|Ray Of Hope For Sierra Leone...
PEACE ACCORD SIGNED AT LAST
The long-awaited Peace Accord between the Government of Sierra Leone
and the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone has been formally signed
in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The agreement formally, at least on paper, brings
to an end the five-and-half-year-old conflict which has been characterised
by bewildering degrees of cruelty, brutality, inhumanity and destruction.
In a simple but moving ceremony on Saturday 30 November in Abidjan,
the capital of the Ivory Coast, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and
Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh finally appended their signatures
to the document which everyone hopes will bring peace and reconciliation
to war-ravaged Sierra Leone. Also there to lend support and add weight
to the occasion were the representatives of the OAU, UN, Commonwealth,
International Alert, the Red Cross and contingents from both sides of the
In the midst of all this, orchestrating the occasion with pomp
and pageantry, was the chief host, the President of Ivory Coast, Mon. Henri
Konan Bedie. By his side was his trusted and unflagging foreign minister
Essy, currently being suggested as a possible contender for the Secretary
Generalship of the UN. The undoubted architect of the peace accord, he
spent a good part of the last eighteen months to-ing and fro-ing between
the two sides. Not once did his patience and determination falter even
when things had looked so hopeless and the parties seemed to be drifting
President Kabbah and his entourage flew into Abidjan from Freetown
on the Ivorian President's official jet which was despatched specially
to fetch him. Corporal Sankoh had returned three days earlier from consultations
with his combatants, at five bases inside the country, about the terms
of the agreement. The indications were that he had got the okay from them
to go ahead and sign the Accord.
Addressing the gathering after signing the agreement Sankoh
explained that the RUF had taken up arms to fight against corruption. He
said the battlefield had now changed and the country was entering a new
era of democracy and accountability. It was only because democracy was
back in the country that he and his fighters had decided to bring the war
to an end. Sankoh then referred to the great strides that their hosts,
the Ivorians, had made and attributed their progress to democracy and good
leadership. His mood and tone changed as he gave a sombre warning that
if the leadership in Sierra Leone failed the people yet again, then Sierra
Leoneans would take up arms again.
President Kabbah in a measured and conciliatory discourse said
that Sierra Leone was again one country, one people - which is also the
slogan of his ruling party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party
He said a difficult period for Sierra Leoneans was at an end.
From now on, it was not the RUF that should be seen as the enemy but rather
poverty, ignorance, greed and envy. He confidently declared that the RUF
and his government were coming together to fight these common enemies.
Overall, the atmosphere was quite friendly but not as effusive
as on previous summits. Both men hugged and embraced each other and posed
for pictures afterwards.
WHAT DID THEY AGREE ON?
Focus today commences serialisation of the Accord (see
page 8). In brief, the parties have agreed on almost most of the terms
of the aborted draft accord of May.
Included in the current agreement are elaborate procedures and
details for encampment, demobilisation and resettlement. The RUF is to
demobilise and become a movement and integrate itself, including its members,
into Sierra Leonean society. Some RUF combatants will go into the army.
For this purpose, special training programmes will be set up for them.
The latter provision does not somehow square up with the call for the army
to be reduced in size overall. It is only when these process are going
on to any appreciable extent that foreign forces will be withdrawn - one
of the RUF's main demands over which the May talks were deadlocked.
The agreement also envisages the setting up of various other
political bodies into which the RUF will be integrated in the hope of creating
a new Sierra Leone.
Still there are areas that will need further clarification and
others to be tightened to sew up loose ends. An in depth analysis of the
agreement will appear in the next edition of Focus.
A WELCOME STEP BUT WE STILL HAVE
A LONG WAY TO GO
If the long suffering people of Sierra Leone ever wanted anything
so dearly, it was peace for their country. They yearned for it, they prayed
for it, hundreds of thousands suffered for it, and tens of thousands died
for it. The signed Abidjan Peace Accord is a timely Christmas present
and the best that Sierra Leone could ever have wished for.
Coming at the start of the traditional
season of peace and
goodwill, the Accord does give a real chance for Sierra Leoneans to
take a fresh and objective look at their country's future and come to a
consensus on minimum standards that should govern their existence from
now onwards. They must be standards to which every-one in our society is
entitled and obligated, and below which nobody must fall - from the mightiest
to the lowliest - whether in the exercise of rights or the performance
of duties; in the enjoyment of privileges or the discharge of liabilities;
in the sharing of the common and natural resources of the country and in
the exercise of legitimate power and influence. But above all, in the delineation
of the relationship between the governors and the governed,
Our civil war was destructive in every sense and became an impediment
to Sierra Leone's chance of winning the generous economic support of the
international community. It will remain so until we get our own house in
order and get our act together. Currently, we hear that of the $212 million
that was pledged at the recent donor's conference, we can only realistically
expect one-eighth which we further hear probably includes contributions
already made towards existing programmes. Even that will not be ours if
donors do not see us pulling together as committed nationals and presenting
constructive programmes for development. There are many countries competing
for the same resources. So potential donors would rather contribute to
the development programmes of the stable ones and those who take their
own problems seriously than to Sierra Leone which is still at war with
itself and continues to manage its social and economic affairs very badly.
We will not be able to attract these same resources if our peace
accord turns out to be a sham. That is why we, the civilians who are concerned
for our country's sake, must be vigilant. We must watch the implementors
and the monitors of the Accord and, yes, every action and utterance of
the government and its officials. We must not be afraid to speak up if
we feel the wrong approach is taken. The war should at least have taught
every Sierra Leonean not to let anyone, not just rebels, to take advantage
We must resist being euphoric, jingoistic or complacent. The
peace accord is only the beginning - a welcome beginning - of a slow, painful
and precarious process of reconciliation, readjustment and resettlement.
