The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

September 1998
 

30 September: The ECOMOG force will need at least 2,000 more soldiers to put an end to the Sierra Leone conflict, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jimoh Okunlola said on Tuesday. "Ivory Coast, Gambia and Mali have promised their support," he said. "We need at least 2,000 men, real fighters, as well as logistical support...Today we control 90 percent of the country. Pockets of resistance remain especially in the Kabala and Kono and Kailahun areas." Okunlola said ECOMOG had encountered difficulties because of insufficient numbers, unfamiliarity with the terrain, the rainy season, the alleged involvement of Liberian mercenaries, and the dense forests which provide cover for the rebels. "We don't have enough troops to cover the entire territory," he said. "The more we kill the more of them there seem to be. We have information that Liberians and Sierra Leoneans (refugees) are being recruited from across the border," he added. "They give them 125 dollars to join the rebels." There are believed to be about 5,000 ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone, a number which ECOMOG has declined to confirm "for security reasons."

29 September:  Kamajor militiamen say they killed some 60 RUF fighters in eight hours of fighting at ?Tikongo Village in Kenema District on Monday. Among the dead was said to be RUF battalion commander Lieutenant-Colonel George Adams. Kamajor sources also claimed to have captured a large cache of arms and ammunition. According to a report filed by BBC correspondent Prince Brima, the fighting  began early Monday morning when RUF rebels attempted to recapture the area. According to Kamajor Director of Operations Musa Junisa, RUF troops led by Adams were caught unawares as they attacked the town. Adams was said to have been killed as he gave his men instructions to burn down the houses. The RUF troops fled when their commander was killed, Junisa said, but most drowned in the ?Laguahun River as they attempted to escape. Junisa displayed a new testament Bible and a letter of appointment to the rank of lieutenant-colonel which, he said, were found in George Adams' pocket. Adams, a sergeant at the time of the coup, was a member of the AFRC Supreme Council and had served as Public Liaison Officer for the junta. A captured 24-year old RUF staff sergeant being held at Civil Defence Forces headquarters in Kenema told interviewers that AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma was at the RUF base in Buedu, where he is helping the rebels supervise their ongoing battles.

22 RUF fighters died Sunday when their boat overturned on the Pampana River and they were eaten by crocodiles, according to Freetown press accounts Tuesday which were quoted by the Agence France-Presse (AFP). Fisherman Abu Turay said he saw the boat carrying RUF fighters overturn in the crocodile-infested river. A gold miner reported seeing human heads and limbs floating past in the area near Lake Sonfon. Local authorities confirmed that the bodies had been recovered and buried.

ECOMOG fighter planes reportedly attacked and destroyed six RUF bases in Kailahun District over the weekend,  BBC correspondent Prince Brima reported on Tuesday.

U.S. President Bill Clinton has sent a 30-member military team to prepare for a possible evacuation of U.S. citizens from Monrovia, should the situation there deteriorate. The team is split between Freetown and a U.S. Navy patrol boat, the USS Chinook, which is operating in the waters off Monrovia. The situation in Monrovia continues to be uncertain and could deteriorate," Clinton wrote to Congressional leaders on Tuesday. "Although ECOMOG forces remain in the vicinity of the Embassy compound, their numbers have been reduced. Our Embassy believes that security could deteriorate rapidly during President Taylor's absence for an official visit to France...The U.S. military personnel are prepared, if needed, to augment the embassy's security unit in Monrovia and to conduct an evacuation of American citizens, if required." Clinton said there are 29 diplomatic staff at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, and 230 private U.S. citizens living in the country.

Liberian President Charles Taylor told the French government Tuesday that his government abstained from "any kind of interference in the affairs of its neighbouring states." The statement was made in response French Minister for Cooperation, Charles Josselin, who told Taylor that France appreciated Liberia's commitment to the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone. "The situation in Sierra Leone demands that no country in the region should spare their efforts, with the assistance of the international community, to normalise and Liberia, in that respect, is at the forefront," Josselin said. Taylor responded: "I hope Sierra Leone will agree to sit down at the negotiation table and will not waste its efforts and its vital forces in the quest for a military victory which would be illusory."

Sierra Leone will meet Morocco at Casablanca on October 3 in a first-round qualifying match for the Africa Nations Cup. Group 1: Cameroon vs. Ghana, Mozambique vs. Eritrea. Group 2: Morocco vs. Sierra Leone, Togo vs. Guinea. Group 3: Mali vs. Ivory Coast, Namibia vs. Congo. Group 4: Gabon vs. Mauritius, South Africa vs. Angola. Group 5: Burkina Faso vs. Nigeria. (The match of Burundi vs. Senegal has been postponed to December 13.) Group 6: Kenya vs. Madagascar, Zambia vs. Democratic Republic of Congo. Group 7: Tunisia vs. Liberia, Uganda vs. Algeria.

Neneh Kanu, the wife of Sierra Leone's ambassador to Liberia, has distributed food, medicines, and clothing to refugees at the Sinje refugee camp in Grand Cape Mount County, Liberian Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Speaking during the distribution over the weekend, Kanu said her donation was inspired by her concern for the refugees. Humanitarian officials have said many children and pregnant women at the camp were malnourished and without clothing. The head of the refugees at Sinje Camp, Matthew Fabai, appealed for more assistance because of the steady influx of refugees from other camps. Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) Regional Supervisor James Subah said there is an average of ten arrivals daily into the Sinje Camp.

Erawest Inc, a multinational provider of communications and internet services, announced Tuesday that it had signed a binding letter of intent to acquire United Africa Telecom (UAT). United Africa Telecom provides local, long distance, and wireless telephone services to countries such as Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

28 September: About 287 AFRC/RUF fighters were killed and an unspecified number wounded when junta forces attempted to retake Kabala on September 18, BBC correspondent Sylvester Rogers reported on Monday. Earlier reports by fleeing residents had spoken of an attack on the town by about 200 rebels, leaving some 20 casualties. "Four RUF rebels, including their wizard, were captured live in the attack," Rogers said. The ECOMOG High Command in Makeni acknowledged losing two lieutenants and a private from the former Sierra Leone Army. Four "madmen" were also reported killed in the crossfire. 98 houses were reported "completely burned down" in the Friday attack. An eyewitness reported that about eight additional rebel corpses had been found along with their rifles on a farm about three miles from Kabala.

Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Transport Mohamed Bassiru Daramy said over the weekend that his ministry had ordered the joint supervision team overseeing the Sierra Leone State Lottery "to work out modalities aimed at reclaiming Le 78 million accrued by some members of staff of the company from the sales of tickets before and after the May 25th takeover." The government seized control of the lottery on September 16 following an investigation by the National Policy Advisory Committee, which alleged "mismanagement and misappropriation of funds" by the parastatal's management.

Liberian ethnic Krahn leader Roosevelt Johnson and 26 other Liberians including two of his sons, aides, and close associates were reportedly flown to Nigeria on Saturday. Conflicting accounts had said that Johnson had been taken to Ghana, and that most of his followers had remained in Freetown. Witnesses said the group had left Lungi Airport aboard a small Nigerian military aircraft. "Roosevelt Johnson was wounded in the leg. He was not walking properly and had to be helped to board the plane at Lungi International Airport," one witness said. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai said the government did not want to run the security risk of harbouring Johnson, citing "the present volatile relations between the governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia."

