The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

October 1997
 

31 October: AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma said late Friday that the AFRC remains committed to a peace agreement with ECOWAS, and will crack down on anyone trying to derail it. "My government is committed to the peace communiqué signed in Conakry, Guinea," Koroma said on SLBS (state radio), adding that there were "disgruntled elements" who were still bent on creating unrest. "Let me assure you that my government will continue to be vigilant in bringing out those detractors and they will be dealt with according to the law of our land," Koroma said. Earlier Friday, AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura said that the West African foreign ministers making up the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone will visit Sierra Leone on November 20. Bangura said that the peace agreement was just a first step. "The Conakry meeting which ended in the issue of the communiqué is not the end but the beginning of a series of meetings," he said. Bangura said confidence-building was essential. "Whatever bottlenecks we encounter together...in the implementation of the agreement we will sort (them out) during the negotiations."

The Embassy of Sierra Leone in Washington, D.C. announced Friday that the United States Justice Department has granted Temporary Protective Status to all Sierra Leonean refugees residing in the United States, regardless of visa status. "Temporary Protective Status would allow our people to obtain US Social Security numbers, work, and to travel in and out of the United States," the statement said.

The United Nations Security Council Committee on Resolution 1132 (the sanctions against the Sierra Leone junta) held its second meeting on Friday to adopt guidelines on implementing the sanctions resolution. The guidelines are intended to ensure that decisions of the Committee are taken expeditiously, that the sanctions are implemented in full, and that the civilian population does not suffer unduly as a result. The Committee will appeal to member states to provide relevant information. It is also planning to establish contact with ECOWAS, and is looking forward to the reported upcoming visit to New York by the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. The Committee reportedly would like to receive a list of junta members and their families as soon as possible, in order to implement the travel restrictions imposed by the resolution. In order to ensure maximum transparency, the Committee authorised its chairman to brief member states and the press following meetings, and to hold press conferences and issue press releases on activities of the Committee.

Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah Friday denied a claim by Joseph Williams that Liberia is providing weapons and fighters to the junta. "This is absolutely false," Mulbah said. "The Liberian government is in no way supporting or providing military support to the junta in Sierra Leone." Mulbah said Liberia is neutral, and is working to bring peace to Sierra Leone and to the entire sub-region. "(President Taylor) has stated emphatically that Liberia will not support any armed group in the current conflict in Sierra Leone," he said. Mulbah affirmed that Liberia is supporting the restoration of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as president, despite recent criticism of ECOMOG military actions in Sierra Leone. "Well, that is over now. ECOMOG and us are on line. In fact, it was coincidental because just as we were criticising, there was the peace talks under way. We went there, and we reached an amicable solution. Right now, our security forces and ECOMOG are working hand-in-hand."

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International (AI) Friday denounced the arbitrary detention and killing of civilians in Sierra Leone, and called upon the military junta to take urgent action to halt such abuses. AI said that despite the October 23 peace agreement, many people still remain in detention. "The climate of fear and intimidation which has marked the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council's (AFRC) five months in power will continue unless the AFRC takes urgent measures to stop the arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, ill-treatment, and deliberate and arbitrary killing of civilians," it said. "Large numbers of people remain in detention without charge or trial." AI said Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, the president of the Civil Liberties Congress, had been arrested and tortured before fleeing the country. AI also denounced the attempt to arrest the secretary-general of its own chapter in Sierra Leone, Isaac Lippa. Lippa escaped, but two men at his home were beaten and arrested. "We urge the immediate release of all those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained because of their peaceful opposition to the military coup and the AFRC," AI said.

30 October: An AFRC military spokesman on Thursday accused ECOMOG of violating last week's peace agreement, saying Nigerian soldiers "are harassing, disarming, and searching all Sierra Leonean soldiers" passing through the Jui Checkpoint on their way up-country. The spokesman said a senior army officer, Colonel Yirrah, was "harassed and searched" at the checkpoint on Wednesday evening. "When we got the news, some soldiers and the People's Army personnel were so angry that they suggested military action to redress the situation, but we were able to calm them down," the spokesman said. Civilians passing through the checkpoint have also complained that their belongings have been offloaded from commercial vehicles and searched. A Nigerian major explained that "we are only being on the alert to stop dangerous weapons coming into the city."

An aide to deposed President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah accused the AFRC of violating the peace accord agreed to last week in Conakry, Guinea, and importing truckloads of arms into Sierra Leone from Liberia. "We are having information that Charles Taylor's government in Liberia is working with the junta to undermine the peace plan," Joseph Williams is reported as saying. Williams warned that the import of arms and ammunition in in preparation for an all-out offensive against ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone. He said there are arms-laden ships off the Sierra Leone coast and that "they are offloading two ships." Williams, who had been running the clandestine pro-democracy radio station 98.1, said that the junta was trying to jam the radio station's frequency.

Nigerian ECOMOG military commanders and senior Sierra Leonean army officials will meet Friday for a first round of talks on modalities for the upcoming month-long disarmament program of former RUF fighters, according to diplomatic sources.

29 October: Nigeria's involvement in Sierra Leone and Liberia stems from its preoccupation with stability and economic growth in the West African sub-region, Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said in Abuja on Wednesday. This stemmed from Nigeria's interest and concern in the well-being of countries in the sub-region, he said, adding that unless this were understood, some might wonder at Nigeria's persistent involvement in crisis resolution and management. Nigeria has no territorial ambitions or hidden agenda against its neighbours, Ikimi said.

AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma told a group of local and foreign businessmen that the junta has declared "war on robbers." Koroma said the AFRC will deal with anyone who "harasses peaceful citizens or creates instability."

28 October: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has reportedly expressed reservations about several provisions of the peace accord agreed to in Conakry between the AFRC and the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. The Inter Press Service (IPS) quoted Kabbah as saying that the agreement cannot secure an amnesty for the coup leaders. "These people went and destroyed my home and are hunting members of my family, and now I hear of an agreement that says I should grant amnesty to all those people?" Kabbah also rejected a key provision that his government will be restored only after six months, on 22 April 1998. "The question of timing is not accepted as demanded," Kabbah said, speaking after the Commonwealth summit. "The meeting took place in our absence." Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama noted that although the accord bears the names of two members of the AFRC, two representatives of ECOWAS, and two witnesses, there were no signatures. "I can't say at this time that the agreement has been signed," she said, adding that the document is not one that should be entirely welcomed by the international community, which had demanded the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the Kabbah government. "ECOWAS is yet to report to the president about the issue. There are a lot of good intentions but parts of it we have questions about," Gbujama added.

Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo said Tuesday that the ECOMOG blockade of Sierra Leone will continue, despite last Thursday's peace agreement between the AFRC and ECOWAS. Ugbo said ECOMOG will continue to prevent the supply of arms and ammunition to the military junta in Sierra Leone as a way of ensuring a faster resolution of the crisis.

Sierra Leone editorial reaction: Concord Times: "The much desired peace that Sierra Leoneans have been yearning for is here at last." Daily Expo Times: "The development is welcomed and refreshing since no matter what happens now there won't be any more bloodshed as a way of resolving the problem...God willing, the sanctions will gradually go away as the government seeks to make the best out of the remainder of their six months to wipe out the ugly traces of war." New Citizen: "That the military government actually agreed to hand power back to civilian politicians is a clear indication that even men in arms now yearn for the return of peace and stability." Media Trend: "More six months of wretched life. Having spent the past five months destroying the country's infrastructure, the six month transitional period is an extension of our suffering under the ruling junta...Nothing lasts forever so we shall soon forget about the junta whose days are already numbered." The Weekly Point: "(ECOWAS) is a committee of double standards (for giving up the demand that the junta step down immediately)."

27 October: Sierra Leone's military junta has lifted the curfew in Freetown with immediate effect, SLBS (state radio) announced on Monday. The curfew had been in force since the coup on May 25.

The Commonwealth has adopted a recommendation by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to continue the suspension of Sierra Leone until the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has been restored. CMAG said the Commonwealth had been well on its way to helping Sierra Leone achieve democracy and peace when the military overthrew the civilian government, in what CMAG called "a tragically retrograde step." The Commonwealth condemned the coup and called "for the immediate reinstatement" of the Kabbah government.

Three journalists who were arrested and detained for several weeks were released over the weekend. Jonathan Leigh, editor of the Independent Observer, John Z. Foray of the Newstime, and Nigerian-born Chris Akpu of the Financial Times had been held at Pademba Road Prison since their arrest. The three reportedly had been severely beaten at the time of their arrest. Leigh, who was unable to comment on his ordeal, said he hoped that the AFRC would now stop harassing journalists going about their lawful business.

Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said he will seek assistance from the European Union to rebuild Sierra Leone. "I am going to Brussels to ask the EU for a program of assistance to rehabilitate and reconstruct our country," Kabbah said at the end of the Commonwealth summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. "Thereafter my strategy is to first go home, work on a program of a good security system and disarmament so that everybody can feel secure." Kabbah said he had not yet been briefed on last week's peace agreement signed in Conakry, but believed the six month delay in restoring his government was to allow ECOMOG to address the security situation in the country. "I think the intentions of the agreement are very honourable," he said. "My impression is that they are trying to first get rid of the arms and weapons in the country by encamping the people who have them and disarming them before it will be safe for me to resume my duties." Kabbah praised the role of Nigeria in helping to resolve the Sierra Leone crisis. "I am grateful to Nigeria for helping us. It is a fact, an undeniable fact, that Nigeria as Nigeria has played a very important part in democracy and peace and security worldwide. Nigeria may have done certain things in relation to its domestic situation...I told the Commonwealth this is a family and let us address this thing in a way that will bring unity and not destroy the cohesion of the Commonwealth."

Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama said in Edinburgh, Scotland Monday that despite the peace accord, the military junta is continuing to commit "atrocities" in Sierra Leone. "What we have heard is that the junta recently lined up 10 to 15 soldiers and executed them...this doesn't show seriousness on their part," she said.

26 October: Commonwealth heads of state meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, have adopted the report by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the Gambia. All issues related to the CMAG report will remain confidential until the summit ends on Monday, a spokesman announced on Sunday.

25 October: Sierra Leone's military junta executed ten soldiers by firing squad Saturday, after convicting them of murder. The ten all pleaded guilty to the charge, according to the head of the military police, Captain John Harleston. Other sources said that two of those executed had been accused of beating the girlfriend of a military officer, while a third had been accused of involvement in the murder of Lieutenant Yamao Cateh at Tongo Field. The ten received a one day trial without benefit of legal counsel. The prisoners were executed in two groups of five, one-to-one, by a five-member firing squad. The first five reportedly were handcuffed, while the second group had their legs bound. Harleston said the executions were meant to send a signal to undisciplined soldiers and to reassure the civilian population in the wake of Thursday's peace agreement between the junta and ECOWAS. "As the government has now undertaken a peaceful solution with ECOWAS, it is the business of the government to continue to protect lives and property," Harleston said.

24 October: Deposed President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah praised Thursday's agreement between the AFRC and ECOWAS Friday, and said he plans to return to Sierra Leone next week. "Any measure which restores constitutional rule is welcome, and next week I should be in Sierra Leone," Kabbah said in Edinburgh, Scotland on Friday. "ECOMOG will deploy throughout Sierra Leone next week to ensure a peaceful transition back to constitutional rule," Kabbah said. "The main thing is to restore peace in Sierra Leone and end the bloodshed, and that I support fully," he added. An aide to Kabbah said the president had not been directly involved in the negotiations to restore constitutional rule in Sierra Leone. "But we recognise that this was done in good faith and the intentions are honourable," he said.

AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Friday that the AFRC has pledged to support the peace accord agreed to on Thursday between the junta and ECOWAS. "We are really happy and the entire society is jubilating, he said. "We as a government have worked for the happiness of the people for the past five months in particular and the community as a whole." Kamara said the junta will work for "the successful implementation of the agreement in a very smooth atmosphere. Whatever we got from the meeting in Guinea represents our determination to ensure the prosperity of our nation." On Friday evening, AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma, dressed in a white gown and waving a white handkerchief, drove through the main streets of Freetown in a motorcade in an apparent attempt to test the reaction of residents to the peace accord.

Liberia has called up 1,000 members of its former national army and deployed them along the Sierra Leone border, Liberian officials said Friday. "I have been ordered to arm 1,000 men of the Armed Forces of Liberia and have them immediately deployed at the Sierra Leone-Liberia border," a Liberian general told state radio. He said that the call-up was the first step in the formation of a new national army for Liberia. On Wednesday, Liberian officials announced the closing of the border with Sierra Leone. Officials said on Friday that the troops had left for the border area by truck.

Reaction: United States State Department Spokesman James P. Rubin: "We are pleased that a peace plan has been agreed to which will restore the democratically elected government to Sierra Leone. We strongly endorse the negotiated settlement, which calls for immediate cessation of hostilities, disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants. We will continue to assist ECOWAS to ensure a final and lasting peace."

23 October: AFRC representatives and the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone have reached agreement on a peace plan which will restore the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in six months, according to a communiqué issued in Conakry Wednesday. The two sides have agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities, disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of combatants, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and the return of refugees and displaced persons. The agreement provides for immunity and guarantees to the leaders of the May 25 coup, and calls for broadening the power base in Sierra Leone. The communiqué said RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh "could continue to play an active role and participate in the peace process" and that Sankoh "is expected to return to his country to make his contribution to the peace process." In Freetown, residents celebrated in the streets upon hearing news of the agreement. Jubilant AFRC supporters fired into the air in celebration of the agreement, killing 2 persons and injuring 17, hospital sources said. President Kabbah, who is in Edinburgh, Scotland to attend the Commonwealth meeting, withheld comment on the communiqué, saying he would wait until he was briefed on the meeting held in Conakry.

Liberian President Charles Taylor has reiterated that the border with Sierra Leone is closed. An Executive Mansion release said the Liberian government will exercise its right and authority in line with international conventions to ensure that the border remains closed, and will not entertain any internal or external interference with the order. Taylor called upon all residents in the border area, as well as all elders and chiefs to cooperate with the joint security forces to monitor the situation and to report any obstruction to the authorities.

22 October: Talks aimed at resolving the crisis in Sierra Leone's got underway in Conakry, Guinea Tuesday. The AFRC-led military junta sent a 21-member delegation led by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura to meet with foreign ministers of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone.

Liberia closed its border with Sierra Leone on Wednesday, and said it would strictly limit the use of its territory for military action to restore the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. A foreign ministry statement said any military operations would have to be "explicitly sanctioned" by ECOWAS, the United Nations Security Council, and the Liberian government. Liberia would only support the use of force, as a last resort, if ECOWAS decided it was necessary and it received the approval of the Security Council. The action followed Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan's criticism of bombing raids by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force.

Military officials in Kenema said Tuesday that Nigerian ECOMOG troops attacked a commercial vehicle at Bandama Village on Sunday, killing the driver and seriously wounding two passengers. A military spokesman said the vehicle, which was carrying 30 passengers, was passing through the town when it ran into an ambush. The driver, Borbor James, was shot in the head and died instantly. The injured passengers, diamond miner Ibrahim Koroma and businessman Fuad Bah, were admitted to Bo Government Hospital where they remain in serious condition.

Kenema is reported tense after an attack Tuesday by a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet which, according to AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara, killed 20 civilians and four military personnel. Residents reported that Sierra Leonean and Nigerian troops traded artillery fire throughout Tuesday night. There was no report on casualties. A retired military officer in Kenema was reported as saying "the atmosphere is so tense that renewed fighting can break out at any time."

British United Nations Ambassador Sir John Weston expressed dismay over ECOMOG's bombing raids in Sierra Leone, and questioned whether the Nigerians had any authority from anyone to undertake such action. Weston said he had raised the issue in the Security Council, and that several delegations were concerned about the bombings, which have killed and injured civilians, and caused many others to flee the capital. Weston said that the United Nations resolution had not authorized Nigeria to bomb Freetown in order to restore ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power. "I have asked for clarification on the basis of what authorization, whether from ECOWAS or the United Nations, such action is being carried out," Weston said, adding that the United Nations Security Council would discuss the issue again this week.

21 October: A 17-member AFRC delegation left by road for Conakry Tuesday to take part in talks with ECOWAS foreign ministers comprising the Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. The delegation, which includes representatives of the RUF, is being led by the AFRC's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura. According to sources at the foreign ministry in Freetown, the delegation will press for the release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria so that he may participate in the talks. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the Sierra Leoneans will demand an immediate withdrawal of ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone and the right to set up a transitional government to restore constitutional order. "We are appealing for the U.N. to deploy peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone for this purpose," he said, adding that the time frame is negotiable. "We are eager to talk to everyone and every organisation to find a peaceful solution to the problem, but the truth is that nobody has bothered to know our feelings since the coup," he said. "Asking us to step down is completely irrelevant. We should be judged by the peace which we have achieved by getting the rebels out of the bush and ending the six year long civil war." Kamara said all former RUF fighters should be demobilised and reintegrated as part of any settlement. The talks will be attended by United States Ambassador John Hirsch and Francis Okelo, the United Nations envoy to Sierra Leone. A 25-member delegation from the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL) will also attend as observers.

A ceasefire between the Sierra Leonean army and the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force was observed Tuesday. ECOMOG troops at Jui flew white flags Monday evening to indicate that the ceasefire was in effect. One source said the ceasefire would remain in place for the duration of the talks in Conakry. Sources close to the junta have said that the ECOMOG troops at Jui are fast running out of food and water. One source said a Nigerian air force Hercules transport plane, which has been used to resupply the ECOMOG force in Freetown, was unable to land at Lungi Airport on Saturday because of heavy firing by Sierra Leonean troops. Freetown residents reported they had seen the plane flying over the capital and being fired upon by ground forces.

