The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

June 2000
 

30 June: One Jordanian peacekeeper was killed and four wounded Friday when an escort group of five vehicles of the Jordanian UNAMSIL contingent was ambushed by unknown attackers about 20 kilometres west of Mile 91, a U.N. spokesman said. According to the spokesman, the Jordanian convoy was returning from Kenema to Freetown when it was came under attack at about 1:30 p.m. local time. UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley said, however, that the peacekeepers were travelling from Masiaka to Mile 91 when they were attacked with guns and a rocket-propelled grenade. "After an exchange of firing, one Jordanian was killed and four others wounded, two of them seriously," the spokesman said. "The wounded have all been evacuated to Freetown where they are receiving medical care. Troops from the Jordanian battalion are currently patrolling the region where the incident took place and the U.N. mission is investigating further." In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement through his spokesman saying he was "appalled" by the attack. "The secretary-general expresses his deepest condolences to the family of the victim and to the government of Jordan and he offers his hope for the speedy recovery of those wounded," the spokesman said. "The secretary-general reiterates the United Nations' commitment to assisting the people of Sierra Leone to achieve lasting peace in their country."

Nigerian peacekeeping troops are moving to reinforce U.N. positions at Mile 91, where humanitarian workers estimate some 49,000 internally displaced persons have gathered, a U.N. spokesman said in New York on Friday. The spokesman said the RUF had reportedly looted and burned villages in the Mile 91 area — a report first made on Wednesday by Sierra Leone Army spokesman Major John Milton but denied a day later by the UNAMSIL force commander, Major-General Vijay Jetley. 

Six Sierra Leone Army soldiers, including two captains, were abducted Wednesday during fighting between soldiers of the new SLA and ex-SLA soldiers — the so-called "West Side Boys" loyal to AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma — Sierra Leone Army spokesman Major John Milton said on Friday. He told reporters the soldiers had been taken into the bush. Milton said the AFRC no longer manned any checkpoints along the road between Freetown and Masiaka. Instead, he said UNAMSIL troops and army soldiers were in control of the road. Milton declined to say how many casualties there had been in Wednesday's fighting at Masiaka, but Reuters quoted military sources as saying 15 ex-SLA and six army soldiers were killed in the shootout. Milton said pro-government troops were engaged in a fight with the rebels to recapture Lunsar, which fell to the RUF last week after being abandoned by pro-government forces following similar inter-factional fighting. "We are encountering stiff resistance," he said. There was no independent confirmation of the report. 

Up to 30 percent of the 960,000 deaths attributable to malaria in Africa each year occur in countries beset by conflict, war or natural disasters, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Friday. A number of organisations which work in emergency situations gathered at WHO headquarters in Geneva on Friday to improve an action plan to improve malaria control response during and following emergencies. The Global Partnership to Roll Back Malaria has set a goal of halving malaria deaths worldwide in ten years. Partners include national governments, the WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the U.N. Development Programme, the World Bank, and bilateral development agencies. "This situation is serious, for example more people have died of malaria in Sierra Leone during the last eight years of ongoing conflict than from trauma injuries," said Richard Allan, WHO's Complex Emergencies focal person for Roll Back Malaria. "We must help people affected by complex emergencies to maintain health when at risk of malaria. First, we have to improve the global response. Today is the first time we have brought together Roll Back Malaria partners to discuss how best to improve activity in emergencies."

The United Nations Security Council is close to approving a British-sponsored resolution to impose a global ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone, according to Council President Jean-David Levitte of France. Levitte said the draft resolution had been sent to the governments of the 15-nation Council for possible approval before the weekend. The resolution, which initially would run for 18 months, refers to reports that "illicit Sierra Leonean diamonds "travel through neighbouring countries, including Liberia," and calls on U.N. member countries to "take the necessary measures to prohibit the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to their territory." The proposal would exempt from the ban diamonds if their origin were certified by the Sierra Leone government, and it called on the diamond industry to co-operate with the embargo. The resolution calls for hearings within one year to examine "the role of diamonds in the Sierra Leone conflict." It also calls on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a panel of experts for an initial period of four months to report to a Council sanctions committee on any violations. 

The Nigerian Football Association (NFA) has protested against the shifting of Sierra Leone's July 8 World Cup qualifying match against Ghana from Freetown to Accra. NFA Secretary-General Ahmed Tijani Yusuf said on Wednesday. According to Nigeria's Post Express, Yusuf complained that asking Sierra Leone to play their Group B match in Accra amounted to giving an unfair advantage to Ghana. "We cannot relent in this regard. Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Sudan are in the same group, asking any of the teams to play host to another will amount to giving undue advantage to the hosting country," Yusuf said. He added that Nigeria had yet to be formally notified of the change. "Though we still regard it as a rumour, we will, however, leave no room to be manoeuvred out of the Korean/Japan fiesta," he said. "We will leave no stone unturned in the quest to get to the root of the matter." The Confederation of African Football (CAF) reportedly ordered the change of venue last week because of the security situation in Sierra Leone. The return leg will take place in Freetown next May.

29 June: The RUF has released 21 Indian peacekeepers held hostage in eastern Sierra Leone since early this month. The 21 were handed over to Liberian authorities late Wednesday at the Liberian border town of Foya, from where they were airlifted to Monrovia Thursday in a government-chartered helicopter. They are expected to arrive in Freetown on Friday. Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah said the peacekeepers, who were surrounded at Kuiva in May before being transferred to Pendembu and disarmed in early June, had been "unconditionally released." Earlier on Wednesday, Mulbah told BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle that the "imminent release of the remaining peacekeepers was part of a deal under which the Sierra Leone rebels have been promised a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table." The troops told reporters they had  been well-treated by the RUF. "We had a good relationship with the RUF, no problem whatsoever," said Lieutenant-Colonel Amit Sharma. At Kailahun, more than 200 Indian peacekeeping troops and 11 military observers of various nationalities remain surrounded by RUF fighters. Mulbah said Liberia "wants the fighting to stop" in order to ensure their safe passage from the area. In New York, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the release of the U.N. troops. He said Annan, who had been in touch with Liberian President Charles Taylor regarding the hostages, hoped "this welcome step will be followed by the immediate and unconditional freedom of movement of the UNAMSIL personnel who still remain surrounded by the RUF in the area of Kailahun."

Rival pro-government factions clashed at Masiaka on Wednesday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befacadu told reporters. "UNAMSIL has received reports from Jordanian peacekeepers close to Masiaka that they heard heavy firing at Masiaka," Befecadu said. "The exchange of fire was between government forces and former AFRC soldiers." The Associated Press quoted military officers as saying six new Sierra Leone Army soldiers and 15 ex-SLA troops — the so-called "West Side Boys" — were killed in the exchange. There was no independent confirmation of the numbers. U.N. peacekeepers were sent to Masiaka to restore order after the shooting, U.N. military spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Coker said on Thursday. AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma told BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana a group of soldiers known as the "Special Task Force" started the trouble when they attacked the West Side Boys while they were out on patrol. "Other sources however say the shootout was between the regular army and the West Side Boys," Fofana added. A similar outbreak of fighting between SLA soldiers and soldiers of the ex-SLA loyal to AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma led to the abandonment of pro-government positions at Lunsar last week and its subsequent recapture by the RUF.

The United Nations Security Council is set to consider a draft resolution sponsored by the United States which would establish a special court under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter which would have jurisdiction over "senior Sierra Leonean nationals who bear the greatest responsibility for the most systematic and egregious criminal violations of Sierra Leone law, international law and international human rights law." Under the draft resolution, the court would have jurisdiction under relevant provisions of Sierra Leonean law as well as under relevant provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law for criminal offenses committed in Sierra Leone. The resolution also requests the U.N. Secretary-General send a team of experts to Sierra Leone within 30 days to consult with the government and to make recommendations on the establishment of the court. Meanwhile, the Council met in closed session Thursday to discuss the text of two British draft resolutions on Sierra Leone. One would raise the authorised strength of UNAMSIL to 16,500 troops while the other would toughen sanctions on the RUF's illicit diamond trade.  A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web late Thursday that "consultations on one of the U.K. drafts, the one on diamonds, are almost ended," adding: "The projection is that the Council will take a decision on the diamonds first, followed by the special court." The third resolution, to raise the ceiling on UNAMSIL troops, will be taken up after consideration by the U.S. government, which pays a quarter of U.N. peacekeeping costs, the source said. The Council will also be briefed on Friday by the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji.

A Zambian peacekeeper serving with UNAMSIL has died after contracting malaria, Zambian Deputy Defence Minister Mike Mulongoti said on Wednesday. 

Sierra Leone ranks last in the world in quality of life, according to the United Nations Human Development Report which was released on Thursday. The report, compiled by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), examined such factors as income, health care, life expectancy and education. Canada was ranked first of the 174 countries surveyed, followed by Norway, the United States, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan and Britain. With Sierra Leone at the bottom of the list were Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Chad, Central African Republic and Mali. In addition to the rankings, the report this year examined the relationship between human rights and development, and proposed policies to promote and respect democracy. The UNDP said more respect for human rights and a commitment to a genuine democracy were needed for nations to lift themselves out of poverty. "You can't have human rights without human development and you can't have human development without human rights," said Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UNDP. "They're a virtuous circle."

28 June: UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley travelled to Mile 91 on Wednesday to review the situation there, a U.N. spokesman said. Jetley was responding to reports of fighting in the area between pro-government forces and the RUF, as well as concerns by humanitarian organisations about the condition of some 40,000 newly displaced persons who have gathered in the area. Jetley addressed a gathering of displaced persons a Mile 91, urging them to remain calm and to organise themselves into manageable communities. "There was some indication that some of the displaced persons who had fled upon receiving rumors of fighting in recent days were returning back to the area, which is reported to be calm," the spokesman said. UNAMSIL is planning to reinforce the two companies of Guinean peacekeeping troops already deployed at Mile 91. Already some Nigerian reinforcements have arrived, with more troops expected to arrive during the week. Jetley denied that a number of villages northeast of Mile 91 had been burnt down by rebels. They were deserted because "people abandoned them fearing rebel advances," he told reporters. On Tuesday SLA spokesman Major John Milton said the RUF had set fire to homes in two villages in Tonkolili District. The force commander said UNAMSIL was continuing to negotiate with the RUF for the release of 21 Indian peacekeepers held by the rebels in Pendembu. "We continue to hold negotiations with RUF field commanders including Brigadier Issa Sesay," he said. "We are in daily contact with the hostages, sending them logistics support regularly every second day and our doctors are visiting them to assess their health. We are having discussions with people on the ground and they too seemed eager to get the current situation behind them."

Representatives of major diamond importing nations met in London Wednesday to discuss proposals by Britain, the diamond industry and diamond producing nations to curb the trade in conflict diamonds. "The problem of illicit diamonds fueling wars in Africa is an urgent one. Working together we must find solutions, and find them fast," said British Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa Peter Hain. He emphasised that while ways had to be found to keep rebels from using illicit diamonds to finance conflicts in Africa, legitimate diamond mining needed to be protected. Present at Wednesday's meeting were representatives from India, Israel, Belgium, the United States and Belgium, as well as observers from Russia and Canada. On the agenda was a proposal for a global certification scheme for rough diamonds using forgery-proof papers accompanying diamonds in sealed containers. Other proposals include greater regulation of diamond centers, inspection of imports, penalties for those dealing in conflict diamonds, and using banks which support the diamond industry to press for compliance with regulation. Further talks will be held in Antwerp on July 20 before a full ministerial meeting in South Africa in September.

27 June: Some 11 RUF fighters, including a senior commander, were killed Sunday when a government helicopter gunship attacked an RUF convoy transporting arms and ammunition from Makeni to reinforce the town of Lunsar, SLA spokesman Major John Milton said on Tuesday. There was no independent confirmation of the attack. Milton said the rebels had attacked two villages in Tonkolili District, burning homes and forcing residents to flee. He also said pro-government forces had resumed fighting in an effort to retake Lunsar, which has changed hands several times over the past month.

RUF rebels looted food and burned down the villages of Komrabai, Mamilla and Robis, according to UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu. The three villages are situated near Mile 91, where humanitarian groups have distributed food and other supplies to tens of thousands of newly-displaced civilians. Monday's attacks followed a rebel buildup near government-held towns where relief supplies are being distributed. "The RUF lack food and logistics," Befacadu said on Tuesday. "The concentration of RUF (near Mile 91) could be to benefit from food in the area." She said rebels also reportedly attacked and burned villages on the island of Yelibuya off Sierra Leone's northwestern coast. Some 200 residents fled to the island's main wharf to seek protection in numbers.

A gang of four CDF militiamen was prevented from robbing a civilian in Freetown Monday when four Nigerian UNAMSIL troops arrived and forced them to flee, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday. The four CDF members were later arrested and turned over to the police. UNAMSIL is investigating reports that hundreds of CDF militiamen have begun leaving the capital following orders from the Sierra Leone government that they be redeployed to the south, the spokesman added. So far, UNAMSIL reports there are still many CDF militiamen present at their main base in Freetown, the former Brookfields Hotel.

Government and diamond industry representatives from Belgium, India, Israel and the United States are set to meet in London Wednesday for talks on how to stamp out the trade in "conflict diamonds," according to a foreign office spokesman. British Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa Peter Hain said this conference would be the first time government and diamond industry representatives from all the key importing countries of rough diamonds had met. "In this meeting we will consider how to bring together, implement and build upon the unprecedented proposals Britain and others have put forward in recent weeks," Hain said. Wednesday's meeting follows a talks in Kimberly, South Africa in May and by a working group meeting in Luanda, Angola in June. The "Kimbeley proposals" include a certification proposal to ensure diamonds had not originated in conflict zones, and the setting up of a working group. There are also plans for a ministerial meeting in September. On Monday, Indian diamond importers said they would not buy gemstones originating in African conflict zones. Britain has presented a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council to ban diamonds from rebel-held parts of Sierra Leone, and is planning to bring up the issue of "conflict diamonds" at the G8 meeting of industrialised nations in Okinawa, Japan set for July 21-23. Meanwhile, Antwerp's High Diamond Council said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Angola on imports of "conflict diamonds." Peter Meeus, the High Diamond Council's Managing Director, said the agreement requires the creation of a central diamond export agency and certificates of origin. He said the Council was working on a similar agreement with Sierra Leone, and would approach Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July. "As the world's largest market, we thought it our responsibility, our duty, to find a solution," Meeus said. "We were the black sheep in this matter for some time. We do not necessarily want to be the white knight, but we want to help." He said immediate action would be taken against any individual or company found to be involved in the illicit diamond trade, including banning the offender from the diamond business and turning over evidence of illegal activity to the authorities.

The U.N. World Food Programme began distributing food to some 10,000 persons at Mile 91 on Tuesday, according to a U.N. spokesman in New York.

Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative for the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, was scheduled to arrive in New York on Tuesday for several days of talks with senior U.N. officials. He is expected to brief the Security Council on Friday and old a press conference afterwards, a U.N. spokesman said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced Tuesday it was committing $2 million in emergency assistance to Sierra Leone. The money will be channeled through non-governmental organisations to provide health, agriculture and shelter programmes. CARE will received $700,000 to supply 5,000 war-affected families with household kits and plastic sheeting. Funds will also be used for shelter reconstruction and income generation projects. World Vision will received $750,000 for emergency health programmes for displaced persons returning to their homes. World Vision will also provide seeds and tools to some 10,000 farm families. Merlin will received $566,000 to provide emergency health care and nutritional support to children under the age of five, and to displaced persons. "This brings total USAID humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone to $39.3 million for this fiscal year," USAID said in a statement. "This includes $24.4 million for food aid in Sierra Leone, plus additional food resources for Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea and Liberia; $11.1 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and $2.8 million for civil society building and support of the Lomé Peace Accord, and $1 million to aid those wounded and otherwise affected by war."

26 June: RUF rebels have destroyed a bridge about three kilometres west of Lunsar, Reuters reported on Monday, quoting military sources. The bridge had already been destroyed once by RUF but had been rebuilt by pro-government forces during their previous advance on the town.

21 Indian peacekeeping troops who were moved last week to the disused Red Cross compound at Pendembu remain prisoners of the RUF, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Monday. "The Red Cross is not there...They  moved (the peacekeepers) in fact to better accommodation," Befecadu said. "They are still there; we sent rations yesterday." She added that UNAMSIL was in touch with the Indian troops and was regularly sending them supplies. Befecadu said she could not confirm whether UNAMSIL was in direct contact with the RUF, but that regional efforts were continuing to secure the hostages' release. "The Liberians, the ECOWAS countries, they are all doing their bit," she said. In New York, a U.N. spokesman said UNAMSIL was able to provide rations over the weekend to 222 Indian troops and 11 U.N. military observers surrounded by the RUF at Kailahun as well as to the 21 peacekeepers detained at Pendembu.

UNAMSIL dispatched additional peacekeepers Monday to reinforce key positions, including at Mile 91 where an estimated 35,000 newly displaced persons have gathered, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. The spokesman said humanitarian agencies were looking into the possibility of building camps for the displaced near the town once U.N. peacekeepers have secured the area.

Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative for the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, left via Conakry for New York on Monday, where he is expected to arrive on Tuesday, according to a U.N. spokesman. Adeniji will hold meetings this week with senior officials at the U.N. headquarters

U.S. House Republicans blocked Democratic efforts Monday to restore funding requested by the administration for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in Africa by invoking a parliamentary rule which bars spending more money without finding offsetting savings elsewhere. The White House had requested an additional $241 million for U.N. peacekeeping operations next year above the current $500 million. "Understand the limitations that the U.N. has in bringing about peace. They can negotiate, they can keep the peace once it is established. They are not a war-fighting organization," said Representative Harold Rogers. Rogers (left), who as chairman of a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee responsible for overseeing the budgets of  State, Commerce and Justice Departments, was responsible for blocking the funding. Rogers said Congress needed to impose more discipline on the United Nations, which he said had been too free in deploying costly missions, often sending inadequately trained peacekeeping troops into situations which called for military troops instead. He insisted that the bill would not bar funding for peacekeeping operations in Africa, but would require that peace first be established to avoid a repeat of the capture of over 500 peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone by the RUF. Rogers suggested that instead of funding UNAMSIL, the U.S. should provide military help to Nigeria to end the conflict in Sierra Leone. Under a U.N. funding formula the U.S. is charged for 30.4 percent of peacekeeping costs. Congress in recent years has limited the U.S. share to 25 percent.

Hundreds of Kamajor militiamen have left Freetown at the request of President Kabbah, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) said Monday, quoting an unnamed government official. The official said their departure was part of a policy to free the capital of weapons. In May the government declared Freetown a weapons-free zone, with only UNAMSIL troops and selected members of the military allowed to carry arms. According to the AFP, the Kamajors had frequently been accused of intimidating civilians near their base at the former Brookfields Hotel — a charge they have denied. A Kamajor spokesman was quoted as saying the militia was "abiding by the president's directive" in leaving Freetown, adding: "We shall stand by him however as we are still convinced that the army is not loyal to him 100 percent." 

Soldiers of Britain's 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment will be next in line to serve in Sierra Leone if a British military presence is required, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said on Monday. No decision has yet been made as to whether some 200 members of the 2nd Royal Anglian Regiment will be replaced when their tour of duty is complete at the end of July. They are currently providing basic military training to 1,000 Sierra Leonean soldiers at the Benguema Military Training Centre outside of Freetown. Meanwhile, the amphibious helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (pictured right) returned to port at Devenport Monday after helping to stabilise the security situation in Sierra Leone. Arriving from Sierra Leone with the Ocean were five other British ships, HMS Chatham, RFA Fort George, RFA Fort Austin, RFA Sir Bedivere and RFA Sir Tristram.

2,240 Sierra Leoneans have been selected in the U.S. DV-2001 diversity lottery, the State Department said on Monday. Under the programme, 50,000 permanent resident visas are made available each year to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Nearly twice that number — 90,000 — have been registered and notified under the assumption that some of the first 50,000 persons registered "will not pursue their cases to visa issuance." Those who have been notified must show proof of a secondary school education or its equivalent, or show two years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least two years of training or experience within the past five years. Once 50,000 visas have been issued, the programme for fiscal 2001 will end. The mail-in period for applications for the DV-2002 diversity lottery are scheduled from 2 October 2000 to 1 November 2000.

An exhumation team arrived at Rogberi Junction on Sunday to examine the remains of U.N. peacekeepers who who killed there during fighting last month, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. He said forensic teams visited two sites and did a considerable amount of work, but will need to return.

