28 November: ECOMOG, the Sierra Leone Army, and the Civil Defence Forces have expelled AFRC/RUF rebels from the northern towns of Kamaranka, Makulon, and Makabai, about 30 miles north of Makeni, freeing some 8,000 trapped civilians and reopening a main road to Guinea, military sources and aid workers said on Saturday. "Many of the villagers are in bad physical shape, many of them with machete wounds inflicted on them by the rebels when they attacked their villages," one aid worker said. Military sources said fierce fighting had taken place since Thursday, and that some 35 rebel fighters had been killed. The villagers are being transferred to camps in Makeni, and from there will be taken to temporary lodging in safe areas, the aid worker said. The rebels cut the road to Guinea about two weeks ago when they overran several villages and towns north of Makeni.
27 November: Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning Dr. James O.C. Jonah unveiled the government's 1999 budget on Friday which projects expenditures of Le 340.3 billion against revenues of Le 123.5 billion, leaving a Le 216.8 billion deficit. "The deficit will be largely financed by external inflows in the form or project and programme loans and grants," Jonah said. "Hence, the reliance on bank financing of the budget deficit will be drastically reduced and will be eliminated in the second half of the year." Jonah recalled his June budget message in which he stressed the country's fragile economy. It was against this background, he told parliament, that the government put into place fiscal and monetary policies aimed at restoring the nation's macro-economic stability. Jonah said the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.7% in 1998. He said growth in the money supply is projected to slow to 13% in 1998 as compared to 47.1% in 1997. Consumer inflation is expected to decrease to 12.5% at the of December 1998 as compared to 67% the previous year. 1999 inflation is projected at 6%. Sierra Leone has minimal foreign reserves, and revenues from rutile and diamonds have been disrupted by war. However, Jonah said the government was hopeful that Sierra Rutile would begin operating again in the first quarter of 1999, and that diamond revenues would begin to increase. Additional revenues will come mainly from customs duties on imports. Jonah said that growth in 1999 would come from "public and private investment, including the rehabilitation of the Sierra Rutile Mines, increased reconstruction activities throughout the country, and the expected recovery in agricultural and mining output in response to improvements in security." Jonah said the government would reactivate and extend the rural banking system. In the educational sector, the government plans to pay school fees for all children in classes 1 to 3, to provide teaching materials and school supplies to primary schools throughout the nation, and provide subsidised bus fares for school travel for all school children. He also announced government initiatives in primary health care for school children and for the development of housing for sale to economically deprived citizens on a mortgage scheme basis. As an incentive to business, the government intends to reduce corporate taxes from 47.5% to 35% as of April 1.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the 20th France-African Summit that assistance will not help Africans escape the stigma of underdevelopment in the absence of security, good governance, and democracy. "From Guinea Bissau, to Sierra Leone, Ethiopia to Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo to Angola, violence and war are crippling the continent with many innocent lives being lost," Annan said. "Without political stability and a predictable environment, neither investment nor development will be forthcoming." He noted that many of the conflicts on the continent were rooted of intolerance, exploited by self-centered leaders who used religious, ethnic, or social diversity as pretexts. However, he said, Africa's history shows many examples of co-existence and co-operation which cut across divisions. 49 African countries, including 35 heads of state, are attending the conference, which is chaired by French President Jacques Chirac.
Reports that three priests have set out in search of their abducted colleague, Italian priest Father Mario Guerra, are "not quite correct," the Concord Times newspaper online edition reported Friday. Things are not as bad in the diocese as they are portrayed. We have a pilgrimage that took us through five miles from Mayugaba to Magburaka. This shows that our activities shall continue, the newspaper quoted the Bishop of Makeni, George Biguzzi, as saying.
26 November: A team of Italian officials arrived in Freetown Wednesday and has received permission to negotiate directly with rebels holding Italian Catholic priest Father Mario Guerra, diplomats said on Thursday. The Italian delegation includes Italy's Guinea-based ambassador to Sierra Leone. A member of the delegation in told reporters in Freetown that "the matter is too sensitive to make any comment." Bishop George Biguzzi said earlier he had heard Father Guerra's voice on a radio frequency used by ECOMOG, but that attempts to negotiate the priest's release had "reached a brick wall." He renewed his call by the Catholic mission for Guerra "to be treated humanely and released unconditionally." Western diplomats have confirmed that Guerra is being held by AFRC Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa. "SAJ is trying to bargain his way out of the jungle with the priest in his possession," one diplomat said. A West African diplomat said Wednesday "there is overwhelming evidence that SAJ wants to surrender to either the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) or Guinean ECOMOG troops in the north."
25 November: Ten days after abducting Italian Catholic priest Father Mario Guerra, diplomats in Freetown say AFRC Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa has expressed a desire to surrender, but only to the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) and Guinean ECOMOG troops. Diplomats in contact with Musa report he has demanded a satellite telephone, medicine, and radio contact with his wife Tina before he will release the Father Guerra. Tina Musa, who was arrested in Guinea and has been detained in Freetown since early September, was quoted then as saying that Musa wanted to surrender but was afraid of the Kamajors and his likely treatment in detention. Tina Musa recommended that her husband's surrender be facilitated by creating a safe corridor free of Kamajors and news reporters. A source at State House told BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay that President Kabbah was aware of contact between diplomats and SAJ Musa, and has promised that Musa and his wife would be given safe passage out of Sierra Leone if he lays down his guns and surrenders.
Three Catholic priests have set out in search of their abducted colleague, Father Mario Guerra, a priest told journalists at Makeni on Wednesday. He said the mission, which was being led by Father Superior Marchille, was intended to be "a peaceful one" The three priests reportedly interviewed victims of rebel atrocities at Maforay in Sanda Chiefdom to assist them in locating the rebels. Since Father Guerra's abduction, Catholic church activities in the north have been disrupted.
United Nations Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, said Wednesday that ECOWAS leaders were open to the possibility of a political settlement of Sierra Leone's civil conflict. "It now appears that (the war is) continuing too long, and that is giving rise to all kinds of concerns," Okelo told the BBC on Wednesday. "And thats why the heads of state and government of ECOWAS recommended a two-track approach be adopted where, on the one hand, we continue with the military approach, and also to have a political option." He stressed, however, the difficulty in conducting negotiations with rebel leaders. "When we talk to rebel or we refer to the rebels, who are we talking about? What is the structure of the rebels? Who is the leadership? What telephone number do I have to call if I want to get in touch with them?" Okelo said that deployment of United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) military observers was currently restricted to areas where ECOMOG was able to provide security. "We hope that the conditions will permit us to deploy the remaining 30 military observers, and the process is now on so that we can have up to 70 military observers as originally foreseen," he said. He added that U.N. military observers located in Bo, Kenema and Makeni had been able to travel extensively to the war front, and had established good contacts with local authorities. "We also have indications that the rebels have begun to trust the neutrality of the United Nations," he said. "And there are indications too that many too would prefer to surrender to UNOMSIL. That shows you the kind of confidence that the presence of the United Nations is generating." Okelo said that while accepting the surrender of rebels was implied in the UNOMSIL mandate, he acknowledged that the force was not currently prepared to handle a mass rebel surrender. "But I can say that should we see this as a distinct possibility, I think the Security Council will be all too pleased to provide us with the necessary means to do so," he said.
Radio messages intercepted by ECOMOG lend credence to reports of division within the AFRC/RUF high command over the government's offer of amnesty to five top rebel leaders, BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay reported on Wednesday. He noted ECOMOG's concern that the call for surrender does not turn into another "Kabala fiasco."
