The Sierra Leone Web


February 2000

29 February: RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh insisted on Tuesday that his recent trip to South Africa was made for health reasons and not to sell illicit diamonds. "I had to travel to South Africa for a check-up," Sankoh told reporters. The former rebel leader was expelled from South Africa last week at the request of the United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee, which complained that Sankoh had violated an international travel ban on former AFRC military junta members. Sankoh said he had gone to South Africa on the advice of a doctor he consulted in Ivory Coast. He related that he suffers from high blood pressure caused, he said, by a bout of typhoid he contracted in 1997 while he was detained in Nigeria. Sankoh challenged the right of the United Nations to restrict his movements, and he accused President Kabbah of raising the issue to tarnish the reputation of the RUFP. He claimed that the travel ban on former junta members was out of place as they were now part of the government. Sankoh added that he himself had a diplomatic passport.

Zambia will send 800 soldiers to Sierra Leone to join the UNAMSIL force, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba announced in Lusaka on Tuesday. "We are basically a peace-keeping nation," Chiluba told reporters at Lusaka International Airport upon his arrival from an extraordinary meeting of COMESA heads of state in Egypt. "Although the Zambian army is highly professional, the Zambian troops are expected to gain much exposure in Sierra Leone," he added. Zambia will also contribute troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chiluba said.

De Beers, the giant diamond company which mines 50 percent of diamonds and controls the sales of 70-80 percent of the world's diamond output, said Tuesday it would guarantee that the uncut gems it sells through its London-based Central Selling Organisation did not originate in rebel-held territories. Buyers at ten annual "sights" (diamond sales) will be told that the diamonds in their box had not been purchased in breach of United Nations resolutions and did not come from any area of Africa controlled by rebel forces fighting against a legitimate government, the company said. The diamond industry has come under increased pressure recently, both from the United Nations Security Council and from pressure groups such as Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, who point out that illicitly-mined diamonds have fueled conflicts in Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States, the world's largest consumer of diamonds, is also considering legislation which would force diamond companies to identify the origin of their gemstones. De Beers spokesman Andrew Lamont said Tuesday the company was confident it could ensure the diamonds it sold came from legitimate sources. "The stream of goods coming to De Beers is one which we are happy will bear any scrutiny from anybody," he said. Last week, De Beers Director Tim Capon told Radio Australia that his company had closed its offices in Angola, Guinea and Congo, and had instructed its buyers in Antwerp not to buy informal sector diamonds coming out of Africa. "I think we’re in a situation where we can say with complete confidence that we are not buying any diamonds which by any stretch of the imagination could be said to have helped any rebel force in any part of the world," he said. But another diamond mining executive, Ashton Mining CEO Doug Bailey, disagreed. "The total market generates something like 860-million polished diamonds in any one year," Bailey told Radio Australia. "Some of the proposals I’ve seen is that a certificate would follow all diamonds all the way through to that finished process, and that’s just not practical. One example I saw was a simple tennis bracelet, which has a number of small stones on it, would require on average 30 separate certificates of origin." Partnership Africa Canada's Ian Smillie also pointed to the difficulties in determining a diamond's actual country of origin. "It’s virtually inconceivable that one way or another, De Beers probably are picking up some Sierra Leone diamonds," he said. "They’re not doing it deliberately, but they said two things: they said it’s impossible to say where diamonds come from once you get a mixed package of diamonds, you can’t say where they come from. On the other hand, they say they’re not buying any diamonds from Sierra Leone. How would you know, if you get a mixed package of diamonds and don’t really know where they come from in the first place? How can you be so sure you’re not getting any from Sierra Leone?"

28 February: RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh flew back to Sierra Leone on Monday, a United Nations spokesman said in New York. Sankoh was expelled from South Africa last week after the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee complained that he had violated an international travel ban on former members of Sierra Leone's military junta. Sankoh has insisted that his visits to Ivory Coast and South Africa were for medical reasons. According to the U.N. statement, Sankoh reportedly landed at "an airport outside Freetown" and was preparing to return to the capital by road, accompanied by his supporters.

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has sent a "strong protest" to the RUF concerning "repeated blockage of U.N. personnel who in theory have complete freedom of movement," a U.N. spokesman said in New York on Monday. The protest followed an incident on Saturday where RUF fighters blocked 17 Ghanaian peacekeeping troops and 7 military observers on the Kenema - Koidu road. The RUF would not allow the peacekeeping troops to either advance or withdraw, but finally ordered them to leave, the spokesman said. He added that the U.N. troops arrived safely back in Kenema on Sunday morning.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern Monday about a 36 percent shortfall — $81 million — in funding for humanitarian operations in Africa, and appealed to the donor community to move quickly to meet the needs of a growing number of African refugees in urgent need of food assistance.

27 February: The Sierra Leone government will consider conducting an investigation into RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh's trip to South Africa last week to determine whether he went there to sell illegally mined diamonds, Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said on Saturday. "All we know is that the RUF is continuing to carry out illegal mining particularly in Kono district," Spencer said. "On the case that Sankoh took with him diamonds to South Africa, the government will look into whether the police can investigate." Sankoh has insisted that his visit to South Africa was made solely for medical purposes.

26 February: RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh has rejected suggestions that his recent visit to South Africa was made for the purpose of buying arms in exchange for diamonds. "We did not preach against corruption and a rotten system only to turn around and corrupt ourselves to the detriment of the people of Sierra Leone," Sankoh said in a February 24 letter to the moral guarantors of the Lomé Peace Accord, forwarded to the Sierra Leone Web from the Ivory Coast on Saturday. "Further clarification on my trip out of Sierra Leone can be proved from all medical records and results from Abidjan and South Africa," he said. "I left for a medical trip and a big deal is made out of it." But, in a reference to the United Nations travel ban on members of the former AFRC military junta, Sankoh insisted: "I WILL (emphasis his) have to travel to solicit support for the successful operation of the RUFP as a political party in Sierra Leone." In his letter, Sankoh again argued that the peace agreement envisaged only an expanded ECOMOG force, and expressed concern that ECOWAS and ECOMOG had "handed over the situation in Sierra Leone to the United Nations." He called UNAMSIL's new mandate "highly threatening and not welcomed on any front," accusing the U.N. of intervening "with all kinds of threats" and of not respecting the sovereignty of Sierra Leone. Sankoh also complained to the moral guarantors that the Sierra Leone government had so far failed to implement provisions of the Lomé Peace Accord designed to transform the RUF into a political party and to allow the RUFP to participate effectively in the government. "All efforts are openly made by the Government of Sierra Leone to frustrate the commencement and positive operation of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development," Sankoh said. RUFP ministers had still not received housing and transport facilities, "other positions such as the diplomacy, parastatals, etc. have not yet been given to nominated members from the RUFP by the SLPP Government of Sierra Leone," and a trust fund for "the RUF/SL to transform itself effectively into a political party" was still not operational, Sankoh said. "We call on the Moral Guarantors to be aware that all former SLA combatants are being assimilated into the new Sierra Leone Army and trained by the SLPP Government, without the consent of the RUFP," the letter said. "The RUFP also have not been offered any position in this new 'so-called' Sierra Leone Army, which is contrary to the Lomé Peace Agreement." Sankoh also accused humanitarian organisations of "practicing tribalism with the full support of the United Nations" by refusing to provide humanitarian aid in rebel-held areas of the country. "Sierra Leonean civilians stay in large numbers in these areas, and it is quite unfair for them to be castigated for political and tribal reasons," he said. "We understand that they were stopped by UNAMSIL to supply aid to the previous RUFP areas." Aid agencies, for their part, have pointed to harassment and a lack of security for their personnel in rebel-held areas, and complain they are still not allowed access to RUF-held areas in the east and north of Sierra Leone.