24 June: Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Ibrahim I. Tejan-Jalloh has denied a BBC report that an outbreak of bloody diarrohea has been responsible for deaths in Pujehun District, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service reported on Friday. Meanwhile the Progress Online quoted health workers Thursday as saying a "bloody dysentery epidemic" had struck the towns of Pujehun and Bajaila, claiming the lives of 38 persons. The Progress Online quoted health officer Mustapha Sesay, who had just returned from Pujehun, as saying the epidemic was difficult to contain because of a lack of medical facilities and personnel.

23 June: 21 Indian peacekeepers being held by the RUF at Pendembu have been moved to the compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in the town, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on Friday. "However, there has been no other change in their condition," he said, adding that no further progress  had been made in negotiating the release of 222 Indian peacekeepers and 11 military observers surrounded at Kailahun. UNAMSIL will strengthen its position near the town of Mile 91 in coming days to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief to some 35,000 displaced persons there, Almeida e Silva said. U.N. agencies and other aid agencies have registered some 92,000 newly-displaced persons in Sierra Leone since fighting resumed at the beginning of May, he added. The largest concentrations are found in Port Loko District, Tonkolili District, and the Western Area. 

Aerial bombing in the Kambia area has resulted in a doubling of the number of refugees arriving from that area at a refugee camp in Guinea, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva on Friday. He added that some of the recent arrivals had were suffering from shrapnel wounds. 

London-based Global Witness said Friday that radical changes were needed in the diamond industry in order to control the trade in "conflict diamonds" used to fund rebel wars in Africa. The group urged that a worldwide system be set up to verify and certify the country of origin of diamonds. An independent diamond organisation would monitor the system, which would be backed by industry self-regulation and government legislation. "It is clearly time for radical changes within the diamond sector, about how it operates and about the need for an ethical basis to its operations linked to greater transparency," Global Witness said in its report, "Conflict Diamonds." The group criticised the United Nations as being slow to take up the issue of illicit diamonds used to fund Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. "To date, the U.N. has still not tackled the issue of diamond revenue continuing to fund the RUF," Global Witness said. "The role of diamond revenue in Angola's continued conflict shows what a dangerous mistake it is to ignore the funding of rebel groups." The diamond industry, Global Witness said, had made it "possible for companies and importing countries to evade their responsibilities and claim ingeniously, and often incorrectly, that either they could not identify the origin of their goods, or that even if they could, and knew them to be from a conflict area, if they didn't buy them someone else would."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to send 115 Russian troops and four Mi-24 helicopter gunships to Sierra Leone to participate in the U.N. peacekeeping force, the Itar-Tass news agency said on Friday. The measure was earlier approved by the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of Parliament. The contingent was approved for an initial period through August 7, but would be automatically renewed if the United Nations Security Council extends the term for peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone. The Russian contingent is charged with ensuring the security of UNAMSIL operations by air escort of land convoys, search-and-rescue flights, support for mobile air operations, patrol and observation flights. The Russian defence ministry was instructed rotate military personnel twice a year and to replace aircraft and military equipment as needed. General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the ministry's foreign relations department, was quoted as saying the troops were likely to leave for Sierra Leone between July 5 and July 15.

Britain updated its travel advisory on Sierra Leone on Friday to say, "We advise against all travel to Sierra Leone."

22 June: Scores of people are said to have died in Pujehun District during the past two months from bloody diarrohea and typhoid, BBC Bo correspondent Prince Brima said on Thursday. "They include children and the aged, who die at the rate of up to 15 a week because of a lack of health facilities," Brima said, quoting the Regent Chief of Soro Gbema Chiefdom. "The medical charity Medécins sans Frontières has a small team operating from the town of Zimmi, but they are finding it difficult to provide adequate humanitarian services to people because the roads leading to border villages are deplorable."

President Kabbah opened the National Conference on the Lomé Peace Agreement Thursday, saying that "flagrant violation" of the accord by the RUF and raised questions about the viability of the peace agreement. The two-day conference was sponsored by the Sierra Leone Labour Congress. "The actions of Mr. Foday Sankoh and some members of the RUF, especially those committed during the past few months, are tantamount to a revocation, on their part, of their commitment — that is if they had any at all — to the Lomé Peace Agreement," Kabbah said. "In other words, they are telling the world that as far as they are concerned the Lomé Agreement is meaningless." Kabbah said that while his government had "every reason to renounce our obligations under the agreement and unilaterally declare them null and void," it would be irresponsible for them to do so. "Such a course of action would be detrimental to the safety and welfare of our people, and inconsistent with their desire, indeed their right to live in peace and security," he said. The president announced that while his government remained committed "in principle" to the accord, it would now unilaterally make its own assessment to determine which of the agreement's provisions were still valid, which had been rendered obsolete by recent developments, and which should be implemented in the best interests of the nation. "We shall also set our own priorities," he said. "The security and humanitarian provisions of the agreement will be our primary concern." Kabbah stressed that the Lomé Peace Accord was "not a perfect document," but added: "There was nothing really wrong with the Lome Peace Agreement, per se. The problem was the lack of commitment on the part of Mr. Foday Sankoh and some members of the RUF leadership to fulfill their obligations under the agreement."

Liberian President Charles Taylor lashed out at Britain and the European Union Thursday over a recommendation by EU foreign ministers last week to freeze EU 50 million (about $48 million) in redevelopment aid earmarked for Liberia. British Foreign Office Minister Keith Vaz said British intelligence reports showed Taylor's government was supplying the RUF with illicit arms and that the Liberians were profiting from the illegal sale of Sierra Leonean diamonds. A statement by the EU ministers accused Taylor of "failing to act" to prevent the arms from reaching the RUF, and said that future EU policy toward Liberia would "take full account of Liberia's behaviour in regard to Sierra Leone." EU officials said Thursday, however, that the matter was still being considered and that no final decision had been made on the aid package. "Liberia is not going to get on her knees because Britain wants Liberia on her knees," Taylor said. "We welcome assistance, but I think Liberia should see this as a challenge for us to go out and be self-sufficient and independent." Meanwhile, Taylor has imposed work and travel restrictions on British nationals and non-governmental organisations in Liberia. According to BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Taylor advised British nationals not to venture into certain parts of the country, and told British charities to "slow down their operations" in areas near the Sierra Leone border. He said this was because of anti-British sentiment in the area. "It is for their own safety," he said. "We have the right and duty to protect foreign nationals in the country." Taylor said the restrictions would remain in place until such sentiments had subsided. Taylor also alleged Britain was using Sierra Leone to try to make Liberia politically unstable. "Britain has brought in tons and tons and tons of arms and ammunition into Sierra Leone, and Liberia believes that the purpose is to destablise this government," Taylor said. "If Liberians are asleep, you'd better wake up because I am awake." The Liberian president called on the West African sub-region to take seriously what he claimed was a military build-up in Sierra Leone, and accused the departing British military force of having left behind everything to carry out death and destruction, Paye-Layleh said.

Some 30 persons were arrested in Freetown Wednesday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befacadu said on Thursday. "Yesterday about 30 people were apprehended at a house by Sierra Leone and UNAMSIL authorities...uniforms, arms, drugs are reported to have been found. These persons have been handed over to the police," Befacadu said. She gave no details. "Overall the situation in the country is calm, Lungi is calm, Freetown is calm," she said.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has ordered Sierra Leone's July 8 World Cup qualifying match against Ghana to be moved to Accra because of the security situation in Freetown, the South African newspaper New Vision reported on Thursday. The return leg will take place in Freetown next May.

An official from the United Nations Legal Office is in Sierra Leone to assess the situation in relation to a possible trial of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, according to Oluyemi Adeniji, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone.

Amnesty International said Thursday that a tribunal proposed by the Sierra Leone government last week to try RUF leaders would be insufficient to bring to justice all those responsible for human rights abuses in Sierra Leone. "A major concern is that this proposal limits prosecution to members of the Revolutionary United Front," Amnesty International said in a statement. "This ignores the fact that other parties to the conflict, including those now associated with the government, have also been responsible for gross human rights abuses." The statement noted that while the RUF had been responsible for widespread and systematic abuses during Sierra Leone's nine year civil conflict, members of the AFRC, the SLA and the CDF had been responsible for atrocities as well. "The vast majority of the several thousands of cases of deliberate and arbitrary killing, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, mutilation and abduction committed during the rebel incursion into Freetown in January 1999 were committed by AFRC forces, yet they will not be held to account," Amnesty International said. The statement stressed that if the issue of impunity were to be addressed, there could be no selectivity in administering justice. Amnesty International also insisted that any court established to prosecute those alleged to have committed atrocities must have the jurisdiction to try offenses under international law. The statement criticised the proposed tribunal, which would be composed of both national and international prosecutors and judges, as retaining considerable power for the Sierra Leone government. "The magnitude of human rights abuses committed during Sierra Leone's armed conflict require a court that is seen to be credible by all," Amnesty International said. "For this, it must fully independent and impartial and provide all other guarantees of fair trial, in accordance with international standards."

21 June: RUF rebels have recaptured the town of Lunsar, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Wednesday. Control of the town has passed back and forth between pro-government and rebel forces several times during the past month. Government troops seized Lunsar on May 29, but retreated two days later when they ran out of ammunition during an RUF counter-attack. They recaptured the town on June 7. Military sources indicated the latest rebel seizure of Lunsar occurred as a result of feuding between SLA and ex-SLA troops, leading the erstwhile allies to abandon the town at the weekend. An SLA officer told the Associated Press that a dispute last week over a stolen car led to fighting between the two factions. Other accounts have blamed the fighting on a dispute over field promotions. Army spokesman Major John Milton told the Agence France-Presse he had reports Tuesday that "some of our men were there" but that fighting among pro-government soldiers might have led most of them to leave Lunsar for Rogberi Junction and Masiaka. "If our troops have abandoned the ground, the RUF may have moved in," Milton said. Befecadu said U.N. peacekeepers were still holding Rogberi Junction.

ECOWAS foreign ministers from Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Togo met behind closed doors Wednesday with the United Nations Security Council on how to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone. The Council is currently circulating two British-sponsored draft resolutions to increase the strength of UNAMSIL to 16,500 troops, and to toughen sanctions on the RUF's illicit diamond trade. A U.S.-sponsored draft resolution would establish a framework to prosecute leaders of the RUF. ECOWAS Executive-Secretary Lansana Kouyate told reporters the ECOWAS delegation had again offered 3,500 additional West African troops for UNAMSIL, providing "that we get sufficient logistical and financial support." He said the ministers had voiced approval for bringing to justice those responsible for the collapse of the peace process. "We are not opposed at all to any process which will bring to court those who have been responsible for violations of the Lome Peace Accord," Kouyate said. "We are not talking about immunity after the seventh of July (the date the accord was signed)." In a statement read out after the meeting, Security Council President Jean-David Levitte of France said the ECOWAS delegation and the Council condemned the continued RUF detention of Indian UNAMSIL troops and the denial of freedom of movement of a large number of U.N. personnel in eastern Sierra Leone. He said both sides had agreed that the Lome Peace Accord had been flouted by the violation of the ceasefire, the attacks on the U.N., and the taking of U.N. hostages. "With the help of appropriate inquiries, those identified as responsible should be brought to justice," Levitte said. Members of both organisations expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone, and called on all parties to to ensure safe and unhindered access by aid workers to those in need, in particular refuges and displaced persons, women and children. They also called upon all states and agencies to provide urgent and substantial humanitarian assistance to the people of Sierra Leone, Levitte said. Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido expressed doubt that RUF leader Foday Sankoh could be kept safe and secure in Sierra Leone, and offered Nigeria as a venue for the court if necessary, diplomats were quoted as saying. British U.N. Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock said after the meeting "the current activities of Liberia were potentially or perhaps actually a major threat in what we were trying to do" to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone. "I also had a word with the Liberian foreign minister (Monie Captan) to see if we can try and work together in honest acceptance that things have been going wrong in this respect and Liberia can play an honourable role" in Sierra Leone's security and economic development. "The most important aspect of this is the ability of the RUF to operate militarily, and Liberia has a relationship with the RUF," Greenstock said.

Bangladesh would be willing to provide an additional battalion of 700 or 800 peacekeeping troops for the UNAMSIL force in Sierra Leone should it become necessary, according to country's U.N. ambassador. Bangladesh is currently a member of the United Nations Security Council. 

U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker said Wednesday that the United States was was "actively considering" options for a U.N. Security Council resolution along the lines of a proposal submitted by President Kabbah in a letter to the Council. "As I understand it, the idea that President Kabbah put forward is to establish a special court that would blend international and Sierra Leonean law and would allow the international community, the region, the government of Sierra Leone, all to work together to bring the principle perpetrators of atrocities in Sierra Leone to justice," Reeker said. He added that it would be a "unique court" with some similarities to the court being set up to deal with crimes committed by Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. Another option — setting up an international tribunal like those for Rwanda and Yugoslavia — could be a very lengthy undertaking, he said. "We're looking to see how we can support the effort. The United States is very actively considering options for possible Security Council action. We're leading efforts to develop a U.N. Security Council resolution...and examining all the possible options," Reeker told reporters.

Some 4,000 new Sierra Leonean refugees have crossed into Guinea since the collapse of the peace process in Sierra Leone on May 2, Radio France International reported on Wednesday. "They are more than 4,000 Sierra Leoneans including combatants of the government forces who crossed the border with Guinea in the past weeks to increase the number of refugees in Guinea," said RFI correspondent Moctar Bah. "This naturally makes it very difficult to deal with the refugees specially for the Forecariah authorities, who want to control their movement." Forecariah prefect Mamadouba Bangoura expressed concern about the presence of armed combatants on Guinean soil. "For people who have the habit of using firearms, when given a chance to have them, they will undoubtedly use them," he said. "That is why we said that they should agree to abide by the rules of being a refugee. Or else, I would be forced to repel them and I am here to monitor the situation." According to Bah, some 70,000 of the 500,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees currently living in Guinea reside in the Forecariah prefecture.

Canadian assistance to Sierra Leone in the coming year will focus on the needs of women, war-affected children, amputees, refugees and internally-displaced persons, Canadian International Development Minister Maria Minna told an international conference on Sierra Leone on Wednesday. The conference, organized by Partnership Africa Canada, brought Sierra Leonean civil society activists, international non-governmental organisations, the private sector and the media to Ottawa this week for discussions on peace, justice and sustainable development in the war-torn West African country. Minna said that while men also suffered during conflict, children and women in many cases seemed to bear the brunt of war. While it was often easier to provide "physical" things such as medicine, food and shelter, she noted, "the hardest part is dealing with the emotional and dealing with the reintegration, dealing with the pain and scars." Minna said the release of children abducted by Sierra Leone's rebels must be a precondition before discussions or negotiations over a settlement of the current crisis could take place. "I think we have to try almost any imaginative way we come up with to protect our children, and to make sure that they first are not drawn into conflict; secondly, when they are, that we can get them out as quick as possible," she said. Calling Canada's commitment to Sierra Leone "very clear and very measurable," Minna noted that Canada had provided over C $13 million in humanitarian assistance and peace-building efforts since last August. "We cannot allow to happen in Sierra Leone, to continue to happen, what’s happened over the last eight years," she said. "We cannot go back in time. We cannot allow that to happen...It is truly unacceptable that it has happened, that it went on for eight years." David Pratt, a Member of Parliament and Canada's Special Envoy to Sierra Leone, told the conference that the basis of Canada's interest and concern in Sierra Leone stemmed from his country's human security agenda. "International security has traditionally been regarded as the inviolability of borders between states," Pratt said. "The human security agenda is one which is centered on the safety of people, which is rooted in human rights and humanitarian law. It seeks to address threats to human rights, human safety, and human lives...It encompasses repression, terrorism, the use of child soldiers, violent crime as well as environmental degradation, infections diseases and natural disasters. It’s also predicated on the view that poverty and insecurity are often linked. Without human security you cannot have meaningful development or progress in terms of democracy, the rule of law, governance or capacity-building." Pratt called Sierra Leone a test case for human security as well as a test case for United Nations involvement in Africa. "If the world community cannot get it right in a relatively small country like Sierra Leone, what hope is there for larger conflicts like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Angola?," he asked. Pratt said Canada was committed to improving the situation in Sierra Leone by creating a "sustained interest within the international community, and by working to control the diamond trade "in a manner that will allow a de-linking of diamonds and conflict, so that diamonds can be made an instrument of peace and development." He also suggested that Canada might provide military assistance in an advisory or training role, or even a small token force to help provide security in Freetown. "Given some of the problems which have arisen with respect to supplying U.N. troops, there might be some role in providing logistical and communication support or even lethal support with respect to weapons and weapons and ammunition," he said. On the issue of impunity and the need to prosecute those who had committed war crimes, Pratt said the Canadian government's position was clear. "Crimes against humanity must be prosecuted using a process which is in accord with international standards and which is agreed to by the government of Sierra Leone," he said.

Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Kenya, Alhaji Fode M. Dabor, has presented his credentials to President Daniel Arap Moi in Freetown, the Sierra Leone News Agency reported on Wednesday. Dabor formerly held the post of United Nations charge d'affaires in New York. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the re-opening of Sierra Leone's High Commission in Accra. The High Commission was closed in 1983 for financial reasons. Sierra Leone's High Commissioner designate, Alie Bangura, is already in Accra, SLENA said.

The OAU has donated $150,000 to Sierra Leone to benefit internally displaced persons and for miscellaneous spending, Sierra Leone's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement released on Wednesday. The statement said the OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim's newly-designated Special Envoy to Sierra Leone, Jeremiah Mambolo, would be arriving in Sierra Leone shortly, according to the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA). Salim himself is also expected to visit Sierra Leone.

The journalists' advocacy group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF - Reporters without Borders) has protested an assault by a UNAMSIL officer against Arthur Caulker, a journalist with the bi-weekly Freetown newspaper Salone Times. RSF called on the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, to ensure that reporters could work freely and safely in Sierra Leone. According to RSF, Caulker was assaulted on June 14 by Major Umar, a Nigerian military officer serving with UNAMSIL, who hit the reporter with a boot. The attack allegedly followed an article published on May 9 which condemned a UNAMSIL commander for firing a shot during a demonstration outside the home of RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "According to the article, the warning shot 'gave the green light to the sporadic gunshots fired by the RUF combatants' into the crowd, which resulted in the death of more than 20 people," the RSF statement said.

20 June: Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, called Tuesday for some form of international tribunal to be set up to try rebel leaders accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone. Holbrooke told the U.N. Security Council that President Kabbah had requested that jurisdiction of an existing war crimes tribunal, such as the one set up for the former Yugoslavia and later extended to cover the 1994 Rwanda genocide, be extended to Sierra Leone. Holbrooke said he was against the creation of a new U.N. tribunal, but that he he had talked to the prosecutor of these courts, Carla del Ponte, about what could be done. "Some form of extension of the international war crime umbrella to cover these odious people must be undertaken," Holbrooke said, adding: "Some form of international umbrella as suggested by the president of Sierra Leone is something I believe must be looked at very positively and with the view towards action at the earliest possible opportunity...We do not believe that Sierra Leone can have a peaceful and stable future before they are brought to justice." Britain meanwhile has circulated a draft Security Council resolution calling for detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh to be brought to justice. The resolution asks U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to examine any request for help in prosecuting those responsible for serious violations of Sierra Leonean and international law. In Freetown, Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer (pictured right) was quoted Tuesday as saying his government had asked for a tribunal to operate in Sierra Leone under a combination of Sierra Leonean and international law. "The tribunal will be set up to try for crimes past and present," he said. "The initial work has begun." In a statement broadcast over state radio late on Tuesday, the government said that in taking hostage more than 500 U.N. peacekeepers and in advancing on Freetown, the RUF had breached the Lomé Peace Accord. "It is the view of the government that since the RUF has reneged on the Lomé Peace Agreement and has resumed hostilities against the people of Sierra Leone and because of the magnitude of the crimes committed by members of the RUF against Sierra Leoneans and against international law, the issue of individual accountability of the leadership of the RUF for such crimes should be addressed immediately," the statement said. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters there needed to be "accountability and justice" for Sankoh. "We have said quite clearly we don't think he has any continuing role in the process," Boucher said. "We've also said that we look to the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN Security Council to determine what's the best way to bring him to justice and to have accountability. So while I'm not aware of that specific proposal having been made, it has been discussed before, and certainly we would look forward to discussing it with others in the Security Council as well as the government."

With ratification by Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received 13 of the 60 ratifications necessary to bring the Court into existence. The ICC would initially have within its jurisdiction crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity — the latter category to include murder, enslavement, extermination, persecution, disappearance and sexual crimes. An ICC Preparatory Commission has set a deadline of June 30 to complete work on two aspects of the Court's State essential to its eventual functioning: Rules of Procedures and Evidence, and Elements of Crimes. The Court is not expected to be operational in time to hear cases relating to abuses in the Sierra Leone conflict. So far 97 countries have signed the treaty establishing the Court. The treaty remains open for signature until December 31. To this point only Sierra Leone, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino, Italy, Fiji, Ghana, Norway, Belize, Iceland, Tajikistan, Venezuela and France have ratified the treaty.

