The Sierra Leone Web


July 2001

31 July: The Sierra Leone government will ask parliament for a second six-month extension of its term in office, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told the BBC on Tuesday. The announcement was not unexpected: Last month President Kabbah told the Sierra Leone Web that presidential and parliamentary elections would likely be held next February. The Sierra Leone constitution provides for an postponement of up to six months at a time, with the consent of parliament, if the country is involved in a war in which its physical territory is threatened. Last February the government asked for and received a six-month delay in the elections after the National Electoral Commission reported that the security climate in the country would make elections impossible. "We have speculated that the disarmament of former fighters will be completed in September and the electoral process be put in place," Kaikai told BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana. Some opposition leaders and civil society groups have called for the formation of an interim government of national unity to lead the country to the elections as the price of a second extension. But in the June interview, Kabbah made it clear he would oppose such a move. "There is no provision for an interim government in our constitution," he said.

The RUF will assist United Nations peacekeepers in tracking down Demba Marah, the renegade rebel commander blamed for the massacre last week at Henekuma of at least nine persons, some of them children RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said on Tuesday. But Massaquoi (pictured right) suggested in a BBC interview that the attack on the town might have been in retaliation for a CDF raid last month on Marrah's home town of Yiraia. "After that attack he left Koidu to go and bury his people that were killed," he said. "Among the 28 people that were killed, his wife, his mother, two of his children, other relatives were all killed." Massaquoi said RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay had dispatched a team to the area to search for Marah, and would bring him to Koidu to investigate the charges. "We are all operating under the rule of the law," he said. But the rebel spokesman was vague about what would happen next. "Demba Marah knows very well if you do summary execution it’s against the rules and regulations of the RUF," he said. "You wait and see what the RUF will do, what type of steps the RUF will take against him if he’s found guilty." Massaquoi was critical of the CDF militia, which he blamed for "attacking RUF positions, killing dozens of people, amputating them," and of UNAMSIL, which he accused of failing to act on RUF complaints. "This particular attack at Yiraia was only brought to the knowledge of the entire nation and the world by Human Rights Watch," he said. "We made persistent complaints that they did not accept, and this is the type of result now."

Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande, the commander of the UNAMSIL force, called last week's massacre of villagers at the town of Henekuma one of the worst he had seen. "When we landed in Henekuma and what I saw there shocked me…it went through my blood," Opande told reporters. "I have seen quite a bit of nasty things in war throughout my military career either in action or in peacekeeping. But what I saw in Henekuma really made me feel very bad." But Opande said he believed that the rebel commander responsible, identified as Demba Marah, had acted without the knowledge of RUF leaders. "Prior to doing what he did, he had caused some problems within his own organisation in Kono and he was arrested in Kono and put in or held in some sort of a jail for seven days, and then he escaped from there," he said. The general told journalists he doubted whether the incident represented a split within the rebel movement. "I don’t believe that there is a breakaway faction from the RUF, but there are combatants out there," he said. "It is not only becoming evident to us now, there are combatants and commanders of combatants out there in the bush, regardless of which factions they belong to, who sometimes don’t take instructions from their organisation. And I think Demba Marah is one of those who has been a bad boy, and that he has done what he has done without any instructions at all from his higher leadership or support of any major factions that you can term as breakaway."

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has lashed out against allegations made last week by Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman (pictured left), who accused the U.N. of deliberately dragging its feet in disarming combatants in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District. Norman is also the National Coordinator of the pro-government Civil Defence Forces Militia. In a statement read out on Tuesday, a UNAMSIL spokesperson noted that U.N. peacekeepers had initially attributed the difficulties in disarming CDF militiamen in Kono to a wide gap in communications between the combatants on the ground and the central CDF leadership in Freetown. "During that initial difficult period in the Kono disarmament operation, the CDF Kono combatants always insisted on receiving instructions from their own local leaders and chiefs. They had accused the CDF National Coordinator, Chief Hinga Norman, of having long ceased to supply them with their requirements," the spokesperson said. "If, therefore, Chief Norman did not know what was happening on the ground in Kono, it is not surprising. He has been to the district only once in May 2001 under considerable pressure from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, pictured right), who took him along in a UNAMSIL helicopter. To UNAMSIL’s amazement, his visit did not help, as the CDF combatants made it clear they would not, and in fact did not, take instructions to disarm from him. It is important to bring out these facts in view of the continuous unjustified attacks on the UNAMSIL approach to disarmament in Kono. The results being achieved have fully justified that approach. UNAMSIL will continue to pursue its task with strict impartiality as is expected of it."

997 CDF combatants have disarmed to date in Bonthe District, a stronghold of the pro-government militia, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Tuesday. 789 combatants turned over their arms to U.N. peacekeepers at Mattru, and 208 on Bonthe Island and peninsula. In Kono District, the pace of disarmament has picked up, with 910 CDF and 752 RUF combatants having given up their weapons through Monday. The U.N. attributed the improved rate of disarmament and the cessation of ceasefire violations to the involvement of Kono chiefs and elders.

Canada announced Tuesday it would contribute $2.25 million (US $1,450,000) over three years for the creation of a Special Court for Sierra Leone. "Accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is an important part of Canada's human security agenda," Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley (pictured left) said in a statement. "By creating a venue for holding individuals accountable, the Special Court will help to break the cycle of conflict and lay the foundation for the promotion and protection of human rights in Sierra Leone." Maria Minna, Canada's Minister for International Cooperation (right), stressed that the court would strengthen Sierra Leone's legal system, which she called essential to the establishment of peace and security in the region. "The establishment of the Special Court will also send a powerful message, both in the country and internationally, that impunity will not be tolerated," she said. The Canadian contribution includes $1.5 million over three years from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and $750,000 over two years from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Part of these funds will be used to send Canadian experts to the court to contribute to the rebuilding of the rule of law in Sierra Leone.

The European Union has appointed Hans Dahlgren, currently State Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as the European body's Special Envoy to the Mano River Union states of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Monday. During his six-month assignment, Dahlgren will be responsible for framing a coordinated EU policy on the three countries, which will include measures aimed at alleviating the serious humanitarian and political situation in the area. In addition to maintaining close contact with the leaders of the three countries, Dahlgren will be promote cooperation and the exchange of information with the United Nations and ECOWAS, the EU statement said. Earlier this year, Dahlgren headed an EU delegation which toured the region.

30 July: Some 200 former members of the Revolutionary United Front and the pro-government Civil Defence Forces militia began military training on Monday at the Benguema Training Centre outside Freetown, as the first step towards integrating them into the country's restructured army, the Voice of America reported. Sierra Leone Army Media Operations Director Major John Milton was quoted as saying that the majority of this first group of trainees consisted of former rebel fighters.

Illicit diamond mining is continuing in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District, despite an agreement reached earlier this month between government and RUF representatives to halt all mining activities in the district in a bid to hasten the disarmament of combatants, Radio France International reported on Monday. Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Swarray Deen was quoted as saying that it was the responsibility of United Nations peacekeepers to monitor and enforce the ban. This was disputed by UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki, who insisted that the U.N.'s mandate was to keep the peace — not to protect the diamond mining areas.

29 July: Nigeria's Super Eagles recorded a convincing 3-0 win over Ghana Sunday, capping a comeback for the Nigerian side from what appeared earlier this year to be near-certain elimination, and securing a spot in next year's World Cup finals. Had Nigeria lost or only drawn, Liberia's 1-0 victory over Sierra Leone earlier this month would have been enough to keep the Lone Stars at the top of Group B, and would have meant a first-ever World Cup appearance for the Liberians. Nigeria, with Cameroon, South Africa, Tunisia and Senegal, will now represent Africa at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and Korea. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone lost to Sudan 3-0 at Obdurman Sunday in a meaningless World Cup qualifying game. The Leone Stars, with just one win and one draw in eight tries, end the series mired in last place in Group B with four points, behind Nigeria with 16, Liberia with 15, Sudan with 12, and Ghana with 11. Other results: Madagascar 1, Congo 0;  Angola 1, Togo 1; Ivory Coast 1, Democratic Republic of Congo 2; 

55 Guinean civilians freed by Sierra Leone's RUF rebels have returned home with accounts of maltreatment, rapes and death at the hands of their captors, BBC Conakry correspondent Alhassan Sylla reported on Sunday. The freed captives, including 20 children, had been abducted during rebel raids into southern Guinea earlier this year, and some had been in rebel hands for as long as six months. "Many of the women were brave enough to tell reporters that they had been raped, while the men said that they had been forced to undertake extremely hard chores," Sylla said. Among those freed was a sub-prefect of Gueckedou, who told reporters that at least 11 of the captives had died while in RUF captivity, and that a number of children had also died of hunger and malnutrition. 

