31 July: A Russian ship carrying 6,800 tons of rice evaded ECOMOG sanctions and docked in Freetown Thursday. The Ivanov, which was escorted to Queen Elizabeth Wharf by a navy gunboat, was greeted by cheering crowds of people at the waterfront. "This is the first cargo boat to dock in Sierra Leone since the coup," a harbour official said. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the AFRC has instructed the harbour authorities to get the rice to market rapidly. "The shipment of rice will last the country for about two or three months. We are also expecting a shipment of fuel, especially petrol and kerosene, to arrive in Freetown by ship over the weekend," Kamara said. ECOWAS foreign ministers have called for in intensification of sanctions against Sierra Leone, and there have been reports that an ECOMOG blockade of the harbour was already in effect. AFRC officials denied that there is any embargo against Sierra Leone and said that the current standoff is a creation of "saboteurs of the revolution."
The United Nations Security Council reiterated its call Thursday for an immediate restoration of constitutional rule in Sierra Leone under President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. After informal consultations, Council President Peter Osvald of Sweden said council members expressed their deep concern over the breakdown of talks between AFRC envoys and the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone in Abidjan. Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku denounced the AFRC's plan to delay a return to civilian rule for four years. "Any delay in the immediate transfer of power from the junta and back to civilian rule--let alone a postponement until 2001--would represent a major setback not only for Sierra Leone and the West Africa region but for the continent of Africa as a whole," Anyaoku said in a statement. He called for the "immediate and unconditional reinstatement" of the Kabbah government. "It is now for the region to take every necessary step to see legitimacy, constitutionality and democracy reinstated in Sierra Leone," Anyaoku said. "In that task I trust that they (the countries of the region) will continue to have the full support of the international community."
AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Thursday that AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma's speech had been misinterpreted and that "he did not say" the AFRC will hold on to power until 2001. "It was just an intention he intends to pursue, he was not announcing a program," Kamara said. "He was talking to the people of Sierra Leone to explain to them the problems of our country and at the same time to enlighten them a little bit. If he is given the opportunity, these were the areas he was going to concentrate on." Kamara said the AFRC had been continuing to "work for the people" of Sierra Leone while AFRC envoys were negotiating in Abidjan. "At the same time, our members left this country to go back to Abidjan with a modality wherein they can sit with the committee and work effectively to come out with an agreement so that the people of this country and they, the ECOWAS, would actually appreciate a work well done," he said. Kamara denied that the sanctions are seriously affecting Sierra Leone. "The embargo is not actually biting as at this point," he said. "ECOMOG should understand that now we have the People's Army. These people have been in the bush for over six years. They are now with us. The world should understand that. If we refuse to accept these people, if we refuse to understand their presence, at the end of the day they will go back to the bush and where will we be?"
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma acknowledged that his speech of July 30 which brought about the collapse of the peace talks had been a mistake in judgment and "has not gone down well to a number of our enlightened citizens." In a fax to AFRC Foreign Minister Dr. Alimamy Pallo Bangura, the AFRC's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who headed the delegation to Abidjan, Koroma said the speech was delivered "in direct response to what appeared to me at the time to be the continued intransigence of the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers based on their mandate." Koroma conceded that the speech had undercut the work of the AFRC envoys. "I am willing further to admit this much - that I erred in making such a broadcast at the time the negotiations were in progress in Abidjan and the impression might have been created that our delegation was not acting in good faith throughout," he wrote. "I ask of you to read this my statement to the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers in Abidjan and trust that what I have now said will in good measure provide a level of comfort that will enable them to see their way clear towards the ultimate resumption of the talks in Abidjan in an atmosphere of the utmost good faith on all sides."
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, who led the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone, described events which led to the collapse of Abidjan peace talks, and said that the AFRC had not negotiated in good faith. "On 17 and 18 July we made some progress. We agreed on the implementation of the mandate assigned to us, namely, restoring constitutional order, ensuring President Kabbahs' return as well as seeing to the problems of peace, security, and refugees. Unfortunately, the situation deteriorated considerably in the last few days. In fact, the Sierra Leonean delegation refused to acknowledge the 17 and 18 July agreement, and at the same time we learned that the junta has decided to stay in power until 2001 and to suspend the constitution. We consider than an affront." Ikimi expressed disappointment at the failure of the negotiations. "On these matters, it is clear that [the AFRC] are really not serious and they do not seem to have understood the seriousness of the situation in which they have found themselves. This is an affront to ECOWAS, an affront to Africa, and an affront to the international community." Ikimi said the timing of the AFRC announcement extending the timetable for a return to democracy until 2001 was "Out of a lack of experience, and one gets the impression that they do not care. Many of them have been estranged from the rest of the world for many years. I am talking about the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. The welfare of their country and their people are not a subject of concern to them. I also conclude that the delegation sent by the junta in Abidjan has no authority, no mandate, and does not want to make any decision." Ikimi said that ECOWAS will proceed to strengthen the sanctions. "We will do nothing that will hurt the ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone, but products like petroleum products, like food, and arms and ammunition would be, in fact, restricted completely," he said. The effect of an embargo on food and fuel on the civilian population is unfortunate, Ikimi said, but those who seized power in Sierra Leone have to be taught a lesson. "Right now, we cannot pinpoint who really are the leaders there. There is one Major Koroma who claims to be the leader, but apparently he is held captive by the RUF fighters who have returned from their jungle sojourn over the past five years. We believe that these people do not care about civilized behaviour, and so they would not bother if they did not have electricity, pipeborn water, or any decent surroundings. The day before yesterday, the Army and this RUF hoodlums had descended on innocent civilians, looting and destroying property there. We see a serious situation evolving in Sierra Leone."
30 July: The ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone abruptly broke off negotiations with AFRC envoys Wednesday after the military regime announced a timetable of more than four years to return the country to democracy. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi announced the collapse of the talks in Abidjan after an address by AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma on SLBS (state radio). "The Committee expressed dismay at the announcement by the illegal regime in Freetown, while the meeting was still in session, of its decision to suspend the constitution of Sierra Leone and remain in office illegally until the year 2001," Ikimi said, reading from a prepared statement. "The committee found the new position of the Sierra Leonean delegation on the issue of the reinstatement of President Kabbah totally unacceptable." Ikimi said the AFRC's envoys had had no real mandate to negotiate. He said he and his fellow foreign ministers from Guinea, Ghana, and Ivory Coast making up the Committee will recommend that the economic embargo against Sierra Leone be tightened.
In a 20 minute broadcast to the nation over SLBS radio and television Wednesday, Koroma announced a timetable of more than four years for returning the country to constitutional rule. "The Constitution of the Second Republic has been suspended and remains suspended." he said. All political parties, hereby, remain banned." He said the country will elect "Village Management Committees" by March 1998; and Town, Municipal, and City Council Election by December 1998. District Council Elections will be held by August 1999, and Provincial Assemblies will be elected by May 2000. The ban on political parties will be lifted at least two months before the Provincial Assembly elections, Koroma said. State Council elections and Presidential elections will be held simultaneously by November 2001. Koroma said the AFRC stands ready "to hand over to such a properly tried constitutional order," but emphasized that the AFRC would not "be stampeded into hurrying matters beyond their appointed course."
Koroma said that "with the successful completion of the Liberian election," ECOMOG forces should be withdrawn from Sierra Leone soil. He also called on Nigeria to remove its troops sent under the Status of Forces Agreement. Accusing international organisations of an "orchestrated campaign" against Sierra Leone, Koroma said the country will "pursue a policy of enlightened self-interest in the international area and seriously review Sierra Leone's membership of some regional and international bodies." In a wide-ranging speech, Koroma touched on proposed AFRC political, economic, agricultural, and judicial policy, and outlined plans "to establish the People's Revolutionary Court in each district and traditional center in the country to augment work of the regular courts." Koroma called on Barclays Bank, the Standard Chartered Bank, and the Union Trust Bank to reopen by Monday, 4 August 1997, saying that if the banks failed to comply, "the AFRC will regard their action as deliberate sabotage, and will withdraw their operating licenses and force them to liquidate." The AFRC is prepared to defend the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone from any aggression, "real or threatened, internal or external," Koroma said. "Let no one doubt our resolve to do this, even until the last drop of our blood."