Nigerian UNAMSIL troops seized an illegal shipment of weapons and ammunition in Freetown on Monday and arrested eight persons believed to be SLA soldiers, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Tuesday. "Three machine guns, two AK-47s, six rifles and 75 rounds of ammunition were found hidden in a Toyota van under sacks of rice in the centre of Freetown," Wimhurst told the BBC. "It was a random check conducted by Nigerian peacekeepers and as a result of that we discovered the weapons, confiscated them and the ammunition, and eight men were arrested who are now in custody." Wimhurst noted that President Kabbah had declared Freetown a weapons-free zone, and that government forces were not allowed to return to the capital carrying arms openly. "They must check them in before they arrive in the city and in this cases of course that procedure was not followed," he said. Wimhurst said the U.N. was concerned that pro-government forces were ignoring the order and trying to bring arms into the Freetown. "We have established very strong checkpoints and are preventing arms from coming in, but it’s also very much part of the government’s responsibility and the armed forces’ responsibility to make sure that their men obey these instructions and check their weapons in before they enter the city," he said. "We’ve had meetings with the government representatives and we agreed that this is what should happen. So therefore it’s a matter of discipline and command on the government troops’ side." 

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he might seek additional Jordanian peacekeeping troops for Sierra Leone, but appealed to other countries to join in the multi-national peacekeeping effort. "Jordan has reinforced its troops on the ground and if I am sure there is an absolute need for it and I approach His Majesty the King I am sure they would want to consider," Annan said. "The United Nations could not have mounted that operation in Sierra Leone without the support of the Jordanians and the king and the army on the ground...They are playing a very, very effective role." Reuters quoted diplomats as saying the U.N. had approached Jordan, which currently has more than 2,000 peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, asking for at least 3,500 more troops. Jordanian soldiers are also serving with U.N. peacekeeping forces in the Balkans and East Timor.

RUF rebels surrounding 224 Indian peacekeeping troops in Kailahun have allowed two of the soldiers to be evacuated on medical grounds, new  UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befacadu said on Tuesday. The two, a corporal and a lance corporal, were first driven to the UNAMSIL base at Daru where they were to be airlifted to Freetown.

ECOWAS delegates are on their way from Sierra Leone to New York, where they will meet in closed-door session Wednesday with the United Nations Security Council on the crisis in Sierra Leone, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on Tuesday. 

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) expressed "grave concern" Tuesday that fighting in northern and eastern Sierra Leone was resulting in the displacement of large numbers of civilians and disrupting the delivery of food and and relief supplies. In a statement issued in Abidjan, the WFP said it had been forced to delay food distribution last week to over 16,000 displaced persons at Lungi and had called back a food convoy to more than 14,000 displaced at Port Loko. The WFP, which fed 200,000 war-affected Sierra Leoneans in May alone, said it was also concerned about the plight of thousands of persons in areas of the country not under government control. "Their situation could rapidly deteriorate due to the lack of food hardly available in isolated rural regions from May to September during the seasonal heavy rains, a period known in Sierra Leone as 'the hunger season,'" the WFP statement said.

Sierra Leone, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria spend least in providing their citizens with value for money spent on health care, the U.N. World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report to be published on Wednesday. The United States spends more per person than any other country yet ranked only 37th in the quality of health care. France, the WHO analysis concluded, provides the world's best health care.

27 British military personnel deployed in Sierra Leone during the recent crisis there have been confirmed as suffering from malaria, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told Parliament Monday in a written statement. Three more cases have been referred to hospital for investigation, according to the latest figures released by Britain's Ministry of Defence.

India has sought help from two West African leaders to try to free 21 Indian peacekeepers being held hostage by the RUF in Pendembu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Raminder Singh Jassal said in Delhi. He told reporters that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had appealed to Liberian President Charles Taylor through the Indian ambassador in Ghana. "The prime minister expressed his deep concern in a letter about the detention of 21 soldiers and the blockade of the other group in Kailahun," he said. Jassal said Indian Vice President Kishan Kant had asked Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene during a G-15 summit meeting in Cairo. "Obasanjo told the vice president about his contacts with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in this matter," the spokesman said. In a separate communiqué, the Indian foreign ministry said a high-level team of defence and foreign ministry officials had found the Indian troops "in high spirits" during a visit to Sierra Leone from June 8-11. "The delegation confirmed that the hostages are in good health and that food was being supplied to them on a daily basis," the statement said.

19 June: Five persons, including three Kamajor militiamen, have been arrested in connection with Saturday night's shooting spree in Freetown in which a civilian was killed and four persons wounded. A government statement broadcast on state radio late Sunday said the five had not yet been charged and that police were still investigating the incident. The reason for the shooting and who was involved are still not clear. The government statement said "stringent measures" would be taken against anyone who brought illegal arms into Freetown. Only U.N. peacekeepers, police and some military personnel are allowed to carry firearms in the capital.

A nine-member ECOWAS delegation charged with getting the peace process in Sierra Leone back on track has asked Liberian President Charles Taylor to help secure the release of 21 Indian peacekeepers held by the RUF in Pendembu, as well as over 223 Indian peacekeeping troops and 11 military observers encircled by rebel forces at Kailahun. "The delegation appealed to President Charles Taylor to assist in the release of over 200 Indian soldiers under (the) U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone that are still being held hostage," the Liberian government said in a statement issued late Sunday. In Delhi, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that one of the 21 Indian peacekeepers at Pendembu had fallen seriously ill. "An Indian medical officer examined the soldier and there is no urgent need for his evacuation," R.S. Jassal told reporters. "We have stepped up political and diplomatic efforts to secure the release of our soldiers and officers." The Liberian government statement quoted Taylor as calling for proper security on both sides of the border — a reference to allegations made last week by Liberian officials that dissidents were preparing to launch an attack from across the Sierra Leone border. It added that Taylor had reassured President Kabbah about a build-up of Liberian troops along the border. "It is necessary to stop any conflict between the two countries...the Liberia security forces would, with their Sierra Leone counterparts, work to prevent would-be troublemakers from engaging in any hostile activities," the statement said. 

The UNAMSIL force increased to 12,394 Monday with the arrival of 290 Bangladeshi peacekeepers and 14 Indian aviation personnel, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst told reporters. "Our deployment has continued to grow through the last six weeks — 12,400 basically on the ground — the (U.N. Security) Council is currently considering a resolution that could put that up to 16,500," he said. 

U.N. humanitarian sources expressed concern Monday over the  humanitarian situation at Mile 91, where an estimated 30,000 persons fleeing from Makeni, Magburaka and Lunsar have been registered by U.N. agencies, non-governmental organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross as internally displaced. According to the U.N. Office for The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an additional 17,000 persons were registered in the surrounding area with 10,000 more expected to arrive soon. An OCHA official said the most immediate need was for shelter because there was no camp for internally displaced persons at Mile 91. "People have been occupying public buildings where conditions are poor, especially during the rains," the official said. Humanitarian agencies are making efforts to accommodate newly-displaced residents. They are served by two health clinics operated by Caritas and MSF Netherlands, the official said. An MSF mobile clinic is expected to be operational this week. 

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has named Jean-Marie Guehenno as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on Monday. Guehenno, a former diplomat, was France's representative to the Western European Union from 1993 to 1995. He is currently a member of the U.N. Advisory Board for Disarmament Affairs. Guehenno will succeed Bernard Miyet on October 1. The United Nations currently has over 35,000 military personnel and police serving in 14 peacekeeping operations around the world.

Russia will send a squadron of four helicopter gunships and 106 soldiers to join the UNAMSIL force in Sierra Leone on June 25, according to Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Russian Defence Ministry's Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation. "Reconnaissance groups are now working in Sierra Leone, and negotiations on technical issues and terms of troops' deployment are underway," Ivashov said on Monday.

Three journalists have won this year's prestigious One World Media Awards for their reporting on the conflict in Sierra Leone. BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle received the Radio News Award for a BBC "From Our Own Correspondent" report he filed in July 1999 comparing the situation in Sierra Leone to that of Kosovo. The One World Broadcasting Trust jury called Doyle's report, written after a visit to Sierra Leone by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and entitled Sierra Leone/Mrs Robinson, "a passionate insight into Sierra Leone." Sierra Leonean filmmaker Sorius Samura won both the best TV Documentary Award and the ICRC Dignity in Conflict Award for his documentary Cry Freetown, also known under the title "Out of Africa," which portrayed atrocities by both sides during the January 1999 RUF invasion of Freetown. The jury said the film “was not easy to watch but it contained truths about war, about so-called peace-keeping, about child soldiers and maybe about human nature, which we ought to see if we wish to understand.” The International New Media Award went to Eric Beauchemin of Radio Netherlands for his website The Scars of Brutality, which the jury said combined "passion, bravery, good writing and high production value. The pictures and authentic voices were stunning.” Doyle, in his 1999 report, described a conflict which had produced more displaced persons and refugees than any other war in Africa, and where rebels had "used terror as a deliberate tactic," mutilating civilians as a warning to others not to support the government. Doyle also noted that while Kosovo had attracted international attention, the plight of Sierra Leoneans had all but been ignored by the international community. On Robinson's arrival in Sierra Leone, there were only two foreign journalists present to ask her questions. "If it is objectively true, as no less a person than the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner says, that the situation in Sierra Leone is worse than that in Kosovo, how come journalists who report these things are sometimes accused of exaggerating?," Doyle asked. "I don’t mind being accused of exaggerating. Back in 1994, before the extent of the genocide in Rwanda was widely accepted, lots of people said we journalists were overdramatising the situation. We weren’t. And now, perhaps its not an exaggeration to suggest, just tentatively, that the international reaction to Sierra Leone might have been very different if all of those people with their limbs chopped off had been white." Doyle received the award Thursday at a ceremony in London.

Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman has rejected accusations by Liberia that dissident former ULIMO fighters were preparing to launch an attack on Liberia from across the Sierra Leone border, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported on Monday. Norman said the allegations had first surfaced last September. Since that time had had visited Liberia and President Taylor had never brought the subject up, he said. Norman said the accusations were false and that Sierra Leone had no intention of attacking Liberia. He said the Sierra Leone government was not taking lightly the deployment of Liberian troops along the two countries' common border, adding that enough troops were deployed in the area to prevent a breach of Sierra Leone's territorial integrity. 

18 June: Shooting broke out late Saturday in Brookfields, in the western part of the capital, leaving one civilian dead in the crossfire and four persons injured, including two Kamajor militiamen. Police have detained to members of the CDF in connection with the incident. BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers said Sunday the shooting began in an area where over 100 CDF members were deployed. "According to an independent source, a vehicle of armed men had gone to the CDF deployment area and, on reversing the vehicle, the armed men allegedly launched an RPG bomb which the CDF replied in like manner," Rogers told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "The CDF reportedly chased the armed vehicle to the national radio station, the maximum Pademba Road Prison and spread unto town centre."  The Voice of America, however, quoted U.N. officials as saying the shooting started when security forces fired on a group of men trying to steal cars in the city centre. British military sources told the Agence France-Presse they believed the incident was started by the accidental discharge of a weapon, which drew a response from guards at Pademba Road Prison. UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst speculated Sunday morning that the incident may have been the result of a factional rivalry. "All I know is the events took place and we will get a report from our people. It could be due to rivalry between various factions," he said. He added that UNAMSIL troops had moved in quickly to restore calm. "I was actually pleased to see following this incident — I was in Freetown myself — that all of the checkpoints throughout the city were manned and very active," he said. "People had heard the gunshots and did not know what was its cause. The government was stopping cars and searching them. So it was a very active response to this incident and the security situation remains the way it has been." Wimhurst was quoted as saying the firing began at about 9:30 p.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes, while the BBC said the gunfire went on for five hours. Reuters reported U.N. peacekeepers arrived in armoured personnel carriers after about 30 minutes and restored order. A diplomatic source in Freetown, however, told the Sierra Leone Web that UNAMSIL troops had participated in the firing. Radio FM 98.1 (state radio) said the firing "may have been sparked off by some indisciplined use of firearms." A government statement appealed for calm and insisted the situation was under control. "The government wishes to assure the public that the incident was no threat to the security of the country," the statement said, adding that an investigation was underway.  

RUF rebels attacked the town of Masiaka late Saturday, deep in what was considered to be government-held territory, U.N. sources told the Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday. The town is occupied by Jordanian peacekeeping troops. There were no UNAMSIL casualties in the attack.

Two soldiers were killed and three wounded in fighting at Lunsar Saturday between soldiers of the new Sierra Leone Army and the ex-SLA "West Side Boys" loyal to Johnny Paul Koroma, military sources told Reuters. A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web on Sunday that the fighting appeared to relate to field promotions given to the new SLA while some ex-SLA soldiers "were mysteriously dropped from the list." He added that the SLA at Port Loko "seem to have disbanded" Friday and Saturday.

A British aid worker who was abducted by the RUF last month has been released after having been held by the rebels for six weeks. Alan Smith, a 55-year old engineer, arrived in Sierra Leone on May 3. He and six local people in his car disappeared four days later after he visited the town of Songo on behalf of an educational charity. Smith was freed in Makeni and airlifted to safety by British troops. "Mr. Smith is fit and well and told the High Commissioner he had not been maltreated," a British foreign office spokeswoman said. "He is still in Freetown and plans to come back to the UK soon but we are not sure exactly when that will be."

The Liberian government has resupplied and reinforced RUF rebels in eastern Sierra Leone, who are preparing to fight rather than allow the U.N. to take over diamond mining areas under their control, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, quoting Western intelligence officials and West African sources. In the past two weeks, the Post said, Liberian President Charles Taylor has sent several convoys of trucks across the border into Kono District loaded with weapons, food and medicine. The newspaper quoted "sources with direct knowledge" as saying South African and Burkinabe mercenaries working with Taylor were providing military training to several hundred RUF fighters under the command of exiled former RUF field commander Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie at Gbtala, the main training camp for Taylor's security forces, located 90 miles northeast of Monrovia. "They said Mosquito's men are equipped with surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, antitank weapons and other arms from a 66-ton shipment that moved through Burkina Faso," the report said. Diplomats and intelligence analysts told the Washington Post that Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, who is alleged to have close ties to both Taylor and the RUF, earlier this month "played host to senior RUF commanders to plan military and political strategy." According to intelligence sources and U.N. investigators, "Taylor and Compaore receive diamonds from the RUF, which are then sold on the international diamond market" in return for their support for the rebel group. "Confidential RUF documents found in Sankoh's house after he fled show he was shipping diamonds out of Sierra Leone through Liberia, with Taylor's knowledge. The documents also show that Sankoh was growing increasingly angry at Taylor because Taylor was taking 90 percent of the profits," the Washington Post said, adding: "Intelligence analysts and sources close to Taylor said he cannot allow the rebels to lose the war, in part because he has taken millions of dollars from foreign investors, in the form of licensing fees, to allow them to mine Sierra Leone's diamonds."

Following a war of words this week by Liberia over Sierra Leonean and British accusations of Liberian backing for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and of Liberian involvement in the illegal trade in Sierra Leonean diamonds, the Liberian government suddenly announced it would relocate more than 10,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, accusing them of involvement in illicit diamond mining. The refugees are to be moved from Sinje Camp in Grand Camp Mount County to the town of Clay in Bomi County, 30 km. from Monrovia. According to BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh, the decision was announced by Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan at a hastily-arranged press conference over the weekend. Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Liberia, Dr. Kemoh Salia-Bao, was quoted as saying his embassy was unaware of involvement in illicit diamond mining by Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, and expressed surprise he had not been informed of the Liberian government's plan to move the refugees. "I would appreciate if the government of Liberia could consult us properly on the matter," he said.

The Liberian foreign ministry said it has sent a diplomat note to all European Union countries urging them to reject a call by Britain to block aid to Liberia, the BBC reported on Sunday. Last week EU foreign ministers recommended the freeze of $48 million in redevelopment aid to Liberia, citing evidence presented by Britain of Liberian backing for the RUF and involvement in the illicit trade in Sierra Leonean diamonds.

17 June: Nigeria's Super Eagles defeated the Leone Stars 2-0 in their second round World Cup qualifying match in Lagos on Saturday. Scoring for Nigeria were Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha in the 16th minute and Bendict Akwuegbu in the 37th. The game was played before a crowd of 20,000. Sierra Leone will next play Ghana on July 8 in Freetown. Other weekend results: Algeria 1, Senegal 1; Namibia 0, Morocco 0. Madagascar 3, Democratic Republic of Congo 0; Malawi 1, Burkina Faso 1; Angola 2, Zambia 1; Libya 0, Cameroon 3; Sudan 2, Liberia 0; Ivory Coast 2, Tunisia 2; Guinea 3, Zimbabwe 0.

Soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army's Third Battalion and ex-SLA soldiers — the "West Side Boys" — clashed at Lunsar on Wednesday, according to BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers, citing defence headquarters sources and Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman. "The damage has been done, and we are now busy making repairs," Norman was quoted as saying. No official reason was given for the fighting. "An independent source told me today that the fighting erupted among the soldiers when a self-styled West Side brigadier and his men refused to take command from one Lieutenant Bakarr," Rogers said. "He insisted with their jungle ranks and war experience they cannot take commands from a lieutenant." Tension between the two groups is not new. Last week a source in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Web that the better-equipped new SLA soldiers at the front were being disarmed by the West Side Boys. U.N. and diplomatic sources in Freetown acknowledged difficulties with the ex-SLA soldiers, but were unable to say how widespread the problem was.

Canada will supply helmets to 1,000 Sierra Leone Army recruits being trained by Britain, British army spokesman Captain Fergus Smith said on Saturday. "Canada, as part of its commitment to the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) has agreed to supply all trainees with the Canadian issue helmet," Smith said. He added that the recruits had been issued additional equipment by the Sierra Leone Army. "The soldiers undergoing training have now been issued uniforms and footwear...I see this as a significant step forward, both for their logistic supply train and for the soldiers under training who are now beginning to realise that they are the main effort they are the focus for the future," he said.

Amnesty International called on the Sierra Leone government Saturday to clarify charges against 120 persons detained under the country's emergency regulations, and permit them access to lawyers and medical attention. "Human rights abuses in Sierra Leone will not end until there is an end to impunity," Amnesty International said in a statement. "However, the government must bring all perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice in line with international fair trial standards." Among those the government said Tuesday were detained at Pademba Road Prison were three RUFP ministers, Trade and Industry Minister Mike Lamin, Energy and Works Minister Pallo Bangura and Lands and Environment Minister Peter Vandy, RUFP spokesman Eldred Collins and RUFP Secretary-General Solomon Y. B. Rogers. Also being held under the emergency regulations were two RUF commanders: Colonel Lawrence Sahr Wormandia, who commanded RUF contingents in Kono, and Colonel Momoh Rogers, who commanded the RUF in Kailahun District.

16 June: President Kabbah told Parliament Friday that the "complex security situation" in the country was continuing to frustrate his efforts to stabilise the economy and bring prosperity to the people of Sierra Leone. In his address to open the Fourth Session of Parliament, Kabbah said the safety and security of life and property were a high priority on his government's agenda as "the armed forces and their allies" strove to consolidate the government's authority over the whole of Sierra Leonean territory. Kabbah blamed the RUF for the latest breakdown in the peace process, and said his government had been left with no choice but to counter the renewed rebel threat. "Ours was a decisive action, in self-defence," he said. "Our action was also necessitated by the need to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance by the World Food Programme and others, to innocent civilians who had been virtually held hostage by the RUF." Kabbah told lawmakers his government was still committed to the principal provisions of the Lomé Peace Accord. "At the same time, we shall never...relinquish our right to mobilise all the forces at our disposal to defend this nation against any threat to the peace and security of its people," he said. "We are not seeking any military victory, nor do we have any territorial claim against anyone. All we are doing is exercising our inalienable right to self-defence, and ensuring that Government consolidate and maintain effective control of all our territory, especially the diamond areas." Kabbah warned that his government would not tolerate further violations of the peace agreement by the RUF. "My government reserves the right to resume the two-track policy it pursued before Lomé," he warned. "On the one hand, we shall leave the door for a peaceful solution of the conflict wide open...On the other hand, we are prepared, if necessary, to meet force with force." The key to peace in Sierra Leone, the president said, was a commitment by all Sierra Leoneans to "principles of democracy and constitutional order, respect for human rights, the rule of law and reconciliation." Kabbah told parliamentarians his government was committed to working toward economic recovery and for reforms in public management, for sustainable socio-economic development, tripartite partnerships involving government, indigenous businessmen and foreign investors, the reduction of external debt and alleviation of poverty, transparency and accountability, agricultural development, and development of the transportation and telecommunications infrastructure. He announced that thanks to a World Bank credit agreement, the country would purchase three 1.5-megawatt high-speed generators by the end of July, and that repairs to two other generators would be completed by the end of August. A 6.3-megawatt generator was also expected to be installed by the end of October. "With all of these expected developments, the power situation in the city is expected to improve significantly by the end of this year," he said. Kabbah noted his government had already embarked on "multi-sectoral efforts to alleviate the desperate plight of our people," including programmes to cover "agriculture and food security, schools, health units and shelter rehabilitation, micro-credit and water and sanitation sectors." He stressed that the Sierra Leone government remained committed to the Lomé Peace Accord, but said "the RUF must now demonstrate its own commitment and sincerity, in very practical ways, to convince the people of this country that they will implement the letter and spirit of the Accord and ensure lasting peace and prosperity in Sierra Leone."