28 July: A renegade band of RUF rebels under the command of Demba Marah has been blamed for last week's attack on the village of Henekuma in the Koinadugu District, UNAMSIL said on Saturday. Villagers told UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande and deputy force commander Major-General Martin Agwai, who with other senior United Nations officials visited the town on Friday, that 22 people had been killed in the July 19 attack. Only nine bodies of adults and children were visible, however. Approximately 25 homes were destroyed in the attack. Opande urged the families and CDF combatants not to seek to avenge the attack, and pledged that UNAMSIL would have the culprits hunted down and punished. Acting on information provided by village residents, Opande flew to the town of Yiraia in an attempt to locate Marah. Upon arrival, he discovered the village in the hands of CDF militiamen who captured it from the rebels on Thursday. Opande returned to Freetown with a CDF combatant who had been captured, tortured, and subsequently freed by the RUF.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Aiah Abu Koroma and UNAMSIL deputy force commander Major-General Martin Agwai visited the CDF-held village of Masundu and the RUF-held town of Njaiama Nimikoro on Friday, to continue disarming combatants in Kono District as had been agreed in meetings between the two sides. According to UNAMSIL, 82 RUF and 128 CDF combatants were disarmed at the two locations. 

27 July: RUF officials in Kono District complained Wednesday that one of their local commanders, Colonel Momoh Rogers, and his bodyguards had been abducted by the CDF, and that as a result they were slowing down the pace of their disarmament until Rogers was released, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Friday. UNAMSIL's force commander and deputy force commander left Freetown Friday morning for Kono in an effort to lessen tensions between the two sides and to resolve issues hindering disarmament in the district. Meanwhile, disarmament in the diamond-rich district is continuing. On July 19, 67 RUF combatants led by RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay (pictured left) disarmed at Koeyor on the eastern outskirts of Koidu, while 16 CDF disarmed in the town of Masundu Kongoteh. On Monday, 39 RUF rebels and one CDF combatant disarmed. On Tuesday, 129 CDF combatants, including Sector Commander Gbogbon, handed over their weapons at Njagbwema Fiama and at Masundu Kongoteh. 23 RUF combatants were disarmed on the same day. On Wednesday, 109 CDF combatants disarmed at Njaiama Sewafe in what was to have been a simultaneous disarmament exercise, while another 60 CDF disarmed at the Njagbwema-Meiyor axis. 36 RUF combatants also handed over their guns. On Thursday, 27 RUF disarmed, while four CDF surrendered their weapons at Kayima and one at Worodu, both in Sandor Chiefdom. Since July 2, a total of 304 RUF and 454 CDF combatants have disarmed in Kono District, while in Bonthe, a stronghold of the pro-government militia,  813 CDF have disarmed  — 190 on Bonthe Island and the peninsula, and 623 in Mattru.

The CDF has complained to United Nations peacekeepers that RUF rebels attacked the village of Henekuma in Koinadugu District on July 19, killing twelve persons, a UNAMSIL spokesman said on Friday. A U.N. air reconnaissance on Thursday confirmed that the village was deserted and that many of the structures had been burnt. UNAMSIL force commander Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande (pictured left) will visit the area Friday, along with representatives of the CDF and RUF and members of UNAMSIL's Human Rights Section, to investigate the report.

[Sports Feature by Andrew Masuba in Freetown, for the Sierra Leone Web] The race for the championship in Freetown's Premier League is intensifying with the end of its season fast approaching. Old Edwardians, with 15 points, battled it out at the National Stadium Friday with Wellington People, who trail with 12. Old Edwardians, the "May Park Boys," started play with a good possession, deploying a 4-4-2 formation.  Wellington People too used a similar system of play.  Both sides showed good ball possession, with shots on goal.  Offsides occurred one after the other from both teams. 

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 1800 / 2100 [£] 2300 / 2900. Commercial Bank: [$] 1850 / 2050. [£] 2590 / 2870. Frandia: [$] 2180 / 2250 [£] 2900 / 3100. Continental: [$] 2200 / 2320 [£] 2900 / 3100. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2250 / 2270 [£] 2900 / 3000.

26 July: The foundation of a Special Court mandated to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes committed during the Sierra Leone conflict could be in place within three months, according to Ralph Zacklin, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs. Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council approved new recommendations by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and said it would dispatch a team to Freetown to begin setting up the court. "We don’t have an exact date, but the next steps would involve the conclusion of an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone, and following the conclusion of the agreement we will have a planning mission that will go to Sierra Leone and discuss with the authorities there all the issues relating to the practical implementation of this proposal," Zacklin told Radio France International. "We would hope to have the advance elements of the court itself — the nucleus of the prosecutor, registrar and so forth — in place in Freetown sometime within the next two or three months."

On Wednesday, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi expressed concern that the United Nations' proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone might engage in a "witch hunt" against rebel leaders, and he complained that the U.N. had so far failed to explain to the RUF how the court would operate. But on Thursday, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley (pictured left) insisted that the rebel group in fact welcomed the establishment of the court. "The RUF has always maintained that it is really not afraid of the Special Court in the sense that it believes that the Special Court would be impartial, would be fair, and would justly try all those that have been accused of atrocities during the period in question," Golley told Radio France International. "The RUF believes by this a lot of the misconceptions and the perceptions about them would be removed in terms of the negative perceptions that have been going around the world." Golley noted, however, RUF concerns that testimony given before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — due to operate alongside the Special Court — might be used as evidence in the court, and he said the rebel group was seeking clarification on the question. Golley insisted that the RUF would not seek to shield suspects from the tribunal. "The RUF would not stand in the way of any suspects in terms of their actually appearing before the court," he said. "We’ll do everything possible to cooperate with the court, and do everything that it can to ensure that justice is not only done, but is seen to be done."

The process of setting up a war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone should begin immediately, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya said on Thursday, dismissing a suggestion that the establishment of the Special Court now might jeopardise the disarmament process. "On the contrary, I think it will accelerate the peace process," he told Radio France International. "You should realise that a lot of atrocities (were) caused, and the rest of society also is interested in having justice meted to those who are principally responsible. And I believe if you talk to many of the combatants all around they will tell you that they were put to this — You know, somebody else was responsible. Many of them were abducted and forced into fighting and committing atrocities." Dumbuya stressed that the court's jurisdiction covered only those deemed as most at fault for crimes committed during the country's civil war. "The war crimes tribunal is aimed at the leadership — the people who were in responsible positions for the atrocities that were caused," he said. "It’s not aimed for the entire combatants, wherever they might be, RUF, CDF or what have you, because there is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the rest of the combatants." Dumbuya added that if the court were "misconstrued as a witch hunt" against a wide range of combatants, "it could have very negative repercussions." Dumbuya rejected a suggestion that the court should be set up only after disarmament in the country was complete. "When you say after disarmament, when?" he asked. "We have a target date of November this year to finish disarmament. Some people will still say it’s too early. So really, it is a question of the people understanding that the majority of the people will be reconciled with one another. But those who plotted, who led, who coordinated this whole plot against the rest of the country should be brought to book, and I think we’re unanimous on that."

79 child ex-combatants with the RUF were returned to their families in Kailahun on Tuesday, after having spent six weeks in an interim care centre at Daru, UNAMSIL said in a statement. The 79 were among 234 children turned over by the RUF on June 4 and 9. Although child combatants, many had been living with their parents or relatives in Kailahun. At Daru, the children received psycho-social counseling, and participated in educational and sports activities with other separated children. They also received medical screening and treatment for problems including severe malaria, hernia, shrapnel wounds, and the effects of sexual violence. 

A United Nations mission is in Liberia this week to undertake a preliminary assessment of the potential humanitarian, social and economic impact on the Liberian population of additional sanctions, a U.N. spokesman said in New York on Thursday. Earlier this year, the U.N. Security Council imposed a range of sanctions on Liberia, including a broadened arms embargo, a ban on diamond sales, and an international travel ban on senior government officials, in an effort to pressure the Liberian government to abandon its support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. A U.N. panel of experts is currently assessing the possibility of additional sanctions. The three-member mission includes members of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Meanwhile, Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan complained Thursday about the Liberian Sanctions Committee's decision not to grant a waiver to the travel ban to allow him to attend the World Cup qualifying match in Freetown between Liberia and Sierra Leone. Captan insisted that the football match was not the primary reason for the proposed visit. "Rather it provided an opportunity for confidence-building and dialogue," he said.

Sweden announced Thursday it would donate SEK 6 million (about $566,000) to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund to help support the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Sierra Leone. The Swedish government previously pledged SEK 3.5 million ($330,000) toward the establishment of a Special Court to prosecute those most responsible for war crimes committed during the Sierra Leone conflict.

