The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

October 1998
 

31 October: ECOWAS heads of state meeting at a summit in Abuja, Nigeria have agreed to strengthen the ECOMOG force in Sierra Leone. No figures were given for the additional deployments, but the presidents of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Niger have all reportedly agreed to send additional troops. The West African leaders also rejected a demand by Liberian President Charles Taylor that ECOMOG troops in Liberia should remain, but be put under his command. ECOWAS leaders adopted "almost without debate" a draft treaty setting up permanent Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. On Friday, the proposal received the support of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said the mechanism should emphasise solving problems before they escalate into full scale war. Salim also urged more international support for the Sierra Leone government in its military struggle against AFRC/RUF rebels. The ECOWAS summit also saw the launch of the new ECOWAS travellers cheques approved by a committee of ECOWAS central bank governors designed to facilitate trade, tourism, commercial, and cross-border transactions within the sub-region. The cheque, in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 West African Unit of Accounts (one West African Unit of Account = $1.36), is considered to be a major step aimed at establishing a single monetary zone by the year 2000. On Saturday, the summit elected Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema as ECOWAS chairman for 1998-99, to be replaced by Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare from 1999 to the year 2000. Efforts to resolve the conflict in Guinea-Bissau stalled, but the West African leaders called on the parties to the conflict to consolidate the existing ceasefire agreement and decided to send a ceasefire observer team to the country. Also on the summit's agenda were appointments within ECOWAS, the distribution of posts in the ECOWAS Fund,  the debate of steps leading to economic integration, and the drafting of a final communiqué.

The London-based law firm Akainyah and Company has conditionally agreed to represent RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh in an appeal of his conviction and death sentence handed down last week by Freetown's High Court. Sankoh was forced to defend himself in his treason trial after no lawyer could be found to take his case. Prison authorities said Sankoh danced with joy in his cell, saying "I accept, I accept. I thank God that the lawyers...are coming to defend me," when he learned of the firm's offer. "The government is considering the demands and requests in the letter to see what we can afford to do and what we cannot," Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said Saturday. He added that the government was reviewing the financial conditions it was being asked to meet in connection with Sankoh's defence, which he described as "onerous" and would be difficult for the government to meet. "Airfare, hotel bills, trnasport, security and protection—we can give them of course security and administrative office space, staff and equipment, including secretary, telephone, fax, computer, e-mail facilities, all these things," he said. "They are talking of three persons coming...The amount (is) quite outside the reach of government."   Berewa said the government was very anxious to have the firm defend Sankoh, (but) "we have our own rates here which would be applied." He said he would be in contact with the firm on Monday and "make suggestions to them." Berewa denied that security was a factor in the in Sankoh's inability to secure counsel. "No, it’s not security at all. It wasn’t security, I think, in the case of members of the bar association. I don’t think it was that. I mean, they just, perhaps, felt they were all victims of what Foday Sankoh did. And, I mean, they had the right to decide whom to defend." He added that security should not be a problem for the foreign lawyers, but "If they want to have personal security, we can always arrange that for them." Akainyah and Company reportedly wrote to Berewa saying it was "prepared to accept instructions to act subject to satisfactory arrangements." The firm is "requesting the UN Human Rights Officer in Freetown, Michael O'Flaherty, be given the facility to meet Sankoh to inform him about the representation and obtain his instructions as to whether he wishes them to act on his behalf," a source was quoted as saying. "If Sankoh agrees, then the Attorney-General should send by courier the transcript and record of the high court proceedings and the case law relied upon by the prosecution," the source added.

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said Saturday that RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh had lodged a formal appeal against the death sentence. "I received notice of the appeal yesterday from the Appeals Court," Berewa said.

The African Commission on Human and People's Rights said in Banjul, Gambia that it will appeal to President Kabbah to halt the executions in Sierra Leone. "The commission decided to send commissioner Ben Salem to Sierra Leone to meet President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah so as to ask him not to proceed with further execution of those sentenced to death," the Commission said in a statement at the conclusion of its 24th session.

Chief of Defence Staff Maxwell Khobe has accused elements of Liberian President Charles Taylor's former militia, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), of prolonging the Sierra Leone crisis by providing support for the AFRC/RUF rebels. "As I am talking to you now, NPFL forces are counting their losses after being repelled in a surprise attack Friday night at Mende Kelema" Khobe said Saturday. The Liberian government has repeatedly denied the involvement of organised Liberian involvement in Sierra Leone, despite the capture of NPFL and ULIMO-K fighters in Sierra Leone by the ECOMOG force. Khobe said Sierra Leonean forces and ECOMOG were now poised to "flush out" rebel forces. "All we need is sufficient manpower, and once this is given by the ECOWAS leaders, the operation will be over in no time," he said. Khobe said some 3,000 soldiers of the former Sierra Leone Army had been retrained, while the demobilisation and reintegration process continues.

Some 50 people were killed in Koidu Sunday when an old diamond pit under the post office collapsed on hundreds of would-be diamond diggers. Scores of others were dragged alive from the pit, in the center of the city. "Hundreds of people rushed to dig up the old pit inside the national post office building when they heard that a gang had found a big diamond in gravel originally dug from the pit," a Civil Defence Forces officer said. He added that the pit, which was more than 100 feet deep, had collapsed on the illicit miners, killing more than 50 people including several Sierra Leone soldiers stationed at the town. Minister of Mineral Resources Mohammed Swarry Deen said the government had received news of the disaster, but had no officials there. "It is a no-go area for us because of the fighting going on between the rebels and the ECOMOG troops and Sierra Leone soldiers," he said. A local chief in Koidu said the accident was not the first of its kind, but that it was by far the worst. "In the past four or five months dozens of people have died when diamond pits in the town collapsed on them, or in gang killings and fights over diamonds," he said.

30 October: AFRC/RUF rebels herded 48 civilians into a room, locked them in, and blew up the building during last Saturday's attack on the northern town of Alikalia, ECOMOG task force commander Brigadier-General Abu Ahmadu told reporters in a Thursday night briefing. "ECOMOG troops in its mopping up in (the) district discovered the 48 bodies, which included women and children," Ahmadu said. He called "this inhuman act by rebels, to lock up the 48 civilians and kill them with explosives" a change in strategy by the rebels, from the mutilating of villagers by hacking off their limbs to rounding up "civilians who don't compromise with them and carrying out mass executions."  Ahmadu also said his forces had overrun the rebel base at Koinadugu.

Japan will give the United Nations $960,000 in emergency grants-in-aid to help promote stability in Sierra Leone, Japanese foreign ministry officials said on Friday. The U.N. is expected to use the money to secure employment for former soldiers, the Kyodo news agency reported.

29 October: Police in Guinea have begun screening thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees after Guinean dissidents in exile threatened to disrupt Guinea's elections in December, officials in Freetown said Thursday. Guinean state radio said last week that dissidents living in Liberia were threatening to invade Guinea if Lansana Conte stood for re-election. The radio also told all Sierra Leonean nationals to report to police stations for identity checks and registration. "Thousands of Sierra Leoneans in Conakry...and other Guinean towns are reporting to police stations where police are screening them for rebels still hiding in the country," a Sierra Leonean official said. Many AFRC supporters reportedly fled to Guinea when the junta was ousted by ECOMOG troops in February. "The Guinean government is not taking the threat from the dissidents lightly," a Guinean official said in Freetown. "Guinean police are screening Sierra Leoneans...(who) could act as advance parties or join forces with (Guinean) rebels if they try to carry out attacks. Since the weekend, the Guinean military has sent truckloads of troops into Kissidougou and Gueckedou near the border with northern Sierra Leone to track down and destroy rebels."