Lawyers for 46 persons sentenced to death on treason and other charges in connection with last year's military coup have appealed their sentences, according to Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa. He said he received the last of the appeals on Friday, including an appeal by former President Joseph Saidu Momoh against his conviction on two counts of conspiracy. Among the 46 are four journalists, four medical doctors, four university professors, four lawyers, a former member of parliament, and a businessman, Liberian Star Radio reported Wednesday. No date has been set for the appeals hearings, but the reportedly will begin early next year.
Britain opposes executions in Sierra Leone even in the case of atrocities committed by junta supporters, British Minister of State for Africa Tony Lloyd said on Wednesday. This was "partly because Britain has a general rule that the death penalty is not an acceptable punishment, but also because it does nothing to move Sierra Leone down the path of reconciliation," Lloyd said during a two-day visit to Ivory Coast. He said Britain wanted to see Sierra Leone "establish itself as a functioning state" and was providing aid to help bring that about. Because restoring security was a priority, the country was concentrating on training police and establishing a new army.
24 November: AFRC Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa has demanded medicine and a satellite telephone in exchange for the release of Italian priest Father Mario Guerra, who was abducted at Kamalu earlier this month. Musa, who served as Chief Secretary in the AFRC government, now leads a faction of AFRC loyalist soldiers in northern Sierra Leone. The MISNA missionary news agency in Rome reported that a radio message from Father Guerra included a demand by Musa to be allowed to speak to his wife, Tina. Tina Musa was arrested in Guinea and has been detained in Freetown since early September.
ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jimoh Okunlola denied Tuesday a claim by RUF commander Col. Sam "Maskita" Bockarie that the rebel group had captured some 60 ECOMOG troops. "We wonder where he got his 60 fictitious soldiers as we don't have reports of 60 soldiers missing," Okunlola said. He acknowledged that some troops had gone missing in Kabala, but said they had turned up again in Fadugu and Makeni. "We see the claim as a way of misleading the international community or to demoralise gallant ECOMOG soldiers," Okunlola said.
The Sierra Leone government gave formal approval Tuesday for three British lawyers to represent RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh in an appeal against his conviction and death sentence last month on treason charges. "These solicitors include two London-based lawyers; one of whom was instructed by Mr. (Omrie Michael) Golley, acting for the RUF," a government statement said. The three lawyers include former British Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg, David Hood, and Charles Buckley. Golley, a Sierra Leonean lawyer living in London, advised the RUF during the 1996 Abidjan peace talks.
Minister of Information, Communications, Tourism and Culture Dr. Julius Spencer said Tuesday that all media reports dealing with security matters would have to be cleared in advance by the Ministry of Defence and ECOMOG personnel. "There is a increasing propensity of the press to publish stories that are either false or have the effect of demoralising our security forces or instilling fear in the civilian population," Spencer said. He noted that ECOMOG officers were becoming increasingly angry with stories which portrayed them as inept. "You are free to express your opinion but find the facts," Spencer said. "We have come to the point where we have no alternative but to apply the force of the law."
ECOMOG troops and Civil Defence Forces freed more than 300 hostages, most of them children, in a raid on a rebel camp at ?Njabiama Fiama [as reported by Reuters; possibly Njagbwema] in Kono District on Sunday, ECOMOG officers and relief workers said Tuesday. They said more than 20 rebels were killed in the attack. Relief workers said the children had been taken to Yengema, and that parents with lost children were converging on the town.
Former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who was sentenced to two concurrent five year prison sentences after being convicted on two charges of conspiracy, has filed an appeal.
Deputy Defence Minster and Civil Defence Forces (CDF) leader Sam Hinga Norman told the BBC he has not been categorical in accusing the Liberian government of supporting the rebels. "Until we get to that border and see what happens, whether they are attacking from within Liberia into Sierra Leone, there we cannot be very categorical. I want to be very cautious in this way," he said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. "If and when we get to the border, we will call on the international establishment, government, and organisations to bring into bear on the government of Liberia to be responsive to international undertakings and obligations, and not to allow attacks from its territory to come into Sierra Leone." Norman said that if attacks were being launched from Liberia, "We will have no other alternative but to defend ourselves and to pursue them anywhere they may come from." He denied that the CDF had pursued rebels into Liberia, saying: "We are very cautious not to do that." Norman responded to allegations that Kamajor militiamen were involved in illicit diamond mining. "That is the allegation," he said. "Everybody is saying that the Kamajors are involved in exploiting diamonds. But as you can see, diamond mining and war cannot go together. Otherwise, you would have seen our position being overrun if we had been exploiting diamonds." He expressed concern over illicit diamond mining, noting that diamonds were "one of the sources from which the sustenance of government economy depends." Norman also rejected allegations that ECOMOG troops were involved in illicit diamond mining. "As I have said, you see diamond is something that everybody is running after. And once you operate in the area, even as the defence, then the allegation is that you are exploiting diamonds. So, they have spread these allegations upon ECOMOG, upon CDF, upon whoever that is in this diamond area. I dont believe that ECOMOG is engaged in exploitation of diamonds. This is only a sort of statement to detract and, so to speak, to confuse and to cause sort of we say ill-feeling in the minds of ECOMOG against the people of Sierra Leone."
Some 25 AFRC/RUF rebels reportedly drowned in the Little Scarcies River late Monday while escaping from ECOMOG troops and Kamajor militiamen in three dugout canoes, Kamajor commander Sorie Sesay told a local journalist on Tuesday. He said the group was surrounded between Mange and Sanda Mabolotoh. Sesay said his men were increasing "vigilance and determined to uproot all junta and rebel forces from the area."
Four senior rebel commanders have surrendered to the ECOMOG force in Kailahun District since the weekend, BBC correspondent Prince Brima reported on Tuesday. "The scene for the rebels' surrender was set last weekend when the head of the United Nations military observer team in Sierra Leone, Major General Jose, arrived here in Kenema to coordinate and help prepare the ground to receive the surrendees," Brima said. "First to surrender last Sunday was Denis Momoh, the Operations Coordinator of the RUF, who gave himself up to the Kamajor militiamen at Niama village, 24 miles from Kenema. This was followed by two others of the same village. Then another rebel commando surrendered to ECOMOG troops, this time, at Bunumbu town." The rebel commanders reportedly made "startling disclosures" and have presented documents to ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Forces outlining rebel plans to launch a full-scale attack on diamond mining towns in the east of the country, the report said. One of the four said more AFRC/RUF troops were willing to surrender, "but were unsure of the level of security that will be provided for them." He told the BBC that two Lebanese businessmen deported by the Sierra Leone government had been supplying the rebels with food and ammunition. The four were flown to Freetown on Monday night by military helicopter.
23 November: In a BBC interview broadcast Monday, President Kabbah predicted that the war in Sierra Leone would be over "way before the end of the year." He said that progress had been slowed by attempting to end the war and to rebuild the new army simultaneously, and he acknowledged that there had been a delay in finalising arrangements for the additional troops expected to strengthen the ECOMOG force. "These arrangements have all been made and we should be expecting the extra troops soon," he added. Kabbah gave the opinion that the coming transition to democratic rule in Nigeria should not affect Nigeria's commitment to the ECOMOG force in Sierra Leone. "I really do not consider that as a serious problem," he said. "Sierra Leone has had a relationship with Nigeria for over 2½ centuries. Whether the civilian regime they have there or a military regime, I do not think that they will leave us high and dry...In the final analysis, when they really evaluate the situation, they will say those are our brothers, they need us." Kabbah stressed that the role of the Civil Defence Forces should not be to compete with the regular armed forces. "We believe that in every locality there must be trained people who are there, ready, in case there is a breakdown of law and order, they should be the very first to move in. If there is need for additional support, then of course the regular army or in this case ECOMOG will move in." He described the Civil Defence Forces as highly committed and very much motivated. "We clearly have problems of providing them with all the logistics they need, and that has slowed down their movements," he said, adding: "They are at the moment adequately armed and equipped to meet the situation." Kabbah said the government had "very much in mind" the necessity of demobilising the militias after the end of the war. "Part of the responsibility of ECOMOG is to ensure that everybody is disarmed by the time they finish their assignment here," he said.