A Nigerian Alpha fighter jet dropped bombs at on Kenema and on Bandama Checkpoint Tuesday, killing a senior military officer, a lieutenant, 2 military personnel, and about 20 civilians, according to AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara. Kamara told the BBC that the plane also bombed Kenema on Monday, destroying two houses and killing about five people. "This situation has actually become a little bit unbearable for us, because they talk about ceasefire, and yet still these guys are going around destroying our country," he said. Kamara said the military junta has no intention of surrendering. "We are not going to give up. This government is here to stay, and this government is definitely going to implement its policies and programs, that is, we are here to consolidate peace, then we transfer this country to a democratic government."

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan criticised the continued bombings in Sierra Leone by the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force Tuesday. "Liberia does not support the bombing in Sierra Leone by ECOMOG and will not encourage the use of its land to attack the junta in Sierra Leone," Captan said. "Our position is very clear. We will support the U.N. resolution and the decision taken by ECOWAS. The decision of ECOWAS is that no use of force is authorised in Sierra Leone, whatsoever, and we support that decision." Captain described the bombing of Freetown by Nigerian Alpha jets as a "very serious issue" and said he would raise the issue "with the appropriate authorities" because the bombings violated the United Nations Security Council resolution and the ECOWAS communiqué, neither of which authorise the use of force in Sierra Leone.

The Liberian government will deploy 1,000 police and immigration along its frontier, primarily along its border with Sierra Leone. Deputy Information Minister James Wolo said Tuesday that the Liberians would patrol alongside ECOMOG troops who currently patrol the border. The Liberian government has asked aid agencies relocate some 20,000 Sierra Leonean refugees residing in camps near border towns in western Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties to an area about 100 miles inside Liberia, the Liberian state-run ELBC Radio reported Tuesday. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting Monday because of "insecurity at the Liberian border with that country." Residents say shells fired from inside Sierra Leone have injured refugees at Bo Waterside.

Nigerian leader and ECOWAS chairman General Sani Abacha held talks with Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in Banjul Tuesday. In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the two leaders "reaffirmed their commitment to the enforcement of the package of sanctions" against Sierra Leone's military junta to ensure "the speedy and unconditional reinstatement of the democratically elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah." Abacha arrived in Gambia with a large delegation, which included Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi.

Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo claimed Tuesday that the AFRC has placed an order with Ukraine for three fighter jets to boost its attacks on ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone. The information came from intelligence reports, Ugbo said, adding that he was unaware as to whether the planes had been delivered. Ugbo urged the international community to call on Ukraine to stop its support for the junta, saying that giving support to Sierra Leone's military government violated the resolution of the United Nations Security Council.

RUF fighters looted a house at 178 Fourah Bay Road Tuesday night, witnesses said. The RUF members arrived in a vehicle shortly after 9:00 p.m., and fired off a number of weapons to force the approximately 10 residents out onto the street while they looted the house.

Reaction: State Department Spokesman James P. Rubin: "The United States commends the efforts of ECOWAS to resume negotiations with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta in Conakry, Guinea, on Wednesday, October 22. We strongly endorse a negotiated settlement, which would result in the prompt return of the democratically elected government of President Kabbah and the restoration of constitutional order, and call on the AFRC to engage in serious, sustained talks with ECOWAS toward that end. United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone John Hirsch plans to attend the negotiations as observer."

20 October: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on Monday announced the outline of a 90 day programme he intends to pursue following a restoration of his government to power in Sierra Leone. At a one day conference sponsored by the British government in London which was attended by Kabbah and his foreign minister, Shirley Gbujama, Kabbah said he would change the structure of his government to make it more democratic and more representative. He said the AFRC had embarked on a systematic campaign of destruction and oppression, and that Sierra Leone will need a huge amount of foreign aid to rebuild the country's shattered infrastructure. "What Sierra Leone needs therefore at this point in time is a special Marshall-type plan, like the one (which) was necessary in Europe after the destruction of World War Two," he said. "Sierra Leone needs to be treated as a special case. It finds itself in a position similar to that of Europe in those difficult times. My plea is that my country should be treated in the same way." Kabbah said his first priority would be to ensure lasting peace and security, and called for an international peacekeeping force to help restore order. He also pointed to the need to have a government functioning immediately. Other priorities would include rebuilding the schools and restoring the health care network. "Our return should not be just a question of going back to Freetown and picking up where things were on May 24. Significant changes will be required...to take account of the lessons we have learned (in) these four months or so," he said. "I will need to pick a ministerial team based not on past positions or party affiliations or tribal background. For my cabinet, I will require a small dynamic team of people who have the trust of the people and the ability to get things done." Kabbah declined to say when he thought his government might be restored to power. "Hopefully soon--don't ask me to be more specific than that. There are people who have guns and other things out there. They are concerned about what they have done and what I might do on my return." Kabbah attacked the army, saying that it was ridden with ethnic divisions. "For nearly 30 years now, recruitment into the army was based on tribal and political patronage," he said. "The government of the day regarded the army as an instrument of the ruling party and not as a national institution." He said, however, that he opposed putting junta members on trial for war crimes, preferring instead the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission. "The merit of adopting this course can easily be discerned. The people of Sierra Leone need to know and hear the perpetrators of the atrocities which they talk about openly. This is an idea I intend to pursue usefully on my return." British Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd told the conference that the AFRC-led junta had to realise that it has no international support and that it should quit while it still could. "It is essential that we do not forget, and that the world understand, the kind of people we are dealing with," Lloyd said. "The military junta can be clear that there is no government to whom it can look for support in the region, any more than in the wider world." Referring to the upcoming talks between the junta and the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone, Lloyd said, "We have witnessed a number of false starts to this sort of dialogue. Let me express the hope that on this occasion the junta are serious. The message to them, and let me make this absolutely clear, must be to get out while the possibility of doing so still remains." Lloyd expressed British support for the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone, saying "We shall continue to work for the return of the democratically elected government to Freetown, with its mandate to govern for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans, not just the few. Let us also pay tribute to the courage and forbearance of the people of Sierra Leone who, in the face of such ugly repression, continue to insist on their right to determine their own future free from the menace of the gun barrel."

A Nigerian Alpha fighter jet attacked the Benguema Military Training Centre Monday. Defence sources said the bomb missed its target and landed in a cornfield, doing no significant damage. An attack on the same barracks last week killed a lieutenant and a warrant officer.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura held a final briefing session with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma ahead of Wednesday's talks in Conakry with the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara Kamara played down expectations about the talks, saying "This is going to be another cosmetic meeting, and at its conclusion the international community will accuse us of being intransigent."

19 October: At least 70 people fleeing Freetown were killed Saturday when the articulated truck in which they were riding overturned about 24 miles from the capital, police said Sunday. Another 22 were injured. Survivors said the truck was crossing a narrow bridge near York when its rear wheels missed the edge of the bridge and the vehicle somersaulted into a ravine. "The trailer vehicle was on its way to the Northern Region and there were about 120 people on it when the driver lost control because of a deflated tire," a police officer said. Some of the dead and injured were children and suckling mothers, police said. Medical personnel said many of the victims were crushed by bags of rice and barrels of kerosene which had been loaded into the truck along with the passengers. The dead and injured have been taken to Connaught Hospital in Freetown. "We are battling to save the lives of at least 10 of the seriously injured," one doctor said on Sunday. The doctors are being assisted by personnel of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Sierra Leone Red Cross. Vehicles have been forced to travel the poorly-maintained peninsular road because military operations near Jui have closed the main road out of Freetown. "The road is not good but vehicles are using it all the same. I counted 189 vehicles using the bad road within a six hour period," one passenger said. Aid workers have estimated that at least 10,000 people have fled Freetown since the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force began bombing targets in the city. Many more were still attempting to leave Sunday, using any available transportation.

18 October: Military sources said Saturday that a Nigerian fighter jet bombed Makeni on Friday, killing several people. "Our communications to the town have been cut since the bombing yesterday," one source said. "There are casualties, but we don't yet know how many." The claim was disputed by several other sources, with one military official quoted as saying that a plane flew low over Makeni but dropped no bombs. The Makeni Diocese Administration has also issued a statement denying that an attack took place. One source at Makeni explained that the telephone lines had been downed by bad weather, disrupting communications for about 24 hours.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Freetown on Saturday, demanding that Nigeria withdraw its troops from Sierra Leone and stop bombing the city. The demonstrators marched from the east end of the capital to the west, and later converged on the national stadium where they observed one minute's silence for the 16 persons killed in Thursday's shelling by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. A list of the victims' names was read at the meeting.

The unloading of ships at the water quay in Freetown has come to a halt, sources in Freetown reported Saturday. Freetown was reported to be tense, with thousands of people attempting to flee the capital, fearing both further attacks by ECOMOG forces and the danger from shells fired by anti-aircraft gun placements in the bush which frequently fall on the city. Many slept overnight in Freetown's main lorry park in order to stake a place on trucks and vans heading up-country or to Guinea.