27 September: At least 50 Kapra militiamen were killed near Kalangba Thursday after they opened fire on ECOMOG troops in error, Kapra sources said Sunday. The incident happened after the militiamen were expelled from the town by AFRC/RUF rebels. The Kapras encountered ECOMOG troops moving toward Kalangba and opened fire on them, mistaking them for rebels. The ECOMOG soldiers returned fire, killing at least 50 Kapras in the subsequent fighting. An ECOMOG source confirmed the incident, describing it as "unfortunate." He was unable to say how many people had been killed in the exchange of fire.

ECOMOG troops and Kamajor militiamen reportedly clashed at Kenema on Friday. Kenema residents told Reuters that several fighters on both sides were killed in the incident. The reason for the shooting was unclear. ECOMOG has not confirmed the incident, but senior government officials were said to be holding talks with ECOMOG and Kamajor leaders in Kenema on Sunday in order to prevent further hostilities.

Sierra Leonean soccer international Mohamed Kallon scored twice on Sunday to lift his newly-promoted Cagliari team over Sampdoria 5-0 in the Italian league's first division.

26 September: A new law published in an official journal this week means that RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh could face trial without a lawyer. The law, which was introduced under emergency provisions published in March which gives President Kabbah powers to enact laws, states that "a trial shall not be invalidated or adjourned merely because of the absence of a legal practitioner representing that person," adding that the defendant has the right to represent himself. Judicial officials in Freetown said that if RUF leader Sankoh has not secured defence counsel by Thursday, the High Court will proceed with his case. Up to now, no lawyer has agreed to take his case.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Director of Operations for Central, East and West Africa Albert-Alain Peters, said Saturday that about 500,000 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in Guinea and Liberia. At the end of a two-day visit to Freetown, Peters spoke of the "desperate conditions" of newly-arriving refugees, some of whom were weak and traumatised after evading rebels in the bush. He said that the UNHCR had repatriated some 10,000 refugees in a combined air and sea operation. "They were mostly professionals who were essential to kickstart the Sierra Leone economy and very shortly we will bring out some 6,000 others," he said. He added that the refugees would be returned to areas "considered safe and we are now working out modalities to collect data on well-protected areas in the country." All returnees were being "thoroughly screened," Peters said, "because we don't want to be accused of sending rebels among the group." According to Peters, a minimum of $500 million is needed for the next phase of the UNHCR repatriation programme. The UNHCR's head of regional operations in West Africa, Abou Moussa, said the bulk of the Sierra Leonean refugees, most from rural areas, remained in exile. "Should the security situation improve in the coming months, we shall bring them back home in safety and dignity," he said.

Liberian ethnic Krahn leader Roosevelt Johnson and 27 of his supporters, including his two sons and his aides, were flown by helicopter to an ECOMOG base in Freetown Friday. The move ended a weeklong stand-off at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia where Johnson had taken refuge following clashes between his followers and President Charles Taylor's Special Security Service units on Saturday. Johnson was flown to another country in the sub-region on Saturday, with conflicting reports putting him in Nigeria or Ghana. Most of those accompanying him have reportedly remained in Freetown. President Taylor accused his rival of treason, murder, rape, and kidnapping, and the Liberian government has promised that Johnson would be tried in absentia. Taylor spokesman Reginald Goodridge that Johnson would remain in confinement, and would be returned to Liberia should he be found guilty. Taylor has defended his actions against Johnson's supporters, saying Johnson had set up his own neighborhood mini-state on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia, which was an ethnic Krahn stronghold during Liberia's civil war. Diplomats and relief workers have estimated as many as 350 Krahn were killed in the action and in related clashes, a number disputed by the Liberian government. Liberian Lieutenant-General Prince Johnson said Saturday that at least 38 soldiers who fought alongside Roosevelt Johnson's supporters against government forces would face court martial.

Liberian President Charles Taylor announced at a press conference Saturday the arrest of several Liberians allegedly trained at Camp Zimmi in Sierra Leone to destablise his government. He said they would soon be put on display. Taylor said several others were still being trained at the camp, and that he was fully aware of their activities. Taylor said the government of Sierra Leone had no knowledge of the training operation, and he commended President Kabbah for the level of assistance he has provided in ensuring that peace and stability prevail in the sub-region.

25 September: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Nigeria, and from the UNHCR office in Geneva are currently meeting in Conakry to review plans for the repatriation of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees between now and next year. The representatives will assess progress made in the voluntary repatriation programme for Liberian refugees, and will discuss assistance to Sierra Leonean refugees. The UNHCR estimates that there are between 350,000 and 400,000 Sierra Leonean and 90,000 Liberian refugees currently living in Guinea. Their repatriation has been hampered by the ongoing instability in Sierra Leone. It was reported that 80,000 Liberians have returned home under a voluntary repatriation programme that was begun last December.

The United States, Britain, and Germany have provided financial assistance to the ECOMOG force to help it defeat AFRC/RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, ECOMOG Information Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Jimoh Okunlola said Friday. He said the U.S. had donated $3.9 million, while Britain had offered £2 million ($3.4 million) for logistical support. Germany will provide additional logistical support, Okunlola said. U.S. Charge d'Affaires Cheryl Martin told ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu that "America is already in contact with other donor countries for more support to ECOMOG." Ahmadu has also been in contact with several diplomats, including Chinese Charge d'Affaires Lin Qingyun and the Charge d'Affaires at the Ghanaian High Commission, Susan Annobil.

The Organisation of African Unity on Friday contributed $410,000 in financial aid to six countries affected by acute problems of refugees, displaced persons, and returnees. The six countries include Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Republic of Congo. The OAU's Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Daniel Antonio, said Africa should find solutions to its problems and be in the forefront in assisting the needy.

Liberian faction leader Roosevelt Johnson was flown to Freetown on Friday, ending a weeklong stand-off at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. "Roosevelt Johnson and his party were flown from the embassy compound in Monrovia just a few short hours ago on two helicopters," U.S. State Department Spokesman James Rubin said Friday. "The Johnson party will transit Sierra Leone to a third country in West Africa. My understanding is that Johnson will remain in another country pending a trial in absentia by the government of Liberia." Various news services reported that Johnson's destination was Nigeria, although Reuters quoted an ECOMOG commander in Freetown who claimed Johnson would be flown to Ghana on Saturday. "Johnson will leave under ECOMOG protection this afternoon by Ghana Airways for Accra," he said. "The Ghana government has agreed to grant him asylum whilst the United States and the government of Liberia finally sort out his fate."

A large diamond found by a disabled youth in Kono District earlier this month has proven to be "nothing but a useless stone" and has been returned to its owner after undergoing testing in a government laboratory, according to a Ministry of Mineral Resources spokesman. An AFP report on September 18 named the wheelchair-bound youth as Mohamed Kanu; on Friday, the BBC's Network Africa programme identified him as Aiah "Chairman" Koroma.

24 September: Thousands of civilians have fled fighting in Kailahun District following the beginning an offensive against AFRC/RUF rebels, relief workers said on Thursday. SLBS (state radio) reported that ECOMOG had launched air strikes against rebel positions. Kamajor commanders said Liberian fighters were crossing the border to fight alongside the rebels. "More than 5,000 civilians have fled their towns and villages to Kenema this week as rebels continue to battle ECOMOG and Kamajor troops advancing into the district," an international aid worker said. "About 3,000 of these displaced people have now taken over and are sheltering in two secondary schools on the outskirts of Kenema." Other relief workers said as many as 10,000 civilians had fled their homes since the offensive began over the weekend.

ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu said Thursday there had been "a massive buildup" of rebels along the Sierra Leone-Liberia border. "We are watching the situation (particularly at the Mano bridge), but there should not be too much of an alarm over this," Ahmadu said. He added that the border between the two countries remained open. Ahmadu said the rebels had intensified their attacks against ECOMOG positions in the past week, particularly in Kabala and Kono. Rebel forces attacked Kabala on September 18, he said, adding "They were repelled and we killed 48 of them and captured four." On September 21, he said, "rebels attacked our positions at Koidu and we counter-attacked, killing 13 of them and wounding 15."

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh appeared in court for a second time Thursday with the problem of securing legal counsel still unresolved. Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said he would be representing the state, but that no attorney had been found who was willing to defend Sankoh. When the judge asked Sankoh why he had not found a lawyer, Sankoh replied: "I don’t think I should stand before this court facing trial. I am thinking of peace. You, the judge, and others are victims of the activities of Foday Sankoh. I came out of the bush in 1996 for peace, and since then I have been talking about peace." Berewa said that, speaking as Attorney-General, he insisted that Sankoh be tried for crimes against the state and the people of Sierra Leone. He said that a letter to the Sierra Leone Bar Association asking them to rise to the occasion and defend Sankoh had gone unanswered. Sankoh asked for a two week adjournment for consultation and advice, but the judge granted an adjournment of only week with the expectation that Sankoh would have secured legal representation by then.

The Tejan-Cole Committee of Investigation has recommended the release of 26 persons detained on suspicion of having committed "treason and state offences" by collaborating with the former AFRC military junta. 10 detainees were recommended for release because of lack of evidence against them: Dr. Jengo Stevens, medical practitioner and son of the late President Siaka Stevens; Frederick Max Carew, barrister-at-law and former Justice Minister; Dominic Dixon, scholar; Salifu Bangura; Sannah Johnsen Mara, civil servant; Manso Edward Samura, former permanent secretary and chief of protocol for the presidency; Donald Macauley, farmer; Ahmed Muctaru Swaray, civil servant; Mohamed Kemoh Fadika, former Ambassador to Egypt; and Santigie Samura, trader. The Committee reported insufficient evidence against an additional 14 detainees: Jusu Sanoh Gottor, businessman and Major-General; John Alfred Olunfeh Cole, engineer and businessman; Mohamed Bah ("Uncle Bah"), businessman; Sorie Kamara, accountant; Alhaji Ibrahim Sesay, Imam; Elias Zachariah, businessman; Alpha James Sesay, seafarer; Marouf Kaloko, Arabic teacher; Mohamed Lamin Dumbuya, auctioneer; Alfred Michael Bob Conteh, protocol officer, SLPA; Victor Emeric Olayumi Spaine, airline executive; Mohamed Wurie Jalloh, pharmacist; Alhaji Ibrahim Conteh, Arabic teacher; and Tamba Edward Juana, civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee also recommended the release of Raymond Hebron who, it said, was unlawfully detained by the former junta, and the release on bail of Inez Betty Toma-Elias pending further investigation. The Committee’s report also noted five persons against whom it found "overwhelming evidence" of offences, and one who had been convicted on other charges.

Some 30,000 displaced persons at Masingbi are facing starvation, Health Ministry officials said after a fact-finding visit to the area. Between March through May, 10 to 12 residents of the camp died each day from starvation and disease. Children under five were the worst hit group at Masingbi, officials said. Since June, when the humanitarian organisation CARE began helping the refugees, the death rate has decreased but still remains high. More than 200 deaths were recorded in July, 140 in August, and 70 since the beginning of September -- most of them from starvation. "Unfortunately, we cannot take care of everything. So we eagerly look forward to other NGOs coming in to help us wage a fierce war against death at the camp," a CARE worker said. Malaria, worms, skin infections, and diarrhea and also said to be common. "Although the death rate is no longer alarming, the truth remains that people still continue to die," camp director Sahr Komba said. Health workers complained that the supply of drugs was insufficient, and that camp residents are often forced to barter drugs for food. Young men in the camp cited a need for improved security situation following an upsurge of rebel attacks in the north. SLBS (state radio) announced Wednesday that the Ministry of Health was sending a large shipment of medicines to Masingbi.

Liberia and the United States struck a deal Thursday to allow ethnic Krahn leader Roosevelt Johnson to leave Liberia for Sierra Leone. The agreement would end a six day stand-off at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, where Johnson sought refuge after clashes with President Charles Taylor's Special Security Service units on Saturday. Deputy Minister of State for Public Affairs Reginald Goodridge said the Liberian government would not interfere with U.S. government flying Johnson out of the country. U.S. Charge d'Affaires John Bowman said the embassy had planned to fly Johnson, his two pre-teenage sons, and two aides out of Monrovia by helicopter before dusk on Thursday, but that the flight had been delayed for logistical reasons. "It looks like it may now happen tomorrow," he said. Goodridge said the Liberian government would charge Johnson with rape, murder, kidnapping, and treason, whether or not he remained in the country. "The Americans have agreed to make him available for trial if the Liberian government demand it," he said. Diplomats and relief workers say the death toll from the government's operation against Johnson and the resulting clashes could run into hundreds. Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea disputed the estimates, saying the number of dead could not have exceeded 50 or 60.

Residents reaching Freetown from Kabala said about 200 rebels attacked the town on Friday, setting fire to at least 20 homes. They put the death toll in fighting with government forces and ECOMOG troops at more than 20, with casualties on both sides.

23 September: Nigerian leader General Abdulsalam Abubakar said Wednesday that he stands behind the decision to keep ECOMOG troops in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in order to quell civil unrest in the two countries. Following a meeting with President Bill Clinton, Abubakar said he will not be a candidate in Nigeria's presidential elections, scheduled to take place in February. "Certainly not. I don't belong to any political party," he told reporters.

Sierra Leone's soccer team will face off against Gabon in the preliminary round of seventh All Africa Games to be held next June, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced at its secretariat in Cairo.

22 September: AFRC/RUF rebels attacked Kabala on Friday, setting the town on fire and killing about 20 civilians, missionary sources said on Tuesday. Fighting continued until Saturday morning when the rebels were repelled, one missionary said.

ECOMOG forces attacked AFRC/RUF rebels at Joru on Saturday, killing 38 of them in heavy fighting, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Jimoh Okunlola, ECOMOG's chief information officer. "No one died from our side although some of our men were wounded," Okunlola said. He declined to say whether the attack on Joru was the start of a major ECOMOG offensive against rebel forces in Kailahun District.

Civil Defence Forces reportedly captured Niama, Jojoima, and Quiva in Kailahun District over the weekend, according to defence sources. Jojoima, which is one of the main rebel bases, is only 10 miles from Pendembu, the second major rebel stronghold after Kailahun Town.

Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings accused the United Nations Security Council Tuesday of being selective in its peacekeeping efforts in Africa. "In our part of the world we often ask ourselves where the 'prompt and effective' action of the council was when Rwanda was on fire," Rawlings said in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. "Where was the council when Liberia was in turmoil? Was there 'prompt and effective action' when the people of Sierra Leone agonized under the yoke of a brutal dictatorship?"

20 September: The Sierra Leone men's team achieved a 39.79 second finish in the men's 4x100 relay at the Commonwealth Games Sunday, placing sixth behind England (38.20), Canada (38.46), Australia (38.69) , Wales (38.73), and Cameroon (39.29) and ahead of seventh place Mauritius (42.70). Earlier Sunday the team advanced to the finals with a third place in the first semi-final. Sierra Leone finished with a time of 39.80, 24 hundredths of a second behind first place Cameroon (39.56) and second place Australia (39.70). Soalla Bell, competing for Sierra Leone in the shot put, finished 14th.