25 July: One day after the United Nations Security Council announced it was prepared to move to establish a Special Court to try those responsible for war crimes committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa insisted that the timing of the U.N.'s announcement should not affect efforts to bring the war to an end. "The jurisdiction given to the court covers very, very few: those with the greatest responsibility for the crimes and atrocities that were committed in Sierra Leone," Berewa told the BBC. "And the court has defined these as a very small group of people — not yet named, of course. But the vast majority of those who have been involved in the war have been armed and we are hoping they will go through another process, that is, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There’s nothing wrong about the timing at all." Berewa said the the RUF was, in fact, supporting the establishment of the court. "The RUF and the other combatants are all very anxious that the court be set up, because they want to use the court as a means of vindicating themselves where they may," he said. "They have expressed a desire that the court be set up as quickly as possible." In a separate interview on Wednesday, Berewa told the Reuters news agency that the Special Court would not target only rebel leaders. Those deemed most responsible for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone could include members of the former AFRC military junta, "civilians in top positions during the ten-year war," and even members of the pro-government CDF militia, he said. "Many people think that the approval of the special tribunal by the Security Council is specifically aiming at the RUF alone," Berewa told Reuters correspondent Christo Johnson. "This is not so. There are going to be investigators who will carry out investigations on people to determine who will face trial. It could be Mr. Berewa himself as attorney general, or any other citizen."

RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said Wednesday the rebel group was concerned that the proposed Special Court being set up to try those deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes in Sierra Leone would lead to a "witch hunt" against RUF leaders. "The RUF heard the Attorney-General, Mr. Solomon Berewa, saying this morning that the RUF is very eager to have the court set up, which is a complete fabrication," Massaquoi said in a BBC interview. "The RUF combatants remain in support of the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) which they signed in Lomé (the Lomé Peace Accord) in July 1999." Massaquoi alleged that the United Nations had already compiled a list of persons who would be charged before the court. "In the last meeting in Bo (July 17), the RUF learned that the U.N. have already recorded 14 names on which basis of selection we do not know," he said. "These criteria need to be explained, even though I have not heard any combatants saying no to it as long as it is generally done." Massaquoi complained that the United Nations had not yet explained to the RUF how the court would work. "Until United Nations sits down with the RUF to clearly explain how this type of court will be set up, then the RUF will be in position to speak as to what their position is," he said.

The Sierra Leone government will increase its efforts to provide for the welfare of those serving in its armed forces, President Kabbah pledged on Tuesday. "Every effort will be made to provide proper housing facilities and working environment will be provided for all ranks," he told newly-trained members of the Sierra Leone Army's 2nd Battalion the Light Infantry at a passing-out ceremony at Benguema. The president also promised that, in addition to "training and retraining," soldiers would be given the capacity to help meet their obligations to their families. Looking to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, Kabbah called on the military to provide "a secure and safe environment" for Sierra Leoneans to exercise their democratic rights. He warned, however, that members of the military are barred from engaging in partisan politics. "Their neutrality and impartiality in this matter should be above board," he said. "Their loyalty should be to the state and institutions of the state."

24 July: Some 600-700 members of the Sierra Leone Police will begin to deploy in the rebel-held towns of Makeni and Magburaka starting August 1, under an agreement reached on Monday, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said in Freetown. The agreement was reached at a meeting in Makeni between RUF officials and a delegation headed by U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Governance and Stabilisation Alan Doss and Police Inspector-General Keith Biddle. The deployment, scheduled to begin simultaneously in the two towns, is expected to take about a week. The police force would include members of the SSD, but their weapons would be locked up and used only for self-defence, the spokesperson said. Mechanisms are being set up to ensure a smooth deployment and functioning of the force, including the establishment of a community Safety and Security Committee. The meeting also addressed related issues such as the imposition of a curfew if necessary, and the referral of suspects to the Magistrates Court in Port Loko. The two sides also discussed the recruitment of candidates into the Sierra Leone Police force.

The United Nations Security Council has welcomed new proposals by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a Special Court in Sierra Leone, and will dispatch a delegation to Sierra Leone to begin setting up the court, mandated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes against humanitarian law committed since November 1996, Council President Wang Yingfan of China said in a letter on Tuesday. Council members will press donor nations to expedite transfer of contributions to a trust fund what has been set up to fund the court, he said.

A total of 369 combatants have disarmed in Kono District since July 2, including 218 RUF and 151 CDF militiamen, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Tuesday. In Bonthe District, 679 CDF combatants have disarmed, 149 on Bonthe Island and peninsula, and 529 at Mattru. The Joint Monitoring Committee which was established at last week's meeting of the Tripartite Committee on DDR in Bo has agreed to send mobile disarmament teams to areas of recent alleged attacks, the spokesperson said. The teams will be under the direction of Deputy UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Martin Agwai and RUF and CDF leaders. 

Atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone's Kono and Koinadugu Districts have risen to the highest level in several months, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. Victims and witnesses described attacks by nominally pro-government Donso militiamen in June and July against the RUF-controlled towns of Worodu, Yiraia, Sukudu and Mansofinia. At least 24 civilians, including nine women and nine children, were killed in the four attacks documented by the human rights group. Some 19 more civilians, including 11 children, were injured. On June 17, members of the militia killed at least 21 civilians in the town of Yiraia. In apparent retaliatory attacks in June and early July on the towns of Porpon, Hermakono, Bumbanja, Dombadu and Samadu, RUF rebels killed at least three children, wounded several other civilians, and abducted 16 persons including five children. Witnesses said many villages had been burned and looted by combatants on both sides, and that hundreds of residents had been displaced by the attacks, which took place from mid-June to the second week in July. Human Rights Watch quoted witnesses as saying many of the CDF militiamen involved in the attacks were, until last April, based in refugee camps in Guinea or along the border area.

22 July: Solomon Y. B. Rogers, the chairman of the RUF's People's War Council, died in custody on Friday, according to reports by the Associated Press and Reuters which quoted a senior official at Freetown's Pademba Road Prison. "Just a few days ago he complained of hypertension and malaria and he was admitted to hospital, where he died after a short illness," the official was quoted as saying. Rogers was 69. A former civil servant and reportedly one of the original members of the RUF, Rogers served in 1997as Secretary of State for Lands and the Environment during the short-lived AFRC military junta. In 1999 he was part of the RUF delegation which negotiated the Lomé Peace Accord with the Sierra Leone government. Rogers was jailed in May 2000 after the rebels resumed hostilities and abducted more than 500 United Nations peacekeepers. RUF leaders have repeatedly expressed concern in recent months over reports of deaths among RUF detainees, and in early July the government acknowledged that seven RUF members had died in prison.

[Sports Feature by Andrew Masuba in Freetown, for the Sierra Leone Web.] Tension mounted with arguments and discussion as soccer fans rushed towards the National Stadium in Freetown Sunday for the battle of the giants: Mighty Blackpool vs. East End Lions. Fans were excited as both teams paraded quality players. Blackpool started play with very cool teamwork, deploying the 4-4-2 formation. Similarly East End Lions used the same formation. In the first five minutes, No. 10 for Mighty Blackpool, Serey Turay, dribbled past two defenders with a shot that hit the goalkeeper. Blackpool in good spirit exhibited good football with brilliant passes, nice dribbling and good ball control. The East End Lions, too, executed similar skills but with less composure. In the 18th minute, Lions Defender Mustapha Bangura brought down sensational Blackpool striker Serey Turay (alias Belay Belay) and referee Sanosie Rashid awarded a direct free kick. The shot, taken by No 2 Junior Foday, swerved around the wall to put Blackpool in the lead. Mighty Blackpool 1, East End Lions 0.  

21 July: Sierra Leone has welcomed the outcome of a United Nations conference aimed at curbing the global proliferation of illicit weapons, especially in zones of conflict. At the end of Friday's session, which lasted into the small hours of Saturday morning, delegates to the conference called on governments to regulate the sale of light arms and make it easier to track the movement of such weapons. The delegates also called for the disarming of combatants at the end of a conflict, the destruction of small arms stockpiles, and public awareness campaigns on the danger of the illicit arms trade. "Efforts to deal with this problem did not begin with this conference, nor will they end with the conclusion of our two-week meeting," said Ambassador Sylvester Rowe (pictured left), Sierra Leone's Deputy Permanent Representative for Political Affairs. "As a result of our deliberations here, old attitudes to and perceptions about the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons will never be the same again. We are forging ahead. There is no turning back." Rowe pointed to a new commitment by those governments present at the conference to intensify their efforts in dealing with various aspects of the arms proliferation problem, including the marking, transfer, brokering, stockpiling, possession, and financial and technical assistance to deal effectively with this scourge. In a veiled reference to the United States, which opposed provisions that would have limited the rights of individuals to own guns and prevented governments from selling weapons to rebel groups, Rowe stressed that "even those who found it difficult to go along with the overwhelming majority of us on two key issues have got the message." Even though African countries are the most seriously affected by the illegal arms trade, Rowe told the conference, Africans are not the only victims. "We must remember that the battlefields where these weapons are used these days are not only found in the rebel-infested bushes of Sierra Leone, Angola and other so-called conflict areas, but also in urban centres of non-conflict areas," he said. "To be more specific, even in schools -- places where our children are nurtured, where our future is moulded, since we all recognise that children are indeed the future of every nation."