A five-year civil war, if really this agreement signals its end, does not
just exit without traces of its long term deleterious effects. There will
be years of mopping up to do and we have not even begun to ascertain where
and how. Our brothers and sisters, in Liberia, have had 13 peace accords
that were not worth the paper they were written on. This current accord
is their fourteenth and peace is no nearer. But we hope and pray that ours
But there was a significant absence at the signing ceremony
which could undermine the prospects of this happening. How come that in
a region as unstable as West Africa, one of the most brutal wars was about
to be ended formally and none of the key Heads of State were around to
lend their visible personal support to the Accord? Where were Sani Abacha
of Nigeria, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, and
Lansana Conteh of
Guinea? Throughout the war they all maintained a significant number of
their troops in the country without whose help, some say, the country might
have been overrun a long time ago? Although the agreement envisages the
departure of foreign troops, they are still there and we might still need
them as independent monitors of the cease fire agreement.
"EXHAUSTION WON THE DAY" SAYS JONAH
Mr James Jonah, Sierra Leone's representative to the UN and
the architect of the last elections, commenting on the signing of the Accord
in a BBC World Service News interview, said that there was exhaustion
with the war on all sides. "The people of Sierra Leone have suffered
too much and they are now looking forward towards peace. I think the RUF
rebels themselves are tired of the war and therefore we look forward to
the prospects of peace in our country". Jonah said that the rebels'
demand for a place in government could be accommodated but not to the extent
which would be contrary to the Constitution. "President Kabbah has been
very, very flexible. I believe when this phase is over, [the rebels] will
realise that [he] is sincere and will try to bring them into the government
because he believes in reconciliation", the former Chairman of INEC
THE COUNTRY CELEBRATES
The ink had barely dried when tentative celebrations commenced
in some of the main cities in Sierra Leone.To mark the occasion citizens
of the two countries - Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast - were asked to sound
their claxons to usher in the new era of peace. Church bells tolled and
there were moments of restrained merriment and quiet jubilation. For many
the war was as good as over. But others were not so sure. There was relief
that nothing untoward happened to delay the signing ceremony. Before then,
a sense of wistfulness and of a life arrested in mid breath was everywhere
in Sierra Leone. People were hoping that everything would go smoothly for
once and, mercifully, to their relief and delight it did.
A TIME TABLE IS ANNOUNCED
One week after the signing ceremony, the Sierra Leone Government
took initial steps to flesh out the terms of some of the twenty-eight articles
by announcing a timetable for implementation. They chose eight articles
including those on disarmament, the departure of foreign forces, and the
RUF's status and role in national political life. The registration, encampment
and disarming of RUF combatants and their movement to designated assembly
zones would start within a month of the date of the agreement. The South
African Executive Outcomes mercenary forces would then be withdrawn
from Sierra Leone five weeks after the deployment of an Neutral Monitoring
Group that is to be set up to monitor breaches of the cease fire. The
RUF will register as a political party within 30 days of the agreement.
This timetable is quite ambitious and one doubts whether some
of the events will be accomplished within the official time scale. Because
the real numbers of RUF fighters was always a matter of conjecture among
commentators, no one can be sure how many are prepared to disarm or willing
to proceed to designated encampment sites. If there are more than two or
three thousand of them, the logistics might be quite daunting especially
if that number were sitting out there waiting to disarm. But it was good
that the government came up with this timetable now. Given the necessary
full cooperation of both parties some objectives might be achieved with
a degree of success.
SANKOH VISITS HIS FRONTLINE FOR CONSULTATION
The signing of the accord was preceded on 20 November by a joint
press release from President Kabbah and Corporal
Sankoh. In anticipation of the forthcoming signing ceremony, both leaders
agreed that Sankoh would visit his combatants "to explain the provisions
of the draft peace agreement".
It went on: "President Kabbah has agreed to use his good
offices to make sure that the Kamajohs stop hostilities immediately, so
that Corporal Sankoh can brief his combatants in a state of security, and
undertook that the military will continue to observe the cease fire. Corporal
Foday Saybana Sankoh has also agreed to take steps to ensure that his combatants
stop all hostilities with immediate effect." The statement concluded
that "Both parties have agreed to meet in Abidjan, Republic of Cote
d'Ivoire on Friday 29 November 1996 to sign the draft peace agreement"
In the event, the signing did not take place on the Friday because the
host President Bedie was late returning from commitments in Europe - hence
the signing took place the following Saturday.
In accordance with the terms of the joint press release Sankoh
left Abidjan and his fighters at three locations inside Sierra Leone -
Moyamba District; Makong (near Kangari Hill), Tonkolili District;
and Balahun, Kailahun District (See Map).
NEWS DIGESTS....NEWS DIGEST.....NEWS
KABBAH VISITS BO ... AT LAST
Months of frustrated popular expectations were finally soothed with
the first visit of President Kabbah to Bo. Thousands of ecstatic
followers came out to welcome the President whom many had accused of being
to the suffering of those who risked life and limb to elect him". Any
such feelings were cast aside as people came out to welcome the President
to this - the ruling SLPP's strongest base of support. Reports said that
at least two people were trampled to death or overcome with emotion during
the stampede. President Kabbah appealed to Kamajohs and soldiers
to work together and complement each other and warned them against being
TOP MEDICAL DOCTOR DEFECTS FROM RUF
Dr Sullay Jabati Wai, once voted `best doctor' by his colleagues
in the medical profession, whom the RUF in January 1995 abducted during
their lightning attack on the mining towns in the South West, has decamped
and returned home. He took his chance to stage his defection after being
flown by the Red Cross from his bush station to Conakry, Guinea,
for medical treatment. A professional man in every sense of the word, Dr
Wai allegedly became Chief Medical officer for the RUF during his captivity.
It is claimed that he worked wonders with the meagre resources and facilities
at his disposal. A close friend of Wai told the editor of this paper that
like Dr Wai and others saw the suffering of fellow Sierra Leoneans in the
rebel area at first hand during the weeks of their captivity. Their professionalism
forced them to stay and do whatever they could to alleviate the suffering
on the other side". Dr Wai has not made any public statements about
RADIO STATION IS HANDICAPPED
The authorities briefly ordered a FM station in Freetown, Handicapped
FM, into silence after allegations of "falling below expectations
of listeners". Then Transport and Communications Minister, Suleiman
Tejan Jalloh, claimed that he had been maligned on the air. Police
raided the station and seized cassettes allegedly containing the offending
material. They took four officials, including the Director, to CID for
several hours of rigorous questioning. They then released them with threats
that they "will be called again if needed".
