31 December: In his New Year's address to the nation, President Kabbah articulated his vision that, in the first decade of the new millennium, every Sierra Leonean, whether in the public or the private sector, would enjoy a minimum level of social security. "Within the first few months of the New Year, we shall introduce the first phase of a national social security system which will go a long way to strengthening existing state and traditional sources of support for our people, especially the elderly and the needy or poor," Kabbah said. At the same time, the president urged that the "principles of inclusion and partnership" should be put into practice: "This means that we have to make a concerted effort to develop and strengthen business partnership between the private and public sectors; partnership between those sectors and international and foreign development institutions; partnership in political governance in which the archaic belief in ‘winner takes all’ will no longer prevail in the politics of this nation; partnership between government and civil society; and partnership between and among the various tribes and communities in the country." Kabbah called for Sierra Leoneans to "put our various talents to constructive use for the benefit of present and future generations of Sierra Leoneans." Said Kabbah: "Let those of us who over the past few years have inflicted pain and suffering on others repent, and those who have suffered forgive the wrongs done to us, so that we can have genuine reconciliation to build a united country. Let us make the transition from 1999 to 2000 with confidence, secure in the knowledge that together we shall lift our nation out of the ashes of war to the pinnacle of real peace and prosperity."
The Sierra Leone government issued a 21-point rebuttal Thursday to an RUFP position paper alleging government violations of the Lomé Peace Accord. The document, which was read by Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa, argued that the government had lived up to its commitments under the Accord, and said it was the RUF/RUFP which in many cases had created obstacles to the peace process. On Wednesday, RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh blamed delays in the disarmament and demobilisation process on the fact that committees mandated by the peace accord had not yet been set up. In a press conference, he threatened to prevent any further deployment of ECOMOG and UNAMSIL peacekeeping troops in RUF-held areas until the committees had been set up and were operating properly. In response, the government alleged foot-dragging by the rebel group. Attendance of RUF representatives at meetings of the Joint Monitoring Committee, mandated to monitor the ceasefire, "has been chequered," it said, while with regard to the district-level Ceasefire Monitoring Committees, the government and the CDF had been the first to submit their nominees to UNOMSIL. "Unlike the RUF, Government has maintained unhindered access to all the areas under its control where there has been effective monitoring of the ceasefire by ECOMOG and UNOMSIL ever since," the statement said. In reference to the Commission for the Consolidation of the Peace, the statement said that the appointment of AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma had been made "after prior and due consultation with the leadership of the RUF, and the express consent of Chairman Foday Sankoh," noting that Koroma was "a member of the RUF/AFRC Alliance." [Koroma first informed the Sierra Leone Web of his appointment as CCP chairman on October 1, following his meeting in Monrovia with RUF leader Foday Sankoh and Liberian President Charles Taylor.] Sankoh also complained that his Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD) still didn't have an office, and told reporters he had been "sabotaged." The government replied that an office had been provided at the Youyi Building, but that Sankoh "rejected it on grounds that it did not befit his status." The statement added that an alternative office accommodation had been secured "but Chairman Foday Sankoh has not had the time to inspect and approve it." Addressing Sankoh's reservations about and expanded mandate for UNAMSIL, the government took the position that ECOMOG and UNAMSIL operated under the direct authority of the United Nations Security Council, and that neither the government nor the RUFP were competent to question the "unanimous decisions taken by Security Council against them for purposes of averting any threat to international peace." The statement called Sankoh's condemnation UNAMSIL personnel as "unfortunate," ad said that President Kabbah had "undertaken to contact the U.N. Secretary-General, in due course, to apologise to him on behalf of all of us." The government also called on the RUF to release remaining abductees and prisoners still in their custody, and to demobilise child combatants. "The abduction of persons and their unlawful detention amounted to a flagrant violation of their human rights," the statement said, adding: "It is worth informing RUFP that arms-bearing age, according to the laws of Sierra Leone, is 18 years."
30 December: Former RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, now in exile in Monrovia, has reacted to a statement made in Freetown Wednesday by RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh that he had been sacked for corruption and insubordination. "I’m a soldier. They did not disgrace me. I resigned," Bockarie said. "The only call I had to report here to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Liberia, President Charles Taylor. When I saw there had been what had been planned, masterminded by the leader of the RUF, Corporal Sankoh, to attack my position in my absence, so I decided to leave with all my belongings and leave a letter of resignation behind." Bockarie rejected Sankoh's accusation that he had been involved in corrupt practices. "That is not correct. I have never been corrupt, and I’m not a corrupt man." The former RUF field commander also denied allegations made by ECOMOG that he had executed a number of senior RUF officials before fleeing to Liberia. "I don’t think I had any reason to execute any officer. So for that reason I molested no one, harassed no one," he said. "I left peacefully because I knew I was called, and I cannot do anything that will create any further problems for me, because I feel I cannot longer continue working with the RUF. So if I do anything like that I feel wherever I goes it will tell on me."
29 December: In a document entitled "Violations of the Lomé Peace Accord," which was addressed to President Kabbah, the international community and moral guarantors of the agreement, RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh warned Wednesday of an immediate crisis in the implementation of the peace agreement if urgent steps are not taken to correct apparent problems. "This is why the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) programme has been so slow is because substructures like the Ceasefire Monitoring Committee have not been tackled after close to six months of the signing of the agreement," Sankoh said in a press conference. According to a report by BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana, Sankoh said the RUF would not allow any further deployment of ECOMOG and UNAMSIL troops until all the necessary committees were set up and functioning properly. "He spoke angrily about the marginalisation of RUF members in the so-called government of national unity," Fofana told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "According to him, these ministers do not have vehicles and offices, and are literally being cared for by himself. Even his own Commission for Strategic Mineral Resources, which he described as a ‘white elephant’, still doesn’t have an office, and Mr. Sankoh said he has been sabotaged." The RUF leader denounced United Nations personnel as "mere bureaucrats living luxurious lives at the expense of the ordinary people," and warned that any attempt by U.N. troops to use force to implement the DDR programme would be resisted by the RUF. Said Fofana: "For the first time also, Mr. Sankoh spoke publicly about his movement’s former field commander, Sam "Maskita" Bockarie, and its roving ambassador, Omrie Golley. Both men, he said, had been fired from the RUF for corrupt practices, and Maskita for the additional reason of insubordination."
UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Kurmar Jetley paid a courtesy call on RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh on Tuesday to discuss the deployment and mandate of U.N. peacekeeping troops, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general. So far 3,938 of an estimated 45,000 former combatants have reported to disarmament camps in Sierra Leone, the statement said.
The United Nations Security Council was briefed Wednesday by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, on the situation in Sierra Leone, including the deployment of the UNAMSIL peacekeeping force and Nigeria's intention of withdrawing from ECOMOG by the end of February. In a statement to the press following the meeting, Council President Jeremy Greenstock said Security Council members had agreed it was imperative to avoid any security vacuum in Sierra Leone, and they discussed the changes that would be necessary to the mandate and strength of UNAMSIL as Nigeria withdraws from ECOMOG. A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web that 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council were comfortable with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to increase the authorised strength of the peacekeeping force from 6,000 to 10,000. Greenstock also warned RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh against taking measures which would obstruct the peace process. "Council Members urged all parties to the Lomé Agreement to honour their obligations and to cooperate fully in the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) process. In particular they agreed that recent threats by Mr. Foday Sankoh not to cooperate with UNAMSIL were unacceptable, and reminded him of his obligations under the Lomé Agreement," he said.
Nigeria has committed a total of 1,562 troops to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), according to a statement issued in Abuja by Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Tella, Nigeria's Acting Director of Defence Information. It said the contingent, which will include two infantry battalions, four military observers, eight staff officers and the Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier-General M.A. Garba, was expected to leave Nigeria "soon" to join the UNAMSIL force.
28 December: Former RUF spokesman Omrie Michael Golley is "no more spokesman, legal representative or roaming ambassador of the RUF, and is no more empowered to collect funds for and on behalf of the RUFP," according to a terse press release issued on Tuesday by the RUF/RUFP's current spokesman and Public Relations Officer, Eldred Collins. Freetown's Concord Times newspaper quoted Gibril Massaquoi, the Special Assistant to RUF leader Foday Sankoh, as saying Golley had been sacked for "collecting monies on behalf of the RUF" without the knowledge and consent of the RUF leadership — a charge the former spokesman has denied. "I've never been paid by them. I've never received money from them...I know that my conscience is clear and I'm pressing on," Golley told the Sierra Leone Web from Croatia late Tuesday night. In a press release issued earlier in the day, Golley described the relinquishing of his role as RUF spokesman and legal representative as having come about by "mutual consent." At the same time, he announced his intent to register a new political party, the "National Reconstruction Party of Sierra Leone," to contest in the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Golley insisted his parting of ways with the RUF was "the culmination of a number of months of policy differences on the direction of the peace process in Sierra Leone in the aftermath of the Lomé Peace Accord" signed between the Sierra Leone government and the RUF in July. "Since the signing of the Accord, I have been most concerned with the pace and the direction of the peace process, particularly regarding disarmament and demobilisation, about the showing of remorse and pursuing positive acts of reconciliation and rehabilitation in favour of the people of Sierra Leone, particularly those that have suffered from the prosecution of the devastating nine year old war, and most particularly in respect of recent human rights abuses being perpetrated against innocent civilians," Golley said.
Exiled RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie confirmed Monday night that he would remain in Liberia until after elections are held in Sierra Leone. "I feel much freer here," he told BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh. Bockarie fled to Liberia earlier this month after reportedly clashing with RUF troops loyal to Foday Sankoh. In early December he seized two European Médecins Sans Frontières medical workers and accused Sankoh of trying to have him assassinated. Bockarie would not say Monday whether he had resigned from the RUF, but promised to issue a statement in the near future explaining his exact position within the rebel movement. "People will soon realise my importance and know that I was the real brains within the RUF," he said. The RUF field commander described himself as a "sympathetic disciplinarian." He rejected media accounts of atrocities committed by men under his command as "all propaganda," but admitted: "I can get desperate when I want things done the right way." According to Paye-Layleh, Bockarie has been accorded "VIP treatment" since his arrival in Monrovia.
Nigeria has picked up the pace of its withdrawal from ECOMOG, with three battalions of Nigerian troops having left Sierra Leone in the past twelve days, the BBC reported on Tuesday. BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers said the "massive withdrawal" of the Nigerians was "making many civilians extremely jittery about the security situation" in Sierra Leone. "But the security situation is not the only reason that the departure of the Nigerian troops is causing unease in the country," Rogers told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "Today at the Freetown airport the scene was one of weeping and wailing as hundreds of Sierra Leonean girls who thought they were married to soldiers looked on helplessly as the roll call was made for their what turned out to be temporary husbands to board the Nigerian Airways DC-10 aircraft," he said. "Many of them had their babies strapped to their backs, and wailed loudly as the plane took off...The exact figure of Nigeria ECOMOG babies being left behind is not known. But there is a lot of concern about how these children are going to be cared for."
