The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

September 2000
 

30 September: ECOWAS troops may soon be deployed the borders of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to curb cross-border raids and prevent an escalation of hostilities in the region, Vice President Albert Joe Demby said Saturday, following talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor in the town of Gbarnga. Demby did not disclose details of the talks, but said he had delivered a letter from President Kabbah. "Nobody is satisfied with events in the sub-region," Demby told reporters in Monrovia.

Bangladesh has offered two additional battalions to the UNAMSIL force to help replace the departing Indian contingent, according to the country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury. "We are willing to do our part, despite the fact that some of the major powers have indicated their unwillingness to risk their soldiers in U.N. peacekeeping missions," Chowdhury told the Inter-Press Service. Bangladesh currently has one battalion in Sierra Leone, consisting of 792 troops.

President Kabbah visited Port Loko on Saturday, where he inspected a camp for internally displaced persons and inspected the 4th Sierra Leone Army brigade.

29 September: The United Nations Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone agreed Friday to recommend to the Security Council that rough diamonds exported by the Sierra Leone government be exempted from a global embargo on Sierra Leonean diamonds the Council imposed in July. In a letter to the committee on Wednesday, the Sierra Leone government proposed that the exemption take effect from October 12, the date it expects to begin issuing certificates of origin and operating an electronic system for monitoring compliance with the U.N. ban on the sale of conflict diamonds. The Sanctions Committee also recommended that Sierra Leone and Belgium work out modalities for the return to their rightful owners of two parcels of diamonds which were exported legally from Sierra Leone on July 4, but were seized by the Belgian authorities on July 6, a day after the ban took effect.

Three Sierra Leonean journalists were honoured Thursday night by the New York-based World Press Review for their enterprise, courage and leadership in advancing freedom and responsibility of the press. In a ceremony at U.N. headquarters, Philip Neville, editor of the Standard Times, David Tam-Baryoh, editor of Punch, and, in absentia, Paul Kamara (pictured right), editor of For di People, were presented with World Press Review's annual International Editor of the Year awards by Olara Otunnu, the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. "Under the most horrific conditions, Paul Kamara, Philip Neville and David Tam-Baryoh have persisted against the odds to uphold the highest standards of the profession," said World Press Review editor Alice Chasan. "They have fully embraced the journalist's role in creating the conditions for democracy and rule of law in their land, and have braved mortal danger in pursuit of these goals. They are real heroes." In his remarks to the gathered journalists and representatives of non-governmental organisations, Neville stressed that when journalists write about rebel atrocities they become targets, and at the same time when the write about government corruption and incompetence they are considered enemies. "Somebody has to tell these people that what they are doing is not right," he said. "We are targeted by both the government and the rebels. We are just in the middle." Tam-Baryoh said he was accepting his award on behalf of the 15 journalists who have died in Sierra Leone since the beginning of the conflict. He pointed out that journalists had been persecuted and killed, and members of their families raped, tortured and murdered, because of their profession. Recalling how he had been affected by what he had seen happen to his colleagues, Tam-Baryoh said it would not be easy for him to write about reconciliation. For ten years, he said, he had been writing about the war and "telling the same story over and over again — of agony." 

President Kabbah, accompanied by senior cabinet ministers and other government officials, visited Daru on Thursday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Friday. UNAMSIL provided a helicopter and security, she added. During his visit, the president donated 439 bags of rice, 100 bags of salt and 500 tins of oil to the civilian population, including internally displaced persons.

The OAU has called its members to provide peacekeeping troops for the UNAMSIL force in Sierra Leone to replace the Indian contingent, which will be withdrawn by the end of the year. "Bearing in mind the serious gap that the withdrawal of the Indian contingent will create in Sierra Leone, the (OAU) appeals to African countries and the international community to cooperate with the U.N. by providing forces needed to augment the troop strength of UNAMSIL," Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said on Thursday. Salim expressed "serious concern and regret" at India's decision to pull its troops out of the U.N. peacekeeping force, saying they were being withdrawn when they were most needed. Meanwhile, a Kenyan defence spokesman said Thursday that the Kenyan battalion would be rotated in December. The new battalion will continue to assist the DDR process in Sierra Leone and protect U.N. buildings and installations, the spokesman said. 

Four members of the West Side Boys militia surrendered on Wednesday to Nigerian peacekeepers at Port Loko, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Friday. They turned over AK-47 rifles, FN rifles and 122 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. She said one AFRC ex-combatant surrendered with a shotgun, one magazine of 16x7.62 ammunition, and two cartridges. Befecadu added that 155 of the West Side Boys had been screened and demobilised.

RUF rebels turned over an Mi-8 helicopter which was forced to make an emergency landing at the town of Makari in May while evacuating UNAMSIL personnel from Makeni, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu confirmed on Friday. On Thursday, two U.N. helicopters with 100 UNAMSIL personnel on board including the Indian Quick Reaction Company and engineers from the Indian contingent flew from Hastings to Makari, about 10 km. southwest of Makeni. Repairs to the helicopter were completed in about four hours and it was then flown back to Hastings. The helicopter was found to have a bullet hole in its fuel tank, and some of the lights and batteries had been removed. The operation was witnessed by villagers and by unarmed RUF members, including RUF Security Commander Colonel Augustine Gbao (pictured right), who told U.N. peacekeepers the rebel group was prepared to "work hand-in-hand" with the government to restore peace to the country. A UNAMSIL medical team provided medical treatment for villagers while the operation was underway. At the nearby town of Masungbo, five km. southwest of Makeni, RUF rebels handed over two captured armoured personnel carriers to UNAMSIL. The two vehicles were then airlifted by UNAMSIL Mi-26 helicopters.

28 September: The RUF in Makeni has handed over various military equipment, including a helicopter, captured from UNAMSIL earlier this year, Radio France International reported on Thursday.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed the Security Council Thursday on the humanitarian and security situation along Guinea's borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia following a number of cross-border attacks this month. Prendergast reviewed the responses of the international community, particularly of ECOWAS, to the situation in Guinea.

The United Nations has released a list of the ten Security Council members who will travel to West Africa from October 7 to 14 to review the U.N.'s operations in Sierra Leone. The Council members will explore the regional dimension of the Sierra Leone crisis, and consider what other measures the Council might take in this regard. The mission will be headed by Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock (U.K), and will include Amb. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh, Head of the Sanctions Committee), Amb. Paul Heinbecker (Canada), Amb. Wang Yingfan (China), Amb. Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), Amb. Moctar Ouane (Mali), Amb. A. Peter van Walsum (Netherlands), Amb. Andrei Granovsky (Russian Federation), Amb. Volodymyr Yel'chenko (Ukraine) and Amb. Richard Holbrooke (United States).

Britain has come under pressure to strengthen its commitment to UNAMSIL, BBC United Nations correspondent Mark Devenport has reported. British diplomats have ruled out sending a battalion, but say there it is possible British officers might serve at the U.N.'s headquarters in Freetown, Devenport said. He quoted U.N. sources as saying that even a British force commander had not been ruled out.

27 September: Reports that imprisoned RUF leader Foday Sankoh is suffering from prostate cancer are false, Police Inspector-General Keith Biddle told the Sierra Leone Web on Wednesday. Freetown's Concord Times newspaper quoted Radio UNAMSIL Wednesday as saying the rebel leader was critically ill, said to be suffering from an advanced stage of the disease. Similar reports were filed by the Agence France-Presse, which cited an unnamed "senior prison official," and by Reuters, which quoted an unnamed "senior official" at the Ministry of Social Welfare as saying Sankoh might require medical assistance from abroad. "Sankoh is not to my knowledge suffering from prostate cancer," said Biddle. "Whilst he has been in custody he has received regular routine visits from a medical practitioner to ensure that his health is fine. It has not been reported to me that he is suffering from cancer." Biddle added that the ministry quoted by Reuters "has no dealing with the custody or care of Sankoh." Sierra Leone's Information Minister, Dr. Julius Spencer, also told the Sierra Leone Web that he had not been able to get any confirmation of the story.

Guinea's Minister of Territorial Administration and Security, Mussa Solano, has called for an end to harassment of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in his country. "We appeal to you in the prefectures and the regions to continue to give to our Sierra Leonean and Liberian brothers and sisters the hospitality this country has been known for over the past ten years," Solano said in a nationwide address Tuesday night on state radio and television. Security forces and gangs of Guinean youths rounded up and harassed thousands of Sierra Leonean and Guinean refugees after a September 9 speech by President Lansana Conte in which he accused the refugees of involvement in cross-border attacks on Guinean towns. According to BBC correspondent Alhassan Sylla, the minister's statement, which followed several hours of meetings between Conte and UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Soren Jessen-Petersen, said that Guineans, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians were one people with a common destiny, a similar geography, and similar aspirations. He praised the UNHCR for its relentless work on behalf of the refugee population, and condemned the murder of a UNHCR worker during a rebel attack last week on the town of Macenta.

Finance Minister Dr. James O.C. Jonah was among those who condemned violent demonstrations in Prague, the Czech Republic, on the first day of meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Protesters seeking to abolish the World Bank hurled eggs and cobblestones at police and delegates on Tuesday, and attacked a group of police officers with a "Molotov cocktail." 500 persons were reported arrested. "Initially in Seattle there was a lot of sympathy for the protesters, but now there is a sneaking feeling these people have got an agenda which is no longer that of the third world," Jonah said. "We cannot stop these meetings just because others have their own agenda. How can we deal with our creditors if we do not get a chance to talk to them?"

A special envoy of the OAU secretary-general held talks with Liberian President Charles Taylor and other Liberian officials in Monrovia Tuesday on the second leg of a regional consultation tour on the conflict in Sierra Leone. Kingsley Mamabolo previously met with Nigerian officials, and is due to visit Guinea and Mali. The four countries are considered "to be playing crucial roles in the efforts to bring peace to Sierra Leone," according to an OAU press release. In Nigeria, Mambolo met with Vice President Atiku Abubakar, National Security Advisor General Aliyu Mohammed, the acting chief of defence staff, the acting executive-secretary of ECOWAS and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The consultations "focused on the latest developments in the peace process, the state of affairs in UNAMSIL and the role both Nigeria and the OAU can, and should play to sustain the modest gains that have been made in consolidating peace, reconciliation and stability in Sierra Leone," the press release said.

A two-day national consultative conference on Sierra Leone's mining industry is set to open in Freetown on Friday under the auspices of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD). The conference, which will bring together representatives of government departments, civil society groups and international non-governmental organisations, is aimed at "generating information using existing instruments like the mining policies and presentations from experts on the socio-economic and environmental cultural impact of mining," said Sahr Gborie of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (pictured left), who is leading the coordination of the programme. Gborie told the Sierra Leone Web that presentations would be done on the geological map of Sierra Leone and on the relationship between mining, security and politics.

26 September: Eight Sierra Leonean amputees — six of them children — told their stories Tuesday to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa. The amputees, victims of Sierra Leone's brutal nine-year civil conflict, were brought to the United States last week by Washington-based Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL), six Rotary clubs in New York, and ARIMED, a prosthetics company, where the will be fitted with prosthetic limbs and, in the words of FOSL advocacy committee chairman Don Mooers, will help "to make real the issues that are in Sierra Leone, especially with the children." 21 Congressmen and a Senator were present for the hearings, along with representatives of the local and national media to hear accounts of what subcommittee Chairman Edward R. Royce described as "unparalleled brutality." In January 1999, now four-year old Memunato Mansaray had her right arm amputated above the elbow during the rebel invasion of Freetown. Rebels amputated eight-year old Damba Koroma's arm, while nine-year old Bintu Amara had her left hacked off. Fifteen-year old Mariatu Conteh lost her left hand, and Tommy Foday, 47, lost both arms. Four-year old Mohamed Conteh lost his left leg and right foot and ten-year old Fatu Koroma lost her right hand during fighting between ECOMOG and junta forces in February 1998. And 27 year old Muctarr Jalloh had his right hand and ear amputated when he was caught by the RUF in Kono in April 1998. He was targeted because, as a student, he was considered to be a potential enemy of the rebel group. 

25 September: A detour last month by a British patrol to the West Side Boys' base at Magbeni was instigated by a Jordanian colonel serving with UNAMSIL, according to the Sierra Leonean liaison officer who accompanied the patrol, and who was taken hostage along with eleven British troops. The hostages were rescued by British forces earlier this month after negotiations for their release failed. Questions remained, however, about why the patrol had driven to the area, which was known to be under the militia's control. The British commander, Major Alan Marshall, told Ministry of Defence investigators that the decision to visit the town was made on the spur of the moment, and that he believed Magbeni was clear of the militiamen. But Lieutenant Musa Bangura, who was acting as liaison officer for the patrol, told London's Times newspaper that the Jordanian colonel had asked the British to take "a closer look" at the area. Bangura said Marshall and the captain who was his second-in-command had been given "assurances" before they drove off the highway in three Land Rovers to the Okra Hill area. Bangura also praised Marshall for trying to protect him during the 17-day hostage crisis. Marshall is currently awaiting an official reprimand for what investigators have called a "grave error in judgment."

The Guinean army will pursue any rebels attacking Guinea to their bases "even if it means entering Liberia and Sierra Leone," an official at Guinean state radio told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on Monday. 

Ukraine has offered to send peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Takasyuk was quoted as saying on Friday. Meanwhile, Malaysia Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said his country would be unable to send peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone despite a request from the United Nations due to recent developments in the southern Philippines.

Next month's United Nations Security Council mission to Sierra Leone will look into ways of ensuring the full application of the Council's resolutions on Sierra Leone, and enhancing the effective of UNAMSIL, according to a letter by Council President Moctar Ouane of Mali which was made public on Monday. The mission, to be led by Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock of Britain, will visit Sierra Leone from October 7-14. The Security Council mission will also back the efforts of the Sierra Leone government and review progress made in implementing the Lomé Peace Accord, as well as "consider the regional dimensions of the crisis, including its humanitarian aspects, and what other measures the Council could envisage taking in this regard," the letter said. This would include working with the leaders of neighbouring states and ECOWAS to promote a lasting solution to the conflict and to foster closer cooperation between the U.N. and countries in the sub-region. Ouane said the Security Council mission would follow up "as appropriate."

Rioting broke out at the Lungi DDR camp last week "as a result of alleged misinformation" that items meant for the ex-combatants had been diverted elsewhere, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Monday. She said the situation had been brought under control by Kenyan peacekeepers and the main perpetrators handed over to the police. Befecadu told reporters that three more members of the West Side Boys militia had given themselves up to U.N. troops at Port Loko.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on Guinea to allow U.N. security experts into the south of the country to assess the risks to aid workers. The absence of humanitarian agencies has made life extremely difficult for the nearly half a million Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees, Assistant High Commissioner Soren Jessen-Petersen said Monday after a meeting with Guinean Prime Minister Lamine Sidime. "The longer it goes on, the harder it gets for them and the more the tension mounts," he said. The UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other humanitarian organisations have been forced to withdraw from the area following cross-border attacks from Liberia and Sierra Leone. Jessen-Petersen said the UNHCR was prepared to react "very quickly" if it received clearance from the Guinean authorities.

UNAMSIL engineers and military observers have begun work on the Mabang Bridge, which was closed to traffic on Monday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said. The secondary road via Songo and Mabang provides an alternative to vehicles travelling from Freetown to eastern Sierra Leone which bypasses insecure areas of the main highway. However, the condition of the Mabang Bridge has meant that its use has been restricted to light traffic. Befecadu said the bridge is expected to be reopened on Thursday.

24 September: Sierra Leonean-born heptathlon world champion Eunice Barber withdrew from Olympic competition Sunday with two events left to go. Barber, who competes for France, had slipped to tenth place — apparently the result of a hamstring injury she suffered two weeks before the Olympics, which had forced her to curtail her training. "She went to see the physiotherapist after her first long jump attempt to see how bad (her injury) was," said French Athletics Federation President Philippe Lamblin. "She decided that finishing around 10th place was not up to her standard." Barber has suffered other distractions as well. Only days before the Olympic games she split with her trainer, Francois Pepin, who proceeded to complain to the press about Barber's "capriciousness" and temper. Her new — and former — trainer, Claude Monot, warned after the the first day's competition that Barber was out of condition. "She's getting tired and that's normal since she hasn't competed for so long," he said. "Nobody should expect a podium finish." Barber subsequently blamed French team doctor Didier Polin for not treating the injury which forced her to withdraw from the competition. "I proposed solutions to him but he did not put them in place," she said. Said Polin: "When someone comes for a consultation we are not at the restaurant. It's not the client who decides the menu."

