Officer of the ECOMOG Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Ogbochakwu, and to Segbwema where they held discussions with the local RUF commander. Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), Brigadier-General Joshi, also held talks in Kenema with Ndefo, later joining the RUF officers and ECOMOG commander at Daru for discussions  on modalities for a joint ECOMOG/UNOMSIL presence in Kailahun District. 

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea has alleged that Liberian dissidents are undergoing training at Zimmi, Liberia's Star Radio reported on Tuesday. President Kabbah has promised to take a census of Liberians residing in the Zimmi area, Star Radio said.

4 October: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan "noted the arrival" in Freetown Sunday of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma "almost three months after the Lomé Peace Agreement was signed," his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Monday. In a statement issued shortly after the press briefing, Annan said "he trusts that both will work resolutely towards implementing that Agreement, and expressed his appreciation for the important role played by regional leaders, including President Taylor of Liberia, in support of the peace process in Sierra Leone." The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, said the return of the rebel leaders had been greeted with a "sigh of relief" by the population. Freetown is crowded, even at night, and the local currency (the leone) is strengthening, Okelo was quoted as saying.

British foreign office minister Peter Hain, in a statement issued on Monday, welcomed the return of the two rebel leaders to Sierra Leone. "I welcome the return to Freetown on 3 October of Foday Sankoh, leader of the RUF, and Johnny Paul Koroma, leader of the AFRC. This is an important step forward in the peace process in Sierra Leone," Hain said. "Britain looks to all the parties to the Lomé Peace Agreement to implement the Agreement speedily and in full. An important first step will be immediate progress on getting the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme underway. Britain is committed to supporting the efforts of the Government and people of Sierra Leone to rebuild peace and security. We are pressing for the early deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Sierra Leone." 

Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido welcomed Monday United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation of a 6,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force for Sierra Leone — in particular one dominated by soldiers of the current ECOMOG force. "We’ve been in Sierra Leone for a number of years trying to stir the democracy there, and it had been a big burden on us in terms of the costs in human life and also in resources," Lamido told the BBC. "We are happy that the United Nations has adopted the ECOMOG in terms of the support and facilities for ensuring the peace in Sierra Leone." Asked whether the U.N. force would be commanded by a Nigerian, the foreign minister said: "This is a military arrangement and the U.N. is trying to adopt the ECOMOG, and obviously the commander I am sure must be somebody from ECOMOG...I don’t think I should be engaging in the process, trying to find out who should be under what. But it’s only normal and [necessary] because we are more in number therefore for the troops to be commanded by a Nigerian commander." Lamido argued that ECOMOG soldiers were best suited to undertake peacekeeping duties in Sierra Leone. "I think they (the U.N.) are just not going to question that ECOMOG are better suited, better prepared, better trained, because they have been there," he said. "They are there essentially to restore peace in that place. And they’ve not been supportive of any particular faction. They are there working for the well-being of the entire country. And certainly better prepared and better equipped in order to be able to [enter] this issue of peacekeeping." Lamido stressed that the U.N. role would be important for logistical reasons. "The burden on ECOMOG has been very, very heavy," he said. "We’ve been there for a long time, we’ve been spending money. It is the worry and the concern because we care for the people. We do not believe that Africa should be a continent of anguish, of ordeal, of misery. It is that compassion, that concern and we care — that which moved us into Sierra Leone...More than anything, I think, that what we are spending in terms of saving human lives is what we are spending."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, told the U.N. General Assembly on Monday that peace "continues to be a mirage for people on the ground" in Sierra Leone. "Half a million Sierra Leoneans still live in camps - some of them very insecure - in Guinea and Liberia. I am very worried about the situation in Liberia, where there have been attacks by rebel groups in areas to which Liberian refugees have been returning, and where Sierra Leonean refugees are hosted," she said. "In Sierra Leone, the ECOMOG effort to enforce peace took time, came after many civilians had been killed, maimed or displaced, and was less thorough than it could have been, mainly due to lack of resources; but it managed to contain the conflict." Ogata said that areas in which the UNHCR had little or no presence, including some parts of Sierra Leone, the situation was worrying. "Sometimes choices are very limited, but some other times, thanks to the good cooperation of governments, they are rich and varied," she said. "The ideal objective for any refugee situation is to foster conditions for refugees to make a free and informed choice about their future. There is no better way to restore dignity to a refugee's life than to offer her or him the possibility to make this choice."

Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai has said he is unaware of a letter reportedly written by Vice President Albert Joe Demby endorsing an addendum to the Lomé Peace Accord which would reinstate rebel soldiers into the Sierra Leone Army and compensate them for the period they spent in the bush, the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported on Monday. The existence of the letter was disclosed in a "personal statement" issued on Friday by former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma.

3 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh (pictured left) and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma (right) finally arrived in Freetown on Sunday, nearly three months after the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord on July 7 to end more than eight years of civil war. "We are here. We are here," said Sankoh as he stepped off the plane at Lungi International Airport. "It's a success for the people of Sierra Leone. It's a victory," he added. Koroma followed from the plane, accompanied by his wife and holding a small girl in his arms. A delegation of ECOWAS and international officials accompanied the two rebel leaders on their flight from Monrovia to Freetown. The two rebel leaders were greeted by a small group of family members and well-wishers on the balcony of the airport terminal. An earlier plane brought senior rebel aides, field commanders, and their families including. 

Sankoh and Koroma met at the airport with government ministers, officials of ECOMOG and the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), members of the RUF and the pro-government Kamajor militia, and international officials, including U.N. Special Envoy to Sierra Leone Francis Okelo and U.S. Ambassador Joe Melrose. They were then flown by helicopter to Cockerill Military Headquarters, and from there proceeded by motorcade to the Presidential Lodge for talks, and later for a joint press conference, with President Kabbah.

"Ladies and gentlemen, today, we hail the dawn of a new era. The war has ended. The hour of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation has come. We stand before you today to ask for your forgiveness and a spirit of reconciliation across this country," Sankoh said in a prepared statement which was broadcast over the radio. "You, who we have wronged, you have every human right to feel bitter and unforgiving, but we plead with you for forgiveness. Those who have died, those who are grieving for the loss of their loved ones, those who have been disabled, whose property has been destroyed, those traumatized — the children, the youth, the women, the aged — we ask their forgiveness." However, Sankoh denied that the RUF was holding thousands of civilians, including some 3,000 children, documented missing since the rebel attack on Freetown in January. "The question is irrelevant, all lies," he said in answer to a question on when the civilian abductees would be released. "We, the Revolutionary United Front, do not abduct people, we rescue them." Sankoh maintained he had instructed his commanders to release all prisoners-of-war and abductees, and that those orders should already have been carried out. Koroma, too, called for reconciliation. "Let bygones be bygones," he said. "If we don't forgive one another we cannot implement the peace accord." Koroma said a key demand of the rebel soldiers — that they be reinstated in the Sierra Leone Army — had been granted, although there was no confirmation of this from Sierra Leone government officials. Koroma called on his followers in control of the diamond areas to cease illicit mining. "I want them to know that the war is over, and the riches of this country must go to the people of this country and not individuals," he said. President Kabbah declared that "this is indeed a great day for the people of Sierra Leone," adding: "By this symbolic occasion we have demonstrated to our people that the war is over." He declined Sankoh's request, however, for the immediate lifting of the state of emergency and night curfew, saying he would first have to consult with his security chiefs.

Four European non-governmental organisations announced a campaign Sunday to prevent rebels in Africa from funding their military operations with illicit diamond sales. The "Fatal Transactions" campaign will target diamonds originating in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola. The four participating organisations, Britain's Global Witness, Germany's Medico International, The Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, and the pan-European development group Novib, called on the legitimate diamond trade to put effective controls in place to ensure that diamonds can no longer fund weapons purchases by rebel armies. 

2 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma will return to Sierra Leone on Sunday after ceremonies in Liberia ran late, delaying their departure. Sierra Leonean and United Nations officials waited in vain at Lungi International Airport for the two rebel leaders to arrive. "It's too late for them to come now," President Kabbah conceded on Saturday evening. "I want to assure you they will be here tomorrow," he added after speaking by telephone to Liberian President Charles Taylor. Earlier, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Sankoh and Koroma "accompanied by high-powered delegations from Liberia and ECOWAS Saturday left (Monrovia) for home." Ultimately, however, only a plane carrying Liberian officials and journalists finally arrived in Freetown. According to Focus on Sierra Leone Editor Ambrose Ganda, the flight was postponed  until Sunday because the plane provided by the Nigerian government was too small to carry the rebel leaders and their retinues. "A much bigger plane has been promised for tomorrow," Ganda reported.

In a joint statement issued in Monrovia on Saturday, RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma   reaffirmed the alliance between their respective rebel groups. The document acknowledged that the alliance had "experienced some internal problems," but that these had been resolved through the intervention of Liberian President Charles Taylor and other ECOWAS heads of state. "It is important for us to express the fact that we took notice of the concern that our internal problems could threaten the cause of peace consolidation in Sierra Leone," the statement said. "The people of Sierra Leone know that the RUF and the AFRC came together to end the war. The people of Sierra Leone know that our alliance is for peace. We are happy to proclaim on this Second Day of October 1999 that, our alliance for peace is strong for, we know that, when you are strong nothing will be wrong. We are going to Freetown to help consolidate the peace and contribute to the transformation of our society." In a separate statement, Koroma said his meeting with Sankoh in Monrovia, which was facilitated by President Taylor, "has greatly strengthened the alliance" between the AFRC and the RUF. "We firmly believe that this alliance is not only very good, but also very necessary for our people and peace in Sierra Leone," he said. "We are now agreed that enough time has been wasted and its high time that we returned home and put this process on the road." Koroma appealed to the people of Sierra Leone to be patient as the peace process "would take time, probably more time than had been anticipated at the time of signing" of the Lomé Peace Accord. "One welcome assurance I wish to give to our people, and the world at-large is that Hon. Foday Saybana Sankoh and myself have agreed that there will be no more war in Sierra Leone," Koroma said. "The 'War, War' is now over and it is now the time to 'Jaw, Jaw.' In this, we hope and believe that we are in understanding with the views of President Kabbah and his people and that we have the total support of the international community."

Rebel Sierra Leone Army soldiers at Mansuma, in the Okra Hill area east of Freetown, said Saturday they had been up all night celebrating the expected return later in the day of their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, and RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. The rebel soldiers told reporters they were prepared to disarm once Koroma ordered them to do so. "We are now certain that peace has come and we the fighters are committed to it since our leaders are to arrive in Freetown today," said their spokesman, Major Abdulai Koroma. "We want to assure the nation and the whole world that disarmament will not be a problem as long as we get the directive from the leaders."

1 October: Former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma told the Sierra Leone Web by telephone Friday evening that he would return to Freetown on Saturday. Koroma said that his family, who were to have travelled to the capital from Kailahun District on Thursday, would also reach Freetown on Saturday. Sierra Leonean and Liberian government sources had previously announced that Koroma and RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh were to return to Sierra Leone on Friday. In a BBC interview Friday, Sankoh called reports of his immediate return home "a wrong information," adding: "We are here to see our brother, and we are trying by all means to settle all our problems, so that we can go home to implement the peace accord...I would probably go next week." Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah, however, said the two rebel leaders would leave for Freetown Saturday following a special programme at the Executive Mansion. "They are expected to leave at about 1:00 GMT," Mulbah said. "President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria has been very instrumental in sending a special aircraft and on that flight will include a high powered Liberian delegation. You have U.N. representatives, the Togolese defense minister, Nigeria's minister of overseas cooperation, the U.S. ambassador accredited here (Bismarck Myrick). And of course, a high powered Liberian delegation of press team that would be boarding another charter flight that has been paid for by the Liberian Government." Mulbah denied that Sankoh was reluctant to return to Sierra Leone. "No, not at all. He is not reluctant," he said. "Tomorrow, definitely, the people of Sierra Leone are going to see Mr. Sankoh and Mr. Koroma. We want to put this thing once and for all behind us. (Sankoh) has committed himself to the Lomé Peace Accord. Everybody has committed himself to that. The Liberian leader is part of it. He is one of the facilitators, so have the people of Sierra Leone, including President Kabbah. In fact President Taylor has today been having series of telephone conversations with President Kabbah, President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Konare [of Mali] and most of his friends in the region. So, the whole of ECOWAS is on board."

In a "personal statement" sent to the Sierra Leone Web and others on Friday, former AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma acknowledged concerns by the international community and Sierra Leoneans about the state of the Lomé Peace Accord. "I want to assure all that my men and I are fully committed to the Lomé Peace Accord, albeit the necessary addendum(s) that would have to be attached in the near future," Koroma said. "I am very sincere in seeing my country at peace and seeing that the socio-economic problems that caused the RUF to take up arms be addressed." Koroma said that following his initial meeting with RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh at Liberia's Executive Mansion, which was facilitated by President Charles Taylor, he and Sankoh met again on Thursday evening. "I had suspected that Chairman Sankoh's earlier statements referencing me had been made based on a lot of misinformation that he had received," Koroma said. "Yesterday, after meeting with me, the RUF Leader publicly told President Taylor and others that he had been largely misinformed about my motives." Koroma said that while he and Sankoh were committed to the "full implementation of the Lomé Peace Accord," he complained that a document issued this week by the Sierra Leone government which promised to address the grievances of former Sierra Leone Army soldiers was signed by Vice President Demby, not President Kabbah. "We welcome the written promise by the government to see to the re-instatement and payment of salaries of my men but we question the rationale behind Demby's signature on the document as against President Kabbah's," Koroma said. He called for an addendum to the Lomé Peace Accord comprising Demby's proposal, "signed by President Kabbah, Chairman Sankoh, myself and all the moral guarantors of the Lomé Peace Accord" and approved by Parliament. The former AFRC Chairman also called for a package to reintegrate and rehabilitate members of the pro-government Civil Defence Forces. "These fighters should not be made to feel that they have been used and are now being marginalised," Koroma said. The assurance from their leaders that all is well is in sharp contrast to the reality on the field...In the current situation, any fighting force, however small can disrupt the Lomé Accord if they feel aggrieved." "Finally but most importantly, I want to appeal to my countrymen to forgive my men for atrocities that they might have committed," Koroma said in his statement. "I sympathise with the suffering of my brothers and sisters throughout Sierra Leone and I am again assuring them that I, Lt.-Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, am fully committed to making Sierra Leone a land of peace and subsequent development."

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Sama Banya told the United Nations General Assembly Thursday that Sierra Leone "welcomes with gratitude" contributions by the governments of Canada and the U.K. and the World Bank to the Trust Fund for Sierra Leone, and the recommendation of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the deployment of up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops and observers in Sierra Leone. "The most important element in this is the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Programme under the supervision of United Nations peacekeepers and observers as well as ECOMOG," he said. "The need for an early decision on this cannot be over emphasised."  Banya told the General Assembly that the Lome Peace Accord was generally holding. "There have been a few hiccups but because of the determination of all to move forward, we have been able to contain the situation," he said. "Since the Agreement, they [the rebels] have simply been waiting for the DDR programme to commence. The delay in implementing this could be a factor in the restlessness observed in some elements from time to time. It is a dangerous void....The civil population have established a fund where modest donations are going from an already traumatised and war-weary people...Unfortunately the anxiety and enthusiasm of our people have yet to be matched by those of the international community. Mr. President the speed and the extent of interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and more recently in East Timor clearly demonstrates the capacity of the international community to stop human suffering when it is willing to do so. Our people have been baffled at the delay in implementing the Sierra Leone programme." Banya accused the media and the international community of "totally subduing" events in Sierra Leone "by the focus on Kosovo." In a reference to "various human rights groups" who "denounced the U.N. for signing the Lomé Agreement with reservation on amnesty provision," the Foreign Minister called on "the international community not to do anything that will adversely affect the implementation of the Peace Agreement." In order to ensure accountability, he said, "a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was provided for in the agreement. It may need to be backed by an international inquiry body, such as has been proposed by the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights."

Thailand will send five military officers to Sierra Leone on Tuesday to join the United Nations Military Observer Force in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), according to a source in the Thai prime minister's office. Thailand will initially send five military officers consisting of a lieutenant colonel and majors and captains. The source said the Thai government still had to work out details of the deployment, such as the type of personnel to send to Sierra Leone, and who will bear the cost. The government will also negotiate with the U.N. to ensure an acceptable level of safety for its troops. Croatia despatched ten military officers to join UNOMSIL on Monday.

Nord Resources Corp said Friday it had completed the sale of its 50% stake in Sierra Rutile Limited to MIL Investments S.A.R.L. In return, Nord Resources received the cancellation of seven million shares of common stock, or 29.7% of shares outstanding, which were previously held by MIL Investments. The company also received $1.25 million in cash and the release of its guarantee of $6 million in Sierra Rutile bank debt. Nord Resources retains a 5% carried interest in the Sierra Rutile interest sold.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) said Friday that important elements of the Lomé Peace Accord designed to end Sierra Leone's eight-year civil war remain to be realised. In a statement issued following a two day meeting in New York, CMAG called for the full and effective implementation of the Accord, and called on Commonwealth nations to support United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation for a 6,000-srong peacekeeping force for Sierra Leone.