27 December: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), with an authorised strength of 6,000 peacekeeping troops, be expanded to "close to ten thousand military personnel." In a letter late last week to the current Security Council president, Jeremy Greenstock of Britain, Annan said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had confirmed on December 21 that Nigeria would continue a phased withdrawal of its troops from the ECOMOG force, to be completed in February 2000. Ghana and Guinea are also preparing to withdraw their troops. Annan said Obasanjo had informed him that Nigeria "could not accept" two peacekeeping forces in the same country under separate commands and working under separate conditions. While two Nigerian battalions will transfer to the UNAMSIL force, four more will leave the country. "I am very much concerned that the repatriation of ECOMOG troops in the immediate future, without adequate security protection provided by other peacekeepers, would create a dangerous security gap in the key areas of Lungi and Freetown," Annan said in the letter. He recommended that the UNAMSIL force be expanded "as soon as possible" by up to four additional infantry battalions and support personnel, and along with an expansion of UNAMSIL's mandate. "I also recommend that UNAMSIL's mandate be broadened to enable it to assume the functions now performed by ECOMOG, in particular the provision of security at Lungi airport and at key installations, buildings, and government institutions in and around Freetown,'' Annan said. "These new tasks would also require more robust rules of engagement for the entire United Nations force." Details of Annan's concept of an expanded UNAMSIL will be provided in a report to the Security Council due on January 20, according to his spokesman, Fred Eckhard.
A group of rebel Sierra Leone Army soldiers received two months back salary on Friday, with the balance payable "when it is possible for the government to do so," AFRC Communications Officer Captain Banjah Marrah was quoted as saying on Monday. The former soldiers had demanded arrears as from February 1998, when the AFRC military junta was ousted by ECOMOG.
24 December: A group of soldiers from the former Sierra Leone Army received 22 months back pay on Friday, ending a dispute with the government which resulted in two days of demonstrations in Freetown. On Wednesday, about 200 former soldiers marched on Defence Headquarters to demand back pay. When they were repulsed by guards they robbed passers-by of their belongings. The demonstration for a second day on Thursday. After ECOMOG ousted the AFRC military junta in February 1998, an estimated 1,000 soldiers along with their erstwhile RUF allies fled to the bush where they continued to fight against President Kabbah's reinstated civilian government. The government initially stated that the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) had been disbanded, but later said the military was being restructured to include former SLA soldiers and new recruits. In early September, AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma and 13 other SLA officers published a list of grievances in Monrovia, demanding reinstatement into the army of all soldiers who joined Koroma in the bush in February 1998, and for salaries to be paid "for the time since February 1998 to now." It was not immediately known Friday how much money was paid out to the former soldiers.
ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber, in a Christmas message to the nation, said that "appreciable progress" was being made on the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) programme. "Combatants of RUF/AFRC and the CDF are still coming out en-masse to disarm," he said. "The DDR centres in Port Loko and Lungi are filled to capacity. Temporary centres are being arranged at Camp Charlie and Kabala. Combatants have started disarming at Daru and Kenema. Chairman Foday Sankoh is to lead us to Daru and Segbwema for on-the-spot disarmament before we enter the new millennium. It is expected that simultaneous disarmament of RUF, SLA, CDF will be conducted at Daru and Kenema." He said the deployment of the Kenyan battalion of UNAMSIL troops at Makeni and Magburaka was in progress, while Indian troops were expected arrive soon in Kailahun District. "The Ghanaian and Guinean battalions are expected to start their deployment on rotational basis from 27 December 1999," he added. Kpamber warned former soldiers who had been committing "sporadic acts of violence" in the Western area to remain law-abiding. "The ex-combatants are hereby warned in their own interest to come out en-mass, disarm and avoid acts of banditry as this is bringing the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone into disrepute," he said. "Stern disciplinary measures will be taken against ex-combatants who blatantly show disregard to law and order." The ECOMOG commander said the current curfew hours would be maintained in order to maintain what he called "our state of military readiness" and, he said, to enhance peace and security. Marine and boat operation were also to be limited to the periods between sunrise and sunset (6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.), he said. "All checkpoints on inter-regional highway have been removed with the exception of a few strategic ones manned by ECOMOG," Kpamber told Sierra Leoneans. "All roads are now opened and safe for public use. In this regard, we wish to acknowledge the efforts of the leadership of ex-combatants. We also call on them to restrain ex-combatants from maintaining illegal checkpoints anywhere in the country. Members of the public are also advised not to corrupt the security forces at checkpoints by offering any form of gratification." He said ECOMOG was joining UNAMSIL in calling for combatants to release all abductees, especially children, "as a goodwill gesture and a Christmas gift to their parents."
23 December: Ex-combatants of the former Sierra Leone Army demonstrated in front of Wilberforce Military Barracks on Thursday, demanding back pay for the time they have been in the bush, and reinstatement into the army. According to BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana, the soldiers harassed and in some cases robbed civilian passers-by. "Today's action is a replay of a similar one two days ago when the irate ex-combatants stormed the Cockerill Army Headquarters demanding what they described as their backlog salaries," Fofanah told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "The problem is that after the signing of the [Lomé Peace Accord], President Kabbah’s government announced that the army was never disbanded. And so the renegade soldiers of the former Sierra Leonean army who fled into the bush with RUF rebels after the overthrown of the AFRC junta are now laying claim to alleged salary arrears." He added that some of the protesting soldiers told him "want nothing short of being reinstated in the army." National Security Adviser Sheka Mansaray said that money was now available to pay the soldiers, but warned that the protesters would face they full force of the law if they continued "their unruly conduct and attacks on civilians."
The World Bank has approved a $25 million credit for Sierra Leone's Community Reintegration and Rehabilitation Project. The project will support the Sierra Leone government's efforts to reintegrate an estimated 45,000 combatants and to help rebuild the social and economic infrastructure which has been destroyed by more than eight years of civil conflict. The money will go toward the Emergency Recovery Support Fund, which will support projects that target individuals, groups and the communities affected by the conflict, and the Training and Employment Programme, which will support the economic reintegration of former combatants through targeted counseling, training and employment creation efforts. It will also include civic education, psychological counseling and community sensitization activities as well as provide essential operational support to government institutions responsible for the implementation of the project. The Community Reintegration and Rehabilitation Project will provide assistance to war-affected regions of the country, and will specifically target female-headed households, unemployed youth and children, and ex-combatants and their dependents. In addition, the African Development Bank has contributed an additional $12.2 million to finance the project, and it is expected that the government, non-governmental organisations and the communities that benefit from the project will contribute additional resources toward its implementation.
Between November 4 and December 22 some 3,686 combatants — 1,785 from the RUF, 1,257 from the AFRC, and 594 from the Civil Defence Forces — handed in their weapons under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, according to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). While no precise figures are available, it is estimated that there are some 45,000 former combatants nationwide.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has singled out Sierra Leone as the African country where journalists fared worst during 1999. In its annual report, IFJ said that of 19 journalists who lost their lives on the African continent, 10 were killed in Sierra Leone. An IFJ official, Sarah de Jong, said journalists had been deliberately targeted by rebels who, she said, had a hit list of journalists whose reports they did not like.
22 December: About 70 RUF fighters handed over their weapons to ECOMOG and UNAMSIL at Fadugu on Tuesday, according to an ECOMOG press release. The local RUF commander said that all arms in their possession had been collected in order to turn them over to disarmament officials. At Kabala, AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma told his supporters that they needed to speed up the disarmament exercise. He said that the sooner they disarmed, the better were their chances to receive benefits under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. He urged them not to hide their weapons, as there would be no opportunity to use them since the fighting was over. Around 150 child combatants at Kabala, ranging in age from 7 to 17, were handed over to the authorities. The children will now be looked after by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Makeni. Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported Wednesday that 192 former SLA combatants and 283 dependents had arrived at the Government Wharf on board the vessel Madam Monique, ending a 25-hour journey which began in Monrovia on Monday morning.
The Committee for the Release of Prisoners of War and Non-Combatants, in a press release issued on Wednesday, appealed to the leadership of the RUFP and the AFRC to release abductees still being held against their will. "We have seen these prisoners, we have talked to them," the statement said. "Many of the victims are women and children. Even now, more than 2,000 of the children registered as missing since the Freetown invasion last January have not returned home. And new abduction continue to occur almost everyday in various parts of the country. The plight of these captives have not received the attention it deserves." The Committee, which was formed as the result of a joint statement on June 2 between the government and the RUF committing all parties to the immediate and unconditional release of all non-combatants and prisoners-of-war, complained that "despite the pleas and interventions of the Committee, cooperation has been disappointing."
21 December: RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, who fled to Liberia last week after clashing with with his fellow RUF fighters, has been ordered not to return home until the disarmament process is complete and elections have been held. In a meeting at Roberts International Airport which was facilitated by Liberian President Charles Taylor and presided over by visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Bockarie was reportedly advised to take the order seriously because it was an ECOWAS decision. A senior Liberian government source was quoted as saying that Bockarie had not been given the option of returning of returning to Sierra Leone because his presence there would endanger the peace process. "They asked him whether he wanted to stay in exile in Liberia or any other country of his choice,'' the source said. Bockarie had refused to allow his men to be disarmed by ECOMOG or by ECOMOG soldiers absorbed into the United Nations peacekeeping force, creating a rift with the RUF leadership. Earlier this month he detained two European Médecins Sans Frontières workers in Kailahun District, and accused RUF leader Foday Sankoh of sending men to assassinate him. On Monday, Liberian President Charles Taylor disclosed he had been attempting to mediate between the two men. A Liberian official said Tuesday that security forces on the border with Sierra Leone had been instructed to cooperate with the action against Bockarie, the BBC reported.
ECOMOG said Tuesday it was interrogating several rebel AFRC soldiers caught last week trying to smuggle arms into Freetown. "These are elements from Okra Hills who have been attempting to infiltrate Freetown but their plans have been nipped in the bud," an ECOMOG said. ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that seven AFRC soldiers tried to enter the capital last week by boat with "AK weapons" hidden in their luggage.
20 December: Liberian President Charles Taylor said Monday that RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, who allegedly fled Sierra Leone after breaking with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, was in Monrovia. "I have been holding talks with Foday Sankoh and Sam Bockarie in Monrovia over the past few days," Taylor (pictured left) told journalists. He said the discussions centered on resolving the rift between Sankoh and Bockarie, who had reportedly fled to Liberia after unsuccessfully attempting to capture the Daru military barracks. "I was up until 2:30 this morning trying to resolve differences between Sankoh and his field commander Bockarie because I know that peace in Sierra Leone means peace in Liberia," Taylor said. He added that Sankoh would return to Freetown "in a day or two to continue the process." United Nations spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists in New York it was confirmed over the weekend that Bockarie had gone to Monrovia for talks with President Taylor. Bockarie had previously resisted calls by Sankoh to disarm and demobilise his men to comply with the Lomé Peace Accord, Eckhard said, adding that now Sankoh and Bockarie were both in Monrovia Taylor would be able to mediate their differences.