25 February: Human rights violations last year in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor "all show that the world has a long way to go before it fully adheres to the precepts of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights," the United States Department of State said in its Country Reports on Human Rights (1999), issued on Friday. The report was highly critical of human rights practices by both the Sierra Leone government and the RUF and AFRC rebel movements during the past year. "The Government's human rights record was characterized by serious problems," the State Department said in an overview of its findings. "Both government forces and ECOMOG forces operating in support of the Government committed extrajudicial killings and summarily executed suspected rebels and their collaborators. Government, CDF, and ECOMOG forces at times beat noncombatants. Prison and jail conditions remained harsh and sometimes life threatening. Government and ECOMOG forces continued occasionally to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily. Prolonged detention and long delays in trials, due to the inability of the judicial system to function, remained problems. The Government restricted freedom of speech and of the press, and harassed, arrested, and detained journalists for their coverage of security-related issues. Violence and discrimination against women and prostitution remained problems. Prior to the Lomé Accord, CDF units inducted child soldiers. Female genital mutilation continued to be a widespread practice. Discrimination against ethnic minorities persists. There was some forced labor in rural areas. Child labor persists. There were a few cases of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings by citizens, particularly in Freetown following the January attack." The report was even more harshly critical of Sierra Leone's rebel factions. "Before the signing of the Lomé Accord, AFRC and RUF rebels committed numerous egregious abuses, including brutal killings, abductions, deliberate mutilations, and rape. The rebels continued the particularly vicious practice of cutting off the ears, noses, hands, arms, and legs of noncombatants as a deliberate terror tactic and to punish those unwilling to cooperate with the insurgents. The victims ranged from small children to elderly women; in some cases, one limb was cut off, in others two limbs, typically two hands or arms. Many died from their wounds before they could obtain any form of medical treatment. Rebel forces abducted civilians, missionaries, aid workers from nongovernmental agencies, U.N. personnel, and journalists; ambushed humanitarian relief convoys; raided refugee sites; and extorted and stole food. Junta forces continued the longstanding practice of abducting villagers (including women and children) and using them as forced laborers, as sex slaves, and as human shields during skirmishes with government and ECOMOG forces. Boys were forced to become child soldiers. Rebel forces used rape as a terror tactic against women. Rebel atrocities prompted the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. As many as half a million persons have fled to neighboring countries to escape the civil conflict and remain outside the country on their own or in refugee camps, primarily in Guinea and Liberia. After the May cease-fire, insurgents committed similar abuses, particularly in the north and northwest of the country. Although the number of such reported abuses decreased, they still included murder, rape, mutilation, and abduction."

UNAMSIL complained Friday that local RUF commanders were still preventing the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers into the Eastern Province by manning illegal roadblocks "despite repeated assurances from RUFP Chairman Foday Sankoh that all such roadblocks would be removed." In a press release, UNAMSIL spokesman Philip Winslow noted that U.N. peacekeeping operations "rely on three main tactics: neutrality, persuasion and diplomacy" as well as "on the cooperation of the parties and a permissive environment." He noted that in an incident on 23 February, U.N. peacekeepers returned fire from a rebel group on Pepel Island, chased away rebels who were trying to loot a village, and freed a number of abductees. "This again demonstrates that when confronted with force at the tactical level, UNAMSIL does not hesitate to act forcefully to protect Sierra Leoneans in fulfilling its peacekeeping mandate," he said, but cautioned that neither UNAMSIL nor the RUF stood to gain from violent confrontations. "UNAMSIL again reminds all parties to the Lomé Agreement and their followers not to obstruct the movements of peacekeepers as they continue to deploy across the country," the statement warned.

24 February: United Nations peacekeeping troops involved in a confrontation with RUF fighters near the town of Bendu, between Kenema and Daru in eastern Sierra Leone, have retreated to nearby towns after being ordered to withdraw, BBC U.N. correspondent Jane Hughes reported late Thursday. "U.N. officials said the standoff began on Tuesday when a force of around three hundred rebels, armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, stopped two companies of U.N. peacekeeping troops as they tried to travel from the town of Kenema to Daru in eastern Sierra Leone," Hughes said in New York. "After a night on the road and hours of negotiations, the Revolutionary United Front force refused to back down, and officials say the three hundred or so U.N. troops have now been ordered to withdraw to nearby towns." Earlier, a United Nations spokesman in New York said some 300 heavily-armed RUF rebels had stopped two companies of UNAMSIL troops from India and Ghana between Kenema and Daru. The RUF troops, whose weaponry included rocket-propelled grenades, were "tactically deployed" on high ground above the U.N. soldiers, the spokesman said. UNAMSIL said it had contacted a former RUF officer, later identified as RUFP Trade and Industry Minister Mike Lamin, "who happened to be in the area," and said he had gone to the scene in an effort to resolve the standoff. In a separate incident, a Nigerian battalion of peacekeeping troops exchanged fire with rebels on the island of Pepel, Hughes said.

Aerial surveillance photos provided to the Sierra Leone Web late Wednesday night suggest active diamond mining underway in the RUF-held towns of Yengema and Tongo, nearly a month after RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh, in his capacity as Chairman of the government's Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD), announced a moratorium on all mining activities in the country. (Click on photo at left.) The photos, which were purportedly taken on February 18, also show an armoured vehicle, tentatively identified as a Pannard armoured six-wheeler with turret-mounted gun, parked at a mining site near Yengema Airfield.

United States President Bill Clinton signed a directive Thursday establishing a $10 million programme to train police forces in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and East Timor. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the programme would improve U.S. capacity to provide police training overseas in coordination with the United Nations. "Such help can be essential in enabling people who are emerging from a conflict to feel that their rights will be protected," Albright said. "The international community needs to identify and train units that are able to control crowds, deter vigilante actions, prevent looting and disarm civilian agitators." "Sierra Leone is going to get a chunk of this (money)," a diplomat observed to the the Sierra Leone Web.

The Sierra Leone government has ordered former SLA soldiers to report to the authorities for screening, the BBC reported on Thursday. It quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying the plan was to disarm them and probably reabsorb them into the new national army. In a statement issued on Thursday, the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) blamed overcrowding at the DDR camp in Lungi on former SLA combatants who wanted to rejoin the Army, and who were staying at the camp when they were not supposed to be there. The UNAMSIL commander of the Lungi Disarmament Centre, Major Frank Ofodile, also complained Sunday that some of the ex-combatants were staying at the centre with their families, thus occupying space that had been created for the demobilisation of ex-combatants. Another major problem, Ofodile said, was that some of those who had been discharged were reluctant to return home for fear of being attacked by those still carrying arms. According to the NCDDR, a total of 16,759 former combatants had been disarmed as of 21 February. The numbers included 3,522 ex-combatants from the RUF, 4,499 from the AFRC/Ex-SLA, 3,471 from the CDF, 3,804 from the current SLA and 1,463 others (including Phase I). 898 of the former combatants were children.

AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma reported told Parliament Wednesday that his troops might join forces with the U.N. to crush other rebels violating the ceasefire. "If there is any attempt by any one of the factions to derail the ongoing peace process, the former junta soldiers will join hands with the United Nations peacekeepers to crush them," a parliamentarian was quoted as saying. Reuters and the BBC quoted Koroma as saying he had kept some of his followers under arms at the AFRC's Okra Hill base to deter any attempt by the RUF to attack Freetown.

Since last November Caritas of Makeni has assisted 1,061 former child soldiers in its four care centres in Lungi, Lunsar, Makeni and Port Loko, Makeni Bishop George Biguzzi told the Rome-based Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) on Thursday. "Sixty percent of these minors have already been returned to their families," Biguzzi said. He added that the care centre in Lungi was currently hosting 327 former child soldiers who were unable to return to their villages because the towns were still under the control of armed groups. Meanwhile Lifeline West Africa, which operates an orphanage and school in Freetown to rehabilitate child soldiers, has released a CD, "Orphans of War," of songs by 70 of the boys residing at the home. "Maybe the children, when they hear themselves singing and...appealing to people, telling people to forgive them and telling people that they have forgiven those who gave them guns, those that [word indistinct] them atrocities, burned their homes. And they do forgive them," Lifeline Director Rev. Richard Cole told the BBC on Thursday. "And that coming out of them is actually helping them. And we just want them to be part of the solution now instead of who they’re part of, those that destroy the nation. We are now bringing them the other way around for them to be people who are getting involved to solve the peace that we are actually hoping for now."

23 February: Sierra Leone's Parliament approved draft legislation on Tuesday to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, called for under the terms of the Lomé Peace Accord. The commission, which will be composed of three international commissioners and four Sierra Leonean commissioners, will create an "impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law related to the conflict in Sierra Leone, from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the Lomé Peace Agreements," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York on Wednesday. He added that it was intended to promote reconciliation and healing, and to prevent a repetition of human rights abuses in the country. Experts provided by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson helped draft the statute which set up the commission.

Sierra Leonean-born heptathlon world champion Eunice Barber has been forced to withdraw from next weekend's European indoor championships in Ghent next weekend due to a thigh injury. "She still feels some pain in her thigh and we decided to give up because we want an Olympic medal this season rather than a European indoor title," said French team manager Richard Descoux. "We did not want to take any risks." Barber, a naturalised French citizen, was to have competed in the long jump and the pentathlon in Ghent.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Sama Banya has hailed South Africa's decision to expel RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh. "The Sierra Leone government commends and appreciates the South African government for the swift action taken in expelling Chairman Sankoh from South Africa," Banya said in Freetown, adding that the South African action demonstrated its "honest participation in Commonwealth summits" which contributed to ending Sierra Leone's civil war. The United Nations Security Council sanctions committee complained Friday that Sankoh had travelled to Ivory Coast and South Africa in violation of an international travel ban imposed in 1997 on members of Sierra Leone's former military junta, and called for him to be immediately returned to Freetown. Sankoh was put on an Air Afrique flight to Abidjan on Monday and is still believed to be in Ivory Coast.