[Sports Feature by Andrew Masuba in Freetown, for the Sierra Leone Web.] Despite some showers of rain, soccer fans rushed towards Freetown's National Stadium Saturday to witness the football match between F.C. Kallon and Wellington People in the ongoing Sierra Leone Amateur Football Association Premier League. The premier league comprises ten teams, of which the last two will be relegated to division one. Play started at 4:30 p.m., with Wellington People on the ball. 

20 July: Disarmament resumed in Kono Thursday as 67 RUF and 16 CDF combatants handed over their weapons to U.N. peacekeepers at locations on the outskirts of Koidu, UNAMSIL said on Friday. The disarmament exercise began during a visit to the area by UNAMSIL deputy force commander Major-General Martin Agwai, RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay (pictured left), RUF Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley, and a delegation of Kono paramount chiefs and Donso commanders led by P.C. Abu Mbawa Kongoba II of Mafindor Chiefdom. Following discussions the previous day between RUF, CDF and U.N. officials, it was agreed that disarmament would begin in areas where there had been tension between the two sides since Monday. Agwai was due to return to Kono on Friday with representatives from the RUF and the CDF in order to continue the disarmament exercise.

Shelling and attacks helicopter gunship attacks by Guinean forces has caused Sierra Leonean residents and Liberian refugees to flee border areas, the Reuters news agency reported on Friday, quoting aid workers. The aid workers said large numbers of civilians were forced to flee the towns of Koindu and Kailahun on Thursday after raids on nearby villages. 15 persons were killed in one village, according to an unconfirmed report.

A spokesman for the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF) denied Friday reports that the militia was responsible for new attacks this week on RUF positions in Kono. Charles Moiwo told the BBC that when CDF militiamen showed up to disarm, "they have to pass through an area where the RUF are, and the RUF continue mounting checkpoints all over the country...They still mount their checkpoints in Koidu," he said. Investigation by the Sierra Leone Web last month, however, found only two RUF checkpoints remaining on the highway west of Koidu —  at Mambodu (pictured left) and at Bumpe Junction. Moiwo rejected allegations that Wednesday's clash between the two warring groups had been provoked by the CDF. "They did not come into Koidu town shooting," he said. "They went there to investigate. The (UNAMSIL force commander) did not know who shot. Our men were coming to Koidu town to disarm. They were attacked and (the RUF) arrested two of their boys and detained them in prison in Kono." Moiwo pointed out that the two sides had agreed to set up a joint committee in Kono to monitor the disarmament process. And he acknowledged that he was not in a position to comment on the actions of CDF troops on the ground. "I’m not in Kono to tell you whether they are behaving well or they are not behaving well," he said. "When we get report from the committee then I will answer that question."

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 1800 / 2100 [£] 2300 / 2900. Commercial Bank: [$] 1850 / 2050. [£] 2590 / 2870. Frandia: [$] 2120 / 2250 [£] 2800 / 3000. Continental: [$] 2200 / 2320 [£] 2900 / 3100. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2250 / 2300 [£] 3000 / 3100.

19 July: Disarmament is still on track despite new clashes between RUF and CDF combatants in Kono District, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki (pictured right) said on Thursday. "We went yesterday to Koidu to see whether the word of the agreement that had been reached the previous evening had gotten to the combatants, and also to investigate what we were hearing from our troops on the ground, which was that there was some tension in the Koidu area. And in fact we found that there was," Novicki told the BBC. "Some armed elements of the CDF tried to come into Koidu town with their weapons and some shooting ensued between the RUF and the CDF." She said there were apparently no casualties in the incident, but noted that the RUF had complained to U.N. peacekeepers about another alleged attack by the Donso militia on rebel positions at a village on the outskirts of Koidu. Novicki attributed the incidents to a lack of communications. "(The Donsos) don’t have a clear command structure in Kono District," she said. "It takes a long time for word on these agreements to be filtered down to the combatants on the ground, and they’re scattered over a wide area and appear not to be informed of developments that have taken place." She said that U.N. officials had travelled to the area with traditional Kono leaders to "make them understand that an agreement has been reached and that they must commence to disarm." Novicki played down the impact of the of this week's clashes on the disarmament process, saying UNAMSIL was confident the matter would be resolved. "We met yesterday in Koidu with General Sesay, the head of the RUF, and also with some of the CDF commanders on the ground," she said. "Our approach is to, when we come up against a problem, we resolve it and then we move forward."

67 RUF combatants and 17 CDF militiamen have turned over their weapons to U.N. peacekeepers since disarmament resumed in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District on Wednesday, RUF Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web late Thursday after returning from Koidu. "The idea was that we had mobile disarmament to reduce tension in recent days," he said. "So the disarmament was actually split up." Golley said he accompanied UNAMSIL Deputy Force Commander Major-General Martin Agwai to witness the disarmament in areas of Kono controlled by the Donso militia, while RUF interim leader General Issa Sesay remained in rebel-held territory to assist with the disarmament of RUF fighters. "Obviously we were slightly disappointed at the paucity of the CDF’s figures, but we are committed to carrying through with the process and seeing disarmament through," Golley said. 

Following completion of the disarmament of RUF and CDF combatants in Kono and Bonthe, Sierra Leone government and RUF negotiators agreed Tuesday to continue the disarmament exercise in Koinadugu and Moyamba Districts, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki told the Sierra Leone Web on Thursday. This disarmament process will then proceed to Bombali and Bo Districts, followed by Tonkolili - Pujehun and Kailahun - Kenema — in each case pairing districts under the respective control of rebel and pro-government forces. 

Foreign Ministers from eight of the world's wealthiest nations meeting in Rome this week have welcomed recent momentum towards peace in Sierra Leone. "We welcome progress toward implementation of the Abuja Agreement in Sierra Leone," the G8 ministers said in a communiqué. "We call on the international community to support the consolidation of the peace process and the reconstruction program in that country. We call on all parties to cooperate fully with the United Nations and to observe the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The G8 group of countries includes Italy, the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Japan.

18 July: One day after government and RUF representatives agreed to resume disarming their combatants in Kono District, the rebels are again accusing CDF militiamen of again attacking their positions, and are threatening to delay the disarmament process as a result. "We are ready to go by that agreement, but we cannot be disarming and the same time fighting, repelling attacks from the government," RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi told the Voice of America. "The government is playing games, so if they are expecting us to start off disarmament today, it will also continue to be delayed, because those two things cannot go together at all." 

17 July: Government and RUF representatives meeting in Bo Tuesday resolved to resume disarming in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District on Wednesday, with a view towards completing the process in the area by July 31, UNAMSIL said in a statement. In order to allow a smooth completion of the disarmament process, the two sides also agreed to a moratorium on all mining activities in the diamond-rich district effective from Wednesday. Under the agreement, both the RUF and the CDF will dismantle all checkpoints in Kono by the same date. The two sides also agreed that no combatants would be allowed to carry weapons in Kono, except on their way to the disarmament reception centres under the supervision of their commanders. A joint committee is to be established, consisting of representatives of the CDF, the RUF and UNAMSIL, to monitor the implementation of the agreement.

More than 3,000 returned Sierra Leonean refugees have arrived in Daru since the beginning of July, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said in Geneva on Tuesday. Most of the new arrivals came from the "Parrot's Beak" region of Guinea, although several hundred had crossed over from Liberia. Those from Guinea cited the closure of refugee camps and the termination of assistance as their reasons for leaving, the spokesman said. They did not report harassment along the way, indicating that passage through rebel-held areas is now much easier. Some of the returnees were in bad shape, and a number of the children were severely malnourished. Among the new arrivals were Liberian refugees fleeing renewed fighting in Lofa County, and Guinean civilians recently freed by RUF rebels after having been abducted earlier this year during raids into Guinea. The UNHCR will help repatriate them to Guinea, the spokesman said.

Nigeria's Bureau of Public Enterprises announced Tuesday its intention to sell its 40 percent stake in the Sierra Leone-based West African Refinery Company Limited -- part of assets which were seized from the estate of the country's late military dictator, General Sani Abacha.