23 September: President Kabbah has written to Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee expressing concern over India's decision to withdraw from UNAMSIL, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web "(Kabbah was) pleased to learn that the withdrawal would be phased, and that the decision would not affect relations between the two countries," the source said. In New York, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Sama Banya met Saturday with India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Kamalesh Sharma. India's decision to withdraw its troops from Sierra Leone was based on the need for UNAMSIL to be cohesive, and in the best interest of preserving that cohesiveness, Sharma was quoted as telling Banya. Meanwhile, an unnamed Western county is attempting to persuade India to reverse its decision to withdraw its troops from the UNAMSIL force, Reuters reported on Saturday, quoting a senior diplomat in Freetown. "A Western country with influence over India has been discussing with the Indian government, to get it to reconsider its withdrawal," the diplomat was quoted as saying. He added that both the Indian and the Nigerian contingents were important to the peacekeeping mission's success. "The two countries, I mean both Indian and Nigeria, need to stay in UNAMSIL, because a country like Nigeria has long experience in maintaining peace in Sierra Leone and the Indian troops are the best equipped in the force," he said. The diplomat said the U.N. was involved in talks with Norway and Turkey, both members of NATO. "I am certain that one of the two countries will be willing to send troops," he was quoted as saying.

Acting RUF leader General Issa Sesay reportedly pledged his support for the peace process at a mass meeting in Makeni on Friday, Reuters said. The Reuters report, based on a second-hand account, said "General Issa" had urged hundreds of people gathered at the Makeni town hall to go back to their farms, where they would be able to work unmolested by his fighters.

22 September: Eight amputees, six of them child victims of Sierra Leone's brutal nine-year civil conflict, stepped into the glare of publicly Thursday when they arrived at Washington's Dulles Airport. The amputees were brought to the United States by the Washington-based Friends of Sierra Leone, in conjunction with six Rotary clubs in New York and ARIMED, a prosthetics company. Prior to being fitted with prosthetic limbs, the amputees will travel to New York, where they will be examined and evaluated on Tuesday by Staten Island University Hospital physicians, therapists, social workers, and interns. Orthopedic and plastic surgeons will also be available if necessary. The eight were chosen for the trip to the U.S. based on the severity of their disabilities and the necessity for surgery to accommodate prosthetics — surgery currently unavailable in Sierra Leone. But with massive publicity expected from the national press and with hearings scheduled with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Friends of Sierra Leone and the Rotarians hope to draw attention to the plight of the amputees and to the ongoing conflict in Sierra Leone. "Our short term goal is to treat the initial group and to bring local attention to the deliberate, systematic and large scale amputation of civilians in Sierra Leone," the Rotary said in a statement. "Our long term goal is to provide the necessary equipment, supplies and trained personnel to manufacture the prosthetics in Sierra Leone and only bring those individuals to the U.S. that require operations for the limb replacements or special medical procedures." Among the amputees who arrived on Thursday was four-year old Memunatu Mansaray (pictured left), who a year ago stood beside President Kabbah in Togo as he dedicated the Lomé Peace Accord to Sierra Leone's children. The group also included four-year old Mohamed Conteh, eight-year old Damba Koroma, nine-year old Bintu Amara, ten-year old Fatu Korma, fifteen-year old Mariatu Conteh, and two adults, M. Jalloh and Tommy Foday. The amputees are expected to be in the United States for about two months, according to Friends of Sierra Leone's Daphne Sawyerr-Dunn. "As sad as it is to actually watch these people who have lost limbs, we're hoping other benefactors will come forward to help the less fortunate," she said.

Bernard Miyet, the outgoing United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said Friday the U.N. would discuss allegations of illicit diamond dealing by Nigerian UNAMSIL officials. The allegations were contained in a confidential report written in May by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley. That report was reportedly stolen from Jetley's computer in Freetown and circulated among U.N. officials before being leaked to the press earlier this month. Miyet said the matter would be raised with Jetley, who is due to visit U.N. headquarters in New York next week. But he pointed out that so far the U.N. has received no proof of the accusations made against the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, and Deputy Force Commander Brigadier-General Mohammed A. Garba, both Nigerians. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has pledged to make changes in UNAMSIL's command by the end of the month, and it has been reported that both Jetley and Garba will be replaced. Nigeria had actively lobbied for Jetley to be replaced by a Nigerian commander, but Miyet said Nigeria was not currently under consideration because Ambassador Adeniji is the overall head of the international peacekeeping operation. Meanwhile, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Friday that one or more NATO countries in Eastern Europe were likely to join the restructured U.N. peacekeeping force, along with troops from Latin America. Quoting diplomatic sources, the newspaper said agreements with the governments concerned had yet to be finalised. Miyet acknowledged Friday that the presence of NATO troops would raise morale, but he pointed out that many Western countries face political difficulties in sending troops to Africa after the 1993 debacle in Somalia.  

Sierra Leone's Olympic hopefuls failed to advance in their competitions on Friday, ending the team's hopes to have an athlete in the finals. Women's 100-m. runner Ekundayo Williams, who carried Sierra Leone's flag in the opening ceremony, placed sixth in her heat with a time of 12.19 seconds, finishing .99 seconds behind the winner. Men's 100-m. runner Alpha B. Kamara placed eighth in his heat, posting a time of 10.74 seconds, .36 seconds off the lead. Weightlifter Joseph T. Bellon placed last in the men's 77-kg. final with marks of 95.0 (snatch) and 105.0 (clean/jerk) for a total of 200.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees called on a Congressional conference committee this week to increase funding for refugee protection worldwide. In a letter to members of the Foreign Operations Conference Committee, the group noted that since 1995, real cuts in U.S. aid for refugees, combined with the effects of inflation, had resulted in a reduction of assistance by 18 to 25 percent, while the numbers of refugees and the scope of their needs has increased during that period. In Guinea, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this year requested $32 million to provide for some 333,000 Sierra Leonean and 125,000 Liberian refugees fleeing conflicts in their countries, the agency had received only $19 million by September 1 — a shortfall of over 59 percent.

The United Nations Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on arrangements to set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone is expected on September 29. This week a four-member U.N. team was in Freetown for consultations with the Sierra Leone government and UNAMSIL on the setting up of the court.

21 September: India's foreign minister informed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan "a few days ago" that India had decided to withdraw its troops from UMAMSIL, Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told the BBC on Thursday. While the Indian government has denied a link between the decision to withdraw their troops and recent infighting between the Indian UNAMSIL force commander and Nigerian officers, Eckhard would not rule the possibility of a connection. "It’s not unusual after two years for a troop contributor to rotate out," he said. "On the other hand, I can’t exclude that the decision had something to do with the leadership problems that we’ve had with this mission. But again, only India can speak for India." A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web late Wednesday that the Jordanians had also been threatening to pull out of UNAMSIL, partly over criticism of their alleged close relationship with the West Side Boys. "They are also known to be against enforcement and de facto enforcement action in Sierra Leone," the source said.

Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer acknowledged Thursday that the Sierra Leone government was concerned over the announced withdrawal of Indian troops from UNAMSIL, but he expressed confidence that the U.N. would take "whatever steps are necessary" to ensure that the peacekeeping force remained at full strength. While Spencer told the BBC that the government had not received any information on what other countries might contribute troops to UNAMSIL, he noted that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was holding discussions on the matter. "We expect that it will be resolved eventually," he said. "We know that the U.N. has sent a mission out here to look at the peacekeeping operation in this country, and they have submitted a report. We have not received a copy of that report, and we expect that the U.N., that has received that report, is acting on that report." Spencer said Sierra Leone would like to see a NATO country join the peacekeeping force because, he argued, "it would send...a very positive moral message to the whole world."

A United Nations spokesman expressed confidence Thursday that the U.N. could mount an effective peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, even as India announced it was withdrawing from UNAMSIL and as Jordan considered doing the same. Fred Eckhard (pictured right), the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said Annan had received a "significant" number of offers for troops, but that no country had yet made a final commitment. "There was good momentum before the Indians announced their withdrawal and that gives us 3,000 more to recruit and makes the job a little harder but we still think it is doable," he said. Diplomats said Jordan, with 1,825 soldiers in the field, had also threatened to withdraw unless a NATO country joined the force. Britain's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said the Jordanians had considered leaving on the same timetable as India. "But I think that they want to stay providing what they are asked to do is indeed possible, and they are not being asked for the moon without help from good capable, contingents," he said.

Ministers from diamond producing and trading countries ended their three-day conference Pretoria, South Africa Thursday with a series of recommendations to control the trade in conflict diamonds, blamed for fueling conflicts in countries including Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Delegates called for a U.N. resolution which would lead by next year to an international treaty to underpin a global system that would certify the origin of rough diamonds reaching the international market. "The agreement we have decided upon today is actually a lifeline out of a situation in which people could feel that they were unable to distinguish between diamonds from conflicts such as Sierra Leone and Angola and diamonds legitimately mined," said Peter Hain, British Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa.

Sierra Leone's Minister of Mineral Resources, Mohamed Swarray Deen, said Thursday that Sierra Leone should be able to implement a system of diamond certification and resume legal diamond exports "within the next couple of weeks." In July, the United Nations Security Council imposed a global ban on the sale of all Sierra Leonean rough diamonds until a system was in place to ensure gems reaching the international marked did not originate in rebel-held areas of the country. Deen told the BBC that parcels of diamonds would be accompanied by certificates carrying details of the total carats, the value, the destination of the parcel, and the receiving authority. "The importing authority will also receive it and send back documentation as to the conditions and the same valuation and carating that they received," Deen said. "Without that certificate, the import authority is obliged to refuse, or in fact confiscate the diamonds that they receive." He added that by preventing the rebels from marketing their illicitly-mined diamonds it was hoped they would find it difficult to purchase weapons to continue fighting. But Deen acknowledged the government had no estimate of the amount of revenue reaching the RUF rebels from the sale of the gems. "I think we will just probably look at the sort of sophisticated weapons that they use and imagine the sort of cost that they would need and the amount of money they need to pay for that," he said. "We haven’t really got any figure for that."

Four Sierra Leonean athletes have had to abandon their Olympic hopes after failing to qualify for the 4x100-m. relay. Francis Keita, Alie Kamara, Joselyn Thomas and Sanusi Turay paid their own way to Australia in the hope of making the Sierra Leone Olympic team, but just failed to meet the qualifying time of 40 seconds. When Keita pulled a muscle during a qualifying race, the four turned to 100-m. runner Alpha B. Kamara. But late last week Kamara flew back to Sydney to rejoin the Olympic team, and a spokeswoman for the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre said the Sierra Leoneans were not among the 300 competitors gathered for Thursday's invitation-only qualifying meet. According to the Nigerian newspaper Thisday, the four are believed to have left Australia.

Two Italian missionary priests abducted by the RUF on September 6 during a rebel attack on the Guinean town of Pamelap have been moved from Kambia to the town of Madina, the Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported on Thursday. The two Xaverian priests, Fr. Franco Manganello and Fr. Vittorio Mosele, were forced to leave Kambia because of heavy cross-border bombardments in recent days by the Guinean army, which fears further RUF incursions into its territory, MISNA said.

20 September: India announced Wednesday it will pull its entire contingent of 3,059 troops out of the UNAMSIL force. "We have decided to withdraw from Sierra Leone as part of a routine rotation out of the mission so as to give other member states a chance to participate in the mission," a spokesman for India's United Nations mission said. He said India had contributed to U.N. efforts in Sierra Leone for over two years, starting with a medical unit in July 1998 attached to the former UNOMSIL military observer mission. The withdrawal of Indian forces will be done gradually, so as to give the United Nations time to make other arrangements, he added. The spokesman denied that India's decision had been influenced by tension between the Indian commander of the UNAMSIL force, Major-General Vijay Kumar Jetley, and Nigerian officers and officials in Sierra Leone. A report written by Jetley and circulated at the U.N. accused the Nigerians of corruption and of working to undermine the peace process in Sierra Leone, and has resulted in demands by Nigeria for the general's dismissal (below). The spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Fred Eckhard, confirmed that India had notified the U.N. of its intention to pull its troops out of UNAMSIL. "The Indian government has also indicated that, since its troops are leaving, it would no longer expect to retain the position of force commander," he said.

UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley is likely to be replaced by a three-star general, BBC United Nations correspondent Mark Devenport reported on Wednesday. Devenport added that the move would be natural given the proposed increase in the size of the force, but would also address tensions between Jetley and the Nigerians. Those tensions became public earlier this month when a confidential report written by Jetley was leaked to the press. In it, the general accused senior Nigerian military and political officials of corruption, collaboration with the RUF to mine illicit diamonds, and of trying to undermine the peace process. A number of sources have confirmed in recent days that a decision had been made to replace Jetley, with some telling the Sierra Leone Web that additional changes to UNAMSIL's leadership likely as well. The Associated Press said Wednesday that the Nigerian Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier-General Mohammed A. Garba, and the Kenyan officer who is third in command would probably be replaced. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan took note this month of the report submitted in August by a U.N. assessment team, which concluded there were "serious shortfalls in capability encountered by UNAMSIL in the recent past with regard to the command and control, equipment, training and preparation of military personnel." A spokesman for Annan said the secretary-general intended to make changes in UNAMSIL's leadership by the end of the month.

The United Nations Security Council has agreed unanimously to extend UNAMSIL's mandate until December 31. The mandate was due to expire on Wednesday. In Resolution 1321, the Council also decided to review the U.N. peacekeeping operation no later than October 31. The Council had originally envisaged extending UNAMSIL's mandate until October 31, but Britain's permanent representative, Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock (pictured right), told reporters the longer extension made sense for several reasons. "We’ve gone for that date because there are American financial considerations that make it advisable to have a slightly longer period, so that Congress can look at the financing for this," he said. Greenstock noted that he would lead a U.N. mission to Sierra Leone between October 7 and 14. "So, today's operation in the Council is just to keep the mandate going until the mission can report back. And we will take further decisions on the future of the U.N. operation at that point." The ambassador also acknowledged that action on a draft resolution to increase UNAMSIL's authorised strength from 13,000 to 20,500 was delayed because the U.N. had not yet received commitments for additional contingents from troop-contributing countries. "One of the recommendations of the Brahimi Report (to improve peacekeeping operations) was that resolutions should be calculated carefully to fit with the ability, the equipment and the training of potential troop contributors, so that we are not asking troop contributors to do things that their military capability doesn't reach to," he said. "And the Secretary-General wants to have more time to prepare potential troop contributors for that next step that we are going to take." There is also disagreement over the composition of a restructured UNAMSIL force. The United States argues that those battalions which have not performed well should be sent home, while diplomats said Jordan, with 1,825 troops on the ground in Sierra Leone, was considering withdrawing unless a NATO country joined the force.

Pro-government forces have overrun three West Side Boys bases in the Okra Hill area, state radio said on Wednesday. "The Sierra Leonean army is now in control of Magbeni, Layah — in the jungle — and Masumana, on the highway between Freetown and Masiaka where the West Side Boys have ambushed hundreds of vehicles," the radio said. It said soldiers had found all the houses and vehicles in Magbeni had been burned. No details on were given on the number of casualties. President Kabbah, in a meeting with the Council of Chiefs, said the pro-government Gbethi militia had already been deployed in the area. Kabbah was also quoted as saying that the Freetown - Port Loko highway had been reopened.

A panel of five experts appointed by the United Nations to investigate the link between diamonds and arms trafficking is in Pretoria, South Africa, where representatives of diamond producing countries and the diamond industry began a three-day conference Tuesday on ways to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. The panel will then head to Sierra Leone on Friday. Three of the five members — Johan Peleman, a Belgian expert on arms and transportation, Harjit Singh Sandhu, an Interpol expert, and Atabou Bodian, an expert from the International Civil Aviation Organization, visited Freetown last week, and also held talks with Burkinabe officials in Ouagadougou earlier in the month. Ian Smillie, a diamond expert with Partnership Africa Canada, and team leader Martin Chungong Ayafor joined the group in South Africa. Smillie had previously been sent to London, while Ayafor remained in New York.

19 September: Six political parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday to unite in a "Grand Alliance" to challenge the ruling SLPP party in next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. The new alliance includes the United National People’s Party, which received 21.5% of the vote in the 1996 parliamentary elections; the People’s Democratic Party (15.2%), the All People’s Congress (5.7%), the People’s Progressive Party (2.8%), the People’s National Convention (2.5%), and the provisionally-registered People’s Democratic Alliance, which recently broke away from the People’s Democratic Party.

The United Nations Security Council has postponed a vote on a British-sponsored resolution to increase the strength of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone by 7,500 troops because the U.N. hasn't received commitments for troops from member states. A recent report on improving U.N. peacekeeping operations recommended that the Council refrain from authorising missions or force increases until Secretary-General Kofi Annan has "firm commitments" for troops and support staff from member states. "The secretary general wants to make sure he has all the troop contributors lined up," Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Tuesday. "That is not yet the case. He does not yet have them." Without Security Council action, UNAMSIL's mandate will expire on September 20. The Council is expected to take up a British-sponsored "technical rollover" motion on Wednesday which would allow UNAMSIL to continue to operate until October 31. 

A United Nations Security Council mission is expected to visit West Africa from October 7-14 to review all aspects of the U.N. operation, including a special court to try those guilty of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian and Sierra Leonean laws, a global ban on the sale of Sierra Leonean diamonds, and the effectiveness of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. The mission, to include about seven U.N. envoys led by Britain's permanent representative, Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, may also visit Bamako for talks with Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, the current chairman of ECOWAS. 