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said Friday that Liberia would continue to negotiate for the release of 21 Indian peacekeepers held hostage by the RUF, but said the task was being complicated by renewed fighting between government forces and the RUF. "You cannot secure the release of hostages in a situation of hostilities," he said. "There is a military campaign going on, supported by the British government and supported by the Sierra Leone government with the objective of defeating the RUF. If that is the approach, that policy endangers the life of U.N. personnel." On Thursday Deputy Information Minister Milton Teahjay threatened Liberia would withdraw from the peace process amid accusations this week by Sierra Leone and Britain of Liberian backing for the RUF. "We are giving ten days to the U.S.A. and ECOWAS to make known that (exiled RUF field commander) Sam Bockarie is in Liberia with their consent," Teahjay told a radio talk show. "If they do not do that, we will send him back and remove our hands from helping to bring peace to Sierra Leone." Both Teahjay and Captain denounced the European Union's decision to block disbursement of $48 million in aid to Liberia, citing evidence of Liberian involvement in the illicit trade of Sierra Leonean diamonds and of illegal arms sales to the RUF. "It is a clear campaign to undermine this government," Captan said of the EU move. "It is time that we realised that Liberia is being victimised by certain powers that would like to see this government totally undermined."

President Kabbah has asked for U.N. assistance in setting up a war crimes tribunal to try RUF leader Foday Sankoh and his followers, the Washington Post reported on Friday. According to a U.N. spokeswoman, Kabbah appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a letter this week for "guidance and assistance" in establishing the tribunal. She said U.N. experts were studying the letter, which she declined to make public. Sierra Leone's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara (pictured right), said the court would probably combine elements of Sierra Leonean and international law, and might be based in another country in the region, such as Nigeria, Mali or Senegal. He said there was increasing support in the U.N. Security Council for such a tribunal, and that the Sierra Leone government might eliminate the option to impose the death penalty to attract international support. "Our people say they just want to execute (Sankoh)," Kamara said. "We are trying to say he doesn't need to die instantly. Let him die slowly."

Sierra Leone's national soccer team failed to show up in Lagos Wednesday for Saturday's second round World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria's Super Eagles after players demanded a $1,000 match fee instead of the $300 they had been promised, Reuters reported on Friday. In Nigeria, the Super Eagles are also facing problems as five of invited the Nigerian players — Pius Ikedia, Celestine Babayaro, Victor Agali, Tijani Babangida and Taribo West — failed to report to the training camp. A nationwide strike over petrol prices stranded a number of players and restricted training at the National Stadium in Surelere, with preparations for Saturday's game only getting underway in earnest on Thursday. Thursday's training had to be cut short, however, when Nigerian fans watching the practice session took advantage of lax security to invade the pitch.  Meanwhile, the Leone Stars' new Yugoslav coach, Dusan Draskovic, is holding out hope that Sierra Leone could defeat the heavily-favoured Super Eagles "All the matches in our group will be very, very hard. The Nigerians are the best but if I didn't think this team could beat them I would not have come here," Draskovic said. Because the Leone Stars rely on their internationals, who arrive just before a match and leave soon afterwards, the Sierra Leoneans rarely have a chance to train as a team. Mohammed Kallon and Kewulie Conteh, who are based in Italy, and Junior Tombo, who plays in the United Arab Emirates, are expected to take the field against Nigeria. Other team members play in Croatia, Sweden and China. "The biggest problem we have is having one set of players one day and then another the next," Draskovic said. "As well as the foreign-based players, the young ones have everything you need, the right psychology, technical, tactical and physical ability. I am sure they will be able to succeed. We can do very well." 

The Sierra Leone Council of Churches has launched a programme to compensate children for handing in their toy guns, reasoning that children who play with toy weapons may eventually want the real thing. Journalist Sulaiman Momodu told the BBC on Friday that over 100 children had already turned in their toy weapons "ranging from toy machine guns to grenade launchers to tanks." The Council of Churches hopes thousands of children will eventually participate in the programme, which exchanges the toys guns for books and non-violent toys. "Yesterday 25 children handed in their toy guns and were given compensation in the form of books and non-violent toys by the Deputy Minister of Trade, Theresa Koroma," Momodu said. "The Council of Churches is working with schools and other organizations to spread the exercise across the whole country, and is also pressing for restrictions on imports of toy weapons and the showing of violent films."

RUF rebels attacked pro-government forces at Lunsar on Thursday, killing one soldier and a CDF militiaman, BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers said on Friday. He said the rebels launched their attack from the direction of Foredugu, east of Lunsar. "Some 15 rebels were said to have been killed in that attack but that is yet to be independently confirmed. The attack was repulsed by pro-government forces," Rogers said.

Amnesty International has condemned continuing attacks by the RUF on civilians as hostilities intensified between the rebels, pro-government troops and U.N. peacekeepers in Northern Province. An Amnesty International team of human rights experts is currently in Sierra Leone compiling testimonies from victims of human rights abuses, and in a press release Thursday called for every effort to be made to protect civilians. The human rights group cited eyewitness testimony of civilians fleeing violence being threatened with and subjected to physical violence as they attempted to pass RUF checkpoints on the road south to Mile 91. In the statement, Amnesty International stressed that continuing abuses of human rights, including killings, rapes and abductions, were not covered under the blanket amnesty provision of the Lomé Peace Accord. The group has called on the U.N. Security Council, which is currently considering a draft resolution on Sierra Leone, "to finally address the issue of impunity and resolve unambiguously that all those responsible for human rights abuses be brought to justice." Amnesty International also called on UNAMSIL to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of violence, including the tens of thousands fleeing threats of fighting in the Makeni and Magburaka area. The group called on the Security Council to review UNAMSIL's mandate to "provide a clearer mandate for the protection of the human rights of all civilians at all times" and to ensure that U.N. peacekeepers had the necessary training and logistics to protect civilians throughout the country.

The Italian Foreign Ministry's development aid office on Friday designated a $500,000 contribution to the World Bank trust fund which is financing the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Sierra Leone.

15 June: British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott pledged Thursday Britain's continued support for the Sierra Leone government. "It's a long-term commitment to democracy itself, the association between Britain and Sierra Leone has been a very long one," he said following a meeting with President Kabbah in Freetown. "The association at the moment is to give help and assistance to the legitimate, democratic government here. I think we have shown now we're moving into the second phase with the removal of combat troops, and taking action internationally and the training troops clearly show that there will be the support and development for the people of Sierra Leone. That is good evidence of a continuing support and not simply a short-term exercise where you came in with combat troops and left." Prescott arrived in Freetown Thursday, even as the last of Britain's Royal Marines were set to pull out of Sierra Leone. "We are not leaving. We are in the second phase when we are restoring and helping in the democracy," Prescott said after meeting the last contingent of marines on their way to the amphibious helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. The British operation, code named "Operation Palliser," formally ended at midnight on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the commander of the British task force in Sierra Leone, Brigadier David Richards, said Thursday he was confident both UNAMSIL troops and pro-government forces were prepared to fight the rebels. "The U.N. have a much stronger resolve now and are clearer about their mandate and have shown that they have the resolve to fight," Richards said. "When we arrived here about six weeks ago, they did appear on the verge of collapse. Today they have been transformed. I am confident that what we have achieved here — which is much more than most of us anticipated even three weeks ago — is to serve as a catalyst to enable the government and U.N. to have another go at this, this time understanding exactly what is involved." Richards said some 60 British officers and non-commissioned officers would play a key role with government forces in the areas of planning, intelligence and communications, to ensure that the troops on the ground were given clear and workable orders. He acknowledged that British trainers could not create a fully-professional Western-style force from the government army. "We must not compare the future army of Sierra Leone with the sort of armies that we traditionally picture," he said. "The Revolutionary United Front is a bush army and, in my estimation, we can train up the new Sierra Leone army to be better than that and to take the fight forward."

President Kabbah said Thursday that the Sierra Leone government would have liked to see British forces stay in Sierra Leone. "We would love for them to remain here forever, but they were here as part of a regime to stabilise things...Now they are entering phase two and we're very happy about that," he said. Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer (pictured right) said many Sierra Leoneans would like to see British forces remain in Sierra Leone in support of U.N. peacekeepers. "The government would like them to stay longer, the civilians would like that and perhaps UNAMSIL would like that, because there is not much confidence in UNAMSIL from the population because of the recent past," Spencer told the BBC.

226 troops from the 2nd Battalion of Britain's Royal Anglian Regiment, 45 of them military trainers, launched "Operation Basilica" Thursday, an effort to provide basic military training to 1,000 recruits who will form the core of a new Sierra Leone Army. The training is expected to take about six weeks. In the longer term, responsibility for training the Sierra Leone Army will be taken over by a British-led International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT). "We are bridging a gap between the force that has been here for quite a different reason and the longer-term training commitment," said Lieutenant-Colonel Alasdair Wild, commander of the British army training team.

RUF rebels clashed with Nigerian peacekeeping troops at Port Loko on Thursday, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst told the BBC. "This morning near Port Loko there was an attempt by the RUF to attack Nigerians there," Wimhurst told the BBC. "The Nigerians peacekeepers responded forcibly and the RUF withdrew into the bush." In New York, a U.N. spokesman said the RUF attack occurred at about 10:00 a.m. There was an exchange of fire for about 45 minutes before the RUF retreated into the bush, the spokesman said. Wimhurst noted that the U.N. peacekeeping force was stronger now than when the peace process broke down in the beginning of May. "In the last six weeks since this crisis began we have increased our troop strength on the ground from 8,000 to 12,000, and more troops are still coming in," he said. "We’ve increased our armaments including helicopter gunships and artillery, so we’re in a much stronger position than we were six weeks ago." He stressed that UNAMSIL's mandate allowed U.N. peacekeepers to respond to "hostile intent" by the use of force. "Whether that hostile intent is expressed by somebody actually shooting or threatening to do so, we can still respond with arms, and we have done so." Wimhurst said the U.N. was ensuring security in the areas around Freetown and in the interior where U.N. troops were deployed. "We will continue to reinforce our positions and take all measures necessary to ensure security in those reasons stays stable and, within the limits of our deployment and abilities, we’ll protect the civilian population in all these areas," he said. He pointed out that UNAMSIL's role was not to go to war with the RUF as a combat army. "Don’t forget there is a political process that has to be resurrected underlying this military situation and that’s something else of course that we’re working on actively," he said.

A six-member ECOWAS delegation arrived in Sierra Leone late Wednesday, where they will attempt to bring about a cease-fire between government and rebel forces and to put the peace process back on track. "We hope to see the rebels, the government, the United Nations and the people of Sierra Leone, to stop the fighting, secure the release of all the United Nations personnel and their weapons, and then to see a way forward for the Lomé Peace Accord," said Nigerian Major-General Gabriel Kpamber, a member of the delegation and the last commander of the ECOMOG force in Sierra Leone. "We hope to be here for about a week or perhaps two weeks. Our main aim is to invigorate the Lomé Peace Accord," he said. According to the Associated Press, the ECOWAS team began negotiations in Freetown for a new cease-fire. 

The Leone Stars, Sierra Leone's national soccer team, failed to arrive in Nigeria Wednesday in advance of their second round World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria's Super Eagles. "I am yet to be officially told the reason for the late arrival," Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Nigeria, Joe Blell, told the Sierra Leone Web. "I do hope they will arrive sometime on Friday as the Nigerians are looking forward to this game on Saturday." Nigerian Football Association spokesman Austin Mgbolu, who was at the airport Wednesday, told Nigeria's P.M. News that the association was not bothered by what he called the hide-and-seek posture of the Sierra Leonean team, adding that he was sure the Super Eagles would triumph on Saturday.

UNAMSIL force commander General Vijay Kumar Jetley reportedly established direct contact with the RUF on Tuesday in an effort to free 21 Indian peacekeepers held hostage in Pendembu. "We expect some response to this initiative," an Indian foreign office spokesman said in New Delhi. He said India's ambassador in Dakar, Senegal would meet with Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, the current ECOWAS chairman, to assist in resolving the crisis. In Freetown, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said the U.N. was "actively working" to secure the peacekeepers' release. "We have visited them with medical assistance; they’re all healthy. We daily bring food in to them, so we are in contact with them," he told the BBC. "The RUF has pledged it will not harm them, but it has yet to release them as we in the international community insist."

Kenya has petitioned the United Nations over the conduct of UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Kumar Jetley which, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Bonaya Godana alleged on Thursday, led to the capture of Kenyan and Zambian troops by RUF rebels. "We have raised the issue with the UN headquarters and they have promised to respond. I have learnt that Zambia has also complained on the issue," Godana told Parliament. According to Kenya's East African Standard newspaper, Kenyan lawmakers also want to bill the U.N. for Kenyan military equipment lost to the rebels.

14 June: The Sierra Leone government said Tuesday it was holding 120 political detainees, including three RUFP ministers who joined the government under a power-sharing arrangement set up by last year's Lomé Peace Accord. According to the Government Gazette, the government has detained two RUF colonels, 11 ex-SLA soldiers and 105 civilians, and one Liberian former NPFL fighter under public emergency regulations designed to maintain peace and order. Among the civilian detainees listed were Trade and Industry Minister Mike Lamin, Energy and Works Minister Pallo Bangura and Lands and Environment Minister Peter Vandy. Also detained was RUFP spokesman Eldred Collins. The RUF commanders were identified as Momoh Rogers and Colonel Lawrence Sahr Wormandia. Reuters quoted police sources as saying all of those detained, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh, were being held at Pademba Road Prison under heavy military and paramilitary guard.

RUF rebels attacked and burned the town of Magbele on Wednesday, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst told reporters. The village is several miles north of a U.N. outpost at the Rokel Bridge, where Jordanian peacekeepers clashed Monday with RUF fighters who were attempting to cross the river by canoe.  Wimhurst said it was unclear whether there were any casualties in the attack on the village.

RUF rebels attacked pro-government forces at Lunsar on Tuesday night, U.N. military spokesman Lieutenant Commander Patrick Coker told reporters in Freetown on Wednesday. "The RUF attacked Lunsar yesterday night, they were repelled by the government forces. We don't have details of casualties on either side," Coker said. "There was an attack on Lunsar on Tuesday night and our forces repelled it. We are holding Lunsar and consolidating there," said Army spokesman Major John Milton.

45,000 newly displaced persons fleeing Makeni and Magburaka have reached Mile 91, a U.N. spokesman said in New York on Wednesday. He said humanitarian convoys were headed to the area with emergency assistance.

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved a spending bill Wednesday which cut out funding for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Earlier, the House Appropriations Committee, on a 26-27 near party-line vote, rejected a move to add the $241 million President Clinton wanted for U.N. peacekeeping. Four Republicans joined committee democrats for the vote. Rep. Harold Rogers (left), who chaired the subcommittee who wrote the bill, added language which would block U.S. funding of U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone, the DRC, Western Sahara, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Rogers said the U.N. was sending inadequately trained and equipped peacekeepers into conflict situations which required soldiers. "I don't want innocent, unarmed, untrained, capturable troops" in conflicts, Rogers said in a reference to over 500 U.N. troops captured last month by the RUF.

A new World Bank report has suggested that civil conflicts are more often caused by rebel groups competing with governments for resources than for reasons of political, ethnic or religious differences. The report, Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy, examined 47 civil wars taking place from 1960 to 1999, showed that countries which earn about a quarter of their GDP from the export of raw materials face a far higher likelihood of civil war than countries with more diversified economies. The report says rebel groups in vulnerable countries loot primary commodities in order to remain financially viable. This, in turn, allows them to pay large numbers of young, poorly-educated combatants and to keep their rebellion alive both domestically and internationally. Paul Collier, the report's author and Director for the World Bank's Economic Department, said the looting of such resources explains many current and former civil in conflicts. In Sierra Leone, he said, the capture of diamond mining areas by the RUF and the sale of diamonds abroad is one of the main reasons for the renewed fighting in the country.

A woman identifying herself as the RUF's new spokesperson called the BBC Wednesday to deny the RUF was losing ground to pro-government forces. She gave her name as "Colonel Chakra," but a source close to the RUF identified her to the Sierra Leone Web as Josephine Tengbeh, RUF leader Foday Sankoh's former wife. The two separated earlier this year, and Tengbeh reportedly now lives with her two children in Abidjan. "I don’t think they are pushing us back. I don’t think so," she told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "Lunsar is not lost, it’s a no-man’s land. Nobody’s occupying Lunsar." She said the RUF's goal was to capture Freetown, despite the presence of the U.N. peacekeeping force. "They shouldn’t be expecting us to come through Waterloo or through the peninsula, we can come from anywhere," she said. "The war we are fighting in Sierra Leone now is a war of surprises. You know, you just take people unawares and do what you want to do." She said the RUF would only negotiate the release of U.N. peacekeeping troops detained in eastern Sierra Leone after the government released RUF officials in Freetown, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "(The peacekeepers' release) will be decided by the government of Tejan Kabbah," she said. "We asked him when he’s going to release our people and then we’ll talk."

The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, the first warship to arrive off the coast of Sierra Leone last month to support British troops in Freetown, has returned to Portsmouth naval base in Britain. The Illustrious had been returning to Portsmouth in May after helping with relief efforts in flood-ravaged Mozambique when it was diverted to Sierra Leone. Group Captain David Walker, of 3 Squadron of the RAF, told the British Press Association that his men had flown low-level missions over RUF forces in Sierra Leone. He said flights from the Illustrious had a psychological effect on the rebels and reassured pro-government troops on the ground. Meanwhile, the last of the British 1,000-strong British force is due to pull out of Sierra Leone on Thursday. They are being replaced by 50 military trainers and 150 soldiers assigned to provide security to the trainers, who will conduct a six-week training course for 1,000 Sierra Leonean soldiers at the Benguema military training centre.

RUF leader Foday Sankoh "and some of his squad" will face trial soon, Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said in Kenema on Tuesday. "The world is united on this issue of trying Sankoh and others," Spencer said. He did not disclose which other RUF officials would be tried. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted prison officials as saying over 35 members of the RUF were currently being held at Pademba Road Prison in Freetown. These include three RUFP ministers and two RUF colonels, the government disclosed on Tuesday. 

Diamond mining giant De Beers called on Wednesday for a coordinated international response to stop the trade in "conflict diamonds" which are fueling wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a letter to the industry leaders ahead of next month's World Diamond Congress in Antwerp, De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer and Managing Director Gary Ralfe said the industry should expel those found trading in diamonds originating in conflict zones. The company has proposed a six-point plan which, it said, would help stop illicit diamonds from conflict areas from reaching the legitimate market: the introduction of standard documentation by diamond importing countries to require a true statement of the origin of all stones rather than a declaration of provenance, new laws to allow import control offices to refuse entry to wrongly-declared diamonds, the supply of run-of-mine samples from each diamond producing country to allow the testing of origin of uncut stones, declarations by banks serving the industry that they will not deal in conflict diamonds, and exchange of staff between diamond producing countries and cutting centres to harmonise paperwork, and the mandatory publication of national official annual rough diamond import and export statistics. De Beers, which controls some 70-80 percent of the world's rough diamond output, has guaranteed since March that all stones sold through its London-based Central Selling Organisation as being "conflict-free." Meanwhile in Freetown, Sierra Leone's official diamond valuer said the Sierra Leone government's new system of diamond certification has begun to pay off. "Exports have really jumped up. All of a sudden people who have never appeared in the office are appearing and paying five percent," Ndola Myers said in an interview with Reuters. "Now that the international world has come to our aid and they are talking about certificates of origin, all of a sudden whoever takes a diamond from Sierra Leone needs a paper." Myers said the value of diamonds passing through his office at the Central Bank — based on the last two weeks — has increased to between $500,000 and $1 million per month from virtually nothing. "If an official arrangement can be made whereby diamonds go through the official channel then it is fair, but if you say all Sierra Leone diamonds are banned, then it is counter-productive," Myers said. "We have introduced a code system which reflects on the export, therefore nobody can just forge it and the ministry is doing its utmost to get everything officially done." Dealers say certification may not end the illicit trade in diamonds, as rebels may simply bring them to Freetown to be exported with an official certificate of origin. "Government is trying under all circumstances to facilitate the official exports," Myers said. "We would rather buy diamonds from the official areas, which are owned and licensed, than from people who are just thugs."

