The Sierra Leone Web


July 1996

31 July: Two people were killed and three critically injured when a retired soldier threw a grenade into a Kenema nightclub. The former corporal reacted after guards barred him from the nightclub on Tuesday. He was arrested by military police. The wounded were taken to the government hospital in Kenema.

30 July: The Vatican announced Tuesday that it has established relations with Sierra Leone.

29 July: Some 200,000 people have been ordered evacuated from the area of Rokel River estuary after flooding which has killed at least 12 people and injured many more. A number of others have been reported missing. The Rokel River runs through Freetown.

28 July: Sierra Leonean Olympic light heavyweight boxer David Kowah was defeated by American Antonio Tarver at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia. Tarver scored a TKO after the fight was stopped at 2:43 in the first round. In a post bout interview, Tarver alleged that Kowah had been taunting him all day, including making throat-slashing gestures at him before the fight.

26 July: Former foreign minister and presidential candidate Abass Bundu was charged with larceny Friday over the sale of Sierra Leonean passports. Bundu was charged with six counts of larceny involving $210,000. Bundu did not enter a plea, and was released on bail of 100 million leones ($105,000). The case was adjourned until August 9.

Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company plans to install solar telephone booths around the country, according to the company's managing director Frank Jarret. He said that the solar units have a life of 20 years, will save money, and will not depend upon unreliable power supplies. "Many customers who have been finding it difficult to make their calls at telephone booths at night when there is no electricity from the National Power Authority will have no difficulty to do so now," he said. Some of the solar units are already operating in Freetown.

The Olympics: Sierra Leonean runner Melrose Mansaray placed seventh (last) in her heat in the Women's 400 Meter Dash with a time of 54.37--2.67 seconds behind the leader. Light heavyweight boxer David Kowah is scheduled to fight U.S. boxer Antonio Tarver on July 28. Kowah received a bye in the first round.

Newspaper editor Edison Yongai, who has been charged with seditious libel for an article published in The Point accusing government ministers of corruption, has been ordered to appear before a parliamentary committee.

25 July: Revolutionary United Front leader Foday Sankoh has said that the RUF will continue to observe the ceasefire, but that the rebels will not disarm until foreign troops leave Sierra Leone. The RUF is also looking to have a say over the country's budget and foreign debt. "We have only two demands--the budget and the withdrawal of all foreign troops, in particular the Executive Outcomes," Sankoh said Wednesday. "Beside that, we will not fight, but nobody will be able to disarm... They are using anti-personnel mines against our people which is condemned by the international community. For that reason all foreign forces should leave, then RUF will be prepared to think about encampment and disarmament." It is estimated that more than 20,000 people have been killed in the fighting since the rebel war broke out in 1991.

24 July: Sierra Leone's Gross Domestic Product shrank by 10% in 1995, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This compares with 3.5% growth in 1994 and 0.6% in 1993. The IMF put inflation at 35%, compared with 22.3% in 1994 and 15.1% in 1993. The 144,000 tons of rutile produced in 1994 accounted for almost half of all exports by value. Sierra Rutile has been closed since January of 1995, when rebels overran the mine. According to the government, official diamond exports reached 31,929.37 in May, valued at $3.26 million. This compares with 5,000 carats in May 1995.

Following an assessment mission, a World Bank official has said that the bank could increase its assistance to Sierra Leone for demobilisation and reintegration programs once a disarmament program has been agreed to. "The present government has not disappointed the IMF or World Bank and the structural adjustment program is still on track," he said. "The benefits of macroeconomic policies and the structural adjustment program can only be reaped when there is peace and stability. A democratic government is a very positive step towards increasing stability, although everyone is aware there will be a residual security problem over the coming years."

