30 September: Waterfront residents were forced to leave their homes for a time Monday night due to heavy shelling of Freetown's port by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. Some described the shelling as the heaviest since the May 25 coup. Residents said Sierra Leonean soldiers stationed at the port and other docks along Freetown's coast returned the fire with anti-aircraft guns and other artillery. This was denied by Director of Defence Information Major John Milton: "It was only the Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops stationed at Lungi who were trying to shell the Freetown port. Our troops did not return fire," Milton said. ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu has warned residents to leave the waterfront area, saying that the port is a military operations area and that ECOMOG wishes to avoid civilian casualties. "ECOMOG will take the Freetown port in the near future in order to enforce the embargo and blockade it has been mandated to impose," a source close to ECOMOG said. "After this, ECOMOG will deploy more gunboats around the Freetown coast to enforce the blockade, but they have to take the port first for this," the source added.
The AFRC announced a "concession" Tuesday on the deadline for newspapers to register. Saying that the registration and re-registration of newspapers is not intended "to stifle the press," Commissioner of Information and Broadcasting Sedu Turay said that newspapers legally registered prior to May 25 will be allowed to continue publishing until the end of the year. Newspapers not registered prior to March 1996 are not covered by this concession and must cease publication immediately. Of the 13 remaining newspapers in Freetown, only 6 will be allowed to continue operating. For di People journalist Paul Camara said his newspaper would not register with the AFRC as this would be recognition of the junta. He said the newspaper would "call it quits" rather than give in to AFRC pressure.
Sierra Rutile will remain closed pending an outcome of the Sierra Leone crisis, Managing Director Benny Bray said Monday. "Sierra Rutile remains closed awaiting a resolution of the situation. There has got to be an internationally recognised government and a resumption of normal commercial activity," Bray said. "We are currently in Sierra Leone under a limited care and maintenance basis, and we are safeguarding the mine site. Once the situation resolves itself, we will send in a team to rehabilitate the site to operational status. We really have to wait and see how long that could take and how much it could cost."
29 September: A ship which transported rice to Freetown before the ECOWAS-imposed embargo took effect is threatening to leave Sierra Leone without offloading the balance of its cargo. Dock workers have reported that there is not enough lubricating oil remaining to run the ship's crane. 15 barrels of lubricating oil reportedly borrowed from the ship by the AFRC military regime have not been replaced as promised, despite a demand late last week by the ship's captain.
Nigerian Alpha fighter jets dropped bombs in Port Loko District Monday, killing 7 civilians. Sierra Leonean military sources said the planes dropped two cluster bombs on Lokosama, near Port Loko. ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu denied the reports.
Former NPRC military ruler Valentine Strasser began law studies at Warwick University Monday, with officials promising he would be treated like any "normal student." Strasser had been studying at Coventry College after arriving in Britain with his family last March. Peter Dunn, spokesman for the University, said Monday that protests against Strasser had died down and that students and lecturers had accepted his presence. "Valentine Strasser will begin his lectures sometime later today at the university. He was actually in the department yesterday with all the other first-year students," Dunn said. "All the staff were there as well and there were no problems whatsoever." Dunn said the university had been approached by the United Nations to help in the democratisation process in Sierra Leone.
Commonwealth heads of state meeting next month will consider whether to suspend Sierra Leone from the organisation. Sierra Leone has been barred from attending Commonwealth meetings since July.
28 September: ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Max Khobe said Sunday that ECOMOG forces would tighten the blockade of Sierra Leone's harbour, saying his naval unit "will intervene in full force to enforce sanctions and embargo mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)." Khobe did not specify when the action would take place. "The naval boats will police the length and breadth of Sierra Leone's territorial waters to make sure that even canoes and trawlers don't dodge the ECOMOG net," he said. "We are taking over from the air and infantry wings of ECOMOG and the naval ships will now carry out most of the military operations effected by the ECOMOG jets." A statement issued by the AFRC on Monday said Sierra Leone would react "positively" to any attempt by ECOMOG "to take over two major ports as well as other mini ports" along the coast.
The Nigerian newspaper Sunday Tribune reported on Sunday that Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi told the United Nations Security Council Nigeria will continue to negotiate with the AFRC as long as the AFRC government does not give preconditions.
27 September: The Ministry of Health reported Saturday that a serious measles epidemic has broken out in Nieni Chiefdom, Koinadugu District, in northern Sierra Leone. Sources said that some 3,000 cases have been reported so far, and that disease control teams, including one from the United Nations Children's Fund, have been sent to the area. At least 10 people are reported to have died in the past three days, half of them children. Senior medical officer Noah Conteh said, "We are trying to check the spread as Yiffin Chiefdom (sic.) is one of the most populous chiefdoms in the whole country. If the disease runs wild, we shall be in big trouble."
ECOMOG task force commander Colonel Max Khobe said Saturday that leaders of the AFRC-led military junta would not be harmed if they decided to surrender. Speaking over the clandestine radio 98.1, Khobe said, "I will wholeheartedly receive them and equally take to safety those who would want to leave the country even before Kabbah comes back." Khobe said ECOWAS preferred a non-violent solution to the Sierra Leone crisis. "ECOWAS will be happier if there is no bloodshed and power is returned to the legitimate owner," he said. "The junta should know we have capability of using force even right now to kick them out of Freetown. It is because ECOWAS does not want the shedding of blood that is why were are still applying the embargo to see if they can quickly leave the State House." Khobe warned that military intervention remains a possibility. "Once I am given the directive to get into Freetown, I shall be in Freetown," he said. Khobe gave assurances that ECOMOG troops would not harm civilians. "The only civilians likely to be harmed are those who go to military targets like the military headquarters," he said. "We also want civilians to leave areas we are engaged in right now, particularly along the coast where the ships are likely to come in," he added. Khobe said that the RUF and the army still can play a vital role in Sierra Leone's political process in the future. "They should forget what has happened and peacefully allow things to move forward," he said. Earlier, Director of Defence Information Major John Milton warned that the "proliferation of loyal forces in the provinces would pose a resistance to the Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops." Milton downplayed the belief that ECOMOG is a professional military force, saying "it is experience in the field that matters." In the event of intervention by ECOMOG, Milton said, the military and the RUF "will adopt the hit and run tactics which will prolong the crisis for ages."
26 September: Ten Kamajors and four soldiers have been killed in heavy fighting at Tongo, a military source in Kenema said Friday. He said the battle began on Wednesday when the Kamajor militia attacked military positions on four fronts. "We were forced to make tactical withdrawals at least five times but later regrouped and are now gaining ground steadily," the source said. A military high command official in Kenema attributed the army's slow progress to "tactical assistance being given to the Kamajors by Nigerian military advisors and some mercenaries belonging to ULIMO-K." The charge was denied by Kamajor spokesman Brima Lamin. "We are fighting on our own," Lamin said at a Kamajor base at Gbaima, in Songya Chiefdom, not far from Bo. "Our fighters are well-equipped and full of determination and zeal to bring back Tejan Kabbah and put democracy again on course," he said. Lamin described the ongoing battle for Tongo was a "do-or-die affair," saying, "If we decisively win this one, it will set the next stage for our moves for towns and villages in the vicinity." One resident reported Thursday that the army was regrouping, backed by heavy reinforcements from Kenema, Bo, and Makeni. "Tongo is likely to fall back completely to the military any time from now," he said. Military authorities in the south have reported heavy fighting between the military and Kamajors at Dambara Kargobai, along the Bo-Makeni road, but said the fighting had died down on Thursday afternoon. There were no casualty figures available, but a military spokesman said six civilians were killed in the crossfire. There have been unconfirmed reports from Kenema of fighting in Panguma and in nearby Dodo Chiefdom, with as many as 25 people having been killed. The town of Dodo and other nearby villages were said to have been burned. There has been no independent confirmation of the report.
About 40 Kamajors were stoned by residents at Gbangbato in Moyamba District and told to "get lost from the area," according to Chiefdom Administrator Sam Lahai. "The Kamajors arrived saying they wanted to take charge of the area as from Wednesday," Lahai said. "Local youths, resenting their presence, began pelting them with stones and other missiles and they fled, leaving some of their cowries and shells behind. They did not open fire."