Sierra Leone is looking to resume legal diamond exports by the end of the month, Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Swarray Deen said. In July, the United Nations Security Council imposed a global embargo on Sierra Leonean diamonds in an effort to limit the RUF's ability to trade illicit gemstones for arms. Deen said the government was expecting special forgery-proof certificates of authenticity created by the London-based security printers De La Rue to arrive shortly. He said industry would also be restructured, with the number of licensed exporters reduced from ten to seven — five licenses to be held by overseas companies and two by companies with local ties. Export licenses would cost $50,000 a year for companies and $30,000 for individuals. The license holders would be required to show a turnover of more than $10 million per year, of which the government would receive 2.5 to three percent. So far, Deen told Reuters, the government had received applications from Belgium, Israel, India, New York and South Africa. "They are impatiently waiting to export," Deen said. "Quite a lot of capital is tied up and government is also anxious to get the revenue from exports." On Friday, the Security Council commended the Sierra Leone government for progress made in setting up the certification system, but said it was looking for additional information on how the system would be implemented. "We intend to inform the (U.N. Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone) in the next few days that the system is fully in operation. After all the only way one can test the effectiveness of the system is to start issuing the new certificate," a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web late Monday. The minister also pointed to a shortage of inspectors. He said he was looking to add 100 new inspectors to the 63 already in the field, and wants them to be equipped with four-wheel drive vehicles and reliable communications. But one more major hurdle faces the Sierra Leone government's efforts to bring the diamond trade under its control. According to U.N. estimates, 90 percent of the diamond mining areas, including the richest mines in Kono District and at Tongo Field, remain under RUF control. Meanwhile, representatives of diamond mining countries and the diamond industry opened a three-day conference in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday to try and find ways to curb the trade in "conflict diamonds" without harming the legitimate trade. The meeting is expected to finalise a certificate or origin regime to ensure that diamonds reaching the international market are from legitimate mines, and do not originate in rebel-held territories of countries in conflict. The industry wants to head off the prospect of a consumer boycott of diamonds, which could devastate the economies of countries which rely on legally-mined diamonds. "The future of the diamond industry is at stake, and Africa is in the most vulnerable position," Sandile Nogxina, Director General of South Africa's Ministry of Minerals and Energy, told the conference. Diamond mining industry giant De Beers estimates that conflict diamonds make up less than four percent of diamonds reaching the international market. One industry analyst, however, told the Sierra Leone Web this estimate might be low, based on De Beers' definition of what constitutes a "conflict diamond." It is also likely that the percentage of gem-quality conflict diamonds is somewhat higher. 60 percent of Sierra Leone's diamonds are traditionally of gem quality, while most of those from Australia, a major producer of the stones, are of industrial grade.

Since Friday, Red Cross organisations in Sierra Leone have registered 2,862 returning refugees arriving in Freetown by ship from Conakry, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday. The Sierra Leone Red Cross, along with the ICRC and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are jointly assisting Sierra Leonean refugees as they disembark at the port in Freetown, the statement said. "After disembarking the returnees are attended according to their most urgent needs at the first-aid post, the medical consultation desk, the feeding centre and the water supply unit," the Red Cross said. "Those in extremely bad shape are rendered first-aid and referred to hospitals for further treatment." Some of the refugees are reunited with their families immediately, while others are transferred to the Waterloo Displaced Camp.

The return of thousands of refugees from Guinea threatens to put intense pressure on Sierra Leone's already over-burdened health centres, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Tuesday. Dr. William Aldis, WHO's representative to Sierra Leone, said the impact would go beyond the refugees and would affect the general population as well. "It is a misunderstanding if people believe that the crisis has only caused problems for the people in the camps," he said. According to WHO figures, some 10,000 people have arrived in Kenema during the past six weeks, swelling the population in displacements camps by 15 percent while the town itself is at the "bursting point." The agency called hygiene and sanitation "the most pressing problem, with rats abounding and communicable diseases a constant concern." Rats transmit a number of diseases including Lassa Fever, a highly-infectious and often fatal virus. Kenema is located in what the agency calls Sierra Leone's "Lassa Fever Belt," where health workers are concerned about the high rate of the disease.

4,283 Sierra Leoneans applied for asylum in Europe during the first half of this year, according to figures compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Sierra Leone in fourteenth place, following the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, the Russian Federation, China, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Romania, Pakistan, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because some European countries give preferential treatment to Sierra Leoneans because of the ongoing conflict in the country, however, nationals of other African countries often claim to be Sierra Leoneans for purposes of gaining asylum.

18 September: British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made an informal request to his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, for Malaysia to contribute troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. Cook made the request when the two met in New York for the 55th session of the United Nations General Assembly. According to Syed Hamid, Cook spoke highly of Malaysia's experience in peacekeeping operations, and said Britain would feel more assured by the presence of Malaysian troops in Sierra Leone. Cook also suggested that Britain might look into assisting in the logistical and support aspects of Malaysia's participation in the mission. "Personally, I think that such an operation is an opportunity for the Malaysian security forces to widen their experience. However, this must be discussed further by the government," Syed Hamid said.

West Side Boys commander Colonel Mohamed Siding and 63 others — 33 men, 20 women and 10 child combatants — surrendered to Nigerian peacekeepers at Port Loko on Sunday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Monday. She said that "Colonel Savage" was among 11 West Side Boys combatants who turned themselves in last week.

17 September: An emergency meeting of defence and internal affairs ministers of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia ended in Bamako Saturday night with pledges of peace and reconciliation among the three Mano River Union states. After a stormy eight-hour meeting which lasted late into the night, the ministers issued a communiqué in which they recommended deployment of an ECOWAS team along their common borders, the setting up of an ECOWAS regional observatory for conflict resolution and peacekeeping in Monrovia, and the moving of refugee camps further from the border areas. They further agreed to stop the harassment and expulsion of foreign nationals, to identify and expel foreign dissidents and subversives, and to stop all cross-border raids. The proposals must still be ratified by the heads of state of the three countries. The ministers also agreed to halt the war of words against each other, but immediately after the meeting ended Sierra Leone and Guinea accused the Liberians of backing the RUF, which has been seen as responsible for a number of cross-border attacks on Guinean towns and villages since early September. Liberia's Justice Minister, Eddington Varmah, countered with his own accusations against Guinea. "Well equally so, we do have concerns that dissidents are attacking Liberia currently from the Guinean side, so we have been saying this over and over again to the international community, complaining that indeed we have been attacked from Guinea," he said. Sierra Leone's Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Margai (pictured left), told the BBC Sierra Leone was committed to peace, but added: "I hope that all other participants are as committed and sincere as we are." When asked whom he was referring to, Margai replied: "Liberia, of course." But Margai was more cautious about criticising Guinea, where thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees have been arrested, driven from refugees camps, and harassed in recent days. "Well quite frankly I felt very bad as a human being, but looking at it from the realistic point of view, Guinea has stood by Sierra Leone since our problems, and Guinea has watched us destroy our country," he said. "And I’m sure it will be foolhardy of them not to take preemptive measures to avoid similar occurrences."

Former NPRC military leader Captain Valentine Strasser, in his first interview with the press since arriving in London in 1997, says he would like to become a British citizen. "It sounds appealing: I could use the British passport for travel," Strasser told the Sunday Times. But Strasser is likely to encounter opposition to his wish. The human rights group Amnesty International in May called for the British government to investigate allegations of torture against the former NPRC leader, and accused his troops of "torture, ill treatment and arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians" while passing themselves off as RUF fighters. "Strasser's people were responsible for, among other things, torture of political opponents," an Amnesty International spokesman said. "The government has a responsibility to investigate because torture committed anywhere is a crime under U.K. law." Strasser, however, dismissed the allegations. "How can you say the claims Amnesty International is making are justified?," he asked. "They know it is the Revolutionary United Front that has been responsible for those abuses and violations." He also rejected criticism of the NPRC's execution of 26 political opponents, eight months after he took power. "They were tried, they were prosecuted, they were convicted, they were sentenced," he told the Sunday Times. Strasser, who told the newspaper he is unemployed and dependent on his family and friends for financial support, showed scars above his eye and on his leg, and said he was recently attacked outside a London Underground station. "I was going to an off-licence, and then this guy just turned around and came at me with a knife — something like a Swiss Army penknife," he said. "I was stabbed and I had to be taken to hospital. I couldn't put it down to anything other than racial motivation."

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been highly critical of the UNAMSIL force commander, Major-General Vijay Jetley, over a report he wrote accusing Nigerian military and political officials of corruption, involvement with the RUF in illicit diamond mining, and working to sabotage the peace process. Obasanjo told the BBC that if Jetley's charges were true he would punish the officers concerned, but he dismissed the general's allegations as unsubstantiated. "When did he get there? How far has he gone? What has he achieved?," Obasanjo asked. "I have part of my military training in India. And if you have an Indian officer who got there and not once, not twice, his men were taken as hostages, they were surrounded, I wonder what type of officer that is. I wonder what quality of officer that is. And I wonder what reliability you will put on the report of such an officer." The Nigerian president said he had contacted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking that these charges be substantiated. He said he was told Jetley's memorandum "was not meant to be a report, it was something he was trying on his computer, and he didn’t know how it leaked out." He added that if Annan substantiated Jetley's charges, he would take action. "Adequate and proper action will be taken publicly," he said. "But you don’t write such nonsense without substantiating it."

16 September: Ministerial-level delegations from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia met in Bamako, Mali Saturday afternoon for an emergency meeting to try and resolve border tensions between the three countries. The meeting was called by Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, the current chairman of ECOWAS. Liberia and Guinea have traded accusations over recent attack's into each other's territory, and Guinea has blamed Sierra Leone's RUF rebels for a series of cross-border raids this month from northern Sierra Leone. In response, Guinean President Lansana Conte accused Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees of abetting the attacks, and in doing so he unleashed a storm of arbitrary arrests and harassment against Sierra Leoneans and Liberians who had sought refuge from conflicts in their own countries. The meeting in Mali was to have begun Friday morning, but had to be postponed when the Liberian delegation failed to arrive until late Friday night. BBC correspondent Joan Baxter said the tensions which preceded the talks appeared to have continued into the meeting room. "The echoes the press who are outside are getting is that there’s as much shouting as there is talking, and there’s a lot of complaints about people, different partners, blaming rebels for cross-border raids when in fact they’re accusing the armies of the different countries," she said. "And it remains to be seen how long it will take them to calm down and really get into the serious business of negotiation." The national delegations first met separately with President Konare before coming together for the talks, and Baxter said the Malian hosts were prepared for them to continue long into the night. "The real question is whether there’s political will in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to try to resolve this crisis, and whether or not Malian mediation is going to be what it takes," she said.

The RUF's September 5 attack on the Guinean town of Pamelap was only the first in a series of rebel attacks on that town and surrounding villages, according to Anne Thomas of the French news agency. Thomas visited Pamelap on Friday, where a Guinean military officer, Colonel Kabba Kamara, told her the rebels had attacked twice on Wednesday. "The rebels attacked in the afternoon, then later at night with reinforcements," she quoted Kamara as saying. "We have tried to keep them out of the land, but they keep on trying to take Pamelap." Guinean authorities say at least 80 persons have been killed as a result of attacks from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Thomas said Pamelap itself had been devastated. On Thursday evening the rebels attacked another nearby village, killing a young member of the village defence committee and, according to a Guinean captain, kidnapping nine people. Later, at about 11:00 p.m. Thursday night, the rebels attacked the village of Monkuru, killing five people and burning the small police post. Thomas told the BBC the villagers had destroyed the refugee camp at Dakhagbe, convinced that rebels were hiding there. Officials declined to tell what had become of the Sierra Leonean refugees at the camp, saying only that "they've scattered." A UNHCR spokeswoman said Saturday some 3,000 refugees had been forced to flee the camp, as well as three other camps in Guinea's Forecariah Prefecture. She said most had walked to Forecariah or to Conakry, some 30 miles away, but that others had travelled through RUF-held territory as far as Lungi. Thousands of Guinean villagers have also been forced to flee the area as a result of the fighting. "For us it is very, very serious. This is the first time we have had such a problem between the Guinean people and the refugees,'' Chris Ache, the UNHCR representative in Guinea, told Reuters. "We have had attacks before...but the situation has not been so bad."

15 September: Women's 100-m. runner Ekundayo Williams led the Sierra Leonean team Friday in the opening ceremony at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Only three athletes have so far made the team: Williams, 100-m. runner Alpha B. Kamara and weightlifter Joseph T. Bellon. Four more Olympic hopefuls, Francis Keita, Alie Kamara, Joselyn Thomas and Sanusi Turay, travelled to Australia at their own expense in the hope of qualifying for the men's 4x400-m. relay.

Guinean troops have reportedly shelled villages in Kambia District from across the border, causing residents to flee villages in northwestern Sierra Leone, the BBC said on Friday. According to BBC Freetown correspondent Lansana Fofana, UNAMSIL military spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Coker and Sierra Leone Army sources confirmed military activity in the area, but provided no details. He quoted Coker as saying some 2,500 newly displaced persons had been registered in the Lungi area, with at least 50 more arriving on a daily basis. UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu, said the U.N. force could not confirm reports of fighting. "We are only aware of thousands of civilians who have fled the area of Kambia district in the north and have appeared in places like Port Loko," she said. Reuters quoted a witness, Musa Kamara, as saying the Guineans were directing their attack toward RUF rebels who had regrouped in Sierra Leone border villages after being chased out of Pamelap last week. "Guinean troops launched an offensive on the rebels on Wednesday in a town called Bramaia," he said. "The fighting continued up to yesterday with the Guinean troops shelling into Bramaia and Konta, which were occupied by RUF rebels. A large number of civilians had no alternative but to flee." He said houses were burnt down during the bombardment.

Members of the United Nations Security council commended Sierra Leone Friday for developing, with international assistance, a certification system for diamonds which was submitted to the Council's Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone. According to a statement read out by Ambassador Moctar Ouane of Mali, the current Council president, the Sanctions Committee hoped that with further information from the Sierra Leone government on how the regime would be implemented, diamonds would soon be exported under the new framework. 

The situation at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry remains chaotic, as thousands of refugees vie for transportation back to Freetown, Ambassador Sheku Ba Saccoh said on Friday. Between three and four thousand people are continuing to spend nights at and around the embassy compound, while during the day "most of the people go away finding something," he told the BBC. On Friday, the commercial vessel Madame Monique returned to Conakry for passengers, but Saccoh said the boat could only carry a maximum of 300 people, together with their luggage. "It will take some three, four, five days (to transport all the refugees back to Freetown)," he said. "But of course tomorrow we might be having three boats that might carry up to 1,000 people." Meanwhile, the refugees compete for the few available tickets to carry them out of Guinea. "We spent six hours just organizing how to do it, because everybody wants to leave immediately. And we have space for only 300 people," the ambassador said. "So it’s a big headache as to how to distribute those tickets." Supplying food to the refugees gathered at the embassy has created additional challenges for embassy staff,  with only enough available to hand out a tin of sardines and two loaves of bread to feed families of three or four. "Yesterday they brought about 4,000 tins of sardines and 5,600 loaves of bread, so we handed that out physically," Saccoh said. "We still have a balance with us which we are giving out to people. Some people who want to go back to their home, we allow them to take like ten pieces and we give them something to take home with them." More refugees have continued to arrive in Conakry from outlying areas with tales of harassment by Guinean authorities. "This morning 27 came, with one wounded, seriously wounded; I think he was tied," Saccoh said. "You could see the mark of the rope or wire on both hands. They came from Forecariah township. That is very close to the border where the attacks took place. Then this afternoon people have come from Kindia, about 120 or 130 miles from Conakry." He said harassment of refugees in the area had since died down, but added: "They are afraid, that’s why they are moving." In Geneva, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called the situation at the embassy "worrying," and expressed concern about the risk of an epidemic. Ron Redmond told reporters the UNHCR was supplying water and food to the refugees, while Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) was providing medical assistance. While the refugees are asking to be repatriated, the UNHCR does not consider that to be a viable option because of the insecure situation in Sierra Leone, Redmond said, but he acknowledged that those sheltering in the embassy were afraid to go back to their homes because "many of them fear renewed reprisals in their neighbourhoods."

Sierra Leone on Friday became the 20th nation to formally ratify the Rome Statute to establish an International Criminal Court, when Foreign Minister Dr. Sama Banya presented Sierra Leone's instrument of ratification at the United Nations. Sierra Leone ratified the Rome Statute in June, but had not registered the ratification with the U.N. Meanwhile, Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa and two members of the Ministry of Justice ended their working sessions Friday with the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs on the text of the statute and agreement to establish a special court while will try Sierra Leonean nationals accused of serious breaches of international humanitarian and Sierra Leonean law, a diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web. "Berewa reported 'progress' in the drafting of the documents, especially on articles dealing with temporal jurisdiction of the court," the source said. He added that the cut-off date would likely be 1996, from the signing of the Abidjan Accord, and not from the date of the Lomé Peace Accord or from 1991, when Sierra Leone's conflict first began. Last week President Kabbah signed two optional protocols to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child — one dealing with child soldiers and the other on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the source said. The president also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

While the Sierra Leone government is sending boats to bring back thousands of Sierra Leonean taking refugee at the embassy in Conakry, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to participate in inter-agency assessments of Bailor Wharf, Conakry Dee, and Kalangba Junction in Lungi next week, to assess the numbers of refugees returning home, the WFP said in its latest report. During the past week, the WFP distributed 757 metric tons of food aid to 64,573 beneficiaries. Food distribution to 19,981 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and therapeutic feeding patients in Port Loko had to be put on hold due to security concerns. The WFP is also having to scale back assistances because of a projected shortfall in cereals. Planned food distributions are being prioritised on the basis of vulnerability and need, food-for-training and food-for-agriculture projects for 23,000 farm families nationwide have been suspended, and the expansion of the school feeding project has been put on hold. Food aid is being provided to only the most vulnerable households among the newly displaced population until the food pipeline situation improves, the WFP said.