17 October: The ECOMOG base at Gondoma, several miles from Bo, has reportedly been overrun by the Sierra Leonean army. ECOMOG Force Commander General Victor Malu acknowledged Friday that Nigerian troops are no longer occupying their camp at Gondoma, but declined to say what had become of the estimated 300 soldiers who had been based there. Residents of Bo report that the camp has been deserted since Wednesday. The Sierra Leonean commander in the area has claimed that his forces killed about 40 Nigerians.

AFRC leaders sacrificed a cow at the Cotton Tree in Freetown after Friday prayers, and tied white poplin to the tree. The leaders reportedly asked to remain in power. The junta has begun trying to recruit able-bodied men in Freetown into the army to join in the battle against the Nigerian ECOMOG force.

Hundreds of civilians were reported to be fleeing the capital Friday after several days of shelling and aerial bombardment by Nigerian ECOMOG troops. "The exodus is gathering pace at an alarming rate," an official from the Professional Drivers Association said. He added that people are paying five times the normal rate for passage. Drivers are using the poorly-maintained Peninsula Road, making for what one driver described as a "dangerous journey." The main road leading up-country passes through the war zone, and was blocked for the ninth consecutive day Friday after Sierra Leone army troops attacked a Nigerian contingent which had set up a checkpoint.

AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Friday that an AFRC delegation will meet with the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers in Conakry, Guinea on October 22. The delegation will be led by the AFRC's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura. "We are asking the United Nations and the rest of the international community to give us a transition period during which we can organise fresh elections," Kamara said, adding that the AFRC is not opposed to power sharing. "We are assured of our security at the talks because the U.N., Commonwealth, and Organisation of African Unity will be sending observers," he added.

16 October: An ECOMOG air strike and artillery barrage killed least 14 civilians in Freetown Thursday. 13 persons were killed on the eastern outskirts by shells fired from the direction of Lungi Airport, where a large part of the ECOMOG force is based. An air raid destroyed two houses, killing a 14 year old boy in the Wilberforce area, witnesses said. SLBS radio and television went off the air after two bombs exploded near its transmitter at Leicester Peak, in the west of Freetown, damaging one of two solar panels. "We have only turned off the radio. We have gone off the air for the time being but the bombs did not damage the transmitter," a station official said. A technician said the two bombs dropped just outside the compound. We are lucky there is very little damage to the vital equipment," said Gipu Felix George, Director-General of Broadcasting, who visited the site an hour after the bombing. He said the radio and television station have been closed down for a couple of days. Shortly before the bombing raids, the radio had broadcast an appeal from the AFRC for youths to refrain from attacking the homes and businesses of people associated with the Kabbah government.

8 civilians were killed Thursday evening when a bomb dropped by a Nigerian fighter jet exploded in a market at Kissy. 20 others were seriously injured.

AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma urged demonstrating youths Thursday "not to destroy properties belonging to their opponents but to allow the government to take its own measures." His appeal came after youths set fire to at least four houses belonging to supporters of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. One of the houses targeted by pro-AFRC demonstrators Thursday belonged to former Foreign Minister Desmond Luke. The youths entered the house, broke windows, and carried off furniture which they then burned in the street in the central part of Freetown. "We decided not to burn the house as it is adjacent to a petrol station," one youth explained. They also set fire to Luke's office, damaging the building and strewing his papers in the streets. The youths also burned down the Kabbah family home on Candle Street, the home of the late businessman Barlor Barrie, and the home of SLPP supporter Theresa Koroma. The home of former Minister of Works Emmanuel O. Grant was vandalised and looted, but it was not burned because the minister "had liked young men." After Thursday's shelling by ECOMOG, dozens of youths supporting the junta threw stones at the Nigerian embassy, breaking some windows.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Thursday accused Sierra Leone's military junta of harassing and intimidating journalists. In a press release updating the state of press freedom in Sierra Leone, the CPJ said two journalists, acting editor of the Democrat John Foray and freelancer Abdul Kposowa were arrested and beaten by army officers on Saturday. They have been detained without charges. Umaru Fofana, a freelancer for the Vision and a stringer for the BBC, was shot in the leg and reportedly tortured by army officers who suspected Fofana of reporting for the clandestine 98.1 radio station. The CPJ also cited the arrest of Abdul Salam Timbo on October 10 on charges of subversion. Information on Timbo's whereabouts is unknown. On October 8, freelancer Donald Davis was arrested and detained by security forces on subversion charges. The same day, Punch editor David Tam-Baryoh was arrested and detained for three days on assault charges. Tambaryoh is said to have gone into hiding after his release. The CPJ said that two members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) have been targeted for arrest because of their opposition to a recent clampdown on the press by the junta. Both journalists have gone into hiding.

Soldiers arrested the editor of the independent newspaper For di People Paul Kamara on Thursday afternoon, then smashed or looted everything in the office. They reportedly took the newspaper's computers and Kamara's car. Kamara is being detained at Pademba Road Prison. The soldiers gave no reason for his arrest.

Military trucks travelled about Freetown Thursday, arresting soldiers who had gone AWOL. A large number of soldiers have reportedly refused to fight against the better-equipped ECOMOG troops.

ECOMOG Force Commander General Victor Malu dismissed AFRC claims on Thursday that ECOMOG is targeting civilians. "We only act in self defence and if and when we take action it is to neutralise targets from where the illegal regime attacks our positions or surveillance planes," he said. Malu denied claims by the junta to have captured hundreds of ECOMOG troops. "As I am talking to you now our troops in Lungi, Bo, and Kenema are receiving supplies. If the junta is holding any of them I should be the first to notify the international community," he said. Malu said that although ECOMOG has the capacity "flush out the junta within weeks, the mandate for now is to enforce the embargo and that we are doing very effectively." He acknowledged that the junta had managed to stockpile supplies during a respite prior to the ECOWAS summit conference. "But the effects of the sanctions are already being felt and in the next two months, the impact would be bite even harder," he said.

United Nations aid agencies are preparing to launch cross-border operations into Sierra Leone from Guinea. The World Health Organisation (WHO) will open an office in Kambia and strengthen its liaison office in Conakry. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) transported 100,000 doses of vaccines from Conakry to Kambia and Freetown earlier in the week. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will provide 145 metric tons of fertiliser and modest funds for the purchase of vegetable seeds to non-governmental organisations for next rainy season.

15 October: The Sierra Leonean army traded heavy artillery fire with Nigerian ECOMOG troops overnight Tuesday, and the sound of gunfire could be heard from Freetown on Wednesday. The army reportedly ferried a large number of soldiers to the warfront by helicopter on Tuesday night, evidently in preparation for a pitched battle with the Nigerians. SLBS (state radio) reported that 117 Nigerians had been taken prisoner by Wednesday morning. A military spokesman said Sierra Leonean troops are occupying all strategic points at Jui, while the Nigerians were either at a former medical college building at Kossoh Town or on a slope overlooking Jui. "It is from these directions that they are shelling our positions," the spokesman said. "We have pushed back the Nigerians from the strategic Orogu Bridge and established a strong military presence on the main road under the command of Captain John Williams," he said. He explained the the road was not open to civilian traffic because of safety reasons. "We are trying to counter persistent shellings by the Nigerians. We allowed three commercial vehicles to pass through on Monday, but we closed the road again because it was not safe," he said.

A Nigerian fighter jet targeted Sierra Leone's satellite earth station at Wilberforce Heights Wednesday in a failed attempt to cut off Sierra Leone's only telecommunications link to the outside world. One bomb, which hit the earth station, failed to explode. A second bomb exploded, destroying part of a nearby house. "If the bomb which fell on the earth station had exploded, that would have been the end of external telecommunications in Sierra Leone," a senior official of SierraTel, the state telecommunications company, said. An AFRC spokesman said its representatives will protest a series of bombing raids when it meets with the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers in Conakry later this month. The meeting will likely be held on October 20.

Chief Secretary of State Captain SAJ Musa survived a one mile long ambush by Nigerian ECOMOG troops at Grafton on Monday. Defence sources said Musa and his team were on their way to visit the war zone near Jui when the attack took place. They said 7 Nigerian soldiers were killed by rocket-propelled grenades, while the Sierra Leonean side suffered no casualties.

A Nigerian fighter jet flew over Kenema at low altitude on Tuesday. "The plane flew very low sending everyone into panic that it was about to drop some bomb on the Brigade Headquarters, but it did not," a resident said.

