The Sierra Leone Web


April 2001

30 April: The departure of an RUF delegation to Abuja for talks with the Sierra Leone government was delayed Monday, when an aircraft sent by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo developed technical problems, RUF Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web. Golley said he had been informed by Behrooz Sadry, the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, that the plane was now expected to arrive in Freetown in the early hours of Tuesday morning to pick up the RUF delegation. Meanwhile, representatives of the Sierra Leone government and officials from the United Nations and ECOWAS have gathered in the Nigerian capital in readiness for the talks. Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa heads a government delegation which includes Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, Foreign Affairs Minister Ramadan Dumbuya, and National Security Advisor Kellie Conteh. Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, leads the U.N. delegation.

The United States has added Sierra Leone's RUF rebels movement to its list of terrorist organisations. In its annual report Global Patterns on Terrorism, which was released on Monday, the State Department referred to RUF attacks against U.N. peacekeepers last May, as well as other "sporadic terrorist attacks" carried out between June and August of 2000. "The RUF uses guerrilla, criminal, and terror tactics, such as murder, torture, and mutilation, to fight the government, intimidate civilians, and keep U.N. peacekeeping units in check," the report said. "In 2000 they held hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers hostage until their release was negotiated, in part, by the RUF's chief sponsor, Liberian President Charles Taylor. The group also has been accused of attacks in Guinea at the behest of President Taylor." The RUF was included under the category "other terrorist organisations," which under U.S. law does not include legal sanctions, such as a ban on visas.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it had decided to delay the evacuation of tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees stranded in Guinea's volatile "Parrot's Beak" region because, according to a UNHCR statement, "refugees have refused to move on foot and have made it clear that even with trucks, not all of them will be willing to relocate." According to Reuters, the agency said it had given the refugees time to decide what they wanted to do, and would return on Wednesday to receive their answer. Meanwhile, the UNHCR said it was trying to rent additional trucks which would allow the agency to reach its target of relocating 1,000 refugees a day to safer camps away from the border area.

A report leaked by senior U.N. officials who recently toured the West African sub-region highlights the destablising effect of the continuing conflict in Sierra Leone, and calls on a concerted regional approach to stop in from spreading, the BBC reported. The report suggests strengthening military activity against the RUF with the use of West African troops, and the use of sanctions against neighbouring countries such as Liberia if they intervene in Sierra Leone for their own advantage. At the same time, the report says, there should be efforts to broker peace. The report also questions plans to hold elections in Sierra Leone by the end of the year, pointing out that rebels control half the country, and that half of Sierra Leone's population is displaced.

UNAMSIL announced Monday it will open a new human rights office in Kenema on Wednesday, in order to promote the work of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to help instill a culture of human rights in the country. The office will be responsible for training, monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses, and raising public awareness on human rights issues and international humanitarian principles, UNAMSIL said in a statement.

29 April: Sierra Leone's cricketers successfully defended their West African title on Saturday with a 54 run victory over Ghana to win the 13th West African Cricket Quadrangular. Sierra Leone batted first, and scored 149 runs all out. Mohamed "Tombo Juice" Kamara was again the top scorer for Sierra Leone, with 49 runs. Ghana was bowled out for 95 runs in the 42nd over. The Sani Abacha trophy was presented to team captain Solomon Fatoma by President Kabbah, who promised to donate a new trophy. The "Man of the Series" award went to Kamara. Eight players from Sierra Leone were selected for the 18-man team which will represent West Africa at the International Cricket Conference Tournament in Canada later this year. 

A UNHCR-led effort to evacuate tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea's strife-torn southern border region is due to get underway on Monday. "UNHCR will try and evacuate an estimated 50,000 refugees still stranded in the Parrot's Beak before the end of May," UNHCR spokeswoman Delphine Marie told Reuters. In Geneva last week, a spokesman put the number of refugees still believed trapped in the region at at closer to 80,000. BBC correspondent Alhassan Sylla noted that the effort to move the refugees to safer areas of Guinea would be the largest such operation ever to take place in that country. In Conakry, French Ambassador Denis Gauer voiced opposition to the relocation programme, saying that the refugees should instead be repatriated to Sierra Leone. He added that France would be willing to help fund such an effort. The UNHCR has opposed such a move, citing security and logistical concerns. Already, an estimated 70,000 refugees have returned to Sierra Leone since fighting began in Guinea late last year, the BBC reported.

Liberia's National Security Advisor accused the Guinean army and Sierra Leone's Kamajor militia on Sunday of backing dissidents fighting in the country's northern Lofa County, and he hinted that the Liberian government might ignore U.N. sanctions due to take effect in just over a week. "The government is experiencing what we term very serious artillery and aerial support from Guinea," Lewis Brown told the BBC on Sunday. "For the past few days they’ve intensified their aerial and long-range artillery bombardment of Liberian territory. And we have confirmed intelligence that the Kamajors have linked up with the Guinean-backed dissidents and they have also involved themselves in the conflict, providing ground support also for the dissidents." There has been no independent confirmation of his claims. Brown blamed a recently-broadened U.N. arms embargo for military reverses in Lofa County, and he indicated that Liberia would not respect it. "The Security Council does expect, and should expect, that no nation state can be expected to abide by any resolution or international treaties, edicts or ordinances if that nation state by its compliance subjects itself to suicide or any other form of anarchy, which tends to nullify our existence out of state," he said. "With that fact in mind, the government, the people of Liberia are clear that they will do everything possible (to defend themselves)."

28 April: The RUF will send a six-member delegation to Abuja next week for follow-up talks with the Sierra Leone government on implementing last November's Abuja Ceasefire Agreement, Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web on Saturday. Golley, who returned to Freetown on Saturday afternoon following a meeting with RUF leaders in Makeni, said he would lead a delegation which will include RUF Chief of Administration Colonel Jonathan Kposowa, Andrew Kanu, Colonel Patrick Beinda, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi and Ngululu Kpakai. He said the Nigerian government had arranged to send an airplane to transport the RUF delegation to Abuja. "That aircraft will be on the ground in Lungi on Monday morning," he said. "And we would be accompanied by the Deputy Force Commander of UNAMSIL and other personages to Abuja." Golley said the government delegation was expected to leave for Nigeria a day earlier for separate discussions with ECOWAS ahead of Tuesday's substantive talks. In the past, RUF leaders have said they expected to use the meeting to press for a variety of political demands, such an interim government, the release of RUF detainees, and a return to the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord. Golley, however, was vague on what the RUF would be seeking from Tuesday's talks. "The purposes of these talks would be to review the ceasefire agreement signed by the government and the RUF in November, to discuss the timeliness of the fresh application of the Lomé Peace Agreement," he said. "That will be the starting point, and we’ll take it from there."

African finance ministers gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for the spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have expressed general support for reforms announced by the two financial organisations earlier this year, the BBC reported on Saturday. In particular, the ministers expressed appreciation for a change which will allow loans to be structured for specific countries, and with much less stringent requirements. They also urged further changes to allow African nations greater access to world trade and international markets. Sierra Leonean Finance Minister Peter Kuyembeh (pictured right) was quoted as saying that the HIPC debt reduction initiative, under which the most highly-indebted nations could see two-thirds of their loans forgiven, was a good beginning, but that they shouldn't be too greedy. "Rome wasn't built in a day," he said.

Sierra Leone's ruling SLPP party announced on Saturday the launch of their official internet website,, in advance of presidential and parliamentary elections expected later this year. The site, which was set up by the party's U.K. and Ireland branch, was set to be formally unveiled at the Warwick Park School in southeast London.

27 April: The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, will begin relocating an estimated 50,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees next week from Guinea's volatile "Parrot's Beak" region to safer sites in the country's interior, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva. The first evacuation convoy is scheduled for Monday, and will pick up vulnerable refugees from Kolomba Camp at the furthest tip of the Parrot's Beak. Subsequent convoys will run regularly until all of the estimated 30,000 Sierra Leonean refugees who wish to leave the camp have been evacuated. Later convoys will pick up refugees from other camps in the area. Since the relocation exercise began earlier this year, the UNHCR and its implementing partners have transferred about 30,000 refugees to three new camps in Guinea's Albadaria and Dabola Prefectures. A fourth site was set to begin receiving refugees on Friday. A total of six new sites have been agreed upon with the Guinean authorities, with a total capacity of 100,000 persons. The Guinean government has assigned 250 civilian and military staff to assist with the evacuations, the spokesman said. These include military and police personnel, social and humanitarian affairs teams, and a protection unit. They will be responsible for sensitising the local population, ensuring safe access for humanitarian organisations and safe passage for refugees, and escorting the convoys and patrolling the areas where the movements will take place.

Sierra Leone's national cricket team triumphed over Nigeria Oval on Friday, and are set to face off against Ghana on Saturday for the championship at the West African Cricket Quadrangular. Nigeria won the toss and batted first, scoring 128 all out. Sierra Leone reached the Nigerian total for the loss of one wicket. Mohamed "Tombo Juice" Kamara scored 56, and wicket keeper Albert Kpundeh scored 36 to enable Sierra Leone to achieve the victory. 

As representatives of the diamond industry met with officials from 38 diamond producing and processing nations in Brussels this week, looking to find ways to curb the illicit trade in "conflict diamonds," a group of 70 non-governmental organisations has expressed concern that progress toward developing an international certification system had stalled and was in danger of unraveling. In a statement issued on Friday, the group said that many government representatives stated they had come to the meeting without a mandate to agree on anything, including "even the most vague of wordings" which had been discussed in five previous meetings. "Further stalling and inaction will damage the credibility and the viability of the diamond industry, and the jobs it provides for hundreds of thousands of people," the groups warned. "More importantly, it will allow rebel armies in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo to continue their brutal wars against innocent men, women and children."

26 April: President Kabbah, in his address to the nation on the eve of Sierra Leone's 40th independence anniversary, urged Sierra Leoneans to reflect on both the nation's early successes, and on the strife-torn past decade in which, he said, "we have virtually wasted a quarter of our life as an independent nation in a senseless and brutal armed conflict." Both these successes as well as the nation's failures, Kabbah said, were part of Sierra Leone's heritage, and its history. Kabbah appealed to Sierra Leoneans to now work to create what he called "a new Sierra Leone," based on the principles of self-reliance, inter-dependence and political tolerance, to guide the nation to its next jubilee in the year 2011. Looking forward to presidential and parliamentary elections expected to take place later this year, Kabbah said the exercise must be seen as a peaceful competition, not as an excuse for more violence. "Neither the electorate, nor the candidates, should see each other as enemies, or even as opponents, but rather as competitors in a race; competitors with one common goal, stability, security and sustainable economic development for our beloved country, Sierra Leone," he said. The president called for the nation's tradition of religious tolerance to be reflected in its political life, and he urged all Sierra Leoneans to join in the task of rebuilding the country. "I therefore call on all Sierra Leoneans who might hold divergent views on substantive issues, to come together, reconcile, and work together for the development of the nation," he said. "In particular, I call on members of the RUF to lay down their arms, and to join us in building a prosperous Sierra Leone."

