30 June: RUF reinforcements have arrived in Freetown, saying they are willing to fight to the death to defend the capital. According to the rebels, some 2,000 RUF fighters arrived over the weekend and are now encamped in towns around Freetown. "We have come to reinforce our positions in and around Freetown in case we need to defend it against any attacks," one fighter said. "We will fight to the last man if ordered to do so."
West African countries have closed their embassies in Freetown, in line with an ECOWAS decision not to recognize the AFRC military regime. Nigeria closed its embassy the day after the May 25 coup, while Gambia closed its embassy on June 29. Guinea's embassy remains open, but the ambassador and senior diplomats have left. Staff members remaining behind say they are there to provide travel documents to Guinean citizens wishing to return home.
Reaction: John Dinger, acting U.S. state department spokesman: "The United States wants to see early restoration of order and democracy in Sierra Leone, where soldiers and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels overthrew the elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. We believe concerted efforts by Africa to find a negotiated solution offer the best hope for returning the legitimate government, and advancing stability in Sierra Leone. Thus, we applaud the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) toward a peaceful solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. We welcome ECOWAS' June 27 Communiqué from Conakry calling for the early reinstatement of President Kabbah, the return of peace and security and the resolution of the issues of refugees and displaced persons. The United States hopes ECOWAS will take immediate steps to move the process forward. We are prepared to work with Sierra Leone's neighbors in helping to reach a peaceful settlement."
29 June: Freetown was reported calm Sunday, and some stores are reported to be operating. Rice is selling for Le 24,000 a bag, up from Le 16,000 to 18,000 before the coup. The price of a cup of rice is Le 120. In Kono, where a source claimed Saturday that the army has unleashed a "reign of terror" on residents, the price of a bag of rice is reported to be Le 60,000 or Le 500 a cup.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) called on Sierra Leone Sunday to ensure that the country's national soccer stadium is a safe place to play. The organisation said it wants a guarantee of good security and organisation in Freetown for African Nations Cup qualifying matches held in Freetown, or future games will be switched to neutral Mali. Last weekend, Sierra Leone's Group Four home match against Tunisia was postponed because of security concerns in the country following the May 25 coup. The CAF has now ordered the game to be played in Freetown on Wednesday, July 23--four days before Sierra Leone is to play Ghana in Freetown in the final qualifying game. Sierra Leone will need to win both games to stand any chance of qualifying for the cup finals in Burkina Faso next year. The team has lost both away games in the three-nation group. Ghana leads the group with 6 points, followed by Tunisia with 3. Sierra Leone has been given until July 10 to comply with the CAF's demands. "In case of a negative response or no reaction from the Sierra Leone Football Association, the two matches will be played in Bamako, Mali," a CAF communiqué said.
28 June: Soldiers killed at least 25 people in Bo District Thursday, according to witnesses who reached Freetown on Saturday. Among the dead was Albert Sani Demby, Paramount Chief of Baoma Chiefdom, the father of ousted vice president Joseph Demby. Chief Demby, who is said to have been blind, was taken from him compound in Gerihun by soldiers, who shot him in the stomach and killed him. The soldiers then attacked two more towns, Telu and Sembehun, killing 25 civilians including another traditional chief. The witnesses said soldiers burned town part of Telu, Jaiama-Bongor Chiefdom, the home of Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman. The soldiers were said to be scouring the bush for Kamajors who they believed were gathering in preparation for an attack on military bases in Bo. Military officials in Bo have declined comment. The independent newspaper Voice of di People reported Saturday that unidentified attackers firing automatic rifles, grenade launchers, and mortars forced residents of Moyamba to flee the town last week.
The AFRC Saturday issued a statement asking ECOWAS countries to reconsider their efforts to isolate the military government. "The AFRC regards such measures as counter-productive, in the sense that it will not only hurt the people of Sierra Leone but will further lead to the economic sinking of the country," the statement said. The Nigerian newspaper Daily Times reported Saturday that sanctions will be imposed on Sierra Leone and force will be used if the military does not return President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power "within a reasonable timetable."
Reaction: Tony Lloyd, British Minister for Africa: "The demands were for the coup plotters to recognise that the game is up, and it is up. However long it takes, the game for them is up. The people of Sierra Leone do not deserve what they've had unleashed. Our commitment and that of the whole international community is to make sure that the legitimate government is back in power as quickly as possible. There's a very strong need now for the coup plotters to recognise that it is in their hands to offer proper salvation to the people of Sierra Leone. (They need to) to get round that negotiating table and to recognise that they cannot continue with the present position."
27 June: ECOWAS foreign ministers meeting in Conakry, Guinea have agreed to pursue dialogue and economic sanctions to force Sierra Leone's military rulers to reinstate ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. In a 14-point communiqué released after the meeting, which ended early Friday morning, the ministers stressed that no country should recognise the military regime. They called upon the international community to support the ECOWAS initiatives and to provide emergency aid to Guinea and other countries affected by a flood of refugees since the coup. The ministers recommended working "to restore legitimate government through a combination of three measures--dialogue, sanctions, and an embargo, as well as recourse to force." But, they added, "In order to increase the effectiveness of the above measures, the ministers...recommended prior consultations among member states at the highest level." The ministers designated a four nation committee consisting of Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, plus OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, to open a dialogue with the AFRC and report back to ECOWAS Chairman General Sani Abacha within two weeks. At the end of Thursday's session, a source was quoted as saying that the mood of the delegates was for "imminent military intervention." Ghana was reported to be the "lone voice" opposing military intervention; Reports said that Salim reiterated the OAU's support for "any method that would restore the legitimate government in Sierra Leone." In a message to the meeting, General Sani Abacha said that if the situation in Sierra Leone is not carefully managed, it might retard the peace process in Liberia and threaten the stability of Guinea. He defended Nigeria's role in Sierra Leone, saying it is not interference. Responsibility is placed on Nigeria for ensuring the stability of the subregion, he said. The Nigerians reportedly began a sea blockade of Sierra Leone Friday morning, turning ships away from Freetown's harbour. ECOWAS has called for an air blockade as well. Oil industry sources said Tuesday that Sierra Leone's power station has just two weeks of fuel remaining.
AFRC spokesman Colonel Abdul Sesay said in Freetown that the coup leaders welcome the prospect of a visit by the delegation. "Who drove Tejan Kabbah away? We did not drive Kabbah away. The AFRC is open to negotiations about his return as president to Sierra Leone," Sesay said. "We are extremely happy with their decision to come to Freetown and examine the situation first hand. We believe that after their visit here they will have a change of mind and economic sanctions or military intervention will not be necessary." Sesay said this would become apparent when the committee saw the "realities of the peace we have achieved with the RUF rebels." The ECOWAS decision was conveyed to President Kabbah, who reportedly applauded the decision to restore his government and the two weeks ultimatum for negotiations.
Health authorities in Makeni reported Friday that more than 320 children in Northern Province have died from cholera and typhoid fever in the past two days, and that hundreds more are in critical condition. The Ministry of Health in Freetown said Sierra Leone has requested assistance from aid organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. The situation has been made more difficult because of the plundering of food and medical supplies by soldiers and their RUF allies, aid organizations said.
26 June: ECOWAS foreign ministers meeting in extraordinary session in Conakry, Guinea Thursday discussed the option of restoring President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power by force or through negotiation. A senior African diplomat monitoring developments said that the military option proposed by Nigeria did not have general support. There was no consensus within ECOWAS on that option and no resources available for the size of force needed, the diplomat added.
The World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for Sierra Leone said Thursday that tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans could starve unless roving armed men stop disrupting United Nations food supplies. Mohamed Diab said that the "continual disruption" of relief food distribution "could lead to another humanitarian crisis" in the country. "Often when we try to load relief food from our warehouses onto trucks, the presence of uncontrolled armed men hovering nearby prevents us from continuing," he said. Diab said the WFP lost 1,600 metric tons of food aid when three of its warehouses were looted in Freetown following the May 25 coup. In the four weeks since the coup, the WFP has distributed 300 tons of food--enough for 10,000 people for 15 days--to vulnerable people at hospitals, clinics, and orphanages in the cities of Freetown, Kenema, and Makeni. The WFP has plans to help 40,000 displaced persons, but said this would "depend greatly" on adequate security. On Monday, the agency distributed 152 tons of food to some 5,000 displaced persons in Kambia and Port Loko, but has not been able to reach larger numbers of persons in other cities because of fighting in the surrounding areas. Before the coup, Diab said, the WFP was delivering 2,500 tons of food per month to more than 350,000 people. "Now we're not even reaching a fraction of these people, not to mention the thousands of others who are newly affected by the crisis," he said. Diab is currently directing the distribution program from Conakry, Guinea because of security concerns in Sierra Leone.
25 June: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma said Wednesday that he is ready to allow President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to return as long as Kabbah stops "misleading" the international community. In an address to the nation, Koroma said he would soon announce the composition of his new government and a "timetable for a proper return to civilian rule," which he said would be as short as possible. Koroma promised to hold free and fair elections which would be unlike the polls last year when 54 people were killed in Freetown on election day. Commenting on the coup, Koroma said, "We just could not sit down and allow a president to be manipulated as people were killed or maimed." Koroma said Kabbah should have incorporated RUF leader Foday Sankoh into the political system, but had failed to do so "out of greed." On Tuesday, UNPP leader John Karefa-Smart said he had strongly advised the AFRC not to name a cabinet, as this would send a signal to the international community that the coup leaders do not intend to relinquish power.
ECOWAS foreign ministers will meet Thursday in Conakry, Guinea to assess the current situation in Sierra Leone, and to work out a framework for resolving the political crisis there. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim and ECOWAS Executive Secretary Edouard Benjamin are expected to attend the meeting, which will be chaired by Guinean president General Lansana Conte. In Abjua, Nigeria a senior army general said that Nigeria is not contemplating removing its troops from Nigeria. "If we pull out that will be a defeatist attitude," Major-General Patrick Aziza said following a meeting of Nigeria's Provisional Ruling Council. "We have been holding consultations with the men in command there and we hope it will yield positive results," he said.