A British major whose error in judgment is blamed for the capture last month of 11 Royal Irish Regiment troops and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer will be reprimanded, but he is unlikely to face a court-martial, senior British defence sources were quoted as saying. "(Major Allan Marshall) has repeated at the start and finish of every conversation that he absolutely accepts as the company commander full responsibility. He is right to do so," one source said. "But he will not be castigated or pilloried. He will be dealt with professionally." Marshall was not authorised to visit the town of Magbeni, but decided "on the spur of the moment" to go have a look, one source said. MoD officials acknowledged that spontaneous patrols were a regular occurrence, but said without up-to-date intelligence the trip should never have been made. The troops were confronted at Magbeni by some 25 members of the West Side Boys militia. "They were very quickly overwhelmed. The West Side Boys considerably outnumbered them, and with some heavy weapons," a source said. Marshall was "brutally assaulted" when he resisted attempts to disarm him. Meanwhile, British military sources were quoted as saying the rescue mission lasted between five and six hours as the West Side Boys fought more fiercely than anticipated.

13 members of the West Side Boys militia have given themselves up to U.N. peacekeeping troops, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Friday. 11 West Side Boys — nine male and two female, including two child combatants — surrendered to Nigerian troops at Port Loko and two surrendered to Jordanians troops at Magbontoso. They have been registered by UNAMSIL military observers and taken to the DDR camp at Lungi. Currently, Befecadu said, the DDR camp at Lungi houses 294 West Side Boys, 145 AFRC, 16 RUF, 74 ex-SLA who failed screening, one child combatant, and 24 Sierra Leone Army soldiers who are on active duty at the camp. Befecadu said the West Side Boys commander, "Brigadier" Foday Kallay, and two women captured by the British during "Operation Barras" are being held at Pademba Road Prison. 16 persons who had been abducted and held by the West Side Boys were released. Befecadu told reporters that 150 Nigerian soldiers arrived in Lungi Wednesday as part of a troop rotation that will see Nigerian Battalion VI replace the Nigerian Battalion IV at Wilberforce. She added that the third batch of Indian troops would be airlifted from Kenema and Daru on Saturday to return home.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson endorsed on Friday the Security Council's decision to set up an independent court to try the perpetrators of human rights abuses in Sierra Leone. She also called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the country as soon as possible. Robinson, addressing an informal session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, singled out Sierra Leone, Colombia and Kosovo as hot-spots where major human rights violations continue.

UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley is due to return to Sierra Leone on September 20, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Friday.

14 September: A proposed increased in the size of the UNAMSIL force would add $305.5 million to the cost of the peacekeeping force, bring the total to about $782.2 million for the current fiscal year, according to budgetary projections released Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Security Council is expected to vote as early as Friday on a British-sponsored resolution to increase UNAMSIL's authorised strength from 11,100 to 20,500 troops. The additional funds would allow the U.N. to deploy 18 infantry battalions supported by additional logistics, communications and air transport units, along with intelligence and command personnel. As of August 15, unpaid contributions to UNAMSIL totaled $169.4 million, Annan said.

430 Sierra Leonean refugees arrived at Freetown's port Thursday after 24 hours at sea aboard the commercial ship Madame Monique. The group was the first of thousands of Sierra Leoneans trying to leave Conakry after a crackdown on Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Guinea over the weekend. "Among them were four sick persons, one of them sporting a broken arm as a result of the alleged brutality of Guinean security forces," said BBC Freetown correspondent Lansana Fofana. The returnees were screened by Sierra Leonean police and other security forces before being allowed to return to their homes. Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone government is seeking funds to repatriate some 6,000 refugees taking shelter at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry.

Officials from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are due to meet Friday in Bamako to discuss ways to resolve the border crisis caused by armed groups that have launched attacks into Guinea. The meeting was called by Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare in his capacity as chairman of ECOWAS. 

The Regional Director for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Abou Moussa met Thursday with Guinean President Lansana Conte, who told him that because of border incursions from Liberia and Sierra Leone last week he had needed to take action to ensure the country's integrity. "And of course in so doing the refugees have to some extent been maybe roughly handled," Moussa told the BBC, adding that the Guinean authorities had taken initiatives to relax measures taken against the arrested refugees. "All of those who we know have been arrested have been released," he said. He said the UNHCR would meet with government officials to come up with a strategy on investigating complaints by the refugees "like rape and other incidents." In a separate interview with the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), Moussa said fighting between the RUF and Guinean security forces in the border area had displaced at least 1,000 Guineans in the past week, and that angry Guinean civilians had attacked humanitarian workers assisting Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. He said it was increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers to help the nearly 500,000 refugees in Guinea because of local resentment toward them. "Some of our cars have been stoned because of our allegiance to them, as an agency working with refugees," Moussa said.

A British government inquiry has blamed the capture of 11 Royal Irish Regiment soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer last month on an "error of judgment" by the patrol's commander, Major Alan Marshall. "The assessment has indicated that the commander of the patrol, Major Alan Marshall, made an error of professional judgment in diverting from a planned and authorized journey so as to make an unauthorized visit to the village of Magbeni on the banks of the Rokel Creek," the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. The patrol was then overwhelmed by about 25 West Side Boys militiamen. The MoD report said the British patrol had made an approved visit to Jordanian peacekeepers at Masiaka, and was heading back when Marshall decided to make a right turn from the main route in order to visit Magbeni, which he believed was free of the West Side Boys combatants. The MoD said Marshall had made a "grave mistake," and would be dealt with by the Commander-in-Chief of U.K. Land Command. In the run-up to the report's release, there had been no absence of theories as to what had happened. Initially, Brigadier Gordon Hughes, the commander of British forces in Sierra Leone, claimed the 11 British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer had been coordinating security arrangements with Jordanian peacekeepers at Masiaka, and were on their way back to their base at Benguema when they were abducted. The British account was "categorically rejected" by acting UNAMSIL force commander Brigadier-General Mohammed A. Garba of Nigeria, who denied the soldiers had met with the Jordanians. Garba said they had been travelling east from the capital, not west, when they turned and drove six miles into a no-go area controlled by the West Side Boys. He accused the British of preparing to blame UNAMSIL for the incident. A third version, given by one of the militiamen, relates that the soldiers were caught off-guard while talking to the West Side Boys, after having driven to their village to meet their commander, "Brigadier" Foday Kallay. According to Britain's PA News, Kallay was away at the time, but became angry when he returned to find the British soldiers there without an invitation, and ordered their arrest. Five of the British soldiers were released within days of their capture, but were unable to shed any light on the incident. "The five that came out were the junior ranks who were simply doing what their officers told them," a source told the PA News.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido has described as "irresponsible" a report by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley which accused Nigerian military and political officials of sabotaging the peace process, corruption, and colluding with the RUF to mine diamonds. "It is so profane an allegation; he maligned Nigeria and even maligned General (Maxwell) Khobe, a fine officer Nigeria had who is now dead," Lamido said. The foreign minister dismissed allegations that Nigerians were involved in mining diamonds, saying that Nigerian soldiers were never deployed in the diamond mining areas. "They were even never there, so they couldn't have been involved in diamonds. We are not a mercenary army, neither are we a mercenary country. We are beyond that," he said. In August it was announced that Jetley would take a short leave of absence following a trip to the United States, where he briefed the United Nations Security Council on the need for more peacekeeping troops. UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu told reporters that Jetley would return from leave in time to attend the meeting of chiefs of defence staff from UNAMSIL troop-contributing countries later in the month. But Jetley remained in India while the military leaders discussed the report. Nigeria has publicly called for Jetley's ouster, and last week Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Major-General Victor Malu declared that Nigerian troops would refuse to serve under the Indian general. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has promised to make a decision regarding the UNAMSIL leadership by the end of the month.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Thursday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Bank: [$] 2000 / 2450. [£] 2950 / 3450. Commercial Bank: [$] 2000 / 2450. [£] 2900 / 3400. Frandia: [$] 2150 / 2450  [£] 3100 / 3500; Continental: [$] 2200 / 2400  [£] 3150 / 3450.

13 September: Some 2,000 refugees have returned to Sierra Leone as a result of the mass arrests and harassment of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians in Guinea since the weekend, Sierra Leonean authorities told Reuters. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the Guinean authorities had released some 5,000 refugees; still, tension among Sierra Leoneans in Guinea remains high. A Sierra Leonean humanitarian source told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), that Sierra Leoneans were afraid to leave their homes or, if they ventured out, to speak Krio in public. A humanitarian source told IRIN that in areas such as Forecariah, there was fear and apprehension among humanitarian officials, who reported hearing shooting at night. At Conakry's main seaport, at least 100 Sierra Leoneans left for Freetown Wednesday aboard a commercial vessel, the MV Nicholas. 600 to 800 more passengers were expected to leave later in the day aboard two other boats, the MV Madame Monique and the MV Overbeck. But thousands of other refugees unable to pay their way were left behind. Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said Tuesday the government was preparing to send boats for the refugees, but one of the commercial boat owners told would-be passengers at the Sierra Leone Embassy they had not yet reached an agreement with the Sierra Leone government to evacuate the refugees. "Many of the over 5,000 disappointed passengers who had thought that the boats had been hired by the Sierra Leonean government had no choice but to go back inside the embassy compound with their bits and pieces of belongings which are mostly tied in small bundles," said BBC Conakry correspondent Alhassan Sylla. Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea, Dr. Sheku Ba Saccoh, confirmed he was negotiating with the boat owners for the evacuation of the refugees. Earlier Tuesday, the scene at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry was chaotic as thousands of Sierra Leoneans sought refuge in the compound. "I’m estimating it must be 5,000 to 6,000 people," Ambassador Saccoh told the BBC. "It’s not within the embassy. All along the two sides of the street along the embassy. You can see some 500 to 600 yards. Every place is jam-packed with Sierra Leoneans. This of course is rainy season, so the people are actually suffering. We are getting over it gradually, but the tension at the embassy is very, very high." Sylla said most of the refugees were asking to be repatriated to Sierra Leone, while others were looking to be resettled in a third country because the security situation in Sierra Leone precluded them returning home. 

President Kabbah met in Conakry Tuesday with Guinean President Lansana Conte and reportedly received assurances that the refugee crisis had been resolved. In a nationwide broadcast on Tuesday, Kabbah denied reports of attacks on refugees in Guinea. "There were reports of some Sierra Leoneans killed and some were molested during security forces raids in Guinea...This I can say from my discussions with President Lansana Conte is absolutely incorrect," Kabbah said. The refugees themselves, however, have told a different story to the media and to Human Rights Watch, which reported Tuesday that refugees had been subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, deprivation of their property, beatings and rape. Kabbah said that the Guineans were screening those in refugee camps to separate asylum-seekers from rebels, and he pointed to the need to remain on good terms with Guinea. "If you have no rebel connection you will be free and have the right to stay in Guinea," he said, adding that Guinea had been the first to send troops to support his government against the RUF rebels. "We cannot have Liberia as our enemy and then have Guinea also as an enemy," he said.

Jordanian peacekeepers have deployed in all areas formerly held by the West Side Boys militia, UNAMSIL military spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Coker said on Wednesday. "The acting U.N. Force Commander, Brigadier-General Mohammed Garba, visited the area yesterday along with the commander of the Jordanian forces who are deployed in that area, Brigadier Ahmed Sehren," Coker said. "General Garba visited all the villages the West Side boys used to occupy." He said Garba did not encounter any armed group apart from U.N. forces during his trip. Since the raid on the West Side Boys' base by British forces, 48 members of the militia had voluntarily disarmed to the Jordanians at Magbuntoso, with 18 of them disarming on Wednesday, Coker told reporters. The military spokesman also announced that Lungi had been declared a "weapons free zone," adding that random security checks and cordon-and-search operations would be carried out in the area.

Liberian President Charles Taylor called on Wednesday for a meeting between himself, Guinean President Lansana Conte and President Kabbah to resolve mistrust and differences affecting the three Mano River Union states, BBC Monrovia correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported on Wednesday. On Tuesday, ECOWAS promised to call a summit in an effort to calm tensions.

U.S. Congressman Tony Hall urged the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday to moved swiftly to approve the CARAT Act, designed to curb the problem of diamonds fueling conflicts in Africa. Hall, in testimony before the Trade Subcommittee, noted that Americans buy two thirds of the world's diamonds, and suggested the possibility of a consumer boycott if the problem were not addressed. "Over the past decade, our government has sent a significant amount of humanitarian aid to Angola, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone — at the same time $10 billion in diamonds was smuggled out of those countries, turned into weapons, and turned against their suffering people," Hall said. "As long as any criminal can capture diamond mines that generate that kind of money, we will be stuck in this vicious cycle of wars...A system that encourages responsible business people to prevent wars, and makes it harder for everyone to deal in smuggled diamonds, will go a long way to break this cycle." Hall told the subcommittee that until recently the diamond industry hadn't considered atrocities funded by the purchase of conflict diamonds to be their problem. He called recent moves by the diamond industry to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds "promising, but incomplete. "My bill gives an incentive to inventors who may be able to put diamonds on the same footing as other products — so that consumers can know where they were mined and make their own decisions about what to buy," Hall said. "It sends a strong message to the smugglers and thugs who count on governments and industry to look the other way. Those days are over, it says. It's time to write that into law." The bill, HR 5147, or "Consumer Access to a Responsible Accounting for Trade," is co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

12 September: Guinean authorities released between 800 and 1,000 of the more than 3,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees Monday detained over the weekend, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva. He said the Guineans had agreed to release all foreigners arrested since Saturday as long as they are first screened by the UNHCR and local officials. "People who have been in Guinea for a long time and are in possession of Guinean papers will be able to go home. Others will be taken to a UNHCR-run camp where they will receive food and other assistance," the spokesman said. The Abidjan-based regional UNHCR director  is due to arrive in Conakry on Tuesday with a message from the High Commissioner urging the Guinean authorities to continue to provide protection for the refugees, the vast majority of whom are women and children. "There have been unconfirmed reports of abuse against foreigners while in detention, including alleged cases of rape," Janowski said. "UNHCR is condemning any violence against refugees and calling upon both the government and the population to respect the rights of refugees." Chris Ache, the UNHCR's representative in Guinea, said the extent of the attacks against Sierra Leoneans and Liberians in Conakry were unclear, and some reports have said as many as 5,000 foreigners had been arrested. "Yesterday evening I was called to a meeting at the foreign ministry, where the government clearly expressed its regret," Ache said. "According to the minister, it was not the intention that the refugees should be mistreated, but there have been excesses by people who understood otherwise, who have ill-treated refugees." According to UNHCR figures, there are currently about 333,000 Sierra Leonean and 125,000 refugees in Guinea.

BBC Conakry correspondent Alhassan Sylla described the situation at the Sierra Leone Embassy Tuesday as "total chaos," with some 3,000 people crammed into the embassy compound and others outside. "A number of Sierra Leoneans who were released from various cells and other places were brought to the embassy by the Guinean police. and people were advised now to go home because everything is over," Sylla said. "Orders have been given for them not to be harassed. But nobody is taking that seriously, so that the embassy now is now packed and it’s a complete refugee situation. It’s another refugee camp that has been opened here in Conakry, I must say." Sylla said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was providing food and had sent in a medical team for the refugees. He said some of the Sierra Leoneans had been released from detention when their landlords interceded with police. "On the other hand then some of these detainees were only released after the edict on national radio, the order asking for all to be released," he said. "But these are the ones that are coming in with very horrible tales about how they were badly treated when they were inside police cell." Earlier, Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea, Dr. Sheku Ba Saccoh, told the BBC that the Guineans wanted the refugees to leave their country. "Some say they’ve been beaten out of their houses by their landlord, some say the military men are around ready to evict them, some say they’ve been asked by the leaders of the communities to leave, to vacate and go back to Freetown. They are unwanted," Saccoh said. "Even the amputees who have come for some amputee programme to the UNHCR are here — I have about 30 to 40 amputees in my compound. I think it’s just asking them to leave. They are not allowing the boats to come and collect them. Almost 50-60 percent of the Sierra Leoneans who are here are ready to leave for Freetown, but the vessels have not been allowed to come in, because they came in with passengers, they turned them back. So we are now negotiating with the authorities there to allow the empty boats to come and collect the Sierra Leoneans who willingly want to go back to Freetown."