16 July: Sierra Leone's RUF rebels have released 107 more children -- 62 of them girls and the other 45 their dependent children -- in a brief ceremony held on Monday at Makeni's Wusum Stadium, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said. The children were handed over to U.N. peacekeepers by the Colonel Agnes Manning, the RUF's Commander of Women and Children. The RUF pledged that additional girls would be turned over in coming weeks at Magburaka, Pendembu, Tongo, Kono and Kamakwie. The released children were taken to an interim care centre in Port Loko operated by CARITAS-Makeni. They will later be transported to child protection agencies in their regions of origin for eventual reunification with their families. Monday's release brings the total number of children handed over by the RUF to UNAMSIL since May 25 to 1,170.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has scaled down his request for funding for a Special Court for Sierra Leone, citing a shortfall in voluntary contributions to fund the court for its first three years of operation, a U.N. spokesman said on Monday. The court, which would incorporate elements of Sierra Leonean and international law, would be mandated to try persons deemed most responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law committed during the Sierra Leone conflict since November 1996 -- the date of the Abidjan Peace Accord. In a letter to the president of the Security Council, Annan put the revised figures for the court's funding at $57 million, including about $16.8 million for the first year. In his original request last October, Annan asked for $84.4 million to fund the court for 24 months, including $30.2 million for its first year of operation. As of July 6, the U.N. had received pledges of about $15 million for the first year, and of just $20.4 million for the subsequent two years, Annan said. The secretary-general said he planned to circulate a letter to countries which had made pledges, asking them to deposit the money for the court's first-year costs in a trust fund within 30 days. "Member States have a responsibility to ensure that sufficient resources are available to secure the completion of proceedings against those indicted," the letter said.

The Canadian government announced Monday that it had put into effect regulations designed to implement United Nations sanctions against Liberia, effective from July 12. In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley (pictured left) called Liberia's support for the RUF a serious obstacle to the resolution of the conflict in Sierra Leone. "The Government of Liberia has not complied with the Security Council's demands and the imposition of these sanctions is reflective of Canada's commitment to the United Nations," Manley said. "Canada has also raised the issues of civil and political rights, Liberian government support for the RUF, and the traffic in arms and diamonds, with Liberian officials on several occasions, without a satisfactory response." 

15 July: 93 members of the pro-government CDF militia have applied to join the restructured Sierra Leone Army, Radio France International reported on Sunday. Both CDF and rebel RUF combatants are eligible to be recruited into the military under the terms of the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord.

The Sierra Leone government will remove taxes from anti-malarial drugs, in line with its participation in the international Roll-Back Back Malaria Programme, Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis reported on Sunday. It is estimated that one African dies every 25 seconds from malaria, Lewis said, adding that the disease is estimated to cost Africa some $12 billion a year. Health Minister Dr. Ibrahim Tejan-Jalloh pointed to the increased risk of disease for those who failed to protect themselves from mosquitoes, which carry the malaria parasite. "An unprotected person would receive about 650 to 1,500 effective mosquito bites per year," Tejan-Jalloh said. "Government has decided to remove taxes on nets, insecticide, anti-malarial drugs, and other recommended (items) needed for malaria control."

14 July: The RUF Military High Command has decided to resume its participation in the disarmament process, Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley told the Sierra Leone Web on Saturday, shortly after rebel leaders ended their meeting in Makeni. Earlier this week, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said the rebel group had stopped disarming its combatants in protest over a number of grievances, including recent attacks on its positions by CDF militiamen and the government's failure to release RUF leaders imprisoned in Freetown since last year. Golley said the RUF would instead voice its concerns at next Tuesday's tripartite meeting in Bo between the government, the RUF and UNAMSIL. "Disarmament continues, and we have elected not to hold up the process by suspending disarmament," said Golley, who chaired the meeting. "I pointed out to (RUF leaders) the need to carry through with agreements that we have entered into in good faith. And whilst the grievances that have been expressed I know are very deep-felt grievances, we have agreed that the best way of dealing with these grievances would be through this forthcoming meeting being chaired by UNAMSIL. We want the world to know obviously that these problems exist, and we are asking the sub-region and international community to be more involved in this delicate phase of the peace process."

Liberia defeated Sierra Leone by a score of 1 - 0 Saturday in their second-round World Cup qualifying match, played in Freetown. The victory put the Liberians in first place in Group B, but a win by Nigeria over Ghana on July 28 would send the Super Eagles to next year's World Cup finals in Japan and Korea. Other results: Group A: Zambia 2, Cameroon 2. Togo 2, Libya 0. Ghana 1, Sudan 0. Group C: Senegal 1, Morocco 0. Egypt 8, Namibia 2.  Group D: Democratic Republic of Congo 0, Tunisia 3. Congo 1, Ivory Coast 1. Group E: South Africa 2, Malawi 0. Zimbabwe 1, Burkina Faso 0.

[Sports Feature by Andrew Masuba, for the Sierra Leone Web] It was all day sunny Saturday at the National Stadium in Freetown, which was filled to maximum population capacity as the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone locked horns with Liberia's Lone Stars. It was all the way jubilation as the Leone Stars entered the stadium in the middle of a motorcade. Similarly, Liberian fans jubilated as the Lone Stars team entered, and a big shout went out from all corners as one-time world's best George Weah emerged from the rear. There was great jubilation also for President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as he approached the field for the introduction of players and match officials. Captains of both teams exchanged their countries’ flags as a sign of friendship. Play started at exactly 16:35 hours, with the Leone Stars on the ball. The Liberians seemed confident right from the start of play with brilliant passes, building up their attack right from the defence connecting to midfield and attack. It was more of passes and support. The Leone Stars’ defence seemed solid, and the Liberians could make no way through. The Leone Stars’ attack, on the other hand, showed more signs of individual play than of teamwork. Injury forced Liberia's first change in the 25th minute, with No.10 out and No.13 Alex Brown in. Play was still dominated by the Liberians, with good midfield coordination between Tegbew and Brown. The 40th minute saw Sierra Leone's first change, with No.19 Obreh out and No.18 Aluspa Brewah in. The first half came to an end with level scores of nil-nil. The second half saw more tension, as the Sierra Leoneans now seemed businesslike with Aluspa Brewah putting some strength and power in the Stars' attack. Alfajoh Bah, with a breakthrough from midfield, made a nice lob which Aluspa failed to convert into a goal. There was great applause as George Weah, player and technical director of the Lone Stars, started warming up. The Leone Stars, who were now composed, making brilliant passes and showing good running, again frittered away a scoring chance by Kewulay Conteh. The 59th minute saw No.11 Massa Joe out and No.14 George Weah in for the Liberians. There were tense moments, as Weah's presence seem to reinvigorate the Liberian side. Ten minutes later, in the` 69th minute, it was Liberia taking the lead with George Weah's beautiful header from a corner kick which hit the bottom of the crossbar and landed in the net. In the 75th minute the Leone Stars made another change, with No.4 Hassan Milla out and No. 11 Jamil in. In the 80th minute, George Weah, in one of his deadly moves, took on three defenders but was stopped by a hard tackle from Pasafah. The Leone Stars’ hope for an equaliser was finally shattered when Aluspa Brewah again failed to convert a lob from Alfajoh Bah. It was all the way jubilation for the Liberians as the Gambian referee signaled his last whistle: Lone Stars 1, Leone Stars 0.

Liberia has lashed out at a decision by the United Nations Security Council's Liberian Sanctions Committee to turn down a request for a waiver of the travel ban on Liberian officials, effectively barring Foreign Minister Monie Captan and Finance Minister Nathaniel Barnes from attending Saturday's World Cup qualifying match in Freetown. "The foreign ministry is taken aback by the committee's refusal to give consideration to the Liberian government's request," the Liberian government said in a statement. "The Council's rejection of the government's request runs contrary to the spirit of (the U.N.) resolution...and the search for sustainable peace." In Freetown, Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya (pictured right) suggested that the U.N. decision had resulted in a missed opportunity to reduce tensions between the two countries. "For some time I think the Liberian officials as well as ordinary people have been interested in improving relations," he told the BBC. "And I believe that they would not have only watched the match, but they would have taken I think the opportunity to talk to any officials about improving relations." Dumbuya said there would be heightened security for Saturday's match, but he played down a suggestion that the game could be seen as an extension of the current political tension between the two countries. "The minister of sport has just had a broadcast to the nation asking people to see the match in the context of friendly relations and fair play, and that we should do everything possible to avoid any incidents," he said. The foreign minister also stressed the close historical links between the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia. "By and large the people want to be friendly with one another," he said. "They deplore the actions of their officials. By and large as you know, families live on either side of this boundary and they continue to have relations with one another."

Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley will lead the RUF delegation to Tuesday's tripartite talks in Bo with the Sierra Leone government and UNAMSIL, he told the Sierra Leone Web on Saturday. The rebel delegation will include Andrew Kanu and Patrick Beinda, who are members of the Council, and Colonel Augustine Gbao, the RUF's Chief of Security. "There will be no preconditions at these talks, but we would be using the actual talks as the proper medium to voice our concerns — those that have been expressed by Gibril," Golley said, adding: "Gibril Massaquoi was most concerned about the deaths (of RUF detainees) in custody. The government has international humanitarian obligations towards political detainees."