Liberian Foreign Minister Daniel Chea repeated his charge Wednesday that Sierra Leone was harbouring some 5,000 dissident Liberian fighters who were preparing to launch an attack on Sierra Leone. Chea said Tuesday the Liberians were fighting alongside the pro-government Kamajor militia, and pointed to the former Liberian ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J factions. On Monday the secretary-general of Liberia's ruling National Patriotic Party, John Whitfield, identified the dissidents as members of Liberia's former AFL, and said 4,000 of them were fighting with the Kamajors. A diplomatic source in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Web on Wednesday that Liberians were fighting with the Kamajors "but they number far less than 5,000." He put the number at between 100 and 200. In a BBC Network Africa interview, Chea said Sierra Leone's Deputy Defence Minister, Sam Hinga Norman, "came into Liberia and recruited several hundreds of former fighters from all of the warring factions of Liberia." Chea said that while neighbouring government could not be held responsible for activities of Liberian refugees in their countries, "it is the responsibility of this government, once you find out that some of them are involved in dissident activities, to inform their respective governments...our neighbors will also have to understand that Liberia is trying to get involved in trying to assist in the peace process of Sierra Leone. We have no other ulterior motive other than to find genuine peace for Sierra Leone." Chea denied any official Liberian involvement in the Sierra Leone conflict. "I cannot tell you that Liberians are not involved in the Sierra Leonean crisis," he said. "There are thousands of Liberians that are involved in the war in Sierra Leone. They are fighting on all sides of the war in Sierra Leone, but this government has no pistol. This government did not send any troops to fight with whether it is the RUF or it is the Kamajors. They are there on their own."

Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah has criticised an EU decision Tuesday to block $48 million in redevelopment aid which had been earmarked for Liberia. EU foreign ministers, acting on a British concern, cited evidence of Liberian involvement in the illicit trade of Sierra Leonean diamonds, and of illegal arms sales to Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. "EU policy, including under the Lomé (trade and aid) convention, will take full account of Liberia's behaviour in regard to Sierra Leone," the ministers said in a statement. Mulbah called for an international investigation to establish the facts. "We as a country, emerging from seven years of civil war and playing an influential role in helping to seek the release of (U.N.) hostages in Sierra Leone, want to use this occasion to call on the international community for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to come and investigate us, so as to exonerate us," Mulbah said. "Britain and (the) EU should rethink their decision."

The new head of the British military training mission in Sierra Leone, Brigadier Gordon Hughes, said Wednesday he had called on the RUF to surrender. "Stop fighting, it's a lost cause" was his message to the RUF, Hughes told reporters at Benguema military training centre, adding: "They will discover sooner or later that the military option will not work and the longer they keep fighting the more people will suffer and die in this dreadful war...I want to start building a democratic, accountable force."

The Leone Stars were expected to arrive in Nigeria Wednesday for Saturday's second round World Cup football qualifying match against Nigeria's Super Eagles. Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Nigeria, Joe Blell, told the Lagos newspaper Vanguard Daily he was excited about the game "because we are coming to win." As reasons for his confidence, Blell pointed to top Sierra Leonean international stars like Junior Tumbu Conteh and Mohamed Kallon, as well as the team's new Yugoslav coach, Dusan Draskovic, who joined the Leone Stars on June 1. Meanwhile, Nigerian Football Association Chairman Dominic Oneya has attacked Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu for "parading around the country promoting his heart foundation programme" rather than joining the Super Eagles in the match against Sierra Leone. Kanu's name appeared on the roster released last week by association. Instead, Kanu will launch his heart foundation programme next Wednesday in Lagos. The foundation plans to build five hospitals across Africa to assist those suffering from heart problems. "Instead of joining his mates in camp in Lagos, Kanu has been parading himself in Abuja, promoting his own programme. This is not how to be patriotic," Oneya said.

The British frigate HMS Argyll rescued ten fisherman off the coast of Sierra Leone Thursday afternoon just before their boat sank. The small boat, which was swamped by waves, was not identified. A British Royal Navy spokesman said the Argyll used its Lynx helicopter to pick up the ten people and take them to the Mami Yoko Hotel in Freetown. "One person had badly bruised ribs and he was taken to hospital for closer examination," the spokesman said. "A landing craft from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Percivale then towed the fishing boat to Man O War Bay near Freetown. Sir Percivale also recovered the outboard engine and fuel tank and will take these in tomorrow." All the men on board were local fisherman, the spokesman said.

Cuba announced Wednesday that its Ambassador to Ghana, Jose Antonio Perez Novoa, would also be accredited as Ambassador to Sierra Leone. Novoa will continue to reside in Accra.

13 June: European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed Tuesday to suspend EU 50 million ($48 million) in development aid to Liberia until that country stops trading guns for diamonds with the RUF. A statement issued after the meeting said Liberian President Charles Taylor had "failed to act" to prevent arms from reaching the RUF. "EU policy, including under the Lomé Convention, will take full account of Liberia's behaviour in regard to Sierra Leone," the statement said. The ministers did, however, acknowledge the role of Liberian President Charles Taylor in helping negotiate the release of over 500 U.N. peacekeeping troops held by the RUF. The EU also welcomed the Sierra Leone government's decision to put RUF leader Foday Sankoh on trial, and said it was willing to assist the process. Earlier Tuesday, British Foreign Office Minister Keith Vaz pointed to the Liberian role in fueling the Sierra Leone conflict. "If we are to secure lasting peace and stability in Sierra Leone, we must be able to stem the flow of illicit weapons to the rebels in that country from outside," Vaz told the BBC. He said Britain had intelligence reports which showed President Taylor was involved in supplying weapons to the RUF and that Liberians were profiting from the illicit sale of Sierra Leonean diamonds. "The reports are clear and that is why we are proposing...that the European Commission hold off signing the next stage of the (aid) programme," Vaz said. "What we are sending out to Liberia is a clear and unequivocal message that the European Union... are concerned to ensure that something is done. We cannot continue with the situation we have at the moment." A British foreign office spokesman said U.S. State Department officials were in London Tuesday for talks on Liberia's role in the Sierra Leone conflict and on ways to exert pressure on Taylor. 

Liberia has ordered troops of its Sixth Military Battalion in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties on full alert to respond to any cross-border attack from Sierra Leone. Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea claimed Monday that Liberian dissidents were planning an attack in Sierra Leone. In his Monday press conference, Chea said Charles Den of the former ULIMO-K (headed by Alhaji Kroma) and Abdoulaye Keita of ULIMO-J (headed by Roosevelt Johnson) had arrived in Freetown from Conakry, where they had joined Prince Field and Joe Gbla at the Five Sisters Guest House to plan their offensive. Chea also said Varmah Koney had been in Freetown to support the planned attack. The latest war of words was in response to a statement by Sierra Leonean Deputy Defence Minister, Sam Hinga Norman, who told CNN there were reasons to believe Liberia was supporting the RUF. Chea described the statement as "dangerous," and warned Sierra Leone not to threaten Liberia. "Stop blaming your war on Liberia...We have now reached the point where we can no longer allow the Liberian nation to be scapegoated," Chea said. He claimed that former Liberian rebels were fighting alongside the Kamajor militia, which Norman heads. Referring to a report that 10,000 rifles and ammunition supplied by Britain for training purposes had been issued to pro-government forces to fight the RUF, Chea said: "We believe that all arms and ammunition brought in by the British government should be turned over to the United Nations troops."

Jordanian peacekeeping troops clashed with about 200 RUF troops Monday near the Rokel Bridge, according to UNAMSIL's new spokeswoman, Hirut Befecadu. Befecadu said the rebels attempted to cross the Rokel River by canoe three times between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. "The RUF withdrew on each occasion following fire from the Jordanian battalion," she said. The rebels were believed to have suffered casualties, but no UNAMSIL troops were wounded or killed. Meanwhile, two pro-government troops were reported killed Monday in fighting with the RUF at Lunsar. "We are still consolidating our position as we continue to bombard rebel positions," Captain Daniel Yanka told Reuters on Monday. He said the rebels appeared to be near the abandoned Marampa iron mines, about five miles from Lunsar.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it had registered more than 40,000 newly displaced persons, over half of them at Mile 91. "In terms of immediate intervention to save lives the resources are adequate," OCHA spokeswoman Ahunna Eziakunwa. "But there is the whole issue of shelter that needs to be addressed. That's more of a challenge." Food distribution is due to begin Wednesday at Mile 91, where some 25,000 from the Makeni and Magburaka area have been registered. "The extremely precarious security situation is an obstacle to effective aid distribution," said Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general. Since the latest crisis began on May 2, aid agencies have registered 105,638 newly-displaced persons, according to a document obtained by the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday. These include 2,000 in Kabala (originating from Makeni); 500 in the outskirts of Yele (originating from Makeni and Magburaka); and 25,000 at Mile 91 and surrounding area (originating from Makeni and Magburaka). 67,880 new displaced persons were registered in Port Loko District (originating from Kambia District, Mange, Koya Chiefdom of Port Loko District, and Lunsar). These included 11,000 at Tasso Island and Kakum; 1,044 at Pepel Island; 24,326 in the Lungi area (including Conakride and Bailor Mafe); 8,000 in Port Loko town; 6,803 in Lokomasama Chiefdom; 7,707 in Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom; and 9,000 in Masimera Chiefdom (originating from Lunsar). 10,258 persons were also registered in Freetown (originating from Masiaka, villages between Allen Town and Masiaka, and Makeni).

An Indian doctor who visited 21 detained Indian peacekeepers in Pendembu on Monday reported that they were in good health and that supplies were reaching them regularly, a U.N. spokesman said in New York.

Canada's Minister of National Defence, Art Eggleton, said Tuesday that 37 Canadian military logistics experts from the two Mobile Air Movement Section (MAMS) cargo-handling teams sent to Sierra Leone last month had completed their mission and would be returning home this week. Since arriving in Freetown on May 22, the teams from 17 Wing Winnipeg with support personnel from 8 Wing Trenton facilitated the arrival of peacekeeping troops for the UNAMSIL force and handled more than 2.4 million kg. of freight and baggage. "We rapidly contributed Canadian Forces personnel for this critical U.N. mission," Eggleton said. "I am proud of their accomplishment and that we could provide this effective contribution to the international military effort in Sierra Leone. Their participation was key to getting the U.N. troops into theatre quickly."

RUF rebels who surrendered to government forces say RUF commander Dennis "Superman" Mingo had his foot amputated at Makeni after being wounded in action, Reuters reported on Tuesday. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

The Ukrainian foreign minister denied Tuesday reports that Ukraine had been selling arms to Sierra Leone in violation of U.N. sanctions. Foreign Ministry Deputy Press Spokesman Serhiy Borodenkov said an investigation and consultations with Sierra Leonean officials had shown the allegations to be baseless. "It is obvious to us that the final goal of these sort of actions, aimed at discrediting Ukraine's international image, is to shut Ukraine out of the international arms market by means of unfair competition," he said.

138 children associated with fighting between government and rebel forces in Sierra Leone were turned over to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Caritas Monday by the pro-government Civil Defence Force. According to a UNICEF statement on Tuesday the children, ranging in age from 4 to 17, were in good condition on arrival with no visible injuries. Based on a preliminary screening, 92 of the children had served as soldiers while 46 had been separated from their families during recent fighting. UNICEF said it would work to demobilise the children and to reunite them with their families. An Associated Press report on Monday said the children had been abducted by the RUF, but the UNICEF statement commended the CDF and the Sierra Leone government for taking action to fulfill their commit not to use children in combat. "It is a good beginning," said UNICEF Representative JoAnna Van Gerpen. "We hope the other factions will follow this example and stop using children as tools of war." Over 10,000 Sierra Leonean have been separated from their families during Sierra Leone's civil conflict, and an estimated 5,400 have served as child combatants.

12 June: Government forces have repelled an RUF attack on Lunsar after three hours of fighting, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday. Sierra Leone Army soldiers and Kamajor militiamen captured the town on May 29, but withdrew two days later after reportedly running out of ammunition during an RUF counter-attack. They retook the town on June 7. The AP quoted Lieutenant Edmond Bangura as saying soldiers and pro-government militiamen often fired on one another and had difficulty distinguishing their own troops from the rebels. "There was confusion everywhere," he said.

British Deputy Foreign Minister John Prescott said in Nigeria Monday that Britain was committed to backing the United Nations in finding a lasting solution to the Sierra Leone conflict. "I assure you that with the United Nations' intervention, my country will be more involved in resolution of the Sierra Leonean crisis," Prescott said in Abuja. He said West African leaders would need to maintain the "present level of cooperative attitude" to ensure peace in the region.

25,000 people fleeing the Makeni area arrived at Mile 91 over the weekend, although some of them continued through on their way to Freetown, a humanitarian source told the Sierra Leone Web on Monday. Tens of thousands of residents have left their homes in Makeni and Magburaka as a result of attacks by government helicopter gunships. "Our biggest concern is their security — we can certainly assist them, but is Mile 91 a safe area for such large numbers of civilians to be, and if they receive assistance, is that going to make things worse?," the source said.

Government gunship helicopters attacked a contingent of RUF fighters at Kabata Junction last week, destroying three RUF trucks and killing at least 100 rebels including several children, the Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported on Monday. Kabata Junction is located about 7 km. from Port Loko. A fourth truck reportedly managed to reach Kambia with survivors, many of them wounded. "Among these was Commander Komba, number two of the RUF and head of the 'North Jungle,' a formation made up of five rebel battalions spread throughout the northwestern sector of Sierra Leone," MISNA said. According to the Associated Press, government officials were unable to confirm the report.

Kamajor militiamen handed over 138 children to aid workers Monday, most of them child combatants but also including boys and girls who had been forced by the rebels to become porters and sex slaves, the Associated Press reported on Monday. The children, aged 8 to 16, were taken into custody in front-line towns like Lunsar, CDF officials said. Jordanian UNAMSIL troops escorted the children from Masiaka to a temporary tent camp in Waterloo, the AP said.

British troops have begun leaving Freetown in preparation for a pullout from Sierra Leone later this week, British army Captain Pip Moore said on Monday. "At the weekend the marines started returning to HMS Ocean although there is still a presence on the ground," Moore said. "Over the last week there has been a gradual reduction of equipment on the ground as UNAMSIL resumed their tasks." On Friday Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement that responsibility for security at Lungi International Airport would be turned over to UNAMSIL on June 12 and that Britain's 42 Commando and Amphibious Ready Group would leave Sierra Leone on June 15. A group of 50 British military trainers and 150 troops to provide security began arriving in Freetown over the weekend. They will remain in Sierra Leone for at least six weeks to train 1,000 Sierra Leonean soldiers at the military training camp in Benguema. "I think bar finishing it off ourselves, which was never the government's intention ... there's not much more that you can ask the British to do," British task force commander Brigadier David Richards said. "The RUF are strategically right on the back foot, they're talking openly in large numbers about surrendering. The U.N. know what they've got to do next. They've been given five weeks to refocus and retrain where necessary, become clear on their mandate and take the whole process forward."

Pro-government forces clashed with RUF rebels Sunday near the village of Foredugu, Army spokesman Major John Milton said on Monday. No details were available.

The Israel Diamond Exchange will revoke the membership of any diamond dealer who knowingly deals in "conflict diamonds"  originating with rebels in Sierra Leone, Angola or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its board of directors said on Monday. A dealer expelled from the Israel Diamond Exchange is automatically barred from the other 23 diamond exchanges around the world. The Israel Diamond Exchange's president, Shmuel Schnitzer, called on the heads of the other exchanges to adopt similar positions to stop the trade in such illicit diamonds. He said the diamond trade should be based on gemstones originating only from official government sources, as sought by the United Nations Security Council.

Indian UNAMSIL battalion officers and RUF commanders met in Kailahun Sunday, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst told reporters in Freetown. The RUF has detained 21 Indian peacekeepers at Pendembu, while 245 Indian troops and 11 military observers of various nationalities remain surrounded by RUF fighters in Kailahun. "The RUF told us that all our people are safe but their release is beyond the control of the commanders and is being handled at a higher level," Wimhurst said.

OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim announced Monday the appointment Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo as the OAU's Special Envoy to Sierra Leone. "The appointment of Ambassador Mamabolo, at this delicate juncture of the peace process in Sierra Leone, is intended to enhance the continued efforts which the OAU has deployed in support of regional and international efforts aimed at ending the conflict and resorting to peace, security and stability in that country," the OAU said in a statement. Mamabolo is currently South Africa's Ambassador to Ethiopia, and is also accredited to Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. The OAU said the ambassador will work closely with the Government of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS and UNAMSIL. Mamabolo completed school in Soweto, South Africa in 1975, and received a diploma in Sociology from the University of Moscow and a diploma in Journalism from the Polytechnic in Harare, Zimbabwe. He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1994 and a year later began a four-year assignment as South Africa's first high commissioner to Zimbabwe. He is multi-lingual, speaking English, Spanish, Zulu and Northern Sotho.

Liberia has again accused Sierra Leone and Guinea of harbouring dissidents bent on overthrowing the Liberian government, but for the first time has leveled a similar charge against Ivory Coast. In a student lecture forum over the weekend and again in a radio talk show on Monday, the secretary-general of Liberia's ruling National Patriotic Party, John Whitfield, said intelligence reports indicated 5,000 dissidents in Sierra Leone and 1,000 each in Guinea and Ivory Coast were preparing to launch attacks into Liberia. "More than 4,000 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who fled the country during the civil war, are now fighting alongside the pro-government Kamajor militia in Sierra Leone, and are awaiting dissident groups to attack Liberia," Whitfield said, accusing the three countries of an "international conspiracy against the government of Liberian President Charles Taylor." He gave no details, but said he believed the planned attack "stemmed from numerous allegations that the Liberian government was involved in fueling the fighting in Sierra Leone by offering logistical and manpower support to RUF rebels." Whitfield's allegations were backed Monday by Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah. "Our investigations have uncovered that Liberian dissidents in Sierra Leone are armed to the teeth and fighting alongside the Kamajors," Mulbah told BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh. "Their intent is to flush out the RUF and then subvert Liberia."

11 June: Humanitarian agencies have begun registering thousands of persons fleeing the Makeni area in anticipation of fighting between RUF rebels and pro-government forces. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 21,000 persons have arrived at Mile 91 and tens of thousands more are on the move. "There's a team at Mile 91 that's doing registration, and we're seeing how best people can be helped,'' said OCHA spokeswoman Ahunna Eziakunwa.

British and Sierra Leonean military officers planned to begin screening Sunday 300 former soldiers to join the force of 1,000 being retrained for the new Sierra Leone Army. "They're mostly people who had given up their guns as part of the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) process but had never demobilised because they wanted to remain in the forces,'' said British Major Chris Ghika. Candidates are given medical tests, and can be rejected for being over or under age or having been previously dismissed from the army.

Government helicopter gunships have carried out a series of attacks on Makeni since late last month, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Sunday. On May 29, a helicopter gunship dropped leaflets on the town warning the RUF to stop fighting of face an offensive by pro-government forces. According to witnesses interviewed by the AP, rebels opened fire on the helicopter, which responded by randomly bombarding the town — "eight bombs in four successive runs." Two witnesses reported seeing the bodies of at least 17 civilians, the AP said. Army Director of Operations Colonel Alfred Claude Nelson Williams said the gunship had targeted only RUF locations, including a former veterinary clinic which now houses both rebels and civilians. He said it was "rather unfortunate if a few civilians were around and were wounded," but declined to comment further on civilian casualties.

Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Cyril Foray, has been sacked over the unauthorised sale of the embassy's chancery building in London, the Pan African News Agency reported on Sunday. Foray was recalled to Freetown in April after questions were raised about the sale of the building, located in an expensive area of London. The Sierra Leone government obtained a 62-year lease on the building in 1958, but successive government had let chancery fall into disrepair. Under pressure from the landlords, who threatened to void the last twenty years of the lease, Foray signed an agreement which, he thought, was an agreement for repair work. In fact, in amounted to a sale of the lease. "I was opposed to the word 'sale' in the agreement and I was told we should use 'assign'." he said. "I am not a lawyer. Now I am told that 'assign' means 'sale'. But the lawyers in the Attorney-General's office in Freetown should have looked at the agreement in detail before asking us to go ahead." Foray reportedly offered to resign as of June 1, but when he failed to submit his resignation he was officially sacked at the end of May. Deputy High Commissioner Sulaiman Tejan-Jalloh is currently acting in his place.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has promised to help negotiate the early release of 21 Indian peacekeeping troops held hostage by the RUF in Pendembu, New Delhi Doordarshan (national television) said on Sunday. Obasanjo gave the assurance to Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in a Sunday morning telephone conversation. The Indians were moved from Kuiva least week, where they had been surrounded by RUF fighters since early May. On Friday they were disarmed and taken hostage. The rebels have demanded the immediate release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh and other detained members of the RUF before further negotiations can take place. Obasanjo will be one of six ECOWAS officials who will arrive in Sierra Leone on Thursday to conduct inquiries into renewed hostilities in Sierra Leone and the illegal trade in diamonds, and attempt to rescue the peace process. According to the television report, the Indian contingent consists of two officers, including one junior commissioned officer, and 18 other ranks.

Deputy British Prime Minister John Prescott left on a trip to West Africa Sunday, which will include a visit to British troops on the ground in Sierra Leone. "We are tremendously proud of the key role British troops have played in restoring stability to Sierra Leone," Prescott said prior to his departure. "We are now taking forward our long-term commitment to Sierra Leone, taking the lead in training Sierra Leone's own army so that they are better able to ensure their own security and stability." Meanwhile, Britain's Ministry of Defence admitted Sunday that 18 British soldiers who contracted malaria in Sierra Leone had been given the wrong drugs. Troops from the First and Second Parachute Battalions ran out of the malaria suppressant drug Mefloquine in Senegal, and military doctors were forced to purchase Gavarin, which is 20 percent less effective. "It was clearly a mistake and the outcome was very unsatisfactory," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said. "We are now trying to pinpoint the troops who were affected. We are also looking at the whole operation to assess what went wrong so we can ensure it does not happen again."

A football team from Britain's 42nd Marine Commando which is providing security in Freetown was to meet the Sierra Leone national team on Sunday, according to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper. The Leone Stars are due to meet Nigeria's Super Eagles June 17 for the first leg of the second-round World Cup playoffs.

10 June: More than 20,000 people have fled the Makeni area after pro-government troops attacked RUF positions near the town using a helicopter gunship and ground troops, BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle said on Saturday. The exodus from started after the government dropped leaflets on Makeni telling the rebels to lay down their arms and warning of an impending offensive. "The gunship has already attacked rebel positions around Makeni, but sources on both sides of the frontline said its gunners had also killed innocent civilians, including pregnant women," Doyle said. "I saw thousands of refugees from Makeni at the town of Mile 91. A total of more than 20,000 people have fled the city and its surrounding villages. Most are destitute, lacking food, shelter and medical care." Doyle said the Red Cross was providing emergency aid for displaced persons at Mile 91 and the U.N. was preparing to arrange for more. Because of the danger of rebel attacks, he said, aid agencies were considering whether to set up a long-term refugee camp at Mile 91 or to encourage displaced persons to move to a safer area away from the front line.

Britain is attempting to freeze £35 million in humanitarian aid for Liberia which was unanimously approved by the European Union, because the British government believes Liberian President Charles Taylor is actively supporting the RUF in Sierra Leone. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that Foreign Secretary Robin Cook will attempt to block release of the funds when EU foreign affairs ministers meet in Luxemburg next week. "It seems quite clear that the Liberian government is implicated and it is time to send a signal that this won't do. It is a pretty substantial chunk of money we're talking about," a Foreign Office official was quoted as saying. The money is part of a two-year anti-poverty programme.

UNAMSIL has completed the withdrawal of Kenyan peacekeeping troops from Kabala, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Saturday.

A 200-strong British training team — 50 military trainers and soldiers to provide security — began arriving in Freetown on Saturday. The team will begin training 1,000 soldiers of the new Sierra Leone Army at Benguema military training camp. "We will patrol from the Benguema area. That is for the purposes of local protection and reassurance of the local population," Battalion Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Alisdair Wild told Reuters. The rest of the team is due to arrive on Sunday.

9 June: The RUF has apparently gone back on a promise to release 21 Indian peacekeeping troops being detained at Pendembu, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Friday. "It seems the RUF is not now considering their early release as they had promised us," Wimhurst said. "It now appears that they have changed their position. We view this with some dismay...We have assurances that they will not be harmed but we want their release. It must be unconditional and we will not enter into any discussion of conditions." The 21 are part of a group of 23 peacekeepers who had been surrounded at Kuiva, in eastern Sierra Leone, since early May. Two of those troops left Kuiva last weekend to join a U.N. supply convoy bound for Kailahun, where a larger group of peacekeepers remains surrounded by the RUF. The convoy was held up for several days and the ten U.N. personnel who accompanied it detained by the rebels. "That entire convoy of six vehicles was eventually allowed in and has now returned to Daru, along with the ten drivers and escorts who accompanied it, including the Kuiva two," Wimhurst told the Sierra Leone Web. The RUF relocated the 21 remaining U.N. troops to Pendembu on Monday, but the Indians retained their arms and equipment. In India, a Foreign Ministry spokesman called "totally unacceptable" the RUF's detention of the Indian peacekeepers. "The government has conveyed its very serious concern to the U.N. Secretary-General who has assured (us) that immediate release of these Indian troops is the highest priority for the U.N.," he said. A foreign ministry statement said India had asked Liberian President Charles Taylor to intercede in order to bring about the release of the 21 troops at Pendembu, along with the 224 Indian peacekeepers and 11 unarmed military observers blockaded at Kailahun. The statement said India's special envoy, A.K. Banerjee, made the request during a meeting this week with Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan. It quoted Banerjee as saying he was confident Taylor would "successfully use his good offices to secure the early release of the U.N. hostages." In New York, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on regional leaders Friday to do everything possible to bring about the release of the detained peacekeepers. "The international community views the detention of U.N. peacekeepers as a serious crime, and the perpetrators would no doubt be held accountable for their actions," the spokesman said. "The Secretary-General remains extremely concerned about the encirclement and detention by RUF of 11 UNAMSIL military observers of various nationalities and 245 Indian peacekeepers in the areas of Kailahun and Pendembu in eastern Sierra Leone. It is absolutely essential that the RUF immediately and unconditionally restore the freedom of movement of the peacekeepers and allow them to join their UNAMSIL units."

More than 200 British troops from the Royal Anglian Regiment are due to leave for Sierra Leone on Saturday. "They are there for a specific task to train about 1,000 members of the Sierra Leone Army. That's a single defined task and that's the job they will be doing," said Armed Forces Minister John Spellar during a visit to their military base in Chepstow, south Wales. "(The Sierra Leonean soldiers) will be trained in military skills, but also responsibility as well. They have got to adjust the speed of training for the local circumstances...The real role here is to enable the Sierra Leone Army to protect the government, stabilise the country and get control of the diamond mines so those funds do not fund the rebels."

Life in Kabala was reported to be returning to normal Friday after fighting earlier in the week between pro-government forces and RUF rebels which caused an estimated 10,000 residents to flee into the bush. UNAMSIL reported no fighting in the past 24 hours, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. Sierra Leone Army spokesman Major John Milton described Kabala as quiet but tense. "People are still leaving area for fear of another possible rebel attack. Pro-government forces are still in full control, ready to resist any new attack," he said. Milton told reporters six rebels and two SLA soldiers were killed in fighting Tuesday night, but said since then there had been no further clashes. "The population is coming back into town, but overnight people are hiding in the bush," said Fasil Tezera, an official with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders). MSF pulled its ten medical staff out of Kabala Tuesday night due to fighting between RUF rebels and government soldiers south of Kabala. Tezera said the MSF hoped to resume operations at its hospital there soon. 

8 June: Britain wants to be Sierra Leone's "long term partner" in restoring peace to the country, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Freetown Thursday after an hour-long meeting with President Kabbah. "I can assure President Kabbah and the people of Sierra Leone that Britain is ready to go the distance," Cook said. He emphasised British Royal Marines were scheduled to pull out of Sierra Leone next week, but said they would be replaced by 180 soldiers assigned to train the Sierra Leone Army. Also remaining behind would be two British warships — the frigate HMS Argyll (left) and the support ship RFA Sir Percivale — that Sierra Leoneans "will see every morning when they open their windows and look out at the bay" and be "visible clear evidence of Britain's commitment to Sierra Leone," Cook said. He said Britain was also working to "end the flow of illicit diamonds" which fuel the conflict and provide funds to the RUF rebels. President Kabbah, who last week appealed for British troops to remain in Sierra Leone, told reporters Wednesday he now accepted the fact that they would be leaving. "The Foreign Secretary has given you a clear explanation as to the present and future assistance of the British government and people to Sierra Leone, and what he has told you is something I totally agree with. I think it's logical and in the long-term interest of the country," Kabbah said. "It is something I totally agree with, (it is) totally logical. The British people have done a lot for us. We appreciate it...I am fully on board." Cook was due to meet with other officials later Thursday, including AFRC leader and CCP Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma and Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, the National Coordinator of the CDF. He will also meet with children who had limbs amputated by the rebels and visit some former child combatants who are being rehabilitated.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was "shocked, appalled," after visiting child amputee victims at a camp in Freetown. "It beggars belief that anybody, however crazed, could actually deliberately lop off a limb from a child that was then only a baby of eight months — presumably it its cradle when the attack took place," Cook told the BBC. He praised the "courageous spirit" of the amputees and of those who were working to help them cope. "They deserve all our support," he said. "One of the best ways of supporting them is to make sure the rebels can never come back. You can see why when you go around here why the RUF is so appalled and loathed throughout Sierra Leone. That’s why it’s so important that we defeat them." Cook denied that Britain has pressured the Sierra Leone government to negotiate the Lomé Peace Accord. "It was brokered by the West African states, and we are neither a party nor a witness to it," Cook said. "But don’t underwrite what’s been achieved since the Lomé Agreement. A third of the combatants have surrendered their weapons and come forward through the disarmament process. And if it had not been for that it would have been much more difficult to prevent the rebels this time round. What we now must do is make sure we press forward the gains of the past month and make sure we take it forward as I’ve said to a lasting security and a lasting stability in Sierra Leone." Cook said British military officers in Sierra Leone would not be training the former Sierra Leone Army. "What we’re doing is we’re raising a new army," he said. "We’ve got a thousand new recruits who are going to be trained — effective, disciplined troops — by our own British staff and non-commissioned officers."

More than 10,000 Kabala residents have fled following heavy fighting between pro-government forces and RUF rebels throughout Tuesday night, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) official Tezera Fasil. Fasil said U.N. helicopters had evacuated 300 of 500 Kenyan peacekeeping troops deployed in the town. An MSF physician, Dr Nico Heienberg, told the BBC Thursday that the agency's medical staff had been forced to evacuate the town, leaving behind 48 patients. He was critical of what he said was inaction by the Kenyan troops. "They are staying at the northern part of Kabala, towards the Guinean direction," he said. "They didn’t move from that area, they just stayed in the place. What we have understood later from them is that they didn’t move at all, that they not really took a part in the fighting." Heienberg said as a result of the rebel attack, 90 percent of Kabala residents, or about 10,000 persons, had fled into the bush. Meanwhile, he said, UNAMSIL troops were continuing to leave. "They are just pulling out so instead of protecting the civilian population, what according to us is their mandate," he told the BBC Focus on Africa programme. "They keep on continuing to take their materials and the people out of that place. So even yesterday there was a big helicopter that took materials and people out instead of staying there to defend the civilian population." UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said the evacuation of U.N. peacekeepers had been carried out for "sound military reasons." "We've been pulling out over the course of the past two weeks. It was a long-term military decision to reunite the Kenyan battalion as a unit," he said. "We don't have enough resources yet to be able to deploy more people to Kabala. I want to emphasise that Kabala is not an undefended town because there is a government battalion there." Fasil said ten MSF staff members who fled the town Tuesday night were attempting to return to Kabala now that calm had been restored.

New fighting was reported near Kabala on Thursday, according to the Sierra Leone Army's Director of Operations, Colonel Nelson Williams. The BBC quoted military sources as saying the nearby town of Makakura had fallen to the RUF. However, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said RUF commander General Issa Sesay had promised to stop the fighting in the Kabala area. He said no further incidents had been reported since the pledge was made.

A U.N.-chartered aircraft carrying equipment for Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Sierra Leone left Bangladesh's Chittagong Airport on Thursday. The plane had been stranded for three days after it taxied to the edge of the runway where the front wheel risked sliding onto the soft ground. "We managed to bring the aircraft back on the runway and it was safely out of here on Thursday morning," a military official said. The AN-24 aircraft with five crew members departed for the United Arab Emirates on its way to Sierra Leone. 

Britain's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, announced Thursday that Britain was proposing a "comprehensive resolution" to deal with the crisis in Sierra Leone. Greenstock told reporters the resolution would cover the expansion of UNAMSIL to 16,500 troops, the U.N. peacekeeping force's role in helping the Sierra Leone government to reassert its authority throughout the country, and the need to bring to justice those who had attacked U.N. personnel and committed of international law and international humanitarian law — including RUF leader Foday Sankoh. The resolution would also cover what Greenstock called "two specific and complex areas" — the control of the diamond trade in Sierra Leone and efforts to tighten up an arms embargo because, he said, "arms are still getting in to the RUF in particular to fuel its conflict." Greenstock pointed to a need to discuss regional aspects of the conflict in Sierra Leone, particularly the role of Liberia. "There is growing evidence that diamonds are leaving Sierra Leone illegally via Liberia, and arms are coming in to the RUF, and perhaps others, illegally from Liberia," he said. Greenstock said there were still elements of the Lomé Peace Accord which needed to be implemented, but that Sankoh had no future role to play in the peace process. "The clear assumption, by everybody now, is that Foday Sankoh has gone beyond the pale of acceptable activity, and must play no further part in the stitching together of Sierra Leone after the civil war," Greenstock said. "And I’ve had no adverse comments on that. I think that is the firm assumption. He’s out of it." He was less clear on how the U.N. would seek to limit the illicit trading in Sierra Leonean diamonds, saying it needed "further discussion" before the details could be determined. "The peacekeepers will have a role in exercising control over the diamond field, eventually, but I think we’ll have a different system to deal with the trading in diamonds," he said. "It won’t be through UNAMSIL." Ambassador Greenstock said there was "strong support" in the Security Council that UNAMSIL's role in enforcing peace should be made stronger. "As for (UNAMSIL's) mandate, what its going to do is quite clear that the most important thing that needs to be done is to spread out from the Freetown area the authority of the Government of Sierra Leone and its political allies," he said. "And that would be the main function of UNAMSIL – snuff out the attack on Lomé, as it were, and to spread out the authority of the Government of Sierra Leone until eventually the whole territory of the country is brought under control." 

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Manfred Eisele, who is heading a high-level eight-member U.N. team to look into problems faced by the UNAMSIL force after the U.N. mission nearly broke down in May, said in Freetown "weaknesses" had been discovered at a number of levels. Eisle said mistakes were made "in New York, others in the capitals of troop contributing countries, and others within the mission (UNAMSIL)." The team was expected to leave Sierra Leone on Thursday, and is due to submit a report next week.

India has sent a team of officials to Sierra Leone in response to the RUF having moved 21 Indian peacekeepers from Kuiva to Pendembu earlier this week. "A four-member Indian team with officials from the foreign ministry, army headquarters, ministry of defense and air headquarters left India late Tuesday for Sierra Leone," Foreign Ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said on Thursday. The team is headed by Director-General of Military Operations Lieutenant General N C Vij. Jassal said India had not "initiated any ministerial or political contact with Sierra Leone or any African country" to bring about the release of its soldiers. "Should there be any need for an engagement at a different level then we will adopt it," he said. The Indian troops have not been disarmed, but they have been immobilised by the RUF for the past month. UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said Thursday that RUF field commander General Issa Sesay had promised the soldiers would be released shortly.

A Nigerian peacekeeper was wounded Wednesday in fighting which broke out between two ex-SLA commanders over a vehicle taken from RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "UNAMSIL is seriously concerned about the security implications of this irresponsible act and has called a meeting of the different faction leaders to impose upon them the urgent need to stop such incidents which only frighten and alarm the local population," UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said.

A week before Sierra Leone's Leone Stars and Nigeria's Super Eagles face off for their first-leg second-round World Cup Match, soccer's world governing body has ranked Nigeria as Africa's tenth best team and Sierra Leone in 29th place. At the bottom of the FIFA rankings were Sierra Leone's first-round opponent, Sao Tome e Principe, at 48 and Nigeria's adversary — dead last — at 52.

7 June: Sierra Leone Army soldiers and RUF rebels clashed near Kabala overnight Tuesday, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Wednesday. He said Kenyan peacekeeping troops stationed in the town reported that fighting began at about 11:00 p.m. Tuesday and continued until 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at an army checkpoint in Makakura, six miles south of Kabala. "There were no reports of casualties and our own positions were not attacked," Wimhurst said.

Pro-government forces said they occupied the town of Lunsar Wednesday afternoon. "We are in Lunsar now. The troops are engaged in mopping up operations and securing our grip," Sierra Leone Army spokesman John Milton said. Government forces seized on May 29, but retreated two days later in the face of an RUF counter-attack when they ran out of ammunition. Aerial surveillance of Lunsar on Thursday and Friday found the town deserted. Milton said the RUF initially put up some resistance but were driven back towards their base at Makeni. The BBC said government troops took six elderly men prisoner, along with a young man they claimed was an RUF fighter. The six men were released when it was determined they were residents of the town.

Shooting was heard Wednesday evening near the Juba Hill home of AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma. According to Reuters, military officers said the firing was the result of a dispute between two ex-SLA officers over a vehicle seized last month from detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "We have no reports of casualties yet and it appears calm now," one officer was quoted as saying. BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana subsequently reported the fighting erupted between two groups of former AFRC combatants led by self-styled Brigadier Papa, aka:Brigadier Bombblast, and Brigadier 55. BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle said Indian U.N. peacekeeping troops, members of the new Sierra Leone Army and armed police were at the scene.

The Russian Federation Council voted Wednesday to approve the participation of a squadron of an aviation formation, consisting of four Mi-24 helicopter gunships and up to 115 soldiers, in the UNAMSIL force. The mission, formed at the request of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was approved 94-15 with 9 abstentions. Under Russia's constitution, the Federation Council - the upper house of Parliament — must approve the deployment of troops outside the country. The Russian contingent's main task will be to guarantee the security of U.N. peacekeepers "through air escort of ground convoys, search and rescue flights, support for air-borne operations, patrol and monitoring flights." According to Russia's Interfax news agency, the terms of the contingent's stay will be set by August 7. When the United Nations Security Council extends UNAMSIL's mandate, the mandate of the Russian troops will also be extended.

RUF field commander General Issa Sesay met in Kailahun Tuesday with Indian UNAMSIL field commander Major Punia, and indicated his troops wanted to return to the peace process, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Wednesday. "General Issa" had been described by U.N. and British officials as a hardliner within the RUF. "There was an indication that the RUF wants to support the Lomé Peace Agreement, which is a good sign," Wimhurst said. "There are no guarantees, but if there is a genuine desire to get peace, we have to seize it." Wimhurst said the RUF commander had promised to release 21 Indian peacekeepers moved by the rebels from Kuiva to Pendembu late Monday. "We are now looking forward to their release very shortly," Wimhurst said. "They are obviously not free to move, they are being held by the RUF, but the indications are that they are set for release...We expect them to remain in Sierra Leone, not to go out through Liberia." He said the RUF had allowed four supply trucks which were held up over the weekend to enter the U.N. compound in Kailahun. A U.N. spokesman in New York said the RUF trucks were permitted to return to their base at Daru on Wednesday. Wimhurst stressed that the 245 peacekeepers and military observers at Kailahun, while not physically detained, were surrounded by RUF troops. He added that negotiations were continuing to lift all restrictions on their movement. 

The United Nations Security Council met on Wednesday to be briefed by the U.N. Secretariat on the latest developments in Sierra Leone.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook left for Freetown on Wednesday, where he said he will hold talks with President Kabbah this week on ways Britain might work with the Sierra Leone government to help bring the conflict in that country to an end. 

The European Union expressed "grave concern" Wednesday over allegations of violations of United Nations arms embargos against Sierra Leone and Angola, allowing the RUF and UNITA rebels to continue fighting despite peace accords. "Both these cases of continued conflict seem in great part to be possible because of the continuing supplies of arms from outside," the EU said in a statement issued by its Portuguese presidency. "The European Union calls on all parties to refrain from any action that contributes to prolonging conflicts further."