RUF rebels have been seen in churches, mosques, and other public places asking forgiveness for atrocities they committed during six years of civil war. "We have now joined our parents, our brothers and sisters. The war, mutilations, burnings and indiscriminate killings have stopped," said RUF spokesman Lieutenant Eldred Collins in a message repeatedly broadcast on SLBS radio and television this week. Collins and other members of the RUF--now renamed the People's Army of Sierra Leone--have been regularly attending church services in Freetown. "We take responsibility for the atrocities committed in the country's interior," Collins said. "We burned, looted, maimed, and killed but we did not do this because we wanted to. We had to because that was the only way we could have uprooted a rotten system." The AFRC has named three members of the RUF to its ruling council, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who is currently being detained in Nigeria, and Collins, who was named Supervisor of the Department of the Interior. "We are basically working out a power-sharing arrangement with the People's Army so that lasting peace would come," AFRC spokesman Colonel Abdul Sesay said. The People's Army's War Council, which serves as the RUF's high command, says that its fighters are ready to disarm, but only if the ECOMOG intervention force pulls out.
The AFRC acknowledged Tuesday that looting and killing continues in Freetown, and promised intensified patrols. The announcement, made over SLBS (state radio), did little to calm the fears of residents, some of whom have resorted to vigilantism and street justice. On Wednesday, a teenage boy was hacked to death by a mob after he was caught breaking into a house. His arms and head were chopped off and one testicle placed in his mouth. "I know the boy. He doesn't live in the area but he frequents it during the day. He has been leading gangs of boys who break into people's homes, looting them clean," a witness said.
The human rights group Amnesty International (AI) repeated its call Wednesday for the AFRC to respect and protect the fundamental rights of all Sierra Leoneans. Among concerns already raised by directly with Major Johnny Paul Koroma was the detention of at least 15 people arrested on June 16, accused of conspiring to overthrow the military government. "We fear that some of these people may be detained only because they opposed the military coup which brought the AFRC to power. If this is the case, they should be immediately and unconditionally released," AI said. AI called for a fair trial for any of the detained who are accused of a criminal offence, and noted that there is concern that they will not receive a fair trial if tried before a military court. Those arrested are civilians associated with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government or the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), and senior military officers. They are reported to include Dr. Sama S. Banya (medical doctor and SLPP member), Colonel K.E.S Boyah, Dauda Bundu, Colonel Tom Carew, Major Francis Gottor (former NPRC Chief of Defence), Dr. Abdul Jalloh (Member of Parliament), Dr. Bockarie M. Kobba, Abu Aiah Koroma (Minister for Political and Parliamentary Affairs), Elizabeth Loveli (Member of Parliament), Colonel R.Y. Koroma, Captain John Massaquoi, Abdullai Mustapha (State House Liaison Officer), Lieutenant-Colonel J.A.H. Tucker (from Patricia Kabbah's family), Major Vandi Turay and David Quee (Minister for Local Government). At least two of those detained were reportedly physically assaulted by soldiers at the time of their arrest. The are currently being held incommunicado at Pademba Road Prison. AI has called for them to be allowed immediate access to their families, lawyers, and doctors. AI also expressed concern about the summary executions of suspected looters by military officials. Such killings appear to contravene international standards on the use of lethal force, the group said. Soldiers have killed at least 10 people in Freetown; similar killings have been reported in Bo.
24 June: The AFRC called Tuesday for an all-party consultative conference to discuss a timetable for new elections in Sierra Leone. Director of Military Information Colonel Abdul Sesay said the conference would bring together the military, ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the Revolutionary United Front, and the Kamajor militia. "We are calling for all the major stake holders in the present political crisis...to sit together and consult in the African tradition and resolve the present political crisis in the country and set a timetable for fresh elections in Sierra Leone in which everybody including Kabbah himself can participate," he said. Sesay said the AFRC wants "moral guarantors" to attend the talks. He said that role could be fulfilled by countries and organisations involved in the peace negotiations in Ivory Coast last year, along with Britain and the United States. He also called for the United Nations to provide security at the venue. Sesay said the timing of the conference would depend on logistical arrangements and discussions between the parties. Other agenda items would be demobilisation and reintegration of rebel fighters, addressing the grievances of the military and ensuring the welfare of all involved in the coup, consolidation of the peace deal with the rebels, and reaching consensus on what constitutes good governance for a civilian government.
23 June: The leaders of the eight member nations making up the West African Economic Monetary Union condemned the coup in Sierra Leone Monday at an economic conference in Lome, Togo. In a joint statement, the leaders said that everything possible should be done to restore the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The statement called for peacekeeping troops to be placed under the command of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. The member states of the Union are Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
The AFRC warned Guinea Monday of an impending attack by mercenaries. SLBS (state radio) claimed that the mercenaries are financed by former Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman and other supporters of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The mercenaries "would wear Guinean military uniforms, an act which may likely force the Guinean authorities to respond militarily against Sierra Leone," the announcement said, adding that "The attack will be initiated against Guinea, who has adopted a neutral stand on the Sierra Leone situation and who is also against military intervention."
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said Monday that Sierra Leone will need substantial food aid this year. A news alert released by the Rome-based agency said that food supplies are scarce as most shops and markets in the country have remained closed since the May 25 coup. "The food supply is tightening in the main towns. The price of rice has tripled in Freetown and the supply of food and water is deteriorating," the statement said. Although some 21,000 tons of emergency food aid are available in the country, the FAO estimates that Sierra Leone will need to import 80,000 of food this year. "With the current upheaval, import and food aid requirements will increase significantly," the statement said. The FAO also said that the security situation is hampering agricultural activities, especially the planting of the main rice crop which takes place from April to June. "Contrary to previous expectations following the return to peace, planted areas are likely to be sharply reduced as some farmers will abandon their farms while others are discouraged from cultivating larger areas," the FAO said.
Fighting was reported Sunday at Koribundo between Kamajors and soldiers of the 38th Battalion. Military sources said Kamajors armed with rocket propelled grenades attacked on three fronts but were repelled. 18 people were reported killed, including 8 civilians, 4 soldiers, and 6 Kamajors. Kamajor unrest has now been reported in 5 of the 12 districts in Southern and Eastern Provinces.
A United National People's Part (UNPP) official has been reported killed over the weekend at his home in Freetown by armed robbers. Samuel Georgestone, chairman of UNPP Mountain District, was attacked at him house across from UNPP headquarters on Old Prince Street. Neighbors said he fought his assailants from the house to the street, where they heard one say words to the effect, "Well, if he's too strong, shoot him." He was reportedly shot in the leg, but the bullet passed through his groin to his back. He died three hours later without medical attention.
The European Union Friday formally suspended developmental aid to Sierra Leone. A statement issued June 23 noted that because constitutional order has not yet been restored, "the European Community and its Member States consider that existing development assistance to Sierra Leone cannot be continued under present circumstances." The statement applauded the efforts of states in the region to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as well as efforts within Sierra Leone to find a resolution to the conflict without further bloodshed.
22 June: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma called Sunday for the nation to observe a day of mourning on June 25 for those who have died in Sierra Leone's civil war.
ECOWAS ambassadors meeting in New York have decided to maintain a united front in addressing the crisis in Sierra Leone, the official News Agency of Nigeria reported Sunday. Ambassadors of all 16 ECOWAS countries met Friday in a meeting Friday presided over by Nigeria's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ibrahim Gambari. The ambassadors endorsed current diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, but also expressed strong support for using all necessary means to reverse the coup, the News Agency said. The report said the meeting was meant to be a counteroffensive to diplomatic efforts at the United Nations by John Karefa-Smart, who is seeking to prevent military intervention by ECOMOG. In a statement issued in Monrovia, Liberia, ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said ECOWAS will convene a meeting in Guinea to fine tune its plan to restore democracy in Sierra Leone.
21 June: Ghanaian diplomats ended two days of talks with AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma Saturday by condemning the coup but rejecting the use of force to restore the civilian government. "We should not allow ourselves to be pushed to a military intervention in Sierra Leone because this would be bloody and destructive," said Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister, Victor James Gbeho. He said Ghana joined the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, and ECOWAS in condemning the coup, but believed the impasse should be resolved through negotiations involving West African states. "Ghana still supports the OAU decision reached in Harare recently, calling on all countries to do their utmost to restore the constitutional order in Sierra Leone," Gbeho said. "We believe that the best way to resolve the crisis is by diplomatic means, to reach a negotiated settlement, rather than by fighting." Gbeho said the coup leaders want a negotiated settlement, but he declined to reveal the substance of the talks with Koroma. Sources said the talks centered around the AFRC remaining in power for only 7 or 8 months, instead of the two years they had previously announced, if a peacekeeping force other than ECOMOG is deployed. Gbeho observed that life is returning to normal in the capital. "Whilst in Freetown, we have been able to visit areas in the capital and we saw normal life returning, with businesses starting working. We never saw any act of violence, or any dead bodies around, as being reported in the international press," he said. Koroma made a statement after the talks ended, saying "We hope that the task that Ghana has undertaken together with us will finally lead to bringing about the restoration of peace, security and constitutional order." Koroma said the talks marked "a significant step" toward a broader dialogue on a possible solution to the deadlock. He said he hoped to have further talks with Ghana and other ECOWAS countries. AFRC Secretary-General, Colonel Abdul Sesay said that Ghana was "very concerned" that the international community was not paying attention to the possibility of another Nigerian attack on Freetown. The Nigerian newspaper Thisday reported Saturday that the AFRC has called for an ECOWAS meeting to discuss interference in Sierra Leone's internal affairs.
At least 15 persons have been killed in clashes between Kamajors and army troops near Gerihun, in Southern Province. Three soldiers and four Kamajors were also reported to be seriously injured in fighting that started on Friday evening. The AFRC has sent reinforcements to the area. The 1,000-strong Kamajor militia has set up roadblocks on the Bo-Kenema highway and the Bo-Yele road to prevent troop movements in the area designed to encircle the Kamajors.
Thousands of people are reported to be fleeing Magburaka due to the activities of RUF elements in Tonkolili District. The BBC reported Sunday that people have been fleeing the city and surrounding towns for three consecutive days, carrying bundles of personal effects on their heads. Vehicles full of people have been arriving in Makeni hour after hour, while those not fortunate enough to secure transportation have been forced to walk the 60 miles from Magburaka. According to the refugees, people are fleeing for their lives because armed RUF rebels have resorted to harassing civilians and robbing them of food and other valuable items at gunpoint. The report said that ninety percent of Magburaka's population has fled to Makeni and the city is now a ghost town. The harassment of civilians, particularly the elderly, has angered the Kamajors, who have threatened to attack the military and RUF if they do not desist from their present activities.