A high-level United Nations team consisting of acting UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Martin Agwai and other senior UNAMSIL military and civilian officials travelled for the first time to the rebel-held Kono District on Wednesday. Agwai told reporters on Friday that the U.N.'s main aim had been to conduct a long-range patrol from Magburaka, but that after meeting senior rebel commanders, including RUF interim leader Issa Sesay, the two sides engaged in formal talks regarding alleged attacks on rebel positions by the Guinean army and the pro-government CDF militia. "Six of us sat in a vehicle because there was no time, and were discussing as we were driving," Agwai said. "We had a long discussion because they wanted to take us to one of the places where fighting had taken place. We found out that the place was too far after driving for one hour twenty minutes. We had not reached there, and we had to drive back to Koidu, and the patrol had to go back to Magburaka for me to come back to Freetown." The UNAMSIL officials were taken to the Koidu Government Hospital where, Agwai said, they were shown a number of persons said to have been wounded in the recent fighting. They were also shown a Kamajor prisoner who told them he had been captured by the RUF three weeks previously. "From all these testimonies, it shows that there had been some skirmishes," Agwai said, adding that a second UNAMSIL patrol would be sent to investigate, and would investigate those villages the RUF claimed had been damaged in the attacks. The UNAMSIL delegation later visited a camp for internally displaced persons in Kono, where Dennis Johnson, the head of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called on the RUF to release child soldiers and abducted women. Johnson promised to arrange for humanitarian organisations to visit Kono to assess the situation and determine the needs of the local people. United Nations aerial photographs taken in February showed widespread destruction in Koidu, the diamond-rich district's largest city. Umaru Fofanah of the official Sierra Leone News Agency, who accompanied the UNAMSIL mission on Wednesday, told the BBC from  Magburaka that Kono had been destroyed. "There is a town called Bumpe which incidentally is my home town. I could barely recognise Bumpe as a town for instance where I was born and bred," Fofanah said. "We went to Koquima. Koquima is quite intact, relatively intact. We went to Koidu town. Koidu town is in utter ruin. Up to the extent my eyes could see I could not see any house with its complete roofs on. The houses are down, quite a somber place, quite a destroyed, a derelict town. It’s completely destroyed. Koidu town is lying in utter ruins. The town is literally dead." But despite the destruction, Fofanah said that thousands of people turned out in the streets to welcome the U.N. peacekeepers. Those he interviewed told him that, although harassment by RUF fighters had stopped, "they could barely find something to eat." 

Acting UNAMSIL commander Major-General Martin Agwai confirmed Friday that there had been skirmishes at Tongo Field and Giehun between the RUF and the Kamajors, but he refused to characterise the clashes as a violation of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement. "I believe and look at it as a little misunderstanding," he told reporters in Freetown. "If it was a deliberate thing either within the hierarchy of any of those organisations, I think we should have heard it going on or spreading. But it was a localized thing and it has been resolved. And as I am talking with you know, most of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in that area have all gone back home."

Some 88 persons from all walks of life will be honoured Friday in an afternoon ceremony at State House marking the 40th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence from Britain. The awards, some of them posthumous, will go to judges, academics, traditional leaders, military officers, civil servants, athletes, business people, and even a grave digger. 

The Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone (ORSL): Justice Mandred Adophy (Officer of the Order of the Republic); Professor Daniel Chaytor (Member), former Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone; Justice Henry Joko-Smart (Member), of the Supreme Court; Councillor Patrick Doyle (Member), for strengthening of the Hull - Freetown sister cities relationship; PC Ella Koblo Gulama (Member); Victor Wright (Member), former Clerk of Parliament; late General Maxwell Khobe (Member), for outstanding bravery in defence of Sierra Leone's territorial integrity; Late PC Adikali Modu III (Member), for fearless leadership. 

Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel (GCR): Dr. James O. C. Jonah, former finance minister, for outstanding service as an international civil servant, and profound commitment to democracy and human rights; PC Bai Sebora Komkanda II, for his role in the restoration of democracy.

Commander of the Order of the Rokel (GCR): Birdie Marjorie Jones, for public service; Bishop Joseph Humper, of the United Methodist Church and member of the Inter-Religious Council; Bishop John O'Bojordan, of the Kenema Diocese; Hon. Mana Kpaka, the veteran SLPP back-bencher in Parliament, "for outstanding feats of bravery when captured by the rebels;" Dorothy Cummings, former curator of the Sierra Leone Museum; Dr. Julius Spencer, "in recognition of public service and sustenance of democratic values."

Other awards: Brigadier Tom Carew (Officer of the Order of the Rokel, military division); late Paul Dunbar, former SLPP chairman killed by rebels in 1998; late Dr. Alpha Lavalie, for defence of democracy, killed by rebels; Logie Wright, musician; Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Evans Gbagla — conductor and composer for the Regimental Band; Emanuel Bockarie Mustapha, agriculture; Amadu Kamara, Kama Dumbuya and late Ishmael Dyfan, for football; Lansana Kelfala, National Dance Troupe; Kallay Dumbuya, senior steward to six heads of state; Aminatu Conteh, in recognition of her public service in the field of cookery, and especially for providing free food to loyal troops and the needy of Sierra Leone; Mama Yealie Turay, in recognition for her dedicated service as a petty trader for over 50 years at the King Jimmy Market; Salaymatu Sesay, in recognition of 50 years of service as a market woman at Big Market; Alusein Sesay, in recognition of his invaluable service as a grave digger at the Freetown City Council.

The Nigerian Football Association announced Thursday it had sacked Super Eagles coach Jo Bonfrere following last weekend's loss in Freetown to the Leone Stars. Bonfrere had promised to resign if his team lost to Sierra Leone, but changed his mind after Saturday's match. Nigerian coach Shaibu Amodu will take over as interim manager. Nigeria now trails Liberia and Sudan in Group B of the World Cup qualifiers. While the team has not been mathematically eliminated from advancing to next year's World Cup finals in Japan and Korea, last week's loss was a serious blow to the Nigerians' hopes.

Washington Post photography editor Michel duCille received the Overseas Press Club of America's John Faber Award Thursday for the best photographic reporting in newspapers and wire services. DuCille and Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll travelled behind RUF lines in late 1999, resulting in the January 2000 story and online photographic essay The Other War.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Thursday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 1657 / 2050 [£] 2300 / 2900. Commercial Bank: [$] 1700 / 1950. [£] 2400 / 2700. Frandia: [$] 2000 / 2200 [£] 2650 / 2800. Continental: [$] 2000 / 2200 [£] 2650 / 3000.

25 April: Sierra Leone became the 124th nation to adopt the international convention against torture and other cruel punishment, when Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, deposited the instruments of ratification at U.N. headquarters in New York. Sierra Leone also ratified a convention against the use and proliferation of land mines, which commits countries to destroying existing stocks of the mines within four years and clearing their territories of land mines within a decade. "Although we are at war — you wouldn't have expected a country at war to sign a convention against the use of torture — we still believe in the principles of democracy," Kamara said. According to the Associated Press, the ambassador said that rebels who had been jailed in Sierra Leone, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh, had been treated humanely, and he expressed hope that they would be brought to trial before a proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone. He also noted that landmines in such nations as Mozambique still had a crippling effect years after peace had been restored. "(Landmines) have caused more havoc even in countries that now have conflicts behind them...It is absolutely that every country should sign" the convention, he said.

Fighting between the RUF and Guinean forces is reportedly continuing in Kono, the BBC said on Wednesday. Details could not be verified, but BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana said fleeing civilians told him that some "panic-stricken rebels" had been retreating to Koidu. 

Belgium said it would press for an international certification system to curb the trade in "conflict diamonds" — blamed for fueling wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo — as a three-day conference on the problem got underway in Brussels on Wednesday, Reuters reported. "This is not an African problem, it is a global problem. We all have to be involved in the search for a solution," a Belgian foreign ministry official said. "Belgium is the only country to publish detailed statistics on the export and import of diamonds, but without an international system of certification we can never tackle the problem properly." The conference brings together representatives from 38 countries, along with participants from the diamond industry and and various non-governmental organisations, in the first of five such meetings planned to establish a global certification system. Usman Boie Kamara, Sierra Leone's Deputy Director of Mines, stressed the importance of cleaning up the diamond trade. "Everyone wants to see that diamonds sold are conflict-free," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. "Until 1999, we had only $1.5 million worth of legitimate trade. Now, so far after six months, we have over $6 million with the new system. So you can see the effect of certification already." Some 80 percent of the world's rough diamonds and about half of the cut stones pass through the Belgian city of Antwerp. The Belgian government initially resisted any controls on its diamond industry, but now says it may change its laws to enable it to prosecute traffickers in conflict diamonds who did not commit their offenses on Belgian soil, Reuters said. A Belgian foreign ministry source acknowledged that conflict diamonds might still be entering the country. "We do not exclude the possibility that UNITA diamonds still make it to Belgium," the source said. "That occurs because the system we have proposed for Angolan diamonds is not yet in place globally."

Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley announced Wednesday the re-appointment of David Pratt as Canada's Special Envoy for Sierra Leone. Pratt, who represents the Ontario constituency of Nepean-Carleton, has held the position since March 1999. According to a press statement, his mandate will be to engage in consultations with the various parties attempting to restore peace and stability in Sierra Leone, with a view to identifying possible contributions by Canada to the peace process. He will also assist in preparing the discussion of the Sierra Leone crisis at the October 2001 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane, Australia. In April 1999, Pratt authored a report on the conflict in Sierra Leone entitled "Sierra Leone: the Forgotten Crisis."

24 April: There have been further clashes at the town of Giehun between the RUF and the Kamajor militia, BBC correspondent Siaffa Moriba reported on Tuesday. Moriba said the RUF was currently in control of the burned-out town, while the Kamajors were reported to have withdrawn to Kamboma and Panguma. One eyewitness told Moriba that three Kamajors and one civilian were known to have been killed in this latest fighting. The reporter quoted UNAMSIL military spokesman Major Mohammed Yerima as confirming that there had been "a minor skirmish" around Giehun and Tongo, but that the situation was now under control. "He said that UNAMSIL troops had been to the area and had brought the two sides together," Moriba told the Focus on Africa programme. Yerima added that displaced persons had begun returning to the eastern town of Mano Junction, where U.N. troops were recently deployed.

United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie expressed "cautious optimism" over the situation in Sierra Leone at the end of her three-day visit to the country. "My own assessment is that there are real signs for hope in Sierra Leone, but that we’re not out of the woods," she told reporters. "I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t an optimist. And I have a profound believe in the human spirit. I see it in action here in Sierra Leone. You’ve gone through things that would crush any ordinary mortal, and yet I see people going back, rebuilding their houses, rebuilding their villages, reorganising themselves." McAskie said it appeared the RUF was losing some of its support, and noted that the rebel group was now saying they wanted the war to end. But, according to a UN-OCHA press statement, McAskie expressed skepticism about the RUF's declarations, but added that she was convinced that under the current circumstances that peace was its only viable option. During her visit to Makeni, she urged RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay to demonstrate the RUF's good faith by releasing child soldiers and young girls they had abducted. RUF leaders told her than 52,000 returned refugees from Guinea and Liberia were in areas under their control, and asked for humanitarian assistance. McAskie said the main problem was the agencies' lack of unrestricted access to the civilian population. On the issue of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea, McAskie said the time had not yet come for a massive repatriation exercise. Large parts of the country where most of the refugees come from remain unsafe, she said, while safe areas were full to capacity. She said the United Nations would continue its dual-track approach of assisting those who wished to return, while moving other refugees away from the dangerous border area to safer areas in Guinea. "I think it’s still not safe for all the refugees to come back, mainly because a very large portion of them come from the Kono District," she said. "The U.N. community right now is in the process of managing a large-scale exercise to move refugees back from the 'Parrot’s Beak' into the north of Kissidougou in Guinea rather than bringing them home, which is what we would prefer." She said the idea of a "humanitarian corridor" to repatriate the refugees from Guinea, first advanced by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, was no longer an option. "I met with Mr. Lubbers after he was in Sierra Leone and he made it clear that he himself was not pushing the safe corridor idea," she said. "The safe corridor idea is an idea that grew up around his visit, but it’s a very complicated thing, and very much a contradiction in terms." 