RUF spokesman Eldred Collins confirmed Monday that RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie had left the RUF stronghold in Kailahun District, but said he didn't know Bockarie's current whereabouts. "He withdrew. We don’t know where he has gone. He has abandoned his post," Collins told the Sierra Leone Web. The RUF spokesman said he could not confirm allegations made last week by ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber that Bockarie had executed a number of RUF officials before fleeing Sierra Leone. "I don’t believe he had the power or capability to have done such an act," Collins said. "I don't think any one of (the RUF commanders) has been killed. Investigations are still going on. It might be possible. It might be impossible or not true." Referring to the abduction earlier this month of two European Médecins Sans Frontières workers, Collins said: "That was done by the renegade Sam Bockarie, and he has to answer questions to us now. Orders were given to him by the leader to release them, and I think about four or five days ago they were released. We condemn that act and we say it will never happen again. That is not a civilized and mature way of behaving." In response to concerns raised by humanitarian organisations that they have been unable to operate in RUF-held areas despite a provision of the Lomé Peace Accord "to guarantee safe and unhindered access by all humanitarian organizations throughout the country," Collins said they needed "to get the authority of the leadership of the RUF, Foday Saybana Sankoh," who would inform the local RUF officials. "Don’t forget, these areas have not yet been disarmed," he added. He insisted that life was returning to normal in areas controlled by the RUF. "We even have a lot of civilians living in those areas," he said. "We have the agriculture sector — people are doing their agricultural work. We have free hospitals for the civilian public, we have free schools, people are going to school as normally as any other place — I mean we have all other facilities, we have people doing their job, so we can’t say we are not going to give access to the NGO’s and other organisations." Collins called on the international community "to invest more" in refugee and humanitarian aid. "It is time for them to focus their attention on that. The Sierra Leonean people are suffering," he said. "When you get into some refugee camps, you see our people there, you won’t feel very good. The leadership of the RUF, Chairman Foday Saybana Sankoh, is very concerned about these people." Collins said he would like to see journalists visit RUF areas "to see the destruction" caused by ECOMOG Alpha fighter jets. "Leh den come see! Leh den come see! Really, I mean they have to come and find out the facts on the ground," he said. "There will be security protection. There is no more war. There is no more war. You never hear of any attack within the RUF controlled areas."
ECOMOG said Monday it killed three rebel SLA soldiers on Sunday when its forces intervened in an attack on the village of Makanta, near Lungi International Airport. A fourth rebel was seriously wounded and had been taken to a military hospital in Freetown, the ECOMOG statement said.
Gibril Massaquoi, the Special Assistant to RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh, told the BBC Monday that RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie had "left the command post and there has been a new established command, in Kailahun District." A day after telling the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that Bockarie had been sighted by "RUF intelligence" in Liberia, Massaquoi (pictured right) acknowledged Monday he did not know where the RUF field commander had gone. "The only thing I will tell you, he has fled, but if I could tell you his location I would be lying to you," he said. "We don’t know where he may be by now. He’s not within the boundaries of Kailahun. That is why I am confirming to you that he is not in Sierra Leone, and that he has fled." Massaquoi said that while Bockarie had "been inciting all our officers and soldiers to go against the Lomé Agreement," the RUF had no knowledge of his executing RUF officials, as alleged last week by ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber. He also insisted that Bockarie had no support among the RUF rank-and-file. "If he had got the support of soldiers of RUF he could have caused some trouble on the peace agreement," Massaquoi said. "But because he had no support he decided to leave the soil of Sierra Leone...Besides his family who fled with him, all the other soldiers within Kailahun District are all intact. He is not ready to launch any other attack. Where will he get the troops from, when all the RUF troops are against what he was doing to leadership?"
A group of rebel SLA soldiers attacked two civilian vehicles on Saturday afternoon at Robis village, north of Masiaka on along the road to Makeni, the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported on Monday. There were no casualties, but the soldiers looted personal belongings, MISNA said. RUF spokesman Eldred Collins also put the blame on the former soldiers. "That area is being controlled by the ex-SLA," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "That’s their controlled area, on the Freetown highway going all the way to Gberi Junction to Port Loko. That area is not under our control. Even in that area we control near Lunsar has been disarmed. We don’t have any combatants in that area again...But the ex-SLA are occupying those areas, and most of the ambushes that are going on are being done by them."
Sierra Leone and Liberia have agreed to form a joint security committee, Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah said on Monday, adding that the committee would ensure that suspected dissident groups in both countries were arrested and prosecuted. Mulbah said the decision was reached when Vice President Albert Joe Demby and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh met with Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Executive Mansion to discuss security matters. Demby said on Saturday that the committee would visit areas where suspected dissident groups were reported to be active and, if identified, they would be prosecuted according to the laws of the host country.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (pictured left) visited Guinea and Liberia on Monday for talks apparently aimed at solving a crisis between the two countries set off in August when Liberian dissidents launched attacks on Liberia's northern Lofa County from within Guinea. Guinean President Lansana Conte said it would be difficult for him to come to an agreement with Liberian President Charles Taylor because the two men do not share the same view on many issues. However, the two leaders reportedly have agreed to a proposal to convene a meeting of the Mano River Union. The meeting had originally been scheduled to take place in Sierra Leone, but Conte told journalists he had requested it be held in Nigeria under Obasanjo's chairmanship.
More than 200 self-exiled former soldiers and their families left Monrovia for Freetown on Monday aboard a chartered vessel. Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salia-Gbao, said the soldiers were among some 3,000 former combatants who had taken refuge in Liberia. The soldiers were being repatriated because "the presence of such a large number of combatants in neighboring Liberia could pose of threat to the peace process in Sierra Leone," the ambassador said.
19 December: Gibril Massaquoi, the Special Assistant to RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh, said Sunday that RUF commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie had been sighted in Liberia, in a town not far from the Sierra Leonean border. Bockarie allegedly fled Sierra Leone on December 16 after, according to ECOMOG, executing a number of RUF officers loyal to Foday Sankoh. "RUF intelligence has proved that he is now in Foya in Liberia,'' Massaquoi said. He said Bockarie's dispute with Sankoh came to a head after he abducted two expatriate Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical workers. In interviews with the BBC and VOA, Bockarie complained Sankoh was trying to sideline him and accused the RUF leader of ordering him killed. According to Massaquoi, Sankoh ordered Bockarie to release the MSF workers and meet him in Monrovia. "He released the two Europeans and failed to go to Liberia,'' Massaquoi told Reuters. He said Sankoh then told the RUF commander at Makeni, Colonel Issa Kamara, to go to Kailahun District. "On arriving, General Sam Bockarie ordered his men to arrest Colonel Issa, which led to some misunderstanding and an exchange of fire. Then Bockarie fled out of the Kailahun District,'' Massaquoi said. He added that the new RUF commander in Kailahun District, Momoh Rogers, had detained 50 Bockarie loyalists at Pendembu. "Our leadership and the entire RUF organisation is still committed to peace and will continue to comply with the Lomé peace accord,'' he said. Meanwhile, a high-level mission to Daru on Saturday found the town to be quiet, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web. "(RUF commander Colonel Vandy) confirmed that Mosquito had been holding the families of various commanders, including his," the source said. "He said his mother had been beaten up." No further details were available.
The International Monetary Fund has approved $35 million in post-conflict assistance for Sierra Leone, state radio reported on Sunday, quoting President Kabbah. The Board of the World Bank is expected to discuss a proposed $25 million loan for Sierra Leone on December 21.
Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman (pictured left), who also serves as coordinator of the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF), has warned CDF members, particularly Kamajor militiamen, that those who persisted in acts of indiscipline would be expelled and face the full force of the law, BBC Bo correspondent Prince Brima reported on Sunday. "The warning came after repeated reports that some members of the Kamajor militias have been harassing and even killing innocent civilians," Brima said.
17 December: RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie has fled Sierra Leone after allegedly executing eight senior officers loyal to RUF leader Foday Sankoh and vandalising his Field Command Headquarters, ECOMOG said in press statements released on Friday. According to ECOMOG, Bockarie fled Sierra Leone with his family in the early hours of the night of December 16 after executing the RUF officers on Wednesday. No details were provided, and there has been no independent confirmation of the report. While ECOMOG said Bockarie fled to an "undisclosed country," a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web that the rebel commander had called a U.N. official to claim he was in Liberia. In an interview with the BBC on Friday, ECOMOG commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber disclosed that Bockarie had attempted to seize the town of Segbwema earlier in the week. "Three days ago, he attempted to take a position close to the ECOMOG position in Daru," Kpamber said. "Daru is also one of our demobilisation centers. He tried to take that position by sending some troops who went in. The actual place is called Segbwema, but these troops were overpowered by the RUF chaps loyal to Foday Sankoh and thereafter, this morning, we heard that he fled the country...We are trying to ascertain the number of people he took away, but prior to this, some of the RUF officers who were apparently advising him to abide by the will of Chairman Foday Sankoh were reported to have been assassinated by him. So, we feel he has so much blood on his hands that he has decided to flee the country." Kpamber said he felt it unlikely that Bockarie had left Sierra Leone for the purpose of meeting with RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh in Monrovia. "He left the command post of the RUF, and we learned that he has vandalised the headquarters by removing the communications gadgets. Now, this would not be true if his intention was only to answer the summon of the Chairman Foday Sankoh. So, I believe he has fled." Reuters, quoting "a senior aide to Sankoh, reported Friday that the RUF had named Momoh Rogers to replace Bockarie as its new field commander in Kailahun District.
The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is being deployed in record time, the U.N. Special Envoy to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, said on Friday. Speaking at a joint press conference in Freetown with the UNAMSIL commander, Major-General Vijay Jetley, Adeniji emphasised that UNAMSIL was in Sierra Leone at the invitation of the government to assist with the disarmament and demobilisation process. "The deployment of UNAMSIL, contrary to the general impression that it's been long delayed is being done practically at a record time," he said, adding: "The international community is now facing its responsibility. It is not only a problem in West Africa for the West Africans." Adeniji noted that the United Nations had a primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. "There is no reason why the United Nations, which is often prepared to go elsewhere, should not come to Africa," he said. Since arriving last Sunday to take up his post, Adeniji has met with President Kabbah and senior government officials, AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber, the heads of diplomatic missions and political parties, and representatives of civil society. He said he was looking forward to meeting with RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh upon his return to Sierra Leone.
Two Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) medical workers held by the RUF in Kailahun District for more than a week were flown by helicopter from Daru to Freetown on Thursday. MSF Country Director Giuseppe Scollo said the two, Belgian doctor Patrick Cloos and German logistics expert Klaus Leppolled "were fine when they arrived, but they said they had been depressed as they did not know their fate" while being held by the rebels. A source told the Sierra Leone Web that Dr. Cloos would soon return to Belgium." Leppolled's plans were not immediately known.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in an update issued on Friday and covering the period through December 14, said that an inter-agency team comprising representatives of WFP, CAD, HACU, UNICEF, OXFAM, International Medical Corps, Concern World Wide, LEONNET, Save the Children Fund (SCF) and Caritas, undertook a mission to Port Loko on December 3 to assess the condition of 6,560 internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered at the Maforki Displaced Camp. The mission recommended that the IDPs, who were found to be in need of food, water and sanitation, be relocated away from the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) camp and provided with a one-off food ration, shelter, water and sanitation. During the week ended December 5, the WFP distributed 464 tons of assorted food commodities to 31,400 beneficiaries in Kenema and Bo. The agency also delivered six tons of seed rice to Daru for distribution to farmers between Daru and Segbwema for planting in perennial swamps. "WFP has been forced to postpone distribution of some 70 tons of assorted food aid commodities to 9,400 school children under the school feeding programme in Lungi on 6 December due to security concerns," the report said.