ECOMOG troops killed more than 25 AFRC/RUF rebels in a four-hour battle at Koidu on Saturday, ECOMOG officials said Monday. An undisclosed number of rebels were reported wounded. The rebels had been threatening the area for about a week, an ECOMOG source said. Residents of Koquima and Small Sefadu had earlier abandoned their homes for fear of rebel attacks.
The state-owned Daily Mail newspaper reported Monday that nearly 100 rebels had surrendered to ECOMOG at Joru, in eastern Sierra Leone. The newspaper quoted a 17-year old RUF fighter who said "many more wanted to surrender, but were awaiting developments."
Liberian President Charles Taylor told journalists Sunday that he had urged President Kabbah to use dialogue to resolve the Sierra Leone conflict, Liberia Communications Network Radio reported on Monday. He noted that it was in the best interest of both countries for peace to prevail in Sierra Leone. Taylor said his government condemned all atrocities in Sierra Leone, no matter which side committed them. He said that, during the coming Francophone conference, he would consult with his colleagues to see how he could best use his good offices to mediate in the Sierra Leone crisis to bring about lasting peace. He said he would share the Liberian experience which showed that "might is not the way out but through power-sharing and traditional methods." He said that most conflicts are rooted in tribal and ethnic interests and bases.
22 November: The Iranian Teheran Times newspaper confirmed Sunday that diplomatic missions in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Gabon, and Afghanistan had been closed in line with the government's austerity measures. Missions in Gabon, Mozambique, Brunei, and Munich will also be closed, as well as the Iranian consulate in Shanghai, China. On Friday, Cultural Chancellor of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Freetown, Sheik Mohamed Hussein Shirzadi, was quoted in a Sierra Leone government news release as saying that Iran planned to re-open its embassy in Freetown, although no date had been set.
21 November: Rebels killed 18 civilians Friday and abducted more than 40 in a raid on the town of Kambia Makolong, 45 miles from Makeni, aid workers and ECOMOG officers said on Saturday. "They cut the throats of many of the 18 people, many of them children and women. The rest they shot down with their guns," an aid worker in Makeni said. ECOMOG officers confirmed the attack but gave no figures. One officer said the rebels were abducting civilians to mine diamonds for them.
A meeting of northern traditional chiefs, politicians, religious leaders, and business leaders is underway in Makeni to discuss peace options, Reuters reported on Saturday.
20 November: RUF commander Col. Sam "Maskita" Bockarie has called for peace talks under the sponsorship of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). "The RUF is ready to talk for a lasting peace," Bockarie said Friday night. He stressed that his "paramount concern" was for the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who is appealing a conviction and death sentence on treason charges. "There seems to be a plot to find him still guilty," Bockarie said. "We would do anything possible for him to be free." Bockarie said he was with AFRC Chairman Lt.-Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, "somewhere in the jungle between the west and north of Sierra Leone." He claimed in an interview that the RUF was also holding some 60 ECOMOG troops. Regarding the abduction of Italian priest Father Mario Guerra, Bockarie said he had learned of it on the radio, and was checking with his field units. The RUF did not "want to be an obstacle to peace," and wished to let OAU President Blaise Compaore know that the RUF wished to pursue peace "by negotiation and dialogue," he said. Bockarie denied a report in Wednesday's For di People newspaper which quoted him as saying the RUF was prepared to "kill anything that moved," saying "You would have to be a fool, and drunk, to say things like that."
The European Union (EU) has granted Sierra Leone ECU 111.5 (about $131 million) in emergency aid, according to a joint statement issued Friday by the EU and the Sierra Leone government. "The agreement...will grant valuable assistance in support of the country's programme for rehabilitation and development of social sectors, infrastructure and public sector reform and governance," the statement said. The package will also fund agricultural recovery, humanitarian and refugee aid, and infrastructure projects. "Eight million ECU in this package is in the form of risk capital provided by the European Investment Bank for projects in the fields of power generation, mining, and the private sector," an EU official said in Freetown.
Minister of State, Northern Province Dr. Y.M. Koroma has expressed regret after Kamajor militiamen shot at a helicopter belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Several bullets hit the helicopter between Lunsar and Makeni, forcing it to make an emergency landing at the Teko Military Barracks soccer field. Koroma regretted the incident, but warned relief organisations to alert security forces before flying into war zones.
Five Sierra Leonean refugees returning to the Tomandou refugee camp in Guinea on November 13 had their hands cut off by rebels when they returned to their villages to harvest their crops. A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) press briefing Friday said the five, who were able to return to Guinea, were treated for their wounds at a hospital in Gueckedou. 15 other refugees who reportedly suffered similar atrocities were still missing. The UNHCR has been moving refugees away from the border areas as rebels have crossed into Guinea to search for food. So far 6,000 have been relocated from the camps closest to the border, including 1,700 from Tomandou, the UNHCR statement said.
The Sierra Leone Refugee Welfare Coordinating Committee has denounced Tuesday's demonstration by refugee students in Liberia who were protesting delays in receiving their United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) scholarships. The Committee warned that any refugees engaging in such acts would be dealt with, but also called on the UNHCR to hold dialogue with the students.
Former AFRC logistics officer Captain Yamba Kargbo was arrested by ECOMOG troops Tuesday during a raid on Senglema in Port Loko District, Liberian Star Radio reported on Friday. Kargbo had reportedly been the main supplier of food, arms, and ammunition to troops at Allen Town during junta rule.
19 November: The Revolutionary United Front will destroy "every living thing" if anything happens to their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie told the newspaper For di People in a report published on Wednesday. Sankoh is currently being held at Pademba Road Prison in Freetown where he is preparing an appeal against his conviction and death sentence on treason charges. "I am a ruthless commander," Bockarie said in a telephone interview. "I am ready to damage but I am waiting until something happens to Sankoh. When I take Freetown I shall clear every living thing and building. To my God, I'll fight. I'll kill and kill, and the more they tell me to stop, the more I'll kill. Only Sankoh can tell us to stop." Bockarie rejected a call by United States Special Envoy to Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson for the RUF to lay down its arms. "(The U.S. is) a big hypocrite whose intention is to steal our natural resources rather than bring peace to the country," he said. "America and the world should know that we shall not lay down arms, because only a defeated man can do so."
ECOMOG troops on Monday attacked suspected rebels on Tasso Island, 12 miles from Freetown, and captured 35 of them, an ECOMOG officer said on Thursday. Witnesses who fled the island said at least five rebels had been killed in the raid. "The rebels had suddenly re-emerged on the island, training and planning to carry out attacks on Freetown," one ECOMOG commander said. "We captured 35 of them and inflicted casualties." He gave no further details.
ECOMOG officers said Thursday they were committed to ending the Sierra Leone conflict militarily, and displayed five "hard core" rebel leaders captured recently in Lungi. Among them was a Lieutenant Kargbo, a member of the disbanded Sierra Leone Army, who had opposed disarming the army after the signing of the Conakry Peace Accord.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday it had suspended the airlift repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees from Kissidougou, Guinea on November 13 after discovery of several cases of meningitis in refugee camps in the Prefecture of Gueckedou, where candidates had registered for a return to Freetown. The UNHCR had begun a second phase of the operation on November 11, returning 305 persons on several flights. All returnees undergo medical screening before returning to Freetown. The operation, for which 1,800 persons have registered so far, will be restarted if no further cases of meningitis are identified in the refugee camps.