A court has granted bail of 10 million leones ($10,500) to Edison Yongai, editor of the weekly newspaper The Point, who was arrested on July 17 and charged with seditious libel over an article in which he accused government ministers of corruption. He was charged with an article which appeared on July 19--the day after his arrest--in which he claimed that 30 billion leones were spent by the SLPP in a 100 day period. On Tuesday, a magistrate refused him bail, despite the fact that he had spent the statutory 72 hours in detention since he was arrested on Thursday. Yongai was detained at Pademba Road Prison. The Point is a newly established newspaper which had only published five issues at the time of the editor's arrest.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah visited Guinea on Wednesday, but did not meet with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, as had been announced earlier by a presidential aide. According to a government spokesman, "We came here to discuss the peace process in Sierra Leone and bilateral relations. We are not aware that Foday Sankoh was to be here."

23 July: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and RUF leader Foday Sankoh this week in Conakry, Guinea, according to a presidential aid. Sheka Mansaray, who is Tejan Kabbah's special advisor on peace talks with the rebels, said that the meeting was at the invitation of Guinean President Lansana Conteh. The talks are to be held immediately prior to the ECOWAS summit in Nigeria scheduled for July 26. RUF officials in Abidjan said they had no knowledge of a meeting in Guinea, and stated that the Ivory Coast is still mediating between the rebels and the government.

Government troops repelled an attack on the diamond mining village of Yammandou, according to military sources in Bo. The Bo-Kenema highway was closed following the attack.

19 July: The Sierra Leone government has lifted the ban on food and medicine distribution by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but its aid convoys will have to pass through an airport or highway security post. Previously, some aid convoys had supplied eastern Sierra Leone via routes through Guinea. The government suspended the ICRC's aid operations on July 6th, after the military complained that food was falling into the hands of RUF rebels.

18 July: (Reports from Kono) A number of large diamonds have recently been found in Kono, weighing 550, 243, 50, and 40 carats, respectively. This follows a proliferation of diamond mining companies in the district following an end of the fighting...Executive Outcomes is to remain in Kono until the war has ended. Commander Rudolf, who was stationed in Kono, has been transferred to Freetown to help with the planning of national defence.

16 July: The Sierra Leone government has raised the price of gasoline (petrol) by more than 28%, from Le 1,950 to Le 2,500 (Le 950 = US $1.00). Diesel and kerosene will increase by similar amounts. Trade and Industry Minister Abdul Thorlu Bangura said that the increases were the result of people smuggling fuel to neighboring countries, where fuel prices are higher than in Sierra Leone.

15 July: Leaders of the 16 nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will meet in Abuja, Nigeria on July 26 and 27. Topics on the agenda will be the Liberian crisis and an appraisal of the ECOMOG peacekeeping force, the liberalisation of trade, and free movement between ECOWAS countries. The Council of Ministers will meet from July 22 to 24, prior to the meeting of the heads of state. ECOWAS includes Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.

6 July: The Sierra Leone government has ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to stop its activities in the country, Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman announced Saturday. He declined to give reasons for the action, but military sources indicated that it is because ICRC supplies have also reached the rebels. "The government has always been uncomfortable with the ICRC operating distribution of food and medicine in the RUF controlled areas of the country...The army strongly believes that a large part of the consignment of food finds its way to the rebels and keeps them sustained." The ICRC has been working to assist 160,000 Sierra Leoneans civilians along the border with Liberia, as well as refugees crossing the border to escape the fighting in that country.

Ivorian mediators are hoping to call new talks between the government and the RUF after the Organisation of African Unity meeting opens in Cameroon on Monday. The talks have been stalled over the issues of foreign troops and disarmament. RUF leader Foday Sankoh has said that he first wants to return to his headquarters for talks. The government accused the rebels Thursday of breaching the ceasefire, a charge which the RUF has denied.

3 July: The Sierra Leone government has replaced two top military commanders, Information Minister George Banda Thomas said Wednesday. Chief of Defense Staff Brig. Joy Turay has been replaced by Col. Hassan Conteh, currently director of military operations. Army Chief of Staff Lt.-Col. Komba Mondeh is being replaced by Lt.-Col. Max Kanga, who is head of military rehabilitation and mobilization. The minister said that Joy Turay is being given an unspecified assignment. Komba Mondeh is reportedly going on study leave.