16 December: Two expatriate Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers held for more than a week by RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie have been handed over to the ECOMOG force, ECOMOG commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber said at a news conference on Thursday. "The two hostages held by Sam Bockarie have been released this afternoon,'' Kpamber told reporters. Belgian doctor Patrick Cloos and a German logistics expert were released at the town of Daru, in Kailahun District. The report was confirmed by MSF Country Director Giuseppe Scollo. "We have received a message that they have been freed to ECOMOG," he said, adding that the two volunteers would be flown later to Freetown by helicopter. In Monrovia, RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh claimed credit for the pair's release. "It was an order I reinforced this morning," Sankoh told journalists. The RUF leader held a closed-door "causal" meeting with Liberian President Charles Taylor on Wednesday, according to Information Minister Joe Mulbah. Diplomatic sources had been quoted earlier in the week as saying that Bockarie was in Liberia for discussions with Sankoh, but the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported that as of Wednesday Bockarie had not yet arrived. Reuters confirmed Thursday that Bockarie had "failed to turn up" in Monrovia.
Only 10,557 former combatants, or about 23% of an estimated 45,000 armed combatants nationwide, were disarmed by the December 15 deadline, the Acting Executive Director of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), Dr. Francis Kaikai, told the BBC on Thursday. "Clearly that is very slow, painfully slow, especially because the hopes of all Sierra Leoneans are really hinged on this particular process. So from that perspective clearly it is a drop and clearly disappointing," Kaikai said. He blamed "logistical constraints," especially the problem of moving ex-combatants to areas where the demobilisation camps were located, but acknowledged that mistrust among the various factions had contributed to the delay in implementing the programme. "This end of Freetown where we have seen more disarmament over the weeks, we have seen the RUF and the AFRC people actually eyeing each other, and one saying 'No I can’t disarm because the other one is there,' or this one wants to attack and the other one wants to defend themselves. So we’ve had these kinds of problems." Kaikai said the programme had experienced similar problems in eastern Sierra Leone, along with the "Mosquito factor" — the refusal of RUF commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie to allow his fighters to be disarmed by ECOMOG, or by ECOMOG soldiers absorbed into the United Nations peacekeeping force. "Then of course among some of the ex-combatants themselves there is great apprehension," Kaikai said. "Some of them, because of some of the crimes they’ve committed, they don’t feel very comfortable to come out. They are still apprehensive about their future in their communities of choice later on."
15 December: RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh told reporters in Monrovia on Wednesday that the purpose of his trip to Liberia was to explain to President Taylor his concerns about the deployment of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. He said the Lomé Peace Accord had called for the sending of a neutral West African force, and argued that the resources should have been used to strengthen and expand the operations of ECOMOG. "We the leadership of the RUF and the (rebel) Sierra Leonean Army are very much concerned about the U.N. force," he said, adding: "We are not rejecting U.N. involvement, but we are concerned about what could happen to us after disarmament." Sankoh expressed concern that the international travel prohibition on members of the former AFRC military junta imposed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1132 had not been lifted. He said it represented a possible trap for RUF and AFRC leaders, and told reporters he was asking that Taylor urge ECOWAS leaders to act so that "this ban be lifted." Sankoh played down reports of a rift between himself and his field commander, Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, but acknowledged that "Bockarie is misbehaving and going out of the way of the Lomé Peace Accord." Last week Bockarie detained two expatriate Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers while they were visiting a medical clinic at Buedu. He told the Voice of America and the BBC he had placed the two men under his "security protection" to underscore his dissatisfaction with the progress of the disarmament programme, and to force the international community to protect him from Sankoh, whom he accused of trying to remove him from his command and of trying to kill him. Sankoh denied Wednesday he was plotting to "eliminate" Bockarie. "I am not a killer. I take him just like my son," he said. "Why should I when in the RUF there are rules to deal with people who go wrong? I don't think people should believe such an allegation by Bockarie. It's just a big bluff." The RUF leader called Bockarie "a little boy who only needs to take orders from the RUF leadership," and promised the two MSF workers he was holding would soon be freed. "Even this morning I reinforced my orders for the release of the MSF relief workers, and I think it's just a child's play anyway. I am not surprised: a child is a child. In our pidgin English we say, "pekin nar pekin," he said. In Freetown, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said Wednesday that the release of the MSF workers was imminent. "General Sam Bockarie has assured us in radio discussions that he is going to release the two MSF foreign workers...He is going to release them today or tomorrow," Massaquoi said. However, a source close to the negotiations to free the two men cast doubt on this assessment. "I do not think they will be released today or tomorrow," the source told the Sierra Leone Web on Wednesday. Sankoh called on his "brothers in the struggle" to realise that "there is no more war in Sierra Leone and so no one should hold the people ransom," adding: "We are disarming and are no longer governed by the gun." Sankoh acknowledged that the RUF "has financial problems," but said the dissension within the RUF ranks was not economically motivated, as the RUF had never promised to give the combatants money. "I always say I am the poorest rebel leader in the world. I live on charity...on friends, and I challenge anyone to prove that I have sold one piece of diamond or that I have a bank account anywhere," Sankoh said.
The December 15 deadline for disarming an estimated 45,000 combatants in Sierra Leone passed on Wednesday with only about 9,000 rebels and pro-government militiamen having so far turned in their arms. While the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) did not release new figures on Wednesday, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported that fewer than 2,000 RUF fighters, about 2,800 AFRC soldiers and 548 members of the Civil Defence Forces militia were believed to have disarmed, along with 3,804 loyal Sierra Leone Army troops who had surrendered their weapons.
Fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa face "exceptional food emergencies," the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report released on Wednesday. The report, entitled "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa," noted that the situation was improving in Sierra Leone and especially Liberia, where a range of interventions in agriculture had led to "a significant improvement in food production."
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened a day-long Security Council discussion Wednesday on U.N. partnership with Africa by calling for more "effective" engagement. Annan put forth a number of proposals which, while not "dramatic," he said could make "a real and perceptible difference" in the quality of the U.N.'s work for peace and security in Africa. He called for a sustained and effective interest in African conflicts or potential conflicts, to avoid the appearance of sporadic or purely rhetorical reactions to crises without any follow-up. He suggested that one way of doing this would be to use "contact groups" comprised of interested members who would follow through on proposed action on specific conflicts. Annan also said the Council might consider holding meetings in Africa, to establish closer relations with various regional and sub-regional organisations, or of dispatching goal-oriented missions comprising Council members. The secretary-general stressed that African regional institutions lacked financial resources and needed outside help to strengthen their capacity to keep the peace. He urged the Council to consider how peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau could be more fairly and efficiently financed. "No organization can consistently deliver quality performance if it is obliged to live from hand to mouth," he said. "It should be one of the highest priorities of this Council to find better and more efficient ways of funding peacekeeping operations." Addressing the Security Council on behalf of Sierra Leone, Deputy Permanent Representative for Political Affairs Sylvester Rowe called on the United Nations to investigate, name and expose member states who foment conflict in Africa by covert means. "Those who fan the flames of war and destruction through the illegal transfer of arms and ammunition to African countries should be named and exposed," Rowe told Council members. "Others who merely acquiesce when their nationals or agents are involved in this illegal traffic in small arms, should also be exposed. The Council should have the courage to at least identify and expose them." Rowe argued that "virtually all internal conflicts in Africa have international dimension," and that to the relationship between poverty, ignorance and other social problems, and armed conflict, should be added "the impact of external actors." Rowe also suggested that the Security Council reinforce the OAU's "bold step" in discouraging military coups in Africa by expressing its commitment to discourage U.N. member states "from supporting rebel movements by arming them in their quest to overthrow legitimate and internationally recognized democratically elected governments in Africa."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has completed a three-day operation to repatriate the last group of Liberian refugees wishing to return home from Sierra Leone, the U.N. announced on Wednesday. "UNHCR said that last Sunday it had ferried the last 213 Liberian volunteers back from towns in Sierra Leone as well as the capital, Freetown. Over 1,800 of the approximately 8,000 Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone have elected to return home, with most of the returns coming this year after fighting rocked Freetown early in the year, cutting off aid to refugee sites," the statement said. The UNHCR also appealed to Liberia and Guinea to re-open their common border to returning refugees. The border was closed in August after cross-border attacks into northern Lofa County by Liberian dissidents. "Several hundred Liberians in south-eastern Guinea have told the agency that they wanted to go home, and UNHCR has reminded the Governments of its intention to end assistance to returning refugees on 31 December," the U.N. statement said.
14 December: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and his field commander, Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, began talks in Monrovia Tuesday designed to end a rift between the two men which is threatening the peace process in Sierra Leone. The talks are reportedly being brokered by Liberian President Charles Taylor. According to the Agence France-Presse, Bockarie entered Liberia from Kailahun District by road, while Sankoh arrived by plane. There was no immediate word as to where Sankoh's flight originated, but the RUF leader attended the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Summit in Lomé, Togo last week, and did not return to Freetown with the Sierra Leonean delegation. Two weeks ago, Bockarie told the BBC he would not allow ECOMOG, or ECOMOG soldiers absorbed into the new United Nations peacekeeping force, to disarm his men. Last week the RUF detained two expatriate Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers who were visiting an MSF clinic at the RUF stronghold of Buedu, in Kailahun District. A spokesman for Bockarie said he had ordered the two held because he did not approve of the disarmament process. In interviews with the BBC and VOA late last week, Bockarie said he had detained the MSF volunteers to pressure the international community to protect him. He accused Sankoh of trying to remove him because of his popularity with the RUF troops, and of even sending men to assassinate him — a charged rejected by Sankoh's spokesman, Gibril Massaquoi.
Sierra Leone will miss a December 15 deadline to disarm an estimated 45,000 combatants in Sierra Leone, but will consider new strategies to speed up the process, Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said on Tuesday. "This will not be accomplished due to delays and mistrust among parties involved in implementation of the peace process," Spencer said. Meanwhile, President Kabbah told the new United Nations Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, that the international community was jeopardising the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme by failing to release money earmarked for the the effort, state radio reported on Tuesday. Adeniji responded that the United States, the United Nations, and other major donors were waiting for Sierra Leone's warring parties to demonstrate a commitment to the peace process. "What the donors want to see in Sierra Leone is commitment and a display of transparency of intentions on the part of those concerned," he said. Adeniji, who took up his post on Sunday, paid courtesy calls on President Kabbah and Vice President Demby on Tuesday.
13 December: A spokesman for the medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said Monday he expected two MSF workers detained by the RUF in eastern Sierra Leone last week to be freed soon. "At last we have been able to contact them today and they say they are well and fine,'' said MSF Country Director Giuseppe Scollo. The two, identified as Belgian doctor Patrick Cloos and a German logistician, were abducted on December 7 while working on a health project in Kailahun District. MSF lost radio contact with them since Friday. "We have contacted senior officials of RUF in Freetown and they told us that they have been talking with field commander Sam Bockarie, and the release of two MSF workers will be accomplished soon,'' Scollo said.