29 July: AFRC envoys in Abidjan interrupted their talks with ECOWAS foreign ministers Tuesday to consult with military rulers in Freetown. The envoys wanted to seek guidance on an ECOWAS demand for the immediate reinstatement of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The AFRC, which met in parallel session in Freetown, has not authorised its envoys to take any decision on the issue. The second day of the talks began eight hours behind schedule. Earlier, after agreeing in principle to restore democracy, the AFRC rejected demands for Kabbah's reinstatement as president, called for Nigerian ECOMOG troops to vacate key positions they hold in Freetown, and demanded that RUF leader Foday Sankoh be allowed to join the talks. The delegation also demanded that ECOWAS recognise the military regime, asserting that ECOWAS has implicitly recognised the AFRC government by holding talks with its representatives. ECOWAS has interpreted the communiqué signed after the first round of talks as an agreement to restore the Kabbah government. The AFRC interprets is as simply agreeing to restore democracy, and wants a transitional period to constitutional rule. A diplomat at the talks said that persuading the AFRC to give up power would not be easy. "We are talking about an entrenched regime being asked to stand down. It has never happened in Africa and it won't be easy in the case of Sierra Leone," the diplomat said. "There doesn't appear to be any country in ECOWAS prepared to join Nigeria in using force in Sierra Leone, and it doesn't look like Nigerians will want to go it alone after their experience (shelling Freetown) on June 2."
The second round of talks between AFRC envoys and the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone stalled early Tuesday, with the Sierra Leone delegation demanding that imprisoned RUF leader Foday Sankoh be present at the meeting. "Sankoh is an integral part of the Sierra Leone crisis and no deal can be done without him," a Sierra Leonean delegate said during a pause for consultations. Guinea's Foreign Minister Lamine Kamara told a resumed session that the meeting is adjourning until Wednesday, acknowledging that "a lot is left to be done." The negotiations were expected to be difficult after the AFRC replaced all but three members of the 17 member delegation on Sunday night, reportedly at the insistence of RUF leaders. The delegation, led by AFRC Foreign Minister Pallo Bangura, is made up mostly of army officers. Nigerian foreign minister Tom Ikimi, who opened Tuesday's talks, said that they were expected to deal only with the restoration of democratic rule. "We do not expect that the meeting will be taking too much of our time," Ikimi said. "We intend to build on progress made at the last meeting."
The AFRC Secretariat Tuesday ordered the release of the remaining six detainees held in Pademba Road Prison in connection with a alleged coup attempt last month. A statement broadcast on SLBS (state radio) said those released "include veteran politicians and members of the Council of Consolidation of Peace, Dr. Sama Banya and Bockarie Kobba." Nine military officers who were also detained were released more than two weeks ago. "It should be recalled that they were arrested and detained at the Central Prison over a month ago for their alleged involvement in the coup plot to overthrow the government of Major Johnny Paul Koroma," the statement said. The first indication that the six would be released came last week when Koroma visited them at Pademba Road Prison for 45 minutes, and later said on SLBS that he was ready to release all who had no case against them. According to the AFRC Secretariat, the detainees were released on Koroma's orders. The six return to homes that have been looted. Dr. Sama Banya, in a BBC interview, said that he is not bitter. "This is public life. I mean if you can't stand the heat don't stay in the kitchen. So I'm in this and when the chairman asked me whether I believed in the SLPP government and what they were doing I said yes, I do. I'm a member and I believe so I'm out and still what I am," Banya said. Police sources said the released politicians will remain under 24-hour house arrest.
AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay accused Nigeria ceasefire violations Tuesday, and said that a letter of protest has been sent to Ivory Coast President Henri Konan Bedie, to be forwarded to Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha. Sesay said Nigerian troops manning a checkpoint at Jui "refused passage to a contingent of our armed forces travelling from the interior to the capital" on Saturday. "A tense situation ensued which almost led to open confrontation," Sesay said. "This is an act considered as a ceasefire violation." Sesay also said that Nigerian troops are "being airlifted to the international airport in excessively large numbers, reinforcing the already present garrison." Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces have begun enforcing an air, sea, and land blockade against Sierra Leone, and have clashed several times with Sierra Leonean troops since the May 25 coup. "We are calling on the international community to restrain Nigeria from its bloodthirsty intentions and we have been showing a lot of patience and respect for human lives," Sesay said. "Nigeria has enough problems to solve in its own country," he added.
An ECOMOG statement released in Monrovia on Tuesday said 16 Sierra Leonean policemen have surrendered to ECOMOG forces at Bo Waterside, a Liberian town on the Sierra Leone border. "We surrendered to ECOMOG in compliance with recent directives by ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who ordered patriotic police and military personnel to surrender to ECOMOG peacekeepers in a recent radio broadcast," the statement quoted the policemen as saying. The policemen also surrendered four sub-machine guns and five AK-47 rifles, the ECOMOG statement said. ECOMOG plans to hand the Sierra Leoneans over the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A report by the World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday reported that the situation in Kenema is very tense and that food supplies are "extremely low." The report said that 25,000 displaced persons have arrived in the city since the May 25 coup. The organisation also noted that 3,500 Sierra Leonean refugees who fled the fighting in the near Zimmi have registered in the Bo Waterside (Liberia) area. Refugees have continued to cross into Guinea as well, although the border is officially closed. The WFP is continuing limited food distributions in Freetown, Bo, Kambia, Makeni, and Kambia. The report said the continued systematic looting of WFP food stores in Freetown by armed men and civilians has resulted in the loss of 600 metric tons of rice. In a strongly-worded statement issued in Abidjan Tuesday, WFP West African Regional Manager Paul Ares said, "While we remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Sierra Leone, we can hardly continue our operations under present security conditions." Ares urged the military "to stop hampering the agency's humanitarian work." He chronicled recent armed looting of WFP's stores in Freetown: On July 12, armed men in military uniform commandeered a truck transporting 12 tons of vegetable oil. The oil was unloaded somewhere in Freetown and never recovered. "On another occasion, June 20, armed elements temporarily took control of WFP's stores in Sierra Leone's National Shipping Company compound in Freetown and looted some of the stores, which forced us to close the stores there," Ares said. "The WFP still has access to that store and is trying to transfer the remaining food elsewhere." Since July, the report said, the WFP has been moving food supplies to more secure locations up-country. To date, 725 metric tons of food supplies have been transported by truck, mainly to Kambia and Kenema.
A Kamajor press release issued Tuesday in Monrovia, Liberia said Kamajors "and other civil defence forces" captured the towns of Jendemah, Gofor, Gissiwo, and Da Salamu in Pujehun District on July 28, forcing the army and RUF fighters "to withdraw from all the areas between Zimmi Makpele and Sulima." The statement said the Kamajors had destroyed three vehicles and captured one, a UNHCR vehicle, which is now being used by the Kamajors. All the vehicles were said to contain large quantities of weapons and ammunition. "Some of the weapons now being used by the combined civil defence forces were also captured from retreating AFRC forces, some of whim have defected to the civil defence forces," the statement said. The press release also said that the Kamajors had recaptured the Mano River Bridge on July 11, "inflicting heavy casualties on rebels and renegade soldiers" of the AFRC.
28 July: Two more journalists critical of the military coup have gone into hiding after a crackdown by police and soldiers against their newspaper, the New Tablet. Managing Editor Gibril Foday Musa and journalist Emmanuel Senessie went into hiding Monday after three newspaper sellers were arrested and the latest edition of the paper was confiscated. The New Tablet has called upon the military leaders to step down, calling the AFRC regime illegal. The newspaper also dismissed a weekend announcement on SLBS (state radio) that the newspaper is not registered as "an attempt by a group of bullies to intimidate us into fear and silence."
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma moved into State House Monday, and access roads have been cordoned off. Since the coup, Koroma had operated from Defence Headquarters.