KABBAH CHALLENGES THE NORTH
President Tejan Kabbah is not a man afraid of speaking his mind even
if it offends some people. On Monday 11 November, he visited Makeni
in the Northern Province, and told his audience rather pointedly that they
should apologise to the South and the East because certain persons from
the North, namely Sankoh from Magburaka and his number 2
- Zeno from Makeni, who were conducting war on the country.
He said they should be ashamed of themselves that they had not joined to
condemn these men and help to end the devastation of the country. His audience
burst into thunderous applause, endorsing the President's clarion call
for everyone to join in to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Close aides to the President explained that he probably had on his mind
an alleged statement by one-time NPRC Foreign Minister and former ECOWAS
Secretary General Dr Abbass Bundu that the war truly belonged to
the South and the East and that it would be a mistake to bring it into
A HEIST OR A COUP ATTEMPT
Sporadic shooting in central Freetown, on 25 October, caused pandemonium
for a while as people went hurtling back into their homes close to State
House. A police directive advised pedestrians to avoid the area. First
reports said that armed robbers were holding out in the area but other
reports claimed that disgruntled soldiers were attempting another armed
insurrection. The speculation has continued ever since.
SOLDIER "JUMPS TO HIS DEATH"
A soldier, under interrogation by Nigerian police seconded to the Sierra
Leone government to investigate the failed coup attempt of July, has died
in police custody. A government statement said that the man committed suicide
by jumping out of the window to his death. Relatives of the dead soldier
did not buy the story and asked for the release of the body for a private
post mortem. The government allegedly refused to hand over the body and
said they would conduct their own post mortem which they also allegedly
refused to release to the family. The deceased's family were reported to
be contemplating taking the matter to court. The position was still unclear
as we went to press but serious doubts have been expressed in many quarters
over this official explanation. Meanwhile it was also reported that a soldier,
believed to be a suspect, who was serving with ECOMOG forces in Liberia
had abandoned his post and fled to the Ivory Coast.
KABBAH DEMANDS PATRIOTISM FROM SIERRA LEONEANS
President Kabbah is extremely concerned about the attitude of Sierra
Leoneans towards both the affairs of their country and one another. He
believes that there is a serious dearth of patriotic Sierra Leoneans and
that an unhealthy and perverse urge to destroy each other through envy,
greed and selfishness has developed over the years. Those close to the
President say that "he would dearly love to be remembered as the man who
got Sierra Leoneans to respect each other and to work and support one another
for the good of the country".
In a speech delivered on Saturday 6 November at the College
of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) at
(Hastings), on the occasion of conferment of the degree of Doctor of Civil
Law (Honoris Causa) by the special congregation of the University
of Sierra Leone, President Kabbah, who is also Chancellor of the University,
professed his views thus:
"... The pride we once had in ourselves as a people, the
honesty of purpose, the dedication and devotion to duty in the pursuance
of the common good, all seem to have deserted us. Nowhere has this been
more evident than in the condition and performance of our national institutions.
From the evidence of history, strong and successful nations have always
been built on and nurtured by two fundamental prerequisites - the strength
and efficiency of their national institutions and more significantly, the
patriotism of their citizens ... It is thus a most welcome opportunity
for me to share with you publicly, my reflections on one of our most valued
concepts - patriotism ... A patriot is one who loves and vigorously supports
his country and defends and promotes its interest and way of life, often
at great personal sacrifice. The supreme example of this love of country
is a soldier who fights for his or her country even to the death. The patriot
stands out especially in times of conflict by remaining loyal to his country
even when it is occupied by an enemy. Likewise, the farmer who tills his
land arduously so as to add to the food production of his country, is a
patriot ... Patriotism clearly has to be looked at in relation to a State
or nation. Its distinguishing feature however is the obligation it carries.
It also confers many commensurate privileges, but the significant difference
between the patriot and the mere citizen is that the former sees and performs
the duties, whereas the latter may embrace only privileges."
(Editor: Have you any views on Patriotism? If so let us share your
thoughts on it.)
FOREIGN MINISTER IS DROPPED IN CABINET RESHUFFLE
President Kabbah has carried out his first Cabinet reshuffle seven
months into his government. A major casualty was the Minster of Foreign
Affairs Maigore Kallon. Three other Ministers, (Rtd) Captain Abdul
Kamara and Mohamed Gassama and Dr Kemoh Salia-Bao, also
lost their portfolios. The new Foreign Minister is Mrs Shirley Gbujama
- a surprise choice - who was the Minister for Tourism and Culture. Two
ministers swapped portfolios - George Banda-Thomas took over the
Ministry of Trade and Industry and Abdul Thorllu-Bangura, the Ministry
of Information and Broadcasting. Other appointments included Dr John
Karimu, a Finance Minister in the NPRC government and leader of the
Unity Party, who is the new Minister of Lands and Housing while David
Ballantyne Quee a popular lawyer and SLPP MP has become the Minister
for Local Government. It remains to be seen whether this move by Kabbah
is sufficient to assuage his many critics who believed his team of ministers
has been disappointing both in calibre and performance.
"SACK OUR LEADER"
Cries for the Minister of Finance Thaimu Bangura to be sacked
are coming from an unusual quarter - members of his Peoples Democratic
Party (PDP). They are angry that Kabbah kicked two of their members
out of Cabinet in the latest reshuffle. Now they are advising their leader
to resign from the Kabbah government. Bangura is unyielding and has denounced
all attempts to get him to surrender his prestigious portfolio. So the
members are asking Kabbah to sack him. They claim that under the terms
of a pre-presidential election pact, the PDP supported Kabbah for the Presidency
in return for six cabinet posts, some deputy ministerial and diplomatic
appointments. The PDP Leader has allegedly denied that this was ever the
case and, as if to rub salt in the wounds of his party members, has revealed
that President Kabbah gave him prior notification about the impending sacking
of his colleagues because their performance was not satisfactory. He is
also said to have told his followers that he was in government to serve
the nation not the party. Incensed PDP members have accused their leader
of being a dictator who does not consult his party on vital party matters.