13 July: Liberia has ignored a United Nations-imposed ban on international travel by senior members of its government with the arrival in Freetown of Sports Minister Max Dennis ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifying football match between Sierra Leone's Leone Stars and the Lone Stars of Liberia, the Associated Press reported. Earlier in the day, the United Nations Security Council's Liberian Sanctions Committee rejected a last-minute request for an exemption to the ban to allow Foreign Minister Monie Captan and Finance Minister Nathaniel Barnes to attend the game -- a crucial one for the Lone Stars if Liberia is to keep any hope of advancing to next year's World Cup competition in Japan and Korea. "We are now sending the Liberians a polite 'sorry-you-are-not-welcome' letter, emphasising that we are going to observe the U.N. travel ban," a Sierra Leonean diplomat told the Sierra Leone Web. In Freetown, the head of Sierra Leone's soccer association said he had been informed by the foreign ministry that the Liberian officials would not be coming. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai agreed: "I doubt it seriously that we will have visitors other than the football officials," he told the AP. But Dennis, who had already registered at a hotel in Freetown, told the news agency he was looking forward to the arrival of his two cabinet colleagues.

A third meeting between the Sierra Leone government, the RUF and UNAMSIL on the disarmament process will take place Tuesday in Bo, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Friday. Between July 2 and 12, only 33 RUF combatants and 89 members of the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF) have disarmed in Kono District, while 145 CDF militiamen have turned in their arms in Bonthe. On Thursday, RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said the RUF had suspended its participation in the disarmament process over the U.N. Liberian Sanctions Committee's inclusion of Political and Peace Council chairman Omrie Golley on a list of those banned from international travel, continued attacks against rebel positions by the CDF, and the detention of RUF officials in Freetown. Golley told the Associated Press on Friday that the rebels remained committed to peace. "But these are problems from the RUF point of view -- issues that need to be addressed," he said.

Sierra Leone's high commission in London owes £66,246 in unpaid non-domestic rates, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told parliament on Friday. According to a Press Association report, diplomatic missions own nearly £1.5 million. At the top of the list is Nigeria, which owes  £339,925, followed by Iran with an outstanding balance of  £105,827.

Two UNAMSIL human rights officers visited Makeni for a second time Wednesday to continue their investigation into RUF reports of attacks on its positions by CDF militiamen in the villages of Masofinia, Yaraiya and Woardu in Koinadugu and Kono Districts, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Friday. The officers conducted individual interviews with victims and witnesses of the alleged incidents and also met with the senior medical officer. 13 wounded persons from Yaraiya -- two men, three women, and eight children -- were admitted to the African Islamic Hospital in Makeni.

135 CDF ex-combatants who had been staying at the DDR camp in Daru since May 29 were discharged on July 6, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Friday. 87 of the ex-combatants left for Koidu by road on their own, while 48 others were airlifted by UNAMSIL to Koidu, chanting "ex-combatants, we are ready for peace, we are no longer going to hold guns," the spokesperson said.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 1800 / 2100 [£] 2300 / 2900. Commercial Bank: [$] 1850 / 2050. [£] 2590 / 2870. Frandia: [$] 2100 / 2250 [£] 2800 / 3000. Continental: [$] 2150 / 2300 [£] 2800 / 3000. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2200 / 2220 [£] 2850 / 3000.

12 July: The RUF has stopped disarming to protest a United Nations travel ban imposed on the chairman of its Political and Peace Council, Omrie Golley RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi (pictured left) told the Reuters news agency on Thursday. In April, the United Nations Security Council's Liberian Sanctions Committee included Golley's name in a list of 15 RUF members who should be expelled from Liberia. Subsequently, the committee added his name to a list of Liberian officials and non-Liberians subject to an international travel ban. Golley previously told the Sierra Leone Web that he agreed to accept the RUF position at the urging of the U.N. and others, and has insisted that his name should be removed. "Disarmament has been delayed on our part," Massaquoi told Reuters, adding that the suspension was also to protest attacks on rebel positions by the pro-government CDF militia and the government's failure to release RUF members detained since May 2000. Massaquoi also said that the government had exaggerated the number of RUF detainees released from prison last weekend. "They only released eight of our people. The others were civilians classed as collaborators," he said.

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan has formally requested that the United Nations Security Council temporarily lift a ban on international travel by senior Liberian officials to allow him to travel to Freetown for Saturday's World Cup qualifying match between Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the Reuters news agency. Liberian Ambassador Lami Kawah said the request had been made to the Liberian Sanctions Committee on on Wednesday. Kawah said Captan had met recently with Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya (pictured right) in Monrovia, and "thought it would be a good gesture in terms of cementing the relationship if he went to Freetown with the football team." Said Kawah: "The whole idea is just to create a positive environment between the two countries." Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's soccer association said it had received a fax from the Liberian government notifying it that an 80-member Liberian delegation would begin arriving in Freetown on Friday. According to the Associated Press, among those listed were the ministers of foreign affairs, sport, and finance. Noting the U.N. ban, the head of the soccer association, Sheka Bangura, referred the matter to Dr. Alpha T. Wurie, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports. Saturday's match is a must-win game for the Lone Stars to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup finals.

As diplomats from around the world gathered in New York this week to debate the problem of small arms proliferation, Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea, Sheku Ba Saccoh, pointed to the role of light weapons in the fighting in Sierra Leone and Guinea. "From the inception of the war in 1991 it was these same small guns the rebels used to drive people from their homes from the Liberian border up to the city in Freetown," he told BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana. "And it was the same small arms they used at this border." Saccoh recalled that when rebels launched attacks into Guinea last year, some 300,000 to 400,000 Sierra Leonean and Guinean refugees were put at risk. "We felt the pinch of that in Conakry here," he said. "About 2,000-3,000 refugees gathered around my embassy. In fact we received some with gunshot wounds. And I tell you, in the premises of the embassy here, ladies were delivering children here, children started to die here. But for some international organisations we would have had catastrophe in this embassy." The ambassador called on the international community to view the problem of small arms proliferation in the same way they view drug smuggling. "The big powers are concerned with drugs more than they are concerned with arms," he said. "Let’s say for example that if a big power gets to know that Sierra Leone is growing cocaine and importing into their own country, they can fight that country tooth and nail -- provide all means to fight that country. We expect this same thing to be applied for small arms, because we know people who are producing it. We know the channels through which they are sending them to kill innocent, innocent village dwellers with these arms...We should not have a double standard about this. If drug is dangerous, small arm is much more dangerous." 

11 July: Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman told a United Nations conference on the proliferation of small arms Wednesday that the conference was not about the legitimate trade in weapons, but about people. "It is about the fundamental right of people, in particular children, not to be gunned down in cold blood by weapons that have been illicitly acquired, transferred and used in the various battlefields," Norman said in his statement. "We must remember that the battlefields where these weapons are used are not only found in the rebel-infested bushes of so-called conflict areas, but also in the urban metropolis of many of the state represented here today." Norman, who is also National Coordinator of Sierra Leone's pro-government Civil Defence Forces militia, expressed concern at the "illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and spread" in many parts of the world, and the humanitarian and socio-economic consequences these weapons have on stability and development. " It is the view of my delegation that the international character of the illicit trade in these weapons, should at the same time, prompt us to develop appropriate international arrangements, including legally binding instruments, to deal with the problem," he said.

10 July: The United Nations will not support any amnesty for imprisoned RUF leader Foday Sankoh or for other rebel leaders guilty of war crimes against civilians, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in Zambia on Tuesday. "We are not party to any plan to release Foday Sankoh and others who have committed atrocities against the people," the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. African leaders meeting in the Zambian capital Lusaka discussed the war in Sierra Leone on Tuesday, along with other conflicts in Africa. Annan recalled that the United Nations had opposed the blanket amnesty which was embodied in the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord, adding that the U.N's position had been that "amnesty could not be extended to those who have committed crimes against the people."

Leaders of the RUF and the CDF militia recommitted themselves to disarming Monday during a meeting in Koidu which was chaired by the UNAMSIL force commander, Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande (pictured right). The disarmament process in Sierra Leone's diamond-rich Kono District stalled briefly last week after members of the pro-government militia refused to surrender their arms. According to a UNAMSIL statement, the CDF was represented at the meeting by the Chairman of the Council of Chiefs, P.C. Samuel Foyoh of Soa Chiefdom, along with Donso militia leader Chief Sansie Kwigba and several CDF officials from Mafindor, Toli and Soa Chiefdoms. Attending for the RUF were Chief of Security Colonel Augustine Gbao and Colonel Bugma. Kwigba said he had met earlier in the day with CDF commanders and combatants at Njagbwema to deliver the message that the war was over and that they should now disarm quickly. He said the combatants assured him they were ready to disarm, but feared being attacked as had happened in the past. According to UNAMSIL, Colonel Gbao (pictured left) urged combatants from both the RUF and CDF to hand in their weapons. "There were no victors in the ten years of war. We only succeeded in killing one another and destroying our country," he said. In Freetown, Opande said the deadlock resulted from the fact that neither side wanted to relinquish its claim to the district's diamonds. "Everybody wants to get his hands in the diamond pits," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. Opande said the situation was also complicated by mutual distrust between the warring sides. "Each one thinks this is planning this or that. So whenever there are skirmishes, the fear and suspicion" are increased, he said. The general noted that both sides claimed they were committed to the peace process. "I want to see what they told me put into practice," he said.