Sierra Leone's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Sama Banya, has signed an agreement in Beijing under which the Chinese government will provide 52 million yuan ($6.3 million) in financial and technical assistance to Sierra Leone. A Sierra Leone government news release said that ten million yan will be applied toward the country's current reconstruction programme, with the balance to be utilised for restarting those programmes interrupted by last year's coup. Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said that he hoped arrangements could be concluded for President Kabbah's recently postponed visit to be scheduled for early next year. Said Banya, "The main thrust of my visit, apart from President Kabbah's proposed visit, is to prevail on the government of the people's Republic of China to use its best endeavours to assist Sierra Leone to become self-sufficient in food production." He noted that Sierra Leone's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment, Dr. Harry Will, may visit China in the near future.

Shops in Sierra Leone are refusing to accept bank notes bearing the picture of former President Joseph Momoh, who stands accused of collaborating with the AFRC military junta and is currently on trial for treason in Freetown. A "senior cabinet minister", who declined to be named, told Reuters on Thursday that the Central Bank was preparing to withdraw the notes. The Central Bank official has denied the claim. "All currencies bearing the portrait of former President Momoh are still legal tender in the country and it is criminal to refuse them in business,"  the official said. Momoh's face appears on 100 and 500 leone notes. The minister said it was "highly likely" that Momoh would be convicted of treason next week. "The currency of the country is an icon, a symbol of national pride and achievement, and to have the picture of a convict on our currency displayed abroad is bad, it will damage the image of Sierra Leone," the minister said. Sierra Leoneans have been trying to dispose of the notes this week after rumours that they were about to be withdrawn. The Central Bank official said the bank had issued a directive to commercial banks on Monday to separate notes bearing Momoh's picture from other notes in transactions with the Central Bank. The commercial banks passed the directive on to their depositors on Tuesday, setting off the panic. "We only instructed the banks to separate the notes bearing the portrait of Momoh from the rest because they are old and cause problems for bank clerks counting them as they stick together," the Central Bank official said.

President Kabbah has arrived in Abuja, Nigeria for the two day ECOWAS Heads of State Summit. ECOWAS officials said South African President Nelson Mandela was expected to arrive on Thursday evening and would address the summit on Friday. Heading the agenda will be the conflict in Guinea-Bissau, the creation of an ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, and the introduction of an ECOWAS travellers cheque to facilitate travel among the 16 member countries.

28 October: Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman accused AFRC/RUF rebels Wednesday of disemboweling pregnant women and causing the deaths of about 50 civilians who attempted to flee two rebel attacks on the town of Alakalia on Saturday. Norman confirmed reports from local authorities that about 50 persons died trying to cross the Pampana River in dugout canoes. He said the rebels had arrived at the town by canoe, and put the total death toll from the attacks at 130. Officials earlier had put the death toll from the attack at about 80, including 55 rebels. "We are certain that former military leader Johnny Paul Koroma...backed by RUF rebels and junta fighters, are the ones causing atrocities in the northern region," Norman said while visiting the wounded at Connaught Hospital in Freetown. "What Koroma and his rebels group are now doing is attacking villages and towns, beheading, cutting throats, chopping off hands and feet, disemboweling pregnant women, killing their brothers and sisters." He told journalists that while rebel attacks continued in the north, "the southern region is relatively quiet and thousands of people who fled their homes have returned."

Liberian President Charles Taylor directed the Liberia Refugee, Repatriation, and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) to dismantle refugee camps near Monrovia within three months, and has ordered that the thousands of refugees sheltering be returned to their own countries, according to the independent Inquirer newspaper. International aid agencies working in Liberia "are teaching us laziness. We can not sit and wait for relief food in these camps for ever," Taylor was quoted as saying. If the agencies wished to help, he added, they should take the displaced persons home and get them to start farming. "We want to be able to feed ourselves, so teach us how to fish instead of providing us fish every day," he said. Some refugees say their towns and villages had been burned down, leaving them nothing to return to, while others point out that the security situation in the countryside is still precarious. Taylor also instructed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take refugees from neighbouring countries directly to their home countries, rather than keeping them in transit camps.

Members of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday expressed renewed concern at intensified rebel activity in Sierra Leone. Following consultations, the current Security Council President,  Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the U.K., said Council members were concerned about atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population, the use of child combatants, and the continuing humanitarian and refugee crisis in the country. Security Council members noted that fighting on the Sierra Leone-Liberian border had increased tensions between the two countries, and called for continued dialogue and the implementation of confidence-building measures agreed upon between the two countries in July. Council members called on member states and the international community to make further contributions to support deployment of the ECOMOG force, and to assist the government's disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programme to address the humanitarian needs of the country. Council members stressed that the only lasting solution to the cycle of violence in Sierra Leone was one based on national reconciliation, and encouraged all efforts in this direction, including on the part of the Sierra Leone government itself, Greenstock said.

CARE will begin distribution of food to some 250,000 refugees in 60 refugee camps near Gueckedou on November 1. "The security situation in this corner of Africa has the potential to become as intense as the Sudan and Somalia crises," said CARE official Mike Godfrey. He said some 600,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees were camped in Guinea, making for one of the largest refugee populations in West Africa. "Considering Sierra Leone's and Liberia's instability, we are not optimistic right now," said Godfrey. "The lives of these families on the run will either stay the same or get worse." CARE is deploying a team of experts who, along with Guinean staff, will distribute 120 tons of food a day, consisting of wheat flour, corn and soya blend, cooking oil, salt, and milk,  to camps spread over "incredibly difficult" terrain. "The men and women in these camps were small merchants, farmers, fishermen and teachers in their communities," Godfrey said. "They are proud and capable people who fled their homes out of terror. They want to go home, but in the meantime are doing the best they can given the circumstances."  CARE is distributing food in Guinea as part of a 14 month $14 million response to the humanitarian disaster there.

Chief of Defence Staff Maxwell Khobe has called on the rebels to lay down their arms and benefit from a government offer of amnesty.

27 October: Some 50 more persons will face trial on charges they collaborated with the AFRC military junta, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said on Tuesday. He said they would be tried only after the Appeals Court had dealt with the case of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who was sentenced to death by Freetown's High Court on Friday. "We are putting about 50 more people on trial after this, including 16 military officers and soldiers for...their deeds of complicity with the ousted military junta," Berewa said. Senior court sources said many of the defendants would face treason charges, which carry the death penalty.

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa said Tuesday that local lawyers were still refusing to defend RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who has requested legal counsel to represent him before the Appeals Court. "Yesterday, I wrote to legal organisations and human rights organisations in Britain, Canada and other Commonwealth countries to (ask them to) do all they can to get a lawyer for the rebel leader as his case will come up early, in fact in a matter of weeks, in the Appeals Court," Berewa said. "Lawyers in Sierra Leone are still refusing to defend him and Corporal Sankoh himself is working now on the papers for his appeal to the court." Berewa said Sankoh's case would take precedence over the appeals of 27 civilians convicted and sentenced to death in two separate trials, saying Sankoh was only one person and the paperwork in his case would take less time to complete.

A high level five member British government delegation has arrived in Freetown to discuss security reform in Sierra Leone. The delegates, who arrived over the weekend, held wide-ranging talks with President Kabbah on Monday, according to SLBS (state radio), which said that the delegation is assessing the government's plan for the creation and training of a new 5,000 man army. The delegation includes officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, and the Ministry of Defence, the radio said.

British High Comissioner Peter Penfold has announced that British government has approved £5 million in assistance to Sierra Leone to help the country meet the cost of importing essential commodities.