Acting UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Martin Agwai paid a visit Tuesday to Kenema, Daru, and to Mano Junction, where two companies of U.N. peacekeepers were only recently deployed, a UNAMSIL spokesman said. Agwai also received reports on recent clashes at Giehun between the RUF and the Kamajor militia, and visited people who were displaced as a result of the fighting on April 19.

U.N. peacekeepers stressed to RUF commanders the importance of maintaining a 5 kilometre weapons-free zone around UNAMSIL positions when the two sides met at Mange on Sunday, a UNAMSIL spokesman said. The Sub-Regional Contact Group meeting was chaired by the D Company commander of the Nigerian 8th Battalion. Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Boima of Kambia represented the RUF. The two sides also discussed the removal of all RUF checkpoints along the Mange - Kambia highway pending deployment and security to be guaranteed by UNAMSIL. 

23 April: Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations called on the international community Monday to work to protect civilians caught up in conflict, especially the young, women, and the sick, and he urged that those who perpetrate atrocities against unarmed civilian populations be brought to book. Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, who spoke during Monday's Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, argued that this could best be accomplished by the application of international law. "My government supports all measures both at the international and regional levels to bring the perpetrators of crimes against an  unarmed and defenceless civilian population to account for their actions," he said. But Kamara noted that the ability of a government to protect its citizens depended on both the circumstances of the particular conflict, and on the capability of the protecting forces to defend against enemy attacks. He stressed the role of "meaningful and constructive dialogue" in security access to vulnerable populations by humanitarian agencies, and called on the Security Council to strengthen the negotiating position of governments faced by an armed rebel faction by strengthening the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping forces. By granting more robust mandates verging on "peace enforcement," armed groups might be forced to "comply with the request for safe access of humanitarian aid agencies to the vulnerable groups," he said. Kamara also expressed his government's concern about "the issue of external actors," from both the private and political sectors, "who actively render support to these armed rebel groups in order to perpetuate their nefarious activities in the exploitation of mineral resources." In a veiled reference to Liberia, Kamara urged that United Nations sanctions should be "strongly emphasised and swiftly executed" against governments which provide backing for rebel movements.

Leone Stars fans celebrated in Freetown following their team's defeat Saturday of Nigeria national football team. "There was a lot of drumming, a lot of drinking, and then cars were hooting their horns all over the streets and kids were out in the streets," journalist David Tam-Baryoh told the BBC. But in Nigeria, fans were reacting with shock, as Liberia's World Cup qualifying match win over Sudan on Sunday now puts the Lone Stars in command of Group B with twelve points, leading Sudan by three points and Nigeria by five. The Nigerian Football Association has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to decide the fate of Super Eagles coach Jo Bonfrere. On Sunday, Bonfrere rescinded his promise to resign if the team failed to win in Freetown, saying the players had requested that he stay on. But NFA chairman Dominic Oneya told reporters that in view of the team's "dangerous position" in the Group B standings, he now expected the Dutch coach to resign. 

Reigning champions Sierra Leone defeated the Gambia Monday in the first day of play in the West African Cricket Quadrangular, held at the Kingtom Cricket Oval in Freetown. The Gambia batted first, and were all out for 121. Sierra Leone, the defending champions, then scored 122 for the loss of two wickets in the 25th over. Dr. Alpha Wurie, Minister of Youth, Education and Sports, opened the tournament. Teams from Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana are participating in the competition.

21 April: Sierra Leone's national football team defeated Nigeria 1 - 0 Saturday in their World Cup qualifying match, giving the Leone Stars their first win in five tries and dimming the Super Eagles' hopes of advancing. Nigeria currently trails both Liberia and Sudan in Group B, followed by Ghana and Sierra Leone. The Leone Stars pulled ahead to stay in the game's 25th minute, when Sidique Mansaray scored the lone goal of the day before a packed home crowd in Freetown's National Stadium. The Sierra Leonean defenders countered the Nigerians' aggressive offense with physical play, picking up two yellow cards, but backed by a strong effort by goaltender Brima "Small Attouga" Sesay they kept the visitors from finding the net. The Leone Stars next meet Ghana in Freetown on May 5. Other weekend results: Zambia 1, Angola 1; Morocco 3, Namibia 0; Senegal 3, Algeria 0; Burkina Faso 4, Malawi 2; Cameroon 1, Libya 0; Liberia 2, Sudan 0; Ivory Coast 2, Congo 0; Democratic Republic of Congo 1, Madagascar 0.

A UNAMSIL official has confirmed fighting between Kamajor militiamen and RUF fighters at Tongo Field, beginning late Thursday and lasting into early Friday, Reuters reported. Both sides have publicly blamed the other in what appears to be the most serious ceasefire violation to date. The Associated Press quoted UNAMSIL spokesman Patrick Coker as saying that Major-General Martin Agwai, the acting UNAMSIL commander, would take the matter up with the RUF High Command in Makeni. "The RUF contacted UNAMSIL with these reports and investigations are ongoing," Coker told the Sierra Leone Web. Reuters suggested that the clashes might have been sparked off over a dispute over diamonds, and quoted local sources as saying the fighting took place around a diamond mining pit. "The whole thing happened when they came across a large diamond," the source said. There has been no independent confirmation of that account.

20 April: An RUF spokesman alleged Friday that Kamajor militiamen had carried out attacks on rebel positions in the eastern diamond mining town of Tongo Field, and near the Kono District town of Kainkordu, 19 miles east of Koidu in Soa Chiefdom. Gibril Massaquoi, who spoke to the Sierra Leone Web by satellite telephone from Makeni, also expressed concern about attacks against the RUF in Kambia District. There has been no independent confirmation as to the extent of the fighting, but BBC correspondent Siaffa Moriba reported Friday that hundreds of civilians fleeing the area had begun to arrive with reports of fighting between the RUF and the Kamajors at Lalihun and Tongo. On Thursday night, three wounded Kamajors were brought to the government hospital in Kenema, suffering from bullet wounds. "They told me that their positions at Giehun, just three kilometres from the RUF stronghold of Tongo, came under attack yesterday afternoon by rebels based at Lalihun and Tongo," Moriba said. "They told me that they repelled the attack. Since the current ceasefire came into effect, Giehun has been under the Kamajors and Lalihun and Tongo have been under the RUF." There was no immediate word on casualties. Massaquoi denied that the RUF had started the hostilities, and claimed that one group of Kamajors "even attacked the village where their colleagues were staying because they failed to join them to move forward to attack RUF." He added that Thursday's attacks had caused the RUF to mobilise troops to defend its positions. "Though these attacks were repelled, but it remains a concern to the RUF that the government is not ready for peace and that they are ready for war," he said. "We should be observing a ceasefire in this country, but if we are attacked I think we have to defend ourselves." Massaquoi accused the Sierra Leone government of backing the attacks on the RUF, and said the rebels had captured two Kamajor militiamen in fighting along the Guinea border in Kono. "They are claiming that those serving on the border with Guinea are Guineans," he said. "We have now proved that they are not Guineans. (The Kamajors) are involved. That one, there is no doubt about it, the Kamajor commander that was killed (at Tongo), his body is there, his ID card is with us, there is no doubt about that." Massaquoi gave the commander's name as Amos Bongo. The spokesman said the RUF had given UNAMSIL advance warning of the attacks  after intercepting radio communications, and he lashed out at the U.N. force for failing to take any action. He said the RUF would "tend to resist any deployment in those areas where those attacks are going on if they don’t address the issues as fast as possible."  "They are here to stop the fighting," he said. "They are here to uphold the ceasefire agreement in Abuja. And they are seeing a particular group violating it persistently. They have not done anything."

French International Co-Operation Minister Charles Josselin, who is visiting Sierra Leone and Guinea this week with his British counterpart, International Development Minister Clare Short, told reporters in Freetown that Liberian President Charles Taylor has shown no signs of complying with United Nations demands to end his support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels ahead of a looming May 7 deadline for sanctions, the BBC reported. Short, in a reference to the RUF, condemned what she called "criminals who cut off hands and disembowel women." In a separate Reuters interview late Thursday, she called for UNAMSIL to speed up its deployment in rebel-held areas of the country. "Britain is pleased with UNAMSIL for moving ahead with its deployment, so I believe the government can now expand its authority in those areas," she said. "But we think the U.N. peacekeepers must speed up their movement into the country if we (are to) make progress. Even though about half a billion U.S. dollars is being spent annually in maintaining U.N. peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, I must confess here that the process is still moving slowly." Short said she was impressed by the progress made by the new British-trained Sierra Leone Army, and she warned of the consequences for the RUF if the rebels failed to cooperate in advancing the peace process. "We must defeat the RUF and...not allow any more of the evils that the RUF brought into the country," she said. During their three-day trip to the sub-region, the two ministers also visited Conakry, where they met with Guinean officials on the humanitarian and security crisis in the country.

19 April: Sierra Leone's economy ranks 119 of 123 countries ranked by their degree of economic freedom, according to a report released on Thursday by the Washington-based Cato Institute. According to the report's authors,  the core criteria of the ranking included "personal choice, protection of private property, and freedom of exchange." After compiling the economic freedom index, the researchers said they compared the data to various indicators of social progress. More economic freedom translated into less poverty, faster economic growth, and higher scores on the United Nations Human Development Index, they said. At the top of the list were Hong Kong and Singapore, while Algeria and Myanmar scored 122nd and 123rd, respectively.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Thursday it had completed its first delivery this year to some 25,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees stranded in the Kolomba camp, in Guinea's volatile "Parrot's Beak" area. "Despite recent improvements, the security situation in the area remains fragile, with limited access for U.N. humanitarian workers," WFP spokesman Ramin Rafirasme told the Reuters news agency, adding that the food and other items were distributed by the French aid agency Premier Urgence. "The main concerns now for WFP are the security situation in the Beak and adjoining areas and logistics, given the fact that roads become impassable during the rainy season, expected to begin in earnest around June," Rafirasme said. 

18 April: RUF commanders in Kono complained Wednesday about what they claimed was an intensification of attacks against their positions, which they alleged were carried out by elements of the pro-government Civil Defence Force — particularly by the Kono-based Donso militia and the Kamajors — with backing from the Guinean military and Liberian militiamen. According to RUF Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley, the towns of [Konawboro], Koardu in Gbane-Kandor Chiefdom, and Saiama in Lei Chiefdom all came under attack this week. There has been no independent verification of the claims. Golley told the Sierra Leone Web that the commanders had not repeated accusations in recent days of involvement by the Sierra Leone Army, but said they believed there was evidence of government collusion in the attacks. "If these allegations are correct, then obviously this is in contravention of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement, and for that matter the Lomé Peace Accord," he said. "The government must desist if they are involved. And if they are not involved, obviously (they must) to do whatever they can to lessen tensions and move to a peace mode, and continue with what are measures clearly ongoing to improve the peace and security situation." Golley said the RUF had reported the matter to UNAMSIL. "The fact remains that (fighting) is ongoing and it must stop," he said. "This is obviously something that needs to be investigated."

United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie is due to visit Sierra Leone from Friday until Monday as part of a mission to assess the political, military and humanitarian situation in the sub-region, particularly as it affects refugees and displaced persons, the U.N. said in a statement. In her meetings with U.N. personnel, government leaders, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, diplomats and local officials, McAskie will focus on determining the linkages between the extension of state authority and the resettlement and rehabilitation of returning refugees, displaced persons and ex-combatants, and evaluating the implications of tensions between Liberia and Guinea on the humanitarian situation. She will also discuss the interface between refugees and displaced persons and efforts to stabilise Sierra Leone and the sub-region. McAskie is scheduled to visit a DDR camp and an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp at Port Loko on Saturday and to tour Barri Chiefdom in Pujehun District on Sunday. 