An RUF officer said Friday that "a good number" of RUF fighters are in Freetown to restore security within the city. In a BBC interview, Lieutenant Eldred Collins claimed that the rebel group enjoys widespread support, "The whole of the western area, as far as we are concerned, embraces the RUF fighters because, you know, we are well disciplined. We are here as a well organized movement to bring sanity to this our country," he said. "The whole of the country embraces us. Even as I am speaking now, most of the Kamajors have realized that they are making a mistake."
Sierra Leone ECOMOG troops serving in Liberia were disarmed Thursday by ECOMOG commanders, Secretary to the Military Colonel Tom Granby said Saturday. The 300-man contingent was based at Waterside on the Liberian side of the border. "We see this as a ploy by ECOMOG officials to make the Sierra Leone open for the incursion into our country by the mercenary group from Liberia with the assistance of ECOMOG," he said. Granby called the action "a dangerous development" and called on ECOWAS heads of state "to intervene in this unprecedented action to disarm Sierra Leone soldiers who are legally part of the peace keeping exercise in Liberia."
Military authorities in Kenema publicly executed four criminals Saturday at the main police station. The four, all civilians, were said to be notorious criminals who had been freed from the Kenema prison during the May 25 coup. Three others are on the run. One of the four was caught by a crowd in the act of breaking into a businessman's house Wednesday night, and was handed over to the military. He then named his accomplices who were rounded up and summarily executed. On June 16, a number of soldiers were also caught in Kenema by the military's anti-looting squad.
20 June: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma said Thursday that 21,000 government workers will receive their salaries for May within the next few days. Koroma made the announcement at the end of two days of talks with the Sierra Leone Labour Congress. Union leaders rejected Koroma's appeal that the union ensure their members return to work "to get the industrial machine to start turning." The Labour Congress, which is made up of 21 affiliated unions, presented Koroma with a 10-point communiqué calling on the AFRC to respect democracy and to work toward a negotiated settlement. "The democratic will of the people of Sierra Leone was profoundly expressed during the 1996 general and presidential elections," the statement said. "This democratic will is indeed a reality and must be fully respected and restored to ensure stability in the country." The union called on the AFRC "to resolve the current political stalemate through a negotiated diplomatic settlement to avert a Nigerian-led ECOMOG intervention in Sierra Leone." The Labour Congress said the peace process "should be vigorously pursued to reached an amicable settlement with the Revolutionary United Front." The union has called upon workers to stay home in protest of the May 25 coup, in part because of security concerns but also because of their belief that workers will not be paid.
In a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) statement released on Friday, Executive Director Carol Bellamy called for all sides in the Sierra Leone conflict to stop the use of children as combatants, and to incorporate provisions for their physical and emotional welfare in any future peace settlement. Since the May 25 coup, hundreds of armed children have appeared in Freetown. Many are former child soldiers who had been returned to their communities during a nationwide demobilisation program begun in 1993. They have now been recruited and rearmed by the AFRC and their RUF allies, according to the UNICEF statement. "Children should have no part in war," Bellamy said. "By making them agents of civil conflict and depriving them of their childhood, the vicious cycle of violence is perpetuated." The UNICEF statement called Sierra Leone's record on the recruiting of child soldiers one of the world's worst. Between 1992 and 1996, an estimated 4,500 children were forced to fight on both sides. Children were abducted and forced to commit atrocities in order to turn them into ruthless fighters. Some were ordered to torture and murder their own relatives before being taken to neighbouring villages to slaughter others, the statement said. Bellamy called for the immediate demobilisation of all child soldiers and the urgent implementation of the proposals outlined in the 1996 Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children by Graca Machel of Mozambique. She also called for Sierra Leone to adopt the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child, which would raise the minimum age of recruitment and participation in armed forces from 15 to 18 years.
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma met with two Ghanaian diplomats Friday for three hours in an attempt to reach a solution to the crisis and prevent military intervention by Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces. Neither side would say what was discussed, but the two sides have agreed to resume the talks on Saturday. The Ghanaian delegation consisted of Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho and its Ambassador to Egypt, Brigadier Abraham Twamasi. "We have come to see, discuss and look at the diplomatic rather than the military option," Twumasi said. Four Nigerian warships stationed off the coast of Sierra Leone withdrew Friday from the country's territorial waters to give a conducive atmosphere for the crisis to be resolved by negotiations.
Fighting intensified in Kenema Friday between soldiers loyal to the AFRC and the Kamajor militia. The fighting reportedly started at about 9:30 Thursday morning when the army attacked Kamajors on the main street of Kenema--apparently in retribution for a Kamajors attack on army bases at Kenema and Pujehun on Wednesday. Fighting between the Kamajor and the army was also reported on the Liberian border earlier in the week. On Wednesday Sam Hinga Norman, Deputy Minister of Defence in the ousted government and himself a former Kamajor, broadcast a message over a clandestine Liberian radio station calling for military action to oust the AFRC. He said that negotiations with the coup leaders have proven futile, and asserted that military action is necessary because of the deplorable plight of Sierra Leone citizens. At a Kamajor base in Kenema, Kamajor spokesman Eddie Massally said the militia will march on Bo and then continue on the Freetown to wage war on the coup leaders. AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdulkarim Sise reportedly accused President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, U.N. Ambassador James Jonah, and Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi of arming the Kamajors to wage war on the AFRC. He said considerable arms and ammunition, including food rations, have been given to the Kamajors, while mercenaries have been hired from Liberia to fight the army.
UNPP leader John Karefa-Smart held a press conference in New York Wednesday to explain his efforts to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. "My mission has two aims: to explain the situation in Sierra Leone to the Secretary-General of the U.N. and members of the Security Council; and second, to seek their support for a continuing effort for a diplomatic solution to the crisis," he said. Karefa-Smart said he had been unable to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan but that he met with some U.N. staffers on Wednesday. Asked if he would support the use of force if negotiations failed, he said "I will still not support it, I will just retire from the scene and let whatever happen happen." Karefa-Smart denied that he is working for the AFRC, and said that his decision to undertake the mission was influenced by President Kabbah, with whom he has a close relationship. "President Kabbah telephoned me from Guinea...and said to me you know what is happening, you're on the spot. I must insist that these fellows return everything to me because I was legally elected. Then he said a sentence which was meaningful to me, that the ball is now at your court, which I interpreted to say you do what you can to remedy the situation. Because of that I agreed to undertake this mission." Karefa-Smart, who once served as Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, said he was afraid his efforts might be misinterpreted as support for the AFRC. "I am worried that people may really believe that I really am behind this coup," he said. "I have clarified that at home, and I have done so in your presence and will continue to do so."
The interim governor of Sierra Leone's Central Bank said Wednesday he had persuaded the AFRC to provide protection to the banks and he hoped the country's banking system would soon be functioning again. "Over the past few days we have been holding meetings with the commercial banks so as to get them to reopen, but they have shown concern about the security of the banks and the nation," Christian Kargbo said. He said he would meet with the commercial banks again on Thursday. The Central Bank opened for the first time Wednesday since the May 25 coup when it was looted by soldiers and badly damaged by fire, along with the adjacent Treasury building. Commercial banks have remained closed since the coup, and people have had no access to their money. Government workers' salaries have not been paid because of damage to the Treasury. "Sierra Leoneans are suffering, and something has to be done," Kargbo said. "We have gone hungry for many weeks. We have gone unpaid. We can't cash our cheques. Some people want to go away but they can't even pay their fares." He said officials are working to get salaries paid. "Even through the Treasury was destroyed by fire during the takeover, the accountant general is working on a plan to get public workers paid. Most of the computers holding the names of workers and also past salary vouchers were burnt in the fire," he said. Lists of pensioners were also reported to have been destroyed. Kargo said the AFRC had asked him to take over as governor of the bank. "I turned the offer down but offered to advise them. Something has to go on in the interim while they are pursuing negotiations with the RUF and the international community," he said. Kargbo, who was Minister of Development and Economic Planning under the previous military government, confirmed that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had cut off aid of Sierra Leone after the coup. He appealed to donors not to impose sanctions on Sierra Leone. "What they should do is come and examine the problems. Most of us do not favour military rule. Let the international community come and see what could be done to resolve our problems, so that we do not die, of hunger or otherwise," he said.
A delegation from Ghana arrived in Freetown Thursday night to mediate the impasse between the AFRC and Nigeria. Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho and its Ambassador to Egypt, Brigadier Abraham Twamasi, will meet with AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma on Friday. On Thursday, the AFRC accused Nigeria of arming the deposed civilian government in preparation for an attack.
18 June: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma Wednesday called upon Sierra Leoneans who fled the country following the June 2 Nigerian naval bombardment of Freetown to return home. In a speech to religion leaders, Koroma said those who had fled the country should come back and help the government find a solution to the current political crisis. "Running away can never solve the problem," he said. SLBS (state radio) has broadcast appeals to all Sierra Leoneans to return. The radio station called for the Governor of the Central Bank, Steve Swaray, and his deputy, Enid Gibril, to return saying their safety would be assured. Many doctors, lawyers, judges, and administrators left by sea and land to Guinea in fear of military intervention by ECOMOG forces. Immigration sources said 30,000 Sierra Leoneans are have left the country, with the majority in Guinea and Gambia. Consular officials at the Guinean Embassy in Freetown said about 1,000 vehicles had been granted authorisation to enter Guinea. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Wednesday that over 1,000 Sierra Leoneans fleeing violence in Freetown have arrived in Gambia aboard two ships. The UNHCR said about 400 arrived at the port of Banjul this week, while another 626 made the voyage last week after being refused entry into Guinea.