Now they want to remove him as leader of their Party.
'MARCH FOR PEACE' COINCIDES WITH SIGNING OF ACCORD
The Association of Sierra Leoneans Abroad (ASLA) held
a march for peace for Sierra Leone, in London. Two hours after the march
ended a peace deal was signed in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Plans for the march were well advanced when a communique announcing
the impending signing of a peace accord was released on November 30. But
that did not dampen the commitment of nearly fifty Sierra Leonean men,
women and their children, and several expatriate friends of Sierra Leone
to brave a wintry morning weather to demand peace and re-conciliation for
The marchers welcomed the good news of the developments in the
Ivory Coast and saw it simply as vindication of the very points they were
making on their banners on the day. Their aim had been to reinforce the
message of peace, put pressure on both parties to fulfil their word, and
draw international attention to the war and the suffering it had caused
to Sierra Leone. Above all they were determined to demonstrate their loyalty
to their country and their concern for, and solidarity with the suffering
of, their compatriots inside the country.
Everyone agreed the signing of a peace deal was only the beginning
of the process of peace making. The real challenge was coming later.
Though the turn out was small, the marchers were as noisy and
visible as can be, bringing traffic in Central London to a stand-still.
Led by police escorts and despatch riders, the marchers went through the
main shopping streets of the city - Regent Street, Oxford Circus, Picadilly
Circus, Haymarket and Trafalgar Square. Six were accompanied by a police
woman to 10 Downing Street where they presented a letter for Prime Minister
Major. The meeting ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square ad-dressed
by Mrs Agatha Sealy and Mr Ambrose Ganda, respectively vice
Chair and Chair of ASLA.
Letters about the march and its purpose went out to President
Kabbah and Corporal Foday Sankoh, various personalities in the UK and Sierra
Leone, Sierra Leonean organisations and non-Sierra Leonean organisations
with links and operations inside the country.
The text of the letter to Prime Minister John Major is reproduced
below followed by his response and excerpts from others. Letters were also
sent to the UK Foreign Secretary, Speaker, and the Labour shadow Overseas
Dear Prime Minister
From Sarah Dring, African Department (Equatorial), Foreign &
Commonwealth Office, London:
... You will remember that on a similar occasion in April 1995,
Sierra Leoneans marched through the streets of London, at the height of
the war, to demand peace for our beloved country. You listened to our cries
then and promised in your response to a petition delivered by the marchers
on that day, to refer our pleas to the appropriate department for action.
We know the role that your government and the Commonwealth played soon
afterwards during the peace negotiations in the Ivory Coast.
But since that peace march, the war escalated and many
more lives have been lost. Today we are again marching for peace as, for
the first time, there is talk of imminent peace in our country.
If current reports are anything to go by, both parties
to the war - the recently elected civilian government of President Ahmed
Tejan Kabbah and the Revolutionary United Front led by Corporal Foday Saybana
Sankoh - should today be signing a peace accord to end the war. Sierra
Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone everywhere are hopeful that this time
their optimism will not be misplaced and that peace is truly within their
We wish to take this opportunity to thank Her Majesty's
Government for the help rendered to our beleaguered country during these
horrible years of senseless violence. However, we urge you to continue
to do all you can to help our country through the difficult and precarious
times that lie ahead.
We realise that merely signing a Peace Accord, if it happens
today, does not necessarily mean that lasting peace and reconciliation
have come to our people. Other things must accompany this process to guarantee
that durable peace is achieved. We remain hopeful nonetheless.
We are therefore making two appeals to you personally
as the Prime Minister of the country with, historically, the closest ties
to Sierra Leone:
(a) If, for any reason, our hopes are dashed yet again,
you should intervene personally by inviting both parties to 10 Downing
Street and help them to come to a final settlement of this war;
(b) If, as we dearly hope, the peace accord is signed, then we
expect that Her Majesty's government will strengthen further its commitment
to support Sierra Leone and do all in its power to help our people in the
task of reconciliation, rehabilitation and resettlement; and in rebuilding
our nation's devastated infrastructure."
"I have been asked to reply to your letters of 16 November to
Malcolm Rifkind and 30 November to the Prime Minister about your Associations
hopes for peace in Sierra Leone. I was delighted as, no doubt, you were
that the Peace Agreement was signed in Abidjan on 30 November. This heralds
a new beginning for the people of Sierra Leone who have endured so much
suffering during the conflict. I hope that the Abidjan Accord has now laid
the foundations for the future peace and prosperity of Sierra Leone. As
one of Sierra Leone's largest bilateral donors, Britain is providing considerable
help with rehabilitation and reconstruction. We take very opportunity to
encourage other donors to do likewise"
From Clare Short MP, Shadow Minister for Overseas Development,
House of Commons, London:
"... I have carefully noted all you say in your letter concerning
the terrible suffering of some people in Sierra Leone, and will do everything
in my power to see that something is done about this awful situation. I
hope that the march is a success."
From the office of Austin Mitchell MP, House of Commons, London:
"Austin supports you strongly in this matter and will do his best
to bring the matter to the attention of the House of Commons."
ASLA also received letters from Pauline Green, MEP for
North London, the British Medical Association, the Kambia Hospital
Appeal in Cheltenham, and other well-wishers.
Mid October to November
A CHRONICLE OF VIOLENCE ..... AND SUFFERING
During this period, the main highway between Freetown and the
declared un-safe. Those who could afford it, travelled there by helicopter.