22 February: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) appealed Tuesday for $145 million to support agricultural programmes in the world's poorest countries. The money would be used to fund the recovery of natural and man-made disasters in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo, East Timor, North Korea, Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda, an FAO statement said.

RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh's expulsion from South Africa should not affect the peace process, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said on state radio Tuesday. "Appropriate measures have been taken to resolve the matter amicably so that we can continue our peace process, as we would not allow the matter to spoil the process," Berewa was quoted as saying. "I know that Sankoh indicated to the president that he wanted to go to Abidjan, but he was advised to contact the U.N. Special Representative here for him to get clearance from the Security Council to enable him to travel. Sankoh did not wait for the modalities of approval to be worked out by the Security Council but left. Besides, he did not tell the President he was going anywhere beyond Abidjan." Oluyemi Adeniji, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sierra Leone, said that the U.N. Security Council had so far not seen fit to lift the international travel ban on members of the former AFRC military junta and their families. "It may well be that some of the countries which Chairman Sankoh has visited were not themselves aware of the existence of the ban anymore, which was why the Council had to call their attention and which also must account for the reaction of the countries concerned," he said, adding: "It is now the responsibility of the country where Mr. Sankoh may be to immediately ensure that he departs from it's territory."

21 February: RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh arrived in Abidjan aboard an Air Afrique flight Monday after being expelled from South Africa. On Friday the United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee on Sierra Leone informed the governments of South Africa and Ivory Coast that the former rebel leader's visit to their countries violated an international travel ban imposed in 1997 on members of the AFRC junta. According to BBC West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle, Sankoh was met at the airport by Ivory Coast's foreign minister, Christophe M'Boua, and then along with his wife, Fatou (Mbawe) Sankoh,was escorted by Ivorian government officials in the direction of his Abidjan residence. He was not allowed to talk to reporters because of the sensitive nature of his visit, Ivorian officials said. A spokesman for South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) that their mission had issued Sankoh a visa in the mistaken belief that the U.N. sanctions had been lifted. Reuters, however, quoted South African diplomats as saying Sankoh had originally been given a visa for medical care in South Africa and in recognition of his role in the Sierra Leone government following the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord. This was confirmed by a U.N. spokesman in New York. "Mr. Sankoh was understood to have gone to South Africa via Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on a visa issued on medical grounds. The authorities in South Africa arranged for his return to Sierra Leone after it was brought to their attention that he was not permitted to travel abroad," the spokesman said. Reuters quoted Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Sama Banya as saying Monday the Sierra Leone government had protested to South Africa and Ivory Coast over Sankoh's trip. Ivorian officials stated that Sankoh would remain in Ivory Coast overnight and would likely depart for Freetown on Tuesday. Sankoh had originally been expected to continue on to Ghana and Liberia, but the U.N. has called for his immediate return to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, RUFP spokesman Eldred Collins accused the U.N. of trying to damage Sankoh's image. "This is not the first time Chairman Sankoh is traveling out of Sierra Leone. After the signing of the peace agreement, he subsequently traveled to Algeria, Liberia, Libya, Saudi Arabia and recently, together with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, to Lomé," Collins said in a statement. He added that Kabbah was aware of Sankoh's need to travel for medical examinations.

Draft legislation to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be tabled by Parliament on Tuesday, President Kabbah told the United States' Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, David J. Scheffer, who is on a two-day visit to Sierra Leone. In a meeting on Monday, Scheffer told Kabbah that he had been following developments in Sierra Leone and was in the country to get a first-hand view of developments on the ground, according to Sierra Leone Broadcasting System (SLBS). He added that he heads the Atrocities Prevention Intra-Agency Working Group in Washington, D.C., whose primary function is to examine steps necessary to prevent killing and human rights abuses in conflict areas. Kabbah said that the government was considering setting up a human rights commission outside the judiciary, where human rights abuses could be addressed without people seeking revenge.

20 February: Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said Sunday that RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh had not informed the Sierra Leone government of his proposed visit to South Africa. The United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee said Friday that Sankoh's trip violated an international travel ban imposed on members of the country's former military junta and their families, and called for the rebel leader's immediate return to Freetown. Spencer told the Sierra Leone Web that as far as the government knew, Sankoh had gone to Abidjan for medical treatment. A source close to the RUF told the Sierra Leone Web on Friday that President Kabbah had been told beforehand of Sankoh's trip to South Africa which, the source said, "was arranged by Kabbah's nephew, Mohamed Kabbah." Other sources contacted in Freetown, however, expressed doubt that the president had been so informed.

19 February: Police clashed with illegal foreign currency traders in Freetown Saturday, arresting at least nine of the so-called "dollar boys" in an attempt to clear the city of black market currency dealers. According to BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana, armed police from the Special Security Division were deployed throughout the city, including Sackville Street, Siaka Stevens Street and Lightfoot Boston Street, where dozens of dollar boys ply a flourishing trade on street corners. Earlier in the week the government announced that stringent measures would be taken against persons involved in illegal currency transactions. "According to officials of the Ministry of Finance, the activities of these parallel market operators are behind the plummeting of the exchange rate, which currently stands at Le 2,500 to a dollar — more than 50% decline since the middle of last year," Fofana told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. He added that the dollar boys have been surviving in the illegal trade mainly because they are patronized by expatriate workers, non-governmental organisations and now United Nations peacekeeping troops, who are generally paid in hard currency. "The government has not limited its campaign to street battles with the dollar boys, but it has also put pressure on NGOs, foreign business interests and the peacekeepers to channel their foreign transactions through the banks," Fofana said, adding: "(The dollar boys) have vowed to defy the ban because, according to them, the government has not offered any alternative means of survival." Those arrested Saturday are expected to be charged in court.

18 February: A United Nations Security Council committee-of-the-whole set up in 1997 to implement and monitor sanctions imposed against Sierra Leone's former AFRC military junta decided Friday to question the governments of Ivory Coast and South Africa over why they had allowed RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh to enter their territory without U.N. authorisation. The committee, which met behind closed doors, also issued a statement urging "the return of Foday Sankoh to Sierra Leone immediately." U.N. Security Council Resolution 1171 imposed an international travel ban on leading members of the AFRC and RUF and their immediate families in June 1998. Sankoh, as well as RUFP spokesman Eldred Collins, had recently voiced complaints about the travel ban, which still remains in effect. Britain, which requested Friday's meeting, told committee members Sankoh had recently travelled to Ivory Coast and was now visiting South Africa. According to Liberia's Star Radio, Sankoh is also expected to visit Liberia. The Sanctions Committee chairman, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, was authorised to write to those countries' U.N. missions to ask why Sankoh had been allowed entry.

At least one of the two recovered Guinean BRDM-series armoured reconnaissance vehicles was returned minus its gun, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web on Friday. The two vehicles had been seized by the RUF last month from a Guinean battalion on its way to join the ECOMOG force. The BRDM is equipped with a 14.5-mm. KPVT machine gun capable of firing 500 rounds of ammunition a minute. Also recovered were 5 rifles taken from Kenyan UNAMSIL troops, the source said, adding: "That leaves 400-plus rifles to go." The source also confirmed a report of apparent intra-RUF shooting at Bumbuna. No details were available.

The Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF - Reporters Without Borders) has protested the arrest of two journalists in Freetown. According to RSF, Ayodele Lukobi-Johnson, managing editor of the Rolyc newspaper, and reporter Ayodele Walters were summoned to appear in a Freetown court. "They were immediately arrested, denied bail and taken to Pademba Road prison. They have been charged with 'sedition,' 'libel,' and 'publishing false news'." According to the BBC, the two were arrested in connection with an article which accused President Kabbah, then-Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama and then-U.N. Permanent Representative Dr. James O.C. Jonah of the ritual murder of a virgin girl in 1997 during AFRC junta rule. The aim, according to the paper, was to invoke supernatural powers to reinstate the exiled civilian government. An arrest warrant has been issued for the Rolyc's editor, David Njai, who allegedly wrote the offending article. 

Fake ex-combatants have been turning up at DDR centres in Port Loko, the pro-government Daily Mail newspaper reported on Friday. The false ex-combatants have reportedly been registering with locally-made single-barrel hunting guns in a bid to secure the approximately $300 in Transitional Safety Net Allowance (TSA) payments meant to help former combatants who have completed the DDR programme reintegrate into their communities. "The confusion now is whether or not the guns were indeed used by the so-called ex-combatants," BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "The game has been going on for some time now. This has been mainly responsible for the of swelling the number of ex-combatants at the centres." Current figures released by the National Committee on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) show 16,528 of an estimated 45,000 combatants registered, with a total of 8,171 weapons collected.