19 September: A shortage of foreign currency in Freetown is creating difficulties for businesses, banks, and the country's 14 licensed exchange bureaus, and has caused the black market exchange rate of the leone to soar. "If the flow of the dollar and the pound sterling does not improve many of the bureaus may be forced to close down," a senior official at one foreign exchange bureau said. Black market traders were paying Le 1,850 for the dollar at the weekend, up from Le 1,750 at the beginning of the week. "We now sell the dollar for 2,000 leones or even more," a black market currency trader said. Exchange bureaus were buying dollars at Le 1,750 and selling them at Le 1,950. The pound sterling sold on the street for Le 3,400, while exchange bureaus which had any pounds to spare sold them at Le 2,950. Currency traders blamed the currency shortage on a new mining law which prevents foreigners from travelling to mining areas to buy diamonds, and requires all diamond and gold exports to be handled by the government's gold and diamond office. "The disappearance of the dollar and sterling has sent panic into the business community. Importers and traders are storming the black markets for them," one currency trader said. Importers and retailers are also facing difficulties in restocking, which requires hard currency. A senior official at the Central Bank acknowledge that dollars were increasingly scarce there as well. Three months ago the World Bank advanced the Bank of Sierra Leone $3 million, he said, adding "It is fast running out." Senior banking officials have said the squeeze is affecting the main commercial banks' ability to service their foreign exchange accounts. "Since June, we have run out of dollars and sterling and we are still in the same situation now," a senior manager said.

18 September: Thousands of Civil Defence Forces militiamen are reported to be massing in eastern Sierra Leone in preparation for an offensive aimed at dislodging AFRC/RUF rebels from their stronghold in Kailahun District. One Kamajor commander told reporters in Freetown earlier in the week that at least 10,000 Kamajors would join in an attack to be launched before the end of next week. "Then we will attack their remaining bases in parts of Kono district and in the north of the country to finish the war once and for all," he said. A Kenema resident was quoted as saying that hundreds of Kamajors, Tamaboros, and Donsos were arriving in the city every day. Vice President Albert Joe Demby is reported to be with the Kamajors, and he has vowed not return to Freetown until the rebels have been defeated. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai said the government was in a stronger position to defeat the rebels than it was four or five months ago when the Civil Defence Forces were running short of arms and ammunition.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) delivered food Thursday to some 6,000 refugees at Tomandou Camp, 50 miles from Gueckedou, Guinea, after five previous attempts to resupply the site had failed. Six trucks carrying four tons of supplies took 3½ hours to cover the last 33 miles to Tomandou. More were expected to follow on Friday with six weeks worth of supplies. The UNHCR, World Food Programme (WFP), other non-governmental organisations, and several hundred refugees worked together to clear fallen trees and build log bridges over what the UNHCR called "nearly impassable" terrain. "Past convoys had been halted by obstacles including 1.75 meters of water on portions of the trail. Refugees had been eating food shared by local villagers and whatever they could find in the heavily forested area," the UNHCR report said. The UNHCR said it had identified space for half of Tomandou's residents farther from the Guinea-Sierra Leone border, but moving the refugees would be "costly and complex" and plans have been hindered by poor road conditions, lack of larger open areas, and recent heavy rains.

ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu has warned that any aircraft flying over Sierra Leone without proper clearance would be shot down. The statement came following the reported sighting of a mysterious helicopter which landed in various parts of the country. A government news release said the helicopter was suspected of delivering arms to the rebels.

A 282.22 carat diamond discovered in Kono District by a handicapped youth has turned out to be of "very, very poor quality," Mineral Resources Minister Mohamed Deen said on Thursday. Mohamed Kanu discovered the coffee-coloured diamond at Tankoro two weeks ago when he struck the stone with his wheelchair. "The diamond will be subjected to laboratory tests to ascertain its value," Deen said. "Whatever the case, Kanu and his three friends who found the diamond will receive 40 percent of the value as a reward." The find created a sensation in Freetown as a group of local chiefs and businessmen accompanied Kanu and his friends to the capital. Initial media reports indicated the stone weighed 700 carats. "We came to Freetown with high hopes, thinking we would return as millionaires," Kanu said. "I even had detailed plans to travel abroad, to see the world and seek medical treatment for my deformity, but this will not be possible now."

Alpha Kamara, competing for Sierra Leone at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, finished fourth in the first heat of the 200 metre race with a time of 22.02. Alieu Kamara finished fifth in heat five with a time of 21.99.

17 September: A 13-member parliamentary commission is being formed to investigate the accumulation of wealth amassed by army officers in Sierra Leone, government officials said on Thursday. The commission, which will be led by SLPP parliamentarian Luseni Massequoi, will include representatives of all five parties in parliament. A member of the commission said that members of parliament plan to look at the assets acquired by army officers in the form of land, houses, and machinery between April 1992 and February 1998 -- the period beginning with the NPRC military coup through the end of the AFRC military junta. The Agence-France Presse (AFP) quoted observers as saying that the exercise would "lead to the confiscation of all ill-gotten gains acquired through dubious means" by military officers. "The military has not been audited for the past 10 years and therefore there was no accountability," a former accountant-general said.

The government moved Wednesday to seize control of and reorganise the Sierra Leone State Lottery following an investigation by the National Policy Advisory Committee which alleged "mismanagement and misappropriation of funds" on the part of the parastatal. A government press release announced that the Chairman of the Board of the Sierra Leone State Lottery Company, Zainab Bangura, had resigned her position Wednesday. The board and senior management were subsequently removed with immediate effect, with the lottery's operations to be taken over by the Ministry of Finance, Development and Economic Planning until the future management of the lottery is determined. The statement indicated that the lottery might not operate for a week or two while the new structure was being put in place. "The Sierra Leone State Lottery will be restructured in such a way that the government and people of Sierra Leone will reap maximum benefit from its operations," the press release said, adding that a full report would soon be issued and that steps were being taken to recover misappropriated funds from those found to be culpable.

RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie has denied a BBC report quoting witnesses who accused him of amputating the legs of five people who were attempting to flee, including a woman, with a power saw. The incident allegedly took place in a village near the town of Joru, which has been the scene of heavy fighting. "That is completely baseless and false propaganda," Bockarie told the BBC Thursday by satellite telephone. "How can I amputate people while I am in the headquarters and of which I am not in the frontline? I think I'm a commander in my capacity to command my men to go in the field to do exactly what a revolutionary should do. But I'm not expecting such lies in the air that I'm in the front, and they saw me amputating several civilians they never saw." Bockarie denied that any of his men had performed amputations. "On no account our men should do that," he said. "Anyone caught doing so will face court martial." Bockarie also denied reports that his troops had been driven from the town of Duru. "Duru was surrounded by our men and now, this morning, our men successfully overrun Duru township by destroying their armored tanks and capturing a lot of artillery weapons and ammunition from them. We are in firm control of Duru."

ECOMOG troops serving in Liberia fathered some 25,000 children by Liberian women during the country's seven year civil war, according to Teniola Olufemi, coordinator of the local charity Children Project Incorporated. Olufemi said Thursday that the Nigerian contingent, which made up the largest part of the ECOMOG force, fathered about 50% of the children. The rest were fathered by soldiers from Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Most of the fathers had completed their assignments and had left the country without their children, Olufemi said, adding that due to the lack of financial assistance most of the Liberian women were "unable to adequately cater to the welfare of the ECOMOG children." Children Project Incorporated serves as a liaison between the children, their mothers, and their biological fathers. The charity had established contact with some of the fathers "and through our efforts some of these children are now receiving assistance from their fathers once again," Olufemi said.