President Kabbah raised the possibility Thursday of an amnesty for five key rebel leaders if they would lay down their arms and agree to leave Sierra Leone for a period of time. In an ECOMOG security briefing, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe identified the five as Captain SAJ Musa, Sam "Maskita" Bockarie, Eldred Collins, Dennis "Superman" Mingo, and AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. Kabbah said he would be willing to consider allowing them to depart "to a third country that is not neighboring Sierra Leone for awhile," and to later be resettled in Sierra Leone. "But I cannot do that as long as they go on committing the crimes that theyve been committing, and chopping off peoples limbs, and all the rest of it, burning homes, and above all always threatening, just a bluff, bluffing that theyre going to kill everybody in this country," Kabbah told the BBC. He stressed, however, that rebel leaders who "have committed very, very serious crimes will have to face the law." General Khobe confirmed at the security briefing that the government has been in constant contact with rebel leaders, particularly with Captain SAJ Musa. He said the entire sub-region was interested in peace in Sierra Leone, and if what was needed was to provide safe passage for rebel leaders to depart so that Sierra Leoneans could live peacefully, the entire sub-region would be prepared to provide refuge for them. Minister of Information, Communications, Tourism and Culture Dr. Julius Spencer stressed that no negotiations had taken place. He said the rebel leaders must be prepared to lay down their arms, and that then the possibility exists for them to live elsewhere in the sub-region.
18 November: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) suspended medical evacuation flights to the interior on Wednesday after one of its helicopters came under fire. The ICRC's Dissemination Delegate in Freetown, Aleksandra Matijevic, said shots from unidentified gunmen hit a helicopter carrying eight relief workers to Makeni on Tuesday. "The helicopter was hit by several bullets in the cockpit but was able to make its way to Makeni, its destination, and then fly back to Freetown," Matijevic said. The helicopter had evacuated 27 war-wounded to Freetown for emergency surgery since October. Matijevic said the ICRC wanted to assess the security situation before resuming flights.
About 100 Sierra Leonean refugees demonstrated Tuesday outside United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices near Monrovia, Liberian Star Radio reported on Wednesday. The refugees were protesting an alleged delay by the UNHCR in providing their children's scholarship grants. A spokesman for the refugees said the UNHCR had refused to provide information on the status of the scholarships, and was denying the children the right to an education. UNHCR Program Officer Oliver Fafa Attidzah denied that the organisation was withholding scholarships. He explained that the process required screening to determine whether the applications qualified for the grants. The scholarship program, which is sponsored by the German government, is currently benefiting eleven students, Attidzah said.
17 November: Some 800 Sierra Leonean refugees in Congo Town, Liberia are being relocated to VOA One near Brewerville, in compliance with Liberian President Charles Taylor's order to clear Monrovia of displaced persons. The Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) said about 200 refugees were relocated on Monday, and that the rest would be moved by the weekend.
16 November: Kidnappers, thought to be RUF rebels, abducted an Italian priest Sunday night from the Catholic Mission in the northern town of Kamalu, Bishop George Biguzzi said on Monday. "We are appealing to the people who abducted Father Mario Guerra from the Mission House in Kamalu on Sunday night to release him immediately," Biguzzi told a news conference. "We assume the people who abducted the father are the people fighting the war in Sierra Leone." Guerra, 64, has spent 25 years in Sierra Leone. Diplomats in Freetown told Reuters that the rebels might use the priest as a bargaining chip to save RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who has been convicted and sentenced to death in Freetown on treason charges.
The Sierra Leone government has appointed new ambassadors to Guinea and Liberia, according to a government news release dated November 13 and released on Monday. Former Minister of Labour, Education, Youth and Sport Alhaji Dr. Sheku Bah Saccoh has been Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Guinea, and has also been accredited to Mali, Cape Verde, and Guinea Bissau. Former Minister of Internal Affairs Dr. Kemoh Salia-Bao replaces Wilfred Kanu as Ambassador to Liberia. He is also accredited in Ivory Coast, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
Iran has reportedly closed 12 embassies and consulates as part of austerity measures announced in August, the newspaper Iran News reported on Monday. Now details were given, but a list issued by Iran's foreign ministry in August included embassies in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Gabon, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, and the consulate in Hyderabad, India.
Nord Resources Corporation, which through wholly-owned subsidiaries owns 50% interest in Sierra Rutile Limited, announced Monday that meetings with senior government officials had made progress in securing amendments to Sierra Rutile's operating agreement necessary to reopen the mine. The statement noted that political and security conditions in Sierra Leone continued to during the past quarter. Sierra Rutile Limited has conducted an engineering assessment necessary to restart mining operations, including cost estimates and a project schedule. The mine currently remains on a care and maintenance basis. "The Company continues to discuss the future of the project with 50% co-owner Consolidated Rutile Ltd.," the statement said.
15 November: Rebels attacked the northern border town of Kamaporoto on Saturday, killing some 16 people with guns and machetes and abducting at least 50 others, police, church sources, and aid workers said on Sunday. "More than 100 rebels armed with guns and machetes attacked Kamaporoto yesterday and shot dead or chopped off the heads of at least 16 villagers, including women and children, and abducted 50," an aid worker in Makeni said. ECOMOG troops and Civil Defence Forces militiamen were dispatched to the area from Kamakwie on Sunday, according to police sources in Makeni. "The rebels have left the village. They attacked the village from one of their bases near the Guinea border in search of food and young boys and girls to fight with them," one police officer said. "Dozens of the wounded have been arriving in hospitals in Kamakwie," the aid worker said, adding that the death toll from the attack was expected to rise. Priests arriving in Freetown from Kamakwie said its population of some 30,000 was in a panic, fearing an attack on the town itself.
14 November: Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai said Friday that AFRC/RUF rebels would have to surrender before peace talks could be held. "We are ready to talk with the rebels but the preconditions are that they must lay down arms and surrender," Kaikai said. He rejected a demand by RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie to negotiate with imprisoned RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, saying that the government was not prepared to free Sankoh from prison and that it had ruled out any power sharing arrangement with the RUF. "The release of Corporal Foday Sankoh is out of the question. He has been tried and found guilty by the court and sentenced. This is a sub-judice matter we cannot get into," Kaikai said. Bockarie told the BBC Friday that the rebels were prepared to negotiate, but only through Sankoh.
13 November: U.S. Special Envoy to Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the Sierra Leone government and AFRC/RUF rebels Friday to seek a peaceful end to the country's civil conflict. Jackson said the rebels "must make a decision to disarm, stop the killing and maiming of people and come to the bargaining table to talk it out and not fight it out." In a joint press conference with President Kabbah in Freetown, Jackson said the war in Sierra Leone is a regional problem, and that therefore the U.S. government, the U.N., ECOMOG, and neighbouring countries must form part of a collective process to end the war. He called on the government to "reach out" to the rebels and to make concessions in order to bring them to peace talks. "They are also Sierra Leoneans, so they are a necessary component to the peace process," Jackson said, arguing that the only way to end the conflict was for both sides return to the bargaining table and negotiate a political solution.
RUF commander Col. Sam "Maskita" Bockarie told the BBC Friday that the rebels believed Jackson's proposal for negotiations was "the only option" to end the conflict, and that the RUF was ready for talks with the government as long as they were conducted through their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh. Sankoh is currently in prison in Freetown after being convicted and condemned to death on treason charges. "We are prepared to sit down and talk, but through our leader, Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, who is in Freetown already," Bockarie said. "Through Corporal Sankoh Im prepared (to declare a ceasefire) immediately as I hear from him." Bockarie condemned the detention of Sankoh. "He is the only person who we can listen to. He is the key to peace," he said. Bockarie rejected the suggestion that the rebels were only prepared to negotiate because they were losing on the battlefield. "Im not losing," Bockarie said. "I think we have the upper hand now."