Human Rights Watch has strongly condemned the Guinean government for inciting attacks against Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. The human rights group on Tuesday issued testimonies from 40 victims, including ten women who were raped, seven of them gang-raped. "Many of these women were raped and sexually assaulted in Sierra Leone, and they fled to Guinea seeking safety," Rachael Reilly, Refugee Policy Director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. "It is unacceptable that they should fall victim to similar atrocities in their place of refuge." One man was confirmed to have died in detention. Human Rights Watch called on the Guinean government to desist from round-ups and attacks against the refugees, and to investigate those responsible. According to interviews conducted by Human Rights watch, "the mobs drove refugees out of their houses, frequently beating, raping, and sexually abusing them. The attackers wielded sticks, rocks, iron bars, electric cords and knives." Police also arbitrarily detained as many as 3,000 people over the weekend. Most of them were initially taken to police stations and later moved to local district communes or schools in Conakry, Human Rights Watch said. Refugees' homes were looted and their property stolen — sometimes with the participation of Guinean police and soldiers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also came in for criticism. Human Rights Watch alleged that the agency had failed to investigate the abuses or even to acknowledge that the attacks were even taking place. "UNHCR...told Human Rights Watch it had not investigated any cases of rape so far, and said that it could not confirm the reports. Similarly, Guinean officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch also denied that such abuses had taken place," the statement said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Sama Banya has told the BBC the Sierra Leone government disassociates itself from a report by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley criticizing the Nigerian role in Sierra Leone. In the report, written in May, Jetley alleges senior Nigerian military and political leaders of UNAMSIL and ECOMOG were undermining the peace process, and had engaged in illicit diamond mining with the RUF rebels. "We have disassociated ourselves from that position altogether because we know what tremendous sacrifice the Nigerian government and Nigerian people have made on the Sierra Leone issue. We completely disassociate ourselves from it, and we’ve appealed to the Nigerians to just disregard it," Banya said in New York. "Those are very serious allegations, and the Sierra Leone government has no reason to associate itself with such a report." Banya said U.N. peacekeepers had run into difficulties because they were spread too thinly. "They’ve learned lessons from that, and even now the current debate in the United Nations to increase the number to 20,500 as well as to give them a more robust stature — those should be enough to deter any further action from the RUF," he said. Banya added that the peacekeepers would have to be deployed all over Sierra Leone, especially in the RUF strongholds. "It is (the RUF's) express feeling that UNAMSIL should be deployed as quickly as possible, and that they are ready to hand over everything they have and return to the DDR table," he said. "Now that will be a mark of their sincerity for the nth time if you ask me."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters Tuesday about the difficulty of forging a cohesive peacekeeping operation with forces from different countries and said it was not helpful when there was bickering and differences among commanders. "This is a situation that cannot be allowed to fester and we are going to deal with it effectively and promptly," he said. This week a confidential report written by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley was leaked to the press, in which he accused Nigerian military and political leaders of corruption and of working to undermine the peace process in Sierra Leone. The Nigerian Chief of Army Staff reacted with outrage, and said Nigerian troops would refuse to serve under Jetley. 

Nigerian peacekeeping troops at the Rokel Bridge came under light arms fire Monday night, a U.N. spokesman said in New York. There were no casualties and no further details were available. Meanwhile, 25 members of the West Side Boys surrendered and handed over their weapons to Jordanian peacekeepers at Masiaka on Monday, and four more of the West Side Boys, including two child soldiers, had turned themselves in by midday Tuesday. The spokesman said tensions in Guinea had created a new wave of 5,000 to 6,000 internally displaced persons moving toward Lungi from the border.

11 September: Six British soldiers freed on Sunday will now face debriefing on how they came to be captured last month by the West Side Boys militia. "It is important that we understand why the hostages were taken, and take steps to avoid that occurring again," said British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. "Once they’ve got back to the United Kingdom, we will be able to establish that clearly. We’ve got a partial picture, but obviously it is important that we get a full picture once the hostages are free and we can properly debrief them." Meanwhile the leader of the West Side Boys, "Brigadier" Foday Kallay, who was among the prisoners taken by British paratroopers in their dawn raid on the group's base, told BBC Freetown correspondent Lansana Fofana that the taking of the hostages had been a mistake. "He told me he regrets the whole kidnapping saga, and as far as he was concerned the myth about the West Side Boys was now over and that they don’t have any more fighting force left there," Fofana said. "And in fact he told me that most of his commanders were killed in the operation and others drowned." Fofana, who interviewed Kallay in police custody, described him as "really down, very downcast, and very, very troubled." He said the West Side Boys leader claimed the militia was getting ready to release the hostages. "In fact he told me at one point that he is a politician, that he doesn’t believe in violence any more, that given the chance he wants to become a politician," Fofana said. But that now seems unlikely. In a statement issued on Sunday, the Sierra Leone government noted it had called repeatedly on the West Side Boys to disarm, and vowed to prosecute Kallay and the other captured militiamen. "Unfortunately, while some of them heeded the call (to disarm), many preferred to continue a life of banditry in the bush," the statement said. "Those that have been captured and are now being detained will therefore face the full force of the law. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the British troops had "dealt a severe blow" to the West Side Boys militia. "Their leadership is now behind bars. Their headquarters has now been destroyed," he said.

16 Sierra Leonean hostages held by the West Side Boys, including women who said they had been used as sex slaves, were also freed Sunday after the British operation to rescue six British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean officer abducted by the militia last month. One hostage, identified as a student at Bunumbu Teachers College, was killed after he panicked and attempted to escape by running. Meanwhile, West Side Boys leader "Brigadier" Foday Kallay was forced by police to identify the bodies of his dead troops Monday at a compound outside of Freetown. "24-year-old Kallay, with his hands tied behind his back, remained impassive as he was made to look at bodies with gaping shot wounds laid out in a mud yard," Britain's PA News reported. According to the BBC, Kallay gave a long statement to the police, claiming he did not fight during the raid and that he was terrified when the British helicopters appeared over the horizon. An eyewitness told the BBC that Kallay laid low during the attack, then gave himself up for arrest.

Some 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees camped out in the rain overnight at the Sierra Leone Embassy compound in Conakry, as Guinean security forces and others continued to round up and harass Sierra Leoneans and Liberians in the city. BBC reporter Alhassan Sylla said Monday the plight of the refugees was desperate. "(The embassy) has only one toilet for the refugees and all the people outside. So there’s a long queue in the toilets now where people are trying to go in, especially the women, to take care of themselves and their babies," he said. "Sierra Leoneans have actually been targeted by the security forces and other ordinary citizens here. People have been beaten, their doors broken down, their properties stolen, some taken off them forcefully like their [jerries] and other things. People have virtually given up. Some have left their homes taking nothing but what was on them, and they said they’d leave the rest to the Guineans as long as they can find [safety] back to their country." Sylla said he had received reports Sunday night that large numbers of Sierra Leonean and Guinean refugees had been arrested at Gueckedou. He said in that region, anti-Liberian sentiment was high, and that some Liberians were being locked up while Sierra Leoneans were being released. "But it’s the reverse in an area known as Forecariah, which is much closer to Pamelap where insurgents from Sierra Leone raided the other day," Sylla said. "Guinean security men deployed at Forecariah where we have refugee camps for Sierra Leone. The local population would have overrun those camps and probably done harm to the refugees. So I mean that’s the situation. Sierra Leoneans and Liberians are really finding themselves in dire straits in this country." Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone government said Sunday it had initiated contact with the government of Guinea at a number of levels in an effort to resolve the crisis. "These contacts have not only involved the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry, but have also involved President Kabbah, the Guinean Prime Minister and President Obasanjo holding talks on the matter in New York," the Information Ministry said. "In addition, President Kabbah is expected to hold talks with President Lansana Conte in Conakry on his way back from the U.N. Summit." The statement confirmed that "several Sierra Leoneans were indeed arrested on suspicion of being rebels and are currently being screened," but that the Guinean authorities had assured Sierra Leone the process would be completed within 24 hours and all innocent persons would be released. The government statement said arrangements had been made to repatriate hundreds of Sierra Leoneans who had sought refuge at the embassy in Conakry, and who wished to return home. Over the weekend, gangs of youths of conducted reprisal attacks against Guinean nationals in Freetown's eastern suburbs of Kissy, Wellington and Calaba Town, the BBC reported. "While there have been no reported casualties in the revenge attacks, there are fears that the situation may get out of control if left unchecked," said BBC Freetown correspondent Lansana Fofana. "There are thousands of Guineans here and they are mainly involved in commerce. The recent turn of events is bound to significantly affect them, as boatloads of Sierra Leonean refugees arrive here every day in fear of harassment in that country, and anger rising against Guinean xenophobia." The Information Ministry statement made it clear that such attacks, which have included the looting of shops belonging to Guineans, would be dealt with severely. "Government wishes to make it quite clear that it will not tolerate any such action, as this will only worsen an already fragile situation," the statement said. "All those who are involved in attacking suspected Guineans are therefore warned to desist from such activities as they will face the full force of the law if caught." In an interview with Radio France International, Information Minister Dr. Julius Spencer said the Guinean authorities had given assurances the refugees would be freed, and he said the situation in Conakry had begun to improve. "Many of them have been released, many of them have sought refuge in the Sierra Leone Embassy in Conakry because they are frightened of going back home — not so much because of the actions of the authorities, but because of gangs of youths that seem to have taken the law into their own hands. So indeed it seems like this situation is improving."

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that differences between top UNAMSIL officials were well-known, and that Annan had tried in recent months to foster better coordination among the officials. The secretary-general recently sent a team to Sierra Leone led by former Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations General Manfred Eisele to underscore the need for cooperation, and had written a letter to senior officials urging them to work together, the spokesman said. While declining to comment on a report circulated in May by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley which accused senior Nigerian military and political officials of corruption and of attempting to undermine the peace process, the spokesman said Annan was consulting with a number of member states "at the highest level" and that a decision on the U.N. leadership in Freetown would be "forthcoming."

Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who is chairman of the OAU, urged the leaders of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia late Sunday to "exercise restraint and avoid any resort to force in settling their dispute." According to his spokesman, Eyadema reminded the leaders that the 1998 OAU summit in Algiers had resolved to make 2000 the year of peace, security, stability and development in Africa. He urged OAU member states to show "collective commitment and reaffirm before the world our common resolve to seek, at all costs, peaceful ways of settling the crises shaking our continent." Eyadema, who is in New York where he attended the U.N. Millennium Summit, called on the international community to avoid sending troops, weapons or ammunition to any of the states involved in the dispute.

303 ex-combatants have registered for the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme between May 7, when the programme was suspended following the breakdown of the peace process, and September 8, the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) said on Monday. Of the 303, 90 were from the RUF, 22 of them children; 206 were from the AFRC/ex-SLA, including 27 children; and 7 were from the CDF, 6 of them children. 177 weapons were handed in during that time period, along with 2,215 rounds of ammunition. According to an NCDDR press release, 300 wives of ex-combatants have qualified for micro-credit assistance aimed at providing financial support for ex-combatants' families to engage in petty trading, thereby reducing family pressures on male ex-combatants. NCDDR Executive-Secretary Dr. Francis Kai-Kai told the recipients that payment of the Transitional Safety Net Allowance (TSA) had been put on hold because the purpose for which it was paid had been misunderstood. Meanwhile, the NCDDR said it signed six new contracts with its implementing partners on August 28 which would result in the employment of some 1,100 ex-combatants. These include a Le441,991,000 construction project to build five new classroom blocks for the Government Technical Institute at Kissy Dockyard, which will provide apprenticeship and employment for 90 ex-combatants; a Le44,370,000 project under the Sierra Leone Roads Authority which will provide training and employment to 30 ex-combatants in feeder roads improvement in the Bo and Kenema area; a Le149,548,530 artisanal fishing project under the Social Awareness and Development Movement in Tombo and Goderich which will employ 80 ex-combatants; a Le95,248,873 Rice Cultivation and Upland Tree Crops Rehabilitation project by the Social Economic Development Office to employ 100 ex-combatants in Dama Chiefdom, Kenema District; a Le127,407,275 project which will employ 150 ex-combatants in small-scale animal production in the Western Area under Agricultural Production Extension and General Services; and a project at the Yamina Skills Training Centre in Cline Town which will engage 100 ex-combatants in leatherwork and small enterprise development. Meanwhile, the NCDDR statement said, the World Bank has sent a five-member review mission to Freetown to review the operational experience of the NCDDR secretariat with a view to strengthening its capacity to implement the DDR programme more successfully when the security situation stabilises.

UNAMSIL has stepped up patrols along the main highway in the area where the West Side Boys seized 11 British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean officer last month, spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said. "We have increased activity there to make that route once and for all safe," she said. "We have indicated that we do not wish to see West Side Boys in that area, we do not wish to see anybody armed in that area." Befecadu said Jordanian peacekeepers at Masiaka had prevented an attempt by the West Side Boys to take civilian hostages and use them as human shields to escape during the British operation to rescue six British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer held prisoner by the group. 15 civilians were rescued and four trucks recovered, she said. She added that 30 West Side Boys surrendered to Jordanian peacekeepers on Monday and would be transported to the Lungi DDR camp. Nigerian peacekeepers deployed at the Magbele Bridge say they killed five West Side Boys and captured 11 in a clash with the militia on September 8, Befecadu said. 

Britain will submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council to expand the authorised strength of UNAMSIL, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on Monday. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended an increase in the size of the force from 13,000 to 20,500. A vote could come later this week. At a coordination meeting Monday between the United Nations, ECOWAS and the government of Sierra Leone, Annan said he hoped the action on the text by September 20 would would give new impetus to the search for a resolution to the conflict.

Reaction to "Operation Barras," the rescue mission to free six British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer held hostage by the West Side Boys. SIERRA LEONE GOVERNMENT: "Government wishes to congratulate all those who were involved in the operation to free the hostages today, particularly the British forces, for the very professional way in which the operation was planned and executed. Government is very pleased that all the hostages, British and Sierra Leonean, have been successfully freed and that the Sierra Leonean troops that were involved in the operation acquitted themselves well. Although it had been hoped that the situation could have been resolved peacefully, the use of force eventually became unavoidable due to the recalcitrance of those calling themselves ‘The West Side Boys’." CCP CHAIRMAN AND FORMER AFRC LEADER JOHNNY PAUL KOROMA: "It is now the business of government to enforce its power in that area so that civilians will not be further harassed." BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: "This was an operation carried out in circumstances of immense danger in the face of armed resistance and I cannot pay high enough tribute to the skill, the professionalism and the courage of the armed forces involved...British personnel are in Sierra Leone in order to save that country from dictatorship, from armed gangs who are already responsible for thousands of deaths. I think we can be proud of the armed forces, there really are no finer armed forces anywhere in the world." BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY ROBIN COOK: "I am greatly relieved that all the British hostages have been rescued. I am incredibly impressed by the professionalism and discipline with which the British troops have carried out the action, and I am deeply saddened for the death of a paratrooper who was killed rescuing his colleagues."

10 September: One British soldier and 24 members of the West Side Boys, including three women, were killed during Sunday's early morning raid to free six British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer. Another British soldier was seriously wounded and 11 more suffered light wounds. One Sierra Leonean hostage held by the militia was also killed in the crossfire.  18 members of the West Side Boys militia were captured — 15 men and three women — including the group's leader, "Brigadier" Foday Kallay — a former Sierra Leone Army sergeant who was part of the short-lived AFRC military regime. According to Britain's defence ministry, "Operation Barras" involved a coordinated two-pronged attack against the rebels' headquarters at Gberi Bana, and West Side Boys' units at Magbeni and Foredugu. "The northern phase of the assault aimed to release the hostages thought to be held in Gberi Bana. The aim of the southern phase was to neutralise an enemy position on the southern bank of the Rokel Creek that was equipped with heavy machine guns that posed a significant threat to our aircraft," the MoD statement said. "The southern assault was also successful in preventing West Side Boys units south of Rokel Creek from interdicting the hostages as they were airlifted out. This involved clearance of the rebel camps and involved suppressive fire as the advances took place. Our troops came under sustained fire including from the edge of the jungle. This in turn was countered by our own mortar fire. This action also lead to the recovery of the U.K. vehicles held by the West Side boys." 