The RUF has said that it is ready to disarm, and called for a return to democracy through new elections. In a statement read over SLBS (state radio) Tuesday night by rebel lieutenant Eldred Collins, the RUF ruled out the return of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, but said lifting the ECOMOG threat of military intervention would open the way to peace. "All that we need now is for the U.N. to take the lead in assisting the AFRC in demobilising and reintegrating our combatants into society for the ultimate achievement of democracy through free and fair elections that will be conducted in the whole country in peace. What has delayed the wholesome practicality of the long cherished peace is the threat of a Nigerian invasion but the moment that chapter in our history is closed we are prepared to disarm and melt into the civilian populace and the regular army because we are convinced that the foundation for lasting peace and democracy has been laid," the statement said. The statement accused Kabbah of "making a mockery" of the November 30 peace agreement signed in Abidjan. "Ex-president Tejan Kabbah disappointed us gravely and we can never trust him again. We were prepared for peace but the SLPP were not," it said. The RUF apologised for atrocities committed by the rebels during the six-year civil war. "All RUF fighters who have come out from the bush to join our families after six years of fighting in Sierra Leone apologise to our brothers and sisters for all the mayhem unleashed on you...We did not take to the bush because we want to be barbarians but we want to state our humanhood to a society that looked on us as subhumans," the statement said.
The Nigerian government denied Tuesday that it was behind the attempted coup against the AFRC. Acting Director of Defence Information Godwin Ugbo called the report a "wild allegation" by the AFRC, intended to curry favour with western countries. Nigeria has no interest in Sierra Leone other than the restoration of peace and the return to power of the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the statement said. Ugbo said ECOMOG is still in the process of a military build-up in Freetown while negotiations for a peaceful settlement are underway, implying that if talks fail ECOMOG might intervene militarily to restore the Kabbah government.
17 June: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma was sworn in as head of state Tuesday in a low key ceremony performed by Chief Justice Samuel Beccles Davies. In a short speech, Koroma pledged to work toward restoring democracy in Sierra Leone. "We are committed to bringing this country to lasting peace and then eventually to returning the country to a democratically elected government," he said. He called for a "speedy move to get the peace process on the move again." Koroma pledged his government would be "broad based," with all the country's ethnic groups represented.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi has returned from a trip to Ghana, Guinea, and Liberia where he consulted on the situation in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Nigerian state radio reported Tuesday. It said Ikimi had briefed Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha on the outcome of his talks.
16 June: Sierra Leone's military rulers said Monday they have arrested 8 military officers and 6 civilians, accusing them of plotting a new coup. AFRC spokesman Colonel Abdul Sesay said the accused had offered money and rice to RUF commanders in an attempt to enlist their support. The commanders denounced the plot to the AFRC. Those arrested are being held at Pademba Road Prison. Authorities are questioning four of the officers, identified as Colonel Kes Boyah, Colonel Tom Carew, Lieutenant Colonel Jah Tucker, and Major Francis Gottol, to learn the identities of others who may have been involved in the plot. Sesay said another suspect, also a military officer, is still being sought. Two of the civilians have been identified as Sama Banya, a prominent SLPP politician, and Dr. B.M. Kobba, a physician. Those arrested will shortly be brought to trial or court martial, Sesay said.
The national head of the Kamajor militia has rejected the AFRC's call for them to take part in a unity government. "We have no intention of joining the present military government in a government of national unity as they call it," Ibrahim Bangura said in Kenema Sunday. "We are not politicians, we were formed by people at the community level to protect our villages in towns." Bangura said he is trying to keep the Kamajors away from the military to prevent confrontations. On Friday, AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma made a conciliatory speech before tribal elders in Freetown calling on the Kamajors to join his government. "I have considered it important to extend a gesture to our brothers, the Kamajors, so that we will all join hands in the formation of a broad-based government of national unity that will reflect a representative government from all sectors," he said. The AFRC had previously ordered the Kamajors disbanded as a result of clashes between Kamajors and the military and alleged favouritism toward the Kamajors by the Kabbah government. The Kamajor is a militia of traditional hunters, and estimates of their strength vary from 20,000 to 37,000. The army numbers 5,000 and the RUF about 8,000, of whom half have entered Freetown since the coup. The Kamajors are traditionally lightly armed, but many now carry AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, many captured from rebels or soldiers. In Freetown, a military official said the army is mobilising to break a Kamajor blockade of the highway leading to Koidu.
A senior AFRC member said Monday that coup leaders will accept the deployment of U.N. and ECOMOG peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone to disarm combatants and ensure security under any future peace agreement. He said the AFRC has been holding regular meetings with members of Sierra Leone's dissolved parliament, and are close to agreement on a 10-point plan the parliamentarians have submitted. "We are willing to allow the stationing of U.N. and ECOMOG peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone to monitor the peace accord and to disarm combatants and ensure stability," he said. "We are discussing with the former parliamentarians about revoking the decree issued by the AFRC which banned the constitution," he added. However, he rejected the insistence of politicians that President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah be returned to power. "The idea of trying to bring back Tejan Kabbah as president meant that they were not interested in peace," he said. He went on to say that if the peacekeeping idea had been accepted earlier, it would have borne fruit by now.
15 June: The International Committee of the Red Cross began distributing aid to vulnerable persons in Sierra Leone Saturday, where the chaos following the coup has created a food crisis. Hospital patients in Freetown were among those who received food from the Red Cross, which was given access to World Food Programme (WFP) supplies. Most of the beneficiaries, who are located in hospitals, clinics, orphanages and schools, were already being assisted before the May 25 coup. Distribution is being handled by the Red Cross, NGO's and community groups because all WFP international staff and their families, as well as some national staff members, have been evacuated from Freetown. The Red Cross is also distributing seeds and tools to farmers in eastern Sierra Leone. In Freetown, only about 20 percent of shops and markets have opened since the coup, and the price of food has doubled: A cup of rice now costs Le 200. Other necessities such as flour are scarce, and the WFP estimated Friday that supplies of rice and fuel will be exhausted within two weeks. Despite looting of some warehouses, the WFP has approximately 10,000 metric tons of relief food available throughout the country, enough to feed more than 600,000 people for a month. An additional 11,000 metric tons of food belonging to other relief agencies is also available. The WFP is making contingency plans for the rural areas, and is pre-positioning additional supplies of food in Guinea and Ivory Coast for a possible cross-border operation. A reported 100 persons a day are arriving at crossing points on the Sierra Leone-Guinea border. In Freetown, employees are still ignoring calls to return to work, and boys play ball in streets empty of traffic.
Pope John Paul II condemned violence in Sierra Leone and Congo Sunday, and called for reconciliation and a return to constitutional order. "Violence does not cease to plunge some peoples of Africa into the greatest of sufferings," the Pope said. "Only love and respect for persons and the law can ensure a future of national concord and prosperity for all," he added.
14 June: Soldiers loyal to the AFRC clashed Thursday with Kamajors in Eastern Province. 14 people--9 civilians, 3 Kamajors, and 2 soldiers--were killed in heavy fighting in Joru. Survivors fled to Kenema. Military sources said several people were killed in Ngieyema, not far from Joru and about 12 miles from Kenema. No official casualty figures were available. A bus accident Thursday seriously injured a number of Fourah Bay College students on their way to Kenema. The military said it sent more troops to Ngieyema on Friday. The new military governor of Bo was greeted Friday by hundreds of people demanding the restoration of the civilian government. Demonstrators called for and end to military rule and a return to democracy as Major Augustine Kamara drove through the streets in a heavily armed convoy.
13 June: Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings told an AFRC delegation that the military leaders face severe international sanctions which they will not survive. He advised the AFRC to come up with concrete proposals for a political solution rapidly. Communications Minister Kofi Quakyi, who described the meeting, said it involved "a frank exchange of views." Rawlings told the delegation that Sierra Leoneans perceive the army as being as corrupt and haughty as the former politicians, command and control of the army is lacking, corruption has become endemic, and the rebel war has not been brought under control, Quakyi said. The situation has been complicated by the fact that the RUF is seen as having taken control of the situation in Sierra Leone since the coup, Quakyi added. Rawlings suggested that the RUF, which had maimed Sierra Leoneans, and the armed forces, which had been incapable of providing the right type of leadership, had no moral right to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government, even one perceived as incompetent and error-prone, Quakyi said. "Furthermore, he warned that with the current shortage of fuel, food, medicine and other essentials, the government of the AFRC would face the wrath of Sierra Leoneans," Quakyi added. In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan renewed his call Thursday for the coup leaders to step down, saying that the AFRC cannot possibly cling to power in the face of international isolation.
The hotel room in Abjua, Nigeria where RUF leader Foday Sankoh has been detained since March was declared vacant by the hotel on Thursday. No information has been given as to the rebel leader's current whereabouts.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday that it has begun distributing food in Sierra Leone because stocks of essentials have dwindled since the coup. The food will be taken from existing supplies that escaped looting after the coup, and will be distributed in Freetown and in other cities. The WFP has already been feeding people in hospitals, schools, and orphanages in Freetown, but it said thousands more have arrived in the towns in need of help. The WFP said the price of staple foods have doubled since the coup, and supplies of imports such as rice, sugar, and flour have fallen. "Kerosene and petrol are also in short supply, and it is expected that many essential products such as fuel and rice will run out within two weeks," the WFP said in a statement released in Abidjan.
12 June: Hundreds of Sierra Leonean professionals crowded onto the Queen Elizabeth II Pier Thursday, hoping to flee Freetown on a Gambian-chartered boat. Scuffles broke out as the crowed tried to board the Africa Queen coaster, chartered by the Gambian government to evacuate 400 of its citizens. Soldiers attempted to control the crowd, which included doctors, lawyers, teachers, university professors, and senior officials of the state telephone network. At one point, the boat moved away from the quay after scuffles broke out.
Members of Sierra Leone's dissolved parliament met Thursday in defiance of a an AFRC ban on political activity, and adopted 10 resolutions which aimed at the restoration of democratic institutions. Among the resolutions are a guaranteed future for all the military officers and men involved in the May 25 coup, as well as the liberation of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, to "participate in future political arrangements of the country."
Hundreds of RUF fighters have been reporting to Daru Barracks at Daru, in Kailahun District, and are on their way to Freetown as reinforcements against a military strike by ECOMOG forces. The rebels, the majority heavily armed, arrived in Bo aboard a convoy of government buses and tipper trucks (dump trucks). About half the rebels were wearing tattered military uniforms with white pieces of cloth tied around their heads when they reached Bo. Many of the rebels looked to be in good shape, although some appeared sickly and hungry. Some of the rebels were women.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi has once again defended Nigeria's intervention in Sierra Leone, saying that it is his country's duty to maintain stability in West Africa. "It is our duty to ensure that there is peace and stability in our sub-region because if Sierra Leone were to be destabilised, it will destabilise neighbouring countries and would cut across to Nigeria," he said. Speaking of ECOMOG's chances of restoring the civilian government, Ikimi said, "There is always the chance that you will succeed and there is a chance that you will not succeed, but it will not be because we did not try."