12 November: The presidents of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia signed a non-aggression pact Thursday at a summit meeting in Conakry aimed at decreasing regional tensions and reviving the Mano River Union. "The three heads of state expressed their willingness to reinforce sub-regional integration by reviving the Mano River Union," a joint statement said. "They welcomed the various agreements focusing on the non-aggression pact signed by the three countries." The U.S. Special Envoy for Africa, Rev. Jesse Jackson, also took part in the three hour session. "The United States encourages regional cooperation and the relaunch of activities by the Mano River Union and notes the non-aggression pact signed between the three countries," Jackson said. Diplomats said the summit had been called to defuse tension caused by a series of border clashes and a deep distrust of Liberian President Charles Taylor by his neighbors. "Recent developments between Sierra Leone and Liberia, and between Sierra Leone and Guinea, are threatening to throw the three states into full-scale war and undermine the stability of the entire Western Africa," a senior regional diplomat said. He said the latest flare-up came in September after President Kabbah tipped Taylor off about a coup plot by Liberian dissidents. "This led to the Liberian government's attempt to arrest the former Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson and the fighting that broke out in Monrovia," the diplomat said. Kabbah's tip-off, instead of easing tension, caused more distrust in Liberia which has often accused Sierra Leone of supporting factions hostile to Taylor. "In October this led to the Liberian army massing thousands of soldiers on its border with Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone doing the same," the diplomat said. He said a battle had broken out involving ECOMOG troops, in which there had been casualties on both sides. "The tension between Sierra Leone and Liberia has not decreased in recent weeks," he added. Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Maxwell Khobe confirmed the battle, and said it had only been stopped from spreading by U.S. pressure on Liberia. President Kabbah returned to Freetown on Thursday. Jackson is due to visit Sierra Leone on Friday.
The ECOMOG force and AFRC/RUF rebels have clashed repeatedly in northern Sierra Leone in the past week, ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu said on Thursday. "The past one week has been very eventful," Ahmadu said. "We had quite a lot of losses during one week, so also has the enemy." He gave no casualty figures, but said there had been battles over the past few days at Gbendembu and Kamalu. The newspaper For di People reported that rebels captured three ECOMOG troops at Kamalu, and that as many as 20 soldiers may have been killed in a rebel ambush.
11 November: The death toll from Monday's rebel attack on the northern town of Gbendembu has risen to about 100 as more bodies have been found, aid workers said on Wednesday. Some of the victims were beheaded, while others suffered bullet wounds or had their throats cut. "Inside the Wesleyan Church in Gbendembu town, people have found 11 men, women, and children with their throats savagely cut," one aid worker said. "It is still not definite how many people died in the fighting but it is now certain that it is close to 100." An ECOMOG officer said 20 of the dead were ECOMOG troops and Sierra Leonean soldiers. "We also killed more than 30 rebels," he said. "We will be flying the bodies of ECOMOG soldiers to Nigeria for burial." Another "senior source" close to ECOMOG said the combined death toll among pro-government forces was 39. A survivor related to Reuters Wednesday how he had watched the attack as he hid on the roof of a building next to the Wesleyan Church. "They searched from house to house...Then I saw them march 11 people, men, women and children from (the) nearby bush into the church. The wife of the church pastor, Marie Fornah, was among the 11 and also the pastor's uncle," he said. "The rebels closed the door after they entered. After two or three minutes I heard their hostages screaming. It was horrible. They were screaming that the rebels were killing them, cutting their throats." The survivor said the rebels, numbering about 20, left the church after about 30 minutes. "I waited another half hour and stole into the church. There were the bodies of the 11, all of them with their throats cut and blood still gushing out," he said. "I don't know if my parents were captured by the rebels." He added that he saw the rebels driving scores of people, mainly women and children, into the bush. At the Connaught Hospital morgue, relatives of slain soldiers were claiming the bodies and taking them away for burial, witnesses said.
United Nations officials in eastern Sierra Leone say they have been unable to verify reports, carried by the BBC and news wire services, that AFRC/RUF rebel forces killed about 100 civilians near Tongo on Monday morning. The Associated Press quoted ECOMOG spokesman Paul Aghimimen in Freetown, while BBC correspondent Prince Brima attributed his report to eyewitnesses. The U.N. said it is still investigating, but that initial findings suggest the reports were based on rumours.
RUF rebels have blocked and cut the road between Makeni and Kamakwie, Liberian Star Radio reported on Wednesday. People fleeing the area said the rebels attempted to overrun an ECOMOG base, but were repelled. A number of civilians were reported killed, while others escaped by bush paths.
About 100 Sierra Leonean refugees arrived in Freetown from Guinea Wednesday aboard plane chartered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A UNHCR spokesman said two flights a day, each carrying about 50 refugees, would continue until Saturday.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has begun registering child soldiers in Sierra Leone as part of a demobilisation programme. Fewer than 100 child soldiers have so far been demobilised. Media reports have cited the Kamajor militia, which has been unwilling to release child soldiers.
The government of the Netherlands has donated $4 million to ECOMOG to facilitate the deployment of Malian troops in Sierra Leone, Liberian Star Radio reported on Wednesday.
Sierra Leone's university lecturers have ended their "indefinite strike" after meeting with Education Minister Dr. Alpha T. Wurie. The lecturers began their work stoppage last week to demand an agreed-upon salary increase and arrears. Wurie described the lecturers' action as a small misunderstanding, and said they were demanding what was due them.
Sierra Leone's national soccer team has been forced to withdraw from the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000 because of lack of funding. The Sierra Leone Football Association said it had to withdraw the team after the government failed to come up with the money to allow the team to travel to Gabon for a qualifying match. The International Football Federation, FIFA, has already agreed to pay for two of the team's next international matches, against Morocco and Mali.
10 November: At least 70 people were killed Monday in a rebel attack on the town of Gbendembu, about 17 miles northwest of Makeni, aid workers and an ECOMOG officer said on Tuesday. "More than 400 rebels armed with AK-47 rifles and machetes attacked Gbendembu yesterday morning, shooting and killing indiscriminately scores of people in the town," the ECOMOG officer said. "We have driven the rebels out and recaptured the town," he added. He said rebels had managed to sneak into the town at daybreak. Aid workers confirmed that more than 70 people had been killed. "But we are expecting the death toll to rise much higher as many people wounded in the fighting managed to flee to the bush and may also have died there," one aid worker said. The ECOMOG officer said many of the dead were rebels who had been killed in battle. He acknowledged that ECOMOG soldiers had been killed, but he was unable to say how many. Hospital sources in Freetown said the bodies of more than 20 ECOMOG troops and Sierra Leonean soldiers had been brought to the hospital on Monday.
Clashes at and around Tongo Field, in eastern Sierra Leone, have forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes, a military spokesman said on Tuesday. There were no immediate reports on casualties. Fighting between AFRC/RUF rebels and the Civil Defence Forces began on Monday.
Liberian President Charles Taylor told outgoing Sierra Leone Ambassador Wilfred Kanu that Liberia was ready to talk to RUF rebels in an effort to stop the fighting in Sierra Leone. Taylor made the offer at a departure ceremony for Kanu at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia. He said Liberia would undertake this initiative if given the opportunity, but stressed that Sierra Leoneans should make reconciliation a priority. "I am committed to seeing to it that peace prevails in Sierra Leone, and so would like to mediate between the different armed groups involved in the fighting," Taylor said. "Peace can only be restored to Sierra Leone through dialogue and not by the use of force, and Sierra Leoneans should take on the path of reconciliation." In response, Kanu said relations between the two countries at present were "not cordial", but added that he was glad dialogue had begun between the two countries. In reply, Taylor said: "We are pursuing diplomatic means to improve our relations."