Bernaddette Amara, competing for Sierra Leone at the Commonwealth Games being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, finished seventh in the fourth heat of the women's 800 metre race Thursday with a time of 2:31.56.

16 September: Guinean ECOMOG troops recaptured the villages of Kanathortor, Kakula, Kathiteneh and Yebaya in Kambia District Monday, missionaries from the area said on Wednesday. About 10 rebels were said to have been killed in the fighting. There were no reported civilian casualties, as most residents had fled into the bush or to Makeni and Kamakwie after RUF rebels attacked and seized the villages on Saturday.

Sierra Leone will be among 15 nations to receive donations from the Nagano Olympic Harmony Fund, which is designed to improve the educational environment for children. A committee led by the Nagano municipal government said the donations will be the first by the fund, which was set up last May. $100,000 will be given to each country for the purchase of desks, textbooks, and other supplies. The other recipients are China, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Senegal, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, El Salvador, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia, and Papua New Guinea.

At the Commonwealth Games being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sierra Leonean Josephus Thomas came in fourth in the fifth heat of the men's 100 metre race on Wednesday with a time of 10.45. Alpha B. Kamara took fourth in the seventh heat with a time of 10.89, and Sanusi Turay finished eighth in the eighth heat with a time of 11.19.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea has denied that the Liberian government has sent soldiers to Sierra Leone. Chea was responding to a BBC report that a cache of  arms bearing the inscription of the Armed Forces of Liberia had been captured in Sierra Leone by ECOMOG troops and the Kamajor militia in a joint offensive against against the rebels. Chea said that many Liberian soldiers had escaped with their arms to Sierra Leone. He asked ECOMOG to turn over any captured rebels claiming to be Liberians.

The European Union called on the Sierra Leone government Wednesday to ensure a fair trial for 38 military officers facing court martial in connection with last year's military coup, and "to establish a channel of appeal from court martial rulings," one diplomat said. Under Sierra Leone's military laws, court martial rulings are not subject to appeal.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Wednesday that 3,307 Sierra Leonean refugees, mostly doctors, civil servants, nurses, and students had been repatriated by to Freetown air from Kissidougou, Guinea, where they had taken refuge following last year's military coup. The first phase of the repatriation began in July and was completed on September 12. According to a UNHCR statement issued in Abidjan, a similar number of refugees is waiting to be airlifted, but their repatriation is being delayed by lack of funds. ''If funds are available, phase two of the airlift operation will begin in the next couple of days,'' said Abou Moussa, head of UNHCR regional operations in West Africa. The UNHCR needs about $250,000 for the second phase of the operation which would return more desperately needed professionals and skilled labourers to Sierra Leone. A sea operation, using the UNHCR-chartered MV Overbeck, is also continuing. So far, the ship has repatriated 1,070 refugees.

15 September: ECOMOG troops and the Kamajor militia have recaptured the four eastern towns of Joru, Mande-Kalema, Tokunbu, and Nyama in a surprise attack, Liberian Star Radio reported on Tuesday. The rebels were reportedly engaged in diamond mining at Nyama when the attack was carried out. A Kamajor commander was quoted as saying that the rebels suffered heavy casualties. 300 civilians held captive by the rebels were reportedly set free. A large cache of arms and ammunition bearing the inscription "Liberia Armed Forces" was said to have been discovered.

Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman has charged all newspaper journalists and publishers of being junta collaborators. Norman made the statement during a speech to a crowd of local leaders, traditional rulers, and residents in Kenema District. According to the Vision newspaper, Norman said that journalists visit rebels in their hideouts and that is why they always know about their plans. "It is reckless of journalists to put out to the reader what the rebels' plans are and not what the government's plans are," Norman said. He added that the rebels were even pumping money into the newspapers. In a front page commentary on Tuesday, the Vision said it hoped Norman's statement was not intended to incite the Kamajors against journalists. 

14 September: More than 100 Liberian refugees were voluntarily repatriated from Sierra Leone Sunday aboard a ship chartered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Guinean-registered MV Overbeck. Some of the refugees said they had been in Sierra Leone for as long as five years, Liberian Star Radio reported. UNHCR and Liberian officials escorted the returnees to a transit center on the Monrovia-Robertsfield Highway, where they are expected to receive limited rations before being sent on to various destinations.

Sierra Leonean refugees in Bomi County, Liberia have appealed for humanitarian assistance, Liberian Star Radio reported Monday. Refugee spokesman Bockarie Fatomah said the nearly 1,000 refugees in Bomi County had received no relief assistance for nearly two years, adding that their situation was now grave and required urgent attention. He said the refugees had made several appeals to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), but that their case had not been addressed.

The Minister of State, East, Dominic Ngombu, has denied a BBC report aired last week that Eastern Region officials had refused to accept surrendered soldiers, according to a government news release issued Monday. "Mr. Ngombu explained that a day after the arrival of the surrendered soldiers in Kenema, the Chiefs, and elders welcomed them and added that once government had recommended them as good, they would also accept them and had no reason to reject them," the statement said. Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe acknowledged problems between the surrendered soldiers and the Kamajors in Kenema on Friday: "(The soldiers) are willing...They are not afraid to work with the Kamajors, but the Kamajors are not comfortable to work with them yet."

13 September: AFRC/RUF rebels killed at least 16 civilians in Saturday raids on the villages of Yebaya, Kakula, and Kathatinah, near the town of Kambia, witnesses said on Sunday. "At least 100 rebels attacked our village yesterday and shot down and macheted at least nine people," resident Kadiatu Samura told Reuters. Residents reportedly fled into the bush or to other towns. Humanitarian sources have expressed concern at the apparent spread of the conflict. One source said Kambia had been regarded as one of the safer parts of Sierra Leone. Following the ousting of the military junta, it was the first district to have its security status reduced to allow the return of United Nations international staff.

ECOMOG Field Commander Major-General Timothy Shelpidi said Saturday that RUF rebels were still firmly entrenched in their stronghold in Kailahun District, and were operating in the north with the support of some members of the local population. "The continued spate of RUF rebel attacks in parts of the north of the country is because some people have been cooperating with the rebels rather than giving the necessary information to ECOMOG," Shelpidi said following a tour of the war front. "ECOMOG cannot move deep into the district since rebels have destroyed highway bridges and have dug trenches on the roads," he said. "We cannot do anything yet about the thousands of civilians trapped in the RUF areas of Kailahun District, but many of them are hidden in the bush."

400 civilians at the overcrowded displaced camp at Masingbi have died from disease and malnutrition over the past six weeks, SLBS (state radio) reported on Saturday. The radio, quoting a local health officer, said 57 people had died from a cholera-like disease which has surfaced in Freetown, Lungi, Kambia, Port Loko, and Makeni, with a total of 1,396 cases having been recorded so far. Relief workers say the numbers do not reflect the true picture, as scores of people are reported to have died from similar symptoms in rebel-held territory. "People fleeing their homes and from the forest behind rebel lines tell us of thousands of people suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea with scores dying from the disease as there are no clinics, drugs or nurses to help them," one international aid worker said. Ministry of Health workers deny that the disease is cholera, but say that samples have been sent to the Ivory Coast for testing. The government has set up a task force of international agencies to address the epidemic. Reuters quoted residents of Freetown and other affected areas of accusing the government of covering up a cholera epidemic. Some Freetown residents also reported unregistered deaths from the illness.