Only a few brave ones dared the precarious trek up country as sporadic
attacks on passenger and freight lorries continued with even less predictability
***** The imminent attack, reported in the last edition
of Focus, on Massinga in the Northern Province, home to more
than 6,000 inhabitants and the location of a tuberculosis, leprosy and
polio hospital, materialised on 9 October. Mercifully, thousands had already
fled the town by the time of the attack. The resident Argentinean medical
officer had asked for his patients to be evacuated. Part of the town was
set alight and many hospital staff and several inhabitants were abducted.
The army eventually succeeded in beating back the attackers. Thirty-six
people including six patients were killed and medical stores were looted.
The fear of another raid on nearby Bumbuna where a hydro electric
dam is under construction led to the despatch of personnel from the mercenary
Executive Outcomes to protect the site. According to one radio report about
twenty-five civilians were killed in the area in an attack during the previous
***** The growing ascendancy of the local hunter militia
- the Kamajohs - and their high-spirited determination to wrest
the initiative from "rebels and their soldier collaborators", in marked
contrast to the very low morale among Sierra Leone Armed Forces personnel,
was critically turning the odds against the RUF. Reports said they were
working wonders at the war front, daring to go where the soldiers feared
to tread. If government statements are to be believed, their thrust into
previously held rebel areas was a decisive factor as one rebel stronghold
after another was invaded and captured by them. One such was the rebel
base at Bandawo in the Eastern Province.
***** Attacks were also reported at Talia, about
twenty miles from Kenema. Military HQ said that a swift response
by Kamajohs forced the rebels to beat a hasty retreat leaving behind
stacks of food supplies, including sacks of rice. A correspondent reporting
the incident on BBC Focus on Africa said, contrary to government
claims that its soldiers only suffered light wounds, that independent sources
had claimed that between five and forty people were killed but nobody could
say whether they were Kamajohs, rebels or soldiers. They took twenty-five
of the injured to the Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema,
and another twelve to the Kenema Government Hospital. A second attack
took place in Kombema on the outskirts of Kenema. The military claimed
many rebels were killed but that their own soldiers suffered no casualties.
***** The government announced that it had established
the existence of collusion between soldiers, militia and rebels from documents
captured from RUF rebels when "their main HQ at Zogoda was overrun"
by Kamajohs and SLAF soldiers. The statement said the documents revealed
plans by the RUF and certain members of the military and their commanders
to launch attacks in mid November on civilian targets in the Southern and
Eastern Provinces. They reported that eight Arebels@ helped the authorities
with their investigation. Nevertheless, the Chief of Staff, Brigadier Hassan
Conteh, confirming the discovery of the documents, denied his men's
alleged involvement and said that it was just another rebel tactic to create
friction between the military and civilians.
***** 14 October - A group of armed "rebel soldiers"
reportedly surrendered in Potoru in the Pujehun District. According
to a radio report, they were so malnourished and close to death that aids
agencies made a special appeal to the government for emergency food supplies.
***** 17 October - The RUF suffered a heavy blow to
its morale with the defection of one of its captives who the RUF/SL always
claimed had "freely chosen to stay with the RUF" after he and others were
freed with Western hostages in 1995. Dr Sullay Jabati Wai, who had
been flown to Conakry (Guinea) for medical treatment on humanitarian
grounds, decamped following his discharge and asked to be allowed to return
to Sierra Leone.
***** 19 - 20 October - simultaneous attacks took place
in the South and the North. On the Bo-Kenema highway there were many casualties
while in the Tonkolili District in the North, the towns of Massinga
and Bumbuna came under sustained rebel attacks leaving many dead
and wounded (see above).
***** On 25 October an UN World Food Programme
(WFP) report from Rome said the Kamajohs, during a carefully planned
attack, had freed nearly 500 civilians on a "rebel" hide out near Blama"The
people we saw looked like a group of living skeletons with bundles of rags
on their heads" said Mohamed Diab, the WFP's Regional Director.
Local WFP officials further said that hundreds of sick and hungry people
had walked long distances in a desperate search for food. They described
the scene as horrific. The report went on: "Men and women were reduced
to skeletons, with some of them having to support themselves on sticks
to walk. Young men and women, besides being very thin, had swollen feet
and sores, having walked days to reach
Blama. The children had bloated
stomachs, scabies and discoloured hair because of malnutrition". They
reported that many wore the same clothes they wore when they were first
captured in 1991. They said there were others like them waiting to come
out and claimed that they had been
"held and forced to work by rebels
to work for them" for five years.
***** The last week of October witnessed some of the
most serious clashes between the Kamajohs and SLAF soldiers. The first
was at Njala, the location of a University College (now sited in
Freetown) which was evacuated as an aftermath of its destruction by persistent
rebel attacks. The story goes that a group of Kamajohs challenged about
three soldiers over the ownership of sheets of zinc that the soldiers were
carrying. In the resulting argument there was shooting and between eleven
and fifteen of the local hunters were slaughtered. When news of the killings
reached Bo about 30 miles away, it sparked serious fighting as townspeople
and Kamajohs went in search of SLAF soldiers who in turn retaliated. For
the next two days most of the town's inhabitants were marooned in their
homes not daring to go out. Private and public property was damaged in
many parts of the town. At the government reservation most quarters were
deserted, as were those near the home of the Brigade Commander whose house
was completed gutted and emptied of its contents. Inside Bo Town itself
the home of an army lieutenant was rased to the ground and several public
buildings were vandalised. The government hospital and staff buildings
were not spared either. They bore the marks of an orgy of shooting that
characterised two days of sheer mayhem. Hospital personnel refused to work
until the authorities dismantled a military field hospital close by. The
intervention of the Army Chief quelled matters but only after apologising
for the behaviour of his men. A Government delegation was hastily despatched
to the town to help diffuse the tense situation. In all twenty people were
killed and about thirty wounded.
***** 6 November - A captured rebel spoke of many of
his comrades in Ngiema in the Kailahun District waiting to surrender
not to Executive Outcomes or SLAF soldiers but to Kamajohs. He warned of
not underrating Cpl Foday Sankoh and that there were hotheads who
could escalate the war regardless.