9 July: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Freetown,   together with the Sierra Leone Web, launched a new initiative Monday seeking to reunite hundreds of unaccompanied Sierra Leonean children with their families. The aim of the ICRC programme is to assist families separated by war in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. A list of the families, together with their last known address as provided by the children and contact information for the ICRC offices in Sierra Leone, will be published on the Sierra Leone Web and periodically updated. The information is accessible directly from a link on the website's front page.

During the past year which spanned the collapse of Sierra Leone's peace process and the abduction of United Nations peacekeepers in May 2000 to current efforts by both rebel and government forces to disarm their combatants, Gibril Massaquoi  -- a one-time teacher at St. Paul's Secondary School in Pujehun who rose to the rank of colonel in the rebel Revolutionary United Front -- has emerged as the movement's leading spokesman. At his residence in the northern rebel stronghold of Makeni late last month, Massaquoi spoke for the first time of his early student activism which eventually brought him into the RUF, his views on the conflict, and his plans for the future. "We started our organization in school days," he said. "We met with people, some of them are not alive today. Although by that time a name like RUF never came up to be an armed struggle organization. We started it as an uprising against the dictatorial regime back then, which was the APC...We were rising up against them because of poor government. There were no good health facilities, no good schooling, workers were not paid in this country. Our people could not afford the escalating school fees, and there are a host of other issues. Now, this thing was going on unto 1991, when Foday Sankoh launched our revolution."

Disarmament resumed in Kono District over the weekend, with 34 members of the pro-government CDF militia turning in their weapons, Radio France International reported on Monday, quoting UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki. 

President Kabbah arrived in Zambia Sunday night ahead of this week's OAU Heads of State and Government Summit in the Zambian capital Lusaka, according to the official Sierra Leone News Agency. The meeting is expected to see the transformation of the OAU into a new continental body, the African Union. Following the summit, Kabbah will fly to Lesotho on Wednesday for a three-day official visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries, SLENA reported.

8 July: United Nations High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers called on African nations Saturday to take tough action against those who worsen the plight of the continent's estimated 6.2 million refugees and displaced persons, including bringing them before international tribunals, the Reuters news agency reported. "The tribunals should involve the international and local community, which would then enforce sanctions on parties found guilty," Lubbers said during a visit to a refugee camp in Zambia. He also called for a determined effort to end conflicts in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somalia and Angola. "Africa cannot afford to have the number of refugees increasing every day," he said. "That is why they (African leaders) should be tougher on signatories who break peace plans to make it clear that it is unacceptable to damage innocent people's lives."

A total of 34 RUF rebels detained since May 2000 under Sierra Leone's emergency regulations have been released, Voice of America correspondent Kelvin Lewis reported on Sunday. "No big names were released," he said, adding: "Presently, some 97 rebels are still detained, including the rebel leader Foday Sankoh."

The chairman of the RUF's Political and Peace Council, Omrie Golley, has complained about attacks on RUF positions by the pro-government CDF militia in Kono and Koinadugu Districts. "My understanding is that these attacks are continuing," Golley said in a Voice of America interview broadcast on Sunday. "And if they are, that is of great concern to our movement, and it is an obstacle to the peace process." Golley complained that the government had so far failed to provide offices for the RUF as promised in a May 15 agreement between the two sides, to allow the rebels to transform their movement into a political party. And Golley said that the RUF would like the government to release their imprisoned leader, Foday Sankoh. "There are those within the RUF that feel very strongly that Foday Sankoh should be amongst those that should be released," he said. "However, we have never made it a condition, and I have insisted that it not be made a condition, that one particular individual -- Foday Sankoh -- be released. We’ve never made it a condition in talks with the government, and it is still not a condition for our continued commitment to the peace process. We have shown our people that we’re committed, but however it is very, very important that this issue is dealt with."

7 July: The Sierra Leone government has released 15 imprisoned members of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front, detained since the collapse of the peace process in May 2000, the Reuters news agency reported on Saturday, quoting state radio. No RUF leaders were among those freed.

A spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has dismissed criticism by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, which this week alleged that the agency was not doing enough to protect Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees from harassment from government authorities and civilian vigilantes in Guinea. Based on a fact-finding mission to Guinea in April, Human Rights Watch reported that refugees were often subjected to arbitrary strip searches, beatings, sexual assault and extortion. "We’re very disappointed with the report from Human Rights Watch, because we find that the criticism may have been valid early this year when southwestern Guinea was the scene of repeated rebel attack and UNHCR and other humanitarian groups could not reach refugees trapped in the areas of southwest Guinea," UNHCR spokesperson Millicent Mutuli told the Voice of America. "We also feel disappointed that there is no acknowledgement by Human Rights Watch of the situation of constant insecurity that both refugees and UNHCR as well as other groups have to work in in that region." Human Rights Watch was also critical of the agency for failing to provide adequate security for the refugees. "(The UNHCR) has not put in the required number of protection officers that would make them able to protect the refugees, and many of the protection officers leave very quickly and have very little knowledge of the situation of the sub-region," said Binaifer Nowrojee, who co-authored the report. But Mutuli said the cash-strapped agency simply could not afford the necessary staff. "We would like to provide more protection officers, we would like to have a lot of staff," she said. "However the reality right now is that we are cutting 760 posts throughout the organization because of lack of funds." Mutuli added that donations have fallen far short of the agency's proposed budget of about $917 million. She said that the budget shortfall would mean the closing of eight UNHCR offices in West Africa, fewer schools for refugee children, and a lack of plastic sheeting to build temporary shelters.

Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the United States said Saturday that the international community has already pledged $40 million of the $56 million need to operate a proposed Special Court in Sierra Leone for its first three years -- including a $15 million pledge from the United States. The court, which was proposed last year by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, would be mandated to try those deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sierra Leone since November 1996. "The government of Sierra Leone is very pleased with the way the international community is supporting the Special Court for Sierra Leone," Ambassador John Leigh told the Voice of America. "A lot of money has been contributed, and the United States has been a leader in that contribution. So we’re very pleased with the way the United States is standing behind Sierra Leone and the United Nations." Leigh pointed to several factors contributing to the length of time it has taken the United Nations to act on setting up the court. "It’s a lot of money," he said. "The situation in Sierra Leone is very difficult. There has been a change of administration in the United States, and new policies have to be put in place." Leigh pointed out that the Special Court would try only those most responsible for crimes against humanity committed during the course of the Sierra Leone conflict. "This court is not for every criminal in Sierra Leone," he said. "It’s only for the people with the greatest responsibility. The president has said those who committed very, very serious crimes against humanity should face the proposed Special Court." Leigh said the composition of the court would be determined by the United Nations Security Council. "They are the ones who will be in charge of appointing all the top officials of the court, but our government will have some input there," he said. "But I’m sure we’re going to get the best judges, the best prosecutors, who will see that justice is done in my country."

6 July: Seven members of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front imprisoned since after the breakdown in the peace process a year ago have died while in detention, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa (pictured right) told the Reuters news agency on Friday. He said RUF leaders had been informed as to the causes of death, but did not elaborate. Berewa confirmed that the government was planning to free some of the more than 100 RUF members currently held at Pademba Road Prison, and said he had made recommendations to President Kabbah on which prisoners should be released.

RUF rebels and pro-government CDF militiamen were still refusing to disarm Friday in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District, the Associated Press reported on Friday. "Both sides are playing the wait-and-see game, to see how many will come to the disarmament centres," said Margaret Novicki (pictured left), the spokesperson for UNAMSIL. But both the United Nations and the Sierra Leone government took pains to play down the significance of the halt in the disarmament process. "The government is working to alleviate all signs of obstacles to the disarmament process," Information Minister Dr. Cecil Blake (pictured right) was quoted as saying.

A second demobilisation centre will be opened at the town of Mattru in Bonthe District on Monday to accommodate pro-government CDF combatants wishing to disarm there, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said Friday. There is already a demobilisation centre on Bonthe Island. The decision to open the second centre came as the result of a meeting at the UNAMSIL headquarters on Wednesday, which was chaired by Behrooz Sadry, the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General. The CDF's National Coordinator, Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman, and other CDF officials also attended, along with UNAMSIL's force commander and deputy force commander and Dr. Francis Kai-Kai (pictured left), the head of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR). As of Thursday, 51 CDF combatants had disarmed at Bonthe, including 18 children, while 30 RUF and eight CDF combatants had disarmed at Koidu, in the country's eastern Kono District, the spokesperson said.

