MOSQUITO LIVES TO BITE ANOTHER DAY
So Sam 'Mosquito' Bockarie is alive and well and reportedly talking peace with his boss, Chairman Foday Sankoh, in Monrovia, Liberia. 

It only goes to prove the point that these days one has to be extra cautious reporting anything about Sierra Leone. That was one reason why we prefaced our analysis of the Mosquito factor in the peace process with "if Ecomog reports are true".  (See here)   As one is not usually present at the location of events, one has to rely on others who are presumed to be in the know about these matters to report them accurately. In the case of Ecomog, you would expect that they are at least sure of their facts before they go public with them. Not on this occasion, it seems.

This incident also proves the helplessness of the authorities in Sierra Leone, including the rebel RUF. It looks now as if all that tough talking by RUF men like Gibril Massaquoi and Eldred Collins was really bluff talk. They clearly did not have any knowledge of what was really happening in their so-called rebel controlled areas. But they had to make us believe that they knew it all, quietly hoping that the one big thorn in their flesh the wily Mosquito - would never surface to bite them again. But he has, and they have to confront him and get him to conform, or act decisively against him, or in co-operation with him, so that no further impediments are placed in the way of implementation of the Lomé Accord.

Our cautious approach in discussing the Mosquito incident on Monday with the proviso that Ecomog knew what it was talking about has thus been vindicated. But though the main thrust of Ecomog's statements turns out to have been wrong in some respects, at the bottom line, Mosquito had certainly been involved in a showdown with his comrades. However, reports of his suicide or (premature) death at the hands of opponents, or of him having executed eight RUF commanders "last Tuesday" as other reports claimed (which the RUF itself is still unable to confirm), have proved to be largely incorrect or exaggerated. 

It was such prospects that led to our conclusion that "If on the other hand he has not deserted, and the news of his tergiversation is merely speculative and wishful thinking on the part of the authorities, then things will most certainly remain precarious for the present fragile peace process." 

And so it is. We are practically back to square one, though for the moment he is out of the country.

That this man has resurfaced will send shivers down the spine of many Sierra Leoneans. But here again, with or without Mosquito, Sierra Leone is unlikely to get off the hook until certain conditions contemplated by Lomé are in place and seen by all the parties as fair. Persistent doubts in the minds of the various parties about the process will continue to make implementation very strenuous and stressful for the implementers, including the UN peace keepers who have recently arrived in the country. 

Any protracted period of uncertainty about, especially, security is going to delay their deployment into parts of the countryside where rebels are still active, holding out or refusing to disarm. The UN peace keepers are there primarily to keep the peace and help in the process of disarming combatants. However, although they are entitled to defend themselves if they are attacked, they may not set out deliberately to start a war simply in order to ensure that the rebels do disarm. Hence the co-operation of the rebels especially their leadership including people like Mosquito - is extremely important for their mission to succeed without serious mishap. 

Whether you like him or hate him, people like Mosquito can make or break the process. This is because as long as they have a following of die-hards who continue to exploit weaknesses in the process, including in the very Lomé Agreement which, we have often argued, glossed over several key issues for the sake of expediency, they have the effect of creating a stalemate, and of maintaining a stranglehold over the rest of the country. 

Mosquito, alias Sam Bockarie, should be made to realise that as a Sierra Leonean (which he is), he too has a stake in helping to create a peaceful nation since it is the actions of individuals like him that have reduced the country to its ravaged condition. But banishing or banning him, as is being threatened by Ecomog according to the latest reports, is again the wrong way to go about it. He will only start creating havoc from wherever he will reside. Also if in fact a ban is placed on him and he is able to breach it and walk back into the country when he likes, it will have made Ecomog and the authorities into a laughing stock. 

We say, let him be made to realise that if he is a true national of this country, then his responsibility is first to the people of Sierra Leone who have come out publicly to say they now want the war to end. Even those people who have been maimed and injured by his war have, just for the sake of the peace of the country, supported dialogue with hateful and hated characters like him; they have said that they want all the fighting to end now. Why does he continue to defy their wishes?

If Mosquito has problems with accepting the decision of his leader Sankoh and the organisation (RUF) which he has often said he will die for, then perhaps Charles Taylor's intervention is not misplaced but fortuitous and timely. Contrary to our earlier pessimism, his gesture to mediate between Sankoh and Mosquito may not yet have been overtaken by events. It is good news that, as has been reported, President Obasanjo has joined in the talks in order to put the point firmly to Mosquito to toe the line and give his co-operation, although realistically speaking if the man wants to be defiant he will still remain so. 

But there is just a window of opportunity to do something now. At least some talking is going on, although we doubt very much whether threats of his banishment or expulsion will make any iota of a difference to a man like Mosquito. Only time will tell whether he will acquiesce now to allow the will of his fellow Sierra Leoneans for peace to prevail. 

The onus lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of Foday Sankoh and the rest of the RUF leadership to ensure that he does. We want no double speak this time. They should find out from Mosquito what his grievances are against the RUF leadership and the Lomé Agreement, and to see how best they can be addressed. Only after all reasonable attempts at reaching an understanding with him and his followers should whatever ultimate sanctions, now being so prematurely brandished, be applied.

For the moment, talk to him and try to bring him and his followers round to support and become part of the DDR programme. Let them know that there is something in it for them too!

22/12/99