A clandestine pro-democracy radio station has confirmed that Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops are enforcing an air, sea, and land embargo against Sierra Leone. The radio said that Nigerian ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Maxwell Khobe is in charge of the operation. Khobe "is advising all ship owners, shipping agents, airlines, and travel agents that any violation of the sanctions and embargo by them will be at their own risk," the radio said. "As soon as the (AFRC) government complies with the demands of Sierra Leoneans and the international community to return power to the democratically elected government, ECOWAS will be prevailed on to lift the sanction and embargo." AFRC officials said they had no prior notice of the blockade and are "actively studying the development." Oil for the main power station has run low, and there have been drastic power cuts in Freetown. Residents say that some parts of Freetown, especially the east end, have been without power for days. Drivers are finding it difficult to find fuel, and there have been long lines of marooned vehicles at petrol stations since Saturday. Traffic between Freetown and towns in the interior is down to a trickle. There have been reports of trucks stranded in Bo loaded with perishable food bound for Freetown. "Because of the lack of fuel, the Ministry of Energy and Power has been forced to embark on providing electricity mainly for priority locations," a ministry source said. The source listed priorities as state radio and television, key military installations, state hospitals, and main government offices.
27 July: The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) has made a last-minute change in the composition of the negotiating committee which is due to leave for Abidjan on Monday. The 12 delegates who will meet with ECOWAS foreign ministers will be members of the AFRC Supreme Council; non-AFRC members have been dropped. The decision, which was made shortly before 8:00 p.m. Sunday, reportedly came about after disagreement by RUF leaders within the AFRC on the committee's negotiating position. The delegation was to return to Abidjan with modalities for a return to constitutional rule. The RUF, which had been represented on the committee by Acting Minister of Lands and the Environment S.B. Rogers, will reportedly add an RUF military leader to the delegation.
26 July: The president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists has gone into hiding after soldiers raided the office of his newspaper on Saturday and detained four journalists. Colleagues said Frank Kposowa went into hiding after soldiers twice visited his office looking for him. Kposowa's independent Unity Now newspaper has been critical of the military government, and in its latest edition called for the immediate departure of the AFRC and criticized Chief Justice Samuel Beccles Davies for swearing in AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma as head of state. Two of the four detained were journalists working for Sierra Leone News Agency who were at the newspaper office when it was raided. The other two were members of the Unity Now staff.
UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart, who Thursday announced his withdrawal from the AFRC negotiating committee, said Sunday that he has reconsidered his decision after AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma implored him not to "desert" Sierra Leone. "If you don't come now and things don't go well, the people will never understand that you left the job half done," he quoted Koroma as saying. Dr. Karefa-Smart said he will travel to Abidjan Monday for the second round of talks, which are expected to be convened on Tuesday. He said the negotiations must determine "what role should the people have in all of this. They cannot be just observers to a president being overthrown and being brought back." Dr. Karefa-Smart said Sierra Leone should convene a second Bintumani-type conference. "The people of Sierra Leone will be brought into the picture, we can sit down as a people to look at what happened and where we will go in the future," he said. Dr. Karefa-Smart rejected any suggestion that he might participate in a military-dominated civilian government. "I will not take part and I will not accept any position" in a military-led government, he said. "I am the last person to want to live under military rule."
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma has sent a message of congratulations to Charles Taylor on his victory in the Liberian presidential election.
The Leone Stars, who were to have played Guinea July 26 in an African Nations Cup first round match in Bamako, withdrew from the game. The team also forfeited a match against Tunisia earlier in the week. The matches were to have been played in neutral Bamako, Mali because of concerns by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) about the security situation in Freetown.
25 July: The AFRC has denied Nigerian claims that the Sierra Leone Army and RUF rebels have violated the ceasefire agreement. "There has been no clashes. We are abiding by the ceasefire agreement," said Deputy Director of Defence Information Major John Milton. "Maybe the Nigerians have some motives up their sleeves. It is their own imagination," he added.
U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch said Friday that the international community will not accept the continued presence of the AFRC government in Sierra Leone, and does not recognize it in any way. His statement, which were made in Guinea, was carried over a clandestine pro-democracy radio station. Hirsch said that the nearly seven week strike has shown the determination to see the democratically-elected government restored. The central issue now, he said, is whether the military government and the former RUF combatants genuinely have the interests of the Sierra Leone people at heart. If they do, he said, they would step down and spare the people further pain and suffering.
Nigerian military leader General Sani Abacha Friday defended Nigeria's intervention in Sierra Leone. He said ECOMOG is not there to interfere in Sierra Leone's internal affairs because ECOMOG is a peace force, not a warring one. "We are in Sierra Leone because we have a mandate which is in the national security interest of the Sierra Leonean people and the entire sub-region," he said. "ECOMOG is in Sierra Leone to secure and defend the democratic interests and values of that country," he added. Abacha emphasized that the intervention in Sierra Leone falls under the auspices of ECOWAS. Nigeria believes in collectivity as the right approach to security and development, he said, and if Nigeria's presence in Sierra Leone is conspicuous, it is because of its leading role and commitment to ECOWAS, and ECOMOG in particular. Abacha also addressed critics who point to the paradox of military rulers in Nigeria trying to restore civilian government in Sierra Leone. "There are some cynics who would wonder why a military regime in Nigeria should denounce a military putsch in Sierra Leone," Abacha said. "Let me remind such cynics that this military regime came to power at a critical moment of Nigeria's history to avert disintegration." Abacha said he wants to convince the international community that Nigeria is committed to the return to civilian rule. "I want to convince the international community that this government is committed to the political transition programme much more than we are to the regional peace-keeping process," he said. "If they see seriousness in our peacekeeping efforts we are even more resolute about the transition programme. We have only some 14 months from today to prove our cynics wrong, when the country returns to civil rule by October 1, 1998."
24 July: Nigeria said Thursday that military leaders have violated the ceasefire which was agreed to last week in Abidjan. "The coupists and their rebel allies have continued to conduct probing attacks on ECOMOG troop locations in Kossoh, Jui, Hastings Airfield, Lungi airport and its environs, presumably in search of the FM radio station believed to be harboured by ECOMOG," Nigerian Defence Department Spokesman Colonel Ugbo said in a statement issued in Lagos. He said that ECOMOG did not hesitate to launch counter attacks. Ugbo said that some civilians, military, and paramilitary personnel loyal to ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had surrendered to ECOMOG in the past two days. "The villages of such people have been attacked and burnt," he said, adding that the latest of these attacks had occurred Thursday morning at Bo and Kenema. "The ECOMOG troops have been provoked beyond limits and will not hesitate to be on counter-offensive for self-defence," the Nigerian statement said.
UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart announced Thursday that he is withdrawing from the AFRC committee negotiating with the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone, saying that his work has been successful and that his continued presence on the committee would be misunderstood. "My primary concern throughout has been to let my people and the international community become aware of the dangers inherent in allowing any state or combination of states to interfere in the internal affairs of another state," Dr. Karefa-Smart said in a written statement released in Freetown. "I am now satisfied that my loud and clear message has been received and heeded and that I and all Sierra Leoneans can now go to sleep at night with the assurance that they will not be awakened by a military attack on our country. I believe my mission has been accomplished." Dr. Karefa-Smart, who had participated in the talks as a "concerned citizen," said he has already informed AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma that he will not attend next week's second round of talks in Abidjan. "I sincerely believe that my presence might send the wrong signals to certain quarters, which I must avoid at all cost," he said.
23 July: The second round of talks between an AFRC delegation and ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone has been pushed back four days, to July 29. Diplomatic sources in Conakry, Guinea said the reason was to give the coup leaders more time to meet ECOWAS demands. On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Guinea, Ghana and Ivory Coast had talks with ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in Conakry. According to one diplomat, "The demand by the junta in Sierra Leone about the return of constitutional rule in that country without Kabbah is a non-starter."
22 July: AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma has ordered Sierra Leone's military forces to cease all hostilities in the interest of peace, SLBS (state radio) reported late Monday. He called on soldiers and RUF fighters to comport themselves in an exemplary manner in order to "gain the respect and confidence of the civilian population." Koroma told soldiers that "the honeymoon is now over," and that the parading through Freetown with guns, the commandeering of vehicles, and vehicles parading aimlessly through the city should stop. Addressing the "People's Army," Koroma said the AFRC is using all diplomatic efforts to bring about the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, so that he can "join in the government and its socioeconomic development process."
A group of 80 former parliamentarians, ousted when parliament was dissolved following the May 25 coup, have called for a meeting between President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. The parliamentarians are calling on former president Joseph Momoh to take part in the round table conference.