Zainab Bangura, the National Coordinator of the civil society group Campaign for Good Governance, said Wednesday the Civil Society Movement was planning to present British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook with a letter for Prime Minister Tony Blair pleading with him to extend the stay of British troops. Britain has said it would pull its troops out of Sierra Leone by mid-June. "The only thing that has stood between Sierra Leone and the rebels taking over the country are foreign troops," Bangura said. "We think the British troops are more professional (than the U.N. peacekeepers). She said the Civil Society Movement was circulating a petition for the British troops to stay, and hoped to collect a million names. "We hope that by being here (the British troops) will be able to retrain the army, to help us develop a professional and well-trained and disciplined army that can be subjected under civilian control," she said. "Britain left us with a very good army, and after the long years of one party rule and militia governments and centralisation and corruption and mismanagement, the entire democratic institutions were destroyed," she said. "Now we have to take time to develop them, and we think that we can only develop them from scratch. And therefore we believe that we have to rebuild a brand new army. And we can’t do it ourselves because we don’t know what it is to have a good army. I mean, some of us grew up from a despotic and military government, so we have not developed a democratic culture. We are trying to build Sierra Leone to a democratic country, and we have to learn from people who have that long experience."

Liberian Foreign Minister Joe Mulbah said Wednesday his government was "surprised" by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's accusation that Britain had evidence "establishing close links between the rebels in Sierra Leone and supporters in Liberia, and that Liberians are profiting from illegal diamond smuggling." Similar accusations of Liberian involvement in the trade of illicit Sierra Leonean diamonds and of support for Sierra Leone's RUF have been made by the Sierra Leone government, the United States, ECOMOG and others. "The Liberian government has never sanctioned any trafficking of diamonds or guns," Mulbah told the BBC. He challenged Cook to produce evidence of Liberian involvement in the illicit sale of Sierra Leonean diamonds. "We are only there for the restoration of peace in that sister country," he said. "Liberia has several diamonds. Why should we be in pursuit of diamonds from the Republic of Sierra Leone?"  In February, Partnership Africa Canada published figures showing that while Liberia's mining sector had the capacity to produce no more than 150,000 carats of diamonds per year, annual Liberian diamond sales to Antwerp alone between 1994 and 1998 averaged over six million carats, with a presumption that most of the diamonds sold had originated in Sierra Leone. Mulbah called on the international community to send monitors to patrol the Sierra Leone - Liberia border and to launch an investigation. "Let them come to the border and begin to see," he said. "We’ve said it over and over that there’s a need for us to have joint security, joint patrol between the international community and us here, and we challenge anybody to prove us wrong that we are in diamond deal." Mulbah denied a suggestion that Liberian President Charles Taylor was running the RUF. "Mr. Taylor is not running the RUF and we want this to be proven," he said. "Mr. Taylor is not a member of the RUF. Mr. Taylor has more problems in his hand here in Liberia. We are involved with reconciliation and reconstruction, and we are continuing to be haunted by this deep crisis that Mr. Taylor has with the RUF." Mulbah pointed out that Taylor had acknowledged his friendship with RUF leader Foday Sankoh. "He said that this man is his friend, but friendship has nothing to do with our involvement," he said. "We are not involved, we do everything for the purpose of peace. All we want is our neutrality and to ensure that peace prevails in Sierra Leone because in the absence of peace in Sierra Leone Liberia would not sit in peace equally."

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Freetown Wednesday he would assure President Kabbah of Britain's commitment to Sierra Leone when the two meet on Thursday. "Achieving a lasting peace in Sierra Leone is a long-term commitment and that is what we are prepared to make," Cook told reporters aboard the British warship HMS Ocean. He said the deployment of British troops last month had helped Sierra Leone reverse RUF gains. "If we want to to turn those gains into permanent advances, then we have to settle in for the long haul," Cook said. "Britain is committed to going the distance." As he left London's Heathrow Airport Wednesday, Cook told reporters: "Britain has done more than any other country to try to bring stability to Sierra Leone. I want to assure him that we are going to to continue. We must not let a brutal rebel minority win."

A "Patriotic Trust Fund" organised by the Voice of the Handicap Radio, FM 96.2, has raised Le 58 million (about $31,000) to support pro-government forces fighting the RUF, a source in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Web on Wednesday. "This effort started some twenty days ago. Contributions came from across the society: primary school students, university students, SierraTel, Bank of Sierra Leone, etc.," the source said. In addition the Lebanese community in Sierra Leone gave Le 25 million and the SLPP UK/Ireland Branch contributed £1,000, he said. Le 48 million were withdrawn from the fund to purchase assorted items, including 240 gallons of vegetable oil, 50 bags of sugar, 40 bags of salt, 20 cartons of tomato paste, 100 cartons of soap, 100 cartons of laundry soap, 1,000 briefs (underwear), 1,000 pairs of socks, 1,008 pairs of shoes, 178 bags of rice, 25 gross of cigarettes, 10 cartons of Gin Pega Packs, 50 cartons of Three Star Gin, and assorted medical supplies. Accepting on behalf of the government, which was broadcast live, were Vice President Albert Joe Demby, Acting Chief of Defence Staff Colonel Tom Carew, AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma and Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman.

6 June: RUF rebels have transported 21 Indian peacekeeping troops surrounded at the eastern town of Kuiva for the past month to Pendembu, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Tuesday. "Yesterday in the late afternoon, early evening, the group was moved by the RUF, to, we believe, Pendembu, and from there possibly Liberia. We have not had any contact with them since," he said. "We believe that this is the final phase of the release of all personnel...We are looking forward to receiving information from Monrovia about their arrival." Wimhurst said the RUF told the Indians at Kuiva that their commander that the Indian field commander at Kailahun "wanted them to move and meet with them" and they had agreed to go. He said the U.N. did not consider the troops to have been abducted. "We very much believed that they were going to be released. We see no indication that that has changed," he said. A U.N. spokesman in New York said the peacekeepers were moved out of Kuiva at about 7:00 p.m. He added that they took their equipment, which consisted of a rifle, a sidearm and a backpack each. Since early May, the RUF has blockaded some 258 peacekeepers in Kailahun District, including 224 Indian peacekeepers and 11 military observers at Kailahun town and 23 Indian peacekeeping troops at Kuiva. Ten more U.N. personnel plus the commander at Kuiva joined the group at Kailahun on Saturday after the RUF prevented them from either resupplying the troops there or returning to their base. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke to Liberian President Charles Taylor on Tuesday morning and emphasised that all restrictions on the movement of U.N. personnel must be lifted, and that anyone who mistreats peacekeepers would be held accountable. Taylor was designated by ECOWAS last month to negotiate for the release of over 500 U.N. peacekeeping troops and military observers abducted by the RUF. Annan said the task of ending the detainee situation through diplomacy had not yet been completed, since the peacekeepers must be free to move.

Britain is calling for the United Nations Security Council to impose a global embargo on Sierra Leonean diamonds, blamed for fueling the conflict in that country, British and American officials were quoted as saying on Monday. A draft resolution, expected to be circulated this week, would ban sales of all diamonds from Sierra Leone except for those sold by the government in an attempt to cut the RUF off from its source of funding. The move follows a call by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to extend sanctions to prevent the RUF from "reaping the benefits of their illegal exploitation of mineral resources, in particular diamonds." A similar Security Council resolution adopted in June 1998, aimed at cutting off funding to Angola's UNITA movement by prohibiting all sales of Angolan diamonds without certificates of origin, has so far shown little success in stopping the flow of arms to Angolan rebels. Earlier this year a U.N. committee headed by Canadian U.N. Ambassador Robert Fowler named those who they said had violated the ban, including Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the former chairmen of ECOWAS and the OAU, respectively. Since Sierra Leone currently has no certification process, the ban would effectively bar the sales of all Sierra Leonean diamonds.

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, who as chairman of a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee which oversees State Department spending has single-handedly blocked funds appropriated for U.N. peacekeeping expenditures, will release $50 million earmarked for UNAMSIL, his spokesman said on Tuesday. Gregg had blocked disbursement of the U.S. contribution to peacekeeping efforts because of his opposition to the Lome Peace Accord, which gave the RUF a role in Sierra Leone's government. His spokesman, Edmund Amorosi, said Gregg decided to release the money for Sierra Leone after receiving a clarification from Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In the letter, Holbrooke said RUF leader Foday Sankoh should pay no role in Sierra Leone's future. He said government, regional and international forces should try to break to RUF's hold on the diamond-producing areas and, while the United States would not take part in such an operation, in could train and equip troops from other counties. "Lomé is hopefully dead," Gregg said. "The United States will not turn a blind eye to the rape of the people and of the land of Sierra Leone. We will demand that brutal thugs are held accountable for their atrocities and regional troublemakers must look with fear to their own future." Meanwhile, a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee by voice vote approved a funding measure for the Department of State which includes $498 million for U.N. peacekeeping operations — the same as this year, but $241 million below the administration's request. Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers (pictured right) argued that the peacekeeping request cut was warranted, because the United Nations was not equipped to intervene in what he said had become a full-fledged war in Sierra Leone.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker welcomed on Tuesday the decision by Senator Judd Gregg to release $50 million to fund U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone. "This will allow us to help invigorate the U.N. process there in Sierra Leone, which we've discussed at great length over the days," he said in a news briefing. Reeker said the Lomé Peace Accord had provided RUF leader Foday Sankoh "a window of opportunity to participate politically in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of his country and to help bring peace to all the people of Sierra Leone." Said Reeker: "He completely wasted that opportunity and...the United States does not believe that Foday Sankoh should play any role whatsoever in the future political process in Sierra Leone." Reeker said the U.S. was attempting, through its contacts with the Sierra Leone government, countries in the region and the U.N., to help UNAMSIL restore the cease-fire and return to the implementation of a credible peace process in Sierra Leone. The spokesman told reporters the U.S. believed "there must be both peace and justice in Sierra Leone, and that means that there should be accountability," and that the U.S. would support the government and people of Sierra Leone in bringing Sankoh to justice. "The determination of his fate is something that will be dealt with by the Sierra Leone Government," he added. Reeker said the U.S. was looking for an "invigorated peace process" within the framework of the Lomé Peace Accord. "I think the Lomé Accord provided a very good structure for that," he said. "Decisions on changing or reworking aspects of that will be made in the context of decisions made by the Sierra Leone government, in working in the United Nations, and with the regional actors playing a very important role in supporting that. And that's what we just have to let evolve over time."

A second contingent of 312 Bangladeshi soldiers left Dhaka to join the UNAMSIL force on Monday, but a U.N.-chartered plane was stranded at Chittagong Airport due to a landing problem. "The AN-124 aircraft with five crew is stranded in Chittagong from Monday night after it taxied to a wrong spot following landing," an official of Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority said. "The plane would be retrieved as soon as possible." Meanwhile, the U.N. said it expected about 320 Bangladeshi troops to arrive in Freetown on Tuesday, bringing UNAMSIL's strength to 11,850. 460 of the 780 soldiers Bangladesh has committed to the U.N. peacekeeping force have left for Sierra Leone so far. 152 troops flew out of Dhaka on May 28. The rest are due to depart by June 12.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Parliament on Tuesday that he will visit Sierra Leone Thursday to meet with President Kabbah on ways Britain could work with the Sierra Leone government to bring the conflict in the country to an end. Cook told parliamentarians the withdrawal of British troops from Sierra Leone was on target to occur next week, at which point security at Lungi International Airport would be turned over to UNAMSIL. He added that Britain would continue to ensure that UNAMSIL "is not only at full strength but also an effective force" by providing back-up to the U.N. peacekeeping mission such as better communications to its units and military advice to its headquarters. Cook said  British government policy three objectives: "to repel the rebels, to restore the peace process and to rebuild Sierra Leone." He said the first priority was to equipment the Sierra Leone government with an effective an accountable army of its own. To that end, he said, Britain would accelerate training a new national Sierra Leone Army by sending a Short Term Training Team to provide "an intensive infantry course" for 1,000 new recruits, all of them screened to ensure they are over 18 years of age. "This training will be conducted by around 180 personnel drawn from 2 Royal Anglian," he said. "They will be supported by HMS Argyll, RFA Sir Percivale, both of which will provide communications and back-up offshore." In addition, 40 junior officers of the Sierra Leone Army have begun a training course in Ghana with the British Military and Advisory Team. Cook said Britain's second priority was to restore momentum to the peace process. "It is vital that the option of demilitarisation remains open to all those willing to lay down their arms," he said. He stressed Britain's financial commitment to Sierra Leone, and said his government would continue to seek further support from other donors, including the World Bank, "to help match the resources required by the shattered economy and society of Sierra Leone." Cook also pointed out that the blanket amnesty of the Lomé Peace Accord applied only to acts committed before the date of its signature, on 7 July 1999. "It does not provide immunity for crimes committed in the recent conflict," he said. "The rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, is now under detention and it is our view he must remain so until he is brought to justice." Cook said Britain's third objective was to reduce the incentive in the illicit trade of Sierra Leonean diamonds. "Diamonds have fuelled this war," he said. "The people of Sierra Leone remain among the world's poorest whilst the wealth of its diamonds goes to rebels." He pointed to Liberian involvement in the illegal sale of Sierra Leonean diamonds. "I regret to inform the House that there is continuing evidence establishing close links between the rebels in Sierra Leone and supporters in Liberia, and that Liberians are profiting from illegal diamond smuggling," Cook said. "We are consulting with the United States and the European Commission how we can jointly step up international pressure on Liberia to close down its links with the rebels."

Nigeria's Super Eagles announced Tuesday the team has recalled a number of Nigerian internationals to join the 20-man squad which will face Sierra Leone's Leone Stars in Lagos June 17 for their first-leg second-round World Cup qualifying match. The Nigerian roster includes Goalkeepers: Ike Shorounmu (Besiktas), Greg Etafia (Lobi Stars). Defenders: Taribo West (AC Milan), Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea), Chikelue Iloanusi (TB Berlin), Rabiu Afolabi (Standard Liege). Midfielders: Ogbonna Kanu (Ajax), Blessing Kanu (Harelbeke), Garba Lawal (Roda Kerkrade), Azubuike Oliseh (FC Utrecht), Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha (Paris Saint Germain), Sunday Oliseh (Borussia Dortmund). Strikers: Jonathan Akpoborie (VfL Wolfsburg), Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal), Tijjani Babangida and Pius Ikedia (both Ajax), Victor Agali (Hansa Rostock), Bendict Akwuegbu (Graz AK), Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Maccabi Haifa), Henry Onwuzuruike (Guerth Furth).

A Zambian peacekeeper who had been declared missing and feared dead emerged from the bush has emerged from the bush and met with pro-government forces, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Tuesday. He said the soldier, identified by Zambian Defence Minister Chitalu Sampa as Corporal Godfrey Kasaji, had immediately been taken to hospital and was not in a condition to talk about his experience. 432 of the 776 Zambian troops serving with UNAMSIL were abducted last month. 428 were released, but three Zambian soldiers are still officially missing in action. At a Lusaka press conference, Sampa identified them as Sergeant Hakalemwa Mwagolwa, Corporal Peter Banda and Lance Corporal Miyoba Bless.

The commander of British forces in Sierra Leone, Brigadier David Richards, said Britain believed a split was developing in the RUF, and that a new leader might soon emerge to lead the more moderate faction of the group. "Sankoh is off-limits," Richards said of the detained RUF leader. "We believe that there is a new man being identified, a new leader, more moderate, though I wouldn't want to say who yet. It is important that he can be brought out...From our intelligence reports, there is a definite split emerging, between a more hardline RUF element, willing to fight, in and around Makeni, in the north, and a more moderate element in the east that wants to negotiate." In fact the situation within the RUF is not entirely clear. Last week a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web there might be "three or four factions right now." Richards said the split was between a hardline northern faction led by General Issa Sesay, whose forces have been involved in fighting with pro-government troops, and a faction in Kailahun District which seemed ready to negotiate. "There are no angels here, and the names are not clear, but there are people we can deal with," he said. Richards asserted the RUF had "clearly violated" the Lomé Peace Accord by abducting over 500 U.N. peacekeepers and by advancing on Freetown. "In our terms, that makes them the enemy...until a time where they agree to a real peace, surrender," he said. Militarily, he said the RUF should not be over-estimated. "I don't believe that the RUF are as militarily capable as you might have been led to believe," he said. He pointed out that the rebel movement was fighting to retain control of the diamond fields in Kono, indicating they were looking for a cease-fire on their terms. 

RUF commanders executed a rebel fighter at Kambia who took part in robbing a fisherman, the Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported on Tuesday. According to MISNA, three rebels attacked the fisherman, shot at his feet and stole his catch, then escaped by canoe on the Kolenten River. "Various civilians reported the episode to the command of the RUF, which ordered the apprehension of the three rebels and punished them," MISNA said. "The rebel that shot at the fisherman’s feet was killed. The command then announced that it will not tolerate similar violence against civilians."

5 June: Pro-government forces have destroyed an RUF base close to Port Loko, Army Spokesman Major John Milton said on Monday. He said troops attacked the rebel base at Kotolon on Sunday, killing four RUF fighters and killing many more. There was no independent confirmation of the claim. "Our men captured dozens of rounds of heavy machine gun ammunition and anti-aircraft ammunition," Milton said. He added that evidence of rebel wounded came from "large blood stains on bush paths around the town." Milton said government troops were poised to retake the town of Lunsar, which they captured a week ago but lost two days later when they reportedly ran out of ammunition. "Our troops are already in place and mobilized to take Lunsar," Milton said. Aerial reconnaissance on Thursday and Friday indicated that neither government nor rebel troops were present in the town, which had apparently been deserted.

Thousands of civilians have fled from the Makeni and Magburaka areas over the past few days, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed on Monday. "Nearly 4,000 (people) or maybe more ... have been displaced just in the last couple of days," said Ahunna Eziakunwa of the OCHA. "There's no food in the area and people who've reached Freetown from there say they left because they just could not cope." 

Britain is deciding whether to send an advance team of about 100 military advisors to Sierra Leone, where they would provide a six-week intensive training course for pro-government troops. Britain previously announced the formation of a Military Training Advisory Team (MATT), which would work with the restructured Sierra Leone Army over a three-year period. "(MATT) are assembling at the moment, but they will not be in place for a while yet to provide training to Sierra Leone government forces," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said. "So what we are considering is putting in a short-term training team." He said the 100 instructors plus support personnel would be drawn from the the Second Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment. He denied reports that some Royal Marines already on the ground in Sierra Leone would remain behind as advisors and trainers when Britain withdraws the bulk of its forces in mid-June. "We will decide this week whether we are going to send them and if we do what their precise size and structure will be," the spokesman said.

United Nations peacekeepers deployed at Rogberi Junction on Friday and have now built up troop strength there to 700, a U.N. spokesman said in New York on Monday. Two companies of Indian peacekeeping troops encountered two RUF roadblocks, one three kilometres south of Rogberi Junction and one about 800 metres from the town. The troops broke through both roadblocks, causing the RUF troops to resort to sporadic firing, the spokesman said. The RUF also fired at a U.N. helicopter, which responded with machine gun fire. There were no casualties reported and the rebels vanished into the bush. UNAMSIL is now planning aggressive patrols from Freetown to Lunsar and back to Lungi, the spokesman added.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet was due to meet Monday with the permanent representatives from ECOWAS nations to discuss troop contributions, a U.N. spokesman said. West African leaders meeting in Abuja on May 28 agreed to provide an additional 3,000 peacekeeping troops to the UNAMSIL force if the U.N. would pick up the costs. The ECOWAS summit also called for UNAMSIL's mandate to be changed from "peacekeeping to peace enforcement," and for the force to be commanded by a West African.

The United States supports efforts to put RUF leader Foday Sankoh on trial, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said on Monday. "We're in consultation with the government of Sierra Leone, with regional states, with the United Nations, with the United Kingdom, to review possible steps taken to bring perpetrators of any crimes to justice," Reeker said. "Decisions regarding the location, movements, the juridical disposition of Foday Sankoh, will be made by the government of Sierra Leone in consultation with the region." Reeker noted that any crimes committed since the signing last July of the Lomé Peace Accord were not covered under the agreement's blanket amnesty. He said the United States "believes that there must be both peace and justice, and that means there should be accountability." The peace agreement gave Sankoh a window of opportunity but he "wasted that opportunity," Reeker said. The spokesman denied that the United States had pressured the Sierra Leone government to sign the Lomé Peace Accord. He said that while Rev. Jesse Jackson, acting as President Clinton's Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa, had brokered the cease-fire agreement in May 1999, the peace accord was negotiated directly between the Sierra Leone government and the RUF leadership under the auspices of ECOWAS.