Fighting in Liberia's northern Lofa County has caused both Liberian residents and Sierra Leonean refugees who had settled there to flee the area, the UNHCR said in Monrovia. The agency said a number of them were crossing the border into rebel-held eastern Sierra Leone rather than into Guinea, where passage is impossible. The movement of Sierra Leonean refugees and Liberian nationals from Lofa County into Sierra Leone is not large, but it started intensifying in the middle of last week, the UNHCR said. The agency does not have an office in the region, but the Liberian Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission estimates the number of displaced persons in and from Lofa at 3,000.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concern Wednesday over the security and humanitarian situation on the borders between Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. In a statement issued in New York, Annan called for dialogue as the best way of resolving the problems, and backed a call by ECOWAS for the three Mano River Union nation leaders to meet "without further delay and devise ways to resolve the crisis peacefully."

A UNAMSIL patrol which travelled from Daru to the RUF stronghold of Kailahun on Wednesday found all the villages along the route had been completely burned down, said BBC correspondent Siaffa Moriba who accompanied the peacekeepers. "The few remaining skeletal structures I saw were pockmarked with holes by bullets and missiles during the worst of the ten-year war. Most civilians I saw were emaciated women and children." But amid the destruction, Moriba reported signs that life was returning to normal. "Most of the RUF people we passed were busy with farming activities, while others were on the road to Daru," he said. "I saw primary school children in classes at Mobai and Kailahun, though they were not in uniform. Throughout my journey to Kailahun I set my eyes on only ten guns in the hands of RUF fighters." In Kailahun, UNAMSIL officers and RUF officials held a two-hour meeting to discuss issues which included the free movement of people throughout the country, freedom of action of UNAMSIL, the disarmament programme, and humanitarian assistance. The chairman of the RUF's contact group, Colonel Tom Sandi, said the rebels "trusted UNAMSIL, and that is why they were requesting early deployment and the creation of a DDR camp in Kailahun," Moriba said. 

Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani, the chairman of the United Nations Security Council's Sanctions Committee on Liberia, stopped over in Monrovia on Wednesday, but he stressed that his one-day visit was not aimed at investigating whether Liberia had complied with U.N. demands. The Liberian government faces the prospect of sanctions if it fails to convince the Council by May 7 that it has ceased its support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade. Mahbubani said his visit was to familiarise himself with the region ahead of the sanctions deadline. "Our job is to look at the implementation of sanctions, their effectiveness and their impact," Reuters quoted him as saying. "We are not here to verify. The decision (on whether to impose sanctions) will not rest on the outcome of this visit, but will rest with the 15 members of the Security Council." In a BBC interview, Mahbubani stressed that there was no substitute for face-to-face talks with leaders in the region. "I look forward to seeing the situation as it is," he said. "I look forward to having first-hand discussions with leaders of the region. I spent two hours talking to President Konare, for example, of Mali, and I got a very comprehensive overview. I had very extensive meetings with two ministers and the prime minister of Guinea. I spent an hour and a half yesterday with President Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone." According to Reuters, Guinean Foreign Minister Hadja Mahawa Bangoura told Mahbubani on Tuesday that the Liberian government was still receiving arms despite a new, tougher U.N. arms embargo, and that it was recruiting mercenaries for future attacks against Guinea.

17 April: United Nations peacekeeping troops began deploying Tuesday in the RUF strongholds of Makeni and Magburaka, the first such deployment since the peace process collapsed nearly a year ago. UNAMSIL Deputy Force Commander Major-General Martin Luther Agwai told journalists in Freetown that the Bangladeshi Third Battalion had left Hastings and Lungi for Magburaka early Tuesday morning, while Nigerian troops from the American-trained and equipped Seventh Battalion were being redeployed from Lunsar to Makeni. He said the Bangladeshi Artillery Battalion was being sent to replace the Nigerians in Lunsar. Agwai, who is acting Force Commander in the absence of Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande, said the deployment would take some days to complete. Deployment of the Bangladeshi Third Battalion alone, he noted, involved well over 200 vehicles, not counting the armoured personnel carriers. Agwai said that, with three different battalions moving from four different locations, the situation would take some time to stabilise. "So I am saying that they have all departed their locations and are on the way, and the advance groups will be — will be — by the end of the today in Makeni and Magburaka," he said. Mindful of UNAMSIL's experience last May, when more than 500 U.N. peacekeepers were abducted by the rebels, Agwai said UNAMSIL did not intend to move forward and leave its rear exposed. "I am very positive that anybody from this part of the world where we are operating that attempts to take any, or touch any peacekeeper, I am promising, you will have a bloody nose," he said. Meanwhile, Agwai added, UNAMSIL troops in eastern Sierra Leone completed their deployment overnight at the town of Mano Junction. Ghanaian troops also patrolled to the eastern RUF stronghold of Kailahun, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told the Sierra Leone Web.

Hans Corell, of the United Nations Department of Legal Affairs, convened a meeting Tuesday of U.N. member states interested in the establishment of a Special Court to try those accused of egregious crimes committed during Sierra Leone's civil war. A U.N. spokesman said the meeting reviewed the budget as well as the practical planning for the court, and agreed to set up a Management Committee composed of major donors and members of the U.N. Secretariat. The Department of Legal Affairs was to draw up terms of reference of the committee, and will meet again with member states by the end of the month to get it up and running. The spokesman said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanted the first year budget "in the bank" and pledges for the following two years in place before the court begins operations.

Omrie Golley, the chairman of the RUF's new Political and Peace Council, said Tuesday that he would lead a delegation to Abuja, Nigeria this month for two days of talks aimed at reviewing last November's Abuja Ceasefire Agreement. The meeting is due to begin on April 30. In view of Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan's declaration on Monday that the RUF representatives would not be allowed to pass through Monrovia on their way to the Nigerian capital, Golley told the Sierra Leone Web that his delegation would likely depart from Freetown. "We would expect to be given the appropriate guarantees regarding safety and security from the Government of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS and UNAMSIL prior to our departure for these important talks," he said.

A UNHCR team, accompanied by Guinean officials, travelled to the Kolomba refugee camp in Guinea's southern "Parrot's Beak" region on Monday in advance of an operation to relocate tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees away from the volatile border area. Refugee leaders were told of the plans and advised of the need to move quickly while weather and security permit, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva. The rainy season is due to begin shortly. An estimated 80,000 refugees still remain in the Parrot's Beak, a strip of land which juts into Sierra Leone which has been cut off by fighting since last September. The leaders at Kolomba were told that the UNHCR might not have the capacity to transport everyone from the Parrot's Beak, and that many of the refugees might have to travel on foot to the Katkama camp, north of Gueckedou — a journey of nearly 40 miles for those at the furthest tip of the region. Aid stations will be established along the way to provide food, rest and medical care. The most vulnerable refugees will be provided with transport to Katkama, from where all refugees will be trucked to new camps in the north. The UNHCR is working closely with the Guinean government to finalise preparations for the relocation, and could come up with a final plan this week, the spokesman said. Since February, the UNHCR and its implementing partners have moved some 30,000 people to camps in Guinea's interior.

The spokesman for a Liberian rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which is fighting government forces in that country's northwestern Lofa County, claimed Tuesday that it had captured a what he called a "Taylor-supported terrorist base," where dissidents were being trained to attack neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea. William Hanson, a political advisor to LURD, told the Voice of America that his group had discovered a document signed by former RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie and others "revealed a lot of things about diamond smuggling and attacks on neighbouring countries, particularly Sierra Leone." There has been no independent confirmation of his claims.

16 April: Zambian peacekeeping troops based at Kenema deployed over the weekend in the rebel-held eastern towns of Mano Junction and Lago, BBC correspondent Moriba Siaffa reported on Monday. Last month, Siaffa accompanied a UNAMSIL patrol through Mano Junction, which he described as having been devastated by the war. "I found the town was completely burned down, and the few remaining structures, including the Islamic Secondary school campus were all riddled with bullets," he said. "The few civilians I saw were mostly emaciated women and children who were rushing to the main road to catch a glimpse of the passing UNAMSIL convoy." The local RUF commander, Colonel Kailando Sama Banya, reportedly told the Zambian commander that UNAMSIL would be allowed to deploy in Tongo once he received instructions from the RUF High Command.

Liberia, which has been ordered to end its alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade, said late Sunday it had identified and frozen a bank account in Monrovia belonging to jailed RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "That account has been maintained for a number of years, and it has been ordered frozen by the Liberian government," said Lewis Brown, co-chairman of a task force set up by President Charles Taylor to bring Liberia into compliance with U.N. demands. "We have frozen that account and we have in fact provided the international community a schedule of how that account was maintained and run by that commercial bank. And this is an indication that we do intend to comply and that in fact we have complied." Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan told the BBC that the account, containing only $500, had been maintained at the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment. He added that a survey of banks operating in the country had turned up no more RUF assets. "The fact that we found an amount of $500 for me doesn’t represent any significant amount of assets, and I don’t think that rebel leaders around the world keep their money in banks," Captan said. But a former Sankoh aide expressed skepticism Monday that the rebel leader maintained any account in his own name. He quoted Sankoh as saying that his accounts were held in the names of his children. He told the Sierra Leone Web that in March 2000, Sankoh sent an RUF member to Monrovia to cash a cheque for about $40,000 drawn on a Belgian account after the bank in Freetown refused to give him dollars. The former aide said he was aware that Sankoh also had an account in Freetown and one in Belgium, neither of which was registered under his name. Brown complained that the United Nations Security Council had not responded to Liberia's request to send a monitoring team to the country to verify steps the government was taking to comply with U.N. demands, and he argued it had a "moral imperative" to do so. "We believe that as a matter of policy, the government has moved from a point of denial and rightness and wrongness of accusations to attempting to cooperate and showing that we remain a responsible government desirous of cooperating with the international community, specifically the Security Council," he told the BBC. "But unfortunately since the Liberian government undertook the measures to comply, there still is not a manifest mechanism to verify Liberia’s compliance. We do believe that the Security Council would take this into very serious consideration."

Liberia is unlikely to permit an RUF delegation to pass through its territory later this month in order to attend talks with the government in Abuja, Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said on Monday. "They have not made a request, but there have been some sort of indications that they will be making a request to our government," Captan told the BBC. "What I know is there has been a request made to the government of Nigeria to provide an aircraft to convey RUF leaders to Abuja for this meeting. The question is where are they going to transit through to get to Abuja. In the past, Liberia, cooperating with the U.N., has provided a transit point. Right now we would find it very difficult to permit that to happen, especially considering the fact that we have announced a policy of total disengagement. And we have assured the U.N. that we will not permit any RUF activities on our territory. We’ve asked them to leave Liberia — we’ve expelled them. It would be counter-productive on our part at this point to permit any RUF members transiting through our territory." The meeting between the two sides is scheduled to begin on April 30, Captan said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is waiting for the "green light" from the Guinean authorities before moving tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees from the country's southern "Parrot's Beak" region to safer refugee camps away from the border, a UNHCR spokesperson said in Guinea. Fatmata Kabba stressed that the aid agencies were in a race against time. "In the south of Guinea that we call the Forest Region, the rains come particularly early and they’re very heavy rains," she told Radio France International. "The road conditions that are already poor become worse, and it’s almost impossible to run trucks in such conditions...UNHCR, after consulting partners, has submitted a proposal, a plan for the operation, and the Guinea government has almost decided on the details." Kabba said some of the refugees were moving out of the volatile border area on foot, but that the agency planned to transport as many people as possible by truck. She noted that a few of the refugees, some of whom have lived in the area for as long as ten years, had developed "coping mechanisms" and were opting not to leave. Others are anxious to move, or wanted to be repatriated, she said. "We are explaining to them through a mass-information campaign what we are going to do and where they’re being taken to, and that it allows humanitarian aid agencies to provide them with basic assistance," she added.