Swedish United Nations Ambassador Hans Dahlgren was elected chairman at the first meeting of the newly-established Security Council committee to oversee implementation of sanction on Sierra Leone on Wednesday. The U.N. delegates from Costa Rica and Kenya were elected vice chairmen. The committee, which is made up of all the delegates on the Security Council, is formally known as the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997) concerning Sierra Leone

Medical statistician Abdul Bangura said Wednesday at Connaught Hospital that a total of about 30 civilian casualties have been recorded since the fighting began on Friday. He said 2 unidentified bodies and 11 injured victims, 4 of them children under ten years old, were brought to the hospital on Friday. The victims had received wounds from shrapnel and explosions in Wellington, he said. Up to 19 victims were recorded from Saturday to Monday, with 4 deaths, 2 of them children. No cases were reported on Tuesday. Daniel Anderson, spokesman for the Chief of Staff at Military Headquarters, gave preliminary casualty figures Wednesday for the five day period. 2 government soldiers and 5 members of the RUF "People's Army" had died, he said.

Commonwealth heads of government are expected to suspend Sierra Leone along with Nigeria next week when they meet for a summit conference in Edinburgh. Britain and Canada have been pressing for significant sanctions against the two countries, but many of the African Commonwealth members have urged caution because of trade links and the impact sanctions would have on their own economies. Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku said, "I believe that the decision at Edinburgh will demonstrate that the Commonwealth means business with Nigeria. But I must hasten to add that that would not necessarily mean expulsion. I do not accept that expulsion is necessary to demonstrate a strong line." British Prime Minister Tony Blair has invited ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to the meeting. "The fact that Ahmad Kabbah will be there is a powerful demonstration of Commonwealth commitment not to accept his overthrow by the military junta in May," Anyaoku said.

Nigeria's newspaper ThisDay reported Wednesday that ECOMOG may have to resort to full scale military action to flush out the junta, because sanctions have failed to achieve the desired results. The Nigerian newspaper The Guardian quoted Nigerian Defence Headquarters as saying that the ECOMOG force has not recorded any casualties in its clashes with Sierra Leonean troops.

14 October: Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo Tuesday dismissed as "mere propaganda" a report in the pro-AFRC newspaper The Torchlight which claimed that 400 Nigerian ECOMOG troops have been captured by the Sierra Leone army. Ugbo said Nigeria has a force of about three battalions in Sierra Leone, which would mean that one third of the Nigerian troops is being held captive by the junta. He said ECOMOG is holding its positions in Freetown. Ugbo also accused Ukraine of helping the junta to defy United Nations sanctions. "Ukraine is shipping goods and services to Freetown," Ugbo said, adding that the developments "are gradually showing that sanctions may not work because of varied interests in the country."

Some 400 Sierra Leoneans who claim to have won green cards in the United States visa lottery, along with their spouses and children, have besieged the visa section of the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana. Many have made the journey from Freetown to Accra by road or by air, and after several weeks of waiting most have not been attended to. The expiration date for submission of the lottery applications was September 30. "Every day we try to put in our documents for consideration, but security personnel at the embassy just refuse to let us in. They tell us that they have been instructed not to allow us in," one applicant said. Many complain that with no support from consular officials their money has run out and they have no food or lodging. "The Americans are being unfair to us. We came here because of a letter signed by Ms. Barbara Johnson, the Consul in Accra, but it seems she does not want to see us," an applicant complained. U.S. Embassy Press Attaché Bruce Lohof said the embassy realised that a number of the Sierra Leoneans were bonafide applicants, and that these are being given audience. He said about 32 applicants who won the lottery have been processed and approved so far, and others are pending.

A report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said food emergencies would persist in 29 countries, most of them in Africa, in the coming months. "The food situation is worsening in several parts of eastern Africa, mainly due to the impact of unfavourable weather," the agency's "Food Outlook" report said. In Sierra Leone, civil strife continues to disrupt agricultural activities, and rice production is not expected to be much higher than the 391,000 tons produced last year, the report said.

The Forum of African Women, a pan-African organisation promoting the education of girls, has awarded the first Agathe Uwilingiyimana prize to six organisations supporting this objective in Africa. The prize was awarded to the Teko's Women's Advancement Programme in Sierra Leone, the Association of Unmarried Mothers, the Accelerated Bilingual Training Project, both in Burkina Faso; the Mikunu Promotion Centre in Kenya, the Tasintha Programme in Zambia, and the Gongore Women's Group in Guinea. The award confers $6,000 on each of the organisations. It was named in memory of Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a member of the forum's council, who was assassinated on 7 April 1994.

13 October: Fighting between Sierra Leonean troops and Nigerian ECOMOG forces continued for a fifth day on Monday. Eight civilians have been confirmed dead since the fighting began Thursday, and several thousand residents of Freetown's eastern suburbs have been forced to flee their homes. Shelling was reported to have reached as far as the Natco factory at Wellington.

The Pro-AFRC newspaper The Torchlight reported Monday that Sierra Leonean troops and their RUF "People's Army" allies had captured more than 400 Nigerian soldiers, including senior officers, after "tough battles" at Jui, Kenema, and Bo in the past few days. The Torchlight also reported that "more than 100 Nigerians, including six top officers, were captured in Kenema" by soldiers led by RUF Commander and Deputy Chief of AFRC Defence Staff Colonel Sam "Maskaita" Bockari. A Sierra Leonean army officer said that the military had "captured many Nigerian soldiers...and this time we shall not make the mistake of freeing them just like that." The AFRC claims were denied by ECOMOG Force Commander General Victor Malu, who called them "cheap propaganda." Malu Sunday night described as "wishful thinking" AFRC claims to have overrun the ECOMOG military base at Jui, saying that ECOMOG is in firm control of the situation there. The junta was "telling lies," Malu said. Reports from Kenema say that the Sierra Leonean army headquarters there was hit by rockets Saturday which were fired from a Nigerian warplane sent from Monrovia. The headquarters was "materially damaged," but no casualties were reported.

AFRC troops reportedly attacked the Nigerian ECOMOG base at Gondoma, a few miles from Bo, on Saturday. The fighting continued through the weekend into Monday morning. At 11:00 a.m., a Nigerian military jet flew over and dropped three or four bombs on the Sierra Leonean troops, who had penetrated to about one mile from Gondoma. The Sierra Leonean troops have reportedly made several assaults on the base, but have been repelled each time by the Nigerians. The ECOMOG contingent at Gondoma is believed to number only about 300. Unconfirmed reports Sunday indicated the Sierra Leonean military had brought in reinforcements from Makeni. At least 6 AFRC troops have been reported killed and a number more injured. According to reports from Kenema, AFRC forces also attacked the ECOMOG base there, but had not succeeded in taking it.

Eight people were detained in Freetown Monday for "involvement in subversive activities," security forces said. Those arrested included former Deputy Minister of Marine Resources Mamoud Sesay, Financial Times editor Prince Akpu, Temne tribal chief Alhaji King Naimbana, and four women. Meanwhile, three journalists have gone into hiding to escape arrest. The families of Foday Fofanah, Fallah Ensa Ndayma, and Punch editor David Tam-Baryoh, said the three felt they were in danger. A police source said the three were wanted for questioning "on routine matters."

ECOMOG has denied allegation made on SLBS (state radio) Friday that it has acquired poison gas to counter the military junta in Sierra Leone. A statement issued in at ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia said ECOWAS member countries are signatories to various international conventions prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapon in any military operation. The ECOMOG statement called on the AFRC to reconsider its decision to use these weapons which, it said, the military regime has acquired and intends to use on the civilian population and ECOMOG troops. "ECOMOG strongly believes that the junta has acquired poisonous gas which it probably hopes to unleash on the peacekeepers and the thousands of civilians taking refuge with them in their various locations," the statement said. There has been no independent confirmation of the claims.

Diplomats in Conakry, Guinea said ECOWAS foreign ministers have invited the AFRC to a new round of negotiations in Guinea next week. RUF leader Foday Sankoh could be brought from detention in Nigeria to attend, and could eventually meet Kabbah, they said. "The ECOWAS committee will this time be pressing for the handing over of power by the AFRC and the reinstatement of Kabbah as early as possible," one diplomat said. The AFRC welcomed the prospect of talks "to find a solution to the present crisis through negotiations and not military intervention or the enforcement of sanctions," according to an AFRC spokesman in Freetown. "We had earlier written to President Lansana Conte of Guinea for the talks to take place in Conakry," he added.

11 October: A battle between Sierra Leonean troops and Nigerian ECOMOG forces continued to rage southeast of Freetown Saturday, with Sierra Leone's military government claiming to have seized ECOMOG's base at Jui. "We have taken control of the zone and have captured several Nigerian soldiers. The others have fled into the nearby bush from where they are bombing nearby areas," an unnamed AFRC spokesman said on SLBS (state radio). He said the Sierra Leonean troops were continuing their offensive, and appealed to the population "to remain calm even if the Nigerian aviation overflies the town." The fighting began Thursday evening when Sierra Leonean troops attacked ECOMOG positions at Lungi Airport. The ECOMOG base at Jui came under attack on Friday morning. Military officials in Freetown have so far declined to comment on casualties. Aid groups have reported that at least 1,000 refugees from the Jui area have taken refuge in Freetown. A statement issued by ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia on Friday accused the junta of planning to kidnap nationals of ECOWAS member states, especially Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Guineans, and to use them as hostages to bargain for the release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who has been detained in Nigeria since March. The ECOMOG statement said the plan was finalised by the AFRC at a meeting on Thursday. "Consequently, the junta at about 7:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Thursday launched a ferocious attack on ECOMOG protected areas in Lungi. The intensive attack was sustained throughout the night. In the face of such aggression against the peacekeeping force, ECOMOG has no option but to defend itself," the statement said. The statement went on to say that attacking ECOMOG protected areas "would only aggravate the crisis and bring more hardship on the civilians who are already traumatized by the recklessness and state of anarchy the illegal junta has unleashed on the citizens since May 25."