Craig Murray, the former Deputy Head of the British Foreign Office's Africa (Equatorial) Department, said Tuesday he had recommended the Foreign Office recall High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Peter Penfold, because he was acting contrary to British government policy. Murray told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee investigating the "Arms to Africa Affair" that he had been "warned off" by a more senior official. He said he complained after learning that Penfold had advised President Kabbah to sign a contract with the London-based mercenary group Sandline International, even though the British government was at the time committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the Sierra Leone conflict. When challenged, Penfold told him he was advising Kabbah in a "personal capacity," Murray said. Murray described a January 29 meeting in which Penfold told a junior official that Sandline would change the military situation in Sierra Leone by organising the Kamajor militia. Murray said he became "alarmed" and asked Penfold for an explanation. "He told me that he had advised President Kabbah in Conakry to take on Sandline, and that they will be able to train up the Kamajors as a fighting force and even things up with the junta," Murray said. "I said that is pretty alarming because I have just told the department not to have any dealings with Sandline. He said I was losing sight of the fact that the key point was to restore Kabbah." Murray said he passed on his concerns to Ann Grant, who headed the Africa (Equatorial) Department. Grant summoned Penfold to a meeting in which she told him that he was acting contrary to British government policy. "Mr. Penfold didn't deny this but, on the contrary, replied that he had given such advice in his personal capacity. I have a very clear recollection of this," Murray said. Grant, who also testified before the Committee, said she and Penfold had a "heated and lengthy debate" in which she made it clear that it was not acceptable for him to give advice on a personal basis. Murray also described as "grossly distorting" testimony last week by Sandline head Col. Tim Spicer. He denied giving "a nod and a wink" to Spicer's plans to supply arms to Sierra Leone, and insisted he had told Spicer that sending arms to the country would be an offence. Murray said he advised Grant that all contacts between the Foreign Office and Sandline should cease. "I think I was set up by Sandline," he added.
9 November: Former British Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg has offered to represent RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh in appealing his conviction and death sentence for treason, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said Monday. Hogg served in Britain's last Conservative government until May 1997. The offer, which was made in a letter from London-based lawyer Charles Buckley, has been accepted by the Sierra Leone government. Buckley will also act in the case. "We want (Sankoh) to have the best lawyers in the world," Berewa said. "We assure the Right Honourable Hogg that the government will do everything to make them comfortable and protected in Freetown." The BBC reported that Hogg, now an M.P. and a practicing barrister, said he was "considering" defending Sankoh, and that his decision would depend upon his other commitments. Earlier, the government turned down an offer from the London-based firm Akainyah and Company, which wanted to charge £2,750 ($4,560) a day plus expenses. Nigerian lawyers had also reportedly offered to take the case for $2,000 a day. "The people of Freetown would have stoned us if we had accepted," Berewa said. The British lawyers will not charge a fee for defending Sankoh. Berewa said the costs would be defrayed by an international human rights organisation.
96 persons were killed Monday in an early morning attack by AFRC/RUF rebels on ?Saiama, seven miles from the diamond-mining town of Tongo in eastern Sierra Leone. 12 people are being treated for machete wounds at Kenema Government Hospital. The rebels attacked ?Saiama on four fronts after bypassing Kamajor positions, and are now poised to attack Tongo, where they were dislodged last December. A local farmer told the BBC that many children went into hiding, while women were gunned down as they attempted to escape. He said the attack on the town was led by an AFRC commander, who ordered his men "not to spare any souls." The 40 Kamajors in the town were overpowered by the rebels, who were said to number about 200. The Kamajors regrouped and launched a counter-offensive against the rebels, the BBC reported.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $16 million loan for Sierra Leone on Monday, aimed at supporting the country's 1998/99 economic programme to repair the damage from civil conflict. An IMF statement said the loan would be extended under the Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance Scheme, created in 1995 to assist countries trying to overcome the effects conflict, and which wanted to qualify for other IMF programmes in the future. The IMF said the rebuilding of Sierra Leone's institutions would lay the groundwork for more extensive reforms, possibly backed by an IMF Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility loan in mid 1999. Sierra Leone, which joined the IMF in 1962, currently has outstanding IMF loans of about $173 million. Sierra Leone's Gross Domestic Product was expected to grow by 0.7 percent this year and 5.9 percent in 1999, after shrinking by 20.2 percent in 1997.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative in Sierra Leone, Anthony Bloomberg, has said that as a result of Sierra Leone's civil conflict, more children are taking drugs and other dangerous substances. These substances, he said, affect their way of thinking and behaviour. Bloomberg noted that there has been a drastic drop in the school population in the past eight years, with more than 40 percent children out of school as a result of the war.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. James Jonah has said that a number of Western governments have pledged to equip ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone. Following a meeting with representatives of the international community, he said that some of the donors were concerned about Sierra Leone's fragile security. Jonah blamed this on "Liberia's determination to destabilise Sierra Leone." He repeated the government's claims that there was evidence of Liberian involvement with the Sierra Leone rebels. The claim has been consistently denied by the Liberian government.
Ten persons were reported killed in near Faranah, Guinea at the weekend by rebels who crossed the border looking for food, the BBC reported on Monday. Three of the dead were Guinean soldiers. The rebels also set fire to crops and homes. The Guinean government is sending additional troops to the border area, the report said.
7 November: ECOMOG troops, backed by the Civil Defence Forces, have killed more than 500 AFRC/RUF rebel fighters and routed thousands more in two weeks of heavy fighting in eastern Sierra Leone, an ECOMOG officer said on Saturday. He said several rebel held towns had been captured and were being reinforced to thwart any counter-offensive. "The heaviest fighting of all took place in Pendembu...when more than 140 rebels died fighting to hold the town," the ECOMOG officer said. "It lasted for two whole days, and our warplanes bombed the rebel stronghold day and night, and our tanks pounded it non-stop before the troops and the Kamajors moved in and captured it." He said ECOMOG troops and Kamajor militiamen had taken the rebel strongholds of Pendembu, Quiva and Ngeima, along with several other towns. "But we have not yet taken Kailahun town, the rebel headquarters and the strongest rebel town in the entire country, along with Koindu," he said. He claimed that the rebel forces were now in complete disarray. Hospital sources and witnesses reaching Freetown confirmed that hundreds of rebels had died, along with about 40 pro-government troops and Kamajor militiamen. Sources at the church hospital in Segbwema, and the military hospital at Daru said they had received more than 100 wounded rebels. "It is not clear how many rebels were killed in fighting for the Kailahun district, but certainly hundreds died," said a source from Daru Hospital. "In our ambulance journeys to bring back killed and wounded ECOMOG soldiers and Kamajors, we saw piles of bodies of rebels being buried in mass graves just outside the towns. But more than 40 ECOMOG soldiers and Kamajors have also been killed." Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman said: "We will capture Kailahun town and Koindu from the rebels before Christmas. That will be our Christmas present to the nation. After that we turn our full attention to the rebels in the north and crush them to bring this war to an end once and for all."
Sierra Leone is facing a health care crisis Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Suliman Tejan-Jalloh said on Saturday. At a conference of Sierra Leone's medical and dental association, Dr. Sorie Kamara said the country currently employs only seven surgeons, three pediatricians, one dermatologist, and no radiologists. "Most of the qualified specialists have retired and are now engaged in private practice. The situation is grim," Kamara said. He called on the government to raise the retirement age from 55 to 65 "in order to catch up with international standards." Many health care professionals fled the country after last year's military coup, while many of the nation's health care clinics and hospitals have been devastated in the country's civil conflict. Of some 1,000 doctors, only about a third work in the public sector. General practitioners working for the government earn about $200 a month, while specialists receive $250. "We work for long hours without getting the necessary remuneration," one doctor said. Tejan-Jalloh said he might recall some specialists to "salvage the health care crisis." Said Vice President Albert Joe Demby: Vice President Joe Demby lamented: "Even if Sierra Leone had the best doctors in the world, lack of facilities and poor conditions of service will bear a negative effect on the health care delivery system."