The new Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, warned Sunday that the international community could tire of trying to help Sierra Leone end more than eight years of civil conflict. "The international community can only help people who are willing to help themselves,'' Adeniji said. "I have identified the main problem in the fragile peace process as the non-commitment of the parties to the implementation of the peace accord.'' Recalling his posting to Nigeria's High Commission in Freetown early in his career, Adeniji said: "I have served my country's foreign ministry in your country several years ago.''
The Canadian-based diamond mining company DiamondWorks Ltd. announced sweeping management changes Monday as the firm struggled to meet its financial obligations. DiamondWorks Ltd. holds a mining concession to Koidu, and in addition holds diamond mining concessions in Angola and Mauritania. "The company's ability to continue its operations has, for some time, been dependent upon the deferral by its creditors of payment of its loan obligations, the extension of additional credit and the support of certain major shareholders," the company said in a press statement. "As well, the company requires additional equity or debt financing to invest in the mining equipment and infrastructure necessary to attain profitable operations. To date, DiamondWorks has been unable to secure the necessary financing. The company continues to operate at a loss and to be unable to meet its obligations generally as they come due. If the company is unable to restructure the company's debts and obtain additional funds, it is unlikely that it will be able to continue with its existing mining operations." In November, the company announced it had temporarily suspended operations at its Yetwene mine in northeastern Angola. Security concerns forced the company to suspend activities at its Koidu mine after Kono District came under RUF control. In addition, RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who was named by the Lomé Peace Accord as Chairman of the yet-to-be-formed Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development, has insisted that all current mining leases be analyzed by professionals. Any leases determined to have been obtained by fraud or "tainted with illegality" would be declared null and void.
There is no safe water supply in Kabala, and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) encamped at the city have no access to latrines or water facilities, the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) concluded in its report for the period from November 21 to December 5. An inter-agency mission which visited Kabala on November 23 found the food supply to be stable due to the recent rice harvest, but found many IDPs and other vulnerable groups without money to buy food. There are currently some 1,500 IDPs at the camp, with others waiting to register, HACU said. The mission said Kabala was being protected by a Sierra Leone Army (SLA) battalion, and that local and international humanitarian staff were safe. While the town was not threatened by the RUF, the report said, the presence of some 2,000 rebel SLA soldiers posed a potential threat. The report added that there were reports of civilians being harassed in surrounding villages. In Kenema, HACU said, the number of IDPs fell from 63,319 at the end of October to 47,199 as villagers took advantage of the dry season to return home and harvest their crops. In Port Loko, where armed bandits have harassed the civilian population since the start of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, ECOMOG has established a strong presence. Checkpoints have been set up near the DDR camp, and ECOMOG has imposed an 8:00 p.m. curfew. HACU said it did not believe there was an outside threat to the town, but was apprehensive of potential problems from former combatants within Port Loko, which is an RUF stronghold.
12 December: A final contingent of 333 Kenyan peacekeeping troops arrived in Sierra Leone late on Saturday.
The new Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, arrived in Freetown on Sunday to take up his post. He succeeds Ugandan Francis Okelo. Adeniji, a veteran Nigerian diplomat, joined the Nigerian Foreign Service in 1960, and early in his career served in his country's embassies in Washington, D.C., Freetown and Accra, Ghana, as well as in various capacities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1970 to 1973, he was Minister in the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the United Nations. He was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1976. From 1977 to 1981 he served as Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Ambassador to Switzerland. From 1987 to 1991 he was Nigeria's Ambassador to France. Adeniji was appointed the Director-General of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991, where he served until his retirement in 1994. He is considered to be an expert on the subject of disarmament and conflict resolution, and has authored several publications on both subjects. In 1998 Annan appointed Adeniji to be his Special Representative for the Central African Republic. Adeniji was educated at the Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, and the University College, Ibadan and London University.
The medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) has suspended most of its polio and measles immunisation programme in Kailahun District because of the security situation there, MSF Country Coordinator Guiseppe Scollo said Sunday. He said the group had heard nothing from two expatriate MSF workers held for five days by the RUF since losing radio contact with them on Friday.
The Freetown - Makeni stretch of highway has been reopened, an official of the the Professional Drivers' Association was quoted as saying. The road had been closed for nearly three months due to attacks on vehicles.
11 December: The French medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said Saturday it had lost contact with two staff workers held by the RUF in Kailahun District. "We lost communication with them starting from late yesterday despite several efforts to reach them by radio," an MSF official said in Freetown.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Bernard Miyet told the U.N. Security Council Friday that there had been significant progress during the week in deploying the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). By the end of the December, he said, contingents from Kenya and India should be complete, while Nigeria and other ECOWAS countries should have 2,000 fresh troops and 50 military observers in Sierra Leone. Miyet, who was presenting the Secretary-General's first report on UNAMSIL, noted several positive developments, including the fact that the rebels were part of the government and shared responsibility for implementing the peace process. He said the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme was picking up speed, but that the response from former combatants remained slow despite calls by the leaders of the two main rebel groups for their followers to come forward. Moreover, the various armed groups had so far failed to provide detailed information on the strength of their military forces, he said. The Under-Secretary-General said the security situation in Sierra Leone remained volatile, although in recent days it appeared to be stabilising. Human rights also remained a concern, he said, with too many occurrences of rape, looting, and harassment of civilians. In addition, the Human Rights Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for by the Lomé Peace Accord had yet to be established. "Regrettably, the humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone continues and the delivery of humanitarian assistance had been seriously hampered by the outbreak of violence," Miyet said. He told the Council that humanitarian personnel were still being harassed, attacked and sometimes seized, although the Lomé Peace Accord required all parties to provide safe and unhindered access to areas under their control for humanitarian interventions. Miyet concluded that there was cause for cautious optimism. "It is clear that the commitments of the parties to the Lomé Agreement will be put to the test in the coming crucial period," he said. "Now that the mechanisms for ceasefire monitoring and disarmament are almost in place, the responsibility for advancing the peace process in Sierra Leone rests with the parties, particularly the rebels."
10 December: RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie told the BBC Thursday night he had abducted two expatriate Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers, a German and a Belgian, because he wanted the international community to protect him. According to the BBC, Bockarie (pictured left) accused RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh of trying to sideline him, and of even sending men to assassinate him. In a separate interview with the Voice of America, Bockarie confirmed he was upset about the progress of the disarmament campaign, especially in delays in the hand-over from ECOMOG to the new United Nations peacekeeping force. He repeated his charge that the RUF leadership was trying to assassinate him. "I have decided to keep these MSF personnel under my security protection because I have discovered that men have been planted against me to assassinate me," he said. Bockarie acknowledged that the RUF had been split by the disarmament issue, and said he believed Sankoh was trying to remove him because of his popularity among the RUF fighters. Bockarie said Sankoh ordered him to attend a military college in Nigeria, an assignment which he rejected, telling the VOA it would amount to "psychological imprisonment." In a BBC Focus on Africa interview on Friday, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi (pictured right) rejected Bockarie's allegations. "Foday Sankoh has sent nobody to assassinate Sam Bockarie," Massaquoi said. "He has been misbehaving to the leadership of the RUF, and the leadership have told him now he should stop. Foday Sankoh has made that clear to him that he should stop what he is doing. Even today when we got the information, the leadership sent a message to him that if that is what he has done, or is trying to do, he should stop it. But for us, for us to hear from you that Foday Sankoh has sent somebody to assassinate him, Foday Sankoh has never done that within the RUF hierarchy. He has never sent anybody to assassinate any RUF commander...I know that in few days ago he has not been taking orders. But there is no need for us to see him as a target. Nobody’s a target today in Sierra Leone. We are all trying to consolidate peace." Massaquoi then revised his assessment: "He is taking orders. What I am trying to say far in what the MSF claim that some of their personnel have been abducted, it is not to the knowledge of the leadership. And if that becomes true, that it seems that he’s not taking orders, he is not going by the Lomé peace agreement." The RUF spokesman said Bockarie should release the MSF workers if he were holding them, but suggested they might not have been abducted. He also criticised Médecins Sans Frontières for failing to follow the proper procedures. "According to information we gathered, these people were on invitation to (Bockarie)," Massaquoi said. "They are invited, not only MSF, some international non-governmental organisations and some, the High Command of UNAMSIL, have been contacting Mosquito directly, bypassing the leadership of the RUF, contacting him, not contacting the leadership. If they want to get to that particular point they have to contact the leadership of the RUF, and now they turn around and complain that they have been abducted." Massaquoi gave assurance that "if that order (to release the MSF workers) have been sent to (Bockarie) from the leadership, it will be executed," adding: "I am sure of it. If they are abducted, they must be released."
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony Friday in Oslo, Norway. The Prize was accepted on behalf of the group by Dr. Marie-Eve Raguenaud, a French doctor who just returned from two years in Burundi. MSF, which currently sends about 2,500 medical professionals a year to work in 80 countries, intervenes in conflicts without being invited, speaks out on abuses, and insists on complete independence. "Our thoughts go not in the least to those who, at this very moment, are working under the most difficult conditions, often putting their own lives at risk, in scenes of the profoundest suffering and degradation," said Awards Committee Chairman Francis Sejersted. MSF said it would use the $945,000 cash award to fund a new campaign against neglected diseases, saying the world's poor cannot find or afford the medicines they need. Meanwhile, two MSF workers are still being held by the RUF in Kailahun District, MSF Country Coordinator Guiseppe Scollo said on Friday. "It is quite a tense situation and we are trying to keep in contact with them," he told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). An MSF spokeswoman in Paris, Drazilla Godian, told the Voice of America on Friday that the two medical workers had been invited for a meeting with RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie on Monday and were subsequently prevented from returning to Freetown. "The two expatriates were invited for a meeting with Sam Bockarie on Monday and they are still there and they can't leave," she said. So, we don't say "kidnapping," but, in a way, they are forced to stay. So, they are not free and they can't go back to Freetown if they like."
West African leaders, including nine of the sixteen heads of state, ended their ECOWAS summit in Lomé, Togo on Friday with the signing of a protocol aimed at "prevention, management (and) resolution of conflicts, peacekeeping and security." According to the final communiqué read by ECOWAS Executive Director Lansana Kouyate, the summit called on the parties to the Sierra Leone conflict to work towards disarmament, as mandated in the Lomé Peace Accord signed in July. Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema handed over the chairmanship of ECOWAS to his successor, President Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali.