Chiefdoms in southern and eastern Sierra Leone will soon receive tens of thousands of dollars from the proceeds of the sale of diamonds in their region, Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Swarray Deen told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on Thursday. "It is government policy to return an amount which is deducted from export fees paid by diamond exporters," he said, adding that 25 percent of the current 3 percent levy would go to the chiefdoms for projects to improve the local infrastructure. "The projects have to be beneficial to every member of the community -- schools, health clinics and community centres," Deen said. The money is distributed on the basis of mining licenses in the area, in order to discourage illegal practices and encourage the legalisation of all alluvial mining. In the next ten days or so, the minister said, 32 chiefdoms in Bo, Pujehun and Kenema Districts will receive some $95,000 as revenue for the first six months of the year. The scheme, which the government intends to continue every six months, will be extended to other diamond-producing areas once they are brought under control. Deen told IRIN that this represented the first time the government had returned diamond money to community development schemes since 1956.

The United Nations Security Council reaffirmed Wednesday the importance of U.N. sanctions in bring peace to Sierra Leone and to the sub-region. In a statement read out by Council President Wang Yingfan of China following a briefing by Ambassador Chowdhury of Bangladesh, the chairman of the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, on the implementation of sanctions imposed last year by Resolution 1306, members emphasised the diamond certification scheme as an essential step in curbing the flow of illicit diamonds out of Sierra Leone. They welcomed reports that the certification scheme was having a positive effect, as measured by an increase in the quantity of diamonds going through government hands. Council members welcomed the establishment of a certification scheme in Guinea, and efforts by ECOWAS to develop a regional certification programme. Members noted that the peace process in Sierra Leone was about to enter a critical phase as United Nations peacekeepers and the government begin to move into diamond-producing areas. They stressed that a successful strategy for managing the diamond fields would be crucial to the sustainability of the peace process and for Sierra Leone's future development.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 1800 / 2100 [£] 2300 / 2900. Commercial Bank: [$] 1850 / 2050. [£] 2590 / 2870. Frandia: [$] 2150 / 2200 [£] 2800 / 3000. Continental: [$] 2170 / 2300 [£] 2800 / 3000. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2220 / 2270 [£] 3000 / 3050.

5 July: Disarmament of combatants in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono District has been temporarily halted after pro-government CDF militiamen refused to disarm without direct orders from the group's National Coordinator, Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman (pictured left), the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday, quoting a senior United Nations official. "We are sure the misunderstanding between the RUF and CDF will end and disarmament will resume in Kono very shortly," the U.N. official was quoted as saying.

A five-member United Nations panel of experts was in Liberia Thursday to verify whether that country was respecting U.N. demands to cease support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, the Reuters news agency reported. "We are here to know how the Liberian authorities are implementing the U.N. Resolution 1343," said Martin Ayafor of Cameroon, who heads the panel. Ayafor also headed an earlier panel of experts on Sierra Leone, which last December accused the Liberian government of providing support for the RUF at all levels. In March, the United Nations Security Council responded by imposing sanctions on Liberia, including a broadened arms embargo, a travel ban on senior Liberian officials, and a global ban on the sale of Liberian diamonds. Ayafor told the news agency the panel was not yet in a position to say whether Liberia was respecting the U.N. demands.

Refugees in Guinea are being subjected to serious human rights abuses at the hands of the Guinean authorities and civilian vigilantes, Human Rights Watch concluded in a new report which was released on Thursday. In the report, entitled "Refugees Still at Risk: Continuing Refugee Protection Concerns in Guinea," the human rights group alleges that Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees are regularly harassed near their camps in Guinea or on the road as they attempt to move through the country to safer areas. At checkpoints, the refugees are often subjected to arbitrary strip searches, beatings, sexual assault and extortion, the report said. Human Rights Watch also documented cases of refugees being tortured to death while detained at Forecariah Prison, southeast of Conakry. Recently, more than 40,000 refugees were moved away from the volatile border area to safer camps in Guinea's interior. Despite this improvement, the refugees' long-term safety is still under threat, Human Rights Watch said. The group noted that refugees have little information about the situation in the new camps, on the roads they have to transit in Guinea, or on the situation in their home countries, and that they have great difficulty in obtaining assistance from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The human rights group complained that the number of UNHCR protection officers in Guinea is insufficient and subject to high turnover. Many refugees have been arrested for arbitrary reasons such as their age or size and held for periods of up to several weeks in Forecariah, Gueckedou and Kissidougou, often without charge, the report said. Human Rights Watch added that refugees were vulnerable to these abuses because no valid refugee identification cards have been distributed by the Guinean government. "Refugees in Guinea are presented with choices that all pose risks to their long-term personal safety," the human rights group said. "They can remain in the border area which is under attack; move to new camps within Guinea, where they may be more vulnerable to hostility from the local population; or return to Sierra Leone or Liberia, which both remain unstable."

Representatives of 34 diamond producing and importing nations meeting in Moscow approved on Thursday the framework for a system aimed at curbing the trade in "conflict diamonds" blamed for fueling wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Associated Press reported. Under the regime, governments of both diamond-producing nations and diamond-trading nations would issue internationally-recognized certificates which would accompany the diamonds beginning at the time they are mined. The new system would also require a monitoring mechanism, which the countries plan to discuss at their next meeting to be held in London next September.

Conflicts in Sierra Leone and the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia will be on the agenda next week when African leaders meet for a three-day OAU Summit in the Zambian capital Lusaka. According to the Xinhua news agency, 42 countries have so far confirmed they will participate in the summit, which is expected to see the OAU transformed into the African Union, a political entity modeled on the European Union.

The United Nations Security Council was due to meet behind closed doors Thursday to conduct a periodic review of the U.N. sanctions regime against Sierra Leone, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. 

A United Nations report to be published next week shows Sierra Leone as the world's worst place to live as measured by indicators such as life expectancy, education and gross domestic product, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday, quoting the Norwegian daily newspaper Verdens Gang. Norway scored highest among the 162 countries rated, followed by Australia, Canada and Sweden. The United States took sixth place, while Britain was ranked fourteenth.

4 July: An announcement is expected to come within ten days on the release of at least some imprisoned members of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front, President Kabbah said on Thursday. In an interview at the presidential lodge, Kabbah said RUF detainees were currently being screened, and that those found to have committed "very, very serious crimes against humanity" would face the proposed Special Court, mandated by the United Nations last year to try those deemed most responsible for serious violations of humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone since November 1996, the date of the ill-fated Abidjan Peace Accord. "Now there are others as well against whom we may not have any evidence of a very serious crime, and just that they probably went with the crowd and belong to the RUF," Kabbah said. "And then we’re thinking that people like those we shall, perhaps in the interest of peace because, let’s face it, I think the RUF leadership, they have demonstrated their willingness to cooperate with the peace process, and so we thought that in order to keep that momentum that there will be some gesture of releasing those that may not have committed grave crimes."  

3 July: The simultaneous disarmament of rebel RUF and pro-government CDF combatants finally got underway in Kono and Bonthe Districts on Monday, UNAMSIL said in a statement Tuesday. The disarmament, which was originally to have been completed by the end of June, was postponed because of a delay in the preparation of disarmament camps. At Yengema, in Kono District, 30 RUF and eight CDF combatants turned over their guns in a ceremony presided over by UNAMSIL Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Operations and Management, Behrooz Sadry. The event was witnessed by Brigadier Morris Kallon of the RUF, John Kabbah of the CDF, Acting UNAMSIL force commander Brigadier Tony Faith, and other senior U.N. officials. The weapons destroyed included AK-47s, FN rifles, small arms and ammunition, the UNAMSIL statement said. Meanwhile at Bonthe Island, a stronghold of the CDF, nine militiamen handed over their arms to United Nations peacekeepers at a U.N. reception centre. Meanwhile, a committee comprising representatives from the government, the RUF and UNAMSIL is expected to meet within the next week to decide on which two districts should be the next to disarm, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said, adding: "I think they will probably map out district by district for the rest of the process. But it is up to that committee to decide."

Since the simultaneous disarmament of Sierra Leone's rival warring factions began on May 18, over 6,000 combatants have handed over their weapons to United Nations peacekeepers, a UNAMSIL spokesperson said on Tuesday. The number included 2,081 combatants from the RUF, 4,280 from the pro-government CDF militia, and 134 from the AFRC/ex-SLA.

Sierra Leone is one of 33 countries worldwide facing exception food emergencies this year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday. The FAO report pointed in particular to Sudan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone as among 17 African countries facing poor crop prospects.  In Sierra Leone and neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, the FAO cited civil strife as hindering agricultural activities.