Sierra Leone

Volume 3 No 5                                                                              July 1997

MORE VIOLENCE AND DEATH IN COUP AFTERMATH

The weekend of Friday 11 July witnessed the third serious confrontation between Nigerian (ECOMOG) troops and AFRC/RUF fighters who have recently been renamed the ‘People’s Army’. Two days earlier on Wednesday 9 July, there was a full scale battle for control of the Lungi International Airport. In a previous encounter on Monday 2 June, Nigerian troops were, by popular acclamation, given a good hiding by the junta’s militia during an all-day gun battle that ended, with a truce, after the Nigerians ran out of ammunition and the capture of over 300 of their men. During the last two clashes, however, Nigerians had the upper hand, having recently brought in fresh reinforcements of men and ammunition for their demoralised troops.

The scene of the latest battle, which continued into Monday and part of Tuesday of the following week, was at Jui, about 15 miles east of Freetown and close to Benguema, the location of one of the country’s main military training camps. Jui is host to a contingent of Nigerian troops. Nearby is Hastings with its National Police Training School, and an Airport that is currently under the control of the Peoples Army. There is a displaced persons camp close to the town. An RUF base was said to have been recently established in the area. Troops from there were deployed for the clash with the Nigerians which started after a Nigerian air force jet buzzed Freetown, flying so low that it threw the city and its outskirts into confusion and fear.

Eye witnesses told of continuous bombardment with heavy weapons and mortar fire. Civilians fled for safety, and shops and markets were closed. There were officially over 90 deaths during this battle, including civilians and a very large number of soldiers on both sides. Some reports have claimed that this figure is extremely conservative and have put the casualty as high as between 450 and 600 which, they also say, were mainly casualties of the People’s Army. But AFRC Military sources strongly denied these reports, saying they were pure propaganda and boasted that they were a match for the Nigerians. No reliable figures have been easy to come by because all sides deliberately understate their own casualties while inflating their opponent’s.

Those who were first on the scene have reported that the town was reduced to rubble and is empty after all its remaining inhabitants fled. Although calm had returned to the area by Tuesday, reporters said that the opposing armies were still in their trenches in readiness for possible renewed fighting.

Up to the time of writing this account, the ICRC was still negotiating to be allowed to enter the battleground to remove corpses for burial and the wounded for treatment. A surgeon described the victims’ bodies as "completely mangled and hardly recognisable". Casualties included policemen whose HQ was hit by a rain of missiles fired by the Nigerians, killing six of them. The AFRC claimed that in another incident a bomb dropped by a Nigerian air force jet killed a family of four in the town. The military barracks in Jui were also completely wrecked by Nigerian artillery.

The Nigerians appear also to have had the better of the clash of Wednesday 9 July for control of the Lungi International Airport. Reports said "hundreds of RUF fighters" were killed, with one quoting as many as over 300. The regime strenuously deny this but have as yet issued no casualty figures. Scores of innocent civilians also died in the crossfire. The Lungi military barracks were flattened by Nigerian battery. Lungi Town itself as well as the airport are both firmly under the control of Nigerian forces.

Fighting started after AFRC soldiers were sent to silence a pirate station which had broadcast messages by President Kabbah to the people of Sierra Leone. The finger of suspicion was pointed at the Nigerians whom the AFRC accused of facilitating and harbouring the transmitter at their base. A spokesman for the regime alleged that AFRC/RUF troops were on their way to the airport when they were engaged into an argument by Nigerian soldiers: "The Nigerians were hostile and started trading insults and then things got out of hand .. there was hand-to-hand fighting at one stage before the two sides separated and took up heavy bombardment." Another military man said that it was the Nigerians who "started attacking our men on the ground… the only thing that can bring this fight under control is for the international world to tell Nigeria to get out of our territory".

The Nigerians flatly denied these charges. ECOMOG commander General Victor Malu, speaking form Monrovia (Liberia), said "we had no reason to attack them". A statement form ECOMOG HQ in Liberia declared: "…The junta launched the fierce attack on the allegation that ECOMOG installed an FM station in Lungi. The junta’s attack was therefore aimed at destroying the station". Acting Nigerian defence spokesman Godwin Ugbo, speaking in Abuja, issued a prompt denial of the allegation that the clandestine radio station was being operated by Nigerians. He said that as far as they were concerned they did not even know of it, so the question of their funding it did not arise.

The sound of gunfire caused pandemonium in the west end of Freetown which had been tense since a speech by President Kabbah was broadcast on a pirate radio station "SLBS FM 98.1" that uses a frequency that is close to the real Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Radio - FM 98.99. For nearly two days after the latest fighting the radio remained silent but resumed broadcasts on the third day.

Following the latest battles, the possibility of calling a truce and a cease-fire was discussed and agreed by commanders on both sides as we went to press.

NEWS DIGEST > > >  NEWS DIGEST > > > NEWS DIGEST > > >  NEWS DIGEST > > >

The following is a resume of some, but by no means all, of the main events during the two months since the coup d’état of Sunday 25 May. Special acknowledgement goes to the Sierra Leone News  web site for some of the items covered in this edition.

  • The AFRC acknowledged that looting and killing was taking place in Freetown, and promised intensified patrols.
  • Two delegations sent by the Junta to negotiate a truce with Kamajohs were reported to have been manhandled by Kamajohs who wanted nothing to do with the AFRC government. A group of 10 sent to Kamajohs on the Makeni-Matotoka road were all abducted and 3 of them were allegedly killed. One was sent back to the regime saying there would be no compromise over the return of the civilian government of President Kabbah. An appeal by the AFRC junta for a meeting with chiefs in the area was turned down because the latter were unsure of their safety. Fighting broke out in the area between various militia. Roman Catholic Bishop Biguzzi of Makeni Diocese intervened to negotiate a truce but the militiamen refused to disarm.
  • The other group of 5 emissaries, led by a Njala University College lecturer, was allegedly abducted and brutalised. The lecturer, Dr Tommy, was killed during the visit. Each side blamed the other for his death. A Kamajoh spokesman, Mohamed Koroma, commenting on these claims said that they were not seizing any AFRC emissaries.
  • Fighting between Kamajohs and AFRC and RUF soldiers took place on many fronts in the south around Pujehun, and in the east near Kenema. There were AFRC casualties at Joru and Bombohun near the Liberian border. For a while, the Tongo-Kono road was blocked by Kamajohs who were said to number between 4 - 5,000. At one time Kamajohs were reported to have blocked the main Freetown-Bo highway. In sheer numbers, 3,000 Kamajohs were said to be stationed at Gerihun; 10,000 at Jembe about 30 miles from Bo and another 6,000 near Pujehum. One of their leaders Eddie Massally threatened: "There will be no retreat until we restore our government". Asked whether they were armed by ECOMOG he replied: "No we are on our own" and added "We are inspired by God".
  • RUF commandos attacked and took over two towns in the East - Foya Kamalahun and Kalahun. The now re-named ‘Peoples Army’ also claimed to have taken the towns of Mobai, Jojoima and Barri.
  • After a ferocious battle near Pujehun, Kamajoh Commander Abdulai Johnson, nicknamed ‘Enemy Consumer’, boasted that he had himself beheaded two captured AFRC soldiers.
  • Magburaka in the Northern Tonkolili District is virtually a ghost town after its inhabitants fled following alleged hostile activities by RUF sympathisers. Thousands of refugees poured into Makeni, 60 miles away, some by lorry and others on foot. Most refugees claimed that they had been harassed and their stocks of food and other valuables had been taken away from them at gun point. The Kapras - local hunters’ militia - in the North, were threatening to retaliate.
  • At least 15 persons were killed in clashes between kamajohs and army troops near Gerihun, in the Bo District. Kamajohs have set up roadblocks on the Bo-Kenema and the Bo-Yele highways to prevent themselves from being surrounded by RUF/AFRC troops.
  • Over 25 people were killed when armed assailants entered Gerihun, on June 26. Among their victims was Albert Sandi Demby, Paramount Chief of Baoma Chiefdom and uncle of ousted vice President Joseph Demby. According to eye witnesses, the chief was taken from his compound by soldiers who then shot and killed him. Two other towns, Telu, hometown of Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman, and Sembehun were attacked by the soldiers. Over 20 civilians, including a local chief were killed.
  • A combined force of RUF troops and Sierra Leone soldiers attacked a 5-square-mile area, between Zimmi and the Mano River Bridge, which is a stronghold of the Kamajoh militia in the South. The AFRC claimed 10 kamajohs were killed for the loss of one of their own men. The troops were led by RUF’s second in command, Colonel Sam Bockarie, also known as "Mosquito". One week later, the army claimed that it had seized control of the Sierra Leone side of the Mano River Union Bridge from Kamajohs. Earlier it had claimed the capture of the towns of Gofor and Zimmi.
  • More fighting erupted at Koribundo in the Bo District. Eighteen people were reported killed, including 8 civilians. There was pandemonium in Moyamba during the second week of the coup, with claims of street fighting, executions and beheadings, and homes including that belonging to PC Madam Ella Koblo Gulama destroyed. Many civilians were reported to be caught in the crossfire. The town is close to an RUF base near Bauya. Sources said the AFRC suspected the presence of a Kamajoh contingent in the area which had allegedly threatened to block the main Freetown-Bo highway, and an RUF contingent had been sent to investigate. But local sources denied there had been any observable Kamajoh presence in the town before the attack.
  • Four criminals caught in acts of robbery and burglary were publicly executed at the police station in Kenema. They were believed to have been among prisoners freed during the coup.
  • Intense fighting took place in Kenema Town between Kamajohs and AFRC soldiers on 19 June. Soldiers attacked Kamajohs in retaliation for an earlier attack by Kamajohs on their positions in Kenema and Pujehun. Over 60 people, including civilians were killed in the crossfire. The town was the scene of a bitter 3-day battle about two weeks before the coup when scores of civilians were killed. (See FSL Vol 3 No 2.)
  • More Child Fighters Thrown Into The Fray - Nearly 5,000 children are believed to be fighting in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Many are being forced and indoctrinated into committing some of the most despicable acts of violence. Virtually all parties to the war have been using children whom they frequently use as advance parties in many attacks. Many have been abducted from families and turned into killing machines. Since the coup there gave been signs that children who had been undergoing treatment and rehabilitation have taken to their old ways and joined the ranks of the coupists. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy warned: "Children should have no part in war. By making them agents of civil conflict and depriving them of their childhood, the vicious cycle of violence is perpetuated".
Digest of other events
  • SLAJ Members’ Protest - Members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) accused the AFRC of harassment and intimidation of its members and called for the release of 3 colleagues belonging to the Democrat newspaper. "We are very concerned that in the seven weeks since the AFRC took power our members have been exposed to a degree of harassment and threats from military authorities which far exceed anything ever seen in this country" they said in their statement.
  • Junta Crackdown - AFRC Junta claims it is cracking down on lawlessness. Major Koroma told soldiers "to report to your respective units and stop parading the streets aimlessly. Any soldier caught in the street without a valid pass will be severely dealt with".
  • "We Want Dialogue" Says Junta - SLBS radio called for "constructive dialogue" with the Commonwealth Secretariat, pleading that it would have provided a timetable by now "had it not been for the threat of armed violence in Sierra Leone caused by Nigeria". Sierra Leone’s membership of the Commonwealth Organisation was suspended on 1 July. It becomes the second outcast, the only other being Nigeria.
  • "Don’t Come In!" - An anti-Nigerian intervention rally was held on 16 July at the national stadium in Freetown. Speakers denounced the presence of Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone and called for their immediate withdrawal.
  • Sworn In - AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma was sworn in as Head of State on Tuesday 17 June in a ceremony performed by Chief Justice Samuel Beccles-Davies. He pledged to restore democracy: "We are committed to bringing this country to lasting peace and then eventually to returning the country to a democratically elected government".
  • Who Wants To Serve? - Some, but apparently not all, ministers appointed by the AFRC took their oaths of office on 14 July. They included former NPRC strongman, now Chief Secretary of State and Minister of Mines, Captain SAJ Musa. The event took place before AFRC Chairman and Head of State, Major Johnny Paul Koroma. (See below for a list of appointments.)
  • "No Surrender" - A local newspaper claimed that nearly 500 soldiers surrendered to ECOMOG authorities following the battles of Jui and Lungi. A junta spokesman denying the report said the coalition of military and RUF allies remained loyal to the government. He accused the newspaper of "a blatant act of propaganda …. to create panic and fear in the minds of the people". But to reinforce the point, the Pirate SLBS 98.1 also claimed that "some patriotic rebel fighters and Sierra Leone soldiers are being prevented from surrendering to ECOMOG bases by hard-core junta and RUF members".
  • Crash Landing - The helicopter in which President Kabbah escaped to Guinea disappeared over Liberia while on chartered mission in connection with elections in that country.
  • Soccer Casualty - Due to the uncertainty, especially the security situation in Sierra Leone, the country’s last two African Nations Cup qualifying matches have been moved to neutral Mali. Sierra Leone was due to play Tunisia in Bamako on 23 July and Guinea on 27 July.
  • "Quick Off The Mark" - Nigeria was accused of jumping the gun ahead of ECOWAS and UN authorisation to unilaterally impose a sea and land blockade of Sierra Leone on 11 July. Ships have been turned away, and no planes have been allowed to land at the airport which, some reports say, has been heavily cratered following the recent skirmishes between the two sides. The airport remains under the complete of the Nigerians.
  • Alleged "Instigators of RUF coup" detained - Fifteen people - six prominent civilian members of the SLPP and nine military officers - were arrested and detained over allegations that they conspired to induce the RUF to overthrow the AFRC and make way for the return of the ousted SLPP government in return for posts in government. The detainees denied the allegations, describing them as complete fabrication. They included: Dr Sama S Banya, Colonel K E S Boyah, Dauda Bundeh, Colonel Tom Carew, Major Francis Gortor, Dr Abdul Jalloh, Dr Bockarie M Kobba, Abu Aiah Koroma, Colonel R Y Koroma, Captain John Massaquoi, Abdullai Mustapha, Lieutenant-Colonel J A H Tucker, and Major Vandi Turay. They were being held incommunicado at Pademba Road Prison.
  • Amnesty International (AI) - In the aftermath of the arrests, AI again called on the AFRC to respect and protect the fundamental rights of all Sierra Leoneans and expressed its concern over the arrests: "We fear that some of these people may be detained only because they opposed the military coup which brought the AFRC to power". It called for their immediate release but failing which it demanded a fair trial for those accused of a criminal offence, and for them to be allowed immediate access to their families, lawyers, and doctors. AI has also expressed concern about the summary executions of suspected looters by military officials, which it said were contrary to international standards. Over 15 people in Freetown, at least 5 in Kenema and 2 in Bo have been publicly executed for looting and robbery.
  • "Kabbah is welcome back!" - AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma was reported as saying that President Kabbah was welcome to return to Sierra Leone provided he stopped "misleading" the international community. In one of many speeches to nation since 25 May Chairman Koroma defended the coup, saying "We just could not sit down and allow a President to be manipulated as people were being killed or maimed". He said President Kabbah should have brought the RUF leader Foday Sankoh out of the wilderness into the political system.
  • Renamed Rebel Army "Ready To Disarm" - RUF has renamed its armed wing the ‘People’s Army of Sierra Leone’. The People’s Army’s War Council, which serves as the RUF’s high command, said its fighters were ready to disarm, but only if the ECOMOG intervention force pulled out.
  • The RUF’s "Act of Contrition" - Groups of armed RUF fighters were reported to haven been seen attending churches, mosques, and other public places asking forgiveness for atrocities they committed during six years of civil war. A "confession" statement issued by the rebel group read: "We have now joined our parents, our brothers and sisters. The war, mutilations, burning and indiscriminate killings have stopped …..We take responsibility for the atrocities committed in the country’s interior…We burned, looted, maimed, and killed but we did not do this because we wanted to. We had to because that was the only way we could have uprooted a rotten system."
  • Call For Consultative Conference - AFRC called for an all-party consultative conference to discuss a timetable for new elections in Sierra Leone, which would bring together the military, ousted President Tejan Kabbah, the RUF, and the Kamajoh militia. "We are calling for all the major stake holders in the present political crisis...to sit together and consult in the African tradition and resolve the present political crisis in the country and set a timetable for fresh elections in Sierra Leone in which everybody including Kabbah himself can participate".
  • Disarmed! - A contingent of Sierra Leone ECOMOG troops serving in Liberia and based at Waterside on the Liberian side of the border, were disarmed and moved to another location. AFRC protested saying they saw it as "a ploy by ECOMOG officials to make Sierra Leone open for the incursion into our country by the mercenary group from Liberia with the assistance of ECOMOG".
  • Still Defiant - The Sierra Leone Labour Congress, in line with their previous stance, rejected Chairman Koroma’s request for its members to resume work and defiantly issued a communiqué calling for the restoration of democracy and a negotiated settlement. "The democratic will of the people of Sierra Leone was profoundly expressed during the 1996 general and presidential elections …..This democratic will is indeed a reality and must be fully respected and restored to ensure stability in the country".
  • Money Palaver - The Central Bank and the Commercial Bank have opened for business but Barclays, Standard and other Banks have remained closed. Commenting on the situation Mr Christian Kargbo, who is acting as interim Bank Governor, said he had declined the substantive post of Governor and accepted an advisory role because he felt that something had to be done. He appealed to donors not to impose sanctions, saying: "What they should do is come and examine the problems. Most of us do not favour military rule. Let the international community come and see what could be done to resolve our problems, so that we do not die of hunger or otherwise". The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have cut off aid for Sierra Leone following the coup.
  • Come Back ....All Is Forgiven! - AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma called upon Sierra Leoneans who fled the country, following the 2 June Nigerian naval bombardment of Freetown, to return home. He said they should come back and help the government find a solution to the current political crisis. "Running away can never solve the problem". The call was re-echoed on SLBS National radio but it did not stem the tide of refugees flooding into Gambia and Guinea. Over 30,000 Sierra Leoneans are believed to have left the country.
  • Kamajohs’ Stand - Following a conciliatory appeal from the AFRC to Kamajohs to take part in a unity government, the head of the local hunters militia in the East, Alhaji Brima Bangura, rejected the call saying: "We have no intention of joining the present military government in a government of national unity as they call it …..We are not politicians, we were formed by people at the community level to protect our villages and towns".
  • Battle Of The Air Waves - A pirate radio station believed to be operated by "pro democracy" supporters of President Tejan Kabbah began broadcasts to the nation. Alternately identifying itself the "Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service," "SLBS 98.1" and "The True Voice of Sierra Leone", the station uses a frequency - 98.1 on the FM waveband - which is very close to the real national SLBS frequency - FM 98.9. The AFRC had succeeded in using the national radio as an effective propaganda tool in its battle with its opponents. This is the ousted regime’s answer to the one-sided presentation of events and it appears to have caused the junta severe headaches. On the "real" SLBS Radio, Major Koroma accused the station of "broadcasting vicious and malicious propaganda aimed at intimidating soldiers and civilians against the government and spreading general panic... [Kabbah] cannot succeed to incite my loyal troops".
  • Food Shortages - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of serious food shortages. "The food supply is tightening in the main towns. The price of rice has tripled in Freetown and the supply of food and water is deteriorating", it said in a statement. Most shops and markets have remained closed.
  • Costly existence - Cost of living has risen sharply since the coup. Food supplies are running low and the cost has rocketed. Rice is selling for Le 24,000 a bag, up from Le 16.000. In the diamond rich Kono District it costs Le 60,000.
  • "My Mission" - UNPP leader John Karefa-Smart held a press conference in New York to explain his efforts to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. "My mission has two aims: to explain the situation in Sierra Leone to the Secretary-General of the UN and members of the Security Council; and second, to seek their support for a continuing effort for a diplomatic solution to the crisis". Asked if he would support the use of force if negotiations failed, he said "I will still not support it, I will just retire from the scene and let whatever happen.". Earlier he unveiled a plan for a national conference to be held in Freetown, with reconciliation, the restoration of durable democracy and lasting peace as its theme. The aim would be "to provide a forum for addressing, in an open, creative, and frank manner, the many ills which have long plagued and deepened the cleavages within our society, and which led to the May 25, 1997 coup d’etat". Key objectives should include "the restoration of democratic civilian order, implementation of the Abidjan Peace Accord, the search for genuine national reconciliation, and agreement upon a programme for post-war resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction". The plan recognises that for it to succeed, there had to be "willingness of AFRC and ECOMOG to engage in discussions, in good faith …[and the] withdrawal of all Nigerian military forces and armaments from Sierra Leone, especially from Lungi International Airport … [which would] encourage the civilian population that fled the country to return and resume normal activities, and restore international trade and travel".


Some Of The Tough Talking

  • Major Johnny Paul Koroma, addressing the nation on 1 June: "…..The big question at this moment on the lips of everybody inside and outside the country is what prompted us to oust former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and his government from power. Before [that] ……. I want first and foremost on behalf of my colleagues to avail myself of this opportunity to solemnly extend our sincere and heartfelt sympathy and expression of regret for the unfortunate incidents that occurred during the take-over operation in which some of our brothers and sisters, as well as foreign nationals, lost their lives and property.…..I have already emphasised … that our action was not motivated by selfishness and greed for power. The main objective of the AFRC to seize power is to restore lasting peace and political stability in this country, which has been ravaged and continues to be shattered by a senseless war..... After five years of military governance, our country was returned to democratic rule with great pains, but due to lack of political ingenuity and sincere commitment on the part of former President Tejan Kabbah and some of his lieutenants, the hard-won democracy was being gradually jeopardised by the flagrant antidemocratic and unpatriotic practices of the last regime .....our priority of priorities today is peace. Peace is an inseparable factor for human development. We have been longing for it for the past six years. Thanks to God, it is here. The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and true patriots of this country are therefore solemnly appealing to all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of their ethnic grouping, creed, social standing, and political affiliation, within and outside our national territory to join the God-inspired revolution for the ultimate salvation of our beloved fatherland."
  • President Kabbah - on arrival in Conakry (Guinea) said he was alive and well and that he would do everything possible for a peaceful solution. But if all else fails it would be the responsibility of the junta. He called on them to reverse their action, saying their failure would lead to economic and social consequences including disease, food shortages and lack of clean water.
  • President Kabbah On Airwaves - broadcast to the nation over the secret station and demanded the return of power to him by the AFRC: "Hand over now and spare yourself and the people of Sierra Leone further pain and suffering,… If you persist however and cause any further force to be used... then let me assure you no Western countries will grant you asylum. No African countries will harbour you." In another appeal to the soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces he stoutly asserted: "As your commander I hereby order you to report to the nearest ECOMOG base without arms in your possession and declare your loyalty. By doing so you will avoid being treated as a mutineer." President Kabbah endorsed the civil disobedience that has crippled governmental operations since the coup and exhorted civilians not to co-operate with the regime.
  • Hinga Norman - Deputy Minister of Defence in the ousted government and a founder member of the Kamajohs, broadcast a message over a clandestine radio station (some say from Liberia) and called for military action to oust the AFRC. He said that negotiations with the coup leaders have proven futile, and that military action is necessary because of the deplorable plight of Sierra Leone citizens.
  • Tony Lloyd, British Minister for Africa, commenting on the coup in Sierra Leone, said that " ….the demands were for the coup plotters to recognise that the game is up, and it is up. However long it takes, the game for them is up. The people of Sierra Leone do not deserve what they’ve had unleashed. Our commitment and that of the whole international community is to make sure that the legitimate government is back in power as quickly as possible. There’s a very strong need now for the coup plotters to recognise that it is in their hands to offer proper salvation to the people of Sierra Leone. (They need to) to get round that negotiating table and to recognise that they cannot continue with the present position".
  • US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch: "The international community will not accept their continued presence in Freetown and does not recognise them in any way. The population, as is evident from the continued refusal to work for almost six weeks, has spoken very eloquently about its determination to see the democratically-elected government restored. I think it behoves those in power, momentarily, to really think very hard as to what they are seeking to attain. And if they genuinely have the interests of the people of Sierra Leone at heart, if they really have that at heart, they should now, together with the ECOWAS committee, find a way while there is still time to step down without more destruction and allow the restoration of the democratically-elected government of President Kabbah. Thereafter a lot of those concerns that they raised can be addressed in a democratic context."
  • UN Endorsement - The Security Council of the UN endorsed initiatives taken by regional organisations and warned the Junta to cede power back to the civilian government. But it stopped short of sanctioning outright use of force, expressing hope for a peaceful solution. The announcement followed a visit by Foreign ministers representing the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone who arrived in New York on 10 July to brief the United Nations on the Sierra Leone crisis.
  • "We Are Only Helping" - General Sani Abacha has defended Nigeria’s role in Sierra Leone, saying it is not interference. He said that responsibility was placed on Nigeria to ensure stability in the sub-region.
  • "Don’t Push Us Around" says Ghana - Ghanaian diplomats ended two days of talks with AFRC. They condemned the coup but rejected military intervention to restore the civilian government. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho: "We should not allow ourselves to be pushed to a military intervention in Sierra Leone because this would be bloody and destructive …..Ghana still supports the OAU decision reached in Harare recently, calling on all countries to do their utmost to restore the constitutional order in Sierra Leone. We believe that the best way to resolve the crisis is by diplomatic means, to reach a negotiated settlement, rather than by fighting."
  • More Condemnation - The AFRC take-over was condemned by the West African Economic Monetary Union (comprising Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) at its recent conference held in Lome, Togo. A joint statement also called for the reinstatement of the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
  • EU Endorsement - The European Union stopped all development aid to Sierra Leone because constitutional order has not yet been restored. It said the "the European Community and its Member States consider that existing development assistance to Sierra Leone cannot be continued under present circumstances" and endorsed regional efforts for a diplomatic solution of the crisis, as well as efforts within Sierra Leone to arrive at a peaceful settlement without further bloodshed.
  • "They’re Digging In" - Sierra Leone’s UN Ambassador James Jonah said that the Junta is controlled by the Liberians, who are preventing the AFRC from being flexible in meeting international demands to relinquish power. "The evidence is very clear that those in charge today in Sierra Leone are not those ill-considered military people who have made a coup….. the control has passed on to the RUF, which is today controlled by Liberians. They are digging in their heels."
  • "We will flush them out" - ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu boasted that his troops will hound the AFRC out of power if negotiations fail: "We have the capability of flushing out those people if and when we are directed to do so."
  • "We Will Bomb Freetown" - In the wake of the battle at Jui, civilians were warned by a Nigerian ECOMOG Commander to avoid military installations, saying he had "ordered the ECOMOG troops holding the Orugu Bridge to …allow vehicles and people to resume using the highway… [but] if the talks between ECOWAS and the military government fail...and ECOMOG is given the mandate by ECOWAS to forcefully remove the coup makers from power, ECOMOG will invade Freetown and bomb the city to remove them …..there will be no escape for the coup makers".

ABIDJAN PLAYS PEACE HOST AGAIN

The Ivory Coast which for 18 months, until last November, spearheaded lengthy diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Sierra Leone culminating in the signing of the Abidjan Peace Accord, is once again the focus of renewed regional diplomatic activity. Its capital, Abidjan, hosted a meeting on 17 and 18 July between AFRC and the ECOWAS Four to find a solution to the crisis. The meeting followed the decision of a recent ECOWAS Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Guinea that four countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Ivory Coast) should meet with the AFRC and discuss the situation in the country.

The Sierra Leone delegation comprised the following: Dr Alimamy Paulo Bangura; Mr A Manley-Spaine; Brig. D K Anderson; Capt. Paul Thomas; Mr Solomon Y B Rogers; Corporal Tamba Gborie; Mr Dauda S Kamara; Mr W S Bangura; Mr Allieu Kamara; Dr John Karefa-Smart; Dr Abbass Bundu; Mrs Ina Lamin.

A communiqué, issued after the meeting, described the discussions as having being held "in an atmosphere of cordiality and frankness" and recorded that the meeting had decided, among other things, as follows: …. (i) to resolve all issues related to the Sierra Leone crisis peacefully, in the best interest of the people of Sierra Leone, the sub-region, Africa and the international community as a whole; (ii) that all hostilities should cease and therefore a cease-fire be immediately established throughout Sierra Leone while all efforts are deployed towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis; (iii) to work towards the early restoration of constitutional order, consistent with the objectives of ECOWAS ..; (iv) to allow the Sierra Leone delegation time to return home and hold further consultations with the regime in Freetown in order to facilitate a consideration of the detailed modalities for the return of constitutional order to their country.

It was agreed that a second meeting would be held in Abidjan 25 July for the purpose of concluding the Committee’s work on time for presentation to the Chairman of ECOWAS.

Reactions To Communiqué

  • Maybe, Maybe Not! - Dr Paulo Bangura, AFRC Foreign Minister and delegation leader, and AFRC spokesman Alieu Kamara, commenting on the meeting’s decision, both defiantly stated that the pledge to restore constitutional order did not necessarily imply the return of President Kabbah. Corporal Tamba Gborie, the man who announced the May 25 coup on national radio, hinted that a deal was unlikely without the participation of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "You can't make any peace in Sierra Leone without Foday Sankoh", he said.
  • "Good Omen" Says Pirate Radio -FM 98.1 the secret weapon of the waves used by the fugitive government to reach supporters in the country has welcomed the AFRC’s "acceptance of the decision by the four-man ECOWAS committee on Sierra Leone for the restoration of constitutional order in Sierra Leone …. This is a good omen for Sierra Leone and a move in the right direction to peace and prosperity".
  • "You Are The Culprits" Says ECOMOG - Nigeria accused AFRC of violating the agreement for a cease-fire reached at the Abidjan meeting, saying "The coupists and their rebel allies have continued to conduct probing attacks on ECOMOG troop locations in Kossoh Town, Jui, Hastings Airfield, Lungi airport and its environs, presumably in search of the FM radio station believed to be harboured by ECOMOG….. ECOMOG troops have been provoked beyond limits and will not hesitate to be on counter-offensive for self-defence".
  • Meeting Postponed - The second round of talks between AFRC and ECOWAS Committee of Four is postponed by another four days to 29 July to give the coup leaders more time for deliberations. There is further pressure from a diplomat who says "The demand by the junta in Sierra Leone about the return of constitutional rule in that country without [President] Kabbah is a non-starter".
  • Karefa-Smart Withdraws - UNPP leader Dr John Karefa-Smart said he had had enough of malicious accusations and withdrew from AFRC negotiating team, saying: "My continued presence on the committee would be misunderstood…My primary concern throughout has been to let my people and the international community become aware of the dangers inherent in allowing any state or combination of states to interfere in the internal affairs of another state…I am now satisfied that my loud and clear message has been received and heeded and that I and all Sierra Leoneans can now go to sleep at night with the assurance that they will not be awakened by a military attack on our country".
  • ….But later - changed his mind following a plea by AFRC Chairman Major Koroma that he should not desert them. "….If you don't come now" said Koroma "and things don't go well, the people will never understand that you left the job half done".
  • On The Attack …..Again - US Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch, speaking from Guinea on the pirate radio SLBS 98.1, reiterated the view that the international community will not recognise the AFRC government in Sierra Leone and praised the determination of the people to see the democratically elected government restored. He exhorted the AFRC to step down and spare the people further pain and suffering. He also questioned their self-proclaimed concern for the welfare of the people of Sierra Leone.

ARMED FORCES REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL CABINET

[Note: Below is the first Cabinet list released by the AFRC. It is reproduced with a health warning. Some members have yet to take up their appointments and there are reports that some people who appear on it have claimed that they did not consent to their inclusion.]

Major Johnny Paul Koroma - Chairman, AFRC Revolutionary Council; Head of State; Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces & Secretary of State for Defence; Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh - Deputy Chairman, AFRC; Deputy Head of State;

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; Capt. S A J Musa - Mineral Resources & Chief Secretary; Alimamy Paulo Bangura - Foreign Affairs; Robin O L Mason - Attorney General & Judicial Affairs; Joe Amara Bangali - Finance; Osho Williams - Transport & Communication; Victor Brandon - Development & Economic Planning; A A Vandy (People’s Army) - Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (Acting); Capt (Rtd) A B S Jumo-Jalloh - Works & Labour; Brigadier (Rtd) M L Lymon - Internal Affairs; Major Kula Samba - Social Welfare, Children & Gender Affairs; Umaru Deen Sesay - Youths, Sports & Social Mobilisation; S B Rogers (People’s Army) - Lands & Environment (Acting); Col (Dr ) KIS Kamara - Health & Sanitation; Mrs Rogers Wright - Education; Squadron Leader V L King - Chairman’s Office; (People’s Army) - Trade, Industry & State Enterprises; (People’s Army) - Energy & Power.

MEMBERS OF SUPREME COUNCIL

Major Johnny Paul Koroma - Chairman, AFRC; Head of State & Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces;
Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh - Deputy Chairman, AFRC;
Capt. SAJ Musa - Chief Secretary;
Colonel A K Sesay - Secretary General;
Major Carter Tarawallie; WOII F Conteh F; WOII Kargbo; Sgt. Gborie; Staff Sgt. Sankoh - PLO 1, Staff Sgt. Tamba Alex Brima - PLO 2; Staff Sgt. Bazzy Kamara - PLO 3; Sgt. George Adams ; Sgt. Brima Kamara; Sgt. Bangura H ; Sgt. Khanu S B; Sgt. Kallay ; Sgt. Sulaiman Turay; Sgt. Kabia M.; Private Abdul Sesay; Corporal Momoh Bangura; Lance Corporal Hector; Lance Corporal Ibrahim Sesay
Plus: 3 Paramount Chiefs from East, South & North;
Plus One representative each for: Sierra Leone Labour Congress; Sierra Leone Bar Association; Sierra Leone Medical & Dental Association; Trade Union; National Union of Students; Chamber of Commerce Sierra Leone Petty Traders Association; Youth Organisation; Sierra Leone Association; Sierra Leone Teacher’s Union; Council of Tribal Heads (Western Area).

Foreign Missions Special Envoys & Ambassadors
Brigadier (Retired) JOY Turay; Brigadier (Retired) Hassan Conteh; Alhaji Amadu Jalloh; Ambassador Dauda Kamara; Syl Juxon-Smith; Major (Retired) E V Coker; Major General (Retired) Jusu Gottor; Major (Retired) Roberts; Doctor Kandeh Baba Conteh; Ibrahim Bah; Steve Bio; Omrie Golley

Under Secretaries
Lieutenant Colonel A B Y Kamara - Defence; Hassan Barrie - Energy & Power; I M F Sesay - Finance; Mohamed A Bangura -Trade, Industry & State Enterprises; Dr King - Health & Sanitation; Capt. Paul Thomas - Mineral Resources; Major F S Gottor - Internal Affairs; Abu Bakarr Sessay - Development & Economic Planning; [People’s Army] - Lands & Environment; [People’s Army] - Education; Capt. Johnny Moore - Youth, Sports & Social Mobilisation; DSP Dennis Kamara (SL Police) - Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries; Major (Retired) Gabriel Turay - Foreign Affairs.

HEALTH AND SURVIVAL WORRIES

A group of mainly British charities have recently warned of impending hunger and disease in the wake of the May coup and the ensuing insecurity and the total blockade imposed on the country. "The recent coup and subsequent instability has increased the suffering of the poorest people in Sierra Leone", said the group which included Actionaid, Oxfam, and Save the Children Fund.

They said that those left behind after the flight of over 30,000 citizens were facing soaring prices, food shortages and reduced harvests. They warned of impending humanitarian catastrophe and advocated for immediate humanitarian assistance and an end to the political stalemate, adding "Sierra Leone needs help and not political posturing".

On an earlier occasion, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned of the possible death from starvation of tens of thousands unless roving armed men stopped disrupting United Nations food supplies. WFP has managed to supply hospitals and children’s homes with some food at key and vulnerable locations in the country.

This news came on top of earlier news that more than 300 children had died from cholera and typhoid fever in the Northern Province. Hundreds more were said to be in critical conditions.

Medical supplies were said to have virtually dried up and delivery of fresh supplies, as well as food, was being hampered by the security situation, especially because of the looting and plundering by armed groups. The Red Cross and MSF had been asked to help.

Before the coup, international scientists had been investigating the worst outbreak of the deadly Lassa fever virus in eastern Sierra Leone, which had already killed 25 people who had been brought to the Kenema government hospital. There were believed to be nearly 200 other cases of infection.

The disease is classified as endemic in Sierra Leone and has regularly accounted for at least 35 deaths each year. Since the coup, no further news of action to combat the infected cases has been reported. Kenema has become a virtual war zone.

Barely one week before the coup, patients and staff at the city’s Government hospital were evacuated when fighting broke out between soldiers and Kamajohs.

Lassa fever is one of the most expensive to treat. The cure is a drug called Ribavirin which costs £620 per dose. One of the humanitarian organisations that drew attention to the incidence of the disease recently was MERLIN which had a field team in the area last April.

Open Letter to President Kabbah

Dear Mr President

Greetings from London and here’s wishing you, the First Lady, and the rest of your entourage the best of health and God’s guidance and protection. I also take this chance to wish you a speedy return home. I am, like many, very sad that our democracy was so brutally cut in its prime - an unfortunate act which has not only taken us back to where we were barely a year ago, but even beyond to the darkest reaches of chaos and uncertainty. Please bear with me, for what I wish to say in this open letter to you is from the heart.

Your sadness and concern at what has happened to our country is shared by the whole Nation. The only division that is obvious between us, loyal Sierra Leoneans, at this very critical moment is simply in how we are going to get ourselves out of the situation that has arisen. You must be aware that there are those who believe that we should use force to remove the AFRC which has arrogated to itself the right to exercise supreme power over the rest of us without our consent. I believe you are also of this persuasion. Equally loyal, but taking the opposite view, are people, including myself, who prefer a peaceful way out of the impasse, without the use of military intervention. I argued in the last edition of this paper (in which, incidentally, I published an open letter, similar to this one, to the Chairman of the AFRC) that there was a time when intervention during, and immediately after, the coup might have succeeded with less bloodshed in dislodging the coupists. That chance went by as a timid and pusillanimous international community allowed things to drift, thereby giving succour to the AFRC and all the time they needed to consolidate.

I shall presently tell you why some of us oppose the use of brute force to reverse the coup. But first, let me assure you that the fact that we do not share the former view does not in anyway mean we condone what has happened or, as has been alleged, approve the action of the coup makers. No, Mr President, the loyalty and love for Sierra Leone transcends the current political divides, extends beyond the membership of the SLPP and the rivalries for political office. It goes beyond tribal, political and religious allegiances. As an opinion leader myself, I have heard these opposing views, with supporting arguments, expressed with deep passion and concern. It is wrong to assume that just because somebody advises caution, or does not support the use a foreign military force to reverse the AFRC coup, they are therefore traitors, or allies of the coupists. It is equally implausible to claim that those who have engaged in dialogue with the coup makers are encouraging their acts of "hooliganism".

I am not a hooligan but I have taken the trouble throughout this crisis to convey my views to various members of the AFRC, including the Chairman Major Koroma, as a way of engaging in dialogue, including ideas for arriving at a quick and satisfactory resolution. It is even more mischievous to impute complicity to anyone simply because they attempt to explain why and how such action could have taken place in our country, as I did when I was invited by the BBC World Service Radio, Independent Television News, and Sky TV news, to comment on the state of the country prior to the coup. Sierra Leone’s coup would be a unique event if it is being argued that the fires of revolt started spontaneously without any smoke. But my aim here is not to start the inquest that will surely come at a later date. I will therefore stick to the issues of the use of force and how we can extricate ourselves from the present dilemma of pending violence.

Firstly, we have advised a peaceful way out because we believe that the way we come out this current crises will become a key determinant of our creativity and capacity to handle national problems in the future. For Sierra Leone to become stable hereafter, it needs a solution now that will attempt to address the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of our recent history which allow these persistent upheavals in our society. Ours is a society that was already enmeshed in a civil war that has cost us thousands of innocent lives and virtually wiped out the basic economic and social infrastructures that are necessary for any form of developmental activity to take place. We who are of this persuasion believe we should explore a solution that will facilitate the governance of our country in a stable and strife-free climate during what is likely to be, in future, a testing time. Some say that all that must wait until we restore legality. We say it should happen now as part of restoring legality.

Secondly, because we are unsure that military action can eliminate the coupists with the completeness that is necessary for normal life to resume and continue in our country for all times.

Thirdly, we would be legitimising the very act of force by engaging in it ourselves as a solution for our problems. Two wrongs do not make a right. If it is wrong to usurp power by the gun, it must be wrong to use it to take it back unless it is specifically sanctioned within a legal framework. As far as I know even our regional organisations - the OAU and ECOWAS - are still grappling with the appropriate legal framework for such cases. We have to acknowledge that things will never return to the status quo before the coup. Just as we will have to refurbish our bank and the State House, to name a few, so it is going to be with reshaping and re-establishing all the personal and other relationships that have been broken by this event, but even before that the devastation that had been caused by the war which preceded it. I personally do not see what difference military intervention will make to help us deal with these issues. We will never turn the clock back to Sunday 25 May.

I therefore plead with you, Mr President, not listen to these people who feel they are the ones who’ve got it right. Nobody has! That is the reason why we have this disaster in our country. If we had got it right in the first place we would not be discussing the merits and demerits of warfare between our peoples. Everybody has made mistakes in the past. Only, we are loathe to accept this fact.

You are no doubt aware that I do not support the arming of Kamajohs for a fight with the soldiers. I suspect that your own inclination is also against that sort of thing as the answer to our problem. I know that you, like me, abhor the unnecessary loss of lives that has taken place during six years of war in our country. I applauded you when you said on BBC Focus On Africa, that you did not want further bloodshed in that country, when the interviewer put the specific question to you about whether or not you were calling on kamajohs to go to Freetown to restore your Government. "No" you said "There has been too much bloodshed". That was a courageous statement. Then later in the evening, on another edition of the same programme, I heard your deputy Minister of Defence contradicting you when he said something like "I do not want to appear as if I am contradicting my President" - but he was! - and he then implicitly incited Kamajohs to go to Freetown to restore "their government". He was not being helpful. Whenever there is a prospect of bloodshed, on whichever divide it is likely to occur, it should revolt us and we should try to minimise and avert it. But Hinga Norman is an ex-military man who thinks differently on these issues. I think the involvement of innocent Kamajohs in internecine warfare that could conceivably continue in the foreseeable future should be discouraged. I believe you are well placed to restrain this man and other war mongers who are only pouring more petrol on a country engulfed in flames.

Your initial recourse to the power of diplomacy was the correct one. However long it took, it would have been preferable for continuos pressure to be put on the regime in Freetown. You more than most people in our country know the power of diplomacy and how it can work to resolve some of most intractable problems without the use of naked force. That’s where you should have continued to place your faith. If I had been asked for your advise, I would have told you that your first port of call should have been the UN where you are no stranger. There you should have demanded, as Head Of State, to address an emergency meeting of the Security Council with a plea for your immediate re-instatement. Then, maybe, all this unilateral action by the new bully of West Africa - Nigeria (Abacha is no friend of yours because he is a dictator and you are definitely not one!) - would have been averted. I would not have advised you to invite Nigerians to invade and bombard our country.

As it is now, our country has already suffered the first bout of many-more-to-come destructive encounters with Nigeria and Kamajohs. It is bound to destroy the few remaining oases of prosperity in our already wafer-thin infrastructure. I just hope our friends in the West have a kind of Marshall Aid Plan to help us rebuild a new country should the feared war with ECOMOG implode.

Finally Mr President, I have heard rumours that Corporal Foday Sankoh has, again, been moved from his salubrious environs of house arrest in Abuja to more austere conditions in northern Nigeria, close to the Chadian border, at Kuje. I do not know if this is true but I think it is wrong for a key party to our problems - hence its solution - however despicable we think he is, to be kept away while serious havoc is being wreaked upon everyone in his name. The current situation in our country requires his presence whether to answer or deny any charge against him and his organisation, or his full participation in seeking a final resolution of this matter. I urge you to persuade General Abacha to release him.

I am hopeful and praying that that you and the rest of our fugitive citizens will soon return to Sierra Leone where we all truly belong. I wish you and your dear wife well, until we meet again on the soil of our dear motherland.

Yours sincerely

Razormouth

Sylvester Rogers is the BBC Focus on Africa’s reporter with the indomitable and fearless spirit. But for him, most of Sierra Leone would have been in the dark about the state of the war in the North since the authorities would rather have kept everything under wraps and everyone else in the dark. A no-nonsense reporter, his accounts were measured in tone, and precise in content. Every word used was weighted carefully and not wasted. He gave the facts, and did not go simply by hearsay. He went to the location of incidents to see for himself and talk to eye witnesses, usually victims. Rogers was not always popular with governments. His reports regularly wrong-footed the authorities but he never allowed himself to be intimidated. He has rendered sterling quality service to Sierra Leone. Focus On Sierra Leone commends him for his bravery, and the fairness and accuracy of his reporting.

Since the coup d’état, nothing has been heard from him on the programme. The last time he was heard was when he reported that threats had been made on his life by armed men in the North who were sympathetic to the coup makers in Freetown. We wish him well.
 
 

The 7 habits of highly effective Sierra Leoneans

I have just read a copy of Stephen R Covey’s best-selling The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Imagine my disappointment to learn that according to Covey’s guidance, we Sierra Leoneans for the most part don’t make very effective people. Few would argue with Covey’s seven-point plan. Even fewer should argue that, in this our darkest hour, we could borrow a thing or two from him.

Let me take the liberty to apply Covey’s advice (which he directs to the individual but which is equally applicable to our society) to explain what I mean. Below I outline his seven habits:

Habit 1: Be proactive - By this Covey says we are responsible for our own lives. He talks of respons-ability, no matter what happens to us, the power (indeed the duty) to respond lies with us. In fact, the opposite of proactive is reactive. Reactive people transfer responsibility to others. To Nigeria I wonder? To ECOMOG? To Britain, our former colonial masters? In fact, to anyone but ourselves, it seems. As proactive people I think Covey would advise us to take full responsibility for solving our crisis. Of course, if we consider it appropriate we could call on others for assistance, but we should at all times remain in the driving seat. In addition to calling on some rather odd bedfellows to solve our problem for us, I can think of numerous strategies that some of us have deployed in recent weeks to shirk our responsibilities. (1) The RUF has Liberians and Burkinabe in senior positions. I.e. They are foreigners, and therefore, not our problem. (2) They are animals, demon, inhuman, drug addicts, beasts (take your pick). The social forces that produced the AFRC, RUF and other lawless elements that have been on raping, looting, pillaging and killing rampages recently are all somehow completely alien to us and have taken us completely by surprise. The increasing levels of injustice, inequality, corruption, unemployment, underemployment, frustration for so many that have characterised our society in recent years have nothing to do with the developments leading up to, and since, the May 25 coup.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind - By this I understand Covey to mean that we should have a vision of where we are trying to get to before starting out on a mission. What kind of a Sierra Leone do we really want? Indeed, do we want Sierra Leone at all? If we really do, then we should be thinking of solutions that renew the foundations of national unity rather than undermine them. If we begin with the end in mind, and the national good is to that end, do we really think the kamajohs, or the Kapras, aided and abetted by the Nigerians, are the answer? I understand Covey to mean that we should work from first principles rather than putting in place yet another quick and dirty fix that simply papers over the sores, leaving them to fester, rot even further and erupt again in the future.

Habit 3: Put first things first - What are the really important things, as opposed to those that are just urgent, that we should attend to now? Covey suggest that we concentrate as much of our efforts on those things, often not urgent, that are the most important. Things like preparation, prevention, and planning. Every situation, no matter how terrifying, life-threatening or unwelcome, contains within it valuable lessons that we can take from the situation. Our current crisis presents us with clear threats (to which we are reacting rather than being proactive) and opportunities. We have the opportunity to search out a sustainable solution to our long-term problems. Paying more attention to the important things in life may prevent us from having to put out the fires of urgent crises in future.

Habit 4: Think win-win - Covey urges us to think win-win. Not win-lose (my gain is your loss, this is a zero-sum game and I cannot let you gain anything); lose-win (I capitulate to you and you walk away with a victory, but I’ll be back); lose-lose (if I can’t have what I want, you certainly can’t have it either). If we don’t find a win-win situation in Sierra Leone we’ll be here staring into the abyss again sometime soon. Ultimately, whenever significant groups feel excluded or marginalised, they begin to plot their own rise to power. And when they get it, they think win-lose and make sure everyone else is excluded, thereby sowing the seeds for the next crisis. We all need to think win-win, because when you have two elephants, whether they are dancing or fighting, its the grass that gets flattened. We all have a stake in a win-win solution.

Habit 5: Seek to understand, then to be understood - We have certainly made our own horrors about the coupists and their actions, but have we listened to the AFRC and the RUF? Have we understood them? Do we really think that isolating them and yelling at them to get out is an effective strategy to solve this problem? Do we understand the difference between negotiating and issuing an ultimatum? Covey urges us to get inside the other person’s frame of reference, to look out through it, to see the world as they see it, and to understand how they feel. This does not mean that we must agree with the other person, simply that we must try to understand them. We seem to be practising the cornered rat approach to conflict resolution: push them into a corner and see how sharp their teeth are. The people who are really key to solving this problem have spent the last two months exchanging insults and threats. There have been no effective negotiations to date.

Habit 6: Synergise - Covey says that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Valuing differences is the essence of synergy. Synergy is the crowning achievement of all previous habits. Sierra Leone could really go places when we learn to work with each other’s differences rather than seeking to constantly eliminate and undermine those differences and surround ourselves with people like ourselves as much as possible.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw - If we can put in to practice habits 1 to 6, then the final challenge is to keep the fire burning: to renew ourselves regularly. Of course, from our position right now, reaching Habit 7 may seem a long way off. Nonetheless, reading Covey’s book suggested to me that we have a rare opportunity to turn this situation around and become effective Sierra Leoneans.

P Ferguson
London, UK


PLEASE LET THEM GO

Eight people are still being held by the RUF after their abortive attempt to overthrow Foday Sankoh as leader. The plan, in which the ousted government was implicated, boomeranged and led to their capture. Since then nothing has been heard of them or their fate.
 Focus is extremely worried because, as we went to press, we heard rumours, by no means wild ones, that the men were recently tried and that possibly three of them had been sentenced to be executed. We are unable to confirm this report but we propose to take discreet steps to find out the true situation.
  We are therefore mounting a special crusade to put pressure on both the AFRC and the RUF, but especially on the AFRC to impress on their allies in the RUF, to release these people as a gesture of goodwill.
  Focus makes this special appeal in the light of the RUF’s recent publicly professed acts of contrition for the crimes, they admit, they committed against innocent Sierra Leoneans during the civil war. Let humanity rule now in their hearts and let them set their captives free.
  We have also recently called for the release of Corporal Foday Sankoh by the Government of Nigeria. We believe he is a missing pivot in any plan for dialogue to bring the present impasse to a satisfactory conclusion. His continued detention could be counter productive to current moves for peace and reconciliation.



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