21 July: The clandestine Radio of Sierra Leone said Monday it "welcomes the military government's acceptance of the decision by the four-man ECOWAS committee on Sierra Leone," which calls for the restoration of "constitutional order" in Sierra Leone. "This is a good omen for Sierra Leone and a move in the right direction to peace and prosperity. The people are now enjoying a good democracy," the radio said.
The second round of talks between AFRC envoys and the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone, which was due to convene in Abidjan on Friday, will reportedly be postponed until next week. The delay was requested by the foreign ministers on account of Saturday's presidential and parliamentary elections in Liberia.
The Nigerian newspaper ThisDay reported Monday that ECOWAS and the AFRC may be close to reaching an understanding on the remaining issues, and that a four-point agreement is expected. The newspaper New Nigerian reported that the AFRC has snubbed the Nigeria's National Democratic Coalition's offer of solidarity in a plot to destabilise Nigeria.
The MI-8 helicopter that flew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to safety in Guinea following the May 25 coup has crashed in Liberia, along with its three-member Ukrainian crew. The helicopter, which was chartered by the European Union to cover Liberia's elections, had been operating flights between the cities of Kakata and Voinjama, ferrying electrical generators to polling stations. A four day search has failed to find any trace of the helicopter, an international observer mission spokesman said Sunday.
The International Soccer Federation (FIFA) has ruled that three World Cup qualifying matches which were postponed for reasons beyond the control of the participating teams should still be played. None of the three games, Gabon vs. Sierra Leone, Syria vs. Kyrgystan, and Yemen vs. Uzbekistan, will affect the outcome of the qualifying process, but FIFA said its decision is "a matter of principle."
20 July: Military leaders denied a report in the Tablet Sunday that 485 soldiers and RUF fighters have surrendered to ECOMOG bases in Freetown. According to the newspaper, the soldiers gave themselves up after clashes at Jui last weekend between "People's Army" soldiers and Nigerian ECOMOG troops. The AFRC statement, which was broadcast over SLBS (state radio), said "the entire armed forces and the Revolutionary United Front continue to demonstrate their loyalty to the (military) government." It described the Tablet report as "a blatant act of propaganda and the work of unpatriotic persons parading as journalists to create panic and fear in the minds of the people." The AFRC statement noted that the Tablet "is unregistered and operating contrary to the rules and regulation governing newspaper registration." Meanwhile, a clandestine radio station asserted that "some patriotic rebel fighters and Sierra Leone soldiers are being prevented from surrendering to ECOMOG bases by hard-core junta and RUF members." On July 8, ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah broadcast a statement over the same clandestine radio ordering soldiers to give themselves up to ECOMOG forces to avoid being branded as mutineers. "Soldiers who wanted to defect are threatened with death and told they will be killed by ECOMOG troops if they give themselves up to the ECOMOG," the radio said. On Sunday, bodies of those killed in clashes between the "People's Army" and ECOMOG forces still lay in the streets of Jui.
ECOMOG forces lifted a road blockade of Freetown Sunday, allowing trucks carrying food from the provinces to enter the city for the first time since July 12. Sources said that Nigerian ECOMOG troops continue to enforce a sea and air blockade of the country in an effort to restore the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Local ECOMOG Commander Brigadier Maxwell Khobe announced the lifting of the road blockade Sunday over a clandestine radio station. He went on to warn civilians to stay away from Sierra Leonean military installations which, he said, are potential targets if the AFRC refuses to reinstate Kabbah. "I ordered the ECOMOG troops holding the Orugu Bridge to withdraw from the bridge and allow vehicles and people to resume using the highway," Khobe said. "If the talks between ECOWAS and the military government fail...and ECOMOG is given the mandate by ECOWAS to forcefully remove the coup makers from power, ECOMOG will invade Freetown and bomb the city to remove them," he added. "There will be no escape for the coup makers."
19 July: Freetown was reported calm Saturday, and the truce agreed to by AFRC envoys and ECOWAS foreign ministers appears to be holding. "The ceasefire is holding on all the fronts," Sierra Leone military spokesman John Milton said. SLBS (state radio) said Saturday that the AFRC is cracking down on people masquerading as soldiers or policemen. The radio also reported that AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma addressed the army on Friday, and quoted him as telling soldiers, "You are to report to your respective units and stop parading the streets aimlessly. Any soldier caught in the street without a valid pass will be severely dealt with." SLBS also reported that the AFRC has called for "constructive dialogue" with the secretariat of the Commonwealth, which suspended Sierra Leone's membership on July 11. Koroma told the Commonwealth that the AFRC wants to restore democracy in Sierra Leone as soon as possible, and invited the secretariat to send a delegation to Freetown to discuss how this could be done. The radio said a timetable for a return to democracy could have been laid down by now "had it not been for the threat of armed violence in Sierra Leone caused by Nigeria."
18 July: AFRC envoys meeting with West African foreign ministers in Abidjan agreed Friday to implement an immediate ceasefire and to restore constitutional government to Sierra Leone. A joint communiqué with the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone called for an immediate end to hostilities, and for coup leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma to take steps toward restoring constitutional rule. The two sides agreed "to resolve all issues related to the Sierra Leone crisis peacefully," to establish an immediate ceasefire throughout the country, and to work toward "the early restoration of constitutional order" in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone delegation will be given time "to return home and hold further consultations with the regime in Freetown in order to facilitate a consideration of the detailed modalities for the return of constitutional order to their country." A number of issues were noted in the communiqué but not resolved. ECOWAS maintained its call for the reinstatement of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, while the Sierra Leone delegation "expressed concern" about the continued detention in Nigeria of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, and "wished to see him reunited with his people in Sierra Leone." The statement expressed the Sierra Leone delegation's "deep regrets at the loss of lives which occurred on the 25 May, 1997 and subsequently." The two sides resolved to hold a second round of talks in Abidjan on Friday, July 25. Delegation leader Alimany Pallo Bangura said that by pledging to restore constitutional order, the AFRC was opening the possibility that Kabbah could return to power, but was not guaranteeing that this would happen. The issue is expected to be addressed in the second round of talks. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara denied that a return to constitutional order implies Kabbah's reinstatement. Kamara said the truce agreement means the borders and airport which have been closed by Nigerian troops would reopen. "No more blockades. The airport will be open. No more hostilities," he said.
A group of British charities warned Friday that the situation in Sierra Leone is rapidly deteriorating. The group, which includes Actionaid, Oxfam, and Save the Children Fund, said thousands of refugees have fled the country since the coup, while those left face soaring prices, food shortages, and reduced harvests. "The recent coup and subsequent instability has increased the suffering of the poorest people in Sierra Leone," the group said. Charity staff working in the country reported many classic warning signs of a serious humanitarian emergency. The charities said over 30,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring states and about 50,000 combatants are ranging across the country. Rice, palm oil, and cassava prices have risen by 100 percent. "We are deeply concerned that a serious emergency is rapidly developing," said one aid worker in Sierra Leone. "What is needed now is immediate humanitarian assistance and an end to the political stand-off and violence. Sierra Leone needs help and not political posturing."
The AFRC broadcast an appeal Friday over SLBS (state radio) urging the country's two main commercial banks to reopen after hundreds of depositors stormed the central bank demanding money from their accounts. The AFRC Secretariat asked Barclays and Standard Chartered Banks to reopen "because it involves the lives of people." The two banks, which control about 80 percent of the market, have said they will remain closed until the security situation in the country improves. State-owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank reopened on July 2 after receiving AFRC guarantees of security and liquidity. The AFRC also warned traders to cut the price of rice or face drastic action. A bag of rice which cost Le 22,000 before the May 25 coup now sells for between Le 30,000 and Le 50,000 in Freetown. The AFRC is calling for a price of from Le 22,000 to Le 25,000, depending on the quality. The AFRC statement said that a shipment of rice is due in Freetown shortly.