Authorised foreign exchange bureaus lodged a formal complaint with the Central Bank Friday about the growing currency black market since the May 25 coup. "These illegal foreign exchange traders have crippled our businesses and have forced some bureaus to shut down as they offer prices which are far above ours, particularly for the dollar and sterling," the owner of one bureau said. A flourishing black market now exists in every major town in Sierra Leone. In Freetown, hundreds of young men and boys can be seen on the streets carrying boxes stuffed with leones. The black market in currency has gained momentum since the imposition of a blockade by ECOWAS. "The flow of foreign currency into Sierra Leone slowed to a trickle as virtually no financial aid from governments is coming now, and this has created a favourable environment for the black marketeers," a Central Bank source said. "The only way to eradicate the black market is for security and stability to return and for investors to return, and for western foreign aid to resume. That will drive down the price for the dollar and the pound," the source added. Before the coup, the leone traded at Le 850 to the dollar and Le 1,300 to the pound sterling, as compared today to Le 1,600 and Le 2,000, respectively.
Ambassador to the United States John Leigh said Friday that the Sierra Leone Embassy is not providing consular services to Abu Kabbah, the son of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who was arrested in New York earlier this month on heroin smuggling charges. Describing Abu Kabbah as "the wayward son of the president" who has often been in trouble in the past, Leigh said, "I have not gone to see him and I have no plans to go see him." Leigh said Abu Kabbah is not on good terms with the family. He has only spoken to his father once in the past ten years, shortly after the 1996 election, Leigh said.
25 September: West African diplomats said Thursday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has barred AFRC Secretary of State for Finance, Joe Amara Bangali, from attending its annual meeting in Hong Kong. A letter sent by the IMF to Bangali said that "only persons representing governments that have international recognition and support are eligible to attend the meeting," according to one diplomat. "I am surprised over this ugly development," Bangali said. "When the (military) government came to power, and I took office as Secretary of State for Finance, I informed the IMF secretariat about my appointment, and that of Christian Kargbo, Governor of the Central Bank, and Simon Carew, Financial Secretary, so they cannot say they were not aware." Bangali said the IMF Secretariat had informed him about the meeting in Hong Kong, and had extended him an invitation. "I think the fund's judgement should not be influenced by the nature of the political regime of a country nor should it interfere in the domestic or foreign politics of member states," he said. "We have been looking forward to participating in the meeting and deriving all the benefits due from such participation." On September 2, IMF sources disclosed the AFRC had been informed its ministers would not be allowed to attend upcoming annual meetings of the IMF or the World Bank. The AFRC has annouced that it would continue the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) instuted by under the civilian government of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, although the IMF has suspended all programs since June.
Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has been accredited as leader of the Sierra Leone delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. Kabbah will reportedly address the General Assembly on October 1. He will travel to Washington, D.C. on October 3 to meet with American officials and "to report to the Sierra Leone community on the efforts being made to restore constitutionality," according to a press release from the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington.
The United Nations Security Council convened a ministerial meeting on Africa Thursday, aimed at conflict resolution and development on the continent. Areas of concern to the Security Council in recent months have been the situations in Sierra Leone, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Somali, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, the current head of the OAU, told delegates to reject Sierra Leone's military government, and to stand with Africa in denying it recognition. Citing Sierra Leone and Burundi, Mugabe said that that Africans no longer tolerate military dictatorships. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, speaking as president of the United Nations Security Council, told delegates, "We (the U.S. government) commend the efforts of ECOWAS's C-5 group of ministers to bring peace to Sierra Leone, and we are strong supporters of the peace process there."
24 September: Nigerian Defence Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sam Tella confirmed Wednesday that two Ukrainian ships have been seen in Sierra Leone's territorial waters. Tella said an investigation is underway to determine the ships' objectives. "As soon as the result of the probe is out, we will definitely let the public know," he said. Tella also referred to the reported presence of a British warship in the area, but said that there was no cause for concern because Britain had been supportive of the ECOWAS objective of restoring democracy in Sierra Leone. Tella rejected AFRC claims that Nigerian fighter jets bombed Freetown's power plant and a military hospital Saturday, saying the charges were lies "being perpetrated by the junta as part of its propaganda against the Nigerian government and ECOMOG."
A rift has developed within Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) on whether to continue to strike or to return to work. In late August, the AFRC announced that primary school classes would resume on October 6 and secondary school on October 10. The national executive committee of the 18,000 member SLTU responded by calling on its members to continue the work stoppage. On Wednesday, a group calling itself the Committee of Concerned Teachers rejected this call, saying "the majority of teachers are ready to serve the nation in conjunction with any government of the day." The Committee also accused the SLTU executive of sending a document to the government treasury authorising it to deduct dues from staff salaries without their consent. SLTU Secretary-General Alpha Timbo has rejected the charge.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi reminded the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday that the coup in Sierra Leone had been condemned by the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations, and he urged member countries to continue their non-recognition and non-support of the military regime. In the meantime, he said, ECOWAS would continue its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Sierra Leone crisis.
Siradou Diallo, leader of the Guinean opposition party Le Parti du Renouveau et du Progres has called on the Guinean government to distance itself from Nigeria's stance on the Sierra Leone crisis, saying Guinea's interests were at variance with Nigeria's. Diallo said Nigeria had spent between $350 and $400 million on the Liberian peacekeeping operation. Guinea could not afford this expensive involvement because the country needed funds to invest in its infrastructure, health and other sectors, Diallo said.
23 September: AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said that Sierra Leone's military junta is prepared to hold three-way talks to resolve the country's crisis. Referring to AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma's September 16 letter to the United Nations Security Council, Kamara said Koroma, ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh "are the three major stakeholders in the present political crisis in Sierra Leone. These three people should meet and actually work out the modalities to return Sierra Leone to constitutional order." In an interview with the BBC, Kamara said, "We want to resolve this issue on what we the Sierra Leoneans feel. It is a Sierra Leonean issue. Let these three stakeholders sit down and talk peace and then we can talk about democracy."
All 13 remaining newspapers in Sierra Leone have been given until the end of September to renew their registration if they want to continue publication. The announcement was made late Monday by Commissioner of Information and Broadcasting Sedu Turay after a meeting with Frank Kposowa, president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists. SLBS radio and television quoted Turay as saying "the registration will be in accordance with the 1980 Newspaper Act. We need to bring sanity and responsibility into newspaper reporting." Kposowa warned the newspapers, saying "I would not take responsibility or make representation for any publisher who draws inspiration from publishing untruths and fertile imagination." Under the 1980 Newspaper Act, the initial fee for a certificate of registration is $2,000, with a $1,000 fee required for annual renewal. Nearly all the newspapers have not renewed their registrations in the past three years, a Ministry of Information source said. The Act gives the Commissioner the right to refuse registration or grant renewal, or to suspend or cancel any registration already granted. The newspapers could appeal the Commissioner's decision to the Sierra Leone High Court within 30 days. The penalty for violation of the act is a fine not to exceed $1,000, or a jail sentence of not more than one year, or both.
ECOMOG Commander Max Khobe issued a statement on Tuesday warning ships and their owners "to keep away from Sierra Leone due to the sanctions and embargo now in force." The statement, which was broadcast over the clandestine radio station 98.1, asserted that "the military government, some businessmen, and ship's agents are bent on violating the embargo." The statement was specifically directed at the ship MV SKY which is currently anchored in international waters outside Sierra Leone. The vessel is reported to be carrying dozens of containers of provisions and consumer goods such as sugar, which were ordered by a Lebanese businessman in Freetown. "If the MV SKY or any other ship attempts to berth in Freetown day or night, the ship will be destroyed," the statement said. Khobe also warned civilians living in the vicinity of the port to "move out of the area with immediate effect as the port is now regarded as a military zone."
22 September: Nigerian ECOMOG forces and Sierra Leonean troops clashed for about 45 minutes Monday morning near Lungi International Airport. Residents said the fighting began with small arms fire at about 8:00 a.m. and was followed by shelling. Military sources said the two sides exchanged heavy artillery fire, causing slight casualties on both sides. A Nigerian colonel was quoted as saying, "We have been harassed since Saturday by rebels linked to the Sierra Leone army. We have to defend ourselves when we are attacked so this is why we had to fire back this morning." A military source in Freetown, however, charged that "A group of Nigerian soldiers were moving from their positions, fully armed, toward the area where the Sierra Leone army is based. We told them to halt using a voice-hailer, but this was ignored. When we fired warning shots, they retreated."