British troops successfully freed six U.K. soldiers and a Sierra Leonean liaison officer Sunday after negotiations with the West Side Boys militia holding the hostages collapsed. British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon (pictured left) said the decision to launch the dawn raid came after the West Side Boys "threatened repeatedly to kill the hostages," and following reports they had carried out mock executions of the soldiers. British Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Charles Guthrie (right) said the operation had been undertaken because negotiations with the militia were getting nowhere. "The hostages had been there for three weeks," he said. "They were threatening to kill them, or were threatening to move them to different parts of Sierra Leone, and once they had done that we’d never be able to recover from it." Guthrie said British forces met "significant resistance" from the West Side Boys, and that there was heavy fighting on both sides of the 300-metre wide Rokel Creek, surrounded by mangrove swamps and forest, where the West Side Boys' Okra Hill base is located. The British reportedly launched a two-pronged attack on a couple of villages along the Rokel, resulting in 20 minutes of fierce fighting before the hostages were rescued. Guthrie said there had been "a few casualties on our side" and a "substantial number" of casualties among the militia. "They were not a pushover. They fought very hard and there were women among the fighting, some of whom may have been among the casualties," he said. Guthrie disclosed that several prisoners were taken, among them "Brigadier" Foday Kallay, the West Side Boys' leader. Geoff Hoon told reporters the assault on the militia's camp, carried out by 155 troops of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment on board five helicopters, backed by RAF and Royal Navy forces, came only after the negotiations had failed. At negotiators' last meeting with Kallay, he said, the West Side Boys' demands had become unreasonable. "He was pressing for quite unreasonable and unattainable political concessions," Hoon said. The minister noted that Sierra Leone Army troops had provided "support and assistance" to the rescue operation. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Blair had authorised the operation on Wednesday and gave the final go-ahead on Saturday afternoon. In Freetown, the spokesman for British forces, Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, stressed that the rescue mission had the approval of President Kabbah and UNAMSIL. "Over the last couple of days it was felt these talks were not going anywhere and on the advice of those conducting negotiations it was felt there was an imminent danger to the men being held," Cramp said. The freed soldiers have been taken to a British support ship anchored in Freetown, the RFA Sir Percivale. 

Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Major-General Victor Malu said Sunday he had called for the removal of UNAMSIL force commander Brigadier-General Vijay Jetley as the result of a confidential report Jetley circulated in the U.N. accusing Nigerian political and military officials of corruption and of attempting to undermine the peace process. Malu, a former commander of the ECOMOG force, said he had written a letter to Nigerian Defence Minister Theophilus Danjuma demanding that Jetley be replaced. "We are not going to serve under that man in whatever circumstances," Malu said. "And if he is not removed he will not get our cooperation, and we are the largest contingent in the force." The document was written in May, at a time when UNAMSIL nearly collapsed after RUF rebels seized more than 500 U.N. peacekeeping troops and threatened to advance on Freetown. London's Guardian newspaper published the report on Saturday, but Nigeria protested about two weeks ago. "I am surprised the U.N. has taken so long to react," Malu said. Malu said Jetley was unhappy with the Nigerians because they opposed what he said was Jetley's lack of consultation and the "dominance of Indian generals" at UNAMSIL headquarters. "We told him to his face at a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General that in a multinational force you do not exert the kind of control you apply over your national army," Malu said. "From that point on he decided to go on the offensive against Nigeria."

Thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees are continuing to flee Guinea after President Lansana Conte (pictured right) accused them of backing Guinean dissidents and of involvement in cross-border attacks on Guinea from Sierra Leone and Liberia. "I am giving orders that we bring together all foreigners...so that we know what they are doing...and that we search and arrest suspects," Conte said Saturday in a nationwide broadcast. "They should go home. We know that there are rebels among the refugees." Conte called on the people of Guinea to rid their land of what he said were "too many strangers." "Civilians and soldiers, let's defend our country together. Crush the invaders...because they have chosen war, we will fight them. The gun is our last resort," he said. Immediately after the speech Guinean security forces and gangs of youths began rounding up refugees, locking them up or herding them into open fields. The BBC reported widespread panic in Conakry, and said about 3,000 people, mostly the elderly and women with babies and young children, had taken refuge at the Sierra Leone Embassy in the Guinean capital by Saturday afternoon. Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea, Dr Sheku Ba Saccoh, told the BBC the situation was horrifying, and called on the United Nations High commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to intervene. He said people had been evicted from their homes in the middle of the rainy season and were desperate to find shelter. "On the border itself, several thousand Sierra Leonean refugees are reported to have fled back into the territory they originally escaped from to save themselves from Sierra Leone’s civil war," said BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle. "Other refugees have remained in Guinea, and religious leaders among them have begun prayer meetings calling for peace and reconciliation." The UNHCR representative in Guinea, Chris Ache, called the situation "unprecedented," but appeared to be downplaying the crisis. Ache told the BBC that Guinean security personnel had assured the ICRC Sunday they were "going down round town trying to calm people down." He noted that many Guineans "do not want to see refugees any more" and wanted them relocated to refugee camps. "We...at UNHCR, we don’t have any problem with that," he said. "But we do want to ensure that the procedure of identifying and encamping these people should be done humanely. That’s my concern right now." Ache said harassment of the refugees was not generalized throughout the country. "Some areas that are calm, others are not calm at all," he said. "But certainly people are scared." He said the UNHCR could not encamp all foreigners rounded up by the Guineans because they were not all refugees. "We are sure that there are other people who are ordinary immigrants from other African countries, and those ones don’t fall in our purview," he said. Ache denied reports that thousands of refugees had fled the country. "They cannot flee. Even if they want to flee, they can’t flee because there’s nowhere to flee to," he said. The BBC reported that boats sent by Sierra Leone to repatriate the refugees have been turned back by Guinea. According to U.N. figures, there are some 330,000 Sierra Leonean and 125,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, comprising the largest refugee population in Africa.

British officials are investigating a report that one of the recruits who just completed a British military training programme is implicated in atrocities in Sierra Leone, including abductions, murders and amputations. The woman allegedly was given the name "Cut Hands" as a result of her actions during the January 1999 attack on Freetown, where she allegedly abducted children and forced them to kill or to hack off limbs. The BBC quoted 18-year old Suffice Makagia, who had been with "Cut Hands" for a year, as saying: "Sometimes she made us shoot and kill everyone we saw but she always saved some people for us to amputate." The spokesman for the British forces in Sierra Leone, Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, said the army was taking the allegations seriously. He said there was a process established to screen those entering the training programme, but that it has been established during an emergency. "It is run by the Sierra Leonean army and we advise on it. It's coarse. The screening process was put in place when the security of Sierra Leone was in jeopardy," he said. "When the situation stabilises the aim will be to put the proper screening process in place. It will include everyone, even those already in the frontline...With regards to this individual, obviously we didn't know about her. We have now got the information and will deal with it appropriately."

9 September: Guinean security forces and civilians have rounded up thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in their country on the orders of Guinean President Lansana Conte, who said Saturday that "Sierra Leoneans and Liberians do not want peace." Meanwhile, several thousand Sierra Leonean refugees have been forced back across the border in northern Sierra Leone following this week's RUF raid on the Guinean town of Pamelap, BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers reported. "A total of 3,000 Sierra Leoneans have returned to the town of Barbara following the attack on Pamelap in Guinea," Rogers said. "When I visited Barbara yesterday, I found most of the refugees were emaciated as they told me of terrible ordeals. They said Guinean personnel on the border had not taken the incursion lightly, and so they’d used long-range weapons including heavy artillery and mortars to drive the attackers from their territory. The returnees alleged that some of the weapons were targeted at them." Rogers said the refugees told him the attack was carried out by RUF rebels who had been selling looted property to the Guinean military commander in the area. "(One returnee alleged) that when the Guinean commandant refused to honour the last transaction with the rebels, the RUF launched the attack on Pamelap," Rogers said. 

RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi denied Saturday that the RUF was involved in last week's attack on the Guinean border town of Pamelap. "I want to refute claims made by the Guinean government that the RUF is involved in some forms of animosity in their territory. We are not involved at all," Massaquoi told the BBC. "There is no reason why RUF should cross into Guinea and cause havoc. The Guineans should be responsible for their own predicament, and not the RUF. No one should turn the RUF as a scapegoat to be people putting blames on them for anything that is happening in their territory." Massaquoi denied that the RUF had abducted two Italian priests, who witnesses say are being held by the rebel group at Kambia. He said the RUF had received a radio transmission two days ago from a group claiming to be in Guinea, requesting a safe corridor for the priests on humanitarian grounds. "We deliberately refused, though they said it was on humanitarian grounds, because they were accusing us of being people who are causing the problem in their country, so we deliberately refused," Massaquoi said. "Nobody could have the proof to tell you that we have them in our territory. It is not correct at all."

The Nigerian foreign ministry has denied accusations made in a confidential report by UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Jetley, which accused top Nigerian political and military officials in the U.N. and ECOMOG of corruption, and of trying to undermine his authority, the BBC reported. From his holiday home in Delhi, Jetley said he could not recall writing the report and declined further comment.

8 September: UNAMSIL force commander Major-General Vijay Kumar Jetley has accused Nigerian peacekeeping troops of massive corruption and malfeasance in Sierra Leone, and alleged that top Nigerian political and military officials in the U.N. have been "working hard to sabotage the peace process." According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, a seven-page internal memorandum Jetley wrote in May entitled "Report on the Crisis in Sierra Leone" names the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, Deputy Force Commander Brigadier-General Mohammed A. Garba, and former ECOMOG commander Major-General Gabriel Kpamber. The report was never officially submitted to the U.N., but was widely circulated among members of the Security Council and other major players in Sierra Leone, the Guardian said. "The mission directive given to me and which I tried to follow implicitly, directly conflicted with the interests of not only the warring factions but also of the major players in the diamond racket like Liberia and Nigeria," Jetley wrote. "As an Indian, and having no hidden agenda to promote, I became a victim of the machinations of these countries. By placing their stooges in the right places they have not only tried to scuttle the peace process but also try and denigrate me and the country I represent, to promote their own personal ambitions and personal interests." Jetley accused Adeniji and Garba of "working hard to sabotage of peace process" and of trying to show the Indian troops in a poor light. "Keeping the Nigerian interests was paramount even if it meant scuttling the peace process and this also implied that UNAMSIL was expendable," he said. "To this end the SRSG (Adeniji) and DFC (Garba) cultivated the RUF leadership, especially Foday Sankoh, behind my back." Jetley alleged that senior Nigerian army officers — particularly Kpamber and the late Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe, who served as Sierra Leone's Chief of Defence Staff — did not want to withdraw from Sierra Leone because they were making huge amounts from illicit diamond mining and payments from the RUF. "General Khobe was known as the 'Ten Million man', it is alleged that he received up to $10 million to permit the activities of RUF. The ECOMOG force commander General Kpamber was also involved in the illegal diamond mining in connivance with RUF leader Foday Sankoh," Jetley wrote. The Nigerians have made no secret of their desire to see Jetley replaced by a Nigerian, and as a result tensions within the force are known to be high. United Nations officials have resisted the call to name a Nigerian force commander, arguing that to do so would mean the international peacekeeping force's top three officials would all be Nigerians. Jetley is currently on leave, with General Garba the acting UNAMSIL force commander.

Two Italian Xaverian missionaries abducted by the RUF during Wednesday's early-morning cross-border raid on the Guinean town of Pamelap are believed to have been taken to Sierra Leone, Makeni Bishop George Biguzzi told the Sierra Leone Web on Friday. "A woman who escaped yesterday from the Kambia area saw the fathers in a house not too far from Kambia," Biguzzi said, adding: "They are in good shape and we have no reason to fear they will be maltreated." He said that to his knowledge, no one had been in contact with the rebels about the abducted priests. Biguzzi said the attack on the town had been engineered by RUF forces based at Kambia. "From reports we have received it is true that a few people have been killed, but I don't know how many," he said. "Looting was extensive. The entire town has been ransacked and some houses burnt. I wasn't told whether people were abducted or not." Earlier Friday, Italian lay volunteer Giuseppe Giacomello, who managed to escape capture in the raid, also indicated that the abducted priests had likely been taken back across the border. "I have been told by several people that Father Franco Manganello and Father Vittorio Mosele may be in Balamuyah, one of the rebel bases situated 6-7 kilometres from the Sierra Leonean town of Kambia," Giacomello told the Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA). "The RUF leaders often meet in Balamuyah to define strategies. The border area is delimited by a rope tied to two poles, with plastic bags as counterbalance." On Thursday, Giacomello returned to the area accompanied by Guinean soldiers, and reported that the missionaries' home had been vandalised. Father Antonio Guiotto, the Regional Superior for the Xaverian missionaries in Sierra Leone, told MISNA that Giacomello had seen a man's body, "in all probability a policeman," in the courtyard of their residence. Guiotto agreed that the priests were likely no longer in Guinea. "The army managed to push the rebel forces out of Pamelap, causing them to take the missionaries with them in their withdrawal towards Sierra Leone," he said. Meanwhile, BBC correspondent Alhassan Sylla reported Friday that Guinean forces had retaken the town, but said casualty figures were high. According to Marc Bouvier, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Guinea, between 20 and 40 persons had been injured in the RUF raid, including soldiers, Sillah said, adding that the Guinean government had only acknowledged two killed and two injured. Bouvier said the hospital at Forecariah had been overwhelmed, and that he had dispatched a medical team from Conakry to assist the wounded.

BBC Bo correspondent Prince Brima has died, the BBC reported on Friday. No details were given. BBC journalist Tom Porteus, who spent time with Brima in 1998, recalled that he had been imprisoned and tortured by the AFRC after their 1997 coup. "The RUF rebels, allies of the AFRC, wanted to execute him," Porteus said. "He escaped from prison in Bo on a Saturday night, when the guards were all drunk, and walked through the bush to Liberia with his son. In Monrovia he filed on the situation in eastern Sierra Leone for the BBC while playing cat-and-mouse with the Liberian security forces who wanted to silence him. He returned to Sierra Leone with the Kamajors, reporting on their campaign to retake Bo from the AFRC and the RUF." In a 1998 interview with Porteus, Brima said his experiences had taught him that "you’ve got to stick to whatever you feel that is truth." Said Brima: "I feel whatever I was doing, my conscience was clean, and to my God I felt I was doing something towards humanity — trying to pass on the message to the international body what was happening in Sierra Leone. I felt I was not doing bad, and I believe I have done something for my country and Africa."

Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Conakry have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by Guinean authorities this week after three cross-border incursions — two from Liberia and one from Sierra Leone, the BBC reported. "This morning I had over a dozen calls of people telling me that they had been harassed the night before or earlier today, and that the thing has not stopped," BBC correspondent Alhassan Sillah said. "People say men in security fatigues do go into their homes, like one family was telling me that those kind of people came to his house about 2:00 a.m. and were asking for all sorts of items, the documents to verify their stay here, which is very, very unusual," Sillah said, adding that it was not clear whether the harassment was official government policy. "(The refugees) are very much frightened," Sillah said. "You see even in the streets, even for example what is normally seen here as the meeting point of Sierra Leoneans — that is, their embassy in Conakry — is empty today, almost to a point that nobody’s there, because people are frightened, and people are staying in their homes."

Part of a five-member U.N. panel appointed to investigate the link between diamond smuggling and illicit arms sales in Sierra Leone arrived in Burkina Faso Wednesday at the start of a regional tour which will take them to Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Reuters reported. "The mission has the job of identifying those responsible for financing and supporting the rebels in Sierra Leone through diamonds," said Johan Peleman, a Belgian expert on arms and transportation. "We shall try to find proof to confirm or refute the allegations." Panel members Harjit Singh Sandhu, an Interpol expert, and Atabou Bodian, an expert from the International Civil Aviation Organization, were also in Ouagadougou, where they expect to meet with government officials. Martin Chungong Ayafor of Cameroon, who was designated to head the panel, and Ian Smillie of Partnership Africa Canada, are due to join the group later. The panel will report back to the U.N. Security Council on the involvement of various countries in the Sierra Leone conflict, and recommend ways of halting the diamonds-for-arms trade. The aim is to "stifle the rebellion by preventing it from supplying itself with weapons thanks to this traffic," Peleman said.

Liberia announced Friday that diamonds had been discovered in the Monrovia suburb of Paynesville. Liberia has been accused by the international community of involvement in a diamonds-for-arms trade with Sierra Leone's rebels, but Jenkins Dunbar, the minister in charge of Liberia's mineral resources, said the latest find would counter claims that Liberia has no diamonds. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated Liberia's 1999 diamond production at about 150,000 carats, but Liberia has been accused of selling far more than its mines produced. Jenkins told the BBC Friday he had gone to Paynesville to "identify with the miners." The latest discovery was announced just as a team of international experts arrived in the region to investigate the link between illicit diamonds and illegal arms dealing in Sierra Leone. 

A Sierra Leonean 400-metre relay team which paid its way to Australia in the hope of qualifying for the Olympics missed qualifying for the third time Friday. The team posted a time of 40.28 seconds at the Brisbane 2000 International, but needed to run the race in 40.0 seconds to secure a place in the Olympics. The team will have another chance Sunday.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will make an opening statement Monday at a coordination meeting between the U.N., ECOWAS and the government of Sierra Leone. A U.N. spokesman in New York said the meeting was expected to review progress on Sierra Leone so far, focus on the steps needed to re-launch the peace process, and plan joint efforts to find a lasting settlement to the conflict. Monday's meeting will see the beginning of a coordination mechanism between the three groups, and is a follow-up to a previous meeting held in July at the margins of the OAU conference in Lomé, Togo. In Freetown, UNAMSIL announced that the Special Representative to the U.N. Secretary-General, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, would leave for New York on Friday evening to attend the meeting.

The Associated Press quoted UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu Friday as saying Jordanian peacekeepers had witnessed several hours of gunfire Wednesday between members of the West Side Boys and a pro-government militia at the village of Magbini, about 45 miles east of Freetown. In what UNAMSIL called a "near verbatim transcript" of the press conference, however, Befecadu merely responded to a reporter's question on the incident by saying: "As far as UNAMSIL is concerned, our troops reported that they heard gunshots around a place called Magbeni, which is about 5 km. east of Masiaka."