12 September: The Sierra Leone government responded Friday to international appeals to President Kabbah to commute death sentences imposed on 16 civilians convicted of collaboration with the ousted AFRC military junta, saying that "the President has stated that such appeals and representations will in due time be given careful consideration, taking into account the concerns of the people of Sierra Leone." A press release issued by the Office of the President noted that since the appeals process had not been exhausted, pleas for clemency were premature. "It would also be regarded as unconstitutional were the President to intervene in the judicial process at this stage, at a time when one of the arms of government is dealing with the matter," the statement said. The government rejected as "patently mischievous" allegations that five journalists among the condemned had been convicted for practicing their profession, saying they were convicted of having "actively participated in an illegal act" which the court had held to be treason. "While the appeals and representations of friendly governments and organisations will be given careful consideration," the statement continued, "Such consideration is bound to take into account the interests of the people of Sierra Leone and the need to provide a deterrent against the recurrence of the ugly events from which this country has just emerged."

11 September: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh appeared in Freetown Magistrate's Court on Friday, only to have Magistrate Patrick Hamilton refer the case to the High Court for trial. Hamilton released Sankoh, who was then rearrested by a detective inspector and taken to appear before High Court Justice Taju Deen. Deen then upheld two applications from Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa, that full proceedings should begin on September 24, and that Sankoh should be served with a copy of the eight-count indictment against him, to enable him to prepare his defence. Berewa said Sankoh had the right to be represented by the defence lawyer of his choice. Asked what would happen if he could not afford a lawyer or if none would be willing to represent him, Berewa said, "Certainly he will be entitled to all of his constitutional rights, even though he has deprived the people of Sierra Leone of their own constitutional rights."

Rebels attacked the two towns in Bombali and Koinadugu Districts in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to a BBC report aired on Friday. At about 1:30 a.m., rebel fighters opened fire on the sleeping residents of Fadugu. The whole town was set ablaze, and unconfirmed reports say men, women, and children, including the paramount chief, were burned alive. The number of ECOMOG troops stationed at Fadugu was minimal, the report said, and were thus not in any position to react. AFRC/RUF fighters also attacked the town of Kabere at about 2:00 a.m., forcing residents to flee for their lives. Casualty figures were not immediately available. Traffic along the Makeni-Kabala highway was at a standstill Thursday due to a rebel attack. According to reports, they beheaded five civilians who refused to cart away looted sheep, goats, chickens, and cows," the report said, adding that truckloads of soldiers and Civil Defence Forces were seen headed towards the area on Friday afternoon.

Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe acknowledged Friday that the government had encountered problems in trying to integrate the Civil Defence Forces militias and soldiers of the former Sierra Leone Army. "I had gone to address them the day before yesterday," Khobe told the BBC. "I'm just from Mile 91 and Bo where I addressed them. Yes, they have a right to say they don't want the SLA because they have fought on different sides before, and definitely it is not possible overnight. But then in life sometimes we have to swallow a bitter pill to get things going, and so gradually we will work together." Khobe said that everyone could not be expected to agree overnight, but that soldiers were fighting alongside the militias in the north and the east. "It is only the area of the south that they have agreed in principle to work with the SLA, and those are the areas I have mentioned," he said. "(The soldiers) are willing, they are right now in the areas of the Kamajors. They are there. I left them in Kenema the day before yesterday. Okay, they are not afraid to work with the Kamajors, but the Kamajors are not comfortable to work with them yet."

ECOMOG Field Commander Major-General Timothy Shelpidi met with President Kabbah on Thursday and told him that moves to defeat rebel forces were "progressing satisfactorily," SLBS (state radio) reported on Friday. Shelpidi said he was "satisfied with the cooperation and gallantry displayed by surrendered soldiers of the Sierra Leone army at the war front" who were now "ready to prosecute the war to a speedy end." Kabbah reportedly replied that the spirit of cooperation between ECOMOG, the Civil Defence Forces, and the surrendered soldiers would enhance their common goal of flushing out the rebel remnants. Shelpidi told Kabbah that "preparations are in the final stages" to relocate ECOMOG's headquarters from Monrovia to Freetown.

Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe told the BBC Friday that the Nigerian model of reconciliation following the Biafra secession war might not be applicable in Sierra Leone. "There were those that actually have done things that normal human beings should not have done, and definitely when the government decides that look those ones that were misled we pardon them, but those who had cut off people's hands, chopped their legs, closed their eyes, those ones have to be punished, I don't think anybody should say no, because Nigeria forgave everybody, so Sierra Leone should forgive everybody. Nigeria, there was no cutting of hands, no chopping of eyes and ears, and so on. So there is a level. You can take a child who is eight years, you cut the two hands. See another one at the age of five, you cut the two legs, and that person is going to live for the next 80, 90 years, and you think that can easily be forgotten." Khobe sidestepped a question on whether the government should involve RUF leader Foday Sankoh in the peace process. "Foday Sankoh is an individual in Sierra Leone, and he is subject to the laws of the land of Sierra Leone. Whatever decision the government takes, that is what it should go."

10 September:  A "syndicate" at the Treasury has robbed the government of some Le 800 million in the past five months, Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning James Jonah told a press conference on Wednesday. According to a government news release, over 2,000 fictitious ("dieman") workers were discovered in payroll vouchers, mainly those from the provinces. Jonah said that five ministries were found to have been involved, and that the malpractices had been going on unchecked for a long time. He promised that those responsible would be "brought to book," and that those convicted would face the full penalty of the law.

1,268 Sierra Leoneans registered at a refugee camp in Nigeria do not want to return home, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Nigeria Marie-Jose Santos said Thursday. The refugees fled Sierra Leone after the May 1997 military coup and are registered at a government-run camp at Oru-Ijebu, in Nigeria's southwest Ogun state. "The refugees have not shown any interest in going back to their country," Santos said, adding that repatriation of the refugees would require money that the UNHCR programme there did not have. "We need funds as well as their goodwill. We cannot force them to go," she said. "Since they are getting assistance and they feel comfortable in Nigeria, they don't want to go."

ECOMOG troops are reportedly continuing to search for AFRC/RUF rebels who attacked the town of Kamalu on Monday. Liberian Star Radio reported that at least 8 civilians were killed and the town looted in the attack. Residents fleeing the area Tuesday put the number of dead at more than 50.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed Thursday that former AFRC Secretary of State for Information and Tourism has applied for asylum in Britain.

Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Britain, Cyril Foray, was quoted by the Pan African News Agency (PANA) Thursday as saying that British concern about the fate of 16 civilians sentenced to death was premature, because the legal process has not been completed. "The defendants are still entitled to appeal to a higher court and it that fails, to the prerogatives of mercy which is dispensed by the president," he said. "The government of Sierra Leone...is not a bloodthirsty tyranny but a democratically elected government, with a commitment to the observance of the rule of law and human rights."

9 September: Sierra Leone ranks last among 174 countries in meeting the basic human needs of its citizens, according to the United Nations Human Development Report which was released on Thursday. The report ranked countries according to a "human development index" which took into account such factors as life expectancy, education, health care, and income. Canada topped the list for the fifth consecutive year, followed by France, Norway, the United States, and Iceland. Five African countries -- Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Sierra Leone -- were ranked at the bottom. The report also noted a widening disparity between rich and poor countries worldwide.

Chief of Defence Staff, Nigerian Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe has rejected charges by the Liberian government that he and Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman were involved in a plot to overthrow the Liberian government. "If my knowledge of President Charles Taylor is anything to go by, any time he accuses a person it means he is out for him," Khobe told the BBC on Thursday. "So, those that he had mentioned their names that are planning to assassinate him, they should ensure their physical safety." Khobe denied that either he or Norman were involved in organising a plot to overthrow Taylor. "I meet with the deputy defence minister every time to discuss the Sierra Leone issues. It has nothing to do with Charles Taylor whatsoever. So, we have never met to talk about killing Charles Taylor. What result is there? The Liberian are many. If they want to kill him, they will kill him. They don’t require anybody’s support from outside." Since August, the Liberian government has alleged plots by the Sierra Leone and Chinese governments, Guinean ECOMOG troops, and several Liberian factional leaders. In response to a question as to whether faction leader Roosevelt Johnson had anything to fear from Taylor, Khobe said: "Roosevelt Johnson is from the Krahn and the Krahn people are very tough people. You can’t just wake up overnight and say you will do anything against them and they allow you to go. If he continues trying them, in the long run he is the loser. Why not put your energies in developing your country instead of scaring the people?" Khobe denied that he would "like to see the back of" Taylor. "I want him to be alive to see the progress that is going on in other countries," he said. I want him to develop his country the way other countries are developing, in good manner. I don’t like to see Monrovia the way I saw it on my way to the meeting in Accra and Abidjan the other time. Many people have left the city. There are very few businesses going on in Monrovia. Even at the time we were fighting, when Amos Sawyer was the president, when Gbormakpo was there, there were many more people than now, and now is when the president is there. It is a shame. Honestly, I think the Liberian government should start thinking of how to develop the country, instead of chasing shadows."

The Dakar-based West African Journalists Association (WAJA) has issued a statement expressing deep concern over death sentences imposed last month on five Sierra Leonean journalists. "WAJA is of the view that it was not very clear from the evidence adduced by the prosecution whether the journalists were convicted for their so-called collaboration with the former military junta, since the blanket term "treason" did not clear the air," the Association said in a statement signed by WAJA President Kabral Blay-Amihere. In a letter of protest to the Sierra Leone government, WAJA called on President Kabbah to suspend the death sentences and order the release of the five journalists. "We call on the international community to join our protest and that of other human rights groups on behalf of our colleagues," the statement added.

8 September: AFRC/RUF fighters killed least 50 persons and burned several homes in a pre-dawn attack Monday on the northern town of Kamalu, a Catholic-run radio station reported Tuesday. A local journalist interviewed by the station said many of the civilians had been shot execution-style. Catholic missionaries told the radio station that the well-armed rebels wore uniforms identifying them as members of various groups, including the former junta and the RUF.

All 16 civilians sentenced to death last month for collaborating with the former AFRC military junta have appealed their sentences, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said Tuesday. Under the law, the condemned had 21 days to appeal their sentences, and all did so within the time limit. If the Appeals Court denies the defendants' appeals, they can turn to the Supreme Court. Should the Supreme Court deny the appeals, the condemned would have to turn to a special committee, and ultimately to President Kabbah, to seek clemency.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday it would start helicopter flights to the interior of Sierra Leone in order to bring humanitarian aid to civilians still trapped or hiding there. "The ICRC is very worried about the fate of civilians forced to hide in the bush following rebel attacks" by AFRC/RUF fighters, the ICRC said in a statement. "The helicopter will give the ICRC the opportunity to access many more victims than was possible until now." The ICRC said its helicopter would operate only in areas declared safe by ECOMOG.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed Tuesday for $9.7 million to provide emergency food aid to some 200,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea. Most of the refugees had fled Kono and Kailahun Districts in March to escape armed rebels who were "mounting a campaign of terror against the local population," according to a WFP statement issued in Rome. "The refugees are arriving destitute, suffering from exhaustion, malnutrition and disease and in urgent need of food, shelter, health care, and sanitation facilities," the statement said. The agency said it was acting at the request of the Guinean government, and was seeking 17,645 tonnes of bulgur wheat and maize meal, corn-soya blend, beans, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar to supply the refugees for the next six months. The refugees were said to be in immediate need of food, medical supplies, sanitary equipment, and shelters. The WFP noted that heavy seasonal rains have washed out dirt roads, making it difficult to reach many villages in southwestern Guinea.

7 September: Liberian Assistant Foreign Minister for Public Affairs Roberts Lormia, said that Liberia's designated envoys to Sierra Leone and Britain have not taken up their assignments because of lack of funds, Liberian Star Radio reported on Monday. Lormia said some foreign envoys who had been nominated by President Charles Taylor had not yet been commissioned by the Senate. He said those envoys who had been commissioned would take up their assignments as soon as funds were available.

250 soldiers of the former Sierra Leone Army have been denied entry into Kenema, Liberian Star Radio reported on Monday. The soldiers were on their way to Kailahun District. Kenema residents claimed that the former combatants had only surrendered out of fear of being killed.

No Sierra Leonean lawyer appears willing to defend RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, the Inter-Press Service (IPS) reported on Monday. Sankoh was charged in Freetown Magistrate's Court on September 4, and is due to appear again in court on September 11. The IPS quoted RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie as threatening to wage a campaign of genocide if Sankoh were not immediately freed. "I will order my troops to kill every living thing, including chickens, if our leader is not released," Bockarie was reported as telling the BBC on September 4.

6 September: Aid agencies have confirmed a clash between junta remnant troops and Guinean soldiers along the Sierra Leone-Guinea border earlier this week, the BBC reported on Sunday. The rebels were fleeing towards Guinea to escape ECOMOG troops when the clash occurred. The rebels reportedly sustained several casualties, while two Guineans were killed.

Nigerian leader General Abdulsalam Abubakar said the ECOMOG force constitutes a viable instrument for peace and security in the West African sub-region following its success in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Nigerian newspaper New Nigerian reported on Sunday.

5 September: ECOWAS leaders will hold their annual Heads of State Summit October 30-31 in Abuja, Nigeria, the official News Agency of Nigeria reported on Saturday. The agency said the summit had been shifted from its usual date in June or July because of Nigerian domestic political problems following the death in June of former Nigerian leader and ECOWAS Chairman General Sani Abacha. The 16 ECOWAS member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

4 September: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh was charged in court Friday with eight counts of treason, usurping the executive power of the State of Sierra Leone, soliciting funds and military logistics for use by forces hostile to the State of Sierra Leone, and invasion of Sierra Leone by land. Government officials had previously said Sankoh would also face charges of crimes against humanity, but no such charge was preferred Friday. Sankoh was brought to the Magistrates' Court in handcuffs, while a heavy security presence kept pedestrians and traffic well away from the court building. Sankoh, described by the AFP as wearing a brown suit with tie to match, raised his hands to greet lawyers and policemen in the courtroom. When they did not respond, he joked, "You look dull. Have you eaten anything this morning?" Turning to Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa, he asked, "Is this the peace talks?" Magistrate Patrick Hamilton took no plea from Sankoh, and the case was adjourned until next Friday.