SLBS radio and television reported Monday that an attack by a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet on Saturday damaged Freetown's main power plant, seriously injuring an engineer in the face, and also hit a nearby police hospital. "We are appalled over what has turned out to be reckless bombings of selected targets by the Nigerian air force," Undersecretary for Energy and Power Hassan Barrie said Monday. He said the engineer, Yembeh Mansaray, was repairing an electrical generator when the plane circled the building and began dropping bombs. A witness to the attack was quoted as saying that the plane seemed to have been targeting an oil tug anchored at the powerhouse jetty which the Nigerians had suspected of violating the embargo. Barrie said the tug "did not even have a drop of oil" on board, and that it had been lying idle since the imposition of the blockade. Damage to the power plant was estimated at $100,000.
An official of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Monday the arrest of Abu Kabbah, the son of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, on narcotics charges. Lewis Rice Jr., the head of the DEA office in New York, said that Kabbah and 24 others had been charged with narcotics conspiracy and possession of drugs with the intention to sell. The charges followed an eight-month wiretap investigation, Rice said. Kabbah was detained September 10 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as he was returning from Africa. The DEA seized 479 grams of heroin which Kabbah had swallowed in an attempt to smuggle it into the United States. If convicted, Kabbah and the other defendants face a minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum of life.
Two multinational companies resumed operations in Freetown Monday, three months after the coup. Ivan Varroll, manager of Sierra Leone Brewery, which is owned by Heineken of the Netherlands and Guiness of Scotland, said, "We are working on limited production until we repair our damaged machines and bring in additional raw materials." The brewery suffered extensive damage to its bottling plant and laboratory after the coup. Workers of the American-operated Seaboard Flour Mill turned up "in full force" Monday to resume operations. "The mill has enough raw materials to produce flour for the next six months," said head miller John Williams.
The newspaper For di People reported Monday that hundreds of Sierra Leoneans have sought refuge with Nigerian ECOMOG troops.
The Nigerian newspaper The Punch reported Monday that Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi has called on the international community to back ECOWAS sanctions against Sierra Leone in order to force out the AFRC military government. Ikimi made the appeal at the United Nations Security Council in his role as head of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone.
20 September: Sierra Leonean military authorities Saturday ordered the press to get advance permission before publishing. SLBS radio and television reported that "any editor who fails to comply...will be liable to suspension from publication with immediate effect." The move, which followed a Standard Times article which reported the AFRC has decided to relinquish power, has been widely condemned by newspaper editors in Freetown, who accuse the junta of trying to muzzle the press. Dorothy Gordon, editor of the Concord Times, said newspapers could be banned from publication from one day to the next, while stories would have to be submitted for approval far ahead of printing times. Sedu Turay, the AFRC Commissioner for Information, denied that the move was a step toward censorship. "We are only drawing their attention to a clause in the law as it has been frequently ignored," he said.
Nigerian Alpha fighter jets again attacked the port Saturday, dropping at least five bombs on the harbour area. No casualties were reported.
Despite an ECOMOG warning that people living near the port should evacuate their homes, many residents--mostly men--have refused to leave. A resident explained Saturday that AFRC soldiers told them the evacuation was a ruse by the RUF to obtain more housing for its fighters.
Sierra Leone's military junta eased the curfew on Freetown Saturday. SLBS (state radio) quoted AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma as saying that the curfew would run from midnight to 6:00 a.m., instead of from 10:00 p.m.
The Nigerian newspaper New Nigerian and the news wire service Xinhua have both run stories about a split in the AFRC over returning the country to constitutional rule. Both cited Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo, whose source was clearly Friday's Standard Times newspaper article. As of Saturday morning, the AFRC had not commented on the Standard Times report.
19 September: Nigerian ECOMOG troops bombarded the Ukrainian ship Seaway with artillery for about 15 minutes Friday evening. The Nigerians reportedly spotted the ship after it turned on its lights to allow unloading by night. A witness quoted dock workers as saying Friday that the Seaway had delivered arms to Monrovia during the Liberian conflict, causing ECOMOG to suspect the vessel of carrying the same cargo to Sierra Leone.
The AFRC Friday denied a front page story in the independent Standard Times newspaper that the military junta had voted to relinquish power. In a press release, the AFRC dissociated itself from "such baseless and unfounded information." Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Lt. Andrew Collins, who was described in the article as being involved in a "brawl" with Chief Secretary of State Captain SAJ Musa, denied that a meeting between AFRC and RUF leaders had turned ugly when the participants were unable to reach a consensus on how to settle the crisis in Sierra Leone.
Military leaders reported a clash between Sierra Leone troops and Nigerian ECOMOG forces based at Lungi on Friday. AFRC officials said that Nigerian troops had attempted to advance beyond their positions. They said some of the Nigerians had been killed, but gave no details. There has been no independent confirmation of the report.
AFRC Secretary of State for the East Captain Eddie Kanneh said that members of the Kamajor killed the paramount chief of Dama Chiefdom, near Kenema, for supporting the junta. Kanneh said the chief's throat was cut. His deputy was abducted and presumed killed, Kanneh said.
The ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone Friday briefed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the crisis in Sierra Leone. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi led the delegation, which included the foreign ministers of Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Liberia. The Committee noted the decision of the AFRC to resume negotiations, and denied that ECOWAS wishes to remove the military regime by force. ECOWAS leaders only approved the use of sanctions and an embargo to pressure the junta to resume dialogue. The Committee also welcomed the appointment by the Secretary-General of a special representative for Sierra Leone, and the Security Council's endorsement of the ECOWAS initiatives in the country. The Committee also briefed the United Nations Security Council on the Sierra Leone crisis.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday that WFP food stocks in Freetown for thousands of refugees have been depleted due to persistent looting by armed men. "In the last three months armed men have looted an estimated 3,000 metric tons of relief food--enough to feed 250,000 people for one month," WFP Regional Director Paul Ares said in a statement issued in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. "In Freetown, WFP has only 58 tonnes of lentils in its stores which are now virtually under the control of elements of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council," the statement said. Insecurity along Sierra Leone's main highways has made it impossible for the WFP to bring in food supplies from other areas of the country. "Unless food aid is rapidly delivered to Freetown, WFP will be forced to cease all food distribution to vulnerable people and internally displaced persons to whom it is providing a vital assistance," Ares said. "There are increasing reports of malnutrition throughout Sierra Leone in particular among children, while the purchasing power of the population has decreased substantially," he added.At least 34 Kamajors will killed in a joint AFRC/RUF attack on Sherbro Island, military sources said Friday. People fleeing the fighting said that property worth thousands of dollars had been looted or destroyed. One resident said that "the soldiers, carrying AK-47 rifles and bazookas, began the three-hour attack in the early hours on Tuesday morning. The landed in dugout canoes which they paddled themselves." Another witness said the Kamajors "hastily retreated through bush paths and swam to dozens of nearby deserted small islands."
18 September: The independent newspaper Standard Times reported Thursday that the AFRC and RUF will relinquish power and restore the country to constitutional rule. Citing "impeccable sources," the paper said forty AFRC "strong men" met at State House this week to discuss the political impasse. Thirty AFRC/RUF members voted to restore constitutional order, while 10 voted against. Among those in opposition was RUF Lieutenant Collins. "Those who voted 'yes' placed a strong condition of safe passage for all AFRC members and their families," the paper reported. At the end of the meeting, Chief Secretary of State Captain SAJ Musa urged his colleagues to consider the present state of affairs and not to think of themselves. "We cannot run a country like this successfully when all odds both local and international are against us," he is quoted as saying. At this point, the paper reported, "Collins became furious which led to a brawl between himself and SAJ Musa, but Dr. KIS Kamara and Sam Bockarie, alias Maskita, intervened and resolved their differences peacefully." The paper reported that all members agreed to a return to constitutional rule, and are now only waiting for American ambassador John Hirsch and U.N. envoy Francis Okelo, who are expected to arrive in the country soon. There has been no outside confirmation of the Standard Times report.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Thursday that the ECOMOG force in Sierra Leone has acquired mine detectors after 11 of its soldiers were killed by a land mine last week. "We have suffered some casualties, we have learnt from it. I don't think we will hear such a story any more," Malu said. Malu denied that ECOMOG was seeking a military confrontation with Sierra Leonean army. "We have not gone in for any military combat. We are enforcing the embargo and that we are doing very efficiently," he said.