17 July: Envoys sent by the AFRC met in Abidjan Thursday with the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Guinea, making up the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said he was hopeful of progress and looked forward to a speedy resolution of the crisis. "We feel we have made substantial progress and that the atmosphere exists for a substantial breakthrough," he said. He described the atmosphere of the talks as "very friendly, cordial and brotherly." Some Sierra Leonean delegates were less optimistic before the talks. Corporal Tamba Gborie, who led the May 25 coup, said that it would be impossible to strike any deal without the participation of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "You can't make any peace in Sierra Leone without Foday Sankoh," Gborie said. Sankoh, who is listed as a member of Sierra Leone's delegation, remains under house arrest in Nigeria. The start of the talks was delayed by the late arrival from Liberia of Ikimi and Ghana's deputy foreign minister Victor Gbeho. Delegates said the ministers are eager to return to Liberia for Saturday's elections. Ivorian officials said the talks will resume on Friday. The participants have agreed not to give press conferences until the conclusion of the talks.
An anti-Nigerian rally held Thursday at the national stadium in Freetown was attended by thousands of people. Speaker after speaker denounced the presence of Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone and called for their immediate withdrawal. People displayed banners with such messages as "Down With Abacha," "Abacha is trying to get a colony in West Africa," "Nigerian troops stop killing our women and children," and "Who gave Nigeria the right to hold on to our airport?"
The Red Cross said Thursday it is trying to get access to civilians trapped southeast of Freetown after weekend fighting between Nigerian ECOMOG troops and soldiers loyal to the AFRC. International Committee of the Red Cross delegate Rene-Luc Thevoz said the Red Cross had urged the two sides to allow it to take in food and medicine, and to treat any wounded following the fighting in nearby Jui. "We are not sure how many people are trapped in Kossoh Town but we know there are several hundred of them and possibly even several thousands," he said. "We are also strongly considering an evacuation of the civilians." Meanwhile, ECOMOG officials in Freetown said a truce has been signed to end the bloody clashes which have left over 150 civilians dead. Thevoz said the health situation in Sierra Leone has worsened alarmingly since the May 25 coup, and that the onset of the rainy season is making the situation worse. He said there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases of malaria, dysentery, and respiratory infections. "The people cannot afford any more to buy medicine because there is only little cash flow in the country. And on the other side, the stock of medicine available in the country is getting scarce. So we have started to operate different clinics and health centers in Freetown," he said. Thevoz said that clashes between rival forces is making relief work more dangerous and difficult for Red Cross work throughout the country. He said another consequence of the violence is that people are going hungry. "The food situation is getting more and more difficult because there are no supplies coming from the outside. And of course there were, already before, many people who were assisted. So all these people are now deprived of assistance and the food stock is diminishing day by day," Thevoz said.
16 July: The AFRC Wednesday announced members of the Sierra Leone delegation which will meet with the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone in Abidjan on Thursday, July 17. The delegation will be led by Mr. Alimamy Pallo Bangura, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Also included on the list is Corporal Foday S. Sankoh, AFRC Vice Chairman. Other delegates are Mr. A. Manley-Spaine, Attorney-General; Brig. D.K. Anderson, Chief of Military Staff; Capt. Paul Thomas, Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Mineral Resources; Mr. S.B. Rogers, Acting Secretary of State for Ministry of Lands and the Environment; Corporal Tamba Gborie, Member of the AFRC Supreme Council; Mr. Dauda S. Kamara, Ambassador; Mr. S.A.T. Bayoh, Secretary to the Chairman, AFRC; Mr. W.S. Bangura, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Alieu Kamara, Public Relations Officer; Dr. John Karefa-Smart, Concerned Citizen; Mrs. Ina Lamin, Secretary/Stenographer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation left Freetown Wednesday by helicopter for Conakry, Guinea, where a plane sent by Ivory Coast flew them to Abidjan.
15 July: AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma and ECOMOG field commanders from Nigeria, Ghana, and Guinea agreed to a truce Monday night after several days of bloody clashes at Lungi and Jui. "Both sides agreed to order all fighting to stop," a military official said Tuesday. Hundreds of "People's Army" fighters were reported killed at Lungi, as well as an unknown number of civilians. Homes were destroyed at Jui and four neighboring areas, where an undetermined number of people were killed and wounded. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said about 30 civilians wounded in the clashes have been taken to two hospitals, while another 10 were injured in traffic accidents while trying to flee the scene of the fighting. The ICRC said it had planned to visit the scene of the fighting but had been prevented by the AFRC. "The AFRC would not let us in and we're still waiting for a go-ahead from them so that we will be able to transfer the casualties to the Freetown hospitals," and ICRC spokesman said Tuesday. An AFRC official confirmed that no civilian vehicles are being allowed on the highway. "We have to ensure that they would be safe and lives and property are protected," he said. Freetown has been cut off from the rest of the country as a result of the occupation of the highway by ECOMOG troops at Jui.
Nigerian government sources told a newspaper Tuesday that Nigeria will do whatever it takes to restore the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "It is obvious that Nigeria will be abdicating its sense of mission and responsibility as a sub-regional power, if it holds its arms and watches helplessly and unconcerned its geo-political environment being threatened by destructive interests," presidency sources told the Nigerian Tribune. Nigeria is in Sierra Leone fulfilling its commitment under a bilateral security pact with Sierra Leone, and as part of the sub-region's efforts to restore the elected government, they added. "From Momoh to Tejan Kabbah, those variously in power in Sierra Leone have solicited Nigerian security assistance, culminating in a security defence pact between both countries," the sources said. They said that Nigeria had also intervened in Sierra Leone at the request of some unnamed foreign countries to protect their citizens trapped in the country. Intervention in Sierra Leone and Liberia is consistent with the principle of Nigeria's foreign policy and in accord with the protection and safeguarding of its geo-political environment, which is a component of Nigeria's national interest, the sources added.
The AFRC cabinet announced by coup leaders on July 8 was sworn in Monday. Head of State and AFRC Chairman - Major Johnny Paul Koroma; Deputy Head of State and Deputy AFRC Chairman - Corporal Foday S. Sankoh; Secretary of Mineral Resources and Chief Secretary - Captain S.A.J. Musa; Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs - Dr. Alimamy Paolo Bangura; Attorney General and Secretary of Judicial Affairs - Robin O.I. Mason; Secretary of Finance - Joe Amara Bangali; Secretary of State for Transport and Communications - Osho Williams; Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning - Victor Brandon; Acting Secretary of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - A.A. Vandy (People's Army); Secretary of State for Works and Labour - Capt. (Rtd.) A.B.S. Jumu Jalloh; Secretary of Social Welfare, Children and Gender Affairs - Major Kola Samba; Secretary of State for Youths, Sports and Social Mobilization - S.B. Rogers (People's Army); Secretary of State for Health and Sanitation - Colonel K.I.S. Kamara; Secretary of Education - Mrs. Rogers Wright; Secretary, Chairman's Office - Squadron Leader V.L. King.
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) said Tuesday its members have been subject to unprecedented harassment and intimidation since the May 25 coup. The Association called upon the AFRC to release three journalists detained during the military's search for a clandestine radio station, or to turn them over to the civilian police. "We are very concerned that in the seven weeks since the AFRC took power our members have been exposed to a degree of harassment and threats from military authorities which far exceed anything ever seen in this country," the SLAJ said in a statement. "If the military authorities consider these three persons to be guilty of the offence it is their duty to hand the matter over to the police for the appropriate action to be taken," it added. The Association named the three as Saloman Conteh, Fatmata Kamara, and Jeff Bowlay Williams, arrested July 8 at the offices of The Democrat newspaper. Four other persons detained at the time were released after four days.
14 July: Freetown was reported to be relatively calm Monday following a weekend of fighting between Nigerian ECOMOG troops and Sierra Leone "People's Army" soldiers at Jui which left at least 30 civilians dead and 50 seriously wounded. Red Cross officials are still searching for more bodies believed to have been buried as a result of the bombardment. A doctor at Connaught Hospital said the corpses of 15 civilians were at the mortuary, while a doctor at the military hospital said another 15 bodies had been brought in. "The bodies were completely mangled and hardly recognizable," the surgeon said. ECOMOG forces reportedly fired about 30 missiles at police headquarters killing 6 police officers. Sierra Leone television Sunday night showed the bodies of a family of four who were killed by a bomb dropped from a Nigerian air force jet. Jui was bombarded with heavy weapons and mortar fire for 20 hours on Saturday and Sunday, and reports say the town has been completely devastated. Many residents have abandoned their homes and fled to Freetown. About 10 Nigerians were killed in the clash, while the Sierra Leone Army says it lost 5 soldiers with 12 wounded. There was no independent confirmation of the claims. The two sides are reportedly dug in with trenches facing each other, and the situation remains volatile. The two sides also clashed at Lungi International Airport on Wednesday, with unofficial reports of the death toll ranging from 200 to nearly 300, most of them RUF fighters. Residents at Lungi said that Nigerian soldiers with tanks took control of the whole town over the weekend, driving back "People's Army" soldiers. ECOMOG commander General Victor Malu has rejected AFRC claims that the Nigerians started the fighting. "We had no reason to attack them," he said. Sierra Leone military sources confirmed Monday that talks are underway between AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma and Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Guinean ECOMOG commanders over the terms of a ceasefire.
