|Focus on Sierra Leone is
on record as supporting the Lomé Agreement and encouraging
Sierra Leoneans to support it and give especially the government and the
RUF, their goodwill for its implementation. But this fact does not detract
from the reality, which is that Lomé by itself has not settled everything
to do with Sierra Leone's war. We have previously stated that it is not
perfect; only, it is the best we have got right now.
As things stand presently, we are no near seeing any positive signs of take-off in the implementation process, notably the assembling, disarmament, demobilisation and decommissioning of weapons, of the combatants of all sides. This, sadly, is an early prognostic picture that the Lomé Agreement already shares in common with its predecessor, the Abidjan Accord of 1996. While hoping that Lomé does not suffer the same fate as Abidjan, it must be said that the Abidjan Accord had all the legal validity and international status as the new agreement. But see how all the parties to Abidjan, without exception, flouted it and allowed the country to slide back into three further gruelling years of civil war with an unprecedented toll of deaths and a frightening level of inhumanity.
Focus on Sierra Leone gave many warnings then, in 1996, including suggesting common sense approaches on the actions to take and on how to proceed to ensure success. But just as today our frequent warnings and advice are not heeded, so it was with that occasion. The same caveats that we offered then are the same that we would offer in the present instance. That is why, instead of writing up a fresh volume of analysis and advice, we invite readers and visitors to our web site to download Focus Volume 2 No 9. In that edition, in November 1996, we carried commentary on the Abidjan Accord giving pointers to what we felt would make it succeed. See also in that edition, the personal comments of this editor under in Publish ...and be damned "Where do we go from here".
Once in this document, all that readers and visitors need to do is simply substitute Lomé for Abidjan. Both agreements dealt with the same war, similar circumstances, the same parties (except for the AFRC component which appears to have mattered little at the Lomé talks anyway), and the same international guarantors. Fatally, both accords are not strong on sanctions against an offender or violator of the agreement. It is a serious shortcoming that could well encourage selectivity in the observance of the present agreement and even non compliance with impunity.
What all of this adds to is that Lomé, in the studied words of British Secretary of State for international development Ms Clare Short, (again) offers a last but real chance which Sierra Leoneans must, with the aid of the international community, grab.
At the moment, it seems as if everybody is biding for time. The Government appears to be in no hurry except to put up appearances. In the case of the RUF, having secured the release of Sankoh, they too are not rushing to progress the process. If anything, Sankoh should have been with his men in Kailahun in readiness for the onward journey to the Freetown within days of the agreement being signed. But all he has been doing is prevaricating and wasting precious time. President Kabbah continues to act by default because in the absence of Sankoh and his people, he has no choice but to continue governing Sierra Leone as before. In other words it has been business as usual. No one can blame him for that!