Chief Secretary of State Solomon "SAJ" Musa Wednesday accused government soldiers and RUF fighters of defying orders to stop all diamond mining in Kono and joining together in "active connivance" to operate illegal mining operations. "Some of the security personnel have even taken over the whole chiefdom, chased out authorized officials of the Department of Mineral Resources, and are issuing tickets for mining licenses and diamond plots," Musa said on SLBS (state radio).
17 September: Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo on Wednesday accused Sierra Leone's military junta of subjecting Nigerians to "untold hardships." Ugbo said that some ethnic Hausas in Sierra Leone had been arrested and taken to army camps.
After two last-minute postponements, the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone foreign ministers is now due to brief the United Nations Security Council on the Sierra Leone crisis on Friday.
RUF Colonel Sam Bockari called Wednesday for a meeting between AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma, ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and RUF leader Foday Sankoh. Bockari said that the talks hinged on the release of Sankoh, who has been detained in Nigeria since March.
Dozens of dock workers returned to workers Wednesday after a week-long work stoppage. The workers had stayed away from their jobs in fear of further attacks by Nigerian ECOMOG forces after a small petroleum tanker belonging to the National Petroleum Company was strafed by a Nigerian Alpha fighter last Thursday. The company's chief engineer and chief security officer were killed in the attack. Port authorities said the tanker was undergoing repairs. ECOMOG Task Force Commander Max Khobie claimed that the boat had persistently violated sanctions by buying fuel from other vessels on the high seas. The port was reported to be open on Wednesday, but there was no movement of vessels into or out of the harbour.
An AFRC helicopter caused panic in Freetown Wednesday when it flew so high that it was mistaken for a Nigerian fighter jet. The helicopter eventually landed at Wilberforce Barracks, where it was reportedly being tested after repairs, a local source said.
16 September: The bodies of 16 ECOMOG soldiers, including 11 killed by a land mine explosion in Sierra Leone on September 3, have been flown to Nigeria for burial, Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo said on Tuesday. He said that they would be buried with military honours. On September 4, Ugbo accused Sierra Leone's military of laying land mines "on the passage routes of the ECOMOG troops in Lungi to Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and other important towns in the hinterland." Ugbo's account was disputed last week by UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart, who claimed that the Nigerians had laid the land mines around Lungi Airport to defend against a possible attack by Sierra Leonean forces. Dr. Karefa-Smart pointed out that there have been no reports of land mines anywhere else in Sierra Leone during the six years of civil war.
AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma Tuesday welcomed the appointment of a United Nations Special Envoy on Sierra Leone. In a letter to the president of the Security Council, Koroma pledged to give Envoy Francis Okelo "all the co-operation he requires in order to aid the return of peace, prosperity and constitutionality to our war-weary people." Koroma said that the AFRC-led junta is prepared to "enter into talks with anyone" in order to reach a peaceful solution to Sierra Leone's crisis and return the country to constitutional rule. "We are ready to talk at the level of ECOWAS. We are ready to talk at the level of the United Nations and I wish to assert that I am personally ready to enter into tripartite negotiations with Mr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh," he said.
Freetown has been operating on less than one third of its normal power supply, because of a shortage of lubricating oil. Output has fallen from 15 to 4.5 megawatts, and only essential facilities such as hospitals and factories are receiving continuous power. Residential users have had electrical power only once per week, according to the National Power Authority.
15 September: A group of prominent Sierra Leoneans has announced the formation of a new group to mediate in Sierra Leone's crisis. Hilton Fyle, spokesman for the newly-formed Independent National Mediation Committee, said Monday that the group wants to arrange a meeting between AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "We are sending a delegation to ousted president Kabbah in Guinea to talk to him and arrange a meeting at a suitable venue," Fyle told SLBS (state radio). He said the committee would like to involve RUF leader Foday Sankoh in the talks. "We are also sending a delegation to General Sani Abacha, the ruler of Nigeria, to talk to him to release the RUF leader," Fyle said. He said the committee had already held talks with the AFRC in Freetown, and he appealed for international support for the initiative. The members of the committee are mainly from academic, cultural, and religious circles.
UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart, along with sources close to the AFRC, have refuted a report carried by the Xinhua news service on Friday which had indicated that Alimamy Pallo Bangura had been replaced as Secretary for Foreign Affairs by Ajibola Manley-Spaine. The ministerial list, which had been faxed to the Lagos bureau of Xinhua by ECOMOG headquarters in Monovia, Liberia, evidently had been compiled when Manley-Spaine was filling in during Bangura's absence from the country.
The Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) resolved Monday to continue an indefinite strike until teachers are paid their arrears and until the security situation in the country improves. In a communique, SLTU Secretary-General Alpha Timbo cited the occupation of a number of school premises by members of the RUF People's Army, the vandalising of school property, and the continued closure of major commercial banks, which had completely frustrated the effective operation of schools and other institutions.
13 September: Residents of Kanikay, Mabella, and other port areas of Freetown began fleeing their homes Saturday, following a warning by ECOMOG telling civilians to evacuate the area. ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu accused Sierra Leone's military last week of deploying anti-aircraft guns amid the civilian population, but warned that this would not deter his men from attacks. Thousands of people have been loading their belongings into vehicles or hand carts in an effort to leave the area. Some have returned only to keep an eye on their homes, but have found places to stay elsewhere. "We have only come to watch our houses and the area. We will go back to our temporary lodgings at night," one resident said.
12 September: Insurers of ships in Great Britain have added Sierra Leone to a list of countries and areas excluded from insurance coverage. "This is the result of continuing political and civil unrest in Sierra Leone, which has led to military action and the blockading of vessels," the market's Joint War Committee said in a statement. The exclusion means that ships going into Sierra Leonean waters will have to pay an additional war risk premium with insurers and reinsurers. Lloyd's Underwriters' Association and the Institute of London Underwriters have issued a general notice of cancellation, effective from 24:00 GMT, which will affect most insurance coverage in Sierra Leone. Coverage may be arranged with individual insurers with the payment of an additional premium.
Ministers of the eight-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) decided Friday to recommend the suspension of Sierra Leone from the Commonwealth. Sierra Leone has been barred from attending meetings since July, pending the restoration of constitutional rule.
11 September: Three senior Sierra Leonean army officers, including former NPRC Chief of Defence Staff Colonel Komba Mondeh, have defected to Nigeria after completing military training in that country. Colonel Mondeh and Colonel Sam Mboma had been attending a year-long senior staff course at the Nigeria Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna since July last year. The third officer, Major John Sowa, joined them in January for a four month long junior staff course. The three men had been due back in Freetown on Tuesday and were to have reported for duty on Wednesday. Military sources said the three have been dismissed from the army. Mondeh has reportedly joined ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in Guinea. On Thursday, the clandestine pro-Kabbah radio station 98.1 broadcast an interview with Mondeh, in which he called on AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma to "hand over without delay to President Kabbah or prepare to face the consequences." Mondeh went on to say that "Koroma is relatively junior to implement any meaningful or structural changes in the lives of Sierra Leoneans." A statement issued by the AFRC Secretariat on Wednesday and read Thursday morning over SLBS (state radio) said that the three had been arrested by the Guinean government. "They were alleged to be involved in clandestine activities that threatened the security of the two sister republics. The three men, Colonel Komba Mondeh, Major Kande Toure, and an AFRC officer commonly known as Yeke-Yeke, are currently in detention," the statement said.