Two former child combatants from Port Loko turned themselves in Thursday at the Port Loko Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) camp at Port Loko, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Friday. The children were turned over to CARITAS, she said. Also on Thursday, an RUF officer, Captain Desmond Turay, adjutant to an RUF colonel, presented himself along with one AK-47 and two rounds of ammunition. On the same day, Befecadu told reporters, three West Side Boys surrendered to Jordanian peacekeepers and were transported to the DDR camp at Lungi. Meanwhile, three RUF child combatants who had earlier surrendered to the CDF were turned over to Ghanaian peacekeepers on Wednesday. Befecadu added that the disarmament camp at Port Loko had been rehabilitated by ex-combatants who had joined the DDR programme.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has a food pipeline shortfall of 1,774 tons of cereals until the end of September and 9,000 tons until the end of the year, even as need among displaced persons continues to grow, the agency said in its latest emergency bulletin, released on Friday. A recent rapid assessment at Daru found high food needs among internally displaced persons (IDPs) there, the WFP said. Displaced persons were surviving on wild foods, cassava and palm oil, with rice in limited supply at the markets, over-priced, and unaffordable for most IDPs. The deterioration of the food security situation in the Daru area is believed to have been adversely affected by the closure of the Kenema - Daru road for security reasons. "Security and logistics constraints currently do not allow WFP to deliver food aid to the town, but alternative routes are being explored," the WFP statement said. At Bumbuna, the WFP participated in an inter-agency assessment mission, where the MSF recently distributed WFP food to 1,500 malnourished children under the age of five. Local residents have been assisting most of the IDPs in the town, but the assessment team observed 1,115 IDPs not being helped by locals and in urgent need of relief. The WFP noted that security conditions in Bumbuna precluded road access, so that special air transportation to deliver food aid would have to be organised. At Mile 91, CARE is conducting its third registration of IDPs in the last two months. "The last exercise included some double-counting and registration of population not displaced and reached an inflated total of 82,000 IDPs," the WFP statement said, adding that the WFP and other agencies were assisting in the registration process. The WFP has been providing food to 3,180 beneficiaries in supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes in the town. 

7 September: RUF rebels abducted two Italian Xaverian missionaries early Wednesday during an incursion into Guinea, the Missionary Services News Agency (MISNA) reported on Thursday. They include 62-year old priest Fr. Franco Manganello, originally from Padova, and 64-year old Fr. Vittorio Mosele, from Praisola di San Bonifacio (Verona). A lay volunteer, 60-year old Giuseppe Giacomello from Verona, managed to elude capture. The three were taking part in a programme to help Sierra Leonean refugees from the Makeni diocese in the Guinean border town of Pamelap when the rebels attacked the town at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. According to one witness, the missionaries were captured when they tried to escape from their house, located only a few hundred yards from the border. Makeni Bishop George Biguzzi said he learned of the kidnappings from eyewitnesses. "It is very sad, and is symptomatic of what is occurring in Sierra Leone where, in spite of the deployment of the force, and the involvement, of the United Nations, the peace process is not succeeding in making progress," Biguzzi said. Fr. Mosele was abducted by the RUF during a raid on Kambia in January 1999 and released three months later. The U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) quoted a Western diplomat as saying the rebels attacked and briefly seized control of the Guinean garrison at Pamelap during the raid.

President Kabbah called on the international community Thursday to redouble its efforts to eliminate the root causes of conflict. "We must do so with the realisation that internal conflict in any part of the world represents a threat to the rest," Kabbah told the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York. [Click on photo for complete text.] "The evidence is overwhelming, whether it involves efforts to combat terrorism, contain health hazards such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, or end ethnic intolerance, the universality of human security demands collective responsibility on the part of all nations." Kabbah pointed to the link between armed conflict and human security, and stressed that internal security and stability were critical for economic and social development. "Orthodox prescriptions for re-launching the economy of post-conflict countries do not go far enough," he told the gathered heads of state and government, adding that without adequate security, even limited socio-economic gains could be swept away overnight. Kabbah said there should be more flexibility in the normal rules and procedures to enable "rapid and viable action" for rehabilitating post-conflict countries. "Such actions will encourage and inspire those who have been misled and have resorted to violence, to give up their weapons of war and return to normal life as responsible citizens," he said.

Leaders of the West Side Boys militia holding hostage 6 British and one Sierra Leonean soldier are asking for safe conduct out of Sierra Leone to a third country and education abroad, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. The proposal was passed on to British officials by former AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma after meeting with relatives of the West Side Boys who visited the militiamen earlier this week to press for the hostages' release and reported back on Wednesday. "Some of them want to get out of the country," Koroma said. "They want to study in some vocational institute so that when they come back later they will be useful to the country." The scheme is said to be based on a 1996 deal which provided NPRC former leader Valentine Strasser and other NPRC officials with scholarships abroad to remove them from the political scene. "We've not specified any country at all," Koroma said. "Wherever they want to send them; it might be Nigeria, it might be Ghana or Zambia, it might be any country in Africa." Koroma was quoted as saying Wednesday that only the West Side Boys' commander, 24-year old  "Brigadier" Foday Kallay, had been a member of the AFRC. Meanwhile, Kallay's brother, Maxim Sesay, said the West Side Boys were looking for international recognition and also security. "I wasn't able to see him but I was able to send a message to him with a West Side Boy and I told him he should release the British soldiers," Sesay said. "In his answer to me he told me he has no confidence in the government and he wants international recognition, that is why he took them. They were taken so the British government would come to their rescue and he would get international recognition." He added that the authorities had arrested some of the West Side Boys and that "(Kallay) himself is afraid because of what he has done." Sesay said his brother told him the hostages would be released, "but with conditions." 

Members of the West Side Boys militia reportedly clashed Wednesday with members of the Gbethis and Kapras — pro-government militias which form part of the Civil Defence Force, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported on Thursday. Fofana said the hour-long battle took place on the highway between Masiaka and Mile 91. Reuters quoted military sources as saying fighting between the West Side Boys and the Gbethis militia continued along the main highway on Thursday, adding that the road had been closed east of Kontakuna. "No bus service will be available today because of continued fighting between the Gbethis and the West Side Boys," a Road Transport Corporation official said in Freetown. There has been no independent confirmation of the reports. Fofana also quoted civilians from villages along the highway as complaining of continued harassment by armed militiamen. "They cited particularly the West Side Boys, who often abandon their jungle base to forage for food and in the process steal chickens and goats as well as whatever food they lay hands on," Fofana said. "Apart from stealing foodstuffs, the militia boys also extort monies from villagers and reportedly rape teenage girls."

Two Sierra Leoneans, Alpha B. Kamara and Ekundayo Williams, took part Thursday in a welcoming ceremony for athletes at the Olympic Village in Sydney Australia. Both are 100-metre runners. The Sierra Leonean athletics coach, Francis Edwin, said a third member of the team, weightlifter Joseph Bellon, was flying to Sydney later this week for the games, which open on September 15. Four years ago, Sierra Leone sent 21 athletes to the Olympic Games in Atlanta. But Edwin said the continuing conflict in the country made it a triumph to field any team at all this year. "I'm happy because we could get some representation in a peaceful situation," he told Reuters. "That's what the Olympic Games are all about, we want to be part of peace. We've been in a civil war for six years (sic.). It's a troubled situation." Kamara, whose best time in the 100-metres is 10.20 seconds, said he was aiming to make the final. "I expect a very good performance from the team," he said.

Vice President Albert Joe Demby was on hand Thursday to witness the passing-out ceremony of 1,018 Sierra Leonean army officers and soldiers after six months of training by trainers from Britain's 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. "All these soldiers have responded much better than we ever anticipated," said Brigadier Gordon Hughes, the commander of British forces in the country. "They are very enthusiastic and they want to serve their country." Demby told the newly-trained recruits, which included former members of the West Side Boys militia, that he was calling on the group to release six British troops and a Sierra Leonean soldier they abducted two weeks ago. "We apologise to the British for such criminal behaviour and we are calling on them to release all the detainees unconditionally and unharmed," he said. 

6 September: A contingent of British paratroopers arrived in Freetown on Wednesday, even as negotiators continued talks with the West Side Boys over the release of six British soldiers and a Sierra Leonean held captive since August 25. The spokesman for British forces in Sierra Leone, Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, said the paratroopers were part of a liaison mission. "This deployment in no way signifies any sort of imminent military action in Sierra Leone," he said. Earlier, a spokesman said talks with the West Side Boys were going well, but that all contingencies were being covered. Meanwhile, relatives have met with the West Side Boys through intermediaries on the road near Masiaka. "They’ve come back saying the West Side Boys want some promises of security and want promises that they won’t be arrested were they to release the soldiers," said BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle. Doyle said it appeared neither the Sierra Leone government nor UNAMSIL were prepared to prosecute against the West Side Boys — the government because, according to Justice Minister and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa, the kidnapping falls under international jurisdiction, and UNAMSIL because they want to maintain their neutrality. "(Berewa) made it very clear that any crimes which had been committed prior to the kidnapping would not lead to the arrest of anybody," Doyle said. "(He) said that the kidnapping itself was a matter for international jurisdiction." The U.N. said it had no plans to arrest the West Side Boys "because they want to maintain their neutrality and encourage everybody to give up their arms voluntarily, so it would be wrong to pursue anybody for any of these particular crimes," Doyle added.

Four Sierra Leonean athletes have paid their own way from London to Australia for a chance to complete in the Olympic games. Francis Keita, Alia Kamara, Joslyn Thomas and Sanusi Turay, who compete in the 400-metre relay, will have to meet the qualifying time of 40.0 seconds for the games. Last week they came close, with times of 40.2 seconds and 40.37 seconds in two separate meets. They will try again at the Brisbane 2000 International at QEII Stadium. If unsuccessful, they will enter a meet at the Runaway Bay Super Sports Centre, and finally at a last-chance meet next week in Sydney. "We paid our way because we think we can make the Olympic final," said Keita. "Last Olympics, we made the semifinals, just missing the final by one place." Currently, the Sierra Leonean team includes two athletes and seven officials, the Associated Press reported. "The Olympics are about athletes, not officials," Turay said. Keita and Turay said Sierra Leone's organizing committee told the team to go to Australia at its own expense and try to qualify, and promised they would be reimbursed. "They said they would pay our way and now they refuse to reimburse us," Turay said. "We asked them to support us, but they've abandoned us." He said Sierra Leonean officials, in particular Chief of Mission V.B. Sualloy, had not returned a series of telephone calls. "They blatantly refuse to talk to us," Turay said. "We've left messages and they won't call back. It makes me very, very angry." Meanwhile, dozens of Australians have volunteered assistance after the local media covered the team's plight. After Keita pulled a muscle in Sunday's competition, the team is turning to 100-metre runner Alpha B. Kamara, one of the two athletes on the Sierra Leonean team to have arrived in Sydney, in the hope he can join them in time for Friday's meet. "We will qualify as long as we can get someone that can take the baton around, without being slow or injured — the rest of us will do the work," said Turay. "We've never run slower than 39.8 before. I think a lot of the things we are going through are down to stress and pressure."

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General designate for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, began a three-day familiarization trip to Sierra Leone on Wednesday. Guehenno, who will replace Bernard Miyet as the head of the U.N.'s Peacekeeping Department in October, will meet with UNAMSIL and other officials before leaving the country on September 9.

5 September: Britain has flown 100 troops from its elite 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment to Dakar, Senegal as a "precautionary measure," as negotiations continue with the West Side Boys for the release of 6 British soldiers and one Sierra Leonean held hostage since August 25. "This is a precautionary measure to deploy them but it does not signal imminent military action," a British Ministry of Defence source told the BBC. The 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment is made up of the same troops who were deployed to Sierra Leone in May, and are familiar with the terrain. Meanwhile, a British military spokesman expressed optimism over the ultimate release of the captives. "There were further meetings yesterday and it is felt that things are moving forward," said Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, the spokesman for British forces in Sierra Leone. "Things are still positive and we remain confident of getting them out through dialogue and talking. We are moving forward. We are not complacent about it but we are still confident." British negotiators led by Colonel Simon Fordam have held two successive days of face-to-face meetings with representatives of the West Side Boys, led by Brigadier Foday Kallay. There has also been regular satellite telephone contact with the detained British troops. Meanwhile the five British troops who were released last week are thought to be to be aboard the British support ship RFA Sir Percivale, where they received medical attention and were debriefed on the circumstances of their capture and the conditions under which they were held.

Members of the West Side Boys attacked and captured the highway village of Magbini from a pro-government militia Saturday, killing three militiamen and extending their zone of influence, Reuters reported on Tuesday, quoting a military source. On Monday the army's Director of Media Relations, Major John Milton, confirmed the attack on the village, not far from the town of Kontakuma, but was unable to identify the attackers. But military sources told Reuters that the West Side Boys had carried out the attack. "They are now in control of the area, trying to spread their position along the Masiaka - Mile 91 highway," one source said. Truck drivers told Reuters reporter Christo Johnson that the West Side Boys had set up new checkpoints along the highway. On Monday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu told journalists there were "no other checkpoints except those of UNAMSIL" along the highway, but promised to investigate a claim by one reporter that the West Side Boys had mounted two checkpoints along the "Mile 91 road," where they were harassing civilians.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend UNAMSIL's mandate until September 20. The mandate was last extended on August 4, and was due to expire on September 8.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday it has sent 30,000 doses of yellow fever vaccine to Sierra Leone, to head off an outbreak of the disease in that country. The WHO has been battling an outbreak of the deadly disease in western Liberia since cases were first reported in Grand Cape Mount County, along the Sierra Leone border. "The risk of further transmission is high. Both countries have a large unvaccinated population, the area is notoriously insecure and hard to access due to rebel activity and there is much movement of displaced and vulnerable people across the border," the WHO statement said. No information is available on whether the outbreak has reached into eastern Sierra Leone, but Abdul Rahman Wurie, WHO's Disease Prevention and Control Officer for Sierra Leone, said the agency had to be prepared for that eventuality. "We have to assume that yellow fever is already with us...So we want to move fast to try and prevent it taking hold," he was quoted as saying.

4 September: Relatives of the West Side Boys left Monday for the militia's Okra Hill base in an effort to bring about the release of five British troops and a Sierra Leonean held since August 25. "The relatives left today," said an aide to former AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma, who launched the initiative last week. "Among the relatives there are two women and four men who have taken food and medicine." He said a second group of ten relatives was planning to travel to the West Side Boys' base to try and persuade them to leave the bush for good at the same time they released their hostages. Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp, the military spokesman for British forces in Sierra Leone, said the relatives' efforts had been "useful and helpful," but stressed that the British were not sponsoring them. "At one stage they were asking for transportation, but they later decided they would go there themselves with no support from the British team," he said. Meanwhile, Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, and Brigadier-General Mohammed Garba, the Deputy Commander of UNAMSIL, travelled by helicopter to Magbontoso and by road to Masiaka on Saturday "to get first hand information about the security situation in that area, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said. In a reference to reports that members of the West Side Boys militia were jointly manning the checkpoints with Jordanian peacekeepers, Befecadu said Adeniji and Garba "were able to see for themselves that all checkpoints are manned by the Jordanian battalion." According to Reuters, Befecadu said they met with members of the West Side Boys at Masiaka. "There were some West Side Boys who was meeting the (Adeniji) for the first time, and would like to get the assurance of their safety and protection in joining the DDR programme," she said. Earlier Monday, Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp expressed hope that the remaining hostages would soon be freed. "Over the last 48 hours or so we've had further talks and dialogue with the group and most importantly we've been able to actually speak with some of those being held and were able to assure ourselves that they are all still safe and well," he told the BBC. "The fact that we've been able to continue those talks we see as encouraging and we're all still hopeful that we'll be able to get a successful outcome soon." Cramp said negotiations were complicated by the fact that they involved three parties — the British army, UNAMSIL and the Sierra Leone government. "We are confident that we will be able to secure their safe release. Obviously we remain concerned for their safety, but while we've got a dialogue and while we've got the support of all the parties here...we're certainly hopeful we will be able to resolve this soon," Cramp said.

A group of armed insurgents raided the Guinean town of Madina Woula overnight Sunday, with Guinean authorities claiming the attack was launched from across Sierra Leone's northern border. The BBC and Reuters quoted a Guinean government source as saying thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes. No casualty figures were available. The identity of the attackers was not immediately known, but the attack was said to have originated from an area held by RUF rebels.

259 Indian troops were rotated over the weekend, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu said on Monday. She said the Ghanaian contingent had completed its troop rotation, while rotation of the Nigerian contingent would begin soon. Befecadu told reporters that 37 ex-combatants were demobilised at the Lungi DDR camp over the weekend, including 35 from the West Side Boys and two from the RUF. Also over the weekend, about 300 bags of rice were transported in UNAMSIL Mi-26 helicopters from Kenema to Daru for ex-combatants at the Daru DDR camp, Befecadu said.

