The Sierra Leone Web


April 1996

30 April: Army spokesman Major John Milton said Tuesday that the truce with the RUF is holding. Although the two sides had previously traded accusations of truce violations, Milton said that the situation had been quiet since Saturday. He also said that the army had handed over 56 child soldiers to the Catholic Mission in Bo on Sunday. The children ranged in age from 6 to 14, and many had been captured from the rebels. "All our forces at the fronts have been warned not to employ children as combatants," Milton told reporters.

A ship carrying 168 civilians fleeing the fighting in Liberia reached Sierra Leone on Tuesday. The ship, which left Monrovia on Sunday, was chartered by World Food Programme, and carried Sierra Leoneans, United Nations staff, and their dependents.

29 April: The European Commission has approved emergency aid for Sierra Leone. 700,000 ECU will be channeled through the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to provide food and medical assistance to about 250,000 refugees clustered around Bo and Kenema.

27 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, in his Independence Day address to the nation, said that peace is his top priority. "I am optimistic that we are on the threshold of achieving this goal, and my recent discussion with the RUF and the agreement signed on that occasion provide ample evidence that the RUF is now thinking seriously about ending the war," he said. Speaking over state television and radio, he urged the nation to join in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment. President Kabbah also released 50 prisoners to mark the 35th anniversary of Sierra Leone's independence from Britain.

26 April: A spokesman for the RUF has accused the Sierra Leone government of violating the newly-extended truce. Fayia Musa, speaking in Abidjan, alleged that the Sierra Leone Army has moved artillery nearer to rebel positions and has overflown rebel-held areas. Army spokesman Major John Milton has countered with charges that the RUF has violated the truce by killing a soldier in the east and torturing villagers in the south--charges denied by Moussa. The truce between the government and the RUF has been extended to June 17th, but the two sides are to meet again in Yamoussoukrou on May 6th, according to RUF sources. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is expected to attend.

25 April: The United States has offered financial support for the OAU to supervise disarmament in Sierra Leone, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said in a news conference in Freetown. He said Britain is also prepared to finance some activities related to resettling RUF fighters. Referring to his meeting with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, he said "What we achieved was a permanent cease-fire without using the term permanent."

24 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha issued a joint statement in Abuja, Nigeria, urging the RUF "to fully embrace dialog and continue the process of peaceful negotiations already entered order to bring about and end to the war. "President Kabbah expressed deep appreciation for Nigeria's support and cooperation over the years and requested for their continued cooperation, particularly in Sierra Leone's post-war task of national reconciliation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation," the statement said.

23 April: The Sierra Leone government and the Revolutionary United Front have agreed on a "definitive ceasefire" at talks in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast. The two sides agreed to establish three joint working parties to deal with a peace accord, the encampment and disarmament of combatants, and the demobilisation and resettlement of combatants. The working parties will submit their drafts to a plenary session in two weeks. The committee on demobilisation and resettlement will also submit a plan on how to secure international assistance for the process.

Before the signing of the joint communiqué, Sankoh demanded the South African mercenary group Executive Outcomes be immediately expelled from Sierra Leone, and that the contract between the Sierra Leone government and Executive Outcomes be made public. "The presence of the Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone violates our national dignity and sovereignty as well as hinders our development since they are additionally rewarded with the benefit of mining activities," he said.

After the talks, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah left for Abuja, Nigeria, where he is said to be discussing bilateral issues with military ruler General Sani Abacha.

22 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and RUF leader Foday Sankoh met in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast Monday to resume peace talks. It was the first time the two men had met face to face. President Kabbah began by offering an amnesty to all RUF fighters. "The time has come for the RUF and the people of Sierra Leone to work together," he said. "My government is prepared to give a general amnesty to all members of the RUF in the name of peace...We should discuss a permanent ceasefire, disengagement, demobilisation, and encampment of combatants. We will also reintegrate these combatants into our society and we hope that these discussions will lead to an accord." Sankoh said that the RUF had come to talk peace, but he continued to reject the recent elections. "We as a people's revolutionary front, we still say 'no' to these elections because they were not in the interests of the majority of the people in the rural areas."