Military leaders are preparing to send a delegation to Abidjan later this week to meet with the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone. An agenda has been agreed upon, and if logistical problems can be overcome the meeting should take place on Thursday, July 17.
Military leaders arrested and briefly detained a BBC reporter at Pademba Road Prison Monday. BBC Freetown correspondent Victor Sylver was arrested by four soldiers on the orders of PLO 1 Staff Sergeant Abu Sankoh, a member of the AFRC Supreme Council, who complained that Sylver was "sending out all sorts of bad reports" about the AFRC. After being taken to the prison and assigned to one of the prison blocks, he was led out again and taken to Sankoh's home. Sankoh complained "among other things that I had not been carrying reports in favour of the AFRC, that I do not refer to the head of state, Major Johnny Paul Koroma, in my reports as His Excellency, and a host of other allegations. I of course explained certain things to him, stressing that should any one of them feel aggrieved about my reports, I am always available for comments and corrections." Sylver said he had not been ill-treated. "The soldiers and the PLO were polite and never threatened me. It was only very much later that I discovered that certain individuals had had sleepless nights wanting to see me behind bars."
Sierra Leone's last two African Nations Cup qualifying matches have been moved to neutral Mali, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Monday. CAF said fighting following the coup had made it impossible to hold the games in Freetown. "We have rescheduled the matches after a thorough analysis of the situation," a CAF press release said. Sierra Leone will play Tunisia in Bamako on July 23 and Guinea on July 27. The Leone Stars trail both countries in the Group 4 standings, and will need to win both games to have any chance of qualifying for the Nations Cup finals to be held in Burkina Faso next February.
13 July: Nigerian ECOMOG troops clashed with soldiers of the "People's Army" near Hastings Airport at Jui Saturday, about 15 miles southeast of Freetown. Witnesses said that at least 8 civilians were killed in the crossfire. The fighting continued on Sunday and the bombardment could be heard in Freetown, where most residents were reported to be staying off the streets. "The Nigerians started attacking our men on the ground," AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said. "The only thing that can bring this fight under control is for the international world to tell Nigeria to get out of our territory." Military sources said that soldiers and civilians have been hospitalised in Waterloo. Unconfirmed reports from Freetown say that many Sierra Leonean soldiers have been killed. Nigeria reportedly imposed an air, sea, and land blockade on Sierra Leone Saturday night, in line with an ECOWAS decision to impose economic sanctions should negotiations with the AFRC prove unsuccessful.
12 July: The AFRC will "increase its screening operation" of people wishing to return to Sierra Leone "so that only genuine people would be allowed to enter," a military spokesman said Saturday. "We are not depriving those who have genuine business in Sierra Leone. We only want to ensure that anti-government elements would not slip in to cause chaos," he said. The spokesman said Friday's statement by the United Nations Security Council shows "there is still room for discussions and we are still open for dialogue as our main aim is to sustain the peace we have already achieved." Officials of international relief agencies said that about 2,000 persons, many of them Sierra Leoneans who fled the country after Nigeria's June 2 naval bombardment of Freetown, are massing on the Guinea border trying to return. On Friday, four state-owned Road Transport Corporation buses brought in about 250 Sierra Leoneans free of charge who had been stranded in Guinea.
11 July: Sierra Leone's membership in the Commonwealth was suspended Friday as a consequence of the May 25 military coup. The announcement was made by Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku following a two-day meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in London. In his statement, Anyaoku demanded the immediate and unconditional restoration of the democratic government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The suspension will expel Sierra Leone from any Commonwealth meeting and deprive the country of technical aid from the organisation. "Pending the restoration of the legitimate government, the participation of Sierra Leone in the councils of the Commonwealth will be suspended," said Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, chairman of CMAG. The Commonwealth decision was endorsed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "The Commonwealth, like all law-respecting institutions, has been determined to restore democracy," Annan said. "I hope the coup-makers in Sierra Leone will really begin to understand that the international community is not accepting what they have done and that perhaps they should begin to rethink...and step down."
The United Nations Security Council Friday called for the "immediate and unconditional restoration of constitutional order" in Sierra Leone. In a statement read by Council President Peter Osvald, the Security Council called the "attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah unacceptable" and expressed deep concern about the continuing crisis in Sierra Leone and its negative humanitarian consequences for the civilian population, particularly for refugees and internally displaced persons. The Council also referred to the atrocities committed against Sierra Leone's citizens, foreign nationals, and ECOMOG personnel. The Council reiterated its view that the overthrow of the Kabbah government was unacceptable, and said it was "concerned about the grave crisis in Sierra Leone which endangers the peace, security and stability of the whole region and, in particular, about its possible negative impact on the ongoing peace process in neighbouring Liberia." The Security Council expressed its "full support for the objectives" of ECOWAS in restoring the civilian government, but stopped short of endorsing military intervention. The Council called on the coup leaders to cooperate with ECOWAS, and said it will follow the progress of measures aimed at a peaceful resolution of the crisis. The Security Council stands ready to consider appropriate measures if constitutional order is not restored in Sierra Leone without delay, the statement said. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi expressed his satisfaction after the meeting, saying that "all the elements that we would want are contained" in the Security Council statement. "We depart New York fully satisfied that the international community and the Security Council are in full support of the actions that we are taking as a sub-region on Sierra Leone, which has been supported fully by Africa at the summit of the O.A.U.," he said.
10 July: Foreign ministers representing the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone arrived in New York Thursday to brief the United Nations on the Sierra Leone crisis. The foreign ministers, from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, are seeking U.N. Security Council support for ECOWAS' three-pronged initiative to restore Sierra Leone's civilian government: dialogue, sanctions, and the possible use of force. The ministers will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, members of the Security Council, and the ECOWAS and African groups at the United Nations.
Nigerian ECOMOG forces were still in control of Lungi International Airport Thursday, and the clandestine radio station which was the target of an attack by a unit of soldiers and RUF fighters Wednesday continued to broadcast. AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma late Wednesday accused the station of "broadcasting vicious and malicious propaganda aimed at intimidating soldiers and civilians against the government and spreading general panic...He (ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah) cannot succeed to incite my loyal troops," Koroma said in a broadcast over SLBS (state radio).
Reports reaching Freetown Thursday said 10 Kamajors were killed when a combined force of soldiers and RUF rebels attacked in a Kamajor-controlled area between Zimmi and the Mano River Bridge. One soldier was reported to have been killed in the fighting. The force was commanded by Colonel Sam "Mosquito" Bockarie, second in command of the RUF. "The Kamajors retreated and some of them fled across the border into Liberia," Bockarie said, adding that two Kamajors had been captured. The Kamajors reportedly left behind a large cache of weapons and ammunition. Residents said that former Deputy Defence Minister and Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman had visited the area earlier in the week. The area is now said to be under the control of government troops.