15 April: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is preparing to evacuate an estimated 80,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees from Guinea's southern "Parrot's Beak" region to safer camps further north, the BBC reported. According to a UNHCR spokesperson, the operation is expected to take from six to eight weeks.

13 April: The Sierra Leone government has reversed a position reached just last week in concert with Guinea to refuse to talks to Liberian President Charles Taylor, whom the two countries accuse of backing rebel groups in their territories, Radio France International reported on Thursday. The policy change was announced by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya, who said it was important to open a dialogue with the Liberian leader. "That doesn’t mean that we trust him," Dumbuya said. "If we ourselves are not in a position to express our reservations or our revulsion at some of the activities they are doing, it will be a problem — and that has been the problem. We have decided to be more proactive, and to beware over Charles Taylor, to counter whatever lies he might talk about our country and to make the world to know how we stand."

Liberia announced late Thursday it had arrested six foreigners suspected of smuggling diamonds into the country from Sierra Leone, the Associated Press reported. The six, including a Sierra Leonean police officer and a Kamajor militiaman, were said to have been arrested last week near the Mano Bridge. According to a Ministry of Defence Statement, the suspects were detained for questioning at Defence Headquarters in Monrovia, and will later be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration. Liberia faces the prospect of United Nations sanctions if it fails to convince the Security Council by May 7 that it has ceased its support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade — a charge the Liberian government denies.

Sierra Leone is now in a position to pay teachers' salaries, but still faces the problem of getting the funds to its educators in the field, Education Minister Dr. Alpha Wurie told the BBC during a trip to London. "The support we’ve had from teachers has been tremendous, yet we have been slow in the payment of salary because the financial structures in the provinces have been affected by this war," Wurie said. "So a teacher in a village finds it difficult to harness his salary, not because it is not available, but because the structure and format of getting the cash to you is still on the weak side." Wurie also pointed out the difficulty in compensating teachers who found themselves behind rebel lines. "Government did not say we will not pay," he said. "Right through this couple of years, government has been paying every teacher registered as if every teacher was teaching." He noted that the funds were paid out to the schools, so that those teachers could receive their pay when they emerged from the RUF-controlled areas. "If (the schools) don’t want to keep the funds, you can pay these funds back to treasury," he said. "But it is clearly indicated that whenever (the teacher) appears he can be able to access his funds." The minister praised Sierra Leone's teachers for their dedication in working under what have often been difficult conditions, and insisted it was "absolutely vital" the government find a way to get their salaries to them on time. "I think in fact for a country that has gone through such trauma, the people that have to be catered for most should be teachers," he said. "They should be in a position to be role models. They should be able to impart civic education, peace education. They should be proud people in an environment for a child to emulate the teacher."

12 April: UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande travelled to Makeni Thursday for talks with RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay on deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in the rebel-held towns of Makeni and Magburaka, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. A UNAMSIL statement said Opande emphasised the need for the RUF to return remaining equipment seized from U.N. peacekeepers in May 2000, to facilitate the restoration of government authorities in areas where UNAMSIL has deployed, and to release 200 child combatants in Lunsar. In his response, Sesay submitted a document detailing what he said were ceasefire violations by the government. He also expressed concern over alleged attacks against the RUF in Kono by Guinean forces. Also taking part in Thursday's meeting on the UNAMSIL side were Alan Dross, the Deputy SRSG for Governance and Stabilisation, Deputy Force Commander Major-General Martin L. Agwai, Chief Military Observer Brigadier-General Isaac Chisuzi, and UNAMSIL civilian officials. Included on the RUF side were Brigadier-General Morris Kallon, Colonel Augustine Gbao, and other officers.

Wednesday's meeting in Abuja between President Kabbah and Liberian President Charles Taylor began on a stormy note, with Taylor accusing the British having "practically of re-colonised Sierra Leone," and Kabbah telling Taylor to mind his own business, BBC correspondent Elizabeth Blunt reported. "I don’t have any problems with what the British do in Sierra Leone," Taylor said after the meeting. "I am opposed to the presence of British forces in Sierra Leone. They have armed not just the Sierra Leonean armed forces, but have armed other forces, and British arms have shown up in Liberia. So I’m going to continue to talk about what I’m seeing: the practical re-colonisation of Sierra Leone." Kabbah responded that Taylor seemed to be "very much preoccupied" with the British presence in Sierra Leone. "I told him that foreign affairs of Sierra Leone and whatever agreements I have with people, particularly about the defence of my country and my people — that’s my business, it's not his business," Kabbah said. "He made a statement that the presence of the British in Sierra Leone will not facilitate the peace process. But I made the point clear that that’s not his business. Sierra Leone is not a province of Liberia. He should not meddle in our affairs, and he accepted that." After this initial exchange the meeting became more cordial, Kabbah told Blunt, and the two leaders agreed to try to set up a meeting involving the foreign ministers of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The United Nations Security Council's Committee Concerning the Situation in Liberia has issued a list of RUF members and supporters who it says should be expelled from Liberia. Named on the list were exiled former RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, exiled former commander Eddie Kanneh, General Ibrahima Bah, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore's advisor on the RUF; Short Bai Bureh (Colonel Doer of the Act), commander of an RUF combat group in Guinea; Koneh Bai Bureh (Shining Star), RUF 3rd Brigade commander, operating in Guinea; Colonel Lansana Conteh, RUF 2nd Brigade commander; General Fayia, Colonel Komba Gbundema (Colonel Mon Amie), operations commander in Guinea; Colonel Martin George (Colonel Mao-Mao), RUF 1st Brigade commander; Major Morie Jeio, Acting Chairman, RUFP Mining Ltd.; Mohamed Kabbah (Major Master Tourist), RUF signals commander; Colonel Molesky Kallon (Colonel Ngugumeh), RUF 7th Brigade commander; Isatu Kallon, Alfred Kargbo (Colonel Base Marine), RUF 4th Brigade commander; Colonel Jonathan Kposowa, RUF Chief of Administration; Philip Sandy, Michael Sandy, Lieutenant-Colonel Victor, Deputy Chairman, RUFP Mining, Ltd.; Omrie Golley, chairman of the RUF's Political and Peace Council; General Issa Sesay (General Emperor), RUF interim leader; Colonel Augustine Gbao, Head of Internal Security; Brigadier Morris Kallon (Brigadier Spirit), operations commander; Colonel Gibril Massaquoi (Colonel Postmaster/Wildfire), RUF spokesman and Head of Media Operations; Dennis Mingo (Brigadier Compass/Superman), Lieutenant-Colonel Abdul Razak, former chairman, RUFP Mining Ltd., and Colonel M. Souvla, RUF 6th Brigade commander.

Former NPRC leader Valentine Strasser, who returned to Sierra Leone in December after four years of exile, is not entitled to a pension as a former ruler of the country, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa argued during a radio talk show. According to BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana, Berewa accused Strasser of not displaying the dignity befitting a former head of state. "Captain Strasser has been living in his home village of Lower Allentown, east of Freetown," Fofana said. "Those who have visited him there say his condition, both physical and mental, has considerably deteriorated. He is said to be suffering severe depression as well as also being financially handicapped."

The chairman of the RUF's newly-formed Political and Peace Council, Omrie Golley, has welcomed what he sees as a suggestion embodied in the final communiqué from Wednesday's ECOWAS summit in Abuja that the Sierra Leone government might be willing to negotiate with the RUF body. In the communiqué, the ECOWAS Authority "took note of the decision of the Sierra Leonean Government to work with the newly-formed Political and Peace Council as a means of advancing the peace process and securing a quick implementation of the Abuja Agreement." Until now, the government has insisted that the RUF live up to the obligations it made under the Abuja Agreement before further talks on political issues could take place. But Golley, who spoke to the Sierra Leone Web from his home in Croatia, remained optimistic. "We welcome that decision in the interest of lasting and sustainable peace," he said. "And we would ourselves continue to do all that we can to advance the peace process."

Deputy U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie will begin a visit to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia on Monday to survey coordination arrangements and to review the crisis in the sub-region, a U.N. spokesman said in New York.

Spanish police said Thursday they had detained 103 Sierra Leonean and Senegalese illegal immigrants who reached the Canary Islands aboard an old Lithuanian fishing trawler, the German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported. According to the authorities in Santa Cruz, the Africans had been crammed into the hold of the 24-year old ship. Most of them required medical attention, as they had been kept in cold conditions and given nothing to eat or drink for several days. The twelve crew members of the ship, the "Ashva," were arrested and their leaky vessel sunk upon the orders of the Spanish authorities. The would-be immigrants will now be returned to their home countries, the news agency said. There was no independent confirmation of the immigrants' nationalities. Recently, many Africans attempting to enter Europe illegally discard their documents and claim to be Sierra Leoneans in the hope of receiving more favourable consideration of their request for asylum.

Sierra Leone's national football team ranks 35th out of 52 African teams, according to the latest FIFA rankings which were published on Thursday. At the top of the list was South Africa, followed by Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Cameroon. Nigeria, the Leone Stars' next opponent in the World Cup Qualifying Matches, ranks ninth. At the bottom of the list are Niger, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Djibouti, and Somalia. 

11 April: West African leaders attending an extraordinary ECOWAS summit on sub-regional security issues in Abuja have called on the Mano River Union states of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to curb the activities of armed groups operating on their territories, and work to resolve the crisis in the sub-region. To that end, the summit decided to appoint a mediation committee consisting of the presidents of Nigeria, Mali and Togo to encourage dialogue between the parties aimed at restoring peace. According to a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the leaders urged Guinea and Liberia to sign a Status of Forces Agreement to the deployment of a proposed 1,696-strong ECOWAS force along their troubled common border. Guinea, angered at ECOWAS moves last month to delay United Nations sanctions against Liberia, has refused to allow the West African troops to deploy on its territory, and President Lansana Conte refused to attend Wednesday's summit. Guinea was represented instead by Foreign Minister Mahawa Bangoura. The two countries also have very different visions of what the force should do, Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido told the BBC. Liberia insists that the ECOWAS force should be limited to a monitoring role, while Guinea believes the sub-regional body should take a more active role in imposing peace. The ECOWAS-nation leaders also asked Liberian President Charles Taylor to reverse his decision to expel the Sierra Leonean and Guinean ambassadors from Monrovia and, according to the communique, Taylor acceded to their request. Meanwhile President Kabbah, who initially had decided not to attend the summit, changed his mind at the last minute after receiving a personal appeal from Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. "He had decided not to go because President Conte was not going and he did not believe anything useful could be achieved without Conteh being there," Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer told the Sierra Leone Web. "However, President Obasanjo sent his foreign minister to Freetown last night to plead with President Kabbah to attend, and in deference to President Obasanjo, he decided to go." Kabbah arrived in Abuja only after the summit had ended and the final communiqué distributed to reporters. The BBC reported that Kabbah, Obasanjo, Liberian President Charles Taylor and Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, the chairman of ECOWAS, then went into a brief meeting. In Freetown, Reuters quoted Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa as saying Kabbah would talk only about the ceasefire signed last November between the government and the RUF, but that he was not willing to discuss the proposed peacekeeping force.

Since mid-March, the German aid organisation GTZ has provided transportation for 2,960 returning refugees to southern Sierra Leone, a spokesman for the group told the Sierra Leone Web this week. The majority of the returnees, who were repatriated from Guinea aboard IOM-chartered boats, were taken to displaced camps at Jembe and Gerihun. Others were dropped in Bo and Kenema, while the few remaining opted to stop along the way in villages where they have relatives or other possibilities to find food and shelter, such as Mile 91, Moyamba or increasingly, in Barri Chiefdom. The GTZ and the UNHCR, with funding from the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, is due to launch a new project in May to provide skills training and income generating activities for 750 ex-combatants, mostly members of the pro-government Civil Defence Forces. Renewed funding from the German government for reintegration programmes and preparation of host communities will allow the agency to extend its work into the north in the coming weeks, the spokesman said.