3 September: A delegation of family members will return to the West Side Boys' Okra Hill base on Monday after the militiamen apparently failed to honour a pledge to release their remaining five British hostages and one Sierra Leonean abducted more than a week ago. The initiative was organised by former AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma, now chairman of the government's Commission for the Consolidation of Peace. "The relatives will leave Freetown tomorrow," Koroma told Reuters. He said the West Side Boys had promised to release the captive soldiers over the weekend. Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and International Cooperation Dr. James O.C. Jonah said the Sierra Leone government would not give in to the militia's demands, which include the formation of an interim government in which the West Side Boys would take part. "The government has taken the position that we are not going to negotiate," he said. "The West Side gang are not a military threat. They are an irritation and a political nuisance. Therefore we don't see...any reason why we should give in to some of the demands they have made."

Togo defeated Sierra Leone 2-0 Sunday, in the second leg of their preliminary round African Nations Cup match. The game was played in Lomé before a crowed of 25,000. Scoring for Togo were Kader Kougbadja-Toure (26) and Tadjou Salou pen (60). The Leone Stars defeated Togo in Freetown two weeks ago 2-0, for an aggregate of 2-2. Togo won the resulting penalties 4-2 and will go on to play in qualifying Group 5.

Freetown-based Human Rights Watch researcher Corinne Dufka said Sunday that the 11 British soldiers detained a week ago by the West Side Boys were among hundreds of persons abducted, robbed and raped by the group. On Saturday, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu "categorically denied" reports of a close relationship between Jordanian peacekeepers and the West Side Boys, and insisted UNAMSIL had no direct evidence the militia had been abusing civilian travellers along the highway. "UNAMSIL's attitude is outrageous," Dufka told the Sierra Leone Web. "The (abducted British soldiers) are 11 of hundreds who've been shaken down, robbed, taken off and raped, and attacked in their villages by these people. Since last fall the Lungi IDP (internally displaced persons) camp has been full of civilians who've fled form the West Side Boys. The Jordanians are giving them rice, milk (and) fuel." A diplomatic source in Freetown also told the Sierra Leone Web Sunday there were "indications that there is a relationship" between the Jordanians and the West Side Boys. He pointed out that many of the West Side Boys might not be eligible for the DDR programme. The source added that the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, Oluyemi Adeniji, visited Masiaka on Saturday. Befecadu said Saturday that UNAMSIL was unaware of any incidents where travellers had been taken off buses and harassed by the West Side Boys. "This was alleged reporting on some of the local papers here. We have not seen or heard of any such activity by any of our patrols going up and down those roads," she said. But in an interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) Sunday, Dufka cited one incident where a busload of people were robbed in the presence of U.N. troops at about the same time the British patrol was captured. "The people in the bus were shaken down and extorted within eye range of the Jordanians," she said. Befecadu insisted that all West Side Boys' checkpoints had been removed from the highway, but the AFP quoted U.N. agency sources as saying the Jordanians and West Side Boys were operating join checkpoints. "The government is clearly not taking the protection of the civilian population very seriously, nor is the U.N. in not helping to ensure the safety of motorists going up and down that road," Dufka said. Dufka told the Sierra Leone Web that her criticism was aimed not just at U.N. peacekeepers. "It was about ECOMOG (before they left), the Sierra Leone police, SSD, SLA and UNAMSIL for not protecting the civilian population and trying to sort this menace out," she said.

Hundreds of alumni of the Harford School for Girls and their families converged on the Washington, D.C. area over the weekend for festivities to mark the centenary of their alma mater, founded in Moyamba in 1900. But behind the three days of celebrations, there was a more serious purpose. In 1995 Moyamba was overrun by rebel forces, forcing the school to relocate to Freetown, where it currently operates as the Nucleus Harford School. Now, Harfordians say they want to see their school rebuilt in Moyamba, and they have begun raising funds to do so. Damage to the school was extensive, as Mariama Turay, president of the Harford Old Girls Association - Washington Chapter told the Sierra Leone Web. "All beds are gone. The windows are gone. Two buildings, we understand, are destroyed. The clinic...has been broken down," she said. "I also understand that some people who escaped during the rebel crisis did live in there, refugees, and I know they used all the chairs for firewood." Fatmata McCormack, president of the newly-established National Harford Old Girls Association - North American Branch, said the principal of the Nucleus Harford School estimated in May it would cost somewhere around $20,000 to rebuild the school, but McCormack said this estimate might be low. "From what I heard, the refurbishing the school and putting in new supplies, materials and everything might cost way beyond that," she said. "Because when I spoke with her, the school had no beds...they had taken all the beds, all the desks – everything virtually that wasn’t nailed down was taken. The clinic was burnt down, a few bedrooms were burnt down, and the principal’s residence was completely vandalised." McCormack said the task of rebuilding the school was urgent. "(The rebels) had removed the roofs, the shingles on the buildings, and most of the buildings at Harford were American-style buildings," she said. "It’s concrete on the outside but it’s wooded floors and everything. So with the raining season coming, most of the inside of the structures have started to rot." McCormack subsequently announced that the Harfordians had raised a total of $21,114 during their three-days centennial celebrations. She said that the money would be allocated to rebuilding and refurbishing the school, to the creation of an endowment for Harford School for Girls, and to operational costs for the Harford Old Girls Association.

Britain's International Development Secretary, Clare Short, said Sunday that Sierra Leone was a test case for the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping operations. "We have now got a peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone, a tiny country, that we have got to make sure succeeds, and I don't think it's any good anyone saying well let's let the U.N. take over, when we have had a record of some pretty ineffective peacekeeping operations," she told the BBC. "We have got to improve the effectiveness of the U.N., so Sierra Leone becomes a test case, and then as it proves it can do the job, we will get more and more member state confidence."

2 September: British soldiers and Jordanian peacekeepers met with representatives of the West Side Boys at a secret location Saturday to continue negotiations for the release of six British troops and a Sierra Leonean now held hostage for more than a week. Earlier, a spokesman for the British forces in Sierra Leone expressed optimism about the eventual outcome. "One of our guys spoke to one of the six on the telephone and there was a face to face meeting with representatives of the West Side group. It's all positive stuff," said Lieutenant-Commander Tony Cramp. "Everyone is confident we will get a successful and safe resolution. Talks are continuing." Five British soldiers were released on Wednesday, but a major, a captain, a sergeant-major and three non-commissioned officers are still being held. The Sierra Leonean soldier was not identified.

UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befecadu has rejected a report by London's Guardian newspaper which alleged Jordanian peacekeeping troops have frequently stood by while members of the West Side Boys militia robbed and abused civilians — often at UNAMSIL checkpoints. "There are no more checkpoints manned by anybody else except the United Nations force," Befecadu told the BBC. She said the U.N. was unaware of any cases where the West Side Boys had robbed or raped bus passengers along the highway. "This was alleged reporting on some of the local papers here," she said. "We have not seen or heard of any such activity by any of our patrols going up and down those roads." Befecadu acknowledged contacts between U.N. troops and West Side Boys militiamen in the area. "One does see once in awhile that these boys still carry their arms, still occupy the road," she said. "But as much as possible our troops have been telling them to stay off the road. They can be in their area, but not on the road. And what we have been trying also is to get them to understand that we are here to demobilise them and take them to a place where they can be reintegrated into the society after it’s over." She also acknowledged the existence of hardliners among the West Side Boys who were opposed to disarming, but she said talks with them were continuing. "We negotiate with them, we do a lot of things for them for them to see faith in us to come out and give back their weapons and join the DDR programme," she said.

British forces in Sierra Leone on Saturday declared the six-week operation by the Royal Irish Regiment to train 1,018 Sierra Leonean soldiers in general warfare as an unqualified success. A first batch of 986 soldiers completed training with Britain's Royal Anglian Regiment in July, and 2,000 more soldiers are expected to be trained by November. The Sierra Leonean soldiers, aged 18 to 57, received instruction in weapons, tactics, reconnaissance and marksmanship. Training officer Captain Sam Rosenfeld said the Sierra Leone military had not been a credible force for a long time. "They have no confidence in themselves and that was a lot of the difference between themselves and the RUF," he said. "They were scared of the dark because that was when the RUF attacked. They were fearful of the jungle because the RUF came out of the jungle. We had to demystify the jungle." Rosenfeld said one step was to convince the soldiers that their British-made SLR weapons were superior to the AK-47s used by the RUF. "A lot of it is about aggression and taking the fight to the enemy," he said. "We set out to give them confidence in themselves, confidence in their weapons and their ability to use them. A final test exercise was that they could fight together to take and hold a location with supporting arms of mortars and machine guns and they did it. I'm happy with the result and three weeks ago I didn't think that was going to happen." Rosenfeld played down concerns that some of the new recruits had been members of the West Side Boys militia, saying all that mattered was their ability to fight for the government.

1 September: President Kabbah visited northern Sierra Leone on Thursday, marking his first trip to the region in more than a year. Kabbah visited first Port Loko where he met with U.N. peacekeepers before proceeding on to Bumbuna. Most of the Northern Province remains under RUF control, but the government maintains a strong army presence in Bumbuna to protect the unfinished hydro-electric dam there. As a result, thousands of displaced persons have sought refuge in the town, and there have been reports of food shortages and malnutrition. "Very soon, all the roads to the northern region will be reopened," Kabbah said at Bumbuna, adding that this would ease the hardship caused by food shortages and the scarcity of other essential goods. Kabbah also appealed to residents of both towns to forgive RUF combatants for abuses they had committed, "particularly when they show remorse." The president's was accompanied on his visit to Bumbuna by a U.N. helicopter carrying relief supplies for the displaced persons in the area.

President Kabbah is expected to attend next week's United Nations Millennium Summit in New York, along with some other 150 heads of state and government and over 200 other senior officials. The summit, which is being described as the biggest diplomatic gathering ever staged, will focus on a report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan which envisions an age of benevolent globalisation and human solidarity in the 21st century. The summit will run from September 6-8 in New York.

Former AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma has appealed to the West Side Boys to release the remaining six British and one Sierra Leonean soldier they abducted last week, and to turn in their weapons. "The AFRC no longer exists," Koroma told Reuters on Friday. "In the interests of peace for our motherland, I appeal to so-called General Kallay and his West Side Boys to understand that the people of this country are fed up with war and they should immediately release the remaining British soldiers." The West Side Boys have reportedly made a number of demands, including food, medicine, the release from prison of AFRC members, including at least one of their commanders, "Brigadier Bombblast," reinstatement into the army, and the formation of an interim government in which they would participate. The Sierra Leone government has rejected their demands. Meanwhile, a debriefing of the five British soldiers released on Wednesday showed that they had in fact met with Jordanian peacekeepers at Masiaka, British Armed Forces Minister John Spellar said. On Wednesday, UNAMSIL Deputy Commander Brigadier-General Mohammed A. Garba "categorically denied" that the British had met with the U.N. troops, and accused Britain of preparing to "shift blame on the U.N. troops deployed in that place" over the abduction of their soldiers. He also insisted that the British patrol was heading east from Freetown, not west as the British claimed, and had driven six miles off the road into an area held by the West Side Boys. A diplomatic source told the Sierra Leone Web Friday that the U.N. now agreed that the British troops "did meet the JORBATT (Jordanian battalion) and were returning to Benguema." Spellar acknowledged that the soldiers had left the main road, saying it was unclear why they had done so.

Britain's High Court has turned down a request by Fatou Mbaye Sankoh, the Senegalese-American wife of imprisoned RUF leader Foday Sankoh, to issue a writ of habeas corpus against the British foreign secretary and secretary of state on behalf of her husband. Sankoh was arrested in Freetown on May 17 and is being held under Sierra Leone's emergency regulations. Fatou Sankoh's lawyers had argued that Foday Sankoh might be held by British forces in Sierra Leone, and asked the court to compel the British government to bring charges against the rebel leader or to release him. Shortly after filing the suit, Fatou Sankoh told the Sierra Leone Web she believed her husband was being held by the British. Both the British and Sierra Leonean governments have maintained that Sankoh was being held by the Sierra Leonean authorities. Justice Elias ruled Friday that the evidence presented to him "demonstrated quite unambiguously that certainly by the time of the issue of the writ, probably at all times, Mr. Sankoh was not in the physical custody of the U.K. Armed Forces." Said Elias: "I quite accept that the U.K. government may have political influence, and probably significant influence, with the government of Sierra Leone, but that falls very short in my view of constituting the kind of de facto control necessary for a writ of this kind to be issued." But late Friday, Fatou Sankoh vowed not to give up her fight to have her husband freed. "The next step calls for going to Sierra Leone and make essentially the same application, either charge him immediately or release him," she told the Sierra Leone Web. "The British (are) swearing that they have nothing to do with Sankoh. It will be up to Sierra Leone to respond." Mrs. Sankoh said she had not seen or heard from her husband since disappearance and subsequent detention. "Nothing is known as to his state of health nor has any charge has been made against him so far as I or my contacts are aware," she said. "His location is unknown and the identity of those holding him are unknown." Fatou Sankoh questioned the naming of General Issa Sesay as acting RUF leader under pressure from ECOWAS. "How do you change the loyalty of an army?," she asked. "Someone just decided that RUFP should change their leadership and it has to happen. This does not make any sense for me. The RUFP members stated clearly that Foday Sankoh is their leader even though someone has the contrary idea."

The military spokesman for British forces in Sierra Leone, Lieutenant- Commander Tony Cramp, acknowledged Friday that British forces had provided the West Side Boys with a satellite telephone, but he said it was to facilitate negotiations with the militia over the release of their hostages. "The satellite telephone was given to the West Side Boys to have dialogue with them and not for propagating their message," Cramp said. On Thursday a West Side Boys spokesman calling himself "Colonel Cambodia" called the BBC with a list of demands in exchange for releasing six British troops and a Sierra Leonean soldier they captured on Friday. Cramp confirmed that a number of relatives of the militiamen had visited the West Side Boys on Wednesday, but he said he could not confirm reports that transportation and food had been provided by Britain. The Associated Press quoted witnesses as saying they saw the convoy leave Freetown with cartons of food and bags of rice.

Jordanian peacekeepers continue to jointly man at least five checkpoints in the Masiaka area with members of the West Side Boys, with the U.N. peacekeepers turning a blind eye as the renegade soldiers routinely rob and abuse, Chris McGreal of London's Guardian newspaper reported on Friday. "It’s most definitely a local arrangement," McGreal told the BBC following publication of the article. "It’s not U.N. policy. It’s very much a relationship between the Jordanian peacekeepers and the West Side Boys, and quite probably one that’s a convenience to use as a means of keeping the peace and making sure they too are safe." He added that the Jordanians might be vulnerable to an attack by the West Side Boys if they failed to get along with them. "It’s a means of buying them off, so to speak," he said. But McGreal said Sierra Leonean military officials and others had first hand knowledge of the arrangement. "The U.N. cannot say that it’s not informed about this situation," he said. McGreal also stressed that the West Side Boys continue to hold a large number of military and civilian hostages, possibly numbering several hundred, abducted from vehicles or from villages in areas where the militia is active. "Many of them are women, young women...their buses get stopped and young women get dragged off and they’re told ‘you are wanted by the commander.’ And essentially what happens to these women is they’re taken and raped. (The West Side Boys have) also taken a number of businessmen who they hold for ransom." Last month the U.N. mounted "Operation Thunderbolt," aimed at clearing the West Side Boys checkpoints from the highway and pressuring the former soldiers to demobilise. But despite a heavy bombardment of the area near Okra Hill where the militiamen are based, the abuses resumed almost immediately. McGreal quoted a U.N. official as suggesting the West Side Boys had been tipped off before the attack. "I do not think collaboration is too strong a word to describe what is happening," the official said. "The Jordanians are feeding those guys and socialising with them without thinking that these are the same ones who are killing people and raping girls. Some of us have commented on this inside the UN and said we can't just have our soldiers stand by and let it happen, but we are told that we have to build confidence so [that] they give up their guns and join the demobilisation process." In a terse statement, UNAMSIL military spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Coker denied the allegations. "It's not true," he said.

Liberian President Charles Taylor denied Friday accusations that he is involved in supporting Sierra Leone's RUF rebels by acting as a middleman in the illicit diamonds for guns trade, and accused the West of trying to demonise him. "It appears that it has become a mission by the West to make sure that we do not succeed as a nation. If you continue to cut off aid you continue to discredit my administration and myself. If you continue to demonise Charles Taylor then the people will become disgruntled," he said in an hour-long Reuters interview. "We cannot permit ourselves to be treated like our ancestors were treated, like slaves." Britain and the United States insist they possess hard evidence that Taylor has personally profited from the illegal guns-for-diamonds trade, but have yet to make that evidence public. In Friday's interview, Taylor denied he was supporting the RUF in any way. "Liberia has diamonds, lots of diamonds. We don't have to steal diamonds from Sierra Leone, we have plenty of our own," he said. "All of a sudden Europe and North America know Sierra Leone better than anyone else. These are very disrespectful attitudes." The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Liberia's diamond mining capacity is approximately 150,00 carats annually — far less than the quantity of gemstones believed sold by Liberia. The U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, told the U.N. Security Council's Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone last month the U.S. believed 60 percent of illegally-mined diamonds in Sierra Leone reached the world market by way of Liberia.