9 July: A combined unit of soldiers and RUF fighters clashed Wednesday with Nigerian ECOMOG troops at Lungi International Airport, a day after an address by ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was broadcast over a clandestine radio station. "The junta launched the fierce attack on the allegation that ECOMOG installed an FM station in Lungi. The junta's attack was therefore aimed at destroying the station," an ECOMOG statement said. The statement, released in Monrovia, Liberia, said the attack was repulsed and warned that any further attack would be dealt with ruthlessly. "ECOMOG feels strongly that any further attack on its position will draw maximum retaliation. ECOMOG would deploy maximum firepower to contain it. In such circumstance, the rebel leadership should be held responsible for any casualties on innocent civilians," the statement said. The assault, which began at about 11:30 a.m., caused thousands of civilians in nearby villages to flee to Port Loko. Military officials in Freetown said there was light damage to the airport, and that about 10 Nigerian soldiers may have been killed or wounded. They described their own casualties as minimal. There was no independent confirmation of the claims. According to one military official, a column of soldiers and RUF troops was on its way to the airport when an argument broke out between them and Nigerian soldiers. "The Nigerians were hostile and started trading insults and then things got out of hand," he said. "There was a near hand-to-hand fighting at one stage before the two sides separated and took up heavy bombardment." Two Sierra Leone navy gunboats patrolling the coast also took part in the battle. The sound of the firing caused panic in the center of Freetown, already tense since Kabbah's speech on Tuesday. Civilians fled for safety and shops and markets were closed. Acting Nigerian defense spokesman Goldwin Ugbo denied on Tuesday AFRC claims that the clandestine radio station is being operated by Nigeria. Ugbo said Nigeria was not even aware of the station, let alone funding it.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi left for New York Wednesday to brief the United Nations on the situation in Sierra Leone. As head of the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone, Ikimi will seek support for the ECOWAS initiative to restore the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The U.N. briefing was ordered by ECOWAS Chairman and Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha, who met with the Committee of Four on Saturday.
A meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will be held in London this week to assess the situation in Sierra Leone, as well as the ongoing crisis in democracy in Nigeria and Gambia. CMAG, which includes representatives from Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe, is mandated to work toward the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the Commonwealth.
8 July: Ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah addressed the nation over a clandestine radio station Monday, calling for the AFRC to give up power. "Hand over now and spare yourself and the people of Sierra Leone further pains and suffering," Kabbah told coup leaders. "If you persist however and cause any further force to be used...then let me assure you no Western countries will grant you asylum. No African countries will harbour you." Addressing ordinary soldiers, Kabbah said, "As your commander I hereby order you to report to the nearest ECOMOG base without arms in your possession and declare your loyalty. By doing so you will avoid being treated as a mutineer." He told citizens not to work with the regime, and said that supporters of the military government would be "damned as collaborators." Kabbah accused the coup leaders and their RUF allies of "looting, killings and rape, destroying overnight what many people had worked for all their lives." The broadcast caused panic in Freetown, fueling fears that military intervention by ECOMOG forces is imminent. The city's lorry parks were reported Tuesday to be crowded with people attempting to flee the capital. Military authorities called the broadcast illegal and an infringement of the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone. "The public is hereby warned that statements which may be broadcast on this radio station should not be considered as official but must be seen and regarded as propaganda designed to disrupt the peaceful citizens of this country," an AFRC statement said. AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul Sesay called the station a "pirate setup" and accused the Nigerian government of "providing logistics for the setting up of the station," which he said was based at Lungi International Airport. He claimed that the announcer spoke with a Nigerian accent. The clandestine station, which calls itself "Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service," "SLBS 98.1" and "The True Voice of Sierra Leone," transmits at a frequency of 98.1 on the FM waveband--very close to the SLBS frequency of 99.9.
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma announced the formation of a cabinet Tuesday, naming himself as head of state and RUF leader Foday Sankoh as his deputy. A statement on SLBS (state radio) said that Koroma had announced a large cabinet drawn from a cross-section of the country, with Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa as Chief Secretary. Details of the other appointments were not available. SLBS said Koroma had asked for representatives from various professional bodies to be part of his government.
Soldiers backed by RUF rebels of the "People's Army" captured the strategic Mano River Bridge on the Liberian border Monday after a battle with hundreds of Kamajors, senior army spokesman Major John Milton said Tuesday. Sources in Kenema said at least 18 Kamajors were killed and that several soldiers were wounded. There were unconfirmed reports of deaths among the soldiers. Milton accused Nigeria of arming the Kamajors from Liberia. "The Kamajors are being supplied arms and ammunition by Nigeria," he said. The taking of the bridge followed the capture of the towns of Gofor and Zimmi over the weekend, about 27 miles away. The Mano River Bridge is owned jointly by Sierra Leone and Liberia.
ECOWAS will seek economic sanctions against Sierra Leone, Ghanaian Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho said Tuesday. Gbeho, who was part of the ECOWAS four nation committee formed to negotiate with the AFRC, said the coup leaders had set conditions for their departure. These included the incorporation of all RUF fighters into the regular armed forces and the return of all war refugees to their villages. "If these conditions could be met, the regime will be ready to step down within four to six months," Gbeho said in Accra. He said the committee will ask the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on the AFRC to force them out.
6 July: Captain Solomon Anthony James "SAJ" Musa has arrived in Freetown, and has made a statement on SLBS (state radio). Musa, who was linked to coup allegations in 1993 and has since been living abroad, was originally called on by an AFRC spokesman on May 25 to join the coup leaders. He has reportedly been named acting Vice Chairman of the AFRC in place of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who remains in detention in Nigeria. In Freetown, conditions are continuing to deteriorate. Supplies of food and fuel are reported to be running low. At Connaught Hospital, only 2 of 24 doctors remain on duty, and most of the wards have been locked. The courts are not operating, and most judges and lawyers have fled the country.
The Kamajor militia reopened the Makeni-Kono road to civilians on Friday, but Kamajors are checking vehicles to prevent passage of soldiers and RUF fighters of the "People's Army." Passengers arriving from Kono District reported seeing 25 skeletons displayed at Makali of Kamajor fighters who were killed by soldiers shortly after the coup. The soldiers who reached Kono are said to have seized and worked diamond mines there in the district.
Three Sierra Leone human rights organizations have reported an increase in armed robberies, summary executions, and other human rights abuses since the AFRC came to power. Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, Chairman of the Civil Liberties Congress (CLC), reported more than 30 armed robberies in Freetown alone. "Most of these cases are accompanied by gruesome murders of the victims and there have also been more than a dozen summary executions carried out by the AFRC loyalists, sometimes in broad daylight," Tejan-Sie said. He also cited the detention of at least 15 persons on June 15, mostly SLPP politicians and military officers, on charges of plotting to overthrow the AFRC. Both the CLC and Amnesty International have expressed concern about possible mistreatment of the detainees. "We are going to make a formal protest to the AFRC junta about these abuses and then ask them to let us see the detainees at the maximum prisons," Tejan-Sie said. The National League for Human Rights and Democracy (NLHRD) has also accused the military of human rights abuses. A statement released by the NLHRD Secretariat read, "The League is very concerned about the flagrant violation of human rights, especially the rights of life, security and property, of the ordinary Sierra Leonean." NLHRD Secretary General Joseph Rahall termed the situation "frightening" and said it will "be difficult bringing the culprits to justice." Mohamed Koroma, the Secretary General of Prison Watch, said that the increase in human rights abuses and armed robberies resulted from the release of over 500 prisoners from Pademba Road Prison during the coup. "I think that was a sad mistake. How could they have done that? These hardened convicts are now on the prowl with guns and military uniforms killing innocent people," Koroma said. The AFRC is showing signs of preparing to clamp down on the press. The editors of the independent newspapers The Democrat and the Standard Times, were recently summoned to military headquarters over alleged negative reporting. The editor of the Standard Times has reported receiving anonymous death threats for "not being in line with the revolution."
Reaction: U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch: "This effort that is now underway by ECOWAS provides an opportunity for those in power for the moment in Freetown to very carefully consider their responsibilities to their own people. The international community will not accept their continued presence in Freetown and does not recognize them in any way. The population, as is evident from the continued refusal to work for almost six weeks, has spoken very eloquently about its determination to see the democratically-elected government restored. I think it behooves those in power, momentarily, to really think very hard as to what they are seeking to attain. And if they genuinely have the interests of the people of Sierra Leone at heart, if they really have that at heart, they should now, together with the ECOWAS committee, find a way while there is still time to step down without more destruction and allow the restoration of the democratically-elected government of President Kabbah. Thereafter a lot of those concerns that they raised can be addressed in a democratic context."
5 July: ECOWAS is seeking United Nations support for its stance on the Sierra Leone crisis. On Saturday, ECOWAS chairman and Nigerian president General Sani Abacha directed the four nation contact committee on the Sierra Leone crisis to brief the U.N. Security Council. The announcement was made by Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi shortly after the committee met with General Abacha to brief him on the agreement reached by the ECOWAS foreign ministers meeting in Conakry, Guinea. Ikimi said Abacha fully endorsed the committee's agreement, which approved talks with the AFRC, but threatened sanctions or military intervention should the negotiations fail. Ikimi claimed the situation in Sierra Leone is degenerating into anarchy. He dismissed fears that some ECOWAS member nations are giving the AFRC tacit support, explaining that nations which received the military government's delegations had all emphasized that the government of ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah must be restored.
4 July: Sierra Leone's military rulers alleged Friday that last year's presidential election was tainted. In a statement read over SLBS (state radio), the AFRC ruling military council said said outgoing NPRC military leader Julius Maada Bio had "rigged" the vote to elect ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "Thus Sierra Leone was saddled with the Tejan Kabbah government against the true wishes of the people," the AFRC statement said. "In order to guarantee true and lasting peace and stability, Sierra Leone needs fresh and truly democratic elections supervised, not merely observed, by neutral experts provided by the international community." The military leaders called for a sovereign national conference to form a civilian government and prepare for new elections. "The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council will accept any decision arrived at by the conference with regard to the interim civil governance of the country, leading to the installation of a government that is freely and fairly elected," the AFRC statement said.
Nigeria said Friday that six countries have closed their embassies in Freetown in what Nigerian Foreign Ministry sources said may be a prelude to the storming of Freetown by ECOMOG forces. The closure of the embassies of Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Benin, Togo, and Ivory Coast began Wednesday and the withdrawal of their diplomats was expected to be completed on Friday. The diplomatic missions were closed following the recommendation of an ECOWAS foreign ministers conference held in Conakry, Guinea at the end of June. The foreign ministers decided to use negotiations and economic sanctions to force the military government from power, while reserving the military option if these measures should fail.
3 July: Ousted Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama said Thursday that she now believes only military action can reverse the coup against Sierra Leone's civilian government. "I think it has got to the stage where force must be used," Gbujama said in Abuja, Nigeria. "It is regrettable, the stage at which we are is not a time for dialogue. People have tried all kinds of dialogue and have spent five weeks trying and it didn't have any effect," she said. Gbujama was accompanied on her trip to Nigeria by Patricia Kabbah, the wife of ousted president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "We were here in Nigeria to express gratitude to the head of state for the fact that Nigeria has stuck its neck out for us so far," said Gbujama. She said Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha had promised what assistance he could as ECOWAS chairman.
2 July: Sierra Leone's state-owned Commercial Bank reopened Wednesday after the military government said it would guarantee its security. "The government has, after repeated meetings with them, convinced us that they will protect us and our operations fully," a senior bank official said. He said the government had also "assured us of other technical issues, such as the matter of liquidity, in case we run across such a problem." The bank will give priority to corporate customers who need large amounts of money to pay staff, many of whom have not received their wages for two months. Other banks in Freetown remain closed, and trade union officials said they had been told that the banks will remain closed for the time being. "The parent companies of Barclays and Standard Chartered have written to the Sierra Leone Labour Congress that their banks will remain shut for the time being, despite calls by the present military government to reopen them, until the security situation improves considerably," a union leader said. "Our case is different from the foreign-owned banks," said the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank official. "We are mainly owned and run by the government and, whatever happens, we are bound to comply with government orders."
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma has told Nigeria that Sierra Leone, not foreign forces, must provide security for the ECOWAS negotiating team. In a statement broadcast over SLBS late Tuesday, Koroma said that the use of Nigerian or ECOMOG troops would infringe on Sierra Leone's sovereignty. "The delegates arriving in Sierra Leone for fact-finding are purely under the auspices of the government of Sierra Leone and no assistance is needed from any foreign forces," the statement said. "Let the integrity of our country be respected." Sources close to the AFRC said ECOMOG is insisting on providing security for the visiting envoys, and diplomats say that there is no guarantee that the committee will go to Freetown unless the security issue can be resolved.
The Sierra Leone Teachers Union issued a statement Wednesday, saying that the coup "will not only destabilize the fragile educational system but will cripple all development prospects as Sierra Leone is considered as a least developed country worldwide." The statement, which was presented to AFRC spokesman Colonel Abdul K. Sesay, regretted that the overthrow of the civilian government "has disrupted the country's education calendar and caused the flight of hundreds of teachers and school children to neighboring countries." Immigration officials in Freetown estimate that at least 3,000 teachers and 4,000 school children have left the country since the coup. The statement followed an address to the Teachers Union by Colonel Sesay on June 29, in which he apologised to the teachers for "any inconveniences they may have gone through" as a result of the coup. He reminded the teachers of their importance in nation building, and said the AFRC looked forward to the Union's cooperation in the interest of the children.
U.N. Ambassador James Jonah said Wednesday that Sierra Leone's military government is controlled by the Liberians, who are preventing the AFRC from being flexible in meeting international demands for them to relinquish power. "The evidence is very clear that those in charge today in Sierra Leone are not those ill-considered military people who have made a coup," Jonah said at a press conference in New York. "The control has passed on to the RUF, which is today controlled by Liberians. They are digging in their heels." As evidence for his claim, Jonah said that the Liberian accents of RUF leaders "just gives them up completely," and that people who were involved in the Liberian civil war knew them. "It is painful to me to mention, because we don't want to implicate all the Liberians...but the people who are resisting the return of the legal government are these leadership people...the military people who made the coup are no longer in control," he said. Jonah referred to the RUF's number two man, Sam Bockarie, who is commonly called 'Mosquito'. "Though he has Sierra Leonean connection and he may be Sierra Leonean, most of his life he has spent in Liberia," he said. Jonah said the civilian government in exile does not want war with Liberia, but to return to civilian rule. He said the coup leaders "seem to be missing the point" in believing that negotiations can take place, whereas ECOWAS leaders are attempting to clear the way for a return to civilian rule. "The government of President Kabbah seeks no wider war. Nor does it intend to wage a war of revenge against the RUF or the army," Jonah said. "The main objective of the legal government is to make it abundantly clear than an act of treason should not be allowed to succeed."
The World Food Programme (WFP) completed distribution of 228 metric tons of relief food Wednesday to more than 26,000 displaced persons in Makeni. The food was given to 4,400 families from Freetown and outlying villages in Northern Province who have taken refuge in Makeni. The WFP said in a press release that this was the largest consignment of food to be distributed in Sierra Leone since the May 25 coup.
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma told the executive council of the Bondo Society Tuesday that he supports female circumcision and other traditional practices, SLBS reported Wednesday. "Now that peace has been achieved you can practice without hindrance," Koroma said.
1 July: ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Tuesday that his troops are ready to drive the AFRC from power should negotiations fail. "We have the capability of flushing out those people if and when we are directed to do so," Malu said in Lagos. On Friday, ECOWAS foreign ministers designated a four nation negotiating committee consisting of the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Guinea, Ghana, and Ivory Coast to try to persuade the military to relinquish power. The committee is to report to ECOWAS Chairman General Sani Abacha on the outcome at the end of two weeks. The foreign ministers reserved the option of military force should negotiations fail. "If after two weeks of consultation they report to the chairman that these people are still adamant in reversing the situation as it is supposed to be then all those measures can be applied at the same time," Malu said.
Nord Resources Corporation, a 50% owner of Sierra Leone Rutile, has received a three month extension of its debt forbearance agreement. As a condition of the extension, the company has agreed to pay the banks $3,000,000 plus 50% of one principal payment to each bank. Under terms of the extension, which ends September 30, 1997, the banks have agreed to refrain from taking any action to collect loans unless there is a material change in circumstances. Because of the recent unrest in Sierra Leone, the company said, there could be a delay in the previous target date of early 1998 for the reopening of the mine. The company said that the Sierra Leone Rutile site has been unaffected by the unrest, and minesite personnel continue to perform limited refurbishment and maintenance.
Reaction: Russian Foreign Ministry: "The Revolutionary United Front, which has staged a military coup in the country, is still keeping power despite the outer pressure and resistance of civilians and volunteers units." Moscow hailed ECOWAS efforts to "find ways of restoring constitutional order."