UNPP leader John Karefa-Smart said in New York Thursday he is optimistic that a diplomatic solution to Sierra Leone's crisis can be reached. Dr. Karefa-Smart, who has been acting as a non-affiliated mediator, is in the U.S. in the capacity of special envoy to the United Nations, lobbying delegates to prevent military intervention in Sierra Leone by ECOMOG forces. He stressed that he does not support the coup against the civilian government, and rejected allegations that he is allied with either the coup leaders or the RUF. "I despise the use of arms," he said, adding that this applies equally to those who are planning military intervention in Sierra Leone. Dr. Karefa-Smart, who had been mediating talks between coup leaders and ECOMOG, said the Nigerians had imposed a 4:00 a.m. June 2 deadline for acceptance of an agreement or they would begin a naval bombardment of the city. He said Nigerian and ECOMOG commanders have been critical of him for warning the population of the impending bombardment after the talks failed, saying it had spoiled their chances for a "surgical strike." Dr. Karefa-Smart said the Nigerians had indiscriminately bombarded the city, and that it was his patriotic duty as a Sierra Leonean to warn residents of the danger. He rejected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's assertion that the more than 50 casualties had been victims of the RUF, not of the naval bombardment, saying that he was an eyewitness to the events. He confirmed that a number of Nigerian soldiers had been captured by Sierra Leonean troops in the fighting June 2 at Mammy Yoko Hotel after the outnumbered Nigerian troops ran out of ammunition. Dr. Karefa-Smart said he convinced the military to release the Nigerians after pointing out Sierra Leone's obligations under the Geneva Convention.
A number of Non-Governmental Organisations operating in Sierra Leone issued a statement Thursday maintaining their commitment to providing assistance to the country, and calling upon military leaders to return the country to democracy. The NGO's called on the AFRC to "recognise the hardship the people are going through as a result of the deteriorating security situation and to create a secure environment for NGO's to operate." They urged the international community to pressure the military for a return to a democratically elected government, and asked the United Nations to pursue demobilisation programmes at the earliest opportunity. The document, which was signed by Actionaid-Sierra Leone, Community Animation & Development Organisation, Care International in Sierra Leone, Cause Canada, Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, Environmental Foundation for Sierra Leone, Plan International, and the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, affirmed the organisations' support for lasting peace and democracy in Sierra Leone.
11 June: Senior Sierra Leonean and Nigerian military officers met in Freetown Wednesday to reduce tension following fighting near Lungi Airport on Tuesday night. The Nigerians confirmed they had killed 7 soldiers in the clash. The dead, who all appeared to be RUF fighters, were killed when a bus and military truck were hit by fire near the airport. Their bodies were still lying on the airport perimeter on Wednesday. After the meeting, the Sierra Leonean officers went to the army barracks near the airport and appealed to soldiers to show restraint and avoid confrontation with the ECOMOG force. Sierra Leone military sources said the Nigerians had agreed to release a number of prisoners captured during the fighting.
Nigeria confirmed Tuesday that it has dispatched two more warships to Sierra Leone. A navy spokesman said Nigeria's flagship, NNS Aradu, left Nigeria on Sunday. The Aradu is a 412-foot all-purpose frigate armed with surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. The NNS Expe, a fast attack patrol craft, left early Monday morning. They will join the NNS Ambe and the NNS Ekun, already in Sierra Leone waters.
Thousands of demonstrators are reported to have marched in Pujehun, Moyamba, and Mattru Jong to call for the reinstatement of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. All reconstruction projects in the area have come to a halt. The foundations of hundreds of houses which were being built for displaced persons with the help of the Ministry of National Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement are crumbling due to the onset of the rains. Agricultural activities have also been affected. Relief organisations which provided rice seedlings and food were forced to leave because of frequent attacks and robberies at their warehouses and offices.
The AFRC continued Wednesday to increase diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing military intervention by ECOMOG. An eight member delegation representing the AFRC met Wednesday with Ghanaian officials in Accra, and warned the Ghanaian government not to aid efforts to restore the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "Any international invasion...will create serious difficulties," a spokesman for the delegation said. Dauda Suleiman Kamara, who led the delegation, appealed to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Victor Gbeho and other officials for Ghana to use its influence to prevent other African countries from joining in an invasion of Sierra Leone. Gbeho said Ghana would listen to the grievances of the delegation with a fair and open mind before taking a stand. The AFRC also sent UNPP leader John Karefa Smart to New York Wednesday in the role of special envoy to the United Nations, unaffiliated with the AFRC. Karefa Smart will "explain the situation in Sierra Leone" at the U.N. in an attempt to avert external military intervention. The AFRC Secretariat announced that Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha had agreed to meet with a "high-powered delegation from the AFRC" which left for Abuja on Tuesday.
An anti-looting squad summarily executed five soldiers on Tuesday. The squad shot four for trying to rape nuns at their residence in the east end of Freetown and loot the building. Their bodies were dumped into the ocean. A fifth was executed for killing a reporter to steal his camera. The authorities also ordered the arrest of over 700 prisoners released from Pademba Road Prison by coup leaders on May 25. The AFRC has blamed the prisoners for the burning and looting which followed the coup. Authorities said about Le 800 million (nearly $1 million) was looted from the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, which was then burned down.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported Wednesday that Ishmael Jalloh, a freelance journalist who worked for a number of independent newspapers, was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade on June 3 while covering a battle between AFRC and RUF forces and ECOMOG troops in Allentown, east of Freetown. It is believed that Jalloh's body was buried in a mass grave somewhere along with AFRC and RUF casualties somewhere in Allentown. On Monday the AFRC released a statement which made veiled threats of press censorship. The warning followed a For Di People report that the AFRC had sent a diplomatic delegation to Libya. "From the onset, the AFRC chairman expressed support for press freedom in Sierra Leone but it should be understood that sensitive state matters must be cross-checked with the appropriate authorities to avoid misinforming the public and to maintain the good relationship between the press and the AFRC," the statement said. It was reported last week that soldiers had beaten one journalist and had made death threats against a BBC correspondent. On June 4, the AFRC sent students to the home of The Point editor Edison Yongai to request that the newspaper publish articles rejecting ECOMOG military intervention.
10 June: Soldiers and ECOMOG troops exchanged fire for about ten minutes at Lungi International Airport Tuesday with mortars and heavy weapons. An AFRC spokesman said the clash was the result of a quarrel between Sierra Leonean and Nigerian soldiers at the airport, where both sides maintain positions.
Coup leaders are demanding $46 million to step down and allow the return of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, sources close to the AFRC said Tuesday. The money would be reportedly be shared among some 35 soldiers and RUF leaders. This was denied by Director of Defense Information Colonel Abdul Sesay. "There have been no negotiations concerning money," he said. Sesay said there have been no negotiations since talks involving Nigerian and British diplomats and civilian politicians broke down on June 1. He said the AFRC hopes to get the talks back on track and settle the crisis amicably. Sesay also denied allegations by U.N. Ambassador James Jonah that the AFRC is planning to kill opponents in the event of ECOMOG intervention. "It is not true. That's not our intention...James Jonah is not a patriot, he is not a true Sierra Leonean, otherwise he would not be supporting armed intervention in what he calls his country," he said. Sesay said the RUF is "genuinely committed to peace" and stated that President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has been trying to contact coup leaders through UNPP leader John Karefa Smart, although there had been no direct contact so far.
ECOWAS will hold a meeting within one week to discuss the deteriorating situation in Sierra Leone, West African diplomats said Tuesday. "There are consultations at the highest level and it is not out of place for ECOWAS leaders to meet to review the situation for a coordinated action," one diplomat said. The meeting has not been officially announced, but since the shelling of Freetown by Nigerian ships on June 2, Abuja has been saying that it would only act in conjunction with other ECOWAS members.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Valery Nesterushkin said Tuesday that Russia has evacuated 34 of its citizens from Sierra Leone. The operation was undertaken jointly by the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, he said. Nesterushkin praised the efforts of Russian pilots working under contract in Sierra Leone, saying that they had evacuated most of the Russians from Freetown and Koindu, as well as over 1,000 foreigners. He said 20 Russian women and children who are permanent residents had refused to leave, and two Russian entrepreneurs decided to stay as well. A Russian doctor and his wife in Koindu said they would stay put because they did not wish to leave patients without medical assistance, Nesterushkin said.
9 June: Civil servants refused to return to work Monday, despite AFRC warnings that those who did not report to work would be fired. The Sierra Leone Labour Congress advised workers to extend a 15 day strike, saying that the AFRC could not guarantee security or salaries. "The atmosphere is not conducive for our members to give their services and (they) must therefore stay at home," a union statement said. Government employees, company clerks, and factory workers stood outside their places of employment and refused to work, citing non-payment and continuous looting by soldiers. Long lines formed in front of three downtown groceries Monday, while heavily armed soldiers stood by to prevent fights. With food supplies running low, there is no immediate prospect of restocking because many Lebanese importers have fled the country. A senior harbour official said that food supplies meant for Freetown had been diverted to Guinea, where the importers are now. Banks also remained closed Monday. Most of them were burned or looted by soldiers following the coup.
Hundreds of residents headed to Cockerill Military Barracks Monday to reclaim looted goods seized by the army. Sierra Leoneans, Gambians, Lebanese, and Indians looked over hundreds of freezers, refrigerators, computers, television sets, vehicle spare parts, furniture, and other items. A military policeman said it would take days to put other items on display. "We are still receiving tips on where to find looted goods and we are also arresting soldiers and men who are not soldiers but are using military fatigues to invade homes," he said.