18 April: According to reports, Sierra Rutile may reopen in early 1997. The mine was forced to close in January 1995 when it was overrun by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. In 1994, Sierra Rutile produced 144,000 tons, a quarter of the world's output. In 1993, rutile accounted for 57% of Sierra Leone's mineral export earnings, which totaled $108 million. It has been estimated that it will take $60-80 million to replace damaged equipment. The reopening of the mines is considered vital to Sierra Leone's economy, and they are currently being protected by the South African mercenary force Executive Outcomes.

The United Nations sent James Jonah to Monrovia Thursday to assist with the peace negotiations. He joins the ECOWAS mediation group led by Captain Kojo Tsikata, a member of Ghana's Council of State.

17 April: A five member West African peacekeeping team left Freetown for Monrovia to try to secure a Liberian ceasefire. The team, which represents the nine-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), left Freetown on a U.S. military helicopter.

12 April: James Jonah, Sierra Leone's new United Nations representative, has been made U.N. special envoy to Liberia. Jonah had been in New York to lobby the U.N. for increased aid to Sierra Leone. He will now return to Freetown Friday to discuss the new position with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and then travel to Liberia to meet with leaders of the various Liberian factions. "(I will) share with them our experience in Sierra Leone and encourage them to have faith in their people, who have been kept out of the peace process." He added that it would be difficult to envisage peace in Sierra Leone if the turmoil in Liberia continues.

A unit of 150 American soldiers have arrived in Freetown from U.S. Southern European Task Force in Italy. They join hundreds of U.S. troops already involved in the evacuation of foreigners from war-torn Monrovia. An unspecified number of MH-47 helicopters is being flown to Freetown by military transport, to add to the five MH-53 helicopters already flying night evacuation missions to Monrovia.

9 April: The United States has positioned five military helicopters in Freetown in order to evacuate Americans and other foreigners from Monrovia after four days of fighting there. Those evacuated will be immediately sent on to Dakar, Senegal. Evacuation of other foreigners will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but a British Foreign Office spokesman said that if the Americans evacuate, they will take the British with them.

4 April: The Paris Club of creditor nations has agreed to provide debt relief for Sierra Leone, now that the country has reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on economic reform. The agreement implemented the Naples Terms, which apply to the poorest and most indebted countries. Creditor countries have agreed to provide debt relief of up to 67 percent. The Club said that each creditor country, on a voluntary basis, could also undertake other forms of debt relief, including swaps of debt for nature, debt for aid, debt for equity, or other local currency swaps.

3 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has submitted a coalition government to parliament which includes representatives of its various parties. Of the 24 names put forward, 9 are members of parliament and will have to resign their seats if approved. Most of the proposed new ministers are technocrats, and few are well-known politically.

2 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has released 66 rebels suspects in a gesture of national reconciliation. Some of the suspects, including some women, have been held for more than a year at Pademba Road Prison. Kabbah also has lifted house arrest orders against former vice president Joseph Duada, former junior foreign minister Burkia Jabbee and former environment minister Leonard Fofana. The three were first jailed after the 1992 coup, and have continued to be under house arrest for about two years.

RUF spokesman Fayia Musa has said that Foday Sankoh will start a West African tour Wednesday to put his case to leaders in the region. His first stop will be Ghana. "We are convinced that some people oppose him because they don't know what is happening. He just has to give everybody a chance to hear him," Musa said.

1 April: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah swore in his deputy, Albert Demby, on Monday. Demby is also second-ranking member of the Sierra Leone People's Party. A spokesman said that Tejan Kabbah would release a ministerial list shortly. Around Freetown, military roadblocks have disappeared and the army is keeping a low profile. Ministers appointed by Bio in January have turned their departments over to permanent secretaries. Resettlement of homeless people began the day after Tejan Kabbah was sworn in, with 7,000 persons being moved from the worst of the refugee camps.

Mediators have announced that President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will meet with Foday Sankoh on April 15th. The talks will take place in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.