Two United States Congressmen, Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio (pictured left) and Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia (pictured right), called Friday for a United Nations embargo on illicit diamonds mined in Sierra Leone. Hall and Wolf, who visited Sierra Leone this week, said any diamond mined in Sierra Leone not certified by the proposed Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconciliation and Development should be sanctioned under international law. "If nothing is done about the black-market trade in diamonds, the peacekeeping troops going into Sierra Leone this month will find a treacherous situation on the ground," Hall said in a press release. "Rebels responsible for the war's atrocities have signed the peace agreement, but some factions continue to mine and sell diamonds - and the unspeakable violence that depends on those revenues is also continuing." Wolf said the world should not stand idly by while revenues from illicit diamond sales were used to kill innocent civilians. "We should do whatever it takes to cut off these revenues before they again tempt armed men to grab power from the democratically elected government in Freetown," he said. "We cannot count on the peace to hold while attacks on civilians continue and funds that could ease their suffering are instead channeled into rebels' vaults." Most illicit diamonds are smuggled out of Sierra Leone through Liberia. Antwerp's High Diamond Council reported buying some 30 million carats of diamonds over the past five years, although the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the Liberian diamond mining industry is capable of producing only about two percent of that amount. The sanctions proposed by Hall and Wolf would be modeled after U.N. Resolution 864, which prohibits the purchase of diamonds from Angola's UNITA rebels. It would affect only black market stones, not those needed by the government to rebuild the country.
9 December: Two volunteers with the French-based medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) are being held by RUF rebels in Kailahun District, according to an MSF press release issued on Thursday. The two, a doctor and a logistician, were involved in opening a health project in Kailahun District. They have been held for 48 hours by RUF authorities. MSF said it had been in satellite telephone contact with the two, and that they reported they were in good health. "During a telephone contact, a member of RUF expressed the dissatisfaction of (RUF field commander) Mr. Sam Bockarie, one of the rebel movement's leaders, with the process of disarmament and demobilisation of fighters in Sierra Leone," the press release said. "His complaints are directed towards the international community. According to his spokesman, he considers that the implementation of this process is not appropriate. MSF has absolutely no implication in this process and requests that these two volunteers be allowed to leave the region of Kailahun immediately." In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, MSF spokeswoman Amanda Harvey stressed that the detention of the two volunteers was unrelated to their work with MSF, but was related to the Lomé Peace Accord. "Médecins Sans Frontières has absolutely no implication whatsoever in this process of disarmament and demobilisation, so we are requesting that these two volunteers be allowed to leave the region of Kailahun immediately," she said. Harvey said the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and ECOMOG were aware of the situation, but said it was still "too early" for them to become involved in discussions or negotiations for their release. She said MSF had not yet spoken to Bockarie. "There’s an indication that we may have some contact directly with him, but as yet that hasn’t happened," she said. MSF has been active in Sierra Leone since 1990, and currently has 30 volunteers working in the country.
West African leaders arrived in Lomé, Togo Thursday for the 22nd ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State and Government, which will consider a plan aimed at conflict prevention and resolution in the sub-region, and will review progress toward peace in Sierra Leone. President Kabbah, accompanied by the RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman, Foday Sankoh, and the AFRC leader and CCP Chairman, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, arrived in Lomé aboard a special Togolese jet. According to the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Mohamed Sheriff, the winner of the Third ECOWAS Prize for Excellence in literature for his novel "Secret Fear," is also in Lomé to receive the award.
The World Bank's board will meet on December 21 to discuss a proposed $25 million loan to Sierra Leone that would fund an emergency rehabilitation programme in that country, a World Bank source told the Sierra Leone Web on Thursday. According to the Agence France-Presse, United Nations agencies and the Sierra Leone government have listed 33 projects in need of financial assistance after more than eight years of civil war. The source added that the African Development Bank also presented a proposal for a $12.5 million loan to its board on December 1. "If both are approved, by January, Sierra Leone will qualify for $40 million, maximum," the source said.
The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, is due to arrive in Freetown on Sunday, according to the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), quoting a U.N. source. Adeniji will replace Francis Okelo, who took up the post in 1997.
National sovereignty is now a less important impediment to curbing serious human rights abuses than in years past, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual global survey, which was released on Thursday. "We will remember 1999 as the year in which sovereignty gave way in places where crimes against humanity were being committed," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a press release which accompanied the report. "Ordinarily we depend on sovereign states to defend human rights. But sovereignty cannot be used as an excuse to avoid human rights commitments." HRW pointed out that military campaigns to redress crimes against humanity was also a sign of failure to respond to the early warning signs of gross human rights abuses. Roth also stressed that governments using military force in the name of human rights should be subjected to close scrutiny. "Human rights should not be used as a pretext for other ventures," he said. Roth also noted that many people accused of crimes against humanity were being tried outside their native countries, a triumph, he said, for "universal jurisdiction." HRW said it supported United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his statements that national leaders risk prosecution if they do not either stop crimes against humanity or permit other countries to do so. "However, the group criticized U.N. operations in many countries, such as Angola and Sierra Leone, for failing to respond vigorously enough when human rights crimes pushed those countries toward war," the statement concluded.
8 December: A contingent of around 350 Kenyan soldiers bound for the United Nations peacekeeping force landed at Lungi International Airport on Wednesday. Senior Kenyan officers said the group, originally expected on Sunday, had been delayed because a U.N.-chartered flight from Nairobi had been repeatedly postponed. The Kenyan battalion, which is expected eventually to number 820, will be deployed at Makeni and Magburaka.
RUF fighters at Fadugu failed to give up their arms as planned Wednesday after RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh suddenly denounced the authorities for pressuring his men to disarm instead of other combatants, according to a report filed by the Agence France-Presse (AFP). "You are pressuring the RUF to disarm and the others are not disarming," Sankoh shouted at ECOMOG officers and United Nations observers. He alleged that rebel SLA soldiers had attacked the town and had ambushed a civilian vehicle near Lunsar, but claimed ECOMOG and the U.N. had done nothing about the incident and were not forcing those fighters to give up their weapons. ""Why don't you people go to Kabala and get the ex-SLA to disarm?," he asked. According to the AFP, Sankoh's outburst came only minutes after he had called upon his gathered fighters, most of them teenagers, to turn in their weapons. "Don't be afraid that if they take the arms from you, you will become victimized. Papi Sankoh is giving you an order, and that order is to disarm," he told them. The AFP subsequently quoted Sankoh as saying his reaction was a gesture of public support to his fighters who had registered a legitimate complaint. "You have to understand the psychology of my men. They need to feel they have my support." he said. Earlier in the day, Sankoh paid a visit to the SLA stronghold at Kabala, about 20 miles from Fadugu. ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade confirmed Thursday that Sankoh had denounced the U.N. and ECOMOG for pressuring his men to disarm instead of other former combatants. "He indicted us publicly," Olukolade told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). "We expect him to say these things, but we don’t agree with him and other groups feel we don’t pressurise him enough." Referring to Sankoh's claim that rebel SLA soldiers had attacked a civilian vehicle near the RUF-held town of Lunsar, Olukolade said there had been no confirmation of an attack, but that ECOMOG was investigating.
7 December: A contingent of 144 battle-tested Indian troops, including some 50 Gurkhas, arrived at Lungi International Airport on Tuesday afternoon to join the United Nations peacekeeping force. Many of the Indians are said to have combat experienced in the disputed province of Kashmir, where India and Pakistan have clashed for decades. Earlier in the day, Indian Major-General Vijay Kumar Jetley flew in to Sierra Leone to take command of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). "The role that we are here to play is to add a peaceful atmosphere for the (disarmament) program," Jetley told reporters upon his arrival. Meanwhile, Kenyan peacekeeping troops again failed to arrive in Sierra Leone on Tuesday. "They are still in Kenya and they will leave from tomorrow,'' military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said in Nairobi. He explained that a U.N.-chartered plane had failed to show up to pick up the troops. An initial contingent of 134 Kenyan peacekeepers landed in Freetown last week. The rest of the Kenyans are expected to arrive in Sierra Leone in two groups of about 350 each. The Kenyans are to provide a total of 820 troops to the peacekeeping force.
Despite some progress in implementing the peace agreement, serious human rights abuses, cease-fire violations, extensive troop and weapons movement and the targeting of humanitarian personnel "give cause for very serious concern," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his first report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). "The continued violence against the people of Sierra Leone and international personnel is unacceptable and perpetrators should expect to be held accountable for their actions," Annan said, adding that arbitrary clearance procedures and threats were also obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance. "This should stop," he said. The report highlighted the need to accelerate the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. So far fewer than 10 percent of the estimated 45,000 combatants have registered at DDR camps. Annan said rebel leaders needed to prove by their actions their commitment to the peace process, by ending all hostilities and adhering to international human rights standards and humanitarian law.
Some five hundred former combatants encamped at Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) centres each received an advance of Le 50,000 — about $25.00 — the Acting Executive Secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), Dr. Francis Kaikai, told the BBC on Monday night. "This money is supposed to address some of the immediate needs of the ex-combatants who have expressed the wish to have some pocket money, since they’ve not been earning money since they went into the camps — for some of them a month ago, some two months ago and so on," Kaikai said. "So government thought it fit to ensure that some of amount of money is provided for them to meet some of their basic needs outside what is provided already for them in the camps." Kaikai said that the money was targeted at combatants who had already been disarmed and encamped. "And for now it is only these two centres that are really active," he said. "Outside these two areas we have Kenema...some people from the Civil Defence Forces had already disarmed, and for them their demobilisation takes place mainly in the communities, so we would also be paying those already disarmed in Kenema. The next area will be Daru, but for Daru [word indistinct] inactive, I mean as a demobilisation centre. So these are the only areas we are focusing on. There are plans to also address people in the far north, in the Kabala area, when they get disarmed, and when modalities are put in place for us to get them through the programme." Kaikai told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the money was an incentive and also represented the "government's determination" that the former combatants received what they were entitled to. "This payment is an advance on payments which should be due them later during the programme itself," he said. "So we are hoping that by giving them something now, you will send a very strong message to those still holding out there in the bush that in fact something has started positively in these camps so that hopefully they will come out and disarm and receive these monies. We have money out actually for so many of them who are ready to come out any time now." Kaikai said he hoped there would "be no need for (U.N. peacekeepers) to enforce disarmament," but added: "At least their presence will probably help the process because we are hearing some of them as saying that oh, they are still afraid, they are not too sure, whatever, so with more peacekeeping troops coming in I think that will help move the process forward."
AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma, in a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday, claimed that his followers were leading in the number of former combatants who had surrendered their weapons under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme. "But what I am insisting on is that this thing should be done simultaneously," Koroma told BBC West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle. "There should be equity across the country. Every party to the conflict should disarm at the same time. That will wipe out the fears of the other combatants." Koroma said that while the rebel soldiers were still claiming to be the legitimate army of Sierra Leone, that "everyone across the country" should disarm. "As far as we are concerned, the Army has not been disbanded, the soldiers are intact, and those who want to continue their service should continue, except for those who do not want to serve at all," he said. "They should just get their benefits and then go and do something else. Properly, we will integrate them into society. But to say that the Army was disbanded that is not correct at all. The Army is still intact, and I think those who surrendered and those who are in the bush, we are trying to bring them together so that they work as one." Koroma said that he would not be part of a reconstituted military force. "I think I am fighting for some of my men who want to serve in the Army to serve, but I would not be part of that Army," he said.
Sierra Leone is slated to face off against Sao Tome e Principe in the first qualifying round for the 2002 World Cup, to be hosted by Korea and Japan in June 2002. Sierra Leone will compete in Group C, which will also feature Equatorial Guinea vs. Congo, Libya vs. Mali, Rwanda vs. Ivory Coast, and Central African Republic vs. Zimbabwe.