West African foreign ministers constituting the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone ended their meeting in Abuja, Nigeria Saturday with a communiqué saying they welcomed the resolution on sanctions adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday. The ministers revealed they had met with detained RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "The ministers met with Mr. Foday Sankoh. The meeting, which lasted for three hours, was very useful," the communiqué said. The foreign ministers did not say what they discussed with Sankoh. The ministers said they are willing to meet with representatives of the AFRC, and requested that their chairman, Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, make the necessary arrangements. However, negotiations would be subject to three conditions: "Representatives of the regime must have the requisite mandate to negotiate, the regime must negotiate in good faith, and the negotiations should strictly be within the ECOWAS mandate," the communiqué said. Officials said this meant that the AFRC regime must be prepared to cede power to ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The Committee of Five also agreed to allow for the delivery of relief supplies to Sierra Leone, and directed the ECOWAS secretary and peacekeeping force chief to establish a technical committee to work out modalities for the creation of delivery centers and the setting up of corridors for bringing in relief items. The Committee also appealed to the international community, ECOWAS countries, and United Nations agencies to provide urgent assistance to Guinea and Liberia, where an influx of refugees has strained their fragile economies. Noting that the junta had continued to attack and harass the ECOMOG force, the Committee called on the AFRC to put an end to such activities, otherwise ECOMOG would defend itself decisively. The warning coincided with a claim by the junta that it had routed Nigerian ECOMOG forces at Jui.

10 October: Sierra Leonean troops and Nigerian ECOMOG forces clashed near Jui Friday, with each side blaming the other for starting the fighting. At least five civilians were killed by shells which hit the eastern suburb of Wellington, one killing a mother and her baby when it landed near a crowded market. Sources in Freetown reported Friday morning that the Sierra Leone army had mounted an attack on the Nigerian ECOMOG base at Jui. Witnesses said several thousand civilians fled the Jui area with whatever belongings they could carry in the direction of Freetown. The fighting cut the main highway out of the capital between Freetown and Wellington. The AFRC blamed the clash on the Nigerians, and condemned the shelling near the market. "It is the heavy artillery which the Nigerians are using to shell us that is landing in Wellington and killing civilians there," an AFRC official said. A statement issued by the ECOMOG headquarters in Liberia said fighters loyal to the AFRC had attacked its positions at Lungi Airport Thursday night. Friday's attack had concentrated on the area of Kossoh Town, the statement said. The fighting later subsided.

West African foreign ministers meeting in Abuja, Nigeria Friday said the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone is prepared to resume talks with the AFRC. "The committee is prepared to go into negotiations with representatives of the illegal government in Sierra Leone with the underlying objective of restoring the legal government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah," said Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said in opening remarks at the conference. The conference was originally scheduled to begin Thursday, but was postponed when Guinean Foreign Minister Lamine Camara arrived late. The Liberian foreign minister did not show up, and Ivory Coast's foreign minister, who arrived in Abuja on Thursday, was called home the same day. No reason was given for his recall. Ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah arrived in Abuja Wednesday night, and was expected to take part in the conference. Ikimi said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday which imposed sanctions on Sierra Leone.

9 October: Soldiers used pickaxes and earthmoving equipment Thursday to search through the wreckage at the Cockerill Military Headquarters. "The search will continue for some time as up to 10 more soldiers have not been accounted for. They may have been buried under the debris," a defence spokesman said. SLBS radio and television have reported that four people were killed, including two soldiers, and that 28 people were injured, many critically. A BBC report has put the death toll at "at least 15", while "independent sources" have been quoted as saying that "up to 60" people were killed. One news service quoted residents as saying that a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet fired seven rockets at the military complex, while another cited witnesses who said the jet dropped two bombs. The seven year old military buildings were extensively damaged. "This has amounted to a state of war between Sierra Leone and Nigeria," AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said. He said the military government will attack ECOMOG bases in Sierra Leone. A senior military officer said the attack may have been prompted by a scheduled meeting at the headquarters which would have been attended by AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. The venue of the meeting was changed at the last minute. An ECOMOG statement said the target of the attack was a helicopter gunship which the junta had used against civilians and ECOMOG forces. "The ECOMOG jet searched for and destroyed the gunship as it was parking in its hideout at the junta's army headquarters," the statement said, adding that the gunship had earlier fired on an ECOMOG supply helicopter.

ECOMOG forces destroyed a Sierra Leonean gunship Wednesday, according to a statement issued Thursday by ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia. The statement said two gunships opened fire on ECOMOG positions at Lungi Airport. ECOMOG helicopters returned the fire, destroying one of the gunships, the statement said.

AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Thursday that the AFRC was prepared to hand over power to a civilian government, but not to ousted President Kabbah, saying Kabbah had "misused the constitution and abused the military." Kamara dismissed calls by the United Nations, the OAU, and ECOWAS for Kabbah's immediate reinstatement. "This is a Sierra Leonean problem, not a U.N. problem, not an OAU problem or an ECOWAS problem," Kamara said. Kamara said that the army had no hand in the burning of Kabbah's house, which was destroyed reprisal for the raid on the Military Headquarters, but added "We are sending the message to him that any time a civilian is dead Tejan Kabbah and his supporters will definitely suffer because they have been crying to the international community for military intervention and this time we're not ready to be stampeded." Kamara said the ECOMOG attack on Military Headquarters had inflicted 48 casualties, six dead--four military officers and two civilians. "The damage is extensive and I will tell you that we lost one of the most beautiful military headquarters in Africa, because definitely that building now has to be demolished," he said.

Ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah termed as a success his mission to the United Nations and his talks with U.S. officials. In an address which was to be delivered to the nation on Thursday, Kabbah told Sierra Leoneans "Heads of State and Foreign Ministers...were unanimous in their condemnation of the coup, and in their call for the restoration of my Government. I wish to assure you that no country has recognised or plans to recognise the illegal RUF/military regime in Freetown." Kabbah said that while force remained an option, "It is an option to be used only when all else fails." He said he supported sanctions, but that he had no objection to dialogue between the junta and the ECOWAS Committee of 5 on Sierra Leone as long as they do not go on indefinitely or deviate from the objective of an early restoration of his government. "The fact is that time is not on our side," Kabbah told Sierra Leoneans. "We have to start picking up the pieces." Kabbah said the threat to the country was not from ECOWAS, ECOMOG, or the United Nations Security Council. "The source of the threat is right here, inside our country," he said. It is the RUF/military junta...No organization would have imposed sanctions or suggested the use of force as a last resort, if the RUF/military junta had not violently overthrown the Government which you had freely elected in March 1996."

8 October: The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a British-sponsored resolution imposing sanctions on Sierra Leone's military government. The Council, acting under Chapter VII (enforcement) and Chapter VIII (regional arrangement) of the United Nations Charter, empowered ECOWAS to enforce an embargo against Sierra Leone. The resolution authorises ECOWAS to halt inward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations, in compliance with applicable international standards. The sanctions include a ban on the sale or supply of petroleum and petroleum products and weapons and military equipment to the junta. The resolution also calls for an international travel ban on all members of the junta and adult members of their families unless permission is granted by a special committee of the Security Council. The Council designated itself as a committee of the whole in order to ensure implementation of the provisions of the resolution, to consider reports on violations of the measures adopted, and to decide on requests for exceptions to the ban on importation of petroleum products and travel by members of the junta or their families. The resolution provides for the termination of sanctions if the military government should relinquish power to make way for the restoration of Sierra Leone's democratically-elected government and a return to constitutional order. The Security Council will review the measures 180 days after adoption of the resolution if the sanctions are still in force.

RUF Commander and Deputy Chief of AFRC Defence Staff Colonel Sam "Maskita" Bockari said Wednesday United Nations Security Council "are proving to we, the Sierra Leoneans, that they are biased and they are not just." Bockari said the sanctions would not sway the junta. "I can tell you that as long as we have our natural resources, like our diamonds and gold, I can tell you the sanctions will affect our poor innocent civilians, but not us as the AFRC," he said. Bockari said the international community's sanctions against Sierra Leone would fail. "I believe they did it (imposed sanctions) in Burundi against Major Buyoya and later they got to understand what was the fact, and we heard about no sanctions again functioning in that country, and so if they have done such again in Sierra Leone, then I believe we maintain our hard work to maintain the present peace development on the ground till an international committee and the world at large understand the reality of the facts they have to maintain or follow up to end up this war once and for all."