The World Bank announced Friday it was extending a $30 million credit to Sierra Leone to help finance the country's National Rehabilitation and Recovery Programme (NRRP) in the current fiscal year. "For Sierra Leone to embark firmly on a development and reconstruction track, up-front financial resources are critical," a World Bank statement said. "The Economic Rehabilitation and Recovery Credit (ERRC) is a quick-disbursing credit that would help provide critical balance of payments and budgetary support to finance part of the costs of the government's program to establish social, economic and protective security and help kick start the economy back into gear. The proceeds will allow the import of essential commodities necessary to relaunch the economy, including food products, petroleum products, raw materials and intermediate goods. The local currency generated will enable the government to restore basic services, including the restoration of law and order. The funds will also contribute to the transitional safety net for adult ex-combatants as they begin their re-insertion into civilian life." The World Bank loan is being extended through the International Development Association (IDA), the bank's lending arm to the world's poorest countries. The loan has a 40-year maturity rate, including a 10-year grace period.

17 February: The first U.N. child protection adviser has arrived in Sierra Leone, where she will work with U.N. peacekeeping troops who are trying to disarm thousands of former combatants, many of them children, the BBC reported on Thursday. While adults qualify for the government's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, children are supposed to undergo programmes to deal with the trauma they have experienced and their rehabilitation into their communities. More than 500 child soldiers have been processed through the DDR camps so far, and UNAMSIL is continuing to negotiate the release of more children still being held by the rebels. "Besides working with child soldiers and other children caught up in conflict, the advisors are tasked to train peacekeepers about children's rights and needs, in order to ensure that the soldiers themselves do not contribute to the abuse of children," BBC U.N. correspondent Mark Devenport wrote.

United Nations efforts to disarm fighters following conflicts need to pay special attention to helping child combatants return to normal life, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security Council on Thursday. According to U.N. figures as many as 300,000 children under the age of 18 may be serving as soldiers around the world. "The experience of children in armed conflict is generally characterised by enormous risk to their physical, emotional and social well-being," Annan said. "Even if they survive the rigors and risks of combat, they may suffer severe long-term psychological consequences." He added that reuniting children with their families and getting them proper counseling, education and job training should be a priority. Annan said the U.N. should also prepare to deal with girls who had been sexually abused and now had children of their own, and child soldiers who had become addicted to drugs. In his report, Annan noted that the U.N. had already recommended that child protection advisers be attached to U.N. peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Congo to deal specifically with the needs of child soldiers. This initiative should be a model for future peacekeeping missions, he said.

The DFID Emergency Response Team has identified two sites near Magburaka and Makeni for the construction of DDR centres, the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) said on Friday. Meanwhile, 1,351 more ex-combatants — 296 at Lungi and 1,055 at Port Loko — have received their first installments of the Transitional Safety Net Allowance (TSA) after going through the Pre-Discharge Orientation (PDO) process. According to the NCDDR press release, representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told NCDDR Executive Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai on Wednesday that the IMF was prepared to disburse a $14 million loan to Sierra Leone "if all goes well" in the peace process. Joseph Kakoza, Deputy Division Chief of the International Monetary Fund, and Byung Kyoon Jang, at economist at the IMF's African Department, paid a visit to the NCDDR on Thursday to assess progress in the DDR process. Kai-Kai told the IMF officials that "the peace process has a huge price," and expressed concern that 20 percent of the money needed for the current year had still not been secured. Kai-Kai stressed that the slow pace of disarmament was due to "the lack of security, especially in the north and east of the country, which has prevented the NCDDR from setting up disarmament and demobilisation centres there. Also, the unresolved question of who would be able to join the new Sierra Leonean army was slowing down the work in the D&D centres," according to the press release. He added that the government of Sierra Leone had contributed about Le 1 billion to the DDR process while the Multi Donor Trust Fund had received a total of $11.1 million from Western countries. The IMF previously disbursed a $20 million post-conflict loan to Sierra Leone on 17 December of last year. The IMF delegation is scheduled to leave Sierra Leone on February 21.

The United Nations has made Africa a priority in "very facet of its work," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to the National Summit on Africa, which opened Friday in Washington, D.C. "In the field of peace and security, the Security Council devotes more time and attention to Africa than to any other area, because unhappily Africa has more than its share of conflicts," Annan said in a statement that was delivered on his behalf by Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa. Annan said the Lomé Peace Accord signed last year between the Sierra Leone government and the RUF had brought a real, if still fragile, hope for peace in that country.. He added that the U.N. had a large peacekeeping force on the ground and was doing everything it could to help implement the accord. Meanwhile U.S. President Bill Clinton told the summit that the United States should do more to assist Africa in the areas of trade, debt relief, education, peacekeeping, and efforts to fight disease. "In this world, we can be indifferent or we can make a difference. America must choose, when it comes to Africa, to make a difference," he said. At the same time the White House issued a "fact sheet" on the Clinton Administration's record in Africa, which included providing over $100 million to ECOMOG for peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and working with African regional institutions bring about the Lomé Peace Accord. 

16 February: Sierra Leone's Parliament has adopted a resolution expressing "grave concern" over what it called the many obstacles posed by RUF and AFRC forces to the implementation of the peace process, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported on Wednesday. The Parliament resolved to extend an urgent invitation to RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma to hold immediate discussions. "The concerns, according to the mover of the motion... Dr. Ramandan Dumbuya, included the slow pace of the DDR programme due to the lack of cooperation on the part of the RUF/AFRC forces, their continuous occupation of large portion of the country preventing the free movement of the people from going about their normal lives, and that of the outright disregard for the Lomé Peace Agreement," SLENA said.

RUF rebels have turned over just two rifles and two armoured vehicles they seized in the past month from Kenyan UNAMSIL troops and a Guinean battalion on its way to join the U.N. peacekeeping force, U.N. spokesman Osman Lahai said on Wednesday. "The status quo regarding the seizure of weapons remains the same," Lahai was quoted as saying. Since January, rebel troops are reported to have seized over 500 rifles, either three or four armoured personnel carriers (according to different sources), trucks, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, and a truckload of ammunition.

The United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, David J. Scheffer, is scheduled to arrive in Sierra Leone on Sunday, reportedly to warn President Kabbah and RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh of the U.S.'s growing concerns over continuing atrocities in the country.

A cross-party committee of British parliamentarians suggested Tuesday that economic sanctions often hurt the innocent and fail to harm the governments they are aimed at. In its report "The Future of Sanctions," the Commons International Development Committee concluded that regional sanctions targeted on particular areas of individual countries have resulted in "catastrophic humanitarian consequences," especially in Sierra Leone and Burundi. "Sanctions, unless carefully targeted, have the capacity to kill more children than armed warfare," the report said.

United Nations peacekeepers not yet been deployed throughout Sierra Leone because UNAMSIL does not have enough troops, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, told Radio France International on Wednesday. "I believe that shortly the U.N. will increase the number of peacekeepers; only then will we be able to deploy our men in almost all areas," he said. "We will therefore open the way for international organisations, non-governmental organisations and most importantly for Sierra Leoneans themselves." Adeniji noted that if the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme was not concluded, it would be difficult for the country to hold elections in 2001. He added that UNAMSIL could not force the militias to disarm. "The disarmament process is a voluntary one and it is in line with the Lomé Peace Agreement," he said. "All parties involved in the conflict accepted to disarm their men. So at the moment each party should try and abide by the agreement." Adeniji said UNAMSIL, in collaboration with ECOMOG, would "take all necessary measures to ensure that nobody is armed." He declined to elaborate. Referring to a Guinean battalion which was disarmed a month ago by the RUF while on its way to join the UNAMSIIL force, Adeniji said: "We are going to discuss the issue with the Guinean troops. We shall brief them on the rules of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The government-owned Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) announced Wednesday the launching of a thrice-weekly commercial internet newspaper, "Sierra News." The publication is to be distributed by e-mail beginning on February 21.

15 February: RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh (pictured  left) held private talks in Abidjan Tuesday with Ivory Coast's military leader, General Robert Guei (right). The Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted an Ivorian official as saying that Sankoh arrived in Abidjan Monday on a private visit. The AFP reported that Sankoh was expected to leave for talks in Accra, Ghana "at an undisclosed date."

A UNAMSIL reconnaissance mission comprising five military observers and a platoon of Kenyan peacekeeping troops returned from Kono District on Tuesday, according to the Associate Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, Marie Okabe. The mission's primary purpose, Okabe said, was to assess the condition of the Freetown - Koidu highway. The mission was halted at an RUF roadblock 75 miles from Koidu. In order not to cancel the patrol altogether, the military observers and a U.N. information officer proceeded alone to Koidu.

An inter-agency mission visited the towns of Makeni, Magburaka and Matotoka from February 9-11 to assess food, health, education, water and sanitation needs, U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) representative Patrick Buckley told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). The mission included various non-governmental organisations, including the WFP and the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU). The needs assessment mission had originally been scheduled for February 1, but had been delayed after RUF members detained 20 UNAMSIL personnel based in Makeni for several hours and took weapons from them.