A Nigerian Alpha fighter jet attacked and badly damaged a small oil tanker Thursday, killing two crew members. The Napetco, which is owned by Sierra Leone's National Petroleum Company, was docked for repairs at Kissy Fuel Jetty in eastern Freetown. The dead men were the company's chief engineer and chief security officer. Sierra Leonean troops responded by firing at the jet for about 15 minutes, creating panic in Freetown's city center. "Our anti-aircraft guns were firing at the ECOMOG jet which was flying over Freetown bent on destroying some parts of the city," a military source said. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the plane twice attacked the port, but that both times the bombs missed their target. "We are firing at them heavily for them to know that we are alert. We are not going to take chance at all," Kamara said. "As a responsible government, we have to establish ourselves, let these people understand that this is our territorial integrity. We are a sovereign state," he added. Kamara said that the plane was flying over the harbour regularly "to intimidate our people, to provoke us, making life uneasy for our people." A plane reportedly circled at high altitude for about an hour Tuesday, attracting nearly continuous weapons fire from all over Freetown.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu warned the Sierra Leonean junta Thursday that Nigerian aircraft would return fire if attacked over Freetown. Malu said the aircraft, which are under ECOMOG command, "(while) performing their legitimate duty to enforce an embargo on Sierra Leone are being fired at from anti-aircraft guns deployed in civilian populated areas around the port of Freetown. It would be wise for civilians to move out of the areas if the junta fails to remove the weapons from their midst as ECOMOG aircraft might have no option but to fire back in self-defense." Malu accused the junta of turning Freetown's port into "a military base and using the port facilities for weapons and ammunition storage."
A shipping company official has denied claims by ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu that a ship bombed on Saturday had partially blocked the entrance to Freetown's harbour. The official said the harbour is open and that there are three ships berthed at the dock. The official confirmed that the Greek-Cypriot ship Proteus and the Ukrainian vessel Seaway had been damaged by artillery fire and a bomb dropped from a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet, but said that both ships were afloat and berthed at the port. The official said that all three ships were carrying rice, denying ECOMOG claims that they were transporting weapons. The Proteus is reportedly carrying 15,000 tons of rice, and is said to have been chartered by a Lebanese company, the Saad Group.
Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. James O.C. Jonah held a press conference Thursday to "correct the record" of recent events in Sierra Leone, saying that the international media had presented "a rather distorted picture" of events in the country in recent weeks. Updating his August 20 letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Dr. Jonah said that a total of 7 students had been killed in pro-democracy demonstrations on August 18. One out of five of student demonstrators were arrested, but only 45 have been released. Those who have been freed were younger students, Jonah said, not the college students. He said four female students were being held as "comfort women" by senior officers of the junta. "We deplore this," Jonah said, adding that he had brought this to the attention of the International Red Cross. Jonah accused the junta of having a "very gruesome plan" for genocide, saying there is now "very concrete information of the unfolding of this plan." He said the junta had imported a large quantity of land mines into Sierra Leone, and that one of the ships docked in Freetown was loaded with poison gas. He said that under the genocide plan, civilians were being used as human shields to create the impression that ECOMOG troops were killing civilians. Jonah said that the military junta was killing civilians and telling the world they had been killed by ECOMOG. He claimed that the bodies of civilians displayed in front of the United Nations were killed by the junta; none, he said, had been killed by ECOMOG. Jonah said that neither talks or sanctions would be effective in removing the junta. Three months had been spent "talking" to the junta, he said, and the result was an intensification of criminal activities and a digging-in of heels. Those countries that had urged sanctions were now complaining about ECOMOG's use of force to implement the embargo. Jonah said that Sierra Leoneans were not going to "play dead" like in Burundi and Gambia where, despite the imposition of sanctions, those regimes had survived. "Let me leave no doubt in the minds of the world community: Sierra Leoneans will remove this junta. Whatever it takes, we will, by ourselves, remove them, because to wait too long on the international community may only increase the suffering of our people."
A spokesman for the London-based seafarers union, the International Transport Workers Federation, has condemned the ECOWAS-imposed blockade of Freetown. "We obviously oppose this kind of action totally," he said. "Most of the shipping using West African ports would be foreign-owned and foreign-crewed and they most probably would not know of the blockade."
The Nigerian newspaper The Punch reported Thursday that the Nigerian government on Wednesday called on all Nigerians living in Sierra Leone to leave the country immediately to avoid being attacked or killed by soldiers loyal to the AFRC-led junta.
10 September: Two Nigerian shopkeepers in Freetown have been murdered by Sierra Leonean soldiers, apparently in revenge for Nigerian efforts to oust the military junta, according to reports in two Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday. The reports which appeared in the independent Guardian newspaper and the pro-government Daily Times were based on an account by a Nigerian trader, Sule Akoni, who has since fled to Conakry, Guinea. In a BBC interview on Tuesday, Akoni described the killings. "On Thursday, they were making a march. So, they killed two Nigerians on that day...They arrested these boys--they caught these boys from their hiding place behind their shop at Kennedy Street and running after them, they fell down at Ross Road junction, that is the next street," Akoni said. He described rising hositility towards the Nigerian community in Freetown, and blamed "the RUF boys, the AFRC boys, and some area boys" for the acts of violence. "They were making a campaign against Nigerians. They were not even mentioning ECOMOG. All they were saying was that Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria. Any time there is a little uprising, they are hunting. They are going all around running after Nigerians. So, we have not been sleeping in our house. There are some other thousands of Nigerians there. Over 5,000 of them, running from place to place, sleeping in churches, sleeping in other hiding places." Akoni cited unconfirmed reports of up to 7 Nigerians having been killed in recent days. Akoni's account was denied Wednesday by AFRC Chief-of-Staff, Colonel Samuel Williams, who said that the event "exists in (Akone's) imagination." Following the Nigerian bombardment of Freetown on September 4, a senior AFRC official called on angry demonstrators not to take vengeance on Nigerians in Freetown, saying they were not personally responsible for the "murderous attitude" of Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha, but were "peaceful nationals engaged in commerce."
The ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone suddenly cancelled plans to brief the United Nations Security Council on the situation on Sierra Leone. There was no immediate explanation for the cancellation of the talks, which were due to take place on August 11 and 12.
Ministers of the 8-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) are expected to push for a formal suspension of Sierra Leone from the Commonwealth at their meeting on Thursday. The meeting is intended to finalise CMAG's recommendations to an Edinburgh summit of Commonwealth leaders in October. Sierra Leone was barred from attending Commonwealth meetings in July pending the restoration of constitutional rule. "They haven't moved to restore the government so out they go -- the recommendation will be for them to be suspended," said a CMAG diplomat.
9 September: Sierra Leone army troops stationed at the port fired half a dozen anti-aircraft guns at a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet as it flew over the harbour at high altitude around 4:30 p.m. Monday. The shooting caused women selling rice and salt in a waterside market to abandon their wares as they fled for cover. The plane did not attack because of the large number of civilians in the area, the ECOMOG commander said. An AFRC spokesman said "the Head of State views the development as another example of gross violation of our airspace resulting in the apparent loss of civilian lives."
Employees of SierraTel are threatening to strike, saying they have not been paid in four months. The SierraTel employees allege that the money for their salaries had been diverted by the AFRC.
Truckloads of the rice which has been unloaded at Freetown's harbour in recent days is reportedly being smuggled into Guinea. The rice is imported into Freetown tax-free, making it much cheaper than the rice being sold on the Guinea side of the border.
ECOWAS foreign ministers from the Committee of Five on Sierra Leone are due in New York on September 11 and 12 to brief the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Sierra Leone.
12 Kamajors and 5 fighters from the disbanded ULIMO-K militia were killed in a clash with junta forces at Zimmi over the weekend, AFRC Secretary of State for the East Captain Eddie Kanneh said Tuesday. Kanneh did not disclose whether any junta forces were killed. He said the ULIMO-K fighters had been identified by documents found in their pockets. The Kamajors "should realise by now that they cannot defeat the conventional and well-trained army," Kanneh said. The Kamajors continue to hold the Sierra Leone side of the Mano River Bridge, while the Liberian side is held by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. ECOMOG soldiers "have given (the Kamajors) arms and ammunition and are training them too," Kanneh charged. He said the AFRC would not allow Sierra Leone's territory to be used "as a springboard to create instability to the new government of Liberia."
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Tuesday that all humanitarian supplies entering Sierra Leone must be inspected by ECOMOG troops in Liberia or Guinea. "If they are coming in by air, we will direct them to where they are to be cleared," he said. Addressing concerns about the length of time the the process could take, Malu said "that is immaterial. They have a choice to be cleared or not. Either they are cleared, or they do not come in at all." He said ECOMOG had not yet received any applications for exemption.