Some 800 AFRC/RUF rebels in Lofa County, Liberia have told authorities they are tired of fighting and want to return home, Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman said Friday. "We have been informed of their presence and an arrangement is being made by government and my ministry to bring them back," Norman said. He added that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) "should be encouraged to give them a chance to be repatriated to their homes. Norman said the rebels "would be granted their hearts' desires as they are also Sierra Leoneans willing to come over and participate" in the government's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme. "We believe that this is a very good intention which should be encouraged," he said. A large number of child combatants who defected from the junta also reportedly have expressed their interest to return to Sierra Leone.

RUF rebels attacked a village inside Guinea early this week, killing seven women refugees and three Guineans, while forcing other refugees to carry stolen food across the border, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday. The attack took place between Monday night and Tuesday morning near  Koindu, about 50 miles from the Guinean town of Gueckedou. Witnesses told UNHCR staff, local authorities, and security forces that the rebels raided food stores, killing anyone nearby. The three women were apparently shot when they refused to cross into Sierra Leone along a rope bridge the rebels had fixed across the river. Three seriously wounded refugees, including a baby boy with his throat slit, were taken to a nearby Médecins Sans Frontières hospital. Authorities have taken steps to seal the border, while refugees have been urged to remain in camps, farther from the border. "Mission members found refugees who had been abducted previously by rebels, including a girl who said she had been raped repeatedly and a boy who had had the letters "RUF" carved into his chest and forehead," the report said. Most of the Sierra Leonean refugees are in areas where access is very difficult, with the rains now threatening food deliveries, vaccinations, and regular visits to some 180,000 people. The UNHCR and Handicap International are to set up a program to aid victims, while the UNHCR has organised work crews to make emergency repairs so as to ensure at least minimum aid to refugee sites.

The European Union (EU) has expressed concern over death sentences imposed on 16 civilians last month, convicted of treason for collaborating with the ousted military junta. In a statement released in Brussels, the EU registered its "sincere hope" that the sentences, if upheld on appeal, would be commuted. The EU also expressed concern about the lack of an appeals process for 38 members of the military on trial before a court martial. The statement called on the government of Sierra Leone to ensure a fair trial for those accused and to establish a channel of appeal form court martial proceedings. "The international community's long-term aim is to encourage and support reconciliation in Sierra Leone. The EU will support a peace and reconciliation process and is convinced that a commutation of the death penalty against those found guilty of treason would constitute an important contribution in this regard," the statement said.

87 persons in Makeni have gone blind during August alone due to conjunctivitis combined with absent or inappropriate treatment, eye specialist Lamin Sheku said Friday. "The refusal and inability by patients to register with clinics, but rather go to drug stores to buy unprescribed drugs and eye drops also contributed to the predicament," he said. Sheku said 80% of the worst cases were due to the use of local herbs, urine, and petrol to treat the affected eyes in the initial stage of the disease.

3 September: Tina Musa, the wife of former AFRC Chief Secretary Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa, was arrested in Guinea earlier this week and returned to Freetown with her three children on Wednesday, according to an AFP report which cited "independent sources."

Sierra Leone will be among 33 African countries whose soccer teams will compete in qualifying matches for the year 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. Also represented will be Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Mali. Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

2 September: President Kabbah outlined on Wednesday the structure of the country's new security forces, which are being formed to replace the former Sierra Leone Army. In a broadcast to the nation, Kabbah said the nation's new army would select up to 20% of its members from soldiers of the old army "whom we have carefully observed over the past few months and found to be loyal, committed, disciplined, and honest." Kabbah stressed that the ECOMOG force would not be in Sierra Leone indefinitely, and that it would take time to establish a more professional, disciplined, and patriotic army. "For instance, normally in a professional army it takes at least eight to nine years for a cadet to become a captain," he said. "There is no way we can as a nation fulfil our security requirements in the near future without recruiting into the new army well trained and qualified soldiers in the old army who have demonstrated unequivocally that they are disciplined and loyal." Kabbah said the country's new military would consist of 5,000 men and women, comprising an army wing, a naval wing, an air wing, and a rapid deployment force. New recruits and members of the former military alike would be subject to a rigorous screening process before absorption into the new armed forces. Recruitment into the military will initially be for a period of six years with subsequent renewals of service being subject to satisfactory performance and conduct. The role of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) will be formalised, with CDF units in all districts of the country. Each CDF unit will report to the local paramount chief and each district will have a CDF administrator who will liaise with the military if the CDF is needed for service outside its locality. "In normal peace time, the role of members of the CDF will remain what it has always been within common law and native law, that is, everybody has a legal responsibility to defend himself, his family and property against intruders as in the case of the Territorial Army in the United Kingdom and the Reservists in the United States of America." Kabbah announced the formation of a National  Security Council (NSC) to assist in matters of defence and security, and added that the government was considering implementing a National Service programme, which would encourage every able-bodied young Sierra Leonean to render military service after secondary school.

Over 100 persons, most of them children, have died in Kailahun District over the past two weeks from starvation and diarrhoea-causing disease, health officials in Kenema said Wednesday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced Tuesday that is was having to suspend operations in western Guinea, an area hosting some 180,000 recently arrived refugees, most of them from eastern Sierra Leone. Heavy rains have caused severe flooding and cut access by road, meaning that the refugees will be cut off from assistance for days or even weeks, according to the UNHCR regional director. "UNHCR officers go to the camps (and) talk to the refugees every day, and with these roads being washed away we don't see  how we can get access to them because we normally use four-wheel drive vehicles to get to the camps," he told the BBC. "So at the moment we are trying to see with the Guinean government how we can get heavy-duty equipment into the area, to clear the roads so that at least the food assistance can get to them. They can be subjected to any sort of harassment, I suppose, from anybody in the area, but our concern right now is to try to get food and medical assistance to them." He said the UNHCR had not yet received a response from the Guinean government. "Well, we talked to them. We don't know whether this heavy equipment is actually available in Guinea, but they promised to get back to us very quickly. We are also trying to look at other possibilities like borrowing, for example, equipment from either Cote d'Ivoire or Liberia. We are exploring all sorts of things. There's been talk even of sort of airlifting food or medical supplies to them. So, we are sort of exploring all avenues in order to get assistance to the refugees as quickly as possible."

1 September: Acting Nigerian Defence Department Spokesman Col. Godwin Ugbo said Tuesday that ECOMOG would soon move its headquarters from Monrovia, Liberia to Freetown. "The ECOMOG headquarters will relocate to  Freetown, but I cannot tell you when," Ugbo told reporters in Lagos. "The Nigerian contingent has already moved its headquarters to Wilberforce Barracks outside Freetown. And 90 percent of all ECOMOG troops are already in Sierra Leone." ECOMOG spokesmen previously have stressed that a final decision on when to transfer ECOMOG headquarters rests with ECOWAS.

The Executive Director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), Alexander Kulue, denied Monday that Sierra Leonean refugees in Lofa County were facing starvation, Liberian Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Kulue said distribution of food at one of the two major refugee camps, Kolahun Camp One, was completed last week, while distribution at Kolahun Camp Two was underway. He said 16,000 refugees at Kolahun Camp One had benefited from the food, which included maize, meal, vegetable oil, and peas. At the same time, he said, the agency was finding it difficult to aid refugees who had settled at Vahun, as the area is currently inaccessible by road. Kulue said there had been 14 deaths at the Kolahun camps over the past two weeks, while five deaths had been recorded at the Vahun camp. Two of the deaths were the result of malaria, two were from malnutrition, and the cause of the fifth had not been determined, he added. The clarification follows reports that refugees were dying daily of starvation.

Sierra Leone's life expectancy ranks third from last in the world, according to the annual United Nations Population Fund report, which was published on Tuesday.