A Nigerian Alpha fighter jet bombed and damaged the Military Headquarters in Freetown Wednesday. Several people were wounded and some were believed to have been killed in the attack. Witnesses said plumes of spoke were rising from the complex as night fell. Residents said the military had opened fire with anti-aircraft guns after the jet had made two low-level passes over the buildings. There was no sound of anti-aircraft gun fire during the second raid, witnesses said. "The jet flew fast and dropped the bombs, and in a matter of seconds it was done with and gone," said one witness. "There are wounded and relatives crying outside the gates and troop reinforcements are pouring into the area." Many streets in the area were full of confused and frightened people watching from a safe distance. AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and some senior members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council rushed to the scene. Military Spokesman Major John Milton said the shells from the plane had hit a wall at the headquarters and wounded two civilians. "It is unfortunate when they are talking about the resumption of negotiations between ECOMOG commanders and the Sierra Leone military commanders that they are carrying out this kind of attack," Milton said.

The AFRC released a dozen people held under house arrest since July 29 on Tuesday, according to a report on SLBS radio and television. Among those released was prominent SLPP member and medical doctor Dr. Sama Banya. Banya and the others were arrested June 16 following allegations of a counter-coup plot against the AFRC, and were originally held at Pademba Road Prison.

AFRC Chief of Staff Colonel S.O. Williams has confirmed the defection of Brigade Commander Colonel Falla Sewah. Sewah defected to ECOMOG troops stationed at Jui over the weekend, and was reportedly flown to Guinea. Military sources said Colonel Sewah was highly respected by both Sierra Leonean soldiers and members of the RUF. He is the highest ranking officer of some 50 soldiers who have defected to date.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said Wednesday that the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone are due to meet in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday to assess the situation in Sierra Leone.

A conference sponsored by the British Department of International Development got underway in London Wednesday morning, two days behind schedule. Particpants will work on a 90 day policy framework to follow the re-establishment of Sierra Leone's civilian government.

Reaction: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "At stake is a great issue of principle, namely, that the efforts of the international community for democratic governance, grounding in the rule of law and respect for human rights, shall not be thwarted through illegal coups." Sierra Leone United Nations Ambassador James Jonah thanked Britain, which sponsored the Security Council resolution, for being "our loyal friend in this hour of crisis." Jonah said West African countries had wasted four months talking to the junta, which evidently did not believe the international community was serious enough to impose sanctions. Nigeria's Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari said Nigeria did not want a repeat of the situation in Liberia, which had destabilised the entire region. He said he wished the council had taken tougher measures. British Ambassador Sir John Weston said the council was making clear "to the illegal regime in Freetown that the entire international community is committed to reversing the military coup." Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions should have a time limit, but that Moscow was making an exception in this case because of the insistence of the African states. United States Ambassador Bill Richardson said that a six-month time limit on sanctions would have encouraged the junta "to try to tough it out, in the hope that in six months and one day the world would have changed so they wouldn't have to (comply)."

7 October: A spokesman for President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah issued a statement on the meeting between President Kabbah and UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart Sunday. He said Dr. Karefa-Smart had wanted to correct and clarify some "inaccurate statements" attributed to him in Sierra Leone and abroad. "Dr. Karefa-Smart emphasized that he was democrat and that he does not support military coups and the overthrow of a legitimate government by force. He assured the President that he would support measures aimed at an early restoration of President Kabbah to office," the statement said. According to the spokesman, President Kabbah and Dr. Karefa-Smart discussed outlines of necessary measures to bring about sustainable peace in Sierra Leone, including the restoration of the democratically-elected government of President Kabbah, formulation of a viable security system to ensure the safety and security of all Sierra Leoneans, complete disarmament, and resumption of the implementation of the 1996 Abidjan Peace Agreement. "All present agreed to work towards national reconciliation," the spokesman said.

Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo accused the AFRC Tuesday of attacking ECOMOG troops with nerve gas. "I learned they are educating our our troops on how to overcome the effect of the gas," Ugbo said, adding that ECOMOG is not in Sierra Leone to fight. Ugbo dismissed allegations that ECOMOG was attacking Sierra Leone military positions with Soviet-made Scud missiles. "Nigeria does not have such a weapon and no country in the sub-region has it," he said.

6 October: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah met with UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart at the United Nations Plaza Hotel Sunday night to discuss misunderstandings between them, and to seek a basis for cooperation on resolving the Sierra Leone crisis. The meeting, which was arranged by former foreign minister Dr. Abdulai Conteh, was also attended by presidential advisor Desmond Luke Esq., Abubakar Jalloh, UNPP-D.C. President John Turay, and Septimus Kaikai.

AFRC Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Samuel Koroma said Monday the army and its RUF allies "continue to register successes in containing attacks from Nigerian troops." Koroma did not give casualty figures, but said that cost to the army in loss of life has been minimal. "The Nigerian forces are increasingly counting the costs in skirmishes," he said, adding that some Nigerian soldiers had been killed by their own mines at Lungi Airport. The mines are of plastic type which cannot be easily detected," he said. "They are located in places frequented by local farmers and peasants who earn their living through subsistence agriculture. We have never planted mines of any kind anywhere. We have no mines in our armoury," he said. Koroma also accused Nigerian military pilots of using cluster bombs on civilian targets. "For them to use such bombs on targets in Freetown indicate deep sinister purposes," he said.

Soldiers and RUF fighters clashed near Tongo over the weekend, two independent radio stations reported on Monday. The stations quoted eyewitnesses who said the dispute between the soldiers and RUF People's Army fighters was a diamond concession at a site known as "Open Eye". The witnesses said RUF fighters accused the regular army soldiers of lacking courage in the fighting with the Kamajors over the diamond mining area. Security forces had to intervene to end the fighting, and reinforcements were sent Sunday, a military spokesman said. He added that no one was killed in the clash, but that 10 soldiers and 6 RUF fighters were seriously injured.

The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution which would impose oil, arms, and travel embargoes on Sierra Leone, Council members said on Monday. Council President Juan Somavia of Chile said he would do his best to get a vote on the resolution this week, as requested by the ECOWAS countries. The resolution would give international authorisation to ECOWAS to continue to enforce the oil and arms sanctions and stop to ships from reaching Sierra Leone. However, this provision is in dispute. U.N. aid agencies have complained that ECOWAS, in enforcing its embargo, has prevented aid supplies from entering Sierra Leone. The resolution demands that the AFRC take immediate steps to relinquish power and to cease all violence and interference with humanitarian assistance to civilians. It also forbids members of the junta or their families from travelling outside Sierra Leone unless they obtain permission from a special Security Council committee. The resolution bans any delivery of oil unless it is cleared by the committee for humanitarian purposes, and it forbids outright any sale or transport of arms, ammunition, military vehicles, spare parts, or other weapons-related equipment.

Liberian President Charles Taylor has said the conflict in Sierra Leone poses a serious threat to the Mano River Union member states of Liberia and Guinea. Taylor, who was quoted by a clandestine Liberian radio station, said Liberia's borders are not adequately protected, and that he would shortly issue orders to recruit able-bodied men and women to strengthen Liberia's national security agencies. Taylor stressed the need to encourage the work of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone to bring imaginative ideas aimed at resolving the Sierra Leone crisis. He said Liberia is now a proponent of peace in the sub-region, and noted that Liberians can now draw from the constitutional responsibility to protect and defend their sovereignty.

Only 40 percent of teachers reported for work Monday when Sierra Leone's primary schools reopened, a month behind schedule. Many said they would continue to observe the strike called by the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) following the May 25 coup. Secondary schools are scheduled to reopen on October 10.

4 October: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah addressed the Sierra Leonean community in Washington, D.C. Friday evening, stressing the need for peace and reconciliation. Speaking to a crowd estimated at between 300 and 400 at the Embassy Row Hotel, Kabbah touched on the plight of Sierra Leonean refugees around West Africa and, in response to a question, chronicled events which led to the deterioration of his relationship with UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart. Kabbah also cited his beliefs which led to the decision to have Major Johnny Paul Koroma and others tried before a constitutional court, instead of a court martial, after they tried to assassinate him only three months into his term. President Kabbah was introduced by Mohamed Kamara, Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone National Council (SLNC). Also making brief speeches were Tim Curley (Friends of Sierra Leone), Dr. Alhaji Fofanah (SLNC), and Dr. Ritchard M'bayo (CORDISAL). Earlier in the day, President Kabbah met with U.S. leaders in Washington.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will meet with UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart in New York Sunday evening in an effort to reconcile their differences over the crisis in Sierra Leone. The meeting was arranged by former foreign minister Dr. Abdulai Conteh, who will also attend.