A United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) mission will present a preliminary report on the environmental impact on Guinea of a large influx of some 450,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. The field mission, which began on November 24 and was concluded on December 6, examined the problems of deforestation, erosion and unsustainable land use, and water and sanitation issues. Following an analysis of the preliminary assessment, the Nairobi, Kenya-based UNEP will make recommendations to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to determine actions to protect the environment in Guinea. The mission was undertaken at Annan's request, after representations from the Guinean government earlier this year.
Two United States congressmen toured Calaba Town Monday during a two-day visit to Freetown. According to a press release issued by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on Tuesday, Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio and Rep. Frank Wolfe of Virginia toured a housing reconstruction project begun last March, funded largely by the U.S. Agency for International Development and managed by CRS/Caritas. "77 percent of the houses in the suburb were razed during the invasion, and the 32,000 residents were forced to leave, seeking shelter in displacement camps in Freetown. By the end of October, 563 of the 948 houses destroyed had been completely rebuilt, and over 10,500 displaced persons were able to return to their homes. Efforts to rebuild the remaining houses are still underway," the press release said. The two congressmen were accompanied to Calaba Town by U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Cheryl Martin and CRS Country Representative Jim McLaughlin.
6 December: The arrival of a contingent of Kenyan soldiers to join the United Nations peacekeeping force has again been postponed, senior Kenyan military officials said on Monday. The troops are now expected to reach Sierra Leone on Tuesday. No reason was given for the delay.
ECOMOG will remain in Sierra Leone as a "credible force" after deployment of United Nations peacekeepers, ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Monday. "Our new mandate, according to ECOWAS, is to continue to provide security for the State of Sierra Leone, to continue to support the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) programme, to continue to protect the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and all the aid agencies in Sierra Leone, and also to ensure that in case of any eventuality warranting the withdrawal of UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone), ECOMOG will be there to assist in organising their withdrawal," Kpamber said. He told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that while the U.N. peacekeeping force "has a tradition of keeping the peace, sometimes building the peace or maintaining the peace," ECOMOG had the additional role of protecting the State of Sierra Leone. Kpamber denied that there was resentment against the U.N. force by those serving with ECOMOG. "We really don’t mind," he said. "What we thought is that ECOMOG would also be recognised by the United Nations as a force that could go on to prosecute the DDR programme. And then ECOMOG officers and soldiers should also be paid the same allowances being paid to the United Nations peacekeeping force...For now it is not going to happen, but we will continue to do the job." Kpamber acknowledged he would have preferred that a Nigerian officer had been named to head the United Nations force. "I wish the ECOMOG commander was made the commander of the U.N. forces, because by all means we have the preponderance of troops," he said. "We are contributing more than half of the 6,000-strong troops. Therefore it is reasonable that the ECOMOG commander should have been the overall commander. But it is a matter for United Nations to decide. They have decided and we have no option but to go along with it. But we don’t really resent it."
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Monday that rebel attacks against civilians were spreading to northern Sierra Leone, and alleged that government troops and ECOMOG have so far been unwilling to intervene to protect civilians. According to HRW, rebel attacks, which had previously been centered around Port Loko, spread during November to Kambia and Kabala. "The persistent rebel attacks in all three areas include rape, murder, abduction, torture and brutalization of the civilian population," HRW said in a press release, adding: "The frequent ambushes along some northern highways have made them impassable for civilian traffic." Peter Takirambudde, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Africa Division, accused the government of turning a blind eye toward the attacks. "The government seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate rebel leaders," the HRW statement quoted him as saying. "It has simply ignored the rebel atrocities being committed against civilians. These are criminal acts, not political ones, and the government should at least be making an effort to stop them." HRW said that during the month of November it had documented raids on some twenty villages, and also noted frequent ambushes against cars and mini-buses. The group said such attacks had resulted in the displacement of some 12,000 civilians, 5,000 of whom had crossed over into Guinea since late November. "There has been little response from Sierra Leone Army troops and ECOMOG to stop these atrocities and provide protection to the civilian population," HRW complained. "Several of the ambushes and attacks documented by Human Rights Watch have been committed just miles away from government and ECOMOG checkpoints. In late November, members of the government's Civil Defense Forces captured some ten Revolutionary United Front (RUF) combatants who were harassing civilians in Nenekoro village, near Kabala. After receiving a complaint from RUF leader Foday Sankoh, the government ordered the prisoners released instead of initiating criminal proceedings against them."
Human Rights Watch's researcher in Freetown, Corrine Dufka, told Radio France International on Monday that if RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie wanted peace, he would have to change his stance. On Monday, Bockarie told the BBC that he would not allow his troops to be disarmed by ECOMOG, or by ECOMOG soldiers absorbed into the U.N. peacekeeping force. He further stated that all Nigerian soldiers must leave Sierra Leone before he would cooperate with the U.N. force. "I believe the U.N. and the Sierra Leonean government want Sam Bockarie to participate in the peace process, but he has not made up his mind yet," Dufka said. "Another important thing is almost all the diamond-rich areas are under Bockarie's control. This is really something that set off the dynamics of the war in Sierra Leone. Another thing that is not clear is the role that will be played by Charles Taylor in Liberia. Bockarie's attitude depends on what Taylor will do, because Bockarie cannot do much without his assistance...It is important that Liberian President Taylor and Bockarie participate in the peace process."
ECOWAS foreign ministers met in Lomé, Togo on Monday to complete work on a conflict prevention plan for the sub-region prior to the annual ECOWAS summit while will take place Thursday and Friday. ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber was also due to brief the ministers on the latest developments in Sierra Leone.
The U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said the United States plans to make January the "month of Africa" when it assumes the presidency of the U.N. Security Council in January as a way of stressing U.S. commitment to the continent. He said special sessions would be devoted to Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both in the throes of civil war. Holbrooke also stressed Africa's need to declare war on AIDS, particularly in South Africa where an estimated 1,600 people a day are infected with the HIV virus. He also indicated there was cause for optimism on the continent, pointing to the U.N.'s role in South Africa's peaceful transition to democracy, and the peaceful elections which just ended in Namibia and Mozambique. "It is imperative that our ultimate objective be the same outcome for Congo, Sierra Leone and other conflicts," he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) signed a licensing agreement with the private pharmaceutical firm Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc in Geneva on Monday which will allow the WHO and its partners to ensure availability of a drug to treat sleeping sickness in Africa. An estimated 55 million people in 36 sub-Saharan African countries, including Sierra Leone, are at risk of contracting the disease, the WHO said. Earlier this year, the agency established a network to monitor drug distance and to find and recommend solutions for treating sleeping sickness.
5 December: Some 700 Kenyan troops are due to arrive in Sierra Leone on Monday to join the United Nations peacekeeping force. The Kenyans were originally expected to arrive on Sunday, but U.N. officials said their departure from Kenya had been postponed for a day. No reason was given for the delay. The Kenyan troops are to arrive at Lungi International Airport in two groups, and will eventually be deployed at Makeni and Magburaka. A battalion of Indian troops, from the Eighth Gurkha Regiment, will begin arriving around December 10, Reuters said on Sunday, amending an earlier report which said they were expected to arrive starting on December 8. By the end of December additional U.N. troops, including four Nigerian battalions, a Ghanaian battalion, and a company of Guineans, should be in place. On October 22 the United Nations Security Council authorised a force of up to 6,000 peacekeeping troops for Sierra Leone. According to the outgoing Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is expected to cost $260 million over its six-month mandate. In an interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Okelo repeated that U.N. peacekeepers would not use force to bring about disarmament, but would negotiate the stationing of U.N. troops in RUF strongholds in Kailahun District. "The U.N. intends to explain clearly to rebel leaders that this is not a combat situation. We are there to assist disarmament and deliver humanitarian assistance," Okelo said. "We are quietly holding talks about getting access." He discounted rumours that RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie was stockpiling weapons, and that the rebels were massing troops and moving back and forth across the Liberian border, saying that Bockarie needed to be given a prominent role in the peace process. "A concerted effort needs to be made to carve out a role for Sam Bockarie in the peace process so that he does not feel left out," Okelo said. "I am in touch with Sam Bockarie, I know him very well." He said "nothing practical" was being done by the RUF to prevent the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops.
4 December: Oil marketing companies have increased the price of petroleum products in Sierra Leone effective December 3, the Managing Director of the National Petroleum Company, Vincent Kanu, said at a press conference on Friday. Kanu said the price rise was due to an increase in the cost of all petroleum products internationally, as well a decline in the official rate of the leone, to Le 2,250 to the dollar from Le 1,850, attributed to a severe shortage in foreign exchange reserves. The price for a gallon of petrol at the pump is now Le 5,500, up from Le 4,500, while the cost of a gallon of kerosene has risen from Le 3,000 to Le 4,000. Gas oil now sells for Le 5,000 to the gallon. The last such increase took place in August, when the Ministry of Finance deregulated fuel prices in line with a programme by the International Monetary Fund to revive the economy.
A contingent of Indian Gurkha troops is due to arrive in Sierra Leone on December 8, to join the United Nations peacekeeping force, Reuters reported on Saturday.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report on Sierra Leone is due to be submitted to the Security Council on Monday. The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Sierra Leone for Wednesday, December 8.
AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma called on his followers at Kabala Friday to disarm after clashes between rebel soldiers and RUF fighters were reported at the town of Bafodia, northwest of Kabala. "I, as your leader, who took you to the bush, now command you to surrender to ECOMOG and UNAMSIL as the war in our country is over,'' Koroma told several hundred soldiers. He warned that soldiers who continued to attack civilians would be captured and charged with aggravated robbery. If found guilty, he said, they would face a firing squad. Reuters quoted military sources as saying the RUF wanted to re-open the highway between Makeni and Kabala, raising fears by the former SLA soldiers that this would make it easier for RUF fighters to attack them.
3 December: About 158 former SLA troops, including 77 child soldiers, surrendered their weapons Thursday to the ECOMOG force at Laia Junction, the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported on Friday, citing a United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) source. The former combatants were said to be part of the SLA contingent based near Okra Hill.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in an Emergency Report issued on Friday, announced the launching of a new Emergency Operation (EMOP 6187) to provide food assistance as an incentive for an estimated 45,000 combatants in Sierra Leone to disarm and prepare for reintegration into civilian life. The WFP will spend $2.7 million to deliver 3,000 tons of food commodities to encampment sites, to be distributed by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR). "It is expected that various international and national agencies will support the reintegration programmes of ex-combatants following their departure from the sites," the WFP statement said. "A multi-donor mission to Sierra Leone in early November showed international commitment to support Sierra Leone's recovery from its eight year civil war through relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes." The WFP, along with World Vision Sierra Leone, have begun the rehabilitation of the Kenema - Kailahun road which runs through RUF-controlled areas and connects with government/ECOMOG-controlled areas, the report said. A WFP mission to Kailahun District has established an immediate need to provide vulnerable group feeding rations to the elderly and to children in Segbwema, among them abductees and orphans. At Daru, the WFP found the nutritional situation to be "satisfactory" as compared to earlier findings during a mission in late September, perhaps attributable to ongoing harvests and access to RUF-held areas.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resumed the relocation this week of Sierra Leonean refugees living at Gueckedou, Guinea to camps further from the border area. The operation, aimed at moving some 50,000 refugees to more secure areas where they would be safe from "uncontrolled infiltrations of armed elements through the border," was interrupted by months of heavy rains and poor road conditions. The UNHCR has opened three new sites, at Faindou, Katkama and Guelo, all more than 100 km. from the border. "So far this week, 2,000 persons have been relocated to Faindou," the UNHCR said in a statement issued on Friday. "Refugees and their belongings are moved in daily convoys averaging about 400 people. Better road conditions and the availability of an improved trucking fleet should allow the relocation of 5,500 refugees by the end of the year. About 3,500 will be accommodated in the new site of Faindou and the rest will go to Katkama."