Coup leaders are increasing regional diplomatic initiatives in an attempt to secure international recognition of the military government. An AFRC delegation which had planned to meet with Ghanaian officials Tuesday was delayed; Ghanaian officials say the meeting will now take place on Wednesday. A source close to the coup leaders said a delegation headed by Sam Bockari, a high ranking RUF official, left for Libya on Saturday to seek the support of Moammar Gadhafi. This was denied Monday by the AFRC Secretariat, which responded to an article published in the newspaper For Di People. "The AFRC appeals to all media wishing to publish sensitive articles of this nature to check with the AFRC Secretariat," the statement said. An AFRC delegation which met with Ivory Coast President Henri Konan Bedie on Sunday was unsuccessful in garnering support for the coup leaders. "The fact that the president...granted an audience to this delegation does not signify that Ivory Coast supports or even recognizes" the coup leaders, Foreign Minister Amara Essy said. In New York, Sierra Leone's U.N. Ambassador James Jonah pre-empted AFRC diplomatic efforts, accusing the the coup leaders of planning to kill political opponents. "The situation inside Sierra Leone is deteriorating every hour," he said. "My government has evidence that the junta...are planning genocide in the event of what they consider intervention." He said that soldiers had threatened three of his brothers and their families if they did not renounce support of Kabbah. Jonah said Kabbah had sent a letter to Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha saying he would accept an agreement to grant amnesty to the coup leaders and consider their grievances."(The coup leaders) asked for monetary payment," Jonah said. "And they want 18 months in office to loot further. That is all they want to do. It is just shameful."
Gunmen broke into the offices of Chief Justice Samuel Beccles Davies Monday and stole the regalia used for swearing in new heads of state. Also stolen were the Bible and Koran used in state ceremonies, and the gowns and wigs of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court and the Appeals Court. The gunmen ransacked the files, and took away evidence against many prisoners who were awaiting trial or serving prison sentences. They also made away with the Chief Justice's car and other vehicles impounded by the courts. Major Johnny Paul Koroma, who has declared himself head of state, has yet to take the oath of office which must be administered by the Chief Justice. "It is unlikely that the chief justice will swear in Koroma as head of state without his regalia," one justice ministry source said.
8 June: A prayer service for "peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and thanksgiving" held by coup leaders at National Stadium Sunday drew only 5,000 participants--far less than the stadium's 50,000 capacity or the "millions" called for by the AFRC. Many of those attending were heavily armed troops. The meeting was to have been addressed by AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma; instead, a speech was delivered on his behalf by AFRC Secretary-General Andrew Koroma. "It now only remains for me to appeal to the international community to hear the cry and concern of the nation against this imminent threat of invasion of our country, which will no doubt bring more destruction of life and property to our historic city," the statement said. Koroma asserted that the alliance between the military and the RUF had restored peace to the country and that it is now safe to travel anywhere in the interior. Before the service, he told reporters that Sierra Leone is not prepared for military intervention. "Let us agree that the diplomatic option will be the answer to the problem." Koroma once again rejected the possibility of reinstating the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "If President Kabbah was to come back through military intervention he would see a devastated city full of corpses," he said. A delegation led by diplomat Daouda Kamara met with Ivory Coast's President Henri Konan Bedie Sunday to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis. Ivorian officials said the meeting did not constitute recognition of the military government, and Bedie had told them Ivory Coast could not support their action. Earlier Sunday, the Nigerian newspaper Thisday reported that Ivory Coast, along with Libya and Burkina Faso, were backing the AFRC. The RUF, now calling itself "The People's Army of Sierra Leone," has rejected any diplomatic solution. "If Nigerian troops attack the positions of the People's Army we will fight them to the death," rebel commander Captain Johandes Roberts said Sunday. Roberts spoke at Hastings Airfield, which the RUF captured from Nigerian ECOMOG troops on Friday. He said that RUF soldiers had seized the airport after two helicopters landed carrying ammunition. The Nigerians had assured them they were bringing in medical supplies. Roberts said they had captured two Nigerian officers and were holding them at Benguma Military Training Center near Hastings. The loss of Hastings Airfield creates logistical problems for any military strike by ECOMOG, which must now rely on the international airport at Lungi. Nigerian troops are digging trenches at their base two miles from Hastings, and are continuing to fly in more men from ECOMOG's headquarters in Monrovia.
Members of Sierra Leone's dissolved parliament met Saturday in defiance of the AFRC's ban on political activity, and adopted a two-point resolution calling for "power to be handed back" to the civilian government, and saying that the parliamentarians "opposed military intervention to solve the crisis." The resolution was passed unanimously by the 50 members in attendance of Sierra Leone's 80 seat parliament. Some parliamentarians have already left the country. "We the members of parliament unequivocally condemn the overthrow of the constitutionally elected government of Sierra Leone," the resolution said. It also called for the "legitimate grievances" of the military, the RUF, "and all other aggrieved parties" to be immediately addressed. The resolution, which was presented to Director of Defence Information Colonel Abdul Sesay, called for "all interested parties including the Revolutionary United Front to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis through a round table conference."
Freetown remained calm Sunday, but a massive exodus of people continued amid rumors of imminent military intervention by ECOMOG forces. RUF fighters, now renamed the "People's Army of Sierra Leone" reportedly continue to loot the city. The RUF reportedly began moving into Grafton Police Barracks on Saturday. Businesses remain closed, and only the black market is operating. The price of a bag of rice in Freetown ranges from Le 22,000 to Le 25,000; in Bo the price is reported to be as high as Le 42,000. The cost of a taxi in Freetown is now Le 300--Le 500 for longer distances. The leone has fallen in value from Le 860 to $1,330 to the dollar. Barclay's Bank announced that it will open on Monday if there is sufficient security. SLBS announced Sunday that a large quantity of looted property has been recovered, and invited people to come to military headquarters to retrieve it. The AFRC announced the reopening of the country's borders on Sunday, ostensibly because the AFRC wants trade to resume, but also because the closure of the borders has prevented international mediators from reaching Sierra Leone.
7 June: Coup leaders in Freetown called on residents to turn out in force Sunday wearing white shirts to demonstrate against possible ECOMOG military action to end the crisis. Failure to show up, the AFRC warned, would be interpreted as a sign that the city wants foreign intervention. "We are calling all Sierra Leoneans in Freetown to take to the streets in their millions, to take to the streets and demonstrate against foreign intervention," AFRC spokesman Mohamed Kamara said in a statement read over SLBS (state radio). "If Freetown does not demonstrate against foreign intervention, the U.N. and the international community will take this as support, that the people of Sierra Leone want foreign intervention," it added. The statement linked the demonstration to a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, but suggested that the Council would "give the go-ahead for a foreign intervention in Freetown." The demonstration is to start at 2:00 p.m.
AFRC Brigadier Samuel Koroma repeated a call for negotiations Saturday. "We want the international community to come and meet us. All our approaches to them have been blocked," he said. Koroma, who is the older brother of AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma, continued to reject the reinstatement of the civilian government. "If Kabbah wants to return, I can assure you that peace will not return easily to Sierra Leone," he said. Koroma said the AFRC is planning a government of national unity, but that details were not being released to avoid provoking political opposition.
About 100 Lebanese women and children left Sierra Leone by hovercraft for Guinea Saturday. The hovercraft was chartered by the Lebanese community in Conakry and picked up Lebanese who had flown into Freetown by helicopter from Bo. About 1,500 Lebanese and West African nationals boarded the passenger ship Ocean Princess, hoping to escape to Guinea. The ship was chartered by the Lebanese community and the Guinean government. Witnesses reported that a boat left for Conakry, Guinea Saturday carrying more of the civilian government's ministers into exile, including Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama, and Tourism and Culture Minister Yembeh Mansaray.
6 June: AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma said Friday that he plans to form a broad-based government in which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) will play a major part. "They (the RUF) are tired of fighting. We too are tired of fighting. We need peace and we want it now, and we are going to get peace...Our intention is to form a broad based government of national unity fully incorporating the RUF to restore everlasting peace and sanity throughout the country," he said. Koroma said that a return to civilian rule would take at least 18 months. "We want elections but there are problems that we have to solve," Koroma said. Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said in Conakry, Guinea, that he expects to be back in Sierra Leone soon. "I know the people of Sierra Leone are solidly behind me...although we clearly need external help to restore and moreover to maintain law and order," he said. Kabbah said he was pessimistic about the possibility of a negotiated solution. "The coup really was a miscalculation on the part of the soldiers. They thought that bringing in the RUF would bring control and they would become chummy, but they were naive in that respect. Instead the RUF has unleashed a terror that went completely out of control." Kabbah rejected the coup leaders' assertions that his government had increased ethnic tensions and ignored growing discontent in the military by favouring the Kamajors (traditional hunters militia) over the Army. "We inherited a situation where the army was receiving one third of the national budget, which is excessive by any means," he said. "At the same time, we knew we had inherited a very fragile security situation, so we were very conscious of trying to balance the two." Kabbah said that he and his aides are continuing to work on behalf of the country. "We are here working out strategies to get things working again in Sierra Leone; for example, how to reconstruct records for the Finance Ministry and Central Bank, which were both destroyed." Finance Minister Thaimu Bangura and Economic Advisor Jim Funna are both in Conakry with Kabbah. "The people who claim to be in charge now don't have the slightest clue how to run a government," Kabbah said. Kabbah denied that the naval bombardment of Freetown had caused any casualties, blaming instead shelling by Sierra Leone soldiers and the RUF. The AFRC, which is facing the threat of military intervention by ECOMOG, a boycott by workers, international isolation, said it is "appealing to the international community and friends of Sierra Leone to bring the present impasse to an amicable settlement." The AFRC said it wants to renew its commitment to the U.N., the O.A.U., and ECOWAS--all of which have condemned the coup and have expressed support for military action to restore the civilian government. The coup leaders have announced a "national campaign for peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation." AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma will address a service at the national stadium Sunday, to which all Muslims and Christians have been invited. Former members of parliament met on Friday to discuss how to avert a repetition of Monday's shelling by Nigerian naval vessels. The parliamentarians, mostly members of the SLPP, resolved to pressure the AFRC to hand over power to the civilian government.
Freetown was reported calm Friday, but most stores and businesses remained closed. The few stores which open for several hours a day have long lines in front of them. A shortage of cash in the city makes it difficult for residents to buy necessities: The banks, most of which were looted or burned by soldiers and RUF fighters, remain locked. Workers, who have refused coup leaders' appeals to return to work, were warned that there will be mass firings if they do not comply by Monday. "With the supply of surplus labour in the country, replacement can be easily secured," the AFRC warned in a statement read over SLBS (state radio). With no sanitation workers operating in the capital, 12 day old mountains of decomposing garbage are piling up on street corners, causing the AFRC to designate Saturday as a "National Cleaning Day." Heavily armed RUF soldiers continue to roam the streets, looting and harassing residents, despite the AFRC's warning that looters will be shot on sight. Hundreds of people continue to leave Freetown, fearing that ECOMOG might soon resort to military action. A coaster filled with people fleeing the city plunged off a bridge and into a river near Makeni on Thursday, killing some 81 persons. The population of Bo has reportedly increased by more than 1,000 in the past few days.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu has returned to Nigeria to brief military ruler General Sani Abacha on a possible military operation to oust coup leaders, according to the Nigerian newspaper Daily Times. Another Nigerian newspaper, Thisday, reported Friday that Nigeria has increased its troop strength in Sierra Leone to 4,000 and could strike at any time.
Sierra Leone's World Cup qualifying match against Gabon which was scheduled for Sunday has been postponed.
5 June: Coup leaders said Thursday that ECOMOG will have to use force if it wants to reinstate the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Although admitting that Sierra Leone lacks the firepower to win another clash with Nigerian forces, an AFRC spokesman said, "We have nothing to do but defend our motherland." Soldiers mounted guns on bunkers at Fourah Bay College that have not been used since World War II. "We have sent a message...saying that General Abacha must choose between peace in Sierra Leone or the forced return of President Kabbah to power by Nigeria and ECOMOG," Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma said Thursday. "We are not prepared to hand over to former President Kabbah. If President Kabbah takes over again, he will jeopardise the peace that we have been able to achieve with the RUF rebels." Koroma predicted the military will overthrow Kabbah again if ECOMOG restores him to power. He promised that the AFRC would organise elections within 18 months to 2 years "for the people to choose the leader they want." Coup leaders, however, have offered a partial compromise: Kabbah would be allowed to return--but not as president--if the Nigerians release RUF leader Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria. AFRC Secretary-General Andrew Koroma said a six-man delegation headed by Colonel Mohamed Diaby was dispatched to Ivory Coast by helicopter Thursday seeking the assistance of Ivorian President Henri Konan Bedie "to step in to resolve the present impasse between between the AFRC and ECOMOG in order to resolve this situation by negotiations and not by armed confrontation." Colonel Diaby, who served as Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea, was kidnapped by the RUF in March. He was released after the coup. Nigeria called Sierra Leonean troops "rapists and killers" and said that Monday's bombardment of Freetown was just a taste of things to come if the AFRC does not capitulate. ECOMOG Commander Major General Victor Malu termed Monday's fighting "skirmishes which we undertook just to protect ourselves. We were fired upon and we had to return fire and in the course of that we sustained some casualties." He said the real operation to oust the AFRC has not yet begun. Freetown remained unstable Thursday as rebel troops continued to loot the city and harass residents. Armed men sought out and killed two prison guards. Long lines formed in front of the few open shops as supplies of rice ran short.
The United Nations announced the establishment of a Coordinating Unit in Conakry, Guinea Thursday to monitor the security situation in Sierra Leone. The Unit will also prepare an interagency assessment mission to Freetown to assess the humanitarian needs there.
4 June: A high level Ghanaian delegation, headed by Ghana Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho, began negotiations with the AFRC at a secret location Wednesday, while the Ghanaian government threatened to use force should the talks fail. Monday, a spokesman in Accra said that Ghana preferred a negotiated settlement and that Ghanaian troops had not been deployed to take part in the ECOMOG intervention. Ghana's position appears to have hardened about 1,000 Ghanaian citizens were evacuated from Sierra Leone on Tuesday. There were reports Tuesday that Nigerian ECOMOG troops were absent from several key positions they had held on Monday, including the international airport and a strategic bridge. "They've been pulled off," a western military source said, adding that the Nigerians had lost all the positions they had previously held. The AFRC announced Wednesday that it had released 300 Nigerian soldiers taken prisoner on Monday and had returned them to their base. On Tuesday, a foreign correspondent reported seeing 300 Nigerian soldiers detained at Wilberforce Camp. Military sources said most had been captured at Lungi Airport or at Jui, where ECOMOG has a base. Their capture lent credence to reports that Nigerian troops have lost control of the airport. Unconfirmed reports from Kenema Tuesday said a further 100 Nigerian troops have been detained there. ECOMOG sources, which had not commented until after the reported release, said that no Nigerians had been held hostage. "All of our soldiers are accounted for in the two locations we occupied in Freetown," said ECOMOG Field Commander General Victor Malu. Other correspondents reported that none of the captives was ever seen. AFRC spokesman Major John Milton earlier reported that 30 Nigerians had been captured since Monday; another spokesman, Colonel Abdul Sesay, afterwards said they had all been released.
Heavily armed soldiers and RUF fighters continue to roam the streets of Freetown, harassing drivers at checkpoints and looting empty houses--including the home of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Sporadic gunfire can be heard at night. Sierra Leone troops continue to occupy the badly damaged Mammy Yoko Hotel, now completely looted by soldiers. Aberdeen District, which was damaged by a Nigerian naval bombardment on Monday, is nearly deserted; residents have fled to the city center or up-country. All over Freetown, families with bundles of possessions are waiting for vehicles to take them to lorry parks at the edge of town where they hope to find a ride to the interior. The 5,000 Liberian refugees quartered at Jui Camp, which lies between the Nigerian base and positions of Sierra Leonean troops and RUF rebels, have moved to a disused airfield where they are out of the line of fire but lack shelter. "When it rains we get soaked," a refugee spokesman said. Desmond Luke, a lawyer who heads a commission to preserve the ceasefire, said that getting rebels off the streets should be a priority in Wednesday's talks. "The RUF should go back to some barracks and be under their command structure before they are integrated into the regular army," he said. "We cannot allow them to be roaming the streets."
Tens of thousands of Kamajors (a traditional hunters militia) were reported Wednesday to be planning to march on Freetown to fight the AFRC. About 5,000 Kamajors were said to have have blocked the highway between Koidu and Masingbi; some 30,000 more are reported to be regrouping in Kenema. On Wednesday, about 500 RUF fighters joined the Army in Daru. This follows an announcement by an RUF spokesman on May 30 announcing that the Army and RUF had joined to form the "People's Army of Sierra Leone." The rebels joined some 1,000 other former RUF fighters, but are reported to be facing severe food shortages.
Thousands of students may be forced to miss the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams because of security problems and lack of transportation in the capital. Some 3,000 students in Freetown were due to sit the GCE exams this week and next week.
Two French naval ships evacuated 734 foreign nationals Wednesday, including 3 French citizens. A French spokesman said the mission of the frigate Germinal and the light frigate Jean-Moulin was aimed at "evacuating those of our nationals who did not want to be, or could not be evacuated previously, as well as nationals of friendly foreign states who asked for our help." Ghana evacuated 1,000 of its nationals on Tuesday, and Lebanon sent a fourth plane to evacuate a third group of Lebanese.
Reaction: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "If use of force becomes a last resort and is inevitable, it may have to come to that...How they (AFRC) expect to survive I do not know. I wish they would be sensible and cut their losses and walk away." Ghana Minister of State and Acting Communications Director Kofi Totobi-Quakyi: "Both the military and the negotiated peaceful options are not mutually exclusive...The military option has always been on the cards." Zimbabwe President and OAU Chairman Robert Mugabe: "We (the OAU) unanimously and unreservedly condemned the coup d'etat in Sierra Leone as an enormous setback for democracy in Africa." British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook: "At the present time we would much rather see a resolution of this by negotiation....Ultimately, military force may be something that will have to be considered, but at the present time if these people have any common sense they would recognize that they are not going to assist themselves by trying to stay on by force and they are only going to damage other parts of the country." President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso: "The agreements between the states of West Africa do not authorise military intervention to restore a regime or organize a countercoup."
3 June: The AFRC claimed Tuesday that about 80 persons were killed and over 100 injured in yesterday's naval bombardment of Freetown by Nigerian warships. The statement said most of the casualties were women and children. Hospital sources confirmed at least 62 dead. Most of the civilians were killed when shells directed at the AFRC's military headquarters at Cockerill Barracks fell instead into residential areas. As of late afternoon Monday there were reported to have been 10 Army casualties. The AFRC claimed Tuesday that soldiers had captured 300 Nigerian soldiers Monday, including 13 officers, and that the Nigerians were being held as human shields "at areas described as lucrative military targets." An AFRC spokesman claimed two Nigerian tanks were destroyed at Jui Monday. "We were on top of the situation and took several Nigerian soldiers h ostage including a lieutenant colonel," he said. The AFRC also said they had intercepted messages "which revealed that the Nigerian Air Force is planning an aerial bombardment of the capital." The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that soldiers looted the Sierra Leone Port Authority Monday, after demanding that the local security force leave the area. A source in Freetown reported that the soldiers stole cars, as well as bags containing shovels, and bags of salt, flour, sugar, and onions. The looted goods were said to have been loaded and transported to Hastings Air Field, where the soldiers would have easy access to the bush in case of a full scale intervention. A number of soldiers were later reported to have been arrested in Guinea, in possession of 35 new cars with no license plates. Water Key is empty of ships, with only a few small boats in evidence. A statement from the AFRC Secretariat Monday evening ordered all vehicles in the possession of soldiers be taken to military headquarters as a measure to prevent further looting. The statement said looters will be shot on sight.
AFRC forces were reported Tuesday to be firmly in control of the capital as a ceasefire negotiated on Monday continued into a second day. Nigeria continued to airlift hundreds of additional troops to Freetown from Monrovia Tuesday. The operation, which began Monday, is also transporting arms, ammunition, and food supplies. The Nigerians sent at least four helicopters carrying heavily armed troops to an area of Freetown where soldiers and RUF forces forced Nigerian ECOMOG troops to retreat on Monday. ECOMOG field commander General Victor Malu said the Nigerians will bring in jet bombers and more troop reinforcements in order to oust the AFRC. "We agreed a ceasefire yesterday. We hope they will respect it because if not, we are building the capacity to carry on the offensive," he said. ECOMOG received the backing of the Organisation of African Unity for its actions Tuesday. "We resolved to continue to support the ECOWAS action in Freetown and agreed that no one would have anything to do with the council appointed by the coup makers," one delegate said.