***** A government helicopter was ditched soon after
taking off on a military sortie. RUF spokesperson
Fayia Musa claimed
their fighters had brought the chopper down but the government stoutly
rejected the claim and said the helicopter had developed mechanical trouble
in its engines and exploded, hurtling to the ground. Unconfirmed reports
however said there was a full scale evacuation of civilians from the area
soon after the incident.
***** 15 November - government reported the capture
of more towns and rebel bases by the Kamajohs in most of the East and South
of the country. In Pujehun District, the towns captured from the rebels
included Sulima and Bo-Waterside. They also reported that
they had captured several rebels and that many had drowned as they tried
to swim across the river into Liberia.
***** 17 November - there was more violence in the
North this time on the Makeni-Kono road near Matotoka. A lorry was
attacked and nine passengers were killed. The government blamed the RUF
for the attack but the RUF vehemently denied they had any active units
in the area and blamed disgruntled SLAF soldiers. RUF/SL spokesperson
Musa protested that government should cease referring to "the granting
of amnesty to the RUF" because they were "not a defeated army".
The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, George Banda-Thomas,
announced five rendez-vous points for those rebels wishing to hand in their
weapons for compensation. FSL
These MPs do not represent us
I wish to protest at the criminal waste of resources in maintaining
our present band of political opportunists who are calling themselves parliamentarians.
We, I mean the electorate, did not elect them. We were conned by James
Jonah and INEC to cast our votes for political parties only to realise
that the people they put on the party lists were their friends, relatives,
old school mates and tribal associates including many undesirable characters.
I am a PDP member but I would not have voted for many of the individuals
representing my party in parliament if I had the choice of a constituency
representative. These so-called Mps are representing none of us or our
interests but their own. The sooner we bring back fresh elections under
proper constituency representation the better it will be for Sierra Leone.
All that is happening now is a mockery of democracy. Whose views do they
represent these days?
(Displaced, formerly of Petifu Mayop destroyed by RUF rebels)
Of Bridge Builders and witch hunters
History is replete with the machinations of evil lording over the good
intentions of virtue. I read your FSL Vol 2 No 6 in which you incised the
abscess of your peace crusade for Sierra Leone and was particularly touched
by the "sinister attempt to discredit" your modest efforts. For one who
is dedicated to bringing factions to the negotiating table, it can be disheartening
to be stabbed on the back.
Man, playing the peace maker is a delicate task; the stories
of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc, etc are testimonies
of the tight-rope peace crusaders must walk sometimes at the expense of
their lives. Peace making entails looking at both sides of the coin sometimes
from a dispassionate stance; but it also means getting intimate with both
parties to better appraise the details and modus operandi of the problems.
Since multi party democracy (western liberal model) reared
its ugly head in Africa, our thoughts and perceptions have been so polarised
that witch hunting and character assassination have taken priority over
consensus and progress. I can therefore understand when you dedicate FSL
Vol 2 No 6 to telling the world your side of the story - and that side
is replete with the joys of a patriot, the woes of a peacemaker, the pains
of a communicator and the humiliations of a pan Africanist. Remember that
these are the ingredients of your mission. You will face sabotage accruing
from pettiness and ego conflicts. You will face image tarnishing from green
eyed monsters. Be on the alert still, for these are also signals that caution
should be your shield even if courage is your spear. Continue to be seen
to criticise the RUF and never act as their mouthpiece - maintain your
independence and neutrality as much as possible.
What Sierra Leone needs today are men and women who can build
and bind not those who burn and bomb; If you were brave enough to reach
the hearts of these people why should any one begrudge your efforts? The
children of Sierra Leone are in search of planners not plotters because
their wounds have been infected by the virus of war and their sores still
remain open to the scorching heat of hatred and the suffocating air of
At this delicate moment in your country's history, just when
you are negotiating the dubious bend of civil governance and multi-party
democracy, all Sierra Leoneans should remember the tradi-tional African
palaver theory that goes for consensus not exclusion. The task ahead of
your country is so challenging that all hands must go on deck - no matter
the political or ideological shade. Before anything, the distance between
President Kabbah's palace and Corporal Sankoh's bush hide-out must be narrowed
not by witch men or Kamajohs but by bridge builders. The time is now!
Can Sierra Leone enjoy real peace when Liberians are still
I am writing to share a fear I have with your readers. Since Focus and
others are pressing for a peace agreement between the Government and the
RUF, I hope that my fear is unjustified. I refer here to the continuing
turmoil next door in Liberia. Is it really possible for Sierra Lone to
have peace while Liberians are still at war with one another? I feel there
is a regional dimension to all this instability in the West African region.
Can you or any of your readers please help allay my fears?
PUBLISH ....AND BE DAMNED
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
This questio n is unavoidable and must be tackled head on. To
avoid discussion of it now is to delay the evolution of the new ethos that
should guide the government and its citizens in their relations, and the
citizens in their interaction with one another.
I always believed the peace accord should be signed so I am
relieved that both sides heeded the advice. It holds the seeds of hope
that could, with due care and nurturing, form the basis of a new, decent
and tolerant society. It is by no means perfect but it offers Sierra Leoneans,
the government and the RUF a possible way out of a tricky and very nasty
The integration of the RUF and its involvement in many of the
institutions contemplated in the agreement presupposes that there is, or
will be, nationwide acceptance of RUF combatants by the rest of the population.
I am not so sure, listening to some of the statements I have heard recently
from some of my compatriots, admittedly here in London, that this understanding
is sufficiently widespread. Also some of the insults that I have personally
incurred because I talked about peace with the rebels further confirms
my scepticism. But then I may be wrong.