The international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF- Doctors Without Borders) has voiced concern for Sierra Leone's civilian population, as renewed fighting has had a severe impact on the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The group called on all parties to take steps to ensure the safety of civilians and humanitarian relief workers, and insisted that humanitarian assistance not be politicised. In a statement issued on Monday, MSF said lack of humanitarian access to populations at risk had "led to the first reports of malnutrition, heightened the possibility of the outbreak of widespread disease, and has placed new burdens on camps for displaced persons." A severe food shortage exists in Makeni which has been cut off from Freetown, resulting in children under five showing the first signs of malnutrition, while an influx of over 2,000 displaced persons in Kabala has created food shortages there. In Kambia, Bombali and Tonkolili Districts MSF has had to suspend its support for clinics, hospitals and nutritional programmes. In addition, people fleeing renewed conflict in Northern Province are putting pressure on other areas not directly affected by the fighting. "Existing camps for internally displaced persons in Lungi and the Western Peninsula are quickly becoming overcrowded. Reports suggest that over 10,000 persons have recently been displaced," the statement said. 

The U.N. has expressed concern that the RUF is preventing the resupply of 224 Indian soldiers and officers encircled by rebels in the eastern town of Kailahun. On Saturday, the RUF prevented four trucks in a six-vehicle convoy carrying food and supplies to the peacekeepers. "We supply (the U.N. troops) regularly with food and water, and we’ve been working slowly to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this standoff," UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst told the BBC on Monday. "We thought we were getting somewhere last week when we heard that the RUF were considering relaxing their grip on that area. Unfortunately, when we sent a convoy in over the weekend, the RUF position hardened and they would not allow four of the trucks in a six-vehicle convoy to enter the compound. Two trucks went in, two vehicles went in carrying food, and the drivers who were in the convoy also went in, ten people in all, but the RUF have refused to allow these other four trucks to move and they retain control over them." Wimhurst said the ten U.N. personnel were unable to leave the U.N. compound in Kailahun, or to possession of the trucks. "We are in a position where the RUF are effectively preventing us from moving all vehicles and preventing the people who drove them down from returning where they came from," he said. 50 more Indian peacekeepers were reportedly turned back and forced to return to the U.N. base at Daru. "It seems that the RUF now is saying they’re going to prevent us from resupplying this particular location," Wimhurst said. "That is causing a very serious difficulty for us. We view this latest development with dismay. It’s extremely disturbing, and we’re now considering possible action."

Human Rights Watch has accused RUF rebels of committing numerous rape against women in Makeni and in at least three other towns which came briefly under RUF control during the rebel advance in May. In a statement issued on Monday, Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed women from Makeni, Port Loko, Lunsar, and the Yelibuya Peninsula who gave detailed accounts of rape "including a significant number of cases of gang rape and rape of young children as young as ten." In many cases, Human Rights Watch said, victims were taken to RUF bases or command centres and raped there, suggesting that this was sanctioned behaviour. The group called on the United Nations Security Council to give UNAMSIL "the mandate and means" to protect Sierra Leoneans civilians from atrocities. It also called on the Security Council to instruct UNAMSIL to investigate current and past abuses against civilians by the RUF and other forces "for the specific purpose of using this material for prosecutions of those alleged to be responsible for gross violations of human rights and the laws of war, and to move rapidly to establish a criminal tribunal to try war criminals in Sierra Leone."

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), in its latest update for the period through May 31, said the agency had provided food aid for 22,000 internally displaced persons in in Loko Masama and Kaffu Bullom Chiefdoms in Port Loko District. Further WFP food aid was provided for those who had fled fighting in the towns of Mange and Koya, and in Kambia District, as well as newly-arrived displaced persons who arrived in Freetown from Lunsar, Makeni and Rogberi Junction.

4 June: RUF rebels have blocked four of six trucks carrying food to 224 Indian peacekeepers encircled in the eastern town of Kailahun, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Sunday. "Why they're allowing only a partial resupply instead of a full resupply is not clear and we're continuing to negotiate," Wimhurst said. The convoy left on Saturday. Wimhurst said there had been no problem in resupplying a smaller group of 23 Indian troops blockaded in the nearby town of Kuiva. Meanwhile, Libya said Sunday the Indian government had asked it to intervene on behalf of the Indian troops who have been trapped in the two towns since early May. Tripoli Great Jamahiriyah television reported that the Minister for African Unity Ali al-Turayki had met with Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Dr. Sama Banya and Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan to discuss the issue.

Civilians are reportedly fleeing the Makeni area as a result of "rebel activity" and the expectation of a coming battle between pro-government forces and RUF forces for control of the capital of Sierra Leone's Northern Province, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) said Sunday, quoting unnamed military and humanitarian sources. Makeni has been controlled by the RUF since late 1998. One aid worker was quoted as saying many of those seen fleeing were suffering from gunshot wounds. National Security Advisor Sheka Mansaray told Reuters the immediate reason for large the flight of large numbers of people "could be the fighting at Lunsar and the feeling it could get to Makeni." He said the government had dropped leaflets on Makeni telling the RUF to give up their arms. "Some civilians interpret this as a precursor to a heavy crackdown," he said. 

The last contingent of Jordanian troops destined for the UNAMSIL force has left for Sierra Leone, Radio Jordan reported on Sunday. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant Muhammad al-Malkawi, saw the troops off. Jordan has contributed 1,850 troops in Sierra Leone, along with weapons and equipment, the radio said.

Sierra Leoneans in 1999 ranked at the bottom of a World Health Organisation (WHO) study which measures "disability-adjusted" life expectancy, the WHO announced on Sunday. The study subtracts years based on the prevalence and severity of disease. The average Sierra Leonean, according to the study, can only expect 25.9 years of good health, compared to a worldwide average of 64.5. At the other end of the scale was Japan, with an average 74.5 year healthy life span. Sierra Leoneans also rank last in terms of absolute average life span. In April, the German Federal Demographic Research Institute said the average life span for a Sierra Leonean was 37, compared to a worldwide life expectancy of 65. Information on which to establish reliable estimates for the average life span in Sierra Leone would be difficult to obtain. Large areas in the north and east of the country are under RUF control and are not available for survey. In July 1998 the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that Sierra Leone had a birth registration rate of under 10 percent — the lowest of any country which records live births. Records on deaths and information on health is similarly lacking.

3  June: RUF field commander General Issa Sesay has demanded the release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh as the price for new peace talks. "He told me that Foday Sankoh was the only man he would take orders from, but stressed that he wanted to work with the U.N. to rebuild the peace accords," BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle said after speaking to "General Issa" by satellite telephone. Sesay suggested the rebel leader be released to a neutral country such as Togo. He also denied the RUF had attacked Indian peacekeepers on Friday as they were preparing to occupy Rogberi Junction. The U.N. said its troops came under fire by rocket-propelled grenades just as they were approaching the town. The Indians fired back with machine guns, and the rebels disappeared into the bush, the U.N. said. There were no casualties in the clash.

RUF forces will be "either persuaded or forced" to withdraw to positions they held prior to the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord last July, Oluyemi Adeniji, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sierra Leone, said on Saturday. "We are back in Rogberi. Previously, we had deployed in Lunsar and Makeni, but we were unable to hold those positions. We will go back there and the RUF will either be persuaded or be forced to go back," he told the Agence France-Presse (AFP). "It will be a combination of diplomacy and force. We are determined to enforce the Lomé Agreement." Adeniji said Freetown was now secure from a rebel attack. "The RUF would not think of coming into town," he said. He said UNAMSIL was much stronger than it was a month ago when rebel forces attempted to advance on the capital. "We have more troops and we have learnt a big lesson," he said. "I don't think anybody has to convince anyone now that he has to use a gun. The frame of mind is different." Adeniji said, however, that the RUF would "inevitably" have to be brought back into the political process. "The political process is something the U.N. has to do in cooperation with ECOWAS," he said. "The sub-regional organisation is in a better position than the U.N. to come down hard on any party that tries to sabotage the agreement." Adeniji blamed RUF leader Foday Sankoh for the resumption of hostilities last month. "(The RUF) advanced because the boss at the time, Foday Sankoh, wanted to be president at all costs," he said. "They have been making a fortune from control of the diamond fields. To continue to do that, they needed to control Freetown, to control the government, and that was what they wanted to do." He acknowledged that the U.N. no longer had direct contact with the RUF leadership, and was instead working through President Charles Taylor of Liberia. "Certainly President Taylor had links, has links, with the RUF," Adeniji said. "There are people that he deals with there. I don't know who. Even if it is president Taylor who is issuing instructions to the RUF, whoever is passing it down locally must be respected by the fighters because things happen. He is key." 

Liberia has offered to contribute troops to the proposed 3,000-man ECOWAS peacekeeping contingent for Sierra Leone, Liberian President Charles Taylor said in Monrovia on Saturday. "Liberia has agreed to commit up to two companies to join the West African peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone," Taylor said. "The situation in Sierra Leone calls for peace and a ceasefire. The quantity of troops deployed in Sierra Leone is not the issue. What is important is confidence." Taylor made the statement after returning from Ouagadougou, where he held talks with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore. Compaore said Friday that Burkina Faso was also prepared to take part in the ECOWAS force and to help disarm warring factions. Both Taylor and Compaore have frequently been accused of backing the RUF, a charge they have denied. Taylor also said Saturday his government was opposed to Britain's arming of any group calling itself a Sierra Leonean army. "Arming a Sierra Leonean army now poses a direct threat to the peace process in that country. Only a restructured army should be armed," he said. Britain announced it would provide light arms and training to pro-government forces after an RUF advance toward Freetown last month. "We believe that only the peace keepers — that should amount to some 16,000 troops — will provide security for the state of Sierra Leone until disarmament, demobilisation and a retrained Sierra Leonean army has been placed on the ground," Taylor said. He added that the best way to resolve the Sierra Leone crisis was to build confidence among the warring factions. "The man in the bush will not surrender his gun to someone he feels will shoot him in the back after he disarms to him," Taylor said. He dismissed the notion of disarming the RUF by force as "nonsensical."

Liberian President Charles Taylor urged late Friday that detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh be sent to a third country. Speaking in Burkina Faso where he met with President Blaise Compaore, Taylor said Sierra Leone should abide by the recommendations of ECOWAS. "The security council of ECOWAS decided Foday Sankoh for his own security would be sent to a neutral country, that all the parties should return to Lomé, and that all armed groups in Sierra Leone should be disarmed so that peace can reign in the region," Taylor told Radio France International. "I understand the Sierra Leonean people who oppose the decision. Those are normal emotions but we must give peace a chance. The war has lasted for far too long in Sierra Leone. There have been killings and atrocities have been committed. Such a situation should not continue because we have other things to do, like development. I am therefore urging the Sierra Leone people to accept the decision of the leaders in order to put an end to the atrocities and turn to other things." Last week ECOWAS Executive-Secretary Lansana Kouyate said an ECOWAS summit of West African heads of state and government had called for Sankoh to be moved from Sierra Leone to a third country, but later retracted the statement. The recommendation to move Sankoh, it later developed, came not from the full ECOWAS summit, but from the smaller ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, which met a day earlier.

2 June: There have been conflicting reports as to the extent of fighting around the town of Lunsar, which was seized by pro-government forces on Monday and reportedly recaptured by the RUF two days later. Reuters quoted an SLA brigade commander Friday as saying government forces were bombarding RUF positions with a helicopter gunship, while the rebels were using weapons and armoured personnel carriers seized from U.N. peacekeeping troops last month. But Oluyemi Adeniji (pictured right), the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sierra Leone, said aerial reconnaissance of the area late Thursday and early Friday saw no troops in the area. "Aerial survey of Lunsar does not indicate any troop presence, from either the government or the other side," Adeniji told reporters. He said the situation around Lunsar was unclear after the government sent reinforcements to the area on Thursday. "There is no fighting today," he said. UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said Lunsar appeared to have been abandoned. "What we saw were bodies, equipment, cooking facilities. The weapons were there. They were in SLA uniforms. If the RUF were in the town, or had been, we would normally expect them to have taken the equipment," he said. Meanwhile, some 400 peacekeeping troops from UNAMSIL's Indian battalion deploying behind the front lines came under attack by RUF fighters rocket-propelled grenades near Rogberi Junction Friday. There were no casualties. "They responded with heavy machine gun fire and have reoccupied Rogberi, which is a very important position for us, and they have dug in defensively," Wimhurst said. "Our presence there will certainly stabilize the area, and if the peacekeepers are fired on they will respond very vigorously." Earlier, British forces commander Brigadier David Richards confirmed confirmed the deployment of peacekeepers behind the advancing SLA troops. "They (the SLA) are already moving back up," he said. "They have got fresh supplies of ammunition and food. A few commanders at the low level have been moved up and I know that they...are advancing on Rogberi Junction. The Indian battalion...has started to deploy today up to Rogberi Junction." BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle confirmed the deployment of Indian troops, meant to consolidate control of areas captured by government forces and to free up pro-government for the offensive. "It was a very large convoy, the largest U.N. convoy I’ve ever seen in Sierra Leone," Doyle told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "There were about 50 vehicles, 10 or 15 of them armoured personnel carriers with their metal tracks chewing up the hot tarmac as they went along, and the rest of the soldiers were in lorries of various sorts, heavily armed with cannons, machines guns and other military equipment." He said the Indian troops were from units which had recently seen action in the India-Pakistan conflict. "Some of the soldiers that I spoke to, and senior officers, seemed very confident and they said they don’t underestimate the rebels of course, but that they are not a professional force like them." Doyle said a second convoy of UNAMSIL troops was due to move out of Freetown on Saturday, but said no details were available.

The expatriate staff of two British NGOs — Goal and Christian Aid — have been evacuated from Sierra Leone after being told by the British High Commission in Freetown Tuesday that intelligence reports suggested British interests might be targeted by RUF rebels. The warning included humanitarian groups funded by Britain and their expatriate staff, and covered persons working in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast, according to the Agence France-Presse. Diplomats were quoted as saying the pullout of British troops in mid-June might signal the beginning of trouble. The High Commission said it would ask Britain's Department for International Development to cease funding programmes requiring an expatriate presence, aid workers said. British High Commission spokesman Chris Pool said Thursday that no pressure had been put on the NGOs whose expatriate staff had pulled out.

The Sierra Leone government is considering contracting with foreign private firms to provide security in the diamond-mining areas once it regains control of them, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told BBC television on Friday. He said the government was consulting with the U.S. State Department on how best to provide security in the diamond mining areas. "We are looking at firms...One company will be here or two companies, within mining, within marketing...(and) will help us in deciding which security should be put in place," Kaikai said. The contract could go to a British or an American firm which would then be responsible for protecting the mining sites from rebel attacks. Kaikai said the government might institute movement controls which he described as having been used during the colonial period. "Many years ago...you were not allowed to go to the mining area without a permit from the government. We believe something like that may come into effect again," he added. In fact, successive Sierra Leonean governments have required residency permits for entry into diamond mining areas in eastern Sierra Leone. Enforcement of the system proved ineffective due to widespread corruption. 

The 15 United Nations Security Council members and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan headed for a two-day retreat Friday to discuss peacekeeping issues. "I think we have a lot to think about and to talk about. It's messy out there. The world is a real messy place. So that's what we are going to do this weekend," Annan said. The gathering, due to end Saturday evening, is taking place at the Rockefeller Conference Center at Pocantico Hills, in rural New York.

1 June: UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said Thursday he hoped a high-level U.N. assessment team on its way to Sierra Leone would be able to negotiate a cease-fire between in the Sierra Leone conflict. "What is important now is that fighting does stop so we can find a way to talk to each other again," Wimhurst said. "There is no military solution to this conflict." The assessment team, headed by by former Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Manfred Eisele, is now due to arrive in Freetown on Friday. It was delayed by a day after team members missed their flight in Paris. The team was despatched by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to examine problems faced by UNAMSIL and to recommend ways the U.N. peacekeeping force can better discharge its mandate. "They are basically here to see what went wrong and how it can be fixed," Wimhurst said. The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, said assessments were normal in peacekeeping operations. "When there is a crisis of this nature it probably makes it necessary to accelerate such missions," he said. "What went wrong was that we were working on the assumption, which unfortunately proved not to be the case, that we had cooperation from all sides."

The Sierra Leone Army said Thursday it was preparing to launch an offensive to retake the town of Lunsar, which pro-government forces held briefly after seizing it from the RUF on Monday. RUF rebels recaptured the town overnight Tuesday using, by some accounts, armoured personnel carriers and heavy weapons believed stolen from the UNAMSIL force. "They are occupying the place now, but of course we will be back very soon," said army spokesman Major John Milton. Pro-government troops claimed they were forced to retreat after running out of ammunition. UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst confirmed the U.N. had had received reports that "an armoured personnel carrier that belongs to UNAMSIL was used in the Lunsar battle, but that has not been confirmed." A British military source downplayed reports of a rebel offensive. "Government forces pulled back," the  Agence France-Presse quoted the source as saying. "There is no confirmation of a massive RUF attack."

U.N. peacekeeping troops killed a suspected fuel thief in Freetown overnight, UNAMSIL spokesman David Wimhurst said on Thursday. He said Nigerian troops spotted three suspected thieves at the port, who opened fire when they were asked to stop. "(The U.N. troops) opened fire and killed one of the intruders. They also arrested one who was handed over to police and one other escaped," Wimhurst said.

The commander of the British troops in Sierra Leone, Brigadier David Richards, said Thursday that British forces would leave by mid-June having fully achieved their mission. "You remember what the situation was like when we arrived: the U.N looked on the point of collapse, the government itself was being threatened because of the RUF’s success," Richards told the BBC. "We’ve reintroduced an element of stability which will allow the U.N. to progress again, having given a bit of a breathing space, and the government forces in particular are acquitting themselves pretty well." Richards acknowledged that there was still insecurity in the provinces, but said Britain had introduced stability to allow the U.N. "a second crack at the problem."  "Clearly there is fighting going on, although I’m pretty optimistic in the direction in which it’s going," he said. "But it was never the British government’s aim to actually conduct military operations. It was to buy a much-needed opportunity to allow the U.N. to get going again." He said part of Britain's aim had been to raise morale among pro-government forces. "Our trick now is, presentationally, to get across to everyone here, is that actually it isn’t the forces that we still have here that are key to their success," he said. "It’s all the advice and technical logistics support which we’re not only going to continue with, but indeed increase." Richards said he was not convinced the recapture of Lunsar by the RUF heralded a new rebel offensive. "I think there was a lot of confusion, and that’s one of the problems that besets all of us here — finding out exactly what is happening," he said. "I’m confident that the U.N., within the next ten days, will be sufficiently large and capable enough to first of all secure the key areas — that’s Freetown and Lungi Peninsulas and the road that links them internally — and then push out into the interior again, and that the government forces will become increasingly capable of at least containing any resurgence on the part of the RUF. Responding to whether pro-government forces had the capability to capture the diamond-mining areas of eastern Sierra Leone, Richards said: "I think there’s total unanimity across the international community that this thing will not be over until the government themselves take control of the diamond areas. Now how that will work out over the next months or so — I’m obviously not a soothsayer — the key will be the government forces remaining cohesive and united."

Johnny Paul Koroma, the leader of the AFRC and Chairman of the government's Commission for the Consolidation of Peace, has said that any future negotiations with the RUF should be undertaken from a position of strength. "In other words, the mining areas have to be taken under government control," Koroma told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). "If that is not done then the war will continue." Koroma said only pro-government forces, with their knowledge of the terrain, can achieve that goal. "Even if they (UNAMSIL) bring more than a million troops they won't achieve much because the first problem is the terrain," he said. He added that the international community needed to provide the Sierra Leone Army with military supplies and equipment. Koroma said the government's aim was to pressure the RUF into peace talks. "We're not going to continue the war until the end," he said. "At a certain point it will stop, and we'll try and bring these guys on board. We're starting to do it already by dropping leaflets, (and helping) some of those who don't want to fight, who are going for the peace option, to find a way to join us." Koroma said he believed detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh should be excluded from future talks. "Personally I don't think he's credible enough to participate at all," he said. "But it's for the international community to decide. If we have to bring him on board, then fine. But I don't think he's worth bringing on board at all." He told IRIN he believed ECOWAS leaders "have somebody in mind" to replace Sankoh as a negotiating partner. Koroma said Liberian President Charles Taylor should play a role in the peace process. "It's important to bring him in, he has influence over the RUF," he said. "I don't know what he wants, but the only way to move forward is for him and the president to sit down and sort things out."