Marine helicopters from the U.S.S. Kearsarge evacuated a further 1,261 people from Freetown Tuesday, including 21 Americans, 194 British citizens, and the British and Nigerian High Commissioners and their staffs. The evacuees were picked up at Lumley Beach near Cape Sierra Hotel, as the Mammy Yoko Hotel has become too dangerous as an evacuation point. U.S. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns said Tuesday's action by the Kearsarge was likely the last. "We do not anticipate any further evacuation from Freetown, because we think we've got all the Americans out who want to come out," he said. Britain said Tuesday that it is sending a naval support ship to Sierra Leone. The Argus carries Sea King helicopters and is equipped with a casualty receiving centre. A Ministry of Defence Spokesman called the move a precautionary measure. "The Argus is sailing towards Sierra Leone where she will be on standby," he said.
The AFRC reportedly expanded their Ruling Council to 26 persons on Sunday. Charles Margai, whom the coup leaders named as their Attorney General, is said to have rejected the offer and has gone into hiding.
Reaction: Nicholas Burns, U.S. State Department Spokesman: "We have not taken a position of direct support for the Nigerians. But we do support the ambition, the objective, that the rebels cannot win. They cannot succeed in overthrowing a democratically elected government and installing in its place a bunch of military officers who don't know how to run a country, who haven't been given that mandate by the people of Sierra Leone."
2 June: ECOMOG forces clashed with Sierra Leonean soldiers and their RUF allies Monday following the collapse of negotiations between ECOMOG and the AFRC on Sunday. A Nigerian warship began shelling the west end of Freetown at 6:00 a.m., and the barrage continued for several hours. The shelling killed at least 10 people injured 20 more, according to a Red Cross official. About 150 soldiers and RUF fighters engaged some 50 Nigerian troops guarding the Mammy Yoko Hotel Monday morning, initially wounding four Nigerians, one fatally. At 9:30 a.m. the hotel was struck by the first of four mortar shells. Nigerian troops and hotel security returned fire with rocket-propelled grenades fired from the hotel roof. Fires broke out on the top two floors of the hotel after being hit by RPG's. A ceasefire brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross finally allowed some 600 foreigners who had taken refuge in the hotel to be evacuated. The first attempt at a ceasefire fell apart just as the evacuation was being organised; a second one-hour ceasefire was instituted at 1:45 p.m. During the fighting, several U.S. helicopters approached the hotel, apparently on a reconnaissance mission, but they did not land. A few hours into the battle the Nigerians began to run short of ammunition and their communications with their base at Hastings failed. Nigerian troops were able to prevent their positions from being overrun, but they were forced to withdraw from the area. The Nigerians said they expected had more support from the Guinean air force, but witnesses observed only one Guinean plane drop bombs. At least one person died in the attack and six were injured, including 5 Nigerian soldiers and a British military advisor to the Sierra Leone Army. Unconfirmed reports say that several civilians were killed in the crossfire.
In the early afternoon the Sierra Leone Army fired upon the Bintumani Hotel, where the ECOMOG troops and the Nigerian negotiating team are based. ECOMOG forces have secured the OAU Village residential area, and are restricting access to it as there is a route through the neighourhood to the peninsula. Nigerians and Sierra Leone troops also clashed at Lungi Airport, where Sierra Leonean soldiers had previously held one end of the runway. The Nigerians seized control of the entire airport after a brief exchange of gunfire. The Nigerians took complete control of Hastings Airport several days ago. The rest of Freetown was reported to be calm Monday, and a demonstration called by the AFRC to protest against ECOMOG intervention went ahead as planned. A statement from the AFRC called upon Sierra Leoneans not to attack Nigerian civilians. It said that the new Revolutionary Ruling Council had been unable to contact the Nigerians to discuss the intervention.
A negotiated settlement which would have restored the civilian government fell apart Sunday night when the AFRC announced the creation of a Ruling Council. Ghanaian negotiators reportedly told AFRC leaders that their formation of a government proved they had no intention of giving up power, and broke off talks. Unconfirmed reports say the Nigerians offered the coup leaders $10,000, a house, and asylum in Nigeria if they agreed to leave the country. Nigerian negotiators gave the AFRC a 12:00 a.m. deadline to accept the offer. The terms were rejected by RUF representative Colonel Desmond, who immediately went on the air to announce the Ruling Council. Last ditch talks held late into the night at the British High Commission also broke down. "Each time we reached an agreement, the Chairman was nowhere to be found to sign it," a Nigerian diplomat said. He said the naval bombardment of Freetown was a response to the collapse of the talks.
Reaction: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "Africa can no longer tolerate and accept as fait accompli coups against elected governments, and the illegal seizure of power by military cliques, sometimes for sectional interests." OAU Chairman and President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe: "Democracy must be restored in (Sierra Leone) as a matter of urgency." OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim: The coup is "an unacceptable attempt to defy history."
1 June: Negotiators and the AFRC have reportedly struck a deal to end the military coup in Sierra Leone. "The latest is that a deal has been cut. Everything should be in place in a day or two," a senior diplomat said. The agreement followed preliminary negotiations between the AFRC and the British and Nigerian High Commissioners, which led to a comprehensive meeting on Sunday afternoon. A formal announcement is expected after a final meeting at the residence of the British High Commissioner. Under the agreement, the coup leaders will hand over power and agree to the return of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. ECOMOG soldiers will deploy to secure key points in Freetown and keep order in the capital. Kabbah's cabinet will be reshuffled to address some of the soldiers' grievances. There has been no mention so far of a reported AFRC concern that the coup leaders be given safe conduct and possibly asylum abroad. The reaction of the RUF rebels, who are not a party to the agreement, is uncertain: A serious rift has reportedly been growing between the military and RUF rebels who joined them in Freetown after the coup. A Lebanese businessman Defense Headquarters described the scene as "pandemonium...with no chain of command." He said tensions were running high between soldiers and RUF fighters. Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister arrived in Freetown Sunday to assist in negotiations with coup leaders. In Harare, Zimbabwe, the OAU called on ECOWAS to help restore constitutional rule in Sierra Leone.
At 2:00 p.m. GMT a number of AFRC helicopters were reported to have left Freetown for Guinea. The helicopters were later said to have left Guinea, and presumably returned to Freetown. A unit of Nigerian soldiers came under fire by rebels Sunday in the first reported attack on ECOMOG forces. No one was injured in the attack which took place on the highway between Hastings Airport and Freetown. The Nigerians did not return fire, but their car was riddled with bullet holes, and they reached town with two tyres shot up. "The rebels were chasing our car from a pickup van. They continued firing even after we entered the city. There was panic in the streets, I'll be surprised if no one was hit," one soldier said. An unspecified number of Ghanaian troops arrived in Freetown Sunday to reinforce ECOMOG forces.
The AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma announced the members of his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council Sunday, naming himself as Chairman and RUF leader Foday Sankoh as Vice Chairman. The 20-member policy making body includes three soldiers with the rank of brigadier, four colonels, and several civilians, including the Secretary-General of the National Ruling Council and the Attorney General. Those named include several members of President Kabbah's government, including S.A.P. Bayoh, Chief of Army Staff Brigadier Hassan Conteh, and Chief of Defense Staff Brigadier Max Kanga. Charles Margai was named as Attorney General. The statement said a cabinet will be announced later. The announcement was reportedly intended to reassure the Army's lower ranks and the RUF, who are opposing a settlement. This was downplayed by a western diplomat, who said "We expect an agreement to be reached and if the RUF opposes it, the regional force will go for them."
Talks aimed at bringing a diplomatic end to the crisis are underway between AFRC leaders and Nigeria, with Britain acting as an intermediary. The talks, which are being held alternately at the Nigerian Embassy and the British Chancellery, continued late into the night Saturday and are scheduled to resume Sunday afternoon. "Basically they (the coup leaders) wanted assurances of safe conduct outside the country and possible asylum," said a source close to the negotiations. "The ambassador told them Nigeria would consider their request but could not speak for other countries on the issue of asylum," the source said. The coup leaders reportedly are trying to negotiate a time-frame to hand over power to a civilian government. "We don't intend to stay that long -- at the most 18 months," said Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Koroma. He said, however, that restoring the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is not an option. "We cannot ever accept it," Koroma said. "He has lost all credibility by encouraging tribalism and sectionalism." Diplomats and ECOMOG officers say the RUF commanders have hardened their stance since the coup leaders began diplomatic contacts, increasing the likelihood of a military strike by ECOMOG. Sierra Leone United Nations Representative James Jonah said he believes that Liberians were behind last week's coup. "It is suspected that they are Liberian because when they speak on radio they have a Liberian accent," he said. "People in Sierra Leone are concerned because the people who speak on radio have a different accent from us."
The All Political Parties Association (APPA) issued a statement broadcast over SLBS late Saturday saying "Sierra Leone must be left alone to resolve the present internal political crisis." The statement, which was signed by APPA Secretary-General Victor Foh, "condemns attempts by foreign countries to interfere in the internal affairs of Sierra Leone." The statement applauded "the current peace overtures put in place by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council" and called upon Sierra Leoneans "to embrace the peace the country needs." Foh called upon the defense forces to observe the law and to cooperate with the military, the police, the AFRC, and the RUF in the pursuit of peace. He also called upon Nigeria to release RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who is being detained incommunicado in Abuja. The All Political Parties Association is a grouping which includes all 12 authorised political parties in Sierra Leone.
U.S. Marine helicopters from the ship Kearsarge returned Sunday to evacuate an additional 300 people. U.S. Commander Tom Green said the evacuation was continuing in case U.S. citizens or permanent residents had not been aware of the operation on Friday. "There's always 10 percent who don't get the word," he said. Priority was given to dual nationals, persons working for U.S. companies, and people with children born in the United States. "All those that wanted to go were evacuated," Commodore Greg Ertel said after the operation. 500 people were evacuated to Conakry, Guinea in a boat chartered by the Lebanese community. The boat carried 400 Lebanese, about 50 Indians, and 50 Nigerians. A Middle East Airlines plane was expected to land Sunday to pick up Lebanese residents, but was unable to obtain permission to land. A Ghanaian government spokesman said that soldiers dispatched to Sierra Leone on Sunday would help to evacuate about 1,000 Ghanaians under the code name "Operation Ogyefo [Savior]".