I frequently offered the caveat that the peace process must
be owned by the people for it to work. I also advocated the inclu-sion
of civilians - not just friends and Party supporters - in the negotiating
process so that they too were fully conversant with the fears and the preferences
of the other party. That did not happen to any large extent because successive
governments, in their wisdom, arrogated to themselves the roles of judge,
jury and executioner. If for any reason President Kabbah's proven open-mindedness
and conciliatory position is not adopted by the rank and file members of
society, including his party, the peace process is bound to collapse. That
is why it is going to be absolutely decisive that the government puts in
the National Commission for Peace men and women from the grassroots
- not from the elite - and who represent those who have been active on
the peace groups throughout the country. If we see in this present exercise
a repeat of the type of appointments to Cabinet we saw last April - and
I am afraid the recent cabinet reshuffle was not far reaching enough -
then the cooperation that is necessary to buttress the process of reconciliation
will be strangled at birth.
Virtually every aspect of the Peace Accord presupposes, and
expects, that acts committed during the war will be more or less forgiven,
if not forgotten, and that the RUF, ex-combatants, renegade soldiers and
others would all be welcome to partake in fashioning a new dispensation
as if nothing untoward had been done by them. But are the ordinary people
of Sierra Leone ready for these challenges? Have they been prepared for
this eventuality which alone is going to make the peace accord hold or
break? I have not lived in the country for some time now so I may be considered
least qualified to pontificate on the nation's level of preparedness for
reconciliation. But how many of our citizens, for example, know the terms
of the peace accord? How many know what is expected of them to make it
work? Let me drive home some hard truths:
(1) I am for turning back the clock and wiping
the slate clean. So I support the basic assumptions in the agreement. This
message must ring out loud. But then I hear someone saying "Well you would
say that, won't you! You don't live here, we do and we are the ones who
were suffering!" I say, so what is the alternative? Further war, bloodshed,
torment and instability?
In the programmes for resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction,
the greatest obstacles to progress will be corruption.
Any attempt by
officials and their henchmen to pocket aid resources meant for the creation
of conditions for peace is declaring war on the poor. It must be made
a criminal offence and prosecuted as such. In a judgmental sort of way,
the SLPP Government will itself be on trial. If it fails to deliver simply
because it allows corrupt men and women to take over the implementation
of the peace accord then they will forfeit, like APC and NPRC governments
before them, the right to govern Sierra Leone. It is the litmus test by
which President Kabbah, his government and party must be judged.
(2) If I suspect you of having killed or tortured my
relatives, or destroyed my home, why should you expect me to accept you
as part of a new police authority; or of a new restructured army; or a
social worker, civil servant, district or local government administrator,
let alone as a neighbour? These are not hypothetical questions. They are
for real and will arise once the peace process is put into gear. Now that
the accord has been signed, strategies must be quickly worked out for putting
people at ease by assuring them that despite the suffering they endured
during the war, no more suffering will be caused if we all seize this rare
chance to get together and, as one nation, rebuild our country. We must
let bygones be bygones, and start afresh.
(3) Mere statements of exhortation will not suffice on
this occasion. They have to be matched with tangible programmes for rehabilitation
and resettlement of the displaced. These programmes must be such that the
people will feel that they are, themselves, the ones doing things to help
their situation. Let them be taught the basic skills and be given the tools
with which to do the job. Let them be allowed to build their houses, their
clinics, their roads and their schools with the resources that will be
put aside for them. Then we can send them: a town planner -only to advise
them on where is the best place to site this or that structure; a public
health official - to advise on the location of sanitary facilities and
where to sink the well for the purest and cleanest drinking water without
harming the eco-system; the conflict resolution expert - to help them along
with their own kind of peace making; and let them decided in their small
communities who among them will speak for them and oversee their affairs.
Let the money and the resources go where they are most needed.
(4) Finally, the resources must not go to officials who,
by past experience, end up pocketing most of it anyway. Let the people
-those for whom the aid and other resources will be provided - be the first
and only point of contact for all monies which the politicians say the
world is about to pour into Sierra Leone. Only those reputable and well
established NGOs, who have undergone rigorous vetting, should have access
to these resources if and when they materialise, and they must be held
properly accountable to the people they serve. Any diversion of resources
meant for the destitute of our communities, quite apart from the moral
reprehension it will cause, would break new grounds for dissatisfaction
and disaffection. That, in turn, will lead to renewed outbreaks of violence.
A lot of people found the war a profitable way of living, usually at the
expense of the rest of the nation. They should not be given a chance to
do it in peace time.
Sankoh the bête noire
I continue to fear very much for my country because everybody
has been led to believe that the only enemy in our midst was Foday Sankoh.
He had become the bête noire and the only point of national reference
and conference. Now that we have achieved a formal declaration of end to
the war that gave him this unenviable prominence, the cosmetic unity that
has so far been enjoyed by the country is soon bound to show cracks. Unless
those fissures are quickly dealt with - and I do not mean papering them
over - they could lead to another breakdown, this time in political relationships.
It will be then that the real differences will become evident once again.
That is why, while we are doing everything possible to keep
the process of peace on the rails, we must address some of the serious
policy failings over the years. The President has already highlighted the
problem of our attitudes to our country's affairs and to our compatriots,
and the shortage of patriots. We must also address the causes of the war.
It would not be right that the RUF just melts out of sight only for the
country to ease itself back into the previous corrupt, unfair and exploitative
conditions, not to mention the political chicanery and indifference that
were its hallmarks under the rule of the APC and the NPRC.
I have said before that it is crucial for the stability of our
country that we urgently address those conditions that could remotely be
deemed to have served as catalysts for, particularly, the young Sierra
Leonean men and women of the RUF to take up arms to fight their so-called
war of liberation. The RUF failed to articulate them clearly during their
vicious campaign of atrocities against their own compatriots but they have
not disappeared nor do they cease to be legitimate grounds for grievance.
They were the reasons for the war and they are yet to be dealt with. So
over to you, Mr President.
THE PEACE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA
LEONE AND THE REVOLUTIONARY UNITED FRONT OF SIERRA LEONE (RUF/SL)
The Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the revolutionary
United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF/SL) moved by the need for a just and
durable peace in Sierra Leone; Inspired by the equally imperative need
for genuine national unity and reconciliation to end this fratricidal war;
Committed to promoting popular participation in governance and full respect
for human rights and humanitarian laws; Dedicated to the advancement of
democratic development and to the maintenance of a socio-political order
free of inequality, nepotism and corruption; Determined to foster mutual
confidence and trust; Convinced that a sense of common purpose and patriotism
is the need of the hour; Hereby agrees as follows:
DECLARATION AND CONSOLIDATION OF PEACE
Article 1 - The armed conflict between the Government
of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the RUF/SL is hereby ended with immediate
effect. Accordingly, the two sides will ensure that a total cessation of
hostilities is observed forthwith.
Article 2 - The Government and the RUF/SL undertake that
no effort shall be spared to effect the scrupulous respect and implementation
of the provisions contained in this peace agreement to ensure that the
establishment and consolidation of a just peace becomes a priority in Sierra
Article 3 - A national body to be known as the Commission
for the Consolidation of Peace shall be established within two weeks
of the signing of the provisions contained in this agreement. The Commission
shall be a verification mechanism responsible for supervising and monitoring
the implementation of, and compliance with, all the provisions contained
in the Peace Agreement.
The Commission, in fulfilment of this task during the period
of consolidating the peace, shall coordinate and facilitate the work of
the following bodies which it will proceed to establish: (i) Socio-Economic
Forum; (ii) Citizens' Consultative Council; (iii) Multi-partisan Council;
(iv) Trust Fund for the Consolidation of Peace; (v) Demobilisation and
Resettlement Committee; (vi) National Budget and Debt Committee.
The Commission shall comprise representatives of the Government
and the RUF/SL, drawing on the resources of State and civic institutions
as and when necessary.
The Commission shall have the power to recommend the preparation
of enabling measures necessary for the implementation and development of
the provisions of the peace agreement. It shall have the power to issue
publicly its conclusions. The Parties undertake to comply with the conclusions
of the Commission.
The Commission shall the power to prepare preliminary legislative
drafts necessary for the implementation and development of the provisions
contained in the present peace agreement.
The parties undertake to consult the Commission before taking
decision on measures relating to the present peace agreement.
The Commission may similarly consult the Parties at the highest
level whenever it is appropriate.
The Commission shall have access to, and may inspect, any activity
or site connected with the implementation of the present peace agreement.
The Commission shall have full powers to organise its work in
the manner in which it deems most appropriate and to appoint any group
or sub-committee which it may deem useful in the discharge of its functions.
The Commission shall have its own offices, adequate communication
facilities and adequate secretariat support staff.
A Trust Fund for the Commission of Peace shall be established
to provide funding for the implementation of the present Peace Agreement.
ENCAMPMENT DISARMAMENT, DEMOBILISATION
Article 4 - The disarmament of combatants will be effected
upon their entry into the designated assembly zones, and demobilisation
and re-integration as soon as practicable thereafter. The upkeep and welfare
of the encamped combatants shall be the primary responsibility of the Government
of Sierra Leone in conjunction with the Commission for the Consolidation
of Peace, assisted by the international community.
Article 5 - The Parties commit themselves to a well-planned
national effort on encampment, disarmament, demobilisation and resettlement
linked to national development objectives. To that end, a Demobilisation
and Resettlement Committee shall be established within a month of the
signing of the present Peace Agreement.
The Committee shall coordinate the encampment, disarmament,
demobilisation and resettlement of RUF/SL combatants. The Committee shall
work in coordination with all the relevant institutions and agencies.
Both parties shall consult on the nomination of the membership
of the Committee which shall not exceed seven persons.
The Committee shall be provided with adequate funding.
Article 6 - The Demobilisation and Resettlement Committee
shall identify assembly zones and camp areas for RUF/SL combatants where
they shall be registered, encamped and disarmed. The movement into the
assembly zones shall commence within one month of the signing of this Agreement
and be completed as soon as practicable but no later than three months
from this date.
Article 7 - The Parties shall request the international
community to help supervise and monitor the encampment, disarmament, demobilisation
and re-integration processes. The Joint Monitoring Group shall have
observers at any of these processes.
Article 8 - The Commission shall, as a priority, make
recommendations on the re-structuring and re-orientation of the military
as well as its leadership. In this context, members of the RUF/SL who may
wish to be a part of the country's military can become part of the new
unified armed forces within a framework to be discussed and agreed upon
by the Commission.
Article 9 - The Government of Sierra Leone shall ensure
the return to barracks of those units of the army not required for normal
security duties and the down-sizing of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military
Forces (RSLMF), taking into account the security needs of the country.
Article 10 - In the pursuit of the reconstruction, rehabilitation
and socio-economic development of Sire Leone as a matter of the utmost
priority, special attention shall be given to rural and urban poor areas,
war victims, disabled persons and other vulnerable groups. The Government
in conjuncture with the Committee for Demobilisation and Resettlement shall
cooperate with all political parties and movements, including the RUF/SL,
to raise resources internationally for these objectives during the initial
phase of the consolidation of peace.
Article 11 - The Government shall do all in its power
to mobilise resources internally and externally to meet the needs of post-war
reconstruction and socio-economic development.
Article 12 - A Neutral Monitoring Group (NMG) from
the international community shall be responsible for monitoring breaches
of the cease-fire provided under this Peace Agreement.
Both parties upon signing this Peace Agreement shall request
the international community to provide neutral monitors.
Such monitors when deployed shall be in position for an initial
period of three months.
The Neutral Monitoring Group shall report any violations to
its headquarters which shall in turn report the same to the headquarters
of the Joint Monitoring Group comprising the government of Sierra Leone
and the RUF/SL based in Freetown.
Article 13 - The Executive Outcomes shall be withdrawn
five weeks after deployment of the Neutral Monitoring Group (NMG). As from
the date of the deployment of the NMG, Executive Outcomes shall be confined
to barracks under the supervision of the JMG and the NMG. Government shall
use its best endeavours, consistent with its treaty obligation, to repatriate
other foreign troops no later than three months after the deployment of
the NMG or six months after the signing of the Peace Agreement, whichever
(To be continued in the next edition)