ECOWAS Heads of State will consider a three-year moratorium on the import, export, and manufacture of light arms in the region when they meet for a summit in Abuja on Friday and Saturday. The moratorium, if approved, would underscore "the firm resolve of member states to control the proliferation of light weapons at the national, regional and international levels," an ECOWAS stastement said. The proposed moratorium would be enforced under the United Nations Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development, the statement said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sama Banya met with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, in Beijing on Tuesday. As reported by the official Chinese Xinhua news service, Tang said China is prepared to work with Sierra Leone "in an effort to protect the legal rights and interests of developing nations." Tang said the Chinese government appreciated Sierra Leone's adherence to the "one China" policy, and noted Sierra Leone's progress in the peace process. Banya pointed to numerous examples of Chinese - Sierra Leonean cooperation throughout Sierra Leone. "Sierra Leone will always adhere to its 'one China' stance regardless of whatever might happen," he told Tang. Later, in a meeting with Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao, Hu said that China was willing to support the peace process in Sierra Leone and to continue to provide aid for the country's reconstruction. He said the two countries could continue to explore new channels and forms for expanding economic trade and cooperation. Banya replied that Sierra Leone's government and people were grateful for China's support, and that his country was ready to learn from China's reforms, particularly in the development of agriculture.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree "On Measures for the Implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1171 of June 5, 1998", lifting all sanctions against Sierra Leone, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported on Tuesday. The primary precondition for lifting the sanctions had been the restoration of civilian rule.

26 October: ECOMOG troops have found the bodies of 35 more rebels at Alikalia, bring the total number of dead from the weekend attack to over 70, an ECOMOG officer said on Monday. "We found 35 more bodies of rebels...during mopping-up operations yesterday, bringing the total number of rebels killed during the fighting to 55," the officer said. Captured rebel fighters said they were now on a "genocide mission to slaughter civilians" following the imposition of the death sentence on RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, the officer added. On Sunday, an ECOMOG officer said 14 rebels had been captured during three hours of fighting for control of the town. "We massacred them," another officer said on Monday. "But they also massacred civilians in Alikalia...They turned their guns on civilians as they fled, killing many of them and setting their houses on fire." He did not provide civilian casualty figures, but earlier reports said the rebels had killed about 30 people.

ECOMOG troops, backed by Civil Defence Forces (CDF) militiamen killed 83 rebels in a six hour battle at Tombodu, in Kono District, over the weekend, local journalists reported on Monday. The clash occurred after rebels attacked residents of the town as they returned home Saturday, killing several of them. "It was during mopping-up operations in the area when loyalist forces found the bodies of 83 rebels," a correspondent was quoted as saying.

The Civil Defence Forces (CDF) have located and captured a new rebel base, known as "Joe Town," about half a mile from Ngandorhun in Kono District, according to CDF officer Sellu Conteh. He said about 50 rebels and a large cache of arms and ammunition were captured in a battle which lasted about two hours. Also captured were lists of about 50 top rebel commanders, junta fugitives, and Liberian mercenaries, Conteh added. He said two rebel child soldiers had been captured and are now reportedly being detained in Kenema.

ECOMOG officers are preventing the force from capturing the last 20% of the country still in the hands of AFRC/RUF rebels because they are involved in the illicit diamond trade, ECOMOG soldiers alleged on Monday. The soldiers, who are in Lagos on medical leave, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the rebels were paying off some of their officers in diamonds. The soldiers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rebels appeared to have been strengthened recently by new supplies of weapons, which they alleged were being supplied by Liberian President Charles Taylor. Nigerian officials declined to comment on the soldiers' allegations.

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa was quoted as saying Monday that RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh could ask a lawyer from a Commonwealth country to handle his appeal if he is unable to find one in Sierra Leone. Sankoh was forced to defend himself in his treason trial after no lawyer could be found willing to represent him. Berewa said he hoped Sankoh would have legal representation, but added that "lawyers in Sierra Leone, especially human rights lawyers, refuse to take the case."

The conflicts in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, and a draft treaty which would set up a permanent regional conflict resolution mechanism with a military dimension, top the agenda of ECOWAS foreign ministers as they meet in Abuja Monday for a two day conference in advance of Heads of State Summit. ECOWAS Director of Information Adrienne Diop said the treaty would allow ECOWAS to set up a permanent mechanism for conflict resolution, instead of intervening on an ad hoc basis. "Setting up the draft mechanism, all problems will be solved through ECOWAS...We have now decided we are not going to work on ad hoc committees again," she said. "It is very important now that our subregion is able to prevent conflicts and whenever they erupt, we are able to really deal with them so that they would not move to other countries." Other issues to be discussed are communications between the countries, the movement of property and people, and the illegal drug trade in the region, Diop added. Central bank governors met Monday, and will be joined Tuesday by finance ministers, to discuss the creation of an ECOWAS travellers cheque to facilitate travel among the 16 member countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sama Banya arrived in Beijing, China Monday on a seven day official visit. Banya and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan are expected to discuss bilateral ties "and other issues of common concern" on Tuesday, according to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua. Banya and his entourage will also visit the cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai.

A football tournament of Mano River Union states is being organised which would bring together the soccer teams of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, Liberian Sports Minister Francois Massaquoi said Friday at a meeting of the ECOWAS Citizens Union in Monrovia. He said such a tournament would foster unity among member states, and urged ECOWAS citizens to work out modalities for the tournament.

25 October: AFRC/RUF rebels have beheaded several men and women at Alikalia, and chopped off the arms of several others, including children, military officers, survivors, and aid workers said on Sunday. Residents said about 300 well armed rebels attacked the town, some 20 miles north of Kabala. An ECOMOG officer said more than 20 rebels were killed and 14 captured during a three hour battle on Saturday. The rebels told townspeople the attack was in retaliation for the death sentence imposed on RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh by Freetown's High Court on Friday.

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh was transferred Saturday from a secret location where he was detained during his trial to Pademba Road Prison, according to prison authorities.

24 October: RUF commander Sam Bockarie appealed to "the international community and the world at large" on Saturday to prevail on President Kabbah not to carry out the execution of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "I think it is about time now for us to reconcile rather than kill one another," Bockarie said in a BBC interview. He added that executing Sankoh "will only escalate the situation, but it will not solve the problem." Bockarie warned that if Sankoh's appeal were to be turned down, the consequences would be unpredictable. "We are really organised, we are well armed, and we are in thousands," he said. "I am not suggesting (Kabbah) should kill, but to save this situation. I think it is better for the international community to intervene now to resolve this issue peacefully, rather than them sitting by and watching as Kabbah and his [word indistinct] killing others, which may escalate the situation. Kabbah cannot provide security for this nation -- I can assure that."

23 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh was sentenced to death Friday after a 12-member jury found him guilty on 7 of 9 counts of treason. The jury, which deliberated for less than two hours before returning its verdict, rejected Sankoh's argument that he had been granted amnesty under the 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord. "I thank my brothers, members of the jury, for taking such a decision," Sankoh told them. Sankoh appealed to the judge for leniency, but High Court Justice Samuel Ademosu was unmoved. "You shall be taken from here to some place of maximum security where you shall be hanged by the neck until you die," Ademosu told Sankoh. "Had you not given the order for your rebels to come out of the bush and join forces with the AFRC, the atrocities could have been averted," he added. "Had it not been for you, the atrocities committed and trauma experienced by the people of this country would not have happened. For that you deserve nothing less than death." Ademosu said he was imposing the death sentence as a deterrent and to take account of atrocities committed by Sankoh's RUF fighters. Sankoh replied, "Thank you Lord." As the handcuffed RUF leader was led from the court he began singing war songs. As described by BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay: "People were expecting the verdict and the sentence. So everybody was quiet until such time when Sankoh was leaving the court. He started singing his war songs. And then people started standing up. And then the ECOMOG security and the SSD personnel in the court started shouting that everybody should sit down, because everybody wanted to see his reaction. And the noise when he was singing, it sort of caught people by surprise, and they stood up to see where the sound was coming from, only to realize that it was Sankoh who was singing one of his war songs." The RUF leader has 21 days to appeal his sentence, and he has vowed to do so. Sankoh,  who was compelled to defend himself after no attorney could be found to take his case, told the court that the law is a schoolmaster and that he was a new man to the law. In the absence of legal representation, he requested that the court provide him with a lawyer for his appeal.

AFRC/RUF rebels threatened Friday to attack Freetown in retaliation for Monday's execution of 24 military officers condemned to death in connection with last year's military coup.