10 April: A ministerial-level meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council was due to get underway in Abuja Tuesday, a day in advance of Wednesday's extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government. The ministers were to be briefed by the Executive Secretariat on the current security situation in the sub-region, and were expected to discuss the security situations in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and the Casamance region of Senegal, along with the conflict and humanitarian situation along the volatile Guinea - Liberia border. Also on the agenda was the proposed deployment of 1,696 armed ECOMOG troops, first agreed to in December by the ECOWAS Defence and Security Mechanism. The initiative since stalled for financial reasons and because of a lack of cooperation by the Guinean and Liberian governments. The ministers were also expected to discuss proposed United Nations sanctions against Liberia, the implementation of the protocol on the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, and the status of implementation of the ECOWAS Moratorium on light weapons.

The third meeting of the tripartite committee for the peace process in Sierra Leone was scheduled to take place at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja Tuesday morning, according to an ECOWAS press release. The committee, known as the coordination mechanism, comprises officials of ECOWAS, the United Nations, and the Sierra Leone government. During the one day closed-door meeting, the members were to assess the current situation in Sierra Leone. They were expected to discuss reports on the return of weapons and equipment seized from UNAMSIL by the RUF last May, the release of all abductees, and the restructuring and retraining of the Sierra Leone Army. The committee was also due to consider the status of the implementation of last November's Abuja ceasefire agreement between the government and the RUF, as well as other sub-regional security issues which affect the situation in Sierra Leone.

Sebastian Junger and Teun Voeten have been named finalists for the 2000 SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award Programme for their Vanity Fair magazine reports, "The Terror of Sierra Leone," and "The Terror Recorded." The journalism awards programme is administered by the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. This year's three winners and ten finalists were selected from among more than 230 entries from 38 countries.

President Kabbah, in an interview recorded last week and broadcast on Tuesday, told the Voice of America that the security situation in Sierra Leone has improved significantly. "I’ve travelled extensively, and I can tell you the country is relatively safe now and we are about to consolidate whatever achievements we’ve made in the area of security and safety," he said. "And we’re also making progress with ending this senseless war once and for all." Kabbah said that statements by the RUF that the rebels were ready for peace had to be backed up this time by actions on the ground. He dismissed suggestions that the failure of the Civil Defence Forces and the Sierra Leone Army to disarm was holding up the peace process. "It’s not a problem for me, it’s a problem for (the RUF)," he said. "The problem is that they signed an agreement. And that agreement — the Lomé Peace Agreement and the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement — are very clear that the that the Civil Defence (Forces) will disarm, and they’ve made it quite clear that they’re ready to do so within 21 days, all over the country. But it must be done simultaneously with the RUF disarming...It would be crazy for our own army to disarm. It’s our national army, they have to protect the citizens of this country. They cannot disarm." Kabbah said he was looking forward to the delayed presidential and parliamentary elections, but he refused to commit himself on whether he would seek re-election. "I am interested in the fact that there will be an election, because I believe that we should do it as quickly as possible," he said. "I think it is the sovereign right of the people of this country to decide on whoever they think should lead them. The question of my own programme, I think I have to think about what happens to me later on. I always like to think in terms of the country first and then myself next."

UNPP party leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart confirmed Tuesday that he plans to end his self-imposed exile in the United States and return to Freetown this month to attend a High Court hearing on whether fourteen UNPP representatives who were expelled from the party in January 1997 should continue to hold their seats in Parliament. Karefa-Smart told the Sierra Leone Web that while he was was "not inclined to go back home while there was a state of emergency," the judge had threatened to dismiss the case if he did not appear in person, since he had signed the original affidavit which brought the matter to court. Karefa-Smart stressed that his return home was unrelated to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, and was focused solely on the dispute over control of his party's parliamentary representation. He is due to arrive in Freetown on April 24, one day before the court hearing.

9 April: Sierra Leone will again face food shortages this year, where civil strife continues to disrupt farming, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said Monday. In its report, "Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO said an estimated 28 million Africans in sixteen countries are likely to face food shortages. "Continued food assistance is necessary in all countries of eastern Africa and the Great Lakes region as well as in Angola, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," the report said, adding that Liberia, Rwanda, Congo and Sierra Leone would need "sustained assistance to rehabilitate their agricultural sectors following prolonged civil strife."

United Nations peacekeepers conducted a long-range patrol on Saturday to the RUF-held diamond mining town of Tongo Field, UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande said on Monday. "We went there to see for ourselves where we are going to deploy and how many men we would need," he told the Associated Press. "You will realise that Rome was not built in a day. This is in preparation for our deployment in those areas." Opande said Saturday's operation involved about one hundred peacekeepers. One of the reporters who accompanied the Zambian convoy to Tongo was Siaffa Moriba, who told the BBC that the road was so bad it took the twenty U.N. vehicles three hours to reach the town. "Many of the towns and villages we passed on the way to Tongo were burned down," he said. "Structures still standing are riddled with bullet holes." Moriba said two RUF commanders met the convoy and escorted it into Tongo, where thousands of residents lined the main street, singing and chanting "U.N., we want peace!" The local RUF commander, Colonel Kailondo Sama Banya, called for displaced persons to return home and for road traffic to resume, the reporter said. He said Banya also insisted that the RUF was ready to disarm, but said the fighters needed assurances of their safety.

The authorities in Guinea have decided to close the Massakoundou refugee camp west of Kissidougou, claiming it had become "a nest of lawless addicts," Radio France International reported on Monday. The Guinean government has given the UNHCR three weeks to relocate the 14,000 refugees, most of them Sierra Leoneans, to other camps. In fact, the UNHCR had already begun evacuating the refugees to the new Boreah camp in Albadaria Prefecture following a March 26 search of the camp by Guinean security forces, ostensibly searching for rebels who might be hiding there. 457 refugees and aid workers were detained by soldiers and transported to Kissidougou of questioning. All but four of them were released two days later, but tension has remained high among the refugees remaining in the camp.

President Kabbah said that his term in office has been productive in working to bring peace to Sierra Leone, and that if he had to do it over again he would not change a thing. "I do not think that the problems that we had were basically mistakes on the part of the government," Kabbah told Voice of America correspondent Josephine Kamara in an interview recorded last week. "It was because of what we inherited, and to change attitudes — particularly of human beings — can be very difficult. And to deal with bandits who call themselves rebels also can be very difficult. The original goal was there, to try and rid our country of those bad people. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but the main objective is there, and I’ll do what I have done in the past to achieve that. Of course I may fine-tune my methods of achieving my objectives, but the objectives are the same." Kabbah acknowledged that many Sierra Leoneans and others "see this state as the milking cow," and he said eradicating corruption was one of his main objectives. "Since I assumed office, with the help of the British government financially, we’ve been able to set up an anti-corruption commission based on what was set up — again with the assistance of the British government — in Hong Kong," he said. "And we’re still struggling with trying to set it up." Pressed on why, then, he was relying on what Kamara described as "some of the same old politicians," Kabbah responded: "A fair question, but they have to be in my position. I cannot do all the work myself."

7 April: RUF officials say that some 48,000 Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea have crossed into rebel-held territory so far, but that the returnees are already dying of hunger and disease, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported on Saturday. Fofana accompanied United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the rebel-held town of Lunsar on Friday, where spoke to senior RUF officials, including RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi. Aid agencies in Guinea believe many refugees have fled new fighting in that country's southern border region by crossing through rebel-held territory, but there has so far been no independent confirmation of the number of people affected. Massaquoi also denied allegations by Human Rights Watch of abuses against the returnees by rebel fighters.

France's Ambassador to Guinea, Denys Gauer, told reporters in Conakry Saturday that Sierra Leonean refugees caught up in fighting in southern Guinea should be repatriated with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. "France is willing to assist in such a venture," Reuters quoted Gauer as saying following his return from visiting refugee camps in Guinea's Forest Region and in the "Parrot's Beak," along the country's border with Sierra Leone and Liberia. Last month, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers proposed establishing a "humanitarian corridor" to allow the refugees safe passage through the volatile border area and through RUF-held areas of Sierra Leone. That plan was criticised this week by Human Rights Watch, which released a report documenting incidents where returning refugees had been murdered, abducted, or raped by rebel fighters. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said Friday that the agency "is not encouraging returns to Sierra Leone." He said a UNHCR information team was broadcasting regular radio messages to refugees to warn them of the perils of trying to return home through the dangerous border region.

Hundreds of women demonstrated for peace Saturday in Freetown and in other major cities throughout the country, Voice of America correspondent Josephine Kamara reported. The peace rally was organised by UNAMSIL, together with several civil society organisations including the Campaign for Good Governance, the Forum for African Women Educationalists, the Market Women's Association, and the Women's Forum. According to a UNAMSIL press release, a march through the streets of Freetown culminated in a prayer meeting attended by over 1,500 women at the National Stadium. Similar events were held in Bo, Moyamba, Kenema, Daru, Lunsar and Tongo. UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki said the U.N. was moved by the response of Sierra Leonean women for the need to help restore peace in their country. "We of the United Nations believe that women are also a very, very strong force for peace, because women can really have an ability to come together as you see by this march, to come together in numbers, to work towards a common goal," she said. "(Women are) also the ones who bring the children up, and who can instill into children values of peace, tolerance and cooperation. So for us women are very, very important in building peace."

6 April: United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette met at Lunsar Friday with Colonel Jonathan Kposowa, the RUF's Chief of Administration, where she delivered a message that the rebel group's promises to end Sierra Leone's decade-long civil conflict had to be matched by concrete actions. "The RUF must give clear and concrete evidence to lay down their arms and that they are complying with the ceasefire agreement," she said. Fréchette is making a three-day visit to Sierra Leone, which ends on Saturday. The deputy secretary-general said the rebels told her they were ready to end the fighting. "The RUF told me that they want peace and not war, that it is a new RUF with a different agenda and that they welcomed the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in the town," she said. "I welcomed these assurances, but told them that their statements of intention need to be matched with actions on the ground." According to the Associated Press, Fréchette told reporters Kposowa promised that the RUF would remove three illegal checkpoints manned by rebel fighters at Lunsar by Saturday. Under an agreement between the RUF and UNAMSIL, all rebel checkpoints were to have been removed when Nigerian peacekeepers deployed at Lunsar last month. But there have been persistent reports that the checkpoints, or "tollgates," remained in operation. One of these roadblocks, in fact, was located "quite clearly bang in the middle of the United Nations’ strategic military positions" between the Kenyan and Nigerian battalions, said BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle, who visited Lunsar and Makeni this week. Doyle noted that "U.N. peacekeepers were supposed to have deployed here, and no other roadblocks should have been allowed."  On Thursday, Fréchette met in Freetown with Vice President Albert Joe Demby and, according to Reuters, told him that UNAMSIL had revised its strategy for deploying in rebel-held areas of the country. "We cannot afford to have the same kind of incident that we had last year," Fréchette said, referring to the near-collapse of the U.N. force in May, after the rebels resumed hostilities and took more than 500 peacekeepers hostage. "I don't think it will be good for Sierra Leone and certainly it is not good for the U.N.," she added. Echoing the words of UNAMSIL military spokesman Major M. M. Yerima earlier this week, Fréchette indicated that the deployment would be conducted "in a way that will not sustain any challenge, because in the long term this is, I think, what will bring permanent peace." According to a UNAMSIL statement, Fréchette told President Kabbah Thursday that she was particularly interested in the U.N.'s economic, social and humanitarian activities in the country, and on how the U.N. and the government could more effectively coordinate their efforts. She said the U.N. must also have "good productive relations" with Sierra Leone's donor community as well as non-governmental organisations, the statement said. Fréchette also met with Vice President Demby, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya, and other senior officials, as well as United Nations staff and members of the diplomatic corps. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is stepping up its efforts to relocate tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees away from Guinea's volatile southern border area before the beginning of the rainy season, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva on Friday. So far, some 27,000 refugees have been moved from the "Parrot's Beak" region to safer sites in Albadaria Prefecture. The UNHCR said that, security permitting, it would deploy more search teams in the Parrot's Beak to bring people to safety. Many of the refugee camps in the area were deserted or destroyed following recent fighting, and tens of thousands of refugees have congregated in the few remaining camps. The Kolomba camp, which lies at the furthest tip of the Parrot's Beak," now contains about 60,000 people. After last month's rebel attack on the town of Nongoa, thousands of refugees fled north to Mongo, Dandou and to Katkama, where the UNHCR now operates a transit camp. Others are believed to have retreated further into the Parrot's Beak, or to be hiding in the bush. Some of the refugees are so desperate that they have taken the risk of walking back to Sierra Leone through the dangerous rebel-controlled border area, the spokesman said. Meanwhile, UNHCR transport teams are moving ever deeper into the Parrot's Beak to bring the refugees to safety in the north. On Thursday, a UNHCR convoy of 30 trucks carried about 1,000 refugees from Koundou Bengo Lengo camp to Katkama, which currently has some 12,000 persons awaiting further transport to the new camp at Boreah, in Albadaria Prefecture. The UNHCR is also relocating thousands of refugees from the Massakoundou camp, west of Kissidougou, which is no longer considered secure. A UNHCR information team is broadcasting regular radio messages into the Parrot's Beak warning of the dangers of walking back to Sierra Leone, including reports of abductions, rapes, and other abuses by armed groups operating in the border region.