President Kabbah, Guinean President Lansana Conte, and Liberian President Charles Taylor, joined by U.S. Special Envoy for Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson, are scheduled to hold a summit meeting in Guinea on Thursday. The leaders are expected to discuss regional security issues.
6 November: About 1,000 university students marched in Freetown Friday in support of their striking lecturers. The students briefly blocked a street as they demonstrated outside the Ministry of Finance. "We are giving you until Monday to pay our lecturers so that we can return to classes, otherwise we will demonstrate nationwide," a student leader shouted at Deputy Finance Minister Momoh Pujeh, who looked on from a balcony. Lecturers called an indefinite strike on Monday to demand payment of a 50% pay increase agreed upon last May, along with arrears. "We are walking a tightrope," a Finance Ministry official said. "We want to pay but we don't have the money."
Several top members of the former military junta were arrested in Guinea and have been brought to Freetown, government officials said on Friday. They include Captain Paul Thomas, former Secretary of State for Marine Resources and early AFRC spokesman; Lieutenant Khanja Sandi, Lieutenant Sahr Panda, and Staff Sergeant Mohammed Kallon. Those arrested, who include members of the RUF, are to be court martialed in Freetown soon, the officials said. The accused "aided the junta by busting international sanctions and (buying) military gadgets which promoted the continued stay in power of the junta," one official said.
United States Special Envoy for Africa Rev. Jesse Jackson will visit Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ghana between November 9 and 14 on a trip which will emphasise democracy and civil society. In Guinea, Jackson will attempt to arrange a summit between President Kabbah, Guinean President Lansana Conte, and Liberian President Charles Taylor, to discuss mutual security, according to the U.S. Department of State. "In Sierra Leone, Rev. Jackson will demonstrate U.S. government support for the government and people of Sierra Leone," the State Department said.
5 November: Former President Joseph Saidu Momoh was sentenced Thursday to two concurrent five year prison sentences after Freetown's High Court convicted him on Wednesday on two charges of conspiracy. 15 co-defendants who were convicted on treason charges received the death sentence. Judge Sydney Warne advised the condemned prisoners that they would have 21 days to appeal their sentences. Before being sentenced, Momoh told Warne, "I would continue to deny I have conspired or had any involvement with the AFRC coup, nor did I have any intention to let the AFRC stay in power. My position was searching for peace and reconciliation to bring back the legitimate government of President Tejan Kabbah." Relatives of the condemned wept in the courtroom as the sentences were passed. Several of the prisoners called to them that they would appeal as they were led from the dock. Those sentenced to death were Attorney-General Ajbiola Emmanuel Manley-Spaine, Secretary of State for Health Baila Leigh, Under Secretary of State for Health and Sanitation Dr. Matilda King, David Bangura, Saidu Daniel Bangura, Hamid Abdul Kamara, who served as secretary to AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma; John Tommy, Stephen Cathys Bio, a businessman and relative of former NPRC Chairman Julius Maada Bio; Under Secretary of State for Energy and Power Hassan Barrie, Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning Victor Brandon, Sheik Abu Bakarr Nabie, former national soccer team captain and Secretary of State for Youths, Sport and Social Mobilisation Umaru Din-Sesay, Denis Kawuna Kamara, Secretary of State for Labour Abdul Salaami Williams, and Eben Victor Coker.
Former RUF spokesman Col. Gibril Massaquoi, who was acquitted on all counts on Wednesday, was subsequently rearrested, according to a government news release issued on Thursday.
Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa Tony Lloyd has again expressed Britain's concern over executions in Sierra Leone. "When I saw Dr James Jonah, Sierra Leone's Minister of Finance and Economic Development, yesterday, I reiterated Britain's strong opposition to the use of the death penalty, and again stressed that there could be no lasting peace without national reconciliation," Lloyd said in a statement released on Thursday. "We look to the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure fair trials and a proper appeals process for all those accused of treason for their role in the junta."
The United Nations Special Representative to Children in War Zones, Olara Otunnu, said Thursday that the recruitment of child soldiers is on the rise, despite worldwide campaigns against such human rights violations. "The deliberate targeting of civilian populations is on the rise and the recruitment and use of children in combat also is on the rise," he told reporters. "There is an urgent need to mobilise a major international campaign to lean on parties in conflict to stop right now the massive recruitment and use of children in theatres of conflict." In Sierra Leone, RUF rebels continue to use children in combat, some of them recruited in Liberia, Otunnu said. Underage boys are also recruited by the country's Civil Defence Forces, he added.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin has appointed Yu Wuzhen as Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone, replacing Qu Wenming, according to China's Xinhua news agency.
British officials have said that, as chairman of the Sierra Leone Contact Group, Britain will make a statement Friday on efforts to help with reconstruction in Sierra Leone. The move follows a one Contact Group conference in London in which the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan joined Britain in pledging financial support to the ECOMOG force. The Sierra Leone Contact Group was set up following the United Nations Special Conference on Sierra Leone which took place in New York last July. It includes representatives from the U.N., the European Commission, the Sierra Leone government, ECOWAS, and other interested countries.
A special parliamentary sub-committee will be set up to investigate contracts between private businesses and the AFRC military junta, according to SLBS (state radio). Several businessmen are to appear before the sub-committee to explain the nature of their business dealings with the junta. Those who refuse to appear will be charged with contempt of parliament, the report said.
5 November: Military authorities in Freetown have imposed a 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew on ships entering the harbour. "This action by defence headquarters has been taken for security reasons and any captain who decides to violate the order will be doing so at his own risk," said a military statement carried over SLBS (state radio) on Thursday. No explanation for the measure was given. Local journalists reported that vehicles travelling to Freetown at night from up-country were being blocked blocked from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. at a military checkpoint about 18 miles from the capital.
4 November: Following four days of deliberations, a 12 member jury in Freetown returned verdicts of guilty on Wednesday against 16 of 21 defendants who were facing charges of treason and conspiracy for allegedly collaborating with the ousted AFRC military junta. Among those convicted were former President Joseph Saidu Momoh, who was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy. Momoh was found not guilty on four counts of treason, meaning that he will likely face a prison sentence. 13 other defendants were convicted on treason charges, which carry the death penalty. Those convicted on at least two charges were Ajbiola Emmanuel Manley-Spaine, Baila Leigh, Dr. Matilda King, David Bangura, Saidu Daniel Bangura, Hamid Abdul Kamara, John Tommy, Stephen Cathys Bio, Hassan Barrie, Victor Brandon, Sheik Abu Bakarr Nabie, Umaru Din-Sesay, Denis Kawuna Kamara, Abdul Salaami Williams, and Eben Victor Coker. Those acquitted were Rev. Victor Ajisafe, who was once quoted as saying he would throw away the Bible if President Kabbah returned to Sierra Leone, former RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi, Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo, a Muslim cleric; Winston Crowther, and Alpha Omega Bundu Sr.
President Kabbah has warned civil servants to stop accepting bribes in return for helping businesses to set up in Sierra Leone. In a nationwide radio and television broadcast in Krio late Tuesday, Kabbah said corruption was one of the major problems hindering the country's development. "If we manage our affairs properly, government will be able to divert enough resources into the social welfare sector , providing better health facilities and other reforms," he said. Kabbah told officials to end their corruption and to stop squandering state resources. "Let me also caution you Sierra Leoneans who have been depriving both foreign and local business people who want to establish businesses in Sierra Leone," he said. He added his warning was addressed in particular to "civil servants who have the habit of receiving a bribe before work is done."
The Civil Defence Forces (CDF) have sealed off Sierra Leone's eastern border with Liberia following a battle which left 150 persons dead, CDF District Coordinator Col. Eddie Massallay said on Tuesday. He said ECOMOG troops and CDF militiamen had killed 100 rebels and 50 Liberian "intruders" in clashes along the Mano River near Sulima three weeks ago. He said the CDF had created a buffer zone in eastern Kailahun and Pujehun Districts. "To avoid a similar encounter or any form of Liberian infiltration, we have now occupied over 50 villages along the border from Sulima to Jegbema in the Pujehun District," Massallay said. "Many more border villages will be occupied in the days to come," he added. Local journalists said more than 500 CDF militiamen were sent to the border from Kenema last Friday.
President Kabbah said Britain and the World Bank have pledged more than $40,000 for the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of combatants in Sierra Leone. The programmes will provide retaining for former soldiers and RUF rebels in civilian occupations.
Air Afrique will resume weekly flights to Freetown starting November 8, according to a government news release issued on Thursday. The statement quoted an announcement made Tuesday by Air Afrique's Head of Commercial Services, Papa Nassar Ndoye, who said that as a result of security guaranteed by ECOMOG and a favourable economic climate, the airline would resume its Monday flights to Sierra Leone.
3 November: The Sierra Leone government on Monday rejected as too expensive an offer by the London-based law firm Akainyah and Company to represent RUF leader Foday Sankoh in an appeal of his conviction and death sentence on treason charges. The firm said it would charge £2,750 ($4,600) per day for three lawyers to represent Sankoh. According to the attorney-general's office, that fee did not include expenses such as hotel bills, catering, laundry, security, a computer, secretaries, a fax-line and e-mail, transportation, and air fare. "The resources of the government at the present time cannot accommodate these demands," said Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa. He said the government was "very keen" on Sankoh being represented. "We are even prepared to pay his legal fees at the local rate if we are able to get a local lawyer, even though we know he had a lot of money stocked somewhere," Berewa said. The attorney-general's office confirmed Tuesday that it had received Sankoh's appeal and would be processing the documents shortly.
Sierra Leone's university lecturers have declared an indefinite strike to demand a 50% pay increase agreed upon last May. "We will not go back...until the government pays us the increased salaries, even if it takes ten years," Cyril Lahai said Tuesday. Lecturers currently receive the equivalent of $70 a month on the average. The work stoppage, which began Monday, has idled some 5,000 students, including many who have lost their families and homes in the country's civil conflict, and are struggling financially in order to pursue their studies. "Last year we could not go to school because of our sacrifice spearheading protests against the military junta, and now this year when we want to catch up there is this strike," said student leader Egerton Macathy. A Ministry of Education official said the government wanted to meet the pay rises but did not have the money. "We need billions of leones or millions of U.S. dollars to pay the lecturers," he said. "We are doing everything possible to find the money, but it is not easy given the depressed state of the economy."
The United States Department of Justice has extended by one year Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Sierra Leoneans residing in the United States. The re-registration applies only to those who were covered under the initial period of TPS, or were eligible for late registration. The re-registration period becomes effective on 5 November 1998, with a deadline for registration of 2 December 1998.
The head of the London-based mercenary firm Sandline International told the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that he had relied on British diplomats who he believed had approved "Project Python" -- the shipment of arms to the Kabbah government-in-exile. "At no point was it pointed out to me that what we were planning to do was illegal," Spicer said. He said he believed British policy had changed in light of events, notably by atrocities committed by the AFRC military junta. "There comes a point, and a number of people realised it over Sierra Leone, where diplomacy was definitely not working and in this case the junta was making mockery of the diplomatic process and doing unspeakable things to its own people," Spicer told the Committee. "The time has to come at some stage where if there is deadlock, military action or some form of action has to be considered. In this case it was absolutely right." He said that in a December 23 meeting with British High Commissioner Peter Penfold, he had given Penfold a copy of Sandline's agreement with President Kabbah. "I'm very clear that agreement referred to the procurement of military equipment," he said. "Whether it said arms and ammunition, I'm not sure. It wouldn't have said non-lethal equipment." He said he met with Penfold again on January 19, after steps had been taken to procure equipment. "At that meeting I believe it was pretty clear to those officials that part of our project would involve the procurement of arms and ammunition, not only for our own people but for the use of the ECOMOG or civil defence military forces," he said. "I am very clear as to my recollection of that meeting. It was the subject of some discussion. I am clear that the Foreign Office officials understood very clearly that the procurement of arms and ammunition were involved in this operation." Penfold, in his testimony to the Committee, acknowledged that he had failed to realise that British policy was to ban arms supplies to both sides. He denied, however, Spicer's assertion that he had been given a copy of Sandline's "Project Python" which outlined the group's plans to supply arms to the Kabbah government-in-exile.
United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Vicky Huddleston, appealed to Liberia and others Tuesday to do everything possible to bring the war in Sierra Leone to an end. Addressing a conference in Monrovia, Huddleston said it appeared that the AFRC/RUF rebels were now better armed and better trained now than they had been in the past. She called for stringent measures by neighbouring countries to ensure that their nationals were not crossing the border to fight in Sierra Leone, and asked that the trafficking of weapons into Sierra Leone be stopped. Huddleston said the U.S. government was concerned about the Sierra Leone situation because people being targeted and killed by the rebels are mostly civilians who have no political ideologies. Huddleston also said the Liberian government should request a United Nations investigation into allegations that Liberian security forces fired into the U.S. Embassy compound in Monrovia on September 19, killing supporters of ethnic Krahn leader Roosevelt Johnson and wounding two U.S. personnel. The United States has said it would not reassign an ambassador to Monrovia unless the Liberian government issued a public apology. Liberia has expressed "regret" over the incident but has declined to apologise. On Monday, Huddleston told a Monrovia news conference that embassy officials were making contact with Johnson and his party when government security forces opened fire. Huddleston met with Taylor on Tuesday, the same dsay the Liberian government issued an official report on the incident, which denied that its forces had fired on the embassy. "The shooting started at three points, which involved state security forces, Johnson's followers and U.S. embassy guards," the 26-page report claimed in part.
Liberian President Charles Taylor has expressed regret over the executions in Sierra Leone, and has urged President Kabbah to stop further executions. Speaking upon his return from the ECOWAS summit, Taylor said he had told Kabbah both publicly and privately that further executions could harden the rebels' resolve. He said that one cannot ask the rebels to come out of the bush and shoot them at the same time, and expressed the believe that the executions were counter-productive to reconciliation in Sierra Leone. On Sunday, Taylor called on ECOWAS to use dialogue instead of force in resolving the Sierra Leone conflict, and said Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso should mediate on ECOWAS' behalf. According to a press release issued by the Liberian Ministry of Information and Culture in Charge of Administration (MICA), Taylor made the statement to reporters in Abuja prior to his return to Monrovia. He said force could not solve the problem in Sierra Leone and urged the Sierra Leone government to engage in dialogue with other parties in the conflict to reach a peaceful resolution.
1 November: The Kamajor militia executed seven illicit diamond miners in eastern Sierra Leone on Tuesday, a senior Kamajor commander said Sunday. "We are executing publicly people we catch mining diamonds in Tongo Field," the commander said. He added that one of those executed was a member of the Kamajor militia. Aid workers confirmed the executions. "Kamajors lined up the seven men in a square in the middle of the town and shot them dead," one aid worker said. The government issued a ban on diamond mining in May, but allowed a resumption of mining in all areas except Koidu with the promulgation of a new mining policy in July. The Kamajor commander said the militia had resorted to executions because of the build-up of rebel forces in eastern Sierra Leone and an increase of rebel attacks on villages.