22 October: High Court Justice Samuel Ademosu began his address to the jury trying RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh Thursday, a day after Sankoh concluded his own defence. Court officials said Ademosu was expected to ask the jury to retire and consider its verdict, which is expected next week. In summing up his defence Wednesday, Sankoh told the 12-member jury that his trial was illegal under the 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord. He submitted a copy of the accord in evidence to support his argument that it granted amnesty to RUF rebels. "To consolidate peace and in the cause of reconciliation, no RUF rebels shall be taken to court for action done," Sankoh said, reading from the document. He said the accord remained in effect because it had not been formally renounced by either party.

Guinea has deployed some 3,000 troops along the border with Sierra Leone, with about 1,000 Guinean soldiers entering the country with their tanks as part of security measures in advance of elections in December, Guinean officials said Thursday. Aid workers said thousands of Kambia residents lined the streets to cheer the Guineans when they entered the town on Tuesday. "The 3,000 troops completed their deployment at the weekend and 1,000 of them have moved into Kambia and Kukuna in the northern part of Sierra Leone," one officer said.

The Sierra Leone government has rescinded an order to deport en masse foreign nationals who failed to produce valid residence or work permits by last week, but labour officials said the government would not relent in its crackdown against illegal aliens in the country. "Close to 5,000, Lebanese, Indians, Europeans, Americans, and African nationals have registered and secured work permits," SLBS (state radio) said on Wednesday.

Sierra Leone's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Sama Banya, will visit Beijing, China from October 26 to November 1 at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. The announcement was made by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tang Guoqiang and reported by China's Xinhua news service.

The United States Senate on Wednesday confirmed Joseph H. Melrose Jr. as Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he "regrets" Monday's execution of 24 military officers condemned to death last week in connection with last year's militar coup. "He hopes that the government of Sierra Leone ensure the due process in further trials," a spokeswoman for Annan said. "The secretary-general regrets the executions of 24 military officers in Sierra Leone on October 19, despite his appeal to the government to consider, at a minimum, a stay of execution pending review of the proceedings before relevant international monitoring bodies."

The European Union (EU) has also condemned the Monday's executions. "The EU condemns the execution of 24 soldiers by firing squad, which took place on October 19, 1998 in Sierra Leone," said a statement issued by the current Austrian EU presidency. While the EU recognised that the former military junta had committed "appalling atrocities" upon the civilian population and that those responsible should be brought to justice, it pointed out that the condemned soldiers had not been accorded the right of appeal to a higher court. "The EU is convinced that the executions which have just been carried out will not be conducive to fostering the peace and reconciliation process, which the international community is aiming to encourage," the statement concluded.

21 October: Freetown's High Court has imposed sentences of death on 11 of 16 civilians convicted of treason on Monday in connection with last year's coup. Five others were given jail sentences. During the two days since the verdicts were delivered by an 11 member jury, the defendants and their lawyers made passionate pleas to Justice A. Bankole Rashid not to sentence them to death, and to temper justice with mercy. As reported by BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay: "With the sound of crying coming from the public gallery, Justice Rashid told each of the 11 condemned prisoners that they would be taken from the High Court to a lawful prison, and then to a place of execution, where they would suffer death by hanging. And as the crying spread across the public gallery where relatives of the condemned prisoners were sitting, the judge said, 'May the Lord have mercy upon your soul.' This statement brought a sharp reply from Mrs Nancy Steele, the 75 year old woman sentenced to death. Punching the air with her fist and turning to her family, she said, 'May the Lord have mercy upon us all. Don’t cry for me. I am innocent.'"

Among those sentenced to death, as compiled from several news wire services, were Brigadier (Rtd.) Modibo I. Leslie Lymon, Ahmed Charrid Dumbuya, Claude Victor Campbell, Nancy Steele, Kaindeh Bangura, Mahila Mansana, and Mohamed Basiru Savage.

Convicted on Monday were Brigadier (Rtd.) Modibo I. Leslie Lymon, who until December had served as the AFRC's Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, former Attorney-General Claude Victor Campbell, John Ajina Sesay, Eric Kwaku Dixon, Ahmed Charrid Dumbuya, the AFRC's head of the National Power Authority; Sorie Allie Fofanah, Samuel Sanpha Sesay, Tommy Anthony Patrick, Lawrence Loving Lamin, businessman Mohamed Basiru Savage, Kainde Bangura, Mayilla Yansaneh, Phillip Sankoh, Harry Ben Alpha, former Freetown deputy mayor Nancy Steele, and Sorie Samuel Sesay. Those acquitted were Mabinty Scott, Winifred Cummings, and Alim Jalloh Jamboria. One defendant, Abdul B. Sankoh, died in prison. 20 additional defendants are facing treason charges before a separate court.

RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie said he would avenge Monday's execution of 24 military officers condemned for treason in connection with last year's military coup.

The three civilian defendants who were acquitted on Monday, along with three military officers acquitted on October 12 and two civilians cleared on August 24, have not been been released, and have been returned to Pademba Road Prison under the State of Emergency regulations.

President Kabbah held "bilateral and regional" talks with Nigerian leader General Abdulsalam Abubakar in Abuja Wednesday, ahead of next week's ECOWAS summit. Abubakar is the current ECOWAS chairman. According to a Sierra Leone government news release, the two leaders discussed the establishment of a new military in Sierra Leone, and issues relating to the the upcoming ECOWAS summit "so that they could harmonise their position on matters on the agenda."

Kamajor militiamen have destroyed a boat on a river along the border with Liberia suspected of ferrying rebels into the country, Lagos Voice of Nigeria reported on Wednesday. Local residents have recovered about six bodies from the river, the report said.

Sierra Leoneans will no longer be able to enter Hong Kong without visas, the Hong Kong Immigration Department announced on Wednesday. Citizens of Nigeria, Nepal, and Angola will also need to apply for visas after October 28 under the revised regulations. "It is our practice to review visa requirements for foreign visitors from time to time," an Immigration Department spokesman said. "Changes are made where necessary to take into account factors such as our ties with individual countries and track record of travelers." The spokesman said Hong Kong would continue to adopt a liberal visa policy for foreign visitors.

Police in Geneva, Switzerland have arrested 24 men in an operation aimed at breaking up a network of cocaine dealers in the city. 22 of the detainees were Africans, including 19 asylum seekers from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, and Mauritania. A police statement said 58 persons had been rounded up near the main train station on Tuesday, but that the others had been released. "This operation aimed to strike at the nest of drug dealers, mainly of cocaine, dominated by Africans in Geneva for the past few years," police spokesman Eric Grandjean said.

20 October: The London-based human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has "deplored" the execution of 34 soldiers sentenced to death in connection with last year's military coup after what AI termed an "unfair trial". "These executions violate Sierra Leone’s international human rights commitments and will do nothing to contribute to the process of reconciliation in Sierra Leone," AI said in a statement issued on Tuesday. The statement stressed that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by President Kabbah's government in 1996, "Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law." Under the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, to which Sierra Leone is a party, individuals may have recourse to the United Nations Human Rights Committee where rights have been violated. Applications on behalf of 18 of the condemned had been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, AI said. "Amnesty International acknowledges the government’s responsibility to bring to justice, in accordance with international standards, those responsible for the crimes committed while the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was in power and insists that there should be no impunity for human rights violations," the AI statement said. "The organization, however, unconditionally opposes the death penalty which has never been shown to have any special power to reduce crime or political violence, or to meet any genuine social need."

Justice Ministry officials were quoted as saying on Monday that more soldiers and civilians were expected to be put on trial next week.

19 October: 24 of the 34 soldiers condemned to death by a military tribunal on October 12 were publicly executed by firing squad at Goderich Beach in Freetown at 4:30 on Monday morning. President Kabbah commuted the sentences of 10 others to life imprisonment. Heavily armed ECOMOG troops sealed off the execution grounds as the condemned soldiers were brought in, all of them dressed in black and heard chanting "I have faith in God" and "I have surrendered to Jesus." As described to the BBC by Foday Bankolay Fofanah of the Punch newspaper, the prisoners were then bound to execution posts and hooded. Firing squad members, their faces coloured with charcoal and masked with green leaves, took up their positions facing the convicts. After some brief instructions, they opened fire "and they were just shooting at random." BBC correspondent Winston Ojukutu-Macaulay described the execution. "They were sort of bunched together, and they were just sort of firing continuously at the bodies, as the soldiers were sort of directing them on one or two occasions one or two of the officers from where I was standing would shout that that person is still alive, and then they would just go, and just hear this continuous firing again." Ojukutu-Macaulay said that as officials left in a motorcade, "a crowd of people came up and some of them were clapping, saying thanks to ECOMOG officers such as General Khobe and some of the other senior ECOMOG officers, and Sierra Leone police officers were driving off the scene." According to Reuters,  "cheering from the crowd, including people watching from nearby rooftops, practically drowned out the burst of gunfire as the firing squad went to work." Ojukutu-Macaulay said coffins had been brought to the execution grounds, and that he was told the bodies would be placed in the coffins and taken to Kingtom, in the center of Freetown, where they would be buried later in the day. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that a trench, believed to be a mass grave, had been dug "under tight security" at a local cemetery over the weekend by Special Division forces and ECOMOG troops.

Those executed were Corporal Tamba Gborie, Sergeant Alfred Abu "Zagallo" Sankoh, Squadron Leader Victor L. King, Brigadier Hassan Karim Conteh, Lieutenant Marouf Sesay, Lieutenant Jim Kelly Jalloh, Captain Idrissa Keita Khemolai, Captain Simbo Sankoh, Colonel John Amadu Sonica Conteh, Lieutenant Commander Samuel Kandu-Boy Gilbert, Lieutenant Commander Abdul Aziz Dumbuya, Lieutenant Commander P.F. Foday, Captain Josiah Boisy Pratt, Captain Abubakarr Kamara, Captain Albert Johnny Moore, Major Bayoh "Bios" Conteh, Major Augustine Fannah Kamara, Major Abdul Masakama Koroma, Major Kula Samba, Lieutenant Colonel David Boisy Palmer, Colonel Daniel Kobina Anderson, Colonel Abdul Karim Sesay, Colonel James Max Kanga, and Colonel Samuel Francis Yariemah Koroma.

Those whose sentences were commuted to life imprisonment were Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Bockarie Mansaray, Colonel Alpha Saba Kamara, Colonel P.C. Nelson Williams, Lieutenant Commander Francis Momoh Duwai, Major Tamba Anthony Abu, Flying Officer Arnold H. Amadu, Captain R. Beresford Harleston, WO II Jonathan Dero-Showers, Lieutenant Commander L.D. Howard, and Lieutenant Colonel Bashiru S. Conteh.

The British government has condemned Monday's execution of 24 military officers. Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa Tony Lloyd said President Kabbah had rejected his personal telephone appeals for clemency. "I regret that 24 executions have been carried out in Sierra Leone following military courts martial," Lloyd said in a statement. "We understand the demand within Sierra Leone for justice to be seen to be done following the appalling and brutal butchery carried out under the junta. But the country needs to embark on a proper process of reconciliation. Britain opposes the death penalty wherever it applies." Lloyd said he had talked to Kabbah on October 16 to appeal for clemency. "I hope these executions will be the last in Sierra Leone," he added. Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, who is a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee investigating the Sandline "Arms to Africa Affair", called the executions "deeply worrying."  He called for a full Foreign Office statement on when the government knew the sentences were to be carried out and what representations had been made on behalf of the condemned. "This is deplorable. We were we assured that President Kabbah -- who has received support from Britain and was endorsed by Tony Blair who actually said `the good guys won' -- ran a democratic government," he said. "It raises grave questions as to the government's claim to be a democracy."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan unsuccessfully appealed to the Sierra Leone government on Monday for a stay of execution of the 24 military officers. His appeal was published in a report to the United Nations Security Council after the 24 were executed earlier in the day. Annan expressed concern that those sentenced to death had no legal right of appeal. "I urge the government, at a minimum, to consider a stay of execution of sentences pending review of the proceedings before relevant international monitoring bodies," he said. Annan also condemned the "summary executions, torture, mutilations, rapes, looting and other acts of barbarism" carried out be elements of the former junta. He said he was particularly outraged by the "senseless acts of terror perpetrated against children."

The international human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch expressed "outrage" over the execution of 24 soldiers, which were carried out only three days after the group had appealed to President Kabbah to commute the sentences. "The decision to carry out the death sentences without the basic right to appeal is extremely disappointing," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "This will not sow the seeds of national reconciliation nor help to establish a state based on respect of international human rights standards."

In a press release issued from State House on Monday, President Kabbah defended the decision to proceed with the executions of the 24 officers, saying the decision on whether or not to commute the condemned officers' sentences "included the degree of their involvement and their participation in the planning, instigation and execution of mutiny of the 25th May 1997 and in their activities with the AFRC from that date until it was ousted from power; their failure in their duty to prevent the mutiny itself when they had the ability and opportunity to prevent it; the level of human rights abuses and mayhem perpetrated or instigated against the people of this country and their role in it; the absence of any remorse on their part during or after the trial in respect of their proved role in some of the most despicable of the atrocities associated with the AFRC, and thus the legitimate fear that they will not hesitate to repeat the same conduct if they had another opportunity to do so in future." Kabbah called those whose sentences were commuted "cowards and opportunists" but said that they "became remorseful for their association with the AFRC and at some stage even became useful agents for the democratic forces." He said the executions were not acts of retribution, but were intended to act as a deterrent against the anarchy and trauma experienced by Sierra Leoneans during junta rule. At the same time, Kabbah renewed his offer of amnesty to AFRC/RUF rebels still in the bush, especially "to those who were undoubtedly deceived into joining the band of heartless people who have been responsible for the suffering of peace loving Sierra Leoneans."

16 of 19 civilians on trial for treason before Freetown's High Court were found guilty on Monday. Convicted were Brigadier Rtd. Modibo I. Leslie Lymon, who until December had served as the AFRC's Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, former magistrate Claude Victor Campbell, John Ajina Sesay, Eric Kwaku Dixon, Ahmed Charrid Dumbuya, Sorie Allie Fofanah, Samuel Sanpha Sesay, Tommy Anthony Patrick, Lawrence Loving Lamin, Mohamed Basiru Savage, Kainde Bangura, Mayilla Yansaneh, Phillip Sankoh, Harry Ben Alpha, Nancy Steele, and Sorie Samuel Sesay. Those acquitted were Mabinty Scott, Winifred Cummings, and Alim Jalloh Jamboria. One defendant, Abdul B. Sankoh, died in prison. Sentences were expected to be handed down on Tuesday.

Four convicts on death row in Bamako, Mali have broken out of prison, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Monday. The four -- three Sierra Leoneans and a Malian -- were "convicted of committing several armed robberies and feared for their cruelty, typically targeted expatriates," the AFP said, quoting police officers. Prison authorities had been preparing to transfer the four to a prison in the north of the country.

United States Charge d'Affairs Cheryl Martin turned over four sea containers containing 63,000 pounds of medical supplies and equipment to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on Monday.

17 October: The former President of the Liberian Interim Government of National Unity, Amos Sawyer, said Saturday that the Sierra Leone conflict should be given the same priority as those in Bosnia and Kosovo. "NATO said no to the behaviour of the Yugoslav government in Bosnia. It has again done the same with regard to Kosovo. Why shouldn't we do the same in Sierra Leone?" he asked. Sawyer said the international community should mobilise against AFRC/RUF rebels who continue to commit atrocities in the country. "The situation in Sierra Leone is no longer an ECOMOG affair or for neigbours alone," he said. "The vicious actions of these guerrillas have to be ended by the international community as a whole."

Ebrahim Samba, the World Health Organisation's Regional Director for Africa, and U.S. Surgeon-General Dr. David Satcher, have warned a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. that Africa's vaccination programmes may be starting to falter. "Unless the last bastion of polio in Africa is eliminated, the whole world is at risk," Samba told the senators. He later told reporters that wars in countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had badly interfered with the vaccination programme.

16 October: A crisis between Sierra Leone and Liberia following allegations that Liberia had massed troops along their common border has been averted after a telephone conversation between President Kabbah and Liberian President Charles Taylor. "As a result of a telephone conversation between the two of them, that situation about troop movement turned out to be a misunderstanding which has been clarified," Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told the BBC on Friday. He said the two presidents had agreed to work together for peace and security in the sub-region. "But in addition to that, there was agreed to be regular telephone conversations with each other so as to improve and strengthen (the) relationship between the two countries," Kaikai added.

RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh told Freetown's High Court Friday that he was entirely innocent and that he had been extradited illegally from Nigeria. "I am innocent and I did no wrong," Sankoh told the court. "The extradition was wrong under international law. I should have been tried by the judicial process of Nigeria, which never happened. I am convinced that I am a victim of internal and external conspiracy, manipulation to get rid of me, Corporal Sankoh, and the RUF organisation of which I am the leader." Sankoh charged that the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party was involved in a conspiracy against him. "This is a court of justice. We don't talk politics here, we talk law and justice," Justice Samuel Ademosu cautioned him. "What is happening in this court is politics, so warn Attorney-General Berewa to stop," Sankoh replied.

A verdict is expected Monday in the trial of 19 civilians accused of treason. They face the death penalty if found guilty.

The international human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch released an open letter to President Kabbah on Friday calling on him to commute the death sentences of 34 soldiers accused of treason. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the Optional Protocol, which allows for individual communications, Sierra Leone is obliged to guarantee review of the cases by a higher court, Human Rights Watch Africa Division Executive Director Peter Takirambudde argued. "The lack of a right to appeal to a higher court for the thirty-four who now face execution by firing squad-is in sharp contrast to...statements by your government calling for respect for international human rights norms."  The letter urged the Sierra Leone government, "as a Party to the ICCPR, to in a timely fashion make structural changes in the military court system to ensure the right to appeal." In a press release accompanying the letter, Takirambudde said: "The Sierra Leonean government has repeatedly said it is committed to international human rights standards. These cases will be an important test for them."

15 October: President Kabbah has submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations alleging that the Liberian government has massed 5,000 troops along the Liberia-Sierra Leone with the aim of destabilising Sierra Leone. United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia, Felix Downes-Thomas,  said he considered the allegations so serious that he travelled to Ganta, Liberia to confront Liberian President Charles Taylor with the accusations, saying he could not wait until Taylor returned to Monrovia. The Liberian government responded on Thursday, calling the allegations "unfortunate and irresponsible." Information Minister Joe Mulbah, who had accompanied Taylor on his rural tour, said: "The Liberian government is angry. The allegations have no element of truth. At this moment when Liberia is at peace, who needs war in the region?" He reiterated the Liberian government's invitation to the U.N., the OAU, and ECOWAS to send a team of investigators to the border area to ascertain the facts for themselves. A Liberian foreign ministry statement issued Thursday called President Kabbah's allegations lies. "The government expresses disappointment over the lies and fabrications perpetrated by authorities of the government of Sierra Leone against the Liberian government, especially at the time when efforts are being made to re-awaken the spirit of cooperation under the Mano River Union," the statement said. It added that President Kabbah made the accusations to "a certain western country and the U.N." based on reports by Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Maxwell Khobe. "The government of Liberian calls on the U.N., ECOMOG, the press, and other interested parties to send investigative teams to the border to ascertain the truth of Kabbah's allegation," the statement said. "(The Liberian government regards) these allegations and fabrications as a pretext of a planned border incursion into Liberia from Sierra Leone, (but) Liberia stands ready to protect and defend its territorial integrity." ECOMOG task force commander General Abubakar Ahmadu said Thursday that "foreign fighters from Liberia" were assisting RUF rebels in the south of the country. These fighters should "desist from attacking ECOMOG, or else ECOMOG troops will go on the offensive and crush them, whether they are Sierra Leoneans or foreign rebels," Ahmadu said at a weekly security briefing. "We have captured many of these ... Liberian rebels so we have enough proof to know these fighters are also building up massive troops near the southern border," he added.

Chief of Defence Staff Maxwell Khobe has confirmed death sentences imposed on 34 military officers by a military tribunal on Monday.

Four persons were killed Wednesday when a Red Cross relief convoy was ambushed at Joru. The dead, all Sierra Leonean nationals, were employees of a commercial transport company contracted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An ICRC press statement issued on Thursday said the seven-truck convoy was "duly marked with the red cross emblem" when it was  attacked. All other persons, including ICRC staff members who were on board, were reported to be safe and are were now back in Kenema. The convoy was returning from Zimmi, where it had delivered food to the most vulnerable members of the region's population. "At this stage, no further information regarding the circumstances of the incident is available and it is too early to evaluate the impact this incident could have on ICRC operations in the region," the statement said. "The ICRC deplores the losses of innocent lives and condemns this serious violation of international humanitarian law."

The RUF still maintains important bases at Kailahun, Gangagama, and Koindu,   ECOMOG task force commander General Abubakar Ahmadu said Thursday. He said the RUF had launched attacks near Kenema in the east, and had attacked the towns of Mabalonto and Mange in the north, where they had managed to hold a strategic bridge for several hours. "But we retook the bridge, killing several rebels," Ahmadu said, adding that his men had captured 40 rebels at Mange. Ahmadu said ECOMOG lacked the resources to finish the war and was waiting for reinforcements from Guinea and the Ivory Coast.

Hundreds of Lebanese, Asians, and West African immigrants have applied for residence and work permits, a labour official said Thursday. A government statement  last week warned foreigners without valid documents to regularise their status by October 14 or face deportation or the closure of their businesses. "Starting from today our ministry has embarked on a massive search for illegal immigrants," the official said. He added that the government was not targeting specific nationalities, but that Lebanese and Asians in the retail sector were among the most affected. Most of the approximately 15,000 Lebanese in Sierra Leone fled following last year's military coup. About 10,000 Lebanese and an unknown number of Indians have returned to the country following the reinstatement of the civilian government.

Three villages in Guinea were attacked by "armed bandits" thought to be Sierra Leonean rebels on October 7, according to a source in Conakry quoted by the AFP. The attacks occurred in at Koundouleah, Bendou, and Woldou, in Faranah District, 250 miles southwest of Conakry near the Sierra Leone border. Five villagers were reported missing after the attacks by an unknown number of raiders who stole cattle and goats and burned at least 40 houses.

The United States government has reportedly decided to extend by an additional year the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to Sierra Leoneans living in the U.S. The renewal will apply only to those who benefited from TPS during the original period of 4 November 1997 to 3 November 1998.

14 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who is defending himself in his treason trial before Freetown's High Court, said Tuesday that he would call President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as his principal witness. Sankoh told High Court Justice Samuel Ademusu that Kabbah and two government ministers, Dr. Julius Spencer and Shirley Gbujama, had vital documents which were relevant to his case. When Ademusu suggested that the documents could be tendered without the necessity of President Kabbah coming to court, Sankoh insisted that Kabbah must appear in person. Ademusu advised Sankoh to withdraw his request as he was not in a position to issue a subpoena for President Kabbah, and he warned Sankoh against calling witnesses who would demolish his case. Sankoh then requested as witnesses AFRC Chairman Lt.-Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, former RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi who facing treason charges, and AFRC press spokesman Captain Paul Thomas. Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa told the court that Koroma and Thomas were still at large, and he asked Sankoh why RUF commander Sam "Maskita" Bockarie was not included on his witness list. Sankoh replied, "Don't provoke me!"  He explained he had been in Nigerian detention for several months and did not know that Koroma and the RUF were still fighting in the bush. Sankoh will begin his defence on Friday, October 16 from the dock, and it is likely that Massaquoi and the two government ministers will appear in court.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in its Emergency Report No. 4 issued Tuesday, said CARE had completed food distribution to a total of 36, 834 internally displaced persons at Masingbi in the period up to October 6. Distribution of a supplementary ration of corn-soya blend is to begin next week. Two WFP trucks remain in the town to support CARE in ensuring adequate and complete distribution coverage. The report also spoke of fighting between Kamajors and AFRC/RUF rebels at Bandajuma, Mendekelema, and Nyiema, Yawei Chiefdom, in Kenema District. There has been no new influx of refugees into Kenema during the past week, and the city is reported calm. The current verified WFP caseload at Kenema is 13,190 persons. Displaced persons not living with relatives have received a one month distribution from Catholic Relief Services (CRS).   The WFP is also providing short-term food aid to 4,920 persons at Segbwema and Daru as a result of "the same disturbances."  The WFP is also continuing to assist Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea under a six month plan approved by the FAO and WFP in August. The operation will provide 17,700 tons of assorted food commodities to 200,000 new refugees in the forest region of Guinea. The refugees, mostly from Kono and Kailahun Districts, have been registered and accommodated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

13 October: The Sierra Leone government and Nord Resources, a 50% owner of Sierra Rutile Limited, have concluded talks on reopening the Sierra Rutile mine, Director of Mines Tucker Barewa said on Tuesday. "It is now left to parliament to approve agreements reached between the government and the company for the company to legally restart the titanium oxide mine," Barewa said. "It is now mainly left to Sierra Rutile to decide when to restart as the government is anxious they reopen the mine." Barewa gave no specifics on the talks with Nord Resources, but official sources said they concerned taxes and spending on infrastructure by the company. Barewa said he expected at least a partial reopening of the mine in the coming months. A Nord Resources press release issued October 9 said the company had received a $14.2 million insurance settlement for damage to Sierra Rutile's facilities in 1995. The company currently has debts of $6 million and cash on hand of $7.2 million "which will be used primarily to pursue the restart of the project," the statement said. In July, Nord Resources appointed the firm of NM Rothschild & Sons to help arrange financing to restart mining operations. The company said the economics of the new mining operations appeared attractive, and that the market for titanium dioxide continues to show strength. "SRL has made significant progress towards reaching formal agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone, which would allow the project to proceed under favorable terms. The Government has been cooperative and Nord believes a satisfactory agreement can be concluded in a timely manner," the press release stated. The company said it is involved in on-going discussions with the other 50% owner of Sierra Rutile Limited, Consolidated Rutile Limited, regarding the future of the project.

AFRC/RUF rebels are in virtual control of Kono District, with the ECOMOG force in control of only four towns, Liberian Star Radio reported on Tuesday. ECOMOG officials were quoted as saying that the fight against the rebels in Kono was made difficult by the terrain and the lack of logistics.

AFRC/RUF rebels attacked a mini hydro dam eight miles from Kenema on Monday, Liberian Star Radio reported. No casualty figures were available. The report said government forces were on their way to the area.

Tunisian authorities have detained 34 Ghanaians, 10 Sierra Leoneans, 8 Somalis and one Liberian who were found aboard two boats abandoned in Tunisian territorial waters. The boats' owners, said to be Moroccans, abandoned the boats and passengers when they were intercepted by a Tunisian  naval patrol. The would-be immigrants, bound for Europe, were reported to be safe and well and will be returned to their countries of origin, Tunisian authorities said.

Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Solomon Berewa defended a military court's decision to impose the death sentence on 34 military officers Monday, saying that the death penalty was part of Sierra Leone's colonial heritage. "Exactly 100 years ago this year, the colonial masters in 1898 executed 96 people for refusing to pay the hut tax of 26 pence...So the capital sentence is not new to Sierra Leone. It is part of our history and a legacy from colonialism," Berewa said.

Minister of Information, Communications, Tourism and Culture Dr. Julius Spencer has addressed pleas for clemency for 34 military officers condemned to death on Monday by stating that "over 99% of the people of Sierra Leone have expressed the view that the law of Sierra Leone should take its course." In a press release issued on Tuesday, Spencer detailed junta atrocities, while claiming that the defendants had shown no remorse, and had been making plans to escape from prison. "For these reasons, therefore, and without prejudice to the recommendation of the Prerogative of Mercy Committee required by the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Government will do all that is humanely possible to deal with pleas for clemency, but in the final analysis, the experience and concerns of the people of Sierra Leone will have to prevail," Spencer said. "Any deterrent measure taken will focus on the leaders rather than those who have been erroneously deceived into taking part in the mayhem and commission of heinous crimes."

12 October: A military court in Freetown convicted 34 military officers Monday on charges of "treason, murder, and collaborating with the enemy," and immediately sentenced the condemned men and one woman to death by firing squad. Three other defendants were acquitted, and one defendant died during the two month trial. "In the case of the 34 condemned to death, you will be taken to some public place where you will be executed by firing squad," Court Martial President Tom Carew told them. Sierra Leonean military law provides no mechanism for appeal, and only President Kabbah can grant clemency after confirmation of the sentences and deliberation by the so-called Prerogative of Mercy Committee. The 34, manacled in pairs, were led from the court and transported to prison in armored vehicles. AFRC Secretary-General Abdul Karim Sesay, walking on crutches, clutched the shirt of Brig. Samuel Koroma as the two were taken from the court.

Those found guilty and condemned to death were: Cpl. Tamba Gborie, Sgt. Alfred Abu Sankoh, Brig. Hassan Conteh, Col. James Max Kanga, Col. Abdul Karim Sesay, Sqn. Ldr. Victor L. King, Col. Daniel Kobina Anderson, Col. Samuel Francis Yariemeh Koroma, Lt. Cdr. Samuel Kandu-Boy Gilbert, Lt. Col. David Boisy Palmer, Lt. Col. Anthony Bockarie Mansaray, Col. Alpha Saba Kamara, Col. John Amadu Sonica Conteh, Maj. Kula Samba, Col. P.C. Nelson Williams, Maj. Abdul Masakama Koroma, Lt. Cdr. Francis Momoh Duwai, Maj. Augustine Fannah Kamara, Maj. Tamba Anthony Abu, Maj. Bayoh Conteh, Capt. Albert Johnny Moore, Capt. Abu Bakarr Kamara, Capt. Simbo Sankoh, Capt. Idrissa Keita Khemolai, Lt. Jim Kelly Jalloh, Capt. Josiah Boisy Pratt, Flying Offr. Arnold H. Amadu, Capt. R. Beresford Harleston, Lt. Marouf Sesay, WO II Jonathan Dero-Showers, Col. P.F. Foday, Lt. Cdr. L.D. Howard, Lt. Col. Bashiru S. Conteh, and Lt. Cdr. Abdul Aziz Dumbuya. (Note: Defendants are listed with the military rank they held prior to the coup. The Sierra Leone government has declined to recognise military promotions made under AFRC rule.)

Col. Saa Sinnah was found not guilty on all charges and acquitted. Charges against Lt. A.M. Keita and Lt. A.B.S. Bah were also dismissed for lack of evidence.

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty in all cases and without exception, expressed concern Monday that the execution of the 34 condemned military officers could be imminent, and appealed to President Kabbah to grant them clemency. "We have repeatedly urged the government to establish a judicial appeal procedure against sentences passed by the court martial," Amnesty said in a statement. "We fear that these executions could be carried out before applications are submitted and considered by the United Nations Human Rights Committee."   Amnesty pointed out that President Kabbah had signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1996, which stipulates that "Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction," and that steps should be taken to ensure that such appeals shall become mandatory. "The use of the death penalty will not contribute to the process of reconciliation in Sierra Leone," Amnesty said.

Minister of Information, Communication, Tourism and Culture Dr. Julius Spencer acknowledged Monday that the government had received pleas for clemency from "friendly governments and some human rights organisations," on behalf of 34 military officers condemned to death, but stressed the need for the country's laws to be carried out. "Justice now needs to be done to the surviving relatives of those killed and to the victims of the atrocities experienced," Spencer said in a statement. "The law should also be applied in appropriate cases as a deterrent to avert a recurrence of this nightmare and to protect the citizens and the nation itself. If Government does not enforce the law effectively and appropriately now, it will fail in bringing such mayhem to an end and so fail in its primary duty of protecting the people of this country." The government had taken care to assure due process, fairness, and transparency in the judicial process, and to ensure that the accused were accorded all of their rights under the law, Spencer said. He emphasised that the government's future course of action in this case would be based on the need to protect the people of Sierra Leone, while taking into account its other obligations as a government. "This therefore means that the death sentence in any particular situation will be carried out only in deserving cases, having due regard to the degree of involvement and participation of any of the individuals concerned," Spencer concluded.

The World Bank has extended a $40 million grant to Sierra Leone to help revive agriculture in the country, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment Dr. Harry Will said on Monday. "According to the World Bank's conditionalities the money must be spent on construction of feeder roads, the provision of farm inputs for farmers, food processing, purchase of equipment and capacity building," Will said. A World Bank team has been working with the Sierra Leone government to rehabilitate the agricultural sector, which has been devastated by civil strife.

20 people are confirmed dead following two days of strike action by Sierra Leonean hospital workers, Liberian Star Radio reported on Monday. The workers had been demanding two months salary arrears. Patients at hospitals in Freetown have reportedly begun discharging themselves, while others continue to die for lack of care. Health authorities have promised the striking workers that they would be paid on Tuesday, but the workers have refused to return to work until they are paid, the report said.

11 October: ECOMOG has wrested control of a strategic bridge at Mange from rebel control Saturday after three days of fighting, ECOMOG and relief officials said on Sunday. "The rebels fled north leaving more than 60 people dead, scores wounded and most of the town empty," an ECOMOG officer said upon his return to Freetown. The rebels attacked the town on Wednesday in an action aimed at cutting a major road link to Guinea. Relief officials said some 15,000 residents fled following the attack, in which about 25 people are known dead. Most of those who remained were the elderly and infirm or abandoned children, they added. Relief officials predicted that the final death toll could rise, as rebels set fire to more than 40 homes, most likely with people inside. ECOMOG officers said the rebels had apparently received new weapons prior to the attack. "They came at us with brand new sub-machine guns and rocket launchers," one officer said. Traffic between Freetown and Conakry resumed on Sunday, with travellers reporting houses in Mange still smouldering. "There were thick pools of blood along the road and even splattered across the walls of some buildings," one driver reported.

10 October: The Tunisian navy intercepted two ships on Thursday, carrying 54 illegal immigrants from Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ghana, and Liberia. The government-controlled Tunisian newspaper La Presse reported Saturday that the two ships, which were captained by Moroccans, had kept in radio contact, suggesting that they were part of a large illegal immigration network. A preliminary investigation indicated that one ship had put to sea from a port near Ceuta in Morocco, while the other came from Libya. In an agreement with Italy signed last August, Tunisia agreed to increase patrols to crack down on illegal immigrant traffic passing through Tunisian waters from North African countries to the Italian islands of Sicily and Pantelleria.

The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution Saturday to condemn terrorism in Sierra Leone.

9 October: At least 25 people were killed Thursday when rebels attacked the town of Mange, 90 miles north of Freetown, military sources said on Friday. "More than 200 rebels attacked Mange yesterday from three fronts in an attempt to seize the strategic bridge there and cut the road link to Guinea," an ECOMOG officer said. He added that 25 people, most of them civilians, died when ECOMOG troops clashed with the rebels. Aid workers and fleeing residents, however, put the death toll much higher. Hospital workers in Port Loko said many wounded from Mange were arriving for there treatment. The ECOMOG officer denied reports by aid workers that the rebels had overrun ECOMOG positions at Mange.

More than 7,500 Sierra Leoneans have crossed into Guinea from northern and northwestern Sierra Leone in the past two weeks, fleeing renewed rebel attacks, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff at Forecariah. Refugees are continuing to cross the border from several towns, frightened of further rebel raids around the town of Kakuna where houses were burned and more than a dozen people were killed on September 28. A UNHCR statement on Friday said the new refugees were being taken to existing camps at Forecariah, and shelters were being constructed as quickly as possible on account of the current rainy season. "Many families were split up in the panic to get out of the villages, and medical staff on the spot have treated several people for bullet wounds," the statement said. Tension among the new arrivals is said to be running high as they fear more fighting between rebels and ECOMOG troops in the area adjacent to the border. Guinean authorities have increased security along the Sierra Leone border, according to the UNHCR statement.

The Sierra Leone government has allocated $90,000 for ECOMOG operations in the country, Liberian Star Radio reported on Friday. The funding was allocated in the government's budget for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. The amount is the second provided to ECOMOG by the Sierra Leone government, which allocated nearly Le 2 billion for ECOMOG operations in its fiscal budget.

Ministers of the eight-nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) said Friday they were deeply worried about a rash of killings by AFRC/RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. In response to a RUF peace overture made last week through the Commonwealth secretariat, the U.N. and the OAU,  CMAG ministers called on the RUF "as a mark of their good faith, to make an immediate statement accepting the terms for talks conveyed to them by the Commonwealth Secretary-General." The Group urged the RUF to  recognise the legitimacy and authority of President Kabbah's government, to accept an unconditional and indefinite cessation of hostilities, and to enter into talks to bring about an immediate end to the conflict. "The Group expressed grave concern over the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone, in particular the continuing atrocities by remnants of the junta forces. The Group condemned these outrages unreservedly," CMAG said in a statement. CMAG members include Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Botswana, Barbados, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, and Ghana.

An ECOMOG source quoted on Friday by Liberian Star Radio said troops are expected to arrive from Ivory Coast, Togo, Mali, Niger, and the Gambia as early as this week to strengthen the ECOMOG offensive against AFRC/RUF rebels, code named "Operation Tiger Tail."

Health authorities in Sierra Leone have said that at least 53 persons have died of AIDS since January, and that a further 200 are infected with the HIV virus, Liberian Star Radio reported on Friday. The coordinator of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Aids Control Programme, Dr. Andrew Kosia, said the spread of the disease was due to unprotected sex. Since 1980, over 600 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed, and of these over 300 people have died of the disease. The Inter-Press Service (IPS) quoted the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representative in Nigeria, Emmanuel Apea, as saying that about 64,000 Sierra Leoneans between ages 15 and 49 are infected with the AIDS virus. This number compares with 650,000, or 10% of the population, believed to be infected in the Ivory Coast; 2.2 million in Nigeria, 350,000 in Burkina Faso, 42,000 in Liberia, and 13,000 in Gambia.

Three witnesses have testified for the prosecution in the treason trial of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. As described by Liberian Star Radio, the first state witness, an official of the West African Examination Council in Freetown, played a recording Thursday purporting to be of Sankoh ordering his men to join the AFRC military government of Johnny Paul Koroma. The second state witness, who was a signal officer in the RUF, produced a recording in which Sankoh was alleged to have ordered his fighters to attack Sierra Leone. The third state witness, Mohamed Keita, told the High Court that his parents were killed and his village looted by RUF rebels. He said people attempting to escape the siege of their village were killed. A video was played in court, showing Sankoh in command of the RUF militia.

8 October: The Sierra Leone government will launch a crackdown on illegal aliens according to an official statement read over SLBS (state radio) on Thursday. The statement said a large number of Lebanese, Indians, and West African immigrants had entered the country and secured employment without valid permