The Sierra Leone Web


August 2002

31 August: U.S. President George W. Bush has authorised the State Department to spend up to $6.6 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to assist the estimated 200,000 people displaced by recent fighting in Liberia, the Associated Press reported. The money would also be used to help refugees returning to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday that the movement of refugees from Liberia to Sierra Leone had continued to slow in recent weeks as a result of reduced hostilities in Liberia. New areas in Kenema and Kono districts have been declared safe by the government, which has encouraged refugees and displaced persons to return home.

Sierra Leone's former rebels have renewed their appeal to the United Nations to lift a travel ban on former AFRC junta members and allow them to travel outside the country to build their political party, the Agence France-Presse reported. "We want the ban to be lifted so that we can travel out of the country to solicit funds to pursue our aims and objectives politically," said Eldred Collins, the RUF Party spokesman and a candidate to succeed former party secretary-general Pallo Bangura, who resigned last month. "The ban has made the party to have limited funds to fight the recent elections, so we are now trying to strengthen the party's finances for carry out our programmes," he said.

30 August: A Peace Corps security assessment team which visited Sierra Leone this month has recommended the return of the Peace Corps programme for the first time since the last volunteers were pulled out eight years ago in the face of the country's worsening civil war. If the recommendation is accepted by Peace Corps and modalities for their return negotiated with the Sierra Leone government, a small group of perhaps 20 volunteers – about one tenth the size of the pre-war programme – could be on the ground by the beginning of next year, said Michael O'Neill, who led the two-member mission. O'Neill spent four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer some three decades ago in the Bo District town of Mbundobu, and then remained in Sierra Leone for six more years working with the non-governmental organisation GTZ. He left in 1988 but returned to the country in 1991 to work for the Red Cross. In 1992, while on a trip to Koidu, he was kidnapped by the notorious RUF commander Sam Bockarie and held for six weeks at the rebel stronghold of Pendembu. Now, he is charged with determining whether Sierra Leone, just emerging from a decade of conflict, is safe enough for the volunteers to return. During his ten day mission, O'Neill travelled to Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Magburaka and Makeni, and met with President Kabbah and government ministers, army and police officials, representatives of non-governmental organisations, university educators, and members of UNAMSIL. He said the overall response was enthusiastic. "The general finding is that based on our discussions and observations, the need for resettlement, reconstruction and development assistance in Sierra Leone is enormous," he said. "Even with all the NGOs and people, they’re still a drop in the bucket. Things are worn out." The first volunteers to arrive would be members of the newly-formed Crisis Corps, made up of former Peace Corps Volunteers now advanced in their careers who have specific skills requested by the Sierra Leone government or non-governmental organisations. "You’re talking professional people – engineers, lawyers, social workers, educators with masters degrees, things like that," O'Neill told the Sierra Leone Web. "It’s a high level. They’re essentially skilled consultants who are volunteering their time."  Crisis Corps volunteers would serve from three to twelve months, and O'Neill said that initially they would work within commutable distances of large towns. Although he said security was no longer a concern except for the area near the Liberian border, volunteers would likely not be placed in the far east or the far north. "In the short term we probably wouldn’t go much further north than Makeni with Crisis Corps, and that is still pending," he said. O'Neill explained that the relatively small group of volunteers was what Peace Corp's organisational infrastructure could bear at present, and that re-establishing the programme to its previous level would take some time. "It takes a while before you can get that level of infrastructure established," he said. "I would suggest to you that in today’s Peace Corps, and especially given the poor infrastructure and the difficulty in communications in Sierra Leone, an expansion outside a certain radius from the main towns – Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Freetown – is going to take time until Peace Corps can build up its own internal structure." In the meantime, he said, members of the Crisis Corps could draw on their previous experience as Peace Corps Volunteers and could be on the ground quickly. "Crisis Corps volunteers have the benefit of previous experience as volunteers, so they know what it’s like to have to adjust to a new culture, to live with hardship, and to put in the two years," he said. "They have a proven record in that regard. As returned volunteers, they also have the professional development they’ve gained since they returned to the United States." The return of Peace Corps has received the strong support of U.S. Ambassador Peter Russell Chaveas (pictured left), who before embarking on his foreign service career served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chad. "The ambassador accompanied us overland to Makeni with the express intent of demonstrating the level of security and being able to have first-hand credibility to say ‘look I was there, I saw it’ and make his advice to the State (Department)," O'Neill said. Among those the team met with in Freetown was Mohamed B. Daramy, Sierra Leone's Minister of Development and Economic Planning. Daramy told the Sierra Leone Web that in principle his government would be delighted to see Peace Corps return, but that the details still had to be worked out. He described his response to the Peace Corps mission: "We are very much interested in your coming, but let us know what will be the action on our own part then what will be on your own part," he said. "We have to know really what will be our own commitment, then we know your own responsibility, what you want to do. So if you send that document to me I will review that, I take it to (President Kabbah) for his input." Daramy said there were a number of sectors where he would like to see the volunteers work. "Education, health – everywhere where they can be useful," he said. "I tell you, we need people in every area. All the areas, to be truthful with you. It depends how much expertise they have in each of these areas: construction, agriculture, health, education, all these areas."

Despite signing international protocols which commit it to appointing women to 30 percent of leadership positions in the government and civil service, the Sierra Leone government has made little headway in meeting those goals, the Freetown civil society group Campaign for Good Governance said this week. According to the group, only seven of the 126 Directors of Boards in the 21 parastatals are women, or just 6 percent of the total.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2050 / 2250. [£] 3000 / 3250 Commercial Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 3050 / 3250. Frandia: [$] 2100 / 2250 [£] 2700 / 2950. Continental: [$] 2200 / 2300 [£] 3050 / 3350. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2180 / 2200 [£] 3150 / 3250.

29 August: Members of the United Nations Security Council commended Sierra Leone Thursday on its efforts to crack down on illicit diamond mining, but acknowledged that the government still faces problems in controlling illegal diamond production and smuggling, Council President John Negroponte of the United States said in a statement. Thursday's statement came at the conclusion of a briefing of the 15-member Council by the chairman of the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico, on the fourth review of the Sierra Leone Diamond Certification Process. According to Negroponte, Council members urged the Sierra Leone government to strengthen its internal monitoring capacity to prevent the country's gemstones from being used to fund conflicts in the region, and appealed to the international community and donor nations to support these efforts. The Council also welcomed plans by West African countries to develop a region-wide certification system. On Wednesday, the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee reminded U.N. member states of the prohibition on the import of Sierra Leonean rough diamonds into their territory, except for those stones certified by the Sierra Leone government as coming from legitimate sources.

28 August: Four days of heavy rains have caused serious flooding in Bo, BBC correspondent Richard Margao reported on Wednesday. At least four houses and a newly-constructed guest house collapsed in the flood and more than 500 residents were made homeless, while makeshift huts built by returning refugees and hundreds of market stalls were also said to have been destroyed. "The most affected were women and children who were seen trapped in houses engulfed by the flooding," Margao said. "Some of the women had their personal effects on their heads and they stood in the harsh waters pathetically crying for rescue. Rescue was not possible for 24 hours until two local canoes were brought in from the nearby villages to carry the children and women to the commercial sections of New London and New York." He added that about 50 vehicles had been halted on the highway after the water flooded a bridge on the highway linking Bo to the capital Freetown.

27 August: The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, will begin an airlift Wednesday to repatriate Sierra Leonean refugees from Lagos, Nigeria, a spokesman for the agency said on Tuesday. A first group of 70 persons, including six babies, is due to travel Tuesday in a convoy of five trucks from Oru Camp, about two hours north of Lagos. On Wednesday they will take a commercial flight to Freetown, where all of the first group come from. Subsequent flights through September 25 will transport refugees from other parts of the country, including Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Koidu. There are some 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria, but so far only 270 have expressed a willingness to return home.  

25 August: A goal by Bai Omar Samba in the 58th minute was enough for Gambia to defeat the Leone Stars 1-0 Sunday in a friendly match played in the Gambian capital Banjul, the Associated Press reported.

24 August: Immigration officials in Britain are trying to track down 21 Sierra Leonean athletes who failed to return home at the end of the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, the PA News reported. "The British High Commission were disappointed to learn that 21 team members have not returned to Sierra Leone. The U.K. Immigration authorities have been notified and will be investigating individual cases," a Home Office spokesperson said, adding: "In arranging these events there is always a risk that participants will use the event to secure entry into the U.K. for another purpose." Only nine members of the 30-strong team – two athletes and seven officials – returned to Freetown at the conclusion of the games despite warnings by Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Dennis Bright that failure to do so could have serious repercussions for Sierra Leone's future participation in international competitions.

A Freetown-based civil society group has lodged a communication against Libya with the African Commission on Human Rights on behalf of five Sierra Leoneans who, it is alleged, were illegally detained and tortured by Libyan authorities in November 2000 in violation of the African Charter. The Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), which filed the complaint on behalf of Osman Conteh, Mohamed Bashiru Jalloh, Idrissa Kamara, Ibrahim Sankoh, and Bangali Kargbo, said the Libyan government should apologise and pay compensation for the violence unleashed against them and other West African refugees after the Libyan government broadcast a statement demanding that Libyans who had hired "black aliens" immediately terminate their services and send them back to refugee camps. "As a direct result of this proclamation, soldiers, police officers and other security personnel and civilians attacked, assaulted, insulted and abused refugees, including the Sierra Leoneans, who were within and without refugee camps," the letter said, adding that the refugees were subjected to physical violence and torture, illegal and arbitrary detention, and other forms of maltreatment. Some, it said, were subsequently denied access to medical care. The Sierra Leoneans and other West Africans were then rounded up and expelled from Libya without recourse to local courts, and in violation of the African Charter's prohibition against mass expulsions of non-nationals based on their national, racial, ethnic or religious affiliations. "Sierra Leonean refugees were forced to decide whether they were to continue suffering from harassment, torture and die in Libya or return to Sierra Leone or Liberia at a time when there was civil war in both West African countries, where they would face equally harsh fate," the letter said. The Libyan government failed to respond to a previous letter, according to the CGG. The accusations come as some Western governments were voicing opposition to the African Union's decision in July to nominate Libya to head the U.N. Human Rights Commission when the rotating leadership of the body goes to Africa in 2003.

23 August: An independent inquiry conducted by seven Sierra Leonean civil society and human rights groups into last month's anti-Nigerian rioting in central Freetown has blamed U.N. peacekeepers for the deaths of two persons from bullet wounds, and the injuring of three others. The July 18 riots erupted after a popular Sierra Leonean black market currency trader, Momodu Jam Bah, was found to have been murdered, allegedly by Nigerian criminals. U.N. troops intervened after several hundred youths began looting Nigerian-owned businesses in the city centre. The Human Rights Committee's report accuses the Nigerian troops who arrived on the scene of using disproportionate force in putting down the disturbances. The report's conclusions contradict in part an earlier in-house investigation by UNAMSIL, which found insufficient evidence to determine who had fired the fatal shots and largely exonerated the peacekeepers. U.N. troops had "employed a combination of persuasion, crowd dispersal tactics and firing of warning shots into the air" to disperse the rioters, UNAMSIL said, adding that the available evidence indicted that "at no time was firing directed at the crowd." The Human Rights Committee disagreed, citing what it said were eyewitness accounts and medical evidence which suggested that the victims had been hit by direct gunfire. The report quoted police and witnesses as saying that neither the rioters nor law enforcement officials on the scene were armed, and that the only people carrying weapons were U.N. troops. The committee called the use of live ammunition to suppress a stone-throwing crowd "a disproportionate use of force," suggesting that the situation could have been more appropriately handled by using rubber bullets or tear gas. Meanwhile, the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, Behrooz Sadry, told the Associated Press that the UNAMSIL investigation was ongoing. "Some people are of the view that UNAMSIL is guilty. We are still continuing our own investigation," he said, adding: "It has not been an easy matter. As soon as we complete the investigation, we shall issue another report." Sadry acknowledged that the peacekeepers who responded to the disturbance were carrying weapons. "We did shoot in the air. We had justification to deploy in the area to quell the riot and to shoot in the air. We do not have the right to kill people," he said.

Three Sierra Leonean football players who were tapped for the Leone Stars' September 8 African Nations Cup qualifying match against Equatorial Guinea have been arrested by immigration officials in Cyprus and turned over to police, the BBC reported on Friday. Mohamed "Opong" Kamara (formerly with Mighty Blackpool, Warren Kanu (Mighty Blackpool) and Abdulai "Kalouga" Conteh (Old Edwardians) were on their way home to Sierra Leone after having attended team trials with a Russian club last month. "They failed to impress, and were headed home when they received a called from a Cypriot national named Appolous who claimed he could find them a club," the BBC said. "Unfortunately on their arrival in Cyprus Appolous did not meet them, and instead they were met by immigration officers who then handed them over to police." The Sierra Leone Football Association and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are now said to be working to secure the players' release. Meanwhile, Sierra Leonean international Mohamed Kallon (pictured right) is listed as doubtful for next month's match after suffering what was described as a thigh strain. The Inter Milan striker is expected to recover in time for the Leone Stars' second qualifier, against Gabon on October 13, the BBC reported.

22 August: The continued presence of United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone is linked to progress in achieving a number of benchmarks aimed at reinforcing the recently restored peace in the country, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji told diplomats in Freetown on Wednesday. According to a UNAMSIL statement, Adeniji, who is the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, noted UNAMSIL's view that the U.N.'s exit strategy should not be tied to the recently-concluded presidential and parliamentary elections. Instead, he said, the U.N. should look at the ability of the Sierra Leone Police and the armed forces to maintain security, the successful reintegration of ex-combatants, security in the Mano River Union sub-region, and progress in restoring civil authority throughout the country. Adeniji expressed hope that the U.N. Security Council would take these factors into consideration when making a decision on UNAMSIL's future.

21 August: President Kabbah has expressed his support for an ECOWAS proposal designed to end the conflict in Liberia between government forces and the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the Associated Press reported, quoting state radio. "Any initiative to bring peace to Liberia and (neighboring) countries is highly appreciated," Kabbah said after meeting with ECOWAS Executive-Secretary Mohammed Chambas on Tuesday to discuss the initiative. The proposal calls for a ceasefire and the disarmament of all militias and some government security forces, followed by elections. An international contact group comprised of representatives of the United Nations, the African Union and some African countries, would oversee implementation of the agreement. Chambas, who arrived in Sierra Leone from Liberia, said Liberian President Charles Taylor had welcomed the proposal. Chambas was due to travel on to Guinea on Tuesday.

The Sierra Leone government has offered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) office space in the old agriculture building on Tower Hill, and will provide emergency financial assistance toward the commission's preparatory phase, TRC Executive Secretary Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff told the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday. "They’re in the process of clearing (the building) out and preparing a report of dilapidation," she said. "They’ve offered about half of the old agriculture building to us." She added that the TRC hoped to complete its move from its present offices on Pademba Road by the time the commission launches its operational phase in October. Jusu-Sheriff said the financial contribution was expected to be in the area of 200 million leones, or about $100,000. "They want to give us some kind of emergency contribution just towards the preparatory phase while they work on what would be the more substantial contribution of the operational phase," she said. "That’s to help us with certain operational issues in the preparatory phase, particularly with our public education campaign."

20 August: The proceedings of Sierra Leone's Special Court will held in public, and could even be broadcast over the radio, Chief Prosecutor David Crane said on Tuesday. "(Sierra Leoneans) will in fact be able to come in and watch the proceedings," Crane told the World programme – a collaboration of the BBC and National Public Radio. "The proceedings hopefully with the consent of the president of the court will be broadcast over radio, which is the primary means of communication here," he said. "As the prosecutor I would encourage these kind of things. Courts have to be transparent." The Special Court is comprised of both Sierra Leonean and international judges and staff, and is charged with prosecuting a handful of persons deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes committed during the latter half of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war. Crane declined to speculate on who might be indicted. "At this point, all I can tell you is that we have a solid prosecution plan and we are moving forward following the evidence wherever it may lead," he said. "We are looking at all aspects of this tragedy, evaluating all potential defendants." Crane said the court and a parallel institution, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), would be working together. "I expect and intend to fully participate with dialogue and information sharing with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," he said. He downplayed concerns that a person who testified before the TRC could have his testimony used as evidence against him in the court – something TRC commissioners have insisted will not be allowed to happen – and he stressed the TRC's important role in bringing closure to Sierra Leoneans who have suffered through years of civil strife. "From time to time those individuals may be one and the same and should that happen the Special Court has primacy and in fact can seek and ask the witness to testify before the Special Court," he said. "But those instances will be in fact few and far between. Most of the parties will be going before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission if they so desire. It's an important healing device for this country, to tell the story, to get the victims and others to come forward and tell what happened so that an historical record can be had."

In his latest report on the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concern that the deteriorating security situation in Liberia was spreading to neighbouring Guinea, and was causing concern for the fragile peace in Sierra Leone, his spokesman said on Tuesday. Annan also said that aid to Africa was declining despite efforts by African governments toward better economic growth and poverty reduction programmes. He added that nowhere was the need for greater financial resources more urgent than in Africa, where countries were faced with the challenge of poverty and the threat of HIV/AIDS.

19 August: Sierra Leonean sports officials feared that some of their county's athletes at this month's Commonwealth Games were preparing to abscond, but were powerless to prevent it, Youth and Sports Minister Dr. Dennis Bright said on Monday. Bright, who accompanied the team to Manchester, told the Sierra Leone Web that he twice visited the athletic village to warn the athletes about the repercussions their remaining behind would have on Sierra Leone's future representation in international competitions. In the end, however, he failed to persuade them. "Most of them were stone cold," he said. "They were just looking at me sheepishly. If you study their body language you will feel that they were uneasy – it was like I was hitting the nail on the head. The more I spoke about it the more discomfort you could feel in them. I thought that if some of them had the idea it would be really just one or two of them. This is what I thought at the time. I never knew that the huge bulk of them had already made plans to do that, and I have a feeling that even from here." Only nine members of Sierra Leone's 30-member team, most of them officials, returned to Freetown. 21 of the country's 23 athletes went into hiding in England. Bright said his ministry would go back to the drawing board, and that he intended to concentrate from now on on restructuring and rebuilding Sierra Leone's sports institutions – the associations and clubs – which have fallen into decline from a decade of civil war. But appearances by Sierra Leonean athletes in international competition might be at an end – at least for now. "I would not be in a hurry to send them to the Olympic games, I’m telling you," he said. "In the immediate future, I think this is what it would mean. I don’t think they’re ready – mentally, psychologically, even in terms of the training physically. I don’t think they’re ready to represent us." Bright said the money used to send the team abroad could be better spent in improving training facilities at home and in developing the country's athletes to the point where they would be legitimate medal contenders. "This idea of a symbolic appearance was good for now, and look at what happened," he said. "It was good for now because we’ve been in war and things like that, and we’re just trying to behave now like a normal country. And attending the (Commonwealth Games), or at least making a representation there, was at least strategic in that respect, to know that at least not only could we have elections but we are also present in the world. But the way it turned out, the performance they put out, I think that’s enough now." The minister said that if anything positive came out of the team's participation in the Commonwealth Games, it was the contacts Sierra Leonean officials made which could pave the way for future assistance for Sierra Leone's sports programmes, including training for national coaches. And he pointed to the enormous amount of goodwill shown for Sierra Leone's athletes. "We did enjoy that kind of recognition," he said. "We at least were present there, and people cheered Sierra Leone. It’s like coming back to life again internationally in sports." But Bright acknowledged that there were few other positive results achieved by what was perhaps Sierra Leone's largest athletic team ever to appear in international competition. "In terms of the real thing, nothing could have been better than if we at least had one or two medals, which we didn’t have," he said. 

A nine-member Mano River Union delegation of officials from Sierra Leone and Guinea has arrived in Monrovia to assess Liberia's security situation in light of recent cross-border raids into Sierra Leone, Radio France International reported on Monday. The delegation is headed by Alex Koroma, who told journalists that the officials would meet with President Charles Taylor, civil society groups, and the religious community. The delegation met with the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia on Sunday. 

Senior Sierra Leone government and United Nations officials were in Makeni Saturday for the formal handover of offices and residence for the Senior District Officer – the highest government official in Bombali District. During the latter stages of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, Makeni served as the headquarters for the rebel Revolutionary United Front. The handover, said U.N. Deputy Special Representative Behrooz Sadry (pictured left), was "a definitive landmark" in the restoration of civil authority, which began with the deployment of the Sierra Leone Police and the return of the paramount chiefs. Sadry pointed to an urgent need for the return of the judiciary, and pledged that UNAMSIL would "commence work to rehabilitate, refurbish and provide furniture for the Magistrate's Court buildings in Makeni, Magburaka and Kabala."  Local Government Minister Sidique Brima said the government would begin holding local government elections this month in order to further consolidate the restoration of civil authority. "We want a departure from the trend of putting government appointees in position at local government administration, and we shall ensure transparency and all democratic principles in the conduct of local government and paramount chiefs elections,” he said.

Liberia presents "almost a textbook case" of major warning signs that the country is deteriorating on the political, military, economic and social fronts, threatening to plunge it back into a civil war which could have devastating consequences for its civilian population and threaten the hard-won peace in neighbouring Sierra Leone, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned on Monday. In its new briefing paper Liberia Unravelling, the ICG noted that "rivalry and tribalist tendencies" dating back to 1980, to the Samuel Doe regime, had never been resolved. These were now being highlighted, the group said, by "a retrograde civil war," a crumbling economy, an isolated and threatened leadership seeking to cling to power, and the re-emergence of Liberian militia groups. The ICG report also noted that the international community, which imposed sanctions on the Taylor regime last year for its support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and for its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade, was left with few palatable options. "Years of sanctions might only push Liberia further into a decayed state where militias able to loot their own salary effectively control large swaths of the country," the ICG said. "Alternately, the notion of simply ignoring Taylor's many previous transgressions and embracing a policy of full engagement – in essence forgiving and forgetting – is unsavoury." The group suggested that an exit by President Taylor after the next election, currently scheduled for October 2003, might remove one stumbling block to resolving Liberia's deep-rooted problems. The report pointed, however, to three impediments to Taylor relinquishing power: His concern that he could be prosecuted by Sierra Leone's Special Court, concerns for his physical safety, and pressure to remain in power from members of his ruling party concerned about their futures. The ICG suggested that the international community guarantee Taylor immunity from the Special Court and give him basic assurances for his safety in exchange for his agreement to go into exile and to remove himself permanently from Liberian politics and military affairs.

18 August: Student leaders met in Freetown over the weekend to commemorate the fifth anniversary of student demonstrations against the AFRC military regime which were ruthlessly put down by junta soldiers and their RUF allies. At least two people, a medical nurse and an Environmental Sciences student from Njala University College, were killed in the resulting violence, while a number of female students were abducted and raped by AFRC supporters. A journalist who covered the events of that day, Voice of America stringer Kelvin Lewis (pictured left), recalled that the students had decided to go ahead with their anti-junta protest despite warnings broadcast over state radio that the demonstrations would be illegal. "The demonstration was in defiance of that order," Lewis told the Sierra Leone Web. "The government – Johnny Paul's junta – had said that it was illegal and they were urging the students not to go along. In fact, one feature of that was the junta then said they were observing a ceasefire and they were not going to fire, but then they opened up a container of agricultural tools and took out machetes which they were using instead of guns." On 18 August 1997, university students first attempted to rally at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital on Fourah Bay Road, but the demonstration was countered by force from the soldiers. "As soon as they started congregating, then the military boys learned of it and they swiftly went to that area and started firing," Lewis said. "From PCMH, (the students) then went to the National School of Nursing, and they were at National School of Nursing when the soldiers came again to that particular spot, and then they massacred those boys." Lewis, his cousin, and BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay were arrested by Koroma's Chief of Security, Colonel "Rambo" Marah, and taken to Military Headquarters at Cockerill where they were stripped of their possessions and locked in a shipping container. "When I was arrested, we lost touch with what was actually happening during the day, although we were also getting news of what was happening," Lewis said. "The students were being arrested and brought in along with us. Everybody was telling their own experiences. And when I came out, in fact, it was very difficult to find out who were dead because they were detaining people in different centers. I was detained at the military headquarters. Some of the students were detained in the Pademba Road Prison. And of course there were other groups of students, girls, who were being rotated in the houses of some of these so-called ‘honourables’ in the AFRC. Some of these girls were gang-raped. It took a period before you could know who was dead and who was still alive, because for over a week a lot of people were not seen." Lewis said it was difficult to know who actually gave the order to unleash violence against the students, but he said it was clear that it was an organized effort. "The AFRC was such a chaotic government that you didn’t know who gave the orders," he said. "You know that there was the intention to quell the demonstration, because anywhere the students went to, as soon as they heard the students were going to congregate in any particular place they then rushed to the place." One man who has a different recollection of that day's events is the former junta leader, now a parliamentarian, Johnny Paul Koroma (right). In an interview with the Sierra Leone Web Sunday, Koroma denied that he had given orders for the demonstration to be suppressed. "I told them that if they want to demonstrate let them demonstrate, and the soldiers should not tamper with them," Koroma said, adding that he had only warned the students that their protest should not be violent. "The soldiers were not ordered to go to the streets at all," he said. "The only thing we suspected that some of these students, that is what happened, some of the students they were using, some of them were Kamajors. They were armed. That was the problem – they were armed. In fact, they were the first that opened fire, as what I was told." Koroma insisted it was not true, at least to his knowledge, that soldiers had taken students away and raped them. But he acknowledged that others could have done so. "You know at that time how the city was congested," he said. "You have RUF, you have everybody. Nobody gave us the chance to put things in order for them to disarm."

16 August: Most of the Sierra Leonean athletes who competed in the just-concluded Commonwealth have gone into hiding in the U.K. and have refused to return home, the BBC reported on Friday. Only nine of the 30-member team has returned to Freetown.  Earlier in the month, there were unconfirmed reports that the Sierra Leoneans had left the compound which housed the athletes. Minister of Youth and Sport Dr. Dennis Bright, who accompanied the team to Manchester, was quoted as saying the athletes had put their country in an embarrassing position. Permanent Secretary Edward Surrur said the team's decision to stay illegally in Britain was "a national disgrace for Sierra Leone."

The overland repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea resumed this week, when a convoy of seven trucks picked up 120 people from the Mambya transit camp north of Conakry, where they had been awaiting transportation to Freetown by boat, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday. The convoy reached Port Loko on Monday and continued on Tuesday to other locations in the country. The repatriation the estimated 42,000 remaining Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea had been suspended to allow the UNHCR to concentrate on helping refugees and returnees who have fled to Sierra Leone in recent weeks to escape renewed fighting in Liberia. Now for the first time the agency is using Guinean trucks for the transfer. This first operation was regarded as a test run, and will resume in full once the roads are repaired. Meanwhile, repatriation of Sierra Leoneans in Liberia is continuing by sea. Some 1,800 returnees have arrived in Freetown since the exercise began on July 22. The UNHCR is considering chartering a second boat or even mounting an airlift to accelerate the pace of returns from about 300 to 900 a week.

Most of those abducted in recent raids along the Liberian border have been released, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday, quoting police sources. Because of the recent cross-border raids on four villages in Kailahun District, aid agencies have taken precautions for their safety and have been advised to consult with UNAMSIL before distributing food near the border areas, the agency said in a statement. 

The Moroccan authorities deported 48 sub-Saharan Africans this week who were attempting to reach Europe illegally, the Reuters news agency reported. The would-be migrants were said to come from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Benin, Ghana and Senegal. They were arrested in a house in the Moroccan coastal city of Agadir after arriving from Algeria using forged passports. Moroccan officials said the migrants planned to travel to the city of Laayoune in the Western Sahara, and then make for the Spanish Canary Islands.

The departure this week of RUF Party Secretary-General Pallo Bangura will not mean the end of the RUFP, party spokesman Eldred Collins insisted on Friday. In an interview with the BBC, Collins suggested that the former rebel movement would be better off now that Bangura has left. "It’s a resurrection for our party," he said. "The resignation of Dr. Pallo Bangura has no effect on the RUFP as far as we are concerned, because we have expected a whole lot from Dr. Pallo and he never produced the goods that were expected him. So even today I had a talk with the chairman of the Western Area today, and he told me that most of the members, the supporters, are very happy because they said they could not have a secretary-general they don’t know and he can’t even go into the office to speak to them. And even they said that he was one of the contributing factors for the performance in the election because he did not play his part well." Collins said the RUFP was holding meetings, and would soon announce a new secretary-general. In an interview with the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday, Bangura speculated that Collins himself might replace him at the head of the party, and Collins told the BBC he might be interested in the post. "If I feel within myself that I’m capable of shouldering the responsibility of manning the party, well why not?," he said. "Because I think that we are now a political party and we have political objectives to meet up with." Collins rejected a suggestion that with the RUFP's poor performance in the May elections it might be time to disband the party. "There is a story about the farmer: the RUFP is a farmer who sends his seeds," he said. "Some of those seeds fall down in rocky areas, some of them in thorny areas, and some of them in good areas. So we believe that those that fell in the good areas are still with the RUF, and we will muster our resources together to push the party forward."

14 August: The trial of parliamentarian and former Transport and Communications Minister Momoh Pujeh will proceed despite the resignation of his lead lawyer, a Freetown magistrate's court ruled on Wednesday. Pujeh faces charges of acquiring wealth through unlawful means and, along with his wife Mary, of illegal trafficking in diamonds. According to the BBC, Pujeh's lead defence lawyer, Luseni Massaquoi, told the judge he could no longer represent the former minister, and left the court. His reported replacement, Nicholas Browne-Mark, is said to be out of the country for health reasons. The judge ruled that since Pujeh's junior lawyers were present, that the trial should proceed. "What actually happened though, the prosecution was prepared," said BBC correspondent Tom McKinley. "It seemed to know that this was going to happen, and it had brought its witnesses in. So the first witness, a diamond dealer, was brought in and questioned, and he said how Mr. Pujeh had allegedly come to his office last year and sold him diamonds to the value of Le 73,200,000 – that’s the equivalent of about $35,000. Then when the prosecution had finished doing its questioning, the defence obviously couldn’t cross-examine because they didn’t have their lead lawyer there. So the magistrate at this stage did defer the trial until late next week."

A Liberian ex-combatant who reportedly fought on both sides during Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war is facing deportation from Sierra Leone on security grounds, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported. General David Bropley, a former battlefield commander with the Liberian ULIMO militia, was detained over the weekend and is being held at Pademba Road Prison. An aide to President Kabbah told the BBC that the government is concerned both about Liberian former combatants and about current fighters who have been crossing the border from Liberia in recent weeks. Fofana said friends of Bropley say he is worried that he will be sent to Liberia, but the aide said Bropley would be given a choice of which country he will be deported to. The expulsion could come as early as Wednesday, the aide was quoted as saying.

13 August: RUF Party Secretary-General Alimamy Pallo Bangura has resigned his position as the party's secretary-general, saying the time has come for him to move on. "I’ve been considering this even just after the elections. I sat down and I looked at the whole thing and where I’ve come from, where I am, and all sorts of things that probably the best thing would be for me to begin to stitch my life together again and move on," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "And I obviously wouldn’t be able to do that if I continued within the RUFP. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and I’ll let others continue now, and I want to pick up the pieces of my life." Bangura previously held diplomatic and ministerial posts under the NPRC and the AFRC regimes before joining Sierra Leone's rebel movement after the fall of the junta in 1998. In 1999 and early 2000 he held the post of Minister of Energy and Power in President Kabbah's short-lived unity government which followed the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord. This year, Bangura was the RUF's last-minute choice as its presidential candidate for the May elections after the National Electoral Commission ruled that the jailed former rebel leader Foday Sankoh was ineligible to contest as a candidate because he had not registered as a voter. Bangura finished sixth in a field of nine candidates, garnering just 1.73 percent of the national vote. Speaking from Freetown Tuesday by telephone, Bangura said the creation of the Special Court had nothing to do with his decision to step down. Rather, he said, he needs to find a job. "Honestly I’m looking for various opportunities," he said. "At the moment I don’t know which one. I’m jobless and all those constraints. But I hope something will come up now, because really I need to do something again." With no income, he is surviving "only by the grace of God and handouts from good people." Bangura said he didn't know who would replace him as secretary-general of the RUF Party, and that he had not given the party notice of his intention to depart. "To be frank there is very little communication since shortly after the elections when we met and went to see President Kabbah," he said. "After that they’ve all been going about their business  — no contact with me. All of that was an indication to me that really I should get out and move on."

17 Sierra Leoneans abducted from three villages in Kailahun District last month are being held by members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Radio France International reported on Tuesday. Three Sierra Leonean officials recently travelled to the Liberian town of Faya to negotiate with the local Liberian army commander, Sam Powell, for their release. According to the report, 27 villagers were abducted on July 17 and used as porters to carry looted goods across the border. Ten subsequently escaped their captors. The group remaining captive includes very young children, with the oldest just 18 years of age.

12 August: The wife of jailed RUF leader Foday Sankoh says she fears for her husband's life amid reports last week that he had been admitted to a prison hospital with malaria. "He is in a very bad condition and he has been in hospital twice in the past month. The doctor from the prison is advising the government about his health and they fear that he may die before the Special Court," Fatou Mbaye Sankoh told the Reuters news agency in Abidjan. Mrs. Sankoh, a Senegalese-born U.S. citizen, accompanied RUF Party chairman Mike Lamin to Dakar last April in an unsuccessful bid to have ECOWAS intervene and pressure the Sierra Leone government to allow Foday Sankoh to contest the May presidential election. The National Electoral Commission ruled that Sankoh was ineligible to stand as a candidate because he had not registered as a voter. Since his reappearance last March following nearly two years of detention at a secret location on the outskirts of Freetown, Sankoh has appeared frail in his several court appearances, and Fatou Sankoh charged that he was being mistreated. "Now he is like an animal just living out of the bush. I cannot imagine how they can treat a person like this," she said. "I have no access to my husband. I am trying to do my best, to be in touch with human rights organisations to organise it, I am not able to write letters to him...I have had no contact at all." Foday Sankoh currently faces a 70-count indictment on murder and related charges before Sierra Leone's High Court. It is widely expected, however, that his case will be transferred to the Special Court — a joint Sierra Leonean and United Nations war-crimes tribunal which by statute takes precedence over the Sierra Leonean court system. Fatou Sankoh suggested that the court would find her husband innocent of responsibility for atrocities committed by his rebel movement. "If Foday is guilty of anything let's just go to the Special Court, the whole world is watching," she said. "Foday is very human. He is concerned about corruption and that is what brought the war. He likes women and children... I am not seeing that monster that people want us to believe. I could not see myself marrying a monster."

The Freetown civil society group Campaign for Good Governance has called for the setting up of a fund to help the victims of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, noting that the establishment of such a fund was one of the provisions of the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord. That provision, embodied in Article XXIX, states simply that the Sierra Leone government, with the support of the international community, "shall design and implement a programme for the rehabilitation of war victims" and that a special fund should be set up for the purpose. While ex-combatants have received cash benefits and even vocational training after laying down their arms, war victims often complain that they feel marginalised. The Campaign for Good Governance noted that many had been stigmatized by their experiences, and pointed out that the prospects for many of Sierra Leone's war affected citizens remain poor . "A great number of them are unable to afford the proper medical care that they desperately need and others cannot return to school due to unwanted pregnancies," the group said in a statement. "For these sexually abused women and girls the future is bleak. The predicament of amputees is not only centered on the fact that they are physically handicapped, but also on the fact that, they are unable to support their families and dependants. For the younger ones it greatly reduces their prospects of progressing and succeeding in this highly competitive world."  

10 August: Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has scaled back its budget from nearly $10 million to about $6 million, the TRC's chairman said on Saturday. But Bishop Joseph Humper (pictured right) told the BBC that so far the commission had received only about $1.5 million in pledges and cash from international donors, which he said was insufficient for the TRC to carry out its mandate. "It is true that the TRC doesn’t have sufficient funds to start its activities," he said. "This is against the background that when the act was established, some mechanisms were to be put in place for the TRC to take off, but events unfolded instead in this country which prevented the TRC from taking off." Humper said international donors had been waiting to see whether the commission would ever be established before deciding whether to contribute funds. Now that the TRC was a reality, he said, commissioners had been meeting with donors in Freetown "to tell them our plans and our desire and wishes and asking them to ask their constituencies, nationally and internationally, to seek their help in releasing necessary funds required for us to carry out programme activities." Earlier this week, TRC commissioner John Kamara (left) told reporters that President Kabbah had promised to raise the issue of funding when he travels to New York next month to address the United Nations General Assembly. Kamara said Kabbah had assured commissioners that the TRC was one of his government's priorities, and he pledged government financial support for the commission's work. 

Some Sierra Leonean refugees and displaced Liberians who were forced to flee into the forest when rebel fighters attacked their refugee camp in the Liberian town of Sinje have begun returning to the area, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Representatives of a humanitarian mission which visited the area last week said Saturday that about 200 Liberians who had sought refuge in Sierra Leonean border towns had returned home. Some Sierra Leonean refugees have also returned to areas around the town, the sources said.

9 August: An internal inquiry into the handling by United Nations peacekeepers of anti-Nigerian rioting in central Freetown last month suggests that the U.N. acted properly to put down the violence, according to a UNAMSIL statement issued on Friday. Meanwhile, an official investigation headed by CID director Tamba Gbekie is ongoing, and the results are not due out until next week. The July 18 riot was sparked by the murder of a popular Sierra Leonean "Dollar Boy," allegedly by Nigerian black market money changers. Two persons, neither of whom was apparently involved in the violence, died from gunshot wounds, and several civil society groups in Freetown accused the Nigerian peacekeepers who responded to the disturbance of using disproportionate force. According to a UNAMSIL press release, U.N. peacekeepers "employed a combination of persuasion, crowd dispersal tactics and firing of warning shots into the air" to break up the riot, and noted that the situation was brought under control by the combined efforts of U.N. peacekeepers and the police. "The facts available to UNAMSIL indicate that at no time was firing directed at the crowd," the statement said. "At this time, there is no conclusive evidence as to how individuals were killed or injured on that day." Civil society groups and diplomats had also questioned whether UNAMSIL's mandate allowed it to intervene without being asked by the Sierra Leonean authorities. A police spokesman played down the matter in the week which followed the disturbances, insisting that UNAMSIL didn't require police permission to intervene. And the U.N. said Friday that the deployment was carried out "in accordance with standard operating procedures," citing its expanded mandate which allows the U.N. "to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking into account the responsibilities of the Government of Sierra Leone." UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki said the U.N. investigators had interviewed witnesses and that there was no evidence that peacekeepers had fired into the crowd. She pointed out that the bodies of the two victims had been found in different parts of the city. "If UNAMSIL fired into a crowd you can be sure that more than one individual would have been hit and injured, generally speaking," she said. Medical examiners have said that the two victims died of gunshot wounds, but failed to find bullets in the bodies. Police say they were not carrying guns, but were armed only with teargas. Novicki said no witness had reported seeing peacekeepers shoot at rioters, and she added that it was highly unlikely that shots fired into the air could have resulted in the deaths. She noted, however, that many of the rioters were ex-combatants. "Anybody could have had guns," she said.

A last group of 269 former refugees have been resettled in Kono and Kailahun Districts after more than a year of waiting until their home areas were declared safe, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday. The returnees were part of a group of some 10,000 Sierra Leoneans who returned from Guinea between March 2001 and February 2002. They were temporarily settled in Pujehun District's Barri Chiefdom because their homes were then under RUF control. 10,000 returnees who lived with host communities in Lokomassama Chiefdom were returned to their homes in the north last year. Now, virtually all returnees have been moved from temporary resettlement and transit camps, the UNHCR said. Since September 2000, some 80,000 returnees have been resettled in their homes out of about 100,000 who are known to have come home from Guinea and Liberia. Repatriation from Liberia by sea is continuing, with 1,222 having returned to Sierra Leone since the evacuation exercise began on July 20.

Police in Freetown are seeking two Nigerian nationals in connection with the killing of a Sierra Leonean black market money changer, Momodu Jan Bah, whose murder last month set off anti-Nigerian riots in the centre of the city, CID director Tamba Gbekie told the Sierra Leone Web. Gbekie, who is leading the investigation, said photographs had been circulated and a warrant issued for the arrest of Oneyneychuku Nwosu, alias Pascal, who like Bah was a black market foreign exchange dealer. Nwosu is said to be a native of eastern Nigeria who entered Sierra Leone by way of Liberia one or two years ago. The identity of a second man, believed to be Nwosu's accomplice, is still unknown. Gbekie dismissed speculation that Bah's murder was tied to a rivalry between Sierra Leonean and Nigerian "dollar boys," or to competition between Nigerian and ethnic Fullah street traders. "It was purely theft," he said. "He abducted the man. He explained to him that he had in his possession some dollars which he wants the leone equivalent for. They went to a hotel at 152 Circular Road, Freetown. There they tied him up."

8 August: Liberian fighters who abducted 28 Sierra Leoneans last month from the border town of Kokobu were members of the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), according to a man who escaped his captors. Tamba Bockarie, who spoke to BBC correspondent Tom McKinley via an interpreter, said he and his fellow captives were first taken to a Liberian border village and then to the town of Masanbulahun where 25 of the villagers, including four of his children, are still being held. He said six of the remaining captives were women, eleven were girls, and the rest teenage boys. He said the LURD fighters accused him of being a "rebel" who was fighting for the forces of Liberian President Charles Taylor, and that he was mistreated as a result. Bockarie was one of three abductees who got away from their captors, and he said his escape was made possible because he was familiar with the area. "He heard some of them talking that they are going to take him to Kolahun, their headquarters, with the intention that they have caught a rebel," the interpreter said. "So when he heard that, they were sitting together in the night and he pretended to go to the toilet, and he went round the house into the bush and went through the bushes and came back to Sierra Leone."

Former Transport and Communications Minister Momoh Pujeh and his wife Mary were charged in court Thursday with diamond smuggling in what will be seen as a major test of Sierra Leone's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The couple were arrested last November after the ACC alleged they had been involved in illicit diamond mining in Kenema District, and had smuggled the gemstones out of the country in violation of Sierra Leonean law and international sanctions. They were later released while police conducted further investigations. Prosecutor Robin Masson told the court that the two had been found in possession of 638.81 carats of diamonds, worth an estimated $35.000. Pujeh and his wife pleaded not guilty, and the case was adjourned until August 14. Despite the allegations against him, Pujeh won election to parliament in the May elections on the ruling SLPP party's list in Kailahun District.

The European Commission (EC) adopted a proposal Thursday aimed at reducing the trade in so-called illicit "conflict diamonds," which are blamed for fueling wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the plan, which would still have to be approved by European Union member states, European countries would adopt a unified set of controls modeled on mechanisms already in place in diamond-importing countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The new regulations would also require the setting up of an advanced certification system to ensure that diamonds entering Europe come only from legitimate sources. Under this scheme, producer countries would be required to control diamonds from the mines to the point of export. Parcels of diamonds would then be sealed in a tamper-proof container, and a certificate issued for each shipment. Re-exporting countries would have to provide similar certification. The system, according to an EC statement, would exceed the minimum recommendations of the so-called Kimberly Process, set up in May 2000 by diamond importing and exporting countries, diamond industry groups and civil society, to bring the illicit diamond trade under control  Under the EC plan, imports of diamonds not accompanied by a certificate issued by a Kimberly Process participant would be prohibited, as would exports to non-participants. If adopted, the new system would take effect in 2003. Meanwhile, an expert on conflict diamonds has called the EC proposal a step in the right direction, "but alone it's not enough." Ian Smillie (pictured left) of Partnership Africa Canada, who served as the diamond expert on the U.N. Panel of Experts which in 2000 investigated the link between illicit diamonds and arms proliferation in Sierra Leone, acknowledged that the proposed regulations were in some respects even tougher that those called for by the Kimberly Process. Smillie questioned, however, whether all of the EC countries would have the will to enforce them, and he noted that the Kimberly Process had so far refused to deal with demands by non-governmental organisations for the regular independent monitoring of all national control mechanisms. "Each government simply undertakes to apply the rules, and review missions become a possibility only if there are indications of significant non-compliance," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "Even then the terms of reference of the review as well as the makeup of a review mission would have to be discussed by a full plenary session of the Kimberley Process, which only expects to meet once a year." Smillie said that in the United States, the General Accounting Office had already found the current system too weak to keep conflict diamonds out of the system.

7 August: Jailed RUF leader Foday Sankoh is seriously ill, suffering from malaria and a severe cough, and his condition has worsened despite being treated at the prison hospital, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday. He is, however, expected to recover. Sankoh is currently awaiting trial before Sierra Leone's High Court on charges relating to the May 2000 shooting of demonstrators outside his residence in Freetown. His case is widely expected to be transferred to the Special Court, a war crimes tribunal being set up to prosecute those deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during the latter half of the country's decade-long civil war. "Sankoh at present is hospitalised at the prison clinic where his condition continues to deteriorate," a senior official at Pademba Road Prison told Reuters. "He has been responding to medical treatment at a very slow pace, but it is expected that his condition will have improved for the next High Court sitting." Sankoh is not due back in court until September 18. An aid worker was quoted as describing the former rebel leader's condition as "very serious," saying he had lost a lot of weight but that he was receiving relatively good medical care. 

Special Court Chief Prosecutor David Crane arrived in Freetown Tuesday to begin investigations into war crimes in Sierra Leone, the Associated Press reported, quoting UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki. The Special Court is a joint tribunal consisting of Sierra Leonean and international judges, and is charged with prosecuting a handful of persons deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for serious crimes against international humanitarian law since 30 November 1996, the date of the ill-fated Abidjan Peace Agreement.

6 August: High Court Judge Samuel A. Ademosu has been named to concentrate on anti-corruption cases in an effort to deal with a backlog of nearly fifty corruption cases investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and turned over to the attorney-general's office for prosecution, ACC Commissioner Val Collier told the Sierra Leone Web on Tuesday. Collier said Mousu was finishing his current schedule as circuit judge in Kenema, and that he could take up the new post before the end of the month. Sierra Leone has come under increasing pressure from donor nations in recent months to tackle the problem of official corruption or face a reduction in development aid. Following the May elections, President Kabbah announced that the fight against corruption would be one of the hallmarks of his new administration. In its nearly two years of operation the Anti-Corruption Commission has scored few successes. Collier insisted that the small number of successful prosecutions was not a matter of bad faith, but rather a lack of resources. "But that is being cleared up with technical assistance coming in in the form of additional help which we requested," he said. "We are expecting to have one or two expatriate judges coming in. They’re going to strengthen the law department, the prosecution arm of government, which too has a dearth of law officers to do prosecution." The new judges are not due until the end of the year. In the meantime, Collier said, the ACC was working to build coalitions with a growing number of civil society and professional groups, and even with schools. "In this business you need partnership," he said. "We cannot do it on a stand-alone basis; it has no value standing alone like the knight in shining armour trying to get rid of all the bad boys." Collier said a six-month experiment with anti-corruption clubs at four local primary schools had proven so successful that there were now plans to expand the programme into secondary schools, and to incorporate anti-corruption ideals into the school curriculum. And he stressed that the prosecution of corrupt officials was only the most visible part of his commission's work. "Because of the sensational aspects of enforcement, people feel and the general tendency is that enforcement comes first," he said.  "Honestly, enforcement is the least and the last card in the pack for us. Education and prevention take precedence as far as we are concerned. That is why sensitisation programmes are nationwide."

The United States Department of Agriculture will donate 2,080 metric tons of rice, vegetable oil and dehydrated soup mix to feed some 140,000 Sierra Leonean returnees and Liberian and Guinean refugees in Kailahun District, the agency said on Tuesday. The food will be distributed to the International Medical Corps under the Food for Progress programme. The IMC, a private voluntary organisation, works to increase the delivery of health services through construction of new or rehabilitated clinics, and to stimulate the economy by rebuilding and repairing roads.

5 August: 26 former ECOMOG soldiers who say they were dismissed from the Nigerian army last year for marrying Sierra Leonean women have appealed to Nigeria’s Defence Minister to intervene on their behalf, the Lagos newspaper Vanguard reported. In a letter to Defence Minister Theophilus Damjuma which was written by their lawyer, the soldiers said that in July 2001 their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel S.O. Adeoye, ordered the soldiers to remove their Sierra Leonean wives from the barracks. The soldiers complied, only to again be summoned two months later by Adeoye and summarily dismissed from the army. Now the soldiers, some of whom had served in Nigeria's military for as long as twenty years, want to be reinstated. "It is conspicuously glaring that the soldiers have suffered serious physical and psychological trauma borne out of a crime that is non-existent in our criminal jurisprudence," the letter said.

3 August: In the wake of last week's anti-Nigerian riots in Freetown, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has called on the Sierra Leone government to ensure the safety of Nigerians living in that country, the Lagos newspaper ThisDay reported. Obasanjo made the comments during a farewell visit by outgoing High Commissioner Joe Blell, who is returning to Freetown to take up the post of Deputy Defence Minister. "The incident is unfortunate, but what matters most is how we, the leaders in both countries, take it," Obasanjo said. "We request that whenever Nigerians require security, assistance and protection of their lives and property, it is given."

2 August: Additional Sierra Leonean troops have now been deployed along the Liberian border to forestall further armed incursions into Sierra Leone, Chief of Defence Staff Major-General Tom Carew told journalists on Thursday after returning from a tour of five villages in the border region. In two raids last month, Liberian gunmen crossed into Sierra Leone and abducted some 46 residents of Kokobu village in Kailahun District. So far, only three of the villagers have returned home. Carew said the raids had been carried out by soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). "These particular AFL soldiers must have been those people who have been trapped and who were under no central command," he said. "They don’t have food, they’re short of logistic supplies, so they were just there. So at times when they enter our territory, say in a group of seven, it’s only about two people that will be carrying weapons. They fire in the air and the people will run away and they come, gather all their food, then they abduct people to take this loot across." The Voice of America quoted Carew as crediting Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea with helping to negotiate the release of the remaining Sierra Leonean abductees. But according to the official Sierra Leonean News Agency, he said Chea had reneged on an agreement to send Liberian officials to participate in a joint fact-finding mission along the border to assess how security in the area could be reinforced. "I telephoned him and he assured me of his presence but he boycotted," Carew was quoted as saying. The Chief of Defence Staff said Sierra Leonean troops had now been moved to forward positions and had been given appropriate rules of engagement. "We have deployed in such a way that the main two crossing points, our men have been deployed just opposite those crossing-points, making sure that wherever they come from we will see," he said. But Carew acknowledged that the border region could not be sealed off entirely because of its length and its porous nature. Meanwhile, Carew said his troops had so far disarmed about 70 Liberian soldiers who had crossed the border, the BBC reported. The soldiers are now awaiting encampment in Sierra Leone's northern Port Loko District.

Sierra Leonean weightlifter Omar Sheriff lifted 225.0 kilos overall, but it was only enough to place 13th of 17 in the up to 85 kg. category at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Sheriff lifted 100.0 kilos in the snatch and 125.0 kilos in the clean and jerk. His teammate, Ambrose Johnson, finished in 14th place with a total score of 215.0 — 90.0 in the snatch and 125.0 in the clean and jerk. The competition was won by David Matam of Cameroon, who achieved a composite score of 340.0 kilos.

Sierra Leone is one of 13 West African countries which will benefit from a new $3.2 million satellite communications system designed to link ECOWAS member states around the clock to the organisation's headquarters in Abuja, the Voice of America reported on Friday. The system, which is being donated by the U.S. government, is designed to reinforce ties between countries, especially in times of crisis or humanitarian disaster. Two ECOWAS countries will be excluded from the system: Liberia, because it is under United Nations sanctions, and Burkina Faso, because of what a U.S. officials said was its links to Liberia. The 13 countries will each receive five satellite-linked computer work stations, to be used by their ministries of defence, foreign affairs, or their chief of defence staff. The system has already been installed in Abuja, and installation is expected to follow in the other West African capitals in the near future. The U.S. intends to follow up with training and maintenance after the system is put in place, the radio said. Meanwhile, the U.S. said it is also prepared to hand over to ECOWAS some $5 million worth of military equipment and spare parts currently stored at a depot in Freetown. The non-lethal equipment consists mainly of trucks, radios, generators and water purification materials, and would help allow a rapid response by ECOWAS for regional peacekeeping tasks or to provide support for humanitarian crisis operations.

The number of Liberian refugees entering Sierra Leone via the three official entry points of Jendema, Gbaa and Dar es Salaam has continued to decrease over the past two weeks, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday. The number of new arrivals during the period varied from 10 to 50 per day. Meanwhile, the U.N.'s Consolidated Appeal for Sierra Leone has reportedly been half funded, the agency said, adding that the WFP had received 67 percent of its $61.5 million request for Sierra Leone.

An investigation into the response by U.N. peacekeepers and Sierra Leonean security forces of last month's anti-Nigerian riot in central Freetown is expected to be completed next week, UNAMSIL spokesperson Margaret Novicki said on Friday. At least two persons were killed during the disturbance, allegedly by Nigerian peacekeepers who were called to the scene. Some groups in Freetown have accused UNAMSIL of using disproportionate force to put down the riot.

1 August: The United States government has dropped its travel warning on Sierra Leone, but the U.S. Embassy in Freetown is still advising caution to those travelling to the country. "Security remains a concern. Crime, to include armed robberies, has increased in recent months. Large crowds and political rallies can quickly become violent and should be avoided," the embassy said in a statement. The U.S. State Department travel advisory pointed out that while the security situation in the country has improved significantly over the past year, travel, especially outside the capital, can still be problematic. The advisory also noted that the incidence of serious crime had risen since the lifting of the curfew in January, while petty theft, especially of wallets and passports, is common.