Nigeria will field a team of eighteen internationals when the Super Eagles meet the Leone Stars in Freetown later this month in a World Cup qualifying match. "It shows how seriously we're taking this match," coach Jo Bonfrere said Friday. Nigeria, currently in third place in Group B behind Liberia and Sudan, needs a win against last-place Sierra Leone to keep alive any hope of qualifying for next year's World Cup. Bonfrere threatened last month to resign if his team lost to Sierra Leone, and he scheduled a friendly match with Libya to prepare the team for Freetown. That match was postponed at the insistence of Libya. "We're going all out for a win in Freetown to ensure we're on the track to play in the 2002 World Cup finals," Reuters quoted Bonfrere as saying. But one die-hard fan of the blue and white warned last month that the Leone Stars should not be taken lightly. "If Jo Bonfrere thinks he is going to have it easy, then he has more surprises, as we will be the giant killer," said former team manager Joe Blell, now Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Nigeria. "The last nail in his soccer career will be Sierra Leone's pleasure."

The Liberian government has complained about last week's meeting in Conakry between President Kabbah and Guinean President Lansana Conte, saying that if the discussions were held under the auspices of the all-but-dormant Mano River Union, then Liberia as a founding member should have been invited. "If it’s a bilateral meeting it’s very well and good for them — we have no qualms about that," said Liberian Information Minister Jonathan Refell. "As a matter of fact, we think that such meetings would serve a useful purpose for them as on a bilateral basis. But to me, as the Mano River Union conference and excluding us, we certainly think it will serve no good purpose at all, and they cannot do that without the knowledge or participation of our government." A statement released after the meeting said it had been held within the "framework of the periodic consultations" between the two leaders. Liberia came under heavy criticism for its alleged rule in supporting rebel movements in Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the statement hinted that the Liberian government  would not be welcome in the sub-regional organisation until such time as it would "respect the same principles which govern (the Mano River Union)."

5 April: Pakistan has decided to send a brigade-sized contingent of well over 4,000 troops to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. They details of the deployment, including discussions on equipment, logistics and transportation requirements, are still being worked out. The government of Nepal is also actively considering offering a battalion, which would bring UNAMSIL's troop strength close to its current authorised size of 17,500. UNAMSIL currently has about 12,000 peacekeeping troops and military observers in Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council was due to receive an update on current development in Sierra Leone on Thursday with a briefing from Dmitry Titov, Director of the Africa Division in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. 

President Kabbah responded Thursday to calls by the RUF for talks on a political settlement to the country's decade of civil conflict by demanding that the rebels first fulfill their obligations under last year's Abuja ceasefire agreement. "All the provisions of that agreement must be implemented before we can meaningfully talk about peace," Kabbah said in an address to newly-trained Sierra Leone Army troops during a passing-out ceremony at the Benguema Training Centre. "Those who want to "kick-start" the peace process should start off by implementing scrupulously, all the provisions of Abuja." Among the provisions of the agreement yet to be implemented, the president pointed to commitments by the RUF to allow the free movement of persons and goods and unimpeded access by humanitarian agencies to territory under their control. He also pointed to an agreement to resume the disarmament process immediately, and to allow U.N. peacekeepers to deploy throughout the country, including in the rebel-held diamond mining areas. "That was five months ago, much too long for the overwhelming majority of our people who have made considerable sacrifice for the sake of peace," he said. Kabbah insisted that this time the RUF would have to translate its calls for peace into concrete action. "Let the action begin with implementation of the Abuja Agreement," he said. "Then, and only then, will the people of Sierra Leone honestly believe the RUF pronouncements about war and peace." In his address to the soldiers, Kabbah rejected RUF demands that the army be disarmed. "My government is determined that never again shall this nation be left defenceless," he said. "Never again shall our people lose confidence in the armed forces, and in the ability of those forces to defend and protect them when necessary." Kabbah noted that in signing the Abuja Agreement, the RUF had accepted the government's commitment to accelerate the process of restructuring and training the Sierra Leone Army.

Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said Thursday the government had no immediate plans to resume a power-sharing arrangement with the RUF, which was broken off last May after the rebel group abducted more than 500 United Nations peacekeepers and resumed hostilities. "That is the matter for the president," Spencer told Radio France International. "As of now that is not under consideration as far as I know." Spencer dismissed RUF claims that the government's move to extend its term in office by postponing the elections, and he rejected calls by the RUF and some opposition and civil society groups for an interim government of national unity. "The extension of the government has been done strictly in accordance with the constitution," he said. "It is in fact the idea of an interim government that should be an illegality. There is no provision in our constitution or in our laws for anything like an interim government. If that is done it means that we will be abrogating our constitution and setting it aside." Spencer called RUF peace overtures "just words," and said the rebels would first have to deliver on the commitments they made under the Abuja ceasefire agreement. "When that happens, then we can say that there is peace and elections can proceed," he said. "That is what we’re hoping they mean when they say they’re now prepared to allow peace to prevail and they want to be involved in the democratic political process."

The African Development Bank announced Thursday its soft-loan arm was lending Sierra Leone $12.92 million to help fund economic recovery the the country, the Reuters news agency reported. The bank said it was joining the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in backing the government's national recovery programme, which focuses on restoring security, stabilising the economy, and improving governance.

Bulgaria moved Thursday to ban arms sales to Sierra Leone and nineteen other countries, a year after a United Nations report accused the country of selling arms to Angola's UNITA rebels, in violation of U.N. sanctions. Bulgaria denied the allegations, but pledged to tighten controls on arms dealers and manufacturers to prevent Bulgarian arms from reaching rebel groups through unscrupulous middlemen. According to the Associated Press, the ban covers the sale or donation of arms, munitions, equipment, means of military transport, spare parts, military staff training and any other kind of military aid.

Amnesty International called Thursday for a vigorous international presence in Guinea to protect hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees and Guinean civilians caught amid warring factions in the country's southern border region. "The present U.N. force in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, or the proposed ECOWAS intervention force in the border area, should be mandated immediately to provide support for such an initiative and ensure strong human rights monitoring. It is time to bring this West African human rights disaster to an end," the human rights group said in a statement issued at the end of an Amnesty International fact-finding mission to Guinea. Amnesty International also called on the international community to establish a meaningful process of resettlement and to provide the refugees with safe haven elsewhere to the extent that Guinea remains dangerous. The group also called on the United Nations to immediately set up a proposed Special Court in Sierra Leone to try those responsible for serious human rights crimes, and so end impunity.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said Thursday that thousands of people had been forced to flee fighting in Liberia's northern Lofa County, and he denounced a U.N. arms embargo which he said was making it difficult for Liberia to counter what he claimed were Guinean-backed insurgents. "There is an international conspiracy against this government," Reuters quoted Chea as saying. "We are in a tough situation. We are under an arms embargo. Our feet and hands are tied and (we have been) thrown in the ring to box." Last month the United Nations Security Council strengthened an existing arms embargo against Liberia, and adopted further sanctions which will come into effect on May 7 if the Liberian government fails to convince the Council that it has ceased its support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and stopped its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade. Liberia denies the charges.

West African leaders will examine the situation in Sierra Leone as well as the current instability and humanitarian crisis along the country's volatile border area with Guinea and Liberia at an ECOWAS mini-summit in Abuja next week. The full summit is due to convene on Wednesday, a day after a ministerial-level meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council. In December, ECOWAS resolved to send a 1,696-member peacekeeping force to the area, but financial constraints and a lack of cooperation by Guinea and Liberia have put the deployment on hold. The Guinean and Liberian governments accuse each other of supporting rebels in the other's country. Guinean President Lansana Conte, angry with ECOWAS for supporting a two-month delay in United Nations Security Council sanctions against Liberia, said he would not allow the force to deploy in Guinea until the sanctions were in place. Last week he vowed never to negotiate with Liberian President Charles Taylor. According to the Pan African News Agency, Conte then rejected the proposed force outright.  "I do not want people to come and settle to prevent me from doing what I can do," he said. "I have too many soldiers to let others come and get in my way."

4 April: UNAMSIL has postponed its planned deployment in the RUF-held northern towns of Makeni and Magburaka for logistical reasons, BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle reported on Wednesday. "Today was the latest day which the U.N. had set for itself to deploy from the town of Mile 91," Doyle said. "However the order was written, according to senior military sources, by United Nations headquarters apparently with them not knowing that the Bangladeshi contingent, who would have been the contingent who made this deployment, were not ready because their equipment had not arrived in time and some of it was still on ships." On Tuesday, UNAMSIL military spokesman Major M. M. Yerima told reporters the U.N. force had learned from its experience of last May, when more than 500 peacekeepers were held hostage by the rebels, and would deploy in strength. "Last year we had deployment in Kambia with a company, we had deployment in Lunsar with a company, we had deployment in Masiaka with a company, but now we have a full-fledged battalion in Lunsar and Mange, and we have a company under Kambia District," Yerima said. "When the peacekeepers were deployed, we thought they were being deployed in what was a situation of peace and they were being deployed around the country in rather thin groups. We have learned from that experience. You will see that our current deployments have been strong, and they are with capacity to respond robustly to any challenges should they arise." 

Guinean troops and Kamajor militiamen clashed last week with RUF rebels, who tried to prevent members of the pro-government militia from escorting some 4,000 refugees back into Sierra Leone, IRIN reported on Wednesday, quoting a military source. The refugees had been living in Guinea's volatile "Parrot's Beak" region. "The Guineans were assisting the refugees to return," when they came under attack, the source said. The Guinean army then retaliated by attacking RUF positions in Kono with ground troops. "I want to believe they didn't want to bomb indiscriminately and wanted to make sure the area was not reoccupied (by the RUF)," the source said. In an interview with the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi alleged that Guinean troops, the Kamajors and the Sierra Leone Army all participated in the fighting. However, an SLA officer told IRIN that the army was "absolutely not" involved. 