RUF Commander and Deputy Chief of AFRC Defence Staff Colonel Sam "Maskita" Bockarie reacted to the U.S. State Department's support for sanctions in a BBC interview Saturday, saying "It will only prolong the crisis in Sierra Leone. That will not affect us to the degree that will sabotage our government not to function. Our government will function till whenever everyone comes to know the facts. They will come to know the facts and then resolve this matter peacefully as we the combatants have decided to do." Bockarie said those who support the restoration of ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah lack knowledge of the true situation in Sierra Leone. "If those who are supporting (Kabbah) do understand the situation on the ground, we believe, none of them will have been supporting the former regime. So, we believe those who are getting fed up with us, we believe, one day will get to know the facts. They will know really that they are doing some mistakes and thy need to correct one day." Bockarie said the AFRC was prepared to attend a new round of peace talks next week, saying "We are interested in peace. We believe all the international community should decide on this Sierra Leone crisis properly...Let them sit down and assess the whole situation in Sierra Leone, and they will know exactly what to do to end this whole crisis in Sierra Leone peacefully."

AFRC Youth Representative Saidu B. Kamara and two other persons were killed Saturday when the vehicle he was driving somersaulted and crashed into a bridge at Savage Place, in western Freetown. The accident happened at 2:00 a.m., and Kamara died a short time later at 34 Military Hospital. Kamara had recently gained notoriety by mobilising youths to beat up vendors selling newspapers which he considered to be anti-AFRC. However, he was extremely popular among youths who support the AFRC. Sources in Freetown originally reported that a truck carrying AFRC soldiers from Congo Cross lost control, missing the Savage Street bridge on Saturday afternoon. 8 soldiers were reported to have died and 15 were injured, three critically.

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) resolved Saturday that its members would not register or re-register their newspapers until constitutional order is restored. Members agreed by consensus that if the junta forged ahead with its plans to require newspapers to re-register under the 1980 Press Act, or any other act, they would impose a news blackout.

Leaders of the Kono Union USA (KONUSA) met with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in Washington on Friday, and presented him with $2,000 to aid Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea. "He was very grateful, thankful, and appreciative for our efforts and support," KONUSA President Aiah Fanday said.

The United Nations Security Council will meet next week to consider a resolution to impose sanctions on Sierra Leone. Diplomats say the Council will meet before an ECOWAS regional summit next Thursday. A draft resolution being circulated by the British calls on the AFRC to "take immediate steps to relinquish power in Sierra Leone and make way for the restoration of the democratically elected government." The sanctions outlined in the draft resolution are less broad than measures adopted by the ECOWAS Heads of State Summit at Abuja, Nigeria in August. The draft calls for a ban on the sale or supply of "petroleum or petroleum products or arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts." It also provides for international travel restrictions on "members of the military junta in Sierra Leone and adult members of their families." Humanitarian assistance would not be affected. Under the draft resolution, a committee would be established to monitor implementation of sanctions on Sierra Leone. The sanctions would remain in force until the Kabbah government and "constitutional order" are restored.

The British Department of International Development (formerly the Overseas Development Agency) is sponsoring an all-week conference in London next week to plan a 90 day policy framework to follow the re-establishment of Sierra Leone's civilian government. Approximately 50 people have been invited to attend.

3 October: United States State Department Deputy Spokesman James B. Foley issued a statement Friday reiterating U.S. condemnation of the May 25 coup by the AFRC and RUF, and calling for the prompt restoration of the democratically elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The clarification of U.S. policy came after disclosure of a fax sent to AFRC Chief of Staff Colonel S.O. Williams by UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart. State Department officials said the fax, which described Karefa-Smart's September 26 meeting with U.S. officials at the State Department, did not accurately reflect the U.S. position. "We appreciate and support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore President Kabbah," the statement said. "In aid of ECOWAS efforts, the United States fully supports a United Nations Security Council resolution to impose sanctions against the illegal junta in Freetown." Foley called upon the AFRC/RUF to honour the commitment it made to ECOWAS by entering into negotiations on the prompt restoration of constitutional government. "We are deeply concerned that if negotiations do not succeed rapidly, force may be used instead," Foley said. Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said he was happy over the clarification. "We have been hearing a lot of rumor spreading around on the position of the U.S. on the matter. This now has been clarified," he said.

ECOMOG Deputy Force Commander Brigade-General Joe Kwateng said Thursday that international organisations intending to deliver aid to Sierra Leone must first clear it with ECOMOG. Kwateng said that liaising with ECOMOG was in their own interest as they would be kept abreast of the situation in Sierra Leone. By letting ECOMOG know of their humanitarian mission, organisations would be able to get protection and assistance from ECOMOG, especially as the only international airport in Sierra Leone is under ECOMOG protection, Kwateng said.

President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara of Niger, President Charles Taylor of Liberia, and President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso met October 2-3 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and expressed their desire for a rapid resolution of the crisis in Sierra Leone. The three leaders called on the ECOWAS committee of Five to pursue its efforts toward a peaceful resolution.

2 October: SLBS (state radio) reported Thursday that lassa fever killed 47 people in Eastern Province March and September, bringing the known death toll to 65 so far for the year. The hardest hit towns were Tongo, Panguma, and Kenema. Richard Allan, medical adviser to the Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN) said Wednesday that the epidemic had escalated in January 1997 to become the worst epidemic of lassa fever ever recorded. MERLIN treated over 328 hospitalised cases in the first four months of 1997. Since the May 25 coup, MERLIN has not been able to reach the areas where lassa fever is endemic. A medical officer was quoted as saying that more than 300 people had been admitted to hospital with the disease between April and September. He blamed the upsurge in cases on poor sanitation, rats, overcrowding and poor diet.

Consolidated Rutile Ltd. said Thursday it does not expect any production from Sierra Rutile Limited in 1998. "It is now apparent there will be a delay in restarting the operation with production not anticipated in 1998," the company said. Consolidated Rutile Ltd., a joint shareholder in Sierra Rutile with Nord Resources Corp, is 45.6 percent owned by Cudgen R.Z. Ltd., which in turn is majority-owned by Australia-based RGC Ltd. RGC Ltd. subsidiary RGC Mineral Sands Ltd Chief Executive Officer Keith Faulkner said a $45 million debt forbearance agreement has been reached with international banks. This is the sixth time a forbearance has been granted since January 1995, when the mine was overrun by rebels. "If peace broke out tomorrow, it would take about 18 months to restart," Faulkner said. "What we keep doing now is forbearing foreclosure by the banks." In a press released Thursday, Nord Resources Corp said international banks that had made loans to Sierra Rutile Limited had extended a forbearance agreement by three months, to January 1, 1998. Under the terms of the agreement, Sierra Rutile Limited will pay the banks about $2.9 million, all interest due during the extension period, and 50% of one principal payment to each bank. The banks have agreed not to take any action to collect the loans unless there is a material change in circumstances.

The AFRC has sworn Hamid Abdul Kamara as a government secretary, SLBS (state radio) said Thursday. Kamara, a 1966 economics graduate from Moscow State University in Russia, was also appointed to head the civil service.

1 October: Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah appealed to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday to "save a nation" and help restore Sierra Leone to civilian rule. "I appear before you today to make an appeal, a desperate appeal, for help from the international community to save a nation and a people," Kabbah told the Assembly. "Overnight, Sierra Leone was transformed into a gulag of horrors, the killing of defenseless innocent civilians, looting, confiscation of property and rape. The people of Sierra Leone have been ushered into a long night of darkness." Kabbah accused the military junta which deposed his government on May 25 of practicing political persuasion which borders on systematic genocide. "My presence on this podium symbolizes the people of Sierra Leone stretching out their hands to the United Nations to pull them back from the brink of catastrophe," he said, expressing the hope that the international community "will not allow the military junta to convert their country into one vast killing field." Kabbah asked for United Nations support in restoring constitutional rule to Sierra Leone. "Only the speedy restoration of the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone can provide a lasting solution to the crisis and enable the country to return to normalcy and resume its place as a responsible member of the community of nations," he said.

Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha Wednesday called on the AFRC to resume negotiations with ECOWAS. "We call on the illegal regime in Freetown to resume serious negotiations and dialogue on the ECOWAS objectives of the early reinstatement of the legitimate government of President Tejan Kabbah," Abacha said in a speech marking the 37th anniversary of Nigerian independence. Abacha, who is chairman of ECOWAS, said other objectives were the return of peace and security and the resolution of the issue of refugees and displaced persons in Sierra Leone. Abacha called upon the international community to give ECOWAS its full support in resolving the Sierra Leone crisis which, he said, pose "new challenges to the ability of the sub-region at conflict resolution."

Health officials disclosed Wednesday that an estimated 5,000 Sierra Leonean women aged between 14 and 29 years suffer from sexually transmitted diseases (STD). According to their findings, Dombali and Tonkolili in the north, Kenema in the east, and the Western Area recorded their highest levels of STD in the last seven years.

Liberian President Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi issued a joint statement at the end of Taylor's visit to Libya, expressing support for the ECOWAS position regarding the conflict in Sierra Leone, and calling for an end to bloodshed in that country.