Germany will provide an additional DM 2 million ($1 million) towards Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, German Charge d’Affaires Conrad Fischer said in Freetown. During a meeting with Foreign Minister Dr. Sama Banya, Fischer said Germany would also donate an additional DM 1,438 ($720) for the German Technical Cooperation Programme (GTZ), according to a report by the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA)

RUF/RUFP leader Corporal Foday Sankoh told the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, on Saturday that the RUF's seizure of weapons from UNAMSIL troops had been done without his consent, Adeniji told the BBC on Tuesday. "He told me — and that was not the first time — that this particular one is done without his consent; that he does not agree with it, he does not agree with molestation of peacekeeping forces," Adeniji told the BBC's Focus on Africa Programme. "He thinks, and he agrees with me that it’s a dangerous thing anyhow to want to confiscate weapons from soldiers. So he gives the impression that these things are done without his permission, without his knowledge. And that is why I insisted that he should repeat whatever instructions he had given in the past to all his militants, that they should desist from such actions in the future and that whatever it is that they’re still holding of the weapons of the peacekeeping forces they should restore. And in fairness to him he did give that instruction in my presence during our discussion." In a separate BBC interview on Monday, Sankoh denied that his troops had been involved in the disarming of a Guinean battalion that entered Sierra Leone last month on its way to join the UNAMSIL force. Adeniji said UNAMSIL was as "as much as possible" going to avoid the use of force in these matters, but added: "That also depends on the cooperation and the good behaviour of the other side — of his boys. I know now that he himself has given these orders for them to desist from doing any of these things, so if any action is now taken, that action will be taken also when we say in accordance with his own wishes, because if he gives instruction I imagine that he wants those instructions to be obeyed. And if they are not obeyed and someone else who is also involved, who has been at the receiving end of the misbehaviour of his boys takes action, then I hope there will be no complaint. We will be working toward the same end of instilling discipline." The Special Representative characterised as "very frank" his February 12 meeting with Sankoh. "We have a way, two of us, you see, of trying to tell each other the facts as they really are," he said. "Each time I meet him I consider him as a brother, so I give him straight. And he gives me straight. So we each know where the other stands, and how we assess things." Adeniji dismissed Sankoh's assertion that the RUF had not been consulted prior to the U.N.'s decision to send peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone. "He signed the Lomé Peace Agreement which envisaged the creation of neutral peacekeeping force consisting of both ECOMOG and U.N. troops," he said. "Now to turn around to complain every time and complain about the U.N. troops being sent to Sierra Leone without his consent or the agreement, I have told him really does not hold water."

14 February: Authorities have retrieved 565 rifles and three armoured personnel carriers seized by RUF troops last month from a Guinean battalion on its way to join UNAMSIL, President Kabbah was quoted as saying on Saturday. Military and diplomatic sources in Freetown told the Sierra Leone on Monday, however, that "high Sierra Leonean security" sources, ECOMOG and UNAMSIL were unable to confirm that the weapons had in fact been handed over. Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, has promised a "forceful response" if any more weapons are seized from U.N. peacekeeping troops. According to the Associate Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, Marie Okabe, Adeniji raised the issue of weapons seized from Guinean and Kenyan troops in a meeting Saturday with RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh, where he stressed the urgent necessity that they be returned. "He said that these practices contravene the Lomé agreement and insisted that they must cease or would invite forceful response," Okabe said in New York. 

RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh denied Monday that his men were responsible for disarming in January a Guinean battalion on its way to join the UNAMSIL force. "It is all fabrication, it is all fabrication," Sankoh told the BBC. "This is a malicious propaganda against the RUF. How would you expect the RUF to confiscate 500 [words indistinct], this is all lies. They do not prove it." Sankoh contended that two Guinean armoured cars had been abandoned on the highway. "That question (as to why they were abandoned) should be asked to the Guinean peacekeeping force. They are claiming that the arms were taken from them," Sankoh said. "I do not mind them. These people, they are just here to enjoy. Nobody is threatening them. Nobody is causing problem with them." He suggested that the weapons might in fact have been seized from the Guineans, but he denied his troops were involved. Sankoh again questioned the presence of United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone. "The people sitting in the United Nations pass resolutions without even informing the leadership of the RUF. Without consulting us," he said. "Look, in the Lomé Peace Accord, we agreed that ECOMOG should be transformed into a peacekeeping force and we have been working with the ECOMOG troops, especially the Nigerians. We have nothing against them. They are our brothers. We agreed the peace process would be going on gradually, but because of this United Nations peacekeeping force, who are here only to enjoy, even now you go to the beaches, you see them enjoying girls, enjoying women, going up and down with truck vehicles. They are just there speaking. What do you expect us to do? It should have been better that money to be used to ECOMOG troops and the combatants, then we will have an everlasting peace in this country." Sankoh argued that the money spent on U.N. peacekeepers could better have been spent on ex-combatants who were disarming. "(The presence of U.N. troops) is not important. As long as we the leaders are committed to the disarmament and the Lomé Peace Accord, why bring in all this armament and troops in this country?," he asked. "I have registered by movement into a political movement. So, I am not interested in getting arms or fighting again. Here I am called 'Sankoh Peace.' I am no more a guerrilla leader. I am a political leader."

As of Saturday, 9,093 former combatants had registered for the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, according to UNAMSIL.

Partnership Africa Canada, which last month published a report documenting the extent of illicit diamond sales and its role in fueling the war in Sierra Leone, has welcomed a commitment by the Antwerp (Belgium) High Diamond Council (Hoge Raad voor Diamant - HRD) to implement new measures to control the illegal diamond trade. Partnership Africa Canada's report, "The Heart of the Matter," was highly critical of the HRD, which it accused of ignoring the real origins of the diamonds imported into Belgium. The HRD's own figures show that between 1990 and 1998 the Antwerp diamond industry imported an annual average of 4,988,000 carats of diamonds from Liberia and 603,000 from Guinea. The diamond production of the two countries was estimated in 1998 to be 150,000 and 205,000, respectively. "We are doing everything in our power," HRD Director-General Peter Meeus told Belgium's Groot-Bijgaarden De Standaard. "It is no longer the time to start shouting about over this. We must get down to tackling the problem. Okay in the past we said that all we do here is trade and that the real problem lies in the country of origin. We must now also try and obtain better control over there. Hence our offer to set up a diamond control center in African diamond-producing countries. The High Council is not only prepared to partially finance this, but will also contribute know-how, computer programs, security systems, and training for the inspectors." Meeus said the HRD had submitted a proposal to Foreign Minister Louis Michel earlier in the week. The proposal, which was scheduled to be discussed at Friday's cabinet meeting, called for the Belgian government to conclude bilateral agreements with each of the African governments in question. For Angola, where a U.N. Security Council resolution bans the trade in illicit diamonds, Meeus said the HRD was introducing a new system of certificates of origin. "At the time of import a confirmation document is used to check again with the Luanda government whether the diamonds are legal," he said. "It will now also be impossible to forge this certificate. It is a new document, including a watermark, that will be produced in Switzerland. A third check here is customs investigations, importers also having to declare that they are not UNITA stones." He added that the HRD was also trying to introduce a sense of ethnics to the diamond trade. Meeus, who last month dismissed the Partnership Africa Canada report as "based on false rumours," told the Groot-Bijgaarden De Standaard that Belgium had stringent controls on the diamond industry to ensure transparency and to guard against corruption. "These people from [Partnership Africa Canada] have never been here," he said. "We invite them to come and look at our control system. Their criticisms just do not make any sense." "The HRD claim that 'the people from Partnership Africa Canada have never been here' is a bit ingenuous," report co-author Ian Smillie told the Sierra Leone Web on Sunday. "One of our principal researchers did go to Antwerp, but more to the point, much of our background research on Belgium was done by an Antwerp-based research organisation. We certainly had many discussions with the HRD people in Toronto and submitted a variety of questions in writing that were mainly ignored." Smillie said Partnership Africa Canada was pleased with the apparent movement on some of their concerns by the HRD and the Government of Belgium, adding: "We will certainly take up the HRD offer to visit for further discussion."

A visit to Port Loko by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) was scheduled for February 9 to review and make recommendations for further action in both the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) and the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) programmes, the WFP said in an update covering the period ending February 10. The WFP was twice forced to postpone delivery of food to 4,034 IDPs in the area amid growing security concerns at the Port Loko DDR site. The WFP also said that food aid to IDPs in the Western Area would be phased out in February for IDPs originating in areas designated as safe by the government. The WFP currently provides assistance to 28,320 IDPs in six camps around Freetown. The WFP, in collaboration with CARE, has completed the registration of some 34,000 people in 110 villages in Lower Yoni, Tonkolili District, in Northern Province with a view toward establishing how many returning residents of the region will need food assistance. "Lower Yoni was affected by fighting last year and farming activities were not possible," the WFP report said. "ICRC (the International Committee of the Red Cross) recently distributed farming materials. WFP food distribution is intended to support vulnerable families and to encourage people to resume farming." An inter-agency needs assessment mission to Makeni comprising the WFP, various non-governmental organisations and the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) scheduled for February 1 was postponed on the advice of UNAMSIL after the RUF detained 20 Makeni-based UNAMSIL personnel for six hours and took some weapons away from them, the WFP statement said. 