Following weekend attacks on ships attempting to evade an ECOWAS-imposed blockade, ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said air strikes would continue on any ships attempting to enter Freetown's port. He said that the intention was to sink rather than disable ships. Malu said the harbour had been partially blocked by a vessel bombed on Saturday. "By the time we get a second one, we will be satisfied," he added.
8 September: A heavily armed contingent of the Sierra Leone army, backed by anti-aircraft guns, took up positions around the port Monday to ward off air attacks on ships in the harbour. "We are prepared to defend the port and its vital installation, and if this means war with the Nigerians, so be it," said Captain Abubakarr Kamara, who is coordinating the operation. The security buildup follows a magnetic rocket and cluster bomb attack on a merchant ship Saturday and Sunday as it was reportedly unloading 19,000 tons of rice from Pakistan. The attacks wounded three paramilitary personnel guarding the ship, and damaged the general manager's office and 15 imported cars from Belgium. Damage was estimated at $3 million. Residents said the jet took off from Lungi Airport, which is under the control of Nigerian ECOMOG troops. SLBS (state radio) called the attack "a provocation and violation of the call by West African leaders at their recent summit at Abuja for a peaceful resolution of the political impasse in Sierra Leone." The ECOMOG commander in Sierra Leone, Colonel Max Khobe, said the force has "a mandate from ECOWAS to enforce a blockade and sanctions against Sierra Leone."
Sierra Leone's ambassador to the United States claimed Monday that the Cyprus-registered ship attacked by Nigerian ECOMOG forces Saturday and Sunday was carrying nerve gas and contraband arms and ammunition. In a press release, Ambassador John Leigh said the AFRC had joined forces with Ukrainian criminals to import the weapons into Sierra Leone. "The link between the coupligans and the Ukrainian mafia is said to be Mr. Stephen Bio, arms supplier to the former NPRC coup government," the Leigh said. Leigh also alleged that the AFRC attempted to use women and children as a human shield during a planned attack on Nigerian ECOMOG forces at Jui on Sunday. He said the plan failed when people refused to join the forced march. "A crowd of approximately several hundred hooligans, high on drugs and drink and shouting obscenities, marched towards Jui on Sunday but stopped at Wellington, 10 miles east of Freetown and approximately 2 miles from Jui," the ambassador said. Leigh repeated his charge that 30 or more female students arrested during student demonstrations "continue to be held hostage at the OAU Village at Wilberforce where it is reported they are still being continually serially raped by RUF hooligans."
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Monday that the ship attacked by Nigerian ECOMOG forces on Saturday and Sunday was carrying weapons. He disputed AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara's contention that the vessel was carrying only rice. "We knew exactly what was in the ship and what was being discharged. It was not just only rice," Malu said. "It was discharging amrs and ammunition, and we had every right to enforce that embargo, and in any case, if the ship was carrying only rice, it is not up to (Kamara) to decide that. We made this abundantly clear that humanitarian goods going into Sierra Leone that are exempted from the embargo have to be cleared by ECOMOG." Malu said the Nigerians had taken care to avoid civilian casualties during the raid. "We are not so thoughtless as to start killing human beings like the junta is doing in Sierra Leone," Malu said. "As a matter of fact, the anti-aircraft guns that were firing on us in the process of sinking that ship, the only reason why we did not take them on was that they were placed in built-up areas where there is a lot of population...We could have taken them on and destroyed them right there and then, but we knew that in doing that, we would have probably caused some civilian casualties, so we refrained.
Liberian President Charles Taylor told his 20-member cabinet Monday that about 200,000 Sierra Leonean refugees had flooded Liberian border towns, endangering Liberia's fragile peace. "We have 200,000 people crossing into Liberia and this is no joke. We must act now," Taylor told the ministers. He said he has ordered increased security along the border to prevent a spillover of fighting into Liberia. Taylor told his ministers that they are under an obligation to serve and defend Liberia. "We are going to discourage anything that threatens our fragile democracy," he said. Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah told the BBC Monday that over 100,000 Sierra Leoneans are crossing the Liberian border. "We made an appeal, as a government, to the UNHCR to move quickly at the border so as to relocate the refugees 100 miles away from the border because I think it is good for their own safety since, in fact, we're getting reports that the Kamajors are coming along that route," he said. Mulbah denied reports that elements of the former National Patriotic Front of Liberia was training the Kamajor militia. "We have no sympathy for armed groups at the moment fighting in Sierra Leone," he said. "We're just coming from ECOWAS in which President Taylor was placed on the Committee of Five to ensure that peace is restored once again to that sister Republic of Sierra Leone, and to our amazement, the conflict has escalated...Whether (the Kamajors) are fighting to restore President Kabbah or not, the mandate of the ECOWAS is that they should all return to the peace table and find an amicable solution in Sierra Leone just as it was done in Liberia." Mulbah said President Taylor on Monday told his Justice Minister and Commanders of the Security Forces that Liberia must not be allowed to become a springboard for recruiting forces for the Sierra Leone crisis. He denied knowing that Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman has been operating from Liberia. "If there's anybody who has been going in and out, the security forces have been given orders to have them arrested and pass over the appropriate authorities," Mulbah said. He said would "definitely" order Norman's arrest.
More than 1,000 refugees crossed into Liberia over the weekend, fleeing renewed fighting between the Kamajors and the army. About 800 refugees arrived at the Liberian town of Dambala, after an initial influx of about 300. Some crossed the border with hardly any clothing on their backs. People are surviving on roots and wild leaves, a Liberian immigration officer said. Officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Monday said they were headed for Dambala by road to assess the magnitude of the problems at the refugee camps. Another large group of refugees has reportedly arrived at Mano, on the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. Aid workers say road conditions have prevented access to Mano, and the only road has been rendered impassable during the current rainy season.
AFRC Deputy Secretary of State Alusent Bangura said Monday that ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah signed a secret agreement with Iran for exploiting Sierra Leone's mineral and aquatic resources during his visit to Tehran in September 1996. Bangura said the agreement covered the rutile mines at Mobimbi, the bauxite at Mokanji, and the Marampa mines at Port Loko. The agreement was never ratified by parliament. "It was kept a secret between delegates who accompanied Kabbah to Teheran," Bangura said. Following Kabbah's visit, a 20-member Iranian delegation reportedly visited Sierra Leone to make an assessment of the mining areas, including the diamond mining region in the east.
A UNICEF spokesman in Geneva said Monday that the health situation of children in Sierra Leone is "extremely serious and rapidly deteriorating." Nutritional surveys have found malnutrition running at an average of 10 percent nationwide, with pockets of severe malnutrition as high as 15 percent in some parts of the country. UNICEF said it was alarmed at the lack of a clear and speedy exemption exemption procedure to the ECOWAS sanctions for humanitarian supplies. "Unless a political situation is found, the nutritional status of the population, especially the children, is bound to deteriorate, and a rise in morbidity and mortality will become inevitable," the spokesman said.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Francis Okelo as his special envoy to Sierra Leone. Okelo is currently serving as deputy head of the U.N. Special Mission to Afghanistan.
7 September: Nigerian Alpha fighter jets Sunday bombed the cargo ship Seaway as it unloaded cargo at the water quay in Freetown. The planes attacked at 10:30 a.m., hitting the ships with two bombs. Smoke was seen coming from the ships after the attack. Witnesses said the ships returned fire. The Nigerians first attacked the port Saturday night at about 6:30 p.m., a day after ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu issued a "last warning" to ships violating the ECOWAS-imposed blockade. In Saturday's attack, the planes dropped bombs into the water near the ships, seriously injuring three paramilitary policeman and a port official. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the ship was struck by two bombs. "One exploded, the other one did not. And furthermore, a new charter bus, owned by the Road Transport Corporation, was damaged. An office building was damaged and 10 vehicles destroyed," he said. He said that shrapnel had burst the ship's engine room. Kamara condemned the Nigerian action, saying that the attack was not sanctioned by the ECOWAS mandate. "These people have actually gone to the extremes because the ECOWAS mandate has actually abused itself because it has no mandate to do what they are doing. It is pathetic that, you know, we as a very poor country, a country that has suffered for six years, can undergo such stress. People are moving away, people are running away. Nobody knows what is happening tomorrow." Kamara said that the ship had been carrying a cargo of rice. Military officials said that soldiers moved heavy anti-aircraft guns into ports early Sunday, and stepped up security. "We've got intelligence reports that Nigerian troops are devising methods and strategies to effectively enforce their self-imposed economic blockade and the sea, air and land embargo by capturing the main port," an army spokesman said.
