Government of Sierra Leone
Statement on the Peace Process
State House, Freetown 7 September 2001
The RUF on 6th September 2001, issued a statement in which it attempted to give reasons for boycotting the tripartite meeting of that date. Some of the matters raised in that statement can be addressed briefly here:
(a) The failure of Government to release detained members of the RUF. It will be recalled that at the end of the second meeting between the RUF and the Government in Abuja, the Government promised that depending on the progress in the peace process, the detained members of the RUF would be released gradually. The Government has kept its promise in this regard, and on three occasions now it has released a number of RUF members from detention. The latest of such releases took place before the aborted tripartite meeting in Makeni.
(b) Harassment of members of the RUF. The brief reaction of Government to this is that there is no truth in this allegation. A number of RUF members have since been travelling to, and living in Freetown and other towns, without harassment or molestation. They are even encouraged to continue to do so.
As a way of moving the process of reintegration and reconciliation forward, Government initiated a Joint Government/RUF Meet the People Tour of the South and Eastern Provinces. This proved highly successful in preparing the people for receiving members of the RUF when they eventually return home. Recently, the RUF, SLA and CDF, organised a March Past and Football Gala in Bo as a way of assuring the civilian population that all combatants have resolved their differences in the interest of peace.
The isolated incident referred to in that statement was an example of normal police action in the event of any report of suspected criminal action coming to their notices. As in all countries, the police have a duty to investigate such reports irrespective of the position of the person against whom such report is made. This was what happened when the police went to investigate a suspected crime at a house where Gibril Massaquoi happened to be found. It was not an action designed to harass or molest Gibril Massaquoi in particular, or members of the RUF in general.
(c ) Consultative Conference. A lot had been said about the Government holding a consultative conference before deciding on the future course in the political process. Government has stated on a number of occasions that it is not averse to any group of persons organising such a conference and deliberating on any political issues. This is an accepted democratic process to which the Government has made its positions abundantly clear in a statement His Excellency the President made in Bo in August, and which is now published in a document called "Reflections of His Excellency the President" on such matters. The President recently repeated his position on the matter in a letter to the Chairman of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace.
In addition to all that, the President has had extensive discussions on the future political process with all heads of political parties in Parliament as with the Civil Society Movement, which comprises the main civil society group in the country. The Sierra Leone Bar Association has endorsed this Governmentâ€™s position on the relevant issues. The President has also personally gone to Parliament and discussed fully with the members of Parliament the present security situation, and the way of charting the political course of this country from now on until the next elections.
It will be wrong for the RUF to presume that Government has not made contacts with other political parties or with civil society in the country. If the RUF was not involved in this consultation, it is because the RUF has no effective representation in Freetown. It is precisely because of the absence of a RUF office in Freetown that, at the meeting in Kono on Monday 3rd. September, His Excellency the President proposed to the RUF the appointment by them of one of their members to liaise between the RUF and the Government. The President even committed the Government to providing office accommodation for such a person, and meeting the expenses involved in his performing that role. The Government is still awaiting a nomination by the RUF of a person to that position. It is Governmentâ€™s view that the appointment of such a person will greatly assist in diffusing any potential misunderstanding which may adversely affect the peace process.
It is Governmentâ€™s view that if the RUF wish to have a reaction of Government to the matters raised in their statement, that would have been the very reason for their attending that tripartite meeting, and raising those issues at that meeting
Though the purpose of that meeting, as with previous similar meetings, was to review the process in DDR programme already agreed upon, Government would have, as it has done in the past, was being open to a discussion of the other issues.
The Government accepts that in peace processes like this we are now engaged in, such hiccups are inevitable but they are not the type that can stall the process. Government is therefore certain the disarmament process will continue as planned.