12 February: Seven ex-SLA soldiers have been arrested after allegedly attacking AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma at his Juba Hill residence, Koroma said on Saturday. "I was in my residence when seven of these guys came into the house, attacked me," Koroma told Reuters. He said the assailants threatened to shoot him, and demanded money they claimed had been given Koroma for his soldiers by the Sierra Leone government and international bodies supporting the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process. He said soldiers loyal to him had come to his aid and arrested the seven without a scuffle. No shots were fired. Earlier, an ECOMOG spokesman confirmed police had arrested four soldiers and were investigating allegations they had threatened to shoot Koroma. A press release issued by Koroma's office on Thursday identified the four as Major Junior George "Junior Lion" Johnson, Lieutenant-Colonel Foday Bah Marah, Captain Ibrahim "Abravo" Koroma and Major Alhaji Foday "Gunboat" Kamanda. "The attempt on my life would have created another chaotic situation in the capital Freetown, which would have led to a serious disturbance in which the international committees which have been helping Sierra Leone would have left the country," Koroma said. The AFRC leader suggested the soldiers were not acting on their own, but declined to speculate on who might be backing them, pending the outcome of investigations by police and ECOMOG. "I believe that these men's actions went beyond that (demanding money) as they have been supported by top politicians in the country to cause chaos," he said. In his Thursday press release, Koroma warned ex-SLA soldiers with bodyguards to limit them to two men only with immediate effect. "From February 10, anyone who fails to comply with this directive will be arrested by appropriate security forces and will immediately face the brunt of military discipline," the statement said.

The RUFP has "concluded arrangements with humanitarian organisations to go on a humanitarian mission throughout the entire establish their presence in the various locations and verify that there is no impediment to the movements of humanitarian workers," RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh said in a press release issued on Sunday. He did not name the humanitarian organisations, but added that the mission is "yet to take off." Sankoh said that due the limited facilities at the various Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) centres, the RUFP High Command had instructed its local commanders to collect all arms and ammunition from RUF combatants and to store them in "secure positions" until such time that they would be handed over to UNAMSIL and ECOMOG. Sankoh said he had briefed President Kabbah on the RUFP actions and called on the CDF, the SLA/AFRC "and other former combatants" to follow the RUFP lead.

11 February: Vice President Albert Joe Demby has rejected as "spurious" allegations made by the RUFP that he is actively involved in mining diamonds in the provinces, especially in Bo District. A press release issued by the Office of the Vice President on Friday attributed the original allegations to RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh which, it said, culminated in a statement made Wednesday by Sankoh's Special Assistant, Gibril Massaquoi, during a talk show on Voice of the Handicapped FM 96.2 Radio. "(Massaquoi) categorically alleged that the Vice President, Dr. Albert Joe Demby, was engaged in diamond mining in concert with Chief Hinga Norman and Mr. Fawaz and that he had documentary evidence to the effect," the statement said. "The Office is therefore requesting that the documentary evidence be forwarded to the office of the Attorney-General for appropriate action...The Office of the Vice President wishes to state categorically that these allegations are untrue, baseless and without any foundation."

Sierra Leone will face Togo in the preliminary round of the 2002 African Nations Cup in Mali, the Confederation of African Football said in Lagos, Nigeria on Friday. The first leg will be played July 1-2 and the return leg on July 15-16. Sierra Leone did not compete in the 2000 African Nations Cup which ends this weekend. 

10 February: Large numbers of RUF troops have been moving east from Makeni, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web on Thursday. "Most speculation is to Kono for a pre-rainy season blitz on the diamond fields," he added. An unsubstantiated report of the troop movements was first received by the Sierra Leone Web last weekend. The source also verified that a meeting last week between local RUF commanders and a mission which included RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh and ECOMOG field commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber took place in Kambia, not Kamakwie as originally planned. The purpose of the mission had been to retrieve arms, equipment and ammunition taken last month from a Guinean battalion on its way to join the UNAMSIL force. RUF commanders, however, denied any knowledge of the weapons.

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) successfully negotiated the release Wednesday of  fifteen more child combatants from ex-SLA soldiers "from a site in the Occra Hills," the U.N. said on Thursday. The children, eleven boys and four girls, some as young as eight, had been behind rebel lines for more than a year. Those children who said they had been fighting alongside the rebels were taken to a disarmament camp at Lungi, while the rest were taken to a child care centre. All were apparently in good physical condition. "Several combatants from different factions have told UNAMSIL they are eager to release all abductees and child soldiers and to enter the [DDR] programme," a UNAMSIL statement said. According to UNAMSIL, 81 children have been released so far this year.

About 30 Sierra Leonean students have been occupying the Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing for the past eight days in protest over what they say is the government's failure to pay them their living allowances, the BBC reported on Thursday. The students say they will prevent diplomats from returning to work after the Chinese New Year holiday "and to take further unspecified action" if their demands are not met. An embassy spokesman told the BBC the students were spending their vacation at the embassy, but denied they were staging a sit-in.

The National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) warned SLA ex-combatants Thursday against attempting to claim military salaries. "It has been noted that some people who have been through DDR have gone to Defence Headquarters to try to claim money to which they are not entitled," NCDDR Executive Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai said in a press release. "Former members of the SLA, who have been through the demobilisation programme, can claim any retirement benefits they are due, but not salaries. They are now entitled to reintegration support from NCDDR." He noted that records of those who had entered the DDR programme would be checked against any claim in order to eliminate potential fraud. "If ex-combatants make illegal claims they will face the full force of the authorities and NCDDR will take no responsibility for them," Kai-Kai added.

Plans to phase out food distribution to some displaced persons living in camps and around the Freetown peninsula are underway, the U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said in its situation report covering the period 17-30 January. According to the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), HACU said only displaced persons from safe areas or those wishing to return to their homes would not receive food. "Resettlement rations, food for work, food for training and related projects will be provided for those who wish to resettle," HACU said. "Those who live in areas that are still not safe will remain in camps and continue to receive support." 

The Information/Sensitisation Unit of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) visited Bo and Kenema from Friday to Sunday. "The decision to venture into the provinces, which is considered long overdue, was taken in response to the uncomfortable realisation that many people, including ex-combatants and their commanders, do not know much about the DDR programme," the NCDDR said in a press release. While SLBS has broadcast information on the DDR programme for five months, the station does not broadcast on the short-wave band and consequently is heard only in parts of the Western Area. Members of the Information/Sensitisation Unit met last weekend with the management of KISS 104 F.M. radio in Bo and SLBS 93.5 in Kenema in an effort to make information on the DDR programme accessible to ex-combatants in the provinces.

9 February: A mission conducted by the United Nations Mine Action Service has concluded that land mines in Sierra Leone pose a "limited problem" and can be dealt with by the UNAMSIL force, according to the Associate Spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Marie Okabe. "Although access has not yet been secured to all areas of the country, the assessment team has determined that landmines pose a limited problem in Sierra Leone," Okabe said in New York. "The team concluded that the landmine situation in Sierra Leone can be dealt with by the UN Mission in the country, and has recommended that a mine action information and coordination centre be established as part of the peacekeeping operation." The Mine Action Service conducted a survey of the country from January 30 to February 6 to assess the scope of the problem with landmines and unexploded ordinance. Okabe said the assessment team held discussions with the government, the warring factions, UNAMSIL and others. The team also travelled to Kabala, Kenema and Daru to investigate reports of unexploded ordinance.

More than 130 Sierra Leonean refugees are stranded at Tarvey, in lower Lofa County, Liberia's Star Radio reported on Wednesday. The refugees arrived in Tarvey last year after Liberian dissidents launched a cross-border incursion in the area. The refugees say they lack transportation to reach Sinje Camp in Grand Cape Mount County, and have complained of lack of food and medicines and poor living conditions. According to Star Radio, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resettled 12,000 refugees from Tarvey to Sinje last year.

A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) worker injured in an attack in Somalia on Monday had previously worked in Sierra Leone, MSF officials said on Wednesday. MSF officials declined to give his name, but MSF spokeswoman Olivia Verkade identified the victim as a 29-year old Frenchman who had worked with the charity for four years in Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Angola. She said he had been airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya for treatment. "There were 20 bullet holes in the car," Verkade told Reuters. "The expatriate was shot in the chest. He was then pulled out of the car and shot a second time in the side and left for dead." Meanwhile, U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Catherine Bertini told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that aid workers often had to risk their lives to save the lives of others. "In Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan, U.N. relief convoys have been hijacked and our drivers beaten or killed. In Angola and Afghanistan, our planes have been fired on. Our staff have been held hostage in Sierra Leone, the Balkans, the Great Lakes (region of Africa), the Caucasus and elsewhere," she said.