Deputy United Nations Secretary-General Louise Fréchette arrived in Freetown Wednesday at the beginning of a four-day visit to Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL said in a statement. Fréchette was met at Lungi International Airport by Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and by other senior UNAMSIL officials. She is due to hold separate talks Thursday with President Kabbah and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya before meeting with the United Nations Country Team in Sierra Leone. Further meetings are also scheduled with Vice President Demby and other senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and U.N. staff in Sierra Leone, the statement said. On Friday, Fréchette will meet with senior UNAMSIL officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations before departing for Port Loko to tour DDR and displaced camps. Later Friday, she will visit the RUF-held town of Lunsar, where U.N. peacekeepers were only recently deployed.

UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki acknowledged Wednesday that disarmament of the warring factions in Sierra Leone has been proceeding only slowly and in a sporadic way, and she pointed to the need to build confidence between the parties. "It’s going to take some time for confidence to be restored on all sides so that the disarmament process gets underway," she told Radio France International. "There is also a question of what sorts of inducements will be available to ex-combatants to encourage them to disarm. It’s very difficult to expect people to put down their weapons when all they have known is war, and it’s their only means of livelihood." Novicki said the U.N. was encouraging both the RUF and the pro-government Civil Defence Forces to disarm, but not the army. "There is a distinction to be made between the SLA (Sierra Leone Army), which is the army of the legitimate government of Sierra Leone, which of course will not disarm, and the Civil Defence Forces, which are the militias on the ground that have been fighting in support of the government side, that are to be included in the disarmament process," she said.

3 April: Human Rights Watch alleged Tuesday that numerous Sierra Leonean refugees fleeing through RUF-held areas to escape fighting in southern Guinea have been attacked by RUF fighters. Between December 2000 and mid-March 2001, Human Rights Watch documented abuses which included the murder of civilians and recruitment of men and boys as young as fifteen to fight with rebel forces or as forced labour. "Numerous women returnees described being abducted, raped and/or sexually abused," the human rights group said. "Returnees who had been detained described being held for anywhere from several hours to several weeks. In addition to the abuses suffered along the way, most refugees described being robbed of some or all of their possessions." Human Rights Watch argued that the protection of the refugees would be "seriously compromised" by a plan advanced by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers to provide "safe passage" for refugees through rebel-held areas. "Despite assurances received by UNHCR during its meetings with RUF leaders in Sierra Leone, any form of overland travel by refugees through RUF territory should be discouraged by UNHCR," the group said. In Makeni, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi denied Human Rights Watch's allegations. "It is not correct. It is not correct at all," Massaquoi told the Sierra Leone Web. "I am not aware of any refugee being executed. That is why we’ve asked UNHCR in Freetown to come to the aid of these people. We do not have sufficient food to feed them because they have not been here before...But what they are talking of, the returnees coming back to our territory and suffering rapes, someone have died, I don’t think that is correct." Massaquoi suggested that the abuses might have taken place in Guinea, but, he said, "not in our own territory."

RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi alleged Tuesday that Guinean forces had launched cross-border attacks on RUF positions and villages in the rebel-held Kono and Kailahun Districts. "In the Kono District they attacked Kissy Town, Kombayende, Kaikundu, Kamiendor, Saima, and Sendu. And in the Kailahun District they attacked Sandaru this morning; Lalihun, [Singama] and [Tandu]," Massaquoi told the Sierra Leone Web. "They have been repelled in some, and fighting is going on in some of those villages to push them back into Guinea." He said the attacks were being carried out by ground troops, and not by Guinean helicopter gunships. "These are ground troops involving Guinean troops, Sierra Leone Army and Kamajors. They are all coming from Guinea," he said. There has been no independent confirmation of his claims. On Monday, the BBC quoted Massaquoi as saying that Sierra Leone's decade-long civil conflict was over. But speaking to the Sierra Leone Web from Makeni by satellite telephone, Massaquoi explained he meant only that there had been a complete cessation of hostilities since the signing last November of the Abuja ceasefire agreement. "I did not launch war," he said. "I am not the leader of this war. I cannot make that sort of pronouncement to anybody." Massaquoi also denied that the RUF was insisting on preconditions for peace talks with the government, but he said the rebel group would raise the "key issue" of the detention of RUF officials, imprisoned last May after the collapse of the peace process. He said also that the RUF wanted the international community to press for a multi-party transitional government in Sierra Leone which would be responsible for overseeing the upcoming elections, adding: "We are afraid that (the election) will be rigged by that government for their own interests." But Massaquoi stressed that the RUF was anxious to resume talks with the government. "We are hoping that we will meet again on the political aspects, because most issues that they are supposed to fulfill, they are not doing it," he said. "They are pushing us to anger so that we will resort to another violence. We will not push to that. As you know, Lomé Accord says we are to be part of the governance of this country. (President Kabbah) reshuffled his cabinet after his term of office finished. Instead of including RUF he failed to do so. So we feel on this basis we have to urgently meet on the political aspect. And that is what we are crying on ECOWAS for, and the UNAMSIL, so that this meeting takes place earlier than later."

UNAMSIL's Core Contact Group met at Lunsar Friday with an RUF delegation to discuss a range of issues including UNAMSIL patrols and access to RUF-held territory, the presence of checkpoints, and the restoration of government authority in rebel-controlled areas. The U.N. delegation was led by Deputy Military Observer Colonel Charles Mankatah, Gebremedhin Hagoss, the Chief of UNAMSIL's Policy and Planning Section, and Ismael Diallo. The RUF side was represented by Colonel A.M. Jimmy, Colonel T.T. Karimu, and Gashin Amara. According to a UNAMSIL spokesperson, it was agreed that the peacekeeping force should have unhindered access throughout the country. A RUF delegation also visited UNAMSIL's Ghanaian Battalion 3 headquarters at Daru on Friday, while another, led by Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley, visited UNAMSIL positions at Lunsar and Port Loko on Saturday. Meanwhile, Nigerian peacekeepers and UNAMSIL military observers from Port Loko patrolled to Kambia, Rokupr and Mange on Friday. The patrol met with RUF 2nd Battalion commander Colonel Vandi Sheriff and other RUF officers and officials, who asked that UNAMSIL deploy in Rokupr and Kambia as soon as possible. The patrol observed two trenches on either side of the Kambia Bridge, the spokesperson said.

Sierra Leone is one of twenty countries left in the world where polio is still present, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which released figures Tuesday to show that the campaign launched in 1988 to stamp out the disease by the year 2005 has already been 99 percent successful. The partners in the initiative, which include the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned however that the biggest challenges still lie ahead, including accessing all children, closing a $400 million funding gap, and maintaining political commitment in the face of a disappearing disease.

More than 12,000 refugees, most of them Sierra Leoneans who fled new fighting in Guinea's southern border region, have gathered at the Katkama transit camp near Gueckedou, awaiting evacuation to safer sites in the country's interior, a UNHCR spokesman said on Tuesday. Since the effort to relocate refugees away from the volatile border region began in February, aid agencies have transported more than 25,000 persons to the new Kountaya camp in Guinea's Albadaria Prefecture. With Kountaya now full, the UNHCR and implementing partners will begin taking refugees to a new site at Boreah starting on Wednesday. A third site, at Sembakounya in Dabola Prefecture, could be ready within two weeks. Meanwhile, the UNHCR continues to send trucks into the volatile "parrot's beak" region in search of vulnerable refugees trying to make their way to Katkama. A March 9 attack on the town of Nongoa forced an estimated 9,000 refugees to flee for their lives. Many moved northwards to Mongo and to Katkama, while others are believed to have retreated further into the "parrot's beak," the spokesman said. Still others crossed into Sierra Leone or are hiding in the bush. The UNHCR is also transferring refugees from the Massakoundou camp near Kissidougou, which is now considered insecure. Last week Guinean security forces detained some 500 persons for questioning, including aid workers, allegedly in a search for rebels who might have entered the camp. Most of the detained refugees were later released, but the resulting increase in tension has left many at Massakoundou anxious to leave. As an indication of their increasing desperation, the spokesman said, about 1,000 refugees tried to travel to Conakry this week by bus in order to return to Sierra Leone by boat. They were blocked by Guinean authorities, who insisted the refugees had no authorisation to travel. Others have walked back to Sierra Leone through the dangerous border area. At Daru, nearly 300 refugees are showing up each day, and in Kenema, the UNHCR has registered over 4,000 returnees since the beginning of March.

2 April: Aid agencies have registered 42,689 refugees who returned home from Guinea since fighting broke out last September in that country's southern border area, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday. The figures do not reflect the estimated thousands of returnees in RUF-held areas in the east and north where aid agencies as yet do not have access, or those who returned directly to their homes without registering with the UNHCR. The report confirmed reports of problems at the transit camps in Jui, Lumpa and Waterloo in the Western Area, where returnees have refused to relocate to more permanent displaced camps. Problems were said to be especially acute at the Lumpa camp, which the OCHA report described as a stronghold of displaced Kono District returnees "who refuse to move out or admit new arrivals." The camp is currently about 70 percent full. "Kono returnees, incited by political groups, are creating security problems for UNHCR and government staff," the report noted.  [Site / Population / Capacity] Western Area: Jui / 3,113 / 1,500. Lumpa / 3,559 / 5,000. Waterloo / 1,800 / 1,000. Police Barracks / 160 / 450. Hangar / 502 / n.a.. Southern Province: Jembe / 5,755 / 5,000. Gerihun / 2,464 / 10-15,000. Potoru / 960 / 10-15,000. Moyamba / n.a. / 36,000. Northern Province: Lungi Area / 17,742 / 25,000. Kabala / 940 / n.a. Eastern Province: Daru / 3,136 / n.a. Kenema / 3,558 / n.a.

Minister of Mineral Resources Mohamed Swarray Deen threatened Monday to take strong action against diamond dealers caught trading in "conflict diamonds," the Reuters news agency reported. Deen said dealers who handled diamonds smuggled from rebel-held parts of the country would lose their licenses, Reuters said. Foreign dealers would be deported, and Sierra Leoneans would be prosecuted. "We have to work collectively," Deen said. "The inhabitants of major diamond centres...and other areas under government control should see themselves as watchdogs against 'blood diamonds'." The minister's warning follows allegations made last week by the Minister of State for Eastern Province, Sahr Randolph Fillie-Faboe, that RUF-mined diamonds were being sold in Kenema and certified as having been mined legitimately due to lax controls by the dealers.

RUF commanders say that if elections scheduled for later this year are free and fair, and if they are monitored by the international community, then the rebel group wants to participate, BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle reported Monday after a visit to the rebel-held town of Makeni. Doyle noted that one sign of reduced tensions appeared to be the ease in which he reached the the town. "I drove to Lunsar, which is now being patrolled by the United Nations," he said. "And I did ring the rebels on the satellite phone to warn them that I was coming. Then I just drove without a military escort, without the United Nations, without anybody, to the rebel-held area. And they met me there and then we drove to Makeni." Doyle said the RUF was anxious to show him what they said was damage caused last year in an attack by the government's helicopter gunship. "They pointed out various houses which they said were civilian houses and marketplaces which had been bombed by the gunship, and one young man showed me the grave of his pregnant wife who was killed by the gunship, he said," Doyle told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. Doyle said the rebel commanders were insisting on various preconditions for resumed talks with the government, including the release of  detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh and the departure of British forces from Sierra Leone. "But nevertheless, they were very much giving a message of peace and they’re tired of war," he said.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has reversed her decision to step down in September, and has asked for a one-year extension of her current term, the Associated Press reported on Monday. Robinson, who has been a strong advocate for human rights and the rule of law in Sierra Leone, told the U.N. Human Rights Commission last month she felt she could accomplish more working outside the constraints of the United Nations system.

Mohamed Thorlie, the paramount chief of Kono District's Gbense Chiefdom, is reported to have died Sunday in Freetown.