The Kamajor militia launched a three-prong attack against junta forces Saturday and Sunday to dislodge the military from key highways connecting the towns of Golahun Tunkia and Joru in southern Sierra Leone. The militia also besieged Zimmi in a renewed effort to recapture the town. The fighting lasted throughout the night and into Sunday morning. During fighting on Sunday, the Kamajors evacuated their wounded to Fairo, now a major Kamajor base 18 miles west of the Liberian border. Reinforcements of men and a large consignment of ammunition were sent to the front line Sunday morning. The Kamajors reportedly have seized control of a 19-mile stretch of highway linking Joru and Kenema. Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman said Sunday that the militia's objective was to clear the region of junta forces in order to allow Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia to return home. "Our people are now being molested and harassed in Liberia by security agents, and this is a result of utterances against us by President Taylor," he said. In a radio address on September 1, Taylor described the Kamajors as an "illegal armed group" and alleged that fighters of the disbanded Liberian ULIMO-K militia were fighting alongside the Kamajors. "The men fighting for us are those Sierra Leoneans trained over the years by the defunct NPFL (Taylor's National Patrioitic Front of Liberia)," Norman said. The renewed fighting comes days after Kapra hunters from northern Sierra Leone joined ranks with the Kamajors after graduating from a training camp in the southwest.
6 September: The ECOMOG force sent reinforcements to Freetown from Liberia on Saturday.
5 September: Thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Freetown Friday in protest against the shelling of the capital by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. More than 6,000 youths, chanting slogans against ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Nigerian leader Sani Abacha, staged the march in response to a call Thursday by the People's Revolutionary Bureau. In a funeral ceremony for at least 21 of the dead at the national stadium Thursday, AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma declared Friday as a national holiday so that people could attend the funerals of victims. He also announced a week of mourning. He called the dead "victims of a provocation by the Nigerians" and warned that if the aggression did not stop, "the AFRC will have no alternative but to attack the Nigerians." The coffins of 21 of the victims were displayed in front of U.N. headquarters in central Freetown before being taken to the National stadium, where Koroma made his speech. The procession then continued on to a cemetery at the east end of Freetown for burial. The ceremony was attended by all AFRC Supreme Council members.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu issued "a last warning" to ships and aircraft not to violate the embargo against Sierra Leone. "Immediately following this warning we will go into military action to enforce the embargo," Malu said in a signed statement released in Monrovia. He said the warning was necessary because of violations of the embargo. "This final warning has become necessary in view of the continuous attempt by some unscrupulous shippers to violate the ECOWAS embargo in total disregard for the heads of state of the sub-region," the statement said. "Henceforth, any ship or aircraft seen violating the ECOWAS economic embargo shall be doing so at their own risk as they will be attacked by the ECOMOG force." Malu said enforcement of the blockade "would exempt vessels bringing goods meant for humanitarian purposes," provided they were inspected by ECOMOG forces. ECOMOG sources said the force is preparing to use fighter jets to attack ships violating the embargo after several ships had evaded the blockade.
Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah warned Friday that Liberia will not allow its territory to be used "to exacerbate the already painful situation in Sierra Leone." The statement followed Liberian President Charles Taylor's claim Sunday that elements of the former ULIMO-K faction were fighting alongside the Kamajor militia in Sierra Leone. Mulbah said the government of Liberia supports ECOMOG's efforts at restoring the legitimate government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
A Greek-Cypriot ship carrying rice, the Proteus, docked in Freetown Friday, three days after if first arrived in Sierra Leonean waters. Nigerian ECOMOG forces fired artillery shells into the water Tuesday to prevent the ship from reaching the harbour. The Proteus remained anchored at sea when its captain refused to put the vessel at risk.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu said on Friday that some of the deaths in Freetown Friday were caused by gunfire from junta soldiers. "We know that the bodies of some of the dead were riddled with bullets, whereas our troops were nowhere within rifle range," he said. Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, speaking over the clandestine 98.4 radio station, echoed the Nigerian charges, saying that the ship was carrying arms and ammunition. An AFRC spokesman said the vessel was carrying rice. There have been a number of reports that at least some of artillery shells that fell on the city, including one that exploded at a market, were fired from artillery placements on the Fourah Bay College campus atop Mount Aureol, or from Wilberforce Barracks.
ECOMOG Commander Major-General Victor Malu Friday advised all foreigners to leave Sierra Leone immediately, saying that the embargo imposed on the country could be followed up by a military operation.
Patricia Kabbah, wife of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, will make a goodwill tour of the United States starting September 6. The tour will raise money for refugees and victims of the coup, and raise awareness of the situation in Sierra Leone. The tour will take her to 7 cities in two weeks, including New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, New Haven, Atlanta, and Chicago.
UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart was turned back at the Guinea border Friday by a Guinean immigration officer, who cited his diplomatic passport as reason to deny him entrance into the country. The immigration officer refused Dr. Karefa-Smart's request to speak to a higher official. Dr. Karefa-Smart was travelling to New York as a private citizen on a prepaid air ticket purchased by a family member. He was to have left Friday on Sabena Airlines.
African health ministers meeting in South Africa ended their annual meeting Friday by adopting a resolution calling for peace in Sierra Leone and Congo. They appealed to the parties to resolve their differences peacefully and end the loss of life. The ministers urged the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa, Ebrahim Samba, to help the affected countries prevent epidemics and other health problems arising from conflicts. The resolution was introduced by Nigeria and was co-sponsored by Cape Verde, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Sao Tome E Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, and Tanzania.
4 September: Heavy fighting broke out in Freetown Thursday between Nigerian ECOMOG troops stationed at Lungi and soldiers loyal to the AFRC-led junta. Artillery fire was reported at about 7:30 a.m. when Nigerian troops fired on two container ships which had evaded an ECOWAS-imposed blockade, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent them from docking in Freetown. Some of the shells, which were fired across the estuary toward the city, fell in residential areas. The AFRC Secretariat, in a press release issued Wednesday, said that the Nigerians first fired artillery shells at about 6:30 Tuesday evening, striking the south part of Aberdeen and killing several persons. The statement said the Nigerians had resumed firing, damaging boats and fishing trawlers and causing loss of life. An AFRC spokesman Thursday accused the Nigerians of "continuous bombarding for the past 40 hours," beginning Wednesday night. "Three shells landed yesterday, one at 11:30, one at 11:45 and one at 7:30 this morning," he said. Hospital authorities reported that at least 18 civilians were killed and 19 wounded. The AFRC has put the number of deaths at around 50. Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo acknowledged that shells may have fallen on Freetown. "Our target is the junta, it is not civilians...If we come under fire from the junta we have to defend ourselves, we cannot just sit back idle," he said. Ugbo accused the junta of declaring "total war" against the ECOMOG troops. "As a result of the meeting held by Major Johnny Paul Koroma with his cohorts and military commanders (Wednesday), a total war has been declared against ECOMOG and innocent citizens," he said. Ugbo said there had been "lots of civilian casualties" reported as of noon Thursday. "There are no casualties on the ECOMOG side from the attack," he added. Following the shelling, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets to protest the attack. Demonstraters also gathered outside the deserted Nigerian embassy, waving banners and singing songs in support of the junta.
Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo Thursday accused the Sierra Leone military of attacking ECOMOG positions with land mines. "Just yesterday many innocent women and children, hawkers, and ECOMOG troops on patrol of their areas became landmine casualties," Ugbo said in Lagos. Ugbo accused AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma of "laying of landmines around and particularly on the passage routes of the ECOMOG troops in Lungi to Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and other important towns in the hinterland." ECOMOG sources in Liberia said that 11 of their soldiers were killed and 3 injured on Wednesday when their truck struck a land mine on farm land near Lungi Airport while delivering food to the troops. Ugbo described the AFRC's actions as "unprofessional military recklessness" and said that this "would not deter ECOMOG from attaining its mandate."