8 February: Nigeria will send 2,000 more troops to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, Nigerian Army Chief of Staff Major-General Victor Malu said Tuesday at the conclusion of a two-day visit to Sierra Leone. "Nigeria will provide two infantry battalions, a tank company and an additional 2,000 Nigerian soldiers," Malu told President Kabbah. As of 11 January, Nigeria had 4 military observers, 8 staff officers and 1,552 troops serving in the UNAMSIL force. Malu, himself a former ECOMOG commander, repeated Nigerian government assurances that the ECOMOG force would remain in Sierra Leone for an additional 90 days to ensure there would be no security vacuum as they handed over to UNAMSIL. Some of the estimated 5,500 ECOMOG troops remaining in Sierra Leone, most of them Nigerians, are expected to be incorporated into the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force.

RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh has warned former RUF combatants against attempting to destablise Guinea, Liberia's Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Sankoh reportedly told some 3,000 of his supporters at Kamakwie that war in Guinea would mean the interruption of the peace process in Sierra Leone, and threatened serious punishment for any of his followers who joined with Guinean dissidents to destablise their country. Sankoh told the RUF fighters that dissidents were planning to attack Guinea with the assistance of ex-combatants, but gave no details. 

Trade, Industry and State Enterprises Minister Mike Lamin has predicted that Sierra Leone's rice stocks will last only five months, Liberia's Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Lamin was quoted as saying he had proposed measures to contain a projected rice shortage, including the careful management of the government's allocation of foreign exchange.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukolade denied Tuesday that ECOMOG troops had been ambushed and disarmed by RUF rebels. A military source in Freetown referred over the weekend to two incidents, on January 21 and January 23, in which ECOMOG soldiers were disarmed by RUF and ex-SLA rebels, respectively. Olukolade, however, referred to a Guinean battalion ambushed "around 13 January" which, he told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), had come directly from Guinea to join the UNAMSIL force. He said the rebels had seized over 465 AK-47 assault rifles and up to three armoured personnel carriers and ammunition in that incident. Olukolade added that ECOMOG was trying to help UNAMSIL retrieve the weapons. ECOMOG officials and RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh travelled last week to Kamakwie to try to retrieve the weapons from RUF units which the Guineans accused of being involved, but Olukolade said the rebels in the area denied taking them.

7 February: The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt a British-sponsored resolution to increase the authorised strength of UNAMSIL from 6,000 to 11,100 troops. The increase was called for by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in December, after Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the United Nations that his government would pull all Nigerian troops out of Sierra Leone by the end of February. Nigeria later extended the deadline by 90 days. The United Nations peacekeeping force has also been given a more "robust" mandate, and will assume some of the security functions currently carried out by ECOMOG. UNAMSIL will provide security at key locations and government buildings including Lungi International Airport and sites being used in the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, and will coordinate with and assist local law enforcement agencies. The Council's resolution also invoked Article VII of the United Nations charter to affirm that U.N. peacekeepers "may take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and…to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence." U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hédi Annabi, said his delegation had started talks Monday with a high-level Nigerian delegation to discuss incorporation of Nigerian troops and equipment into the UNAMSIL force. The Council also extended UNAMSIL's mandate, as revised, by an additional six months. Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters that UNAMSIL's expanded mandate meant there was not expected to be a repeat of recent incidents in which rebels seized arms and equipment from UNAMSIL troops. In his address to the Security Council, Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ibrahim M. Kamara, said the government of Sierra Leone had been "seriously concerned" about the possibility of a security vacuum in the country following the withdrawal of ECOMOG before the deployment of a restructured Sierra Leone Armed Forces. "The new timetable for the withdrawal of the remaining Nigerian contingent of ECOMOG, as well as the Security Council’s decision to expand the military component of UNAMSIL to a maximum of 11,100 personnel, should allay some of our fears about the security of the state," Kamara said. He added that the Sierra Leone government welcomed the fact that UNAMSIL's revised mandate and additional responsibilities were backed by Chapter VII of the United Nations charter. "No one who has seen evidence of, or has read about the conflict in Sierra Leone should be surprised by our elation over the fact that the Security Council is again authorizing UNAMSIL to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence," Kamara said. "We consider this one of the most significant provisions of the new resolution." As of 11 January UNAMSIL had deployed 4,562 troops, 37 staff officers, and 220 military observers in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) said Monday it had despatched two reconnaissance teams to Kailahun and Koidu. While the mission to Kailahun was "warmly welcomed by all," the Koidu mission was blocked by rebels. UNAMSIL said it was continuing to use "dialogue and persuasion" to get through illegal roadblocks, but added that its "deployment countrywide" was a matter of priority. A U.N. spokesman in Freetown, Phillip Winslow, told the Voice of America that in the past week two UNAMSIL missions doing reconnaissance in eastern Sierra Leone had been turned back by local RUF members. "Some of the young former rebels who are in different parts of the country simply aren't getting the orders or are choosing not to obey the orders of the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, who is now in Freetown," Winslow said. "Foday Sankoh has in fact committed himself to the peace process and he has said on numerous occasions he has ordered his people to disarm and not to interfere with our movements. The word has not gotten all the way around yet and there's some local RUF people up-country who prefer not to listen to him." CARE's Deputy Director in Freetown, Jonathan Napier, told the Voice of America that the U.S.-based aid agency had been forced to curtail relief efforts because of continuing rebel activity. "I think getting full and unimpeded access to particularly rebel held RUF areas continues to be a problem," he said. "The security situation varies within RUF areas but certainly not all RUF areas are considered safe and are not considered to be areas where we would get unimpeded access in terms of being able to provide targeted humanitarian assistance."

6 February: One day before a scheduled vote by the United Nations Security Council to increase the authorised size of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), U.S., British and some U.N. officials have expressed concern that the U.N. troops responsible for disarming combatants are themselves regularly being stripped of their weapons by rebel forces. According to the Washington Post, Kenyan and Guinean troops in the past month have surrendered at least 110 assault rifles, several rocket-propelled grenade launchers, four armoured personnel carriers, communications equipment and other military gear in at least three ambushes. In each instance, the U.N. troops put up no resistance. The U.N. troops' passive reaction is raising concern in the U.S. Congress about the fitness of UNAMSIL to carry out its mission in Sierra Leone. The United States pays one third of United Nations peacekeeping costs, and would pay an additional $180 million under a British-sponsored resolution to increase the size of UNAMSIL from 6,000 to 11,100 troops. "Is an increase in the force going to do any good?" asked Representative Tony Hall, who visited Sierra Leone recently. "That's a lot of money, and their record hasn't been so hot." On Thursday, CIA Director George J. Tenet told Congress that the rebels are "poised to break a tenuous cease-fire and resume a campaign of terror." U.N. officials have responded that the Kenyans were greatly outnumbered in two ambushes, while the Guinean troops had not yet come under U.N. command. ""Should they turn this into a fight that they knew they were going to lose?" asked Oluyeme Adeniji, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone. "Or do they let them have it, knowing we will get the weapons back?" The Washington Post acknowledged that both the amount of weaponry and seized the number of incidents may have been under-reported. Deborah DeYoung, an aide to Hall, said he had received "credible reports" that nearly 500 AK-47 rifles, 20 grenade launchers, and several vehicles, including a truckload of ammunition had been seized. A military source in Freetown at the weekend described six such incidents involving U.N. and ECOMOG troops since mid-January. On 1 February, Kenyan troops on the road between Lunsar and Makeni were stripped of 5-6 rifles plus money and personal items, he told the Sierra Leone Web. On January 23 SLA troops at Mile 91 seized 6-7 ECOMOG rifles. On 21 January Kenyan UNAMSIL troops watched as the RUF detained and disarmed seven ECOMOG soldiers. On 19 January Kenyan troops at Makeni surrendered 5 rifles. On 14 January Kenyan troops travelling from Magburaka to Freetown lost 57 rifles, blankets and other supplies to the RUF. And also on 14 January a Guinean battalion entering Sierra Leone was stopped at by the RUF at Kambia. According to the source, the Guineans turned over 8 trucks, 6 jeeps, 4 armoured personnel carriers, 485 AK-47 rifles, 20 rocket-propelled grenades, 12 machine guns (either PKM or DSHK) and a DAF (Dutch five-ton truck) truck filled with ammunition. "The rebels told the Guinean commander that they would give the weapons back if he gave them fuel," the source said. "(1,000 gallons of) fuel was brought in and the rebels took it and kept all the weapons too." He added that: "One UNAMSIL battalion of 500 plus arrived in Sierra Leone with no weapons at all."