2 December: The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is planning to deploy a battalion of Indian Gurkha troops in sensitive eastern areas of Sierra Leone, BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle reported on Thursday. The move was announced to meet the objection of RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, who has refused to allow his men to be disarmed by Nigerian ECOMOG troops, or Nigerian soldiers absorbed into the U.N. peacekeeping force. "Top U.N. sources said the Gurkhas were battle-hardened Indian troops who were fresh from fighting insurgents in the disputed Indian Kashmir," Doyle told the BBC Network Africa programme. "They will be supported by military helicopters in their mission to keep the peace in the diamond-rich district of Kono and Kailahun. The U.N. sources say rebel leader Foday Sankoh and his field commander Maskita have been informed of the Gurkha deployment and have somewhat reluctantly agreed to it." Doyle said the U.N. strategy was to deploy non-regional forces in sensitive areas of the country because the rebels have accused the Nigerians of bias. While the Indians will be sent to the east, Kenyan peacekeeping troops will be stationed at Makeni and Magburaka. "U.N. commanders say it's almost inevitable that one or other of the rebel groups will try and test the mettle of the peacekeepers," Doyle said. "They say that the next few weeks will be the most dangerous for the mission as the U.N. deploys."
ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber said Thursday that statements by RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, that the would not allow his men to be disarmed if Nigerians made up part of the U.N. peacekeeping force, did not reflect the thinking of RUF leaders. "Sam Bockarie is not speaking the mind of the RUF leadership. Foday Sankoh has been cooperating with ECOMOG. In fact, it was with the cooperation of ECOMOG that he recently went out and swiftly, personally got the RUF chaps out to disarm en masse. So Sam Bockarie, when he got wind of this, he became jittery and started offering contradictory statements. But, I believe he is not speaking the mind of the chairman, Foday Sankoh, and indeed, he wasn't speaking the mind of the entire RUF movement." Kpamber said Sankoh was "in total command and control of all the RUF movement" and had made a commitment when registering the rebel movement as a political party to abide by the rule of law. "What Sam Bockarie is saying is contrary to the rule of law," he said. The ECOMOG commander said peacekeepers would not use force to compel RUF fighters to disarm. "No, Foday Sankoh himself has been going out to disarm the boys by himself, and they have been responding positively and in great numbers," he said. Kpamber acknowledged that he was concerned about Bockarie's statements which, he said, had the potential to derail the peace process. "I am worried, because the city of Freetown and indeed the entire country has been living in fear," he said. "There have been rumours of reputed attacks on Freetown, and Foday Sankoh himself is not in favor of this. Foday Sankoh is fully committed to the peace accord. He has demonstrated that by himself. He is now personally disarming the rebels, but it would appear to me that Sam Bockarie is not in favor of this. The RUF leadership has no problems with the participation of Nigerian troops, in particular, and indeed the participation of the whole of ECOMOG in the peace process."
More than 100 rebel SLA soldiers who had been holding out at their base near Okra Hill turned over their weapons to ECOMOG at the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) centre at Mansumana on Thursday. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that 180 people came out of the bush, including child soldiers and women who had been abducted during the rebel invasion of Freetown in January. Reuters put the number of combatants handing in their arms at about 200. "The Okra Hills base, which is the stronghold of the constitutional army, is the springboard and yardstick for disarmament," an SLA spokesman said. ECOMOG force commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber, who along with U.N. observers was on hand to witness the disarmament, called it a "giant step" in the peace process. He promised ECOMOG "would do everything possible to provide security and help to the ex-combatants in rebuilding their lives." Kpamber said the disarmament of the group gave hope that "those left behind will come out in their thousands to give their guns to the appropriate authorities."
ECOMOG officials said Thursday that its soldiers had repelled a rebel attack Monday on Pepel Island, about 40 miles north of Freetown. An ECOMOG statement blamed rogue elements of the RUF, whose objective was to steal food from residents. According to the statement, one rebel fighter was killed in fighting which lasted about two hours. A Ghanaian ECOMOG soldier and several rebels were said to be wounded. On Tuesday, the BBC reported that one Ghanaian soldier and four rebels had been killed at the nearby town of Madina, a claim denied by ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade.
In an update issued in Geneva on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its current humanitarian efforts in Sierra Leone included reviving the Red Cross message network, in cooperation with the Sierra Leone Red Cross, providing material assistance to some 37,000 internally displaced persons as well as 1,300 liberated detainees, and providing basic materials for shelter to 8,440 displaced and vulnerable families. In conjunction with the Sierra Leone Red Cross, the ICRC has distributed agricultural inputs to some 36,000 displaced and vulnerable resident families, and through the Ministry of Health and local non-governmental organisations is providing assistance to vulnerable people, mostly in hospitals, orphanages and homes for the handicapped. The ICRC also supports the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital and four clinics in Freetown. The ICRC is "commencing construction of an operating theatre, physiotherapy, outpatient consultation, kitchen and laundry facilities at the Kenema (Government) Hospital, and transforming the present kitchen into a 40-bed surgical ward; providing a medical team consisting of a surgeon, an anaesthetist and two specialized nurses, mainly to perform corrective and reconstructive surgery," the statement said.
An emergency malaria control programme, to include bed net distribution and the spraying of insecticide, is due to get underway shortly in Kenema District, Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN) Programme Coordinator Glyn Taylor said on Thursday. "The programme will start in about two weeks and will mainly target children between the ages of 0-5 years and pregnant and lactating mothers," Taylor told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on Thursday. The first phase will last from three to four months, and will include the spraying of temporary shelters for internally displaced persons in Kenema, as well as a health education programme. Thousands of bed nets will be distributed to local residents at a nominal cost. The second phase of the programme aims at taking the programme beyond Kenema to regional health centres, Taylor said. Partners in the programme, which will target 20,000 to 30,000 persons, are the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.
1 December: A Ghanaian ECOMOG soldier was killed Monday evening in a clash with rebel SLA soldiers near Lungi International Airport, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting ECOMOG sources. Three rebel soldiers were reportedly killed and seven wounded. Skirmishing continued throughout Tuesday, Reuters said. The Agence France Presse (AFP) spoke of a "45 minute shootout" late Monday at the town of Madina, near the airport. The fighting broke out when Ghanaian soldiers manning a checkpoint two miles from the airport refused to allow through a group of 300 rebel soldiers. The soldiers had wanted to go to Lungi at about the same time a contingent of 130 Kenyan peacekeeping troops were arriving at the airport.
ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade has denied a BBC report aired on Monday that a Ghanaian ECOMOG soldier had been killed in a clash with rebel fighters. He told the Concord Times on Monday that the rebels had attacked ECOMOG positions at the town of Pepel, in northwestern Sierra Leone. "One Ghanaian soldier was wounded but none was killed. Also, one of the rebel attackers was gunned down," the Concord Times quoted Olukolade as saying. BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers reported the attack as occurring at the town of Madina, not far from Pepel Island. Olukolade described the incident as "banditry." In a separate Concord Times interview, RUF spokesman Eldred Collins denied RUF involvement in the attack. "All our men who are in the Port Loko District have been disarmed," Collins was quoted as saying. He attributed the attack to "SLA rebels."
CMRRD Chairman and RUFP leader Foday Sankoh told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday that United Nations peacekeeping troops about to be deployed in Sierra Leone should not try to use force to disarm his troops. "They cannot force anybody to disarm. If they try it they will regret it," Sankoh warned. "We can disarm without the U.N." He expressed a lack of confidence in the U.N. peacekeepers, dismissing the force as "just a paper tiger." Sankoh also denied that his followers were involved in a clash with Ghanaian ECOMOG soldiers Monday which left one Ghanaian and three rebel soldiers dead. "My men are not attacking anyone," he said. Sankoh also dismissed speculation that RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie might launch an attack on the ECOMOG force. "Sam Bockarie has no power to attack," he said. "He is not the leader of the movement. Nobody can give a command to fight except me. He will not be able to move an inch." He suggested that Bockarie "maybe does not understand the peace accord." Sankoh argued that the funds allocated for peacekeeping should instead be given to his men. "The money they are using for the peacekeeping troops should be used on the combatants," he said. "I have visited the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation) camp. The combatants there have nothing to lay their heads on. There is no food and the people say there is no money. Why can't they give the money to the RUF?"
ECOMOG has condemned statements made in a BBC interview on Monday by RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, in which he objected to his fighters being disarmed by ECOMOG soldiers, or by ECOMOG soldiers absorbed into the United Nations peacekeeping force. In the interview, Bockarie also insisted that Nigerian troops must leave Sierra Leone before he would cooperate with the U.N. "ECOMOG High Command views Sam Bockarie's attitude with great concern and wishes to assure the general public that his threats are not capable of reversing the progress so far made in the peace efforts in Sierra Leone," ECOMOG said in a statement issued on Wednesday. According to the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), ECOMOG said it was satisfied with its "interaction with the RUF leadership," which confirmed that Bockarie's statements were personal and that he was acting alone. ECOMOG said RUF leader and CMRRD Chairman Foday Sankoh had been "supporting the bodies involved in the implementation of the disarmament process," IRIN said.
The Acting Executive Secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), Dr. Francis Kaikai, told the BBC Wednesday that 2,451 combatants had been disarmed so far, out of an estimated 45,000 nationwide. He expressed optimism that the disarmament process would gather momentum as the December 15 deadline for the programme approached. "We hope that something will happen in the next few days," Kaikai told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "We are watching currently massive movements of ex-combatants towards Port Loko area for the disarmament and then we are also hearing of — you know in the CDF (pro-government Civil Defence Force) area — they are all just waiting for the command to disarm. So generally I don't see any problems at all, except of course as you say on the eastern flank we hear of (RUF field commander) Sam Bockarie saying different things, but then we don't literally look at Sam Bockarie here. We are looking at the leadership of the RUF, and we are yet to be told anything to the contrary." Responding to a suggestion that the disarmament might be more quickly accomplished if Nigerian troops were not deployed in "sensitive" areas, Kaikai responded: "I will favour any proposition that will speed up this disarmament process, and I believe the UNOMSIL team there and those, ECOMOG on the ground, they are working very, very closely on insuring that they actually undertake a deployment process that will take into consideration all the necessary sensitivities, and also to ensure as little resistance as possible."