3 September: Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo has accused the Sierra Leone junta of planning an attack on ECOMOG troops. "We have clear evidence that this attack will be launched within the next 24 hours," Ugbo said at a press conference in Monrovia, Liberia. ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu, speaking at the same press conference, advised Nigerians living in Sierra Leone to leave. "Total economic blockade will result in cries and hues. Those who have families there should advise their relations to return home," Malu said. Earlier, a statement from the Nigerian Defence Headquarters Wednesday accused Sierra Leone's military government of preparing to launch an offensive against ECOMOG troops. "The head of (the) military junta in Sierra Leone, Major Johnny Paul Koroma, is today meeting with his formation and unit commanders to work out strategies to launch an offensive attack," the statement said. "The decision by the junta to attack ECOMOG troops is a violation of the summit resolution." Malu said ECOMOG would retaliate if attacked. "My men will return fire for fire if the lives of my men are threatened," he said.
Soldiers and their RUF allies drove the Kamajor militia out of Zimmi over the weekend, Army Spokesman Major John Milton said Wednesday. Milton said the Kamajors attacked Zimmi on Sunday, and were driven back in a battle that lasted all day. He said 35 Kamajors and 2 soldiers were killed. Independent sources said both sides had suffered casualties. They confirmed that the town was under the control of the army on Tuesday. Milton said the Kamajors had captured and were holding the Mano River Bridge after Nigerian forces inside Liberia shelled army positions.
SLBS (state radio) Tuesday reported that AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma met with the Guinean ambassador to Sierra Leone at State House on Tuesday. Koroma said that his government is counting on the cooperation of Guinean President Lansana Conte in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. Koroma stressed that the AFRC remains open to a negotiated settlement, and looks to President Conte to pave the way for a resumption of talks.
Nigerian ECOMOG troops stationed at Lungi fired artillery shells into the water on Tuesday to prevent a Greek-Cypriot ship carrying rice from docking in Freetown. SLBS (state radio) quoted AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma Wednesday as saying that "the shells hit parts of the Mammy Yoko Hotel and destroyed it, and at the same time instilled fear and panic among the civilian population of the area."
The United Nations Security Council agreed on Wednesday to hold a ministerial-level meeting on September 25 to take up African issues, including the crisis in Sierra Leone. Council President Bill Richardson said the purpose of the special meeting would be to stimulate new thinking and to make a positive statement on Africa. "Africa takes up 65 percent of the council's actions. We want to focus on conflict resolution, on development...We hope to circulate a draft very soon on this issue in the days ahead," he said. "We think this should be the month of Africa in the United Nations, particularly in the Security Council," Richardson added. "Our goal is to focus international attention on Africa, to develop a more coherent approach to both the conflicts and the long-term needs of the continent. In addition to the statements by council members and the Secretary-General, we would expect to issue a statement calling for a special, comprehensive report by the Secretary-General on the situation in Africa. This report would focus on the sources of conflict in Africa, how to resolve conflict in Africa and how to build a long-term peace following the resolution of conflicts in the continent." Richardson, who is Security Council President for the month of September, said he would consult with the OAU and African group of states at the United Nations.
A BBC reporter in Bo was detained by the military in Bo Tuesday after reporting that members of the Kamajor militia had set up a road block across the main highway linking Bo and Makeni, where they had killed several people. "At about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, I was informed by a colleague that the Secretary of State, Major Augustine Kamara, would like to see me," Prince Brimah told the BBC. "At about 5:45 I arrived at this residence and was ushered in by a security officer. Almost immediately, one of Kamara's assistants started abusing me and criticizing my report about the trouble on the Bo-Makeni highway." The soldiers disputed Brimah's description of the road as a "highway" because it is not tarred, and also disputed that the road was blocked by the Kamajors. "I told them that I had not reported that it was permanently blocked, but merely that the Kamajors had mounted a checkpoint on the road to stop passing vehicles," Brimah said. "Some junior officers in the vicinity cried out that I should be detained and tried." Brimah said the Secretary of State intervened, and ordered Brimah to be taken away to the police station. "On arrival at the police station, I was taken to the CID and locked up in a cell full of feces. After four hours, I was taken out of the cell and back to the Secretary of State's residence. I was then released." Brimah said he had sought medical treatment on Wednesday, as he was injured in the shoulder by the butt of a soldier's gun while being put in the vehicle to be taken to the police station.
2 September: Sierra Leone's military rulers have asked that flags be flown at half-staff nationwide as a tribute to Princess Diana. SLBS (state radio) announced that flags should remain at half-mast until Saturday, when Princess Diana will be buried. Flags on official buildings flew at half-mast on Tuesday.
Ministers of the AFRC-led junta have not been invited to annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, IMF sources disclosed Tuesday. "The Sierra Leone authorities were informed that they will not be able to attend the annual meetings in Hong Kong unless the chairman of the board of governors decides otherwise," said one source.
Members of the Kamajor militia and their Kapra allies Monday beheaded four persons they suspected of being soldiers or AFRC sympathisers. The four were travelling to Makeni in a commercial vehicle when it was stopped at a Kamajor checkpoint at Gumahun, 25 miles from Bo. After a search of the vehicle by the Kamajors, the driver was identified as a retired soldier and arrested. Two other men in military t-shirts were also apprehended, along with the 27-year old girlfriend of one of the men. All four were summarily executed and their vehicle impounded. The other passengers in the vehicle were allowed to continue their journey to Makeni. The military brigade commander in Bo, Lieutenant Colonel Boisey Palmer, admitted that the Kamajors had occupied the highway, but said his troops would soon flush them out. This is the second time the Kamajors have occupied the road since the current conflict between the militia and the army began.
1 September: Liberian President Charles Taylor charged Sunday night that elements of the disbanded ULIMO-K rebel group loyal to Alhaji Kromah are fighting alongside the Kamajor militia in Sierra Leone. "We see it as a covert attempt to re-arm and destabilise the government of Liberia and put our people into more discord," Taylor said in an address to the nation. "The situation in Sierra Leone threatens the stability of our fledgling democracy. Elements of the former ULIMO-K faction are involved in military activities with an illegal armed group known as the Kamajors in Sierra Leone," he added. Refugees fleeing Sierra Leone's eastern province reported over the weekend that Liberians from nearly all the former factions, including Taylor's disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia, were fighting in Sierra Leone. Kromah said Saturday he was unaware of his former militia's activities in Sierra Leone. "ULIMO-K doesn't exist any longer. But if individual former ULIMO-K fighters are doing things like that in Sierra Leone then I'm ignorant of it," he said. Kromah said he would contact AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and try to mediate the standoff in Freetown.
ECOMOG commander Major-General Victor Malu said he believes enforcment of the embargo against Sierra Leone will suffice to bring down Sierra Leone's military government. "We are satisfied with the decision of the summit and we are going to carry out the mandate of enforcing the sanctions and ensuring peace in Sierra Leone very professionally," Malu said. The embargo stipulates that any traffic to Sierra Leone must be approved by ECOMOG. Malu dismissed suggestions that the embargo had already proven ineffective, with food and fuel being supplied by a South African company. "ECOMOG needed the mandate and now that we have got it, the world would see the difference," he said. The sanctions are due for review after one month, and Malu said that the AFRC-led junta would "sing a different tune before the review...We did it before in Liberia and the results are there for people to see." Malu said that ECOMOG troops have been deployed to seal Liberia's border with Sierra Leone. "Once the Guinean border is also secured, ECOMOG should be able to mount round the clock surveillance across the sea," Malu said. He went on to warn ships to steer clear of Sierra Leone in their own interest. The blockade was imposed at the ECOWAS summit in Abuja, Nigeria, which was attended by 12 of 16 West African leaders. Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah represented Sierra Leone.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma has expressed condolences to the United Kingdom on the death of Princess Diana, SLBS (state radio) reported Monday. The message of sympathy described the princess as "the embodiment of virtues which concern so many ordinary human creatures." It said the people of Sierra Leone would remember Princess Diana for her compassion, as well as for her stance against the use of land mines.