The World Bank has pledged up to $130 million to repatriate refugees and to assist with Sierra Leone's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, World Bank Vice President for External Affairs Mats Karlson said in Freetown on Sunday. Karlson made the pledge at the end of a two-day fact-finding mission in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia by officials of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "From what I saw, the (DDR) camps need urgent assistance," Karlson said. He explained that former combatants were arriving at the camps faster than they could be accommodated. "We need to speed up rapidly, to give them education — give them something to think about," he said. Karlson said the World Bank money would also be used to help repatriate some 400,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea and Liberia. "We have to move fast, not just on demobilisation, but giving support to the people who have been demobilised so that we can get normal economic life going as fast as possible," he said. Deputy UNHCR High Commissioner Frederick Barton said the visit had provided a unique opportunity to assess the situation at first hand on behalf of international organisations involved in the peace process. "We have come to recognise that the next few weeks or months will require the full commitment of all Sierra Leoneans and friends around the world to bring the peace process forward," Barton said.

5 February: The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a British-sponsored resolution to increase the authorised strength of UNAMSIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, from 6,000 to 11,100. 

4 February: A female ex-combatant has died and three male former combatants are in serious condition following a grenade explosion on Tuesday at the Port Loko South Disarmament Centre, state radio reported on Friday. Meanwhile, a 12-year old boy has suffered "extensive body injuries" after stepping on a land mine in the Freetown suburb of Yams Farm. According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Sullay Kargbo underwent emergency surgery on Wednesday, but surgeons were unable to save his left eye. At least 20 persons have died in landmine explosions since 1998, according to the local non-governmental organisation Save Heritage and Rehabilitate the Environment (SHARE).

Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Fode M. Dabor, presented his credentials Friday to Ethiopian President Dr. Negaso Gidada, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported. Dabor, who last served as Sierra Leone's United Nations charge d'affaires, will also be accredited as his country's representative to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). He also presented his credentials Friday to OAU Secretary-General Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim and to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Dr. K.Y. Amoako.

3 February: A grenade explosion Tuesday at the Port Loko South Disarmament Centre has left one man dead and nine others injured, the BBC reported on Thursday. According to BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana, the incident occurred when a female inmate at the camp removed the safety cap on a grenade she was concealing. The injured have been taken to Connaught Hospital in Freetown. A press release issued Thursday by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) called the incident "tragic", and warned ex-combatants that turning over single grenades would no longer entitle them to enter the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) process. "The disarmament process is based on the principle of one combatant, one weapon or a specific number of people for a group weapon," the NCDDR statement said. It said a minimum of 20 grenades could qualify an ex-combatant for the DDR process, while a single grenade "will be collected, but it will not qualify an ex-combatant for DDR." 

U.S. President Bill Clinton announced his intent Thursday to nominate a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone as his country's Ambassador to Malawi. Roger A. Meece, a career diplomat with extensive experience in Africa, is currently Director of the Office of Central African Affairs at the U.S. State Department.

2 February: United Nations human rights monitors say former rebel fighters are continuing to rape, loot and mutilate civilians in Sierra Leone. The two monitors, who returned from a fact-finding mission to Port Loko and other former rebel-held areas of the north on January 20, said in their report that the security situation had deteriorated since a New Year's lull which they attributed to U.N. peacekeeping patrols and payments to demobilised combatants. "There have been almost daily reports of looting of villages, house burnings, harassment and abductions of civilians, rape and sexual abuse," the monitors said. According to the report, some 2,000 former rebels looted a dozen villages in the Port Loko areas and in the northwest of the country, and abducted civilians out gathering food, water and firewood. Men were compelled to do manual labour while women and girls were often raped and forced to cook and clean for the fighters.  Last week's meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), charged under the Lomé Peace Accord with monitoring the peace process, alluded to "a relative reduction in the cases of kidnapping, hostage taking, and rape." A diplomatic source in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Web that "There clearly has been a dramatic decline. The problems are now renegade groups that are engaged in banditry." According to the BBC, however, "U.N. human rights experts" are blaming the most recent abuses on the followers of RUF leader Foday Sankoh and AFRC leader Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma. Human Rights Watch, in urging the JIC last week to take greater account of human rights abuses in its assessment of the peace process, said it had "documented scores of abuses including murder, mutilation, abduction, rape, and massive looting and displacement of the civilian population around the areas of Port Loko, Makeni, Kambia and Kabala." According to the U.N. report, most women arriving at displaced camps needed to be treated for sexually-transmitted diseases contracted as a result of rape and sexual abuse. "Cases of rape-related pregnancy are so frequent that they cannot be counted," health workers were quoted as saying.  U.N. human rights workers said medical and psychological treatment should be made available to girls and women who had been victims of violence. They also recommended that a U.N. human rights field monitor should be deployed in the area. In Kabala, a human rights officer was quoted as saying systematic kidnappings and rapes had subsided but that the situation remained "highly volatile," with large numbers of disarmed fighters harassing civilians as they sought food and shelter. In some RUF-controlled areas, rebels regularly demand "taxes" from residents in the form of rice, cattle and money, the report said.

The UNAMSIL team secured the release Tuesday of 37 child ex-combatants, including one girl, who had been held by AFRC rebels at their Okra Hill base, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. Some of the children appeared to be malnourished. Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, said the children were taken to Freetown and handed over the the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). This was the second release negotiated by UNAMSIL this year. On 22 January, 29 children were released at the same location. UNICEF estimates that about 5,000 children, some as young as five, have been involved in the Sierra Leone conflict. Of some 4,000 missing children, 55 percent are documented cases of abduction. In 1999, 801 children were released to UNICEF by rebel forces, Eckhard said.

Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Major-General Victor Malu left Wednesday for a two day visit to Sierra Leone, according to a report in Nigeria's Guardian newspaper. Malu served as ECOMOG force commander in Liberia and Sierra Leone until he was replaced in January 1998 by Major-General Timothy Shelpidi. While in Sierra Leone, Malu is expected to call on President Kabbah and to hold talks with ECOMOG and UNAMSIL commanders. In a departure from previous tours, he will also inspect Nigerian troops deployment outside the capital, the Guardian said. Nigerian soldiers make up the bulk of the remaining ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone and, as of 11 January, 1,564 of the 4,819 UNAMSIL personnel currently deployed in the country.

1 February: Drug and alcohol abuse is creating serious health problems for former combatants in Sierra Leone, according to Rabih Torbay, Country Director for the International Medical Corps (IMC). Torbay told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) that ex-combatants often complained of chest pains, and that the former fighters often acknowledged that they smoked marijuana. IMC operates primary health care clinics outside some demobilisation camps to treat ex-combatants, civilians and displaced persons. "There is a need for more activities in the demobilisation camps," Torbay said. "These would distract the inmates and help to prevent substance abuse." He added that other frequent health complaints among the ex-combatants included malaria, sexually-transmitted diseases and acute respiratory infections.

Last week the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Oluyemi Adeniji, issued a strongly-worded statement critical of a speech given in Makeni by RUF/RUFP leader Foday Sankoh. Adeniji accused Sankoh of making "wild allegations" against the U.N. and of having "launched an unwarranted personal attack" on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan "in terms most unbecoming a leader." Adeniji also took exception to Sankoh’s use of "the revolutionary rhetoric of the 1960s," and suggested that the former rebel leader might be pursuing a "hidden agenda" which he was finding unattainable because of the presence of U.N. peacekeeping troops. Now Freetown’s Concord Times newspaper has published a purported transcript of Sankoh’s speech, delivered on January 21 to senior Kenyan UNAMSIL officers in the presence of a group of Makeni civilians. In the speech, Sankoh argued that Sierra Leone still found itself under the yoke of colonialism because the country never fought a war of national liberation. "Our people here made a mistake, they never fought, that’s why we are not free, we are still under colonialism," Sankoh said. "We can’t call it new colonialism [neo-colonialism], no. Colonialism is the highest stage of capitalism which has made our people poor. Africa is not poor. But the agents of colonial masters call politicians made our people poor. This is why we have been fighting. We are not against our people. We are against a rotten system." Sankoh characterised the United Nations as "one of the structures of bring the African continent under their control, to continue their exploitation," and he called the presence of U.N. peacekeeping troops a threat to his country’s security. "I told your commander, yes, you are here, we have no business with you. You are not helping us," he said. "Nobody can say ‘we are helping, the United Nations is helping,’ no, and nobody to threaten us…coming with guns. If you have arms I will never talk to you. It is a threat to the security of our people." Sankoh told the UNAMSIL officers he had not been informed that armed peacekeeping troops would be sent to Sierra Leone, and he accused the international community of manipulating the peacekeepers to cause further problems in the country. "Because of that we are still fighting here," he said. Sankoh argued that the money being spent on peacekeeping operations should have been spent to feed refugees and combatants in Sierra Leone’s civil war. "I wrote to the Secretary-General of United Nations, he’s just a nuisance in Africa, being used by World War power against his own brothers," Sankoh said. "We don’t trust you, you are not neutral. You always work in the interest of the colonial masters." The former rebel leader said that while African countries had fought for independence, their economies were still in the hands of foreigners. "You go to Nairobi, you go to Kenya, and you go to any country, those that fought to liberate the people, some are beggars, and my combatants never will become beggars in this country," he said. "We have to lead; we are making a revolution...It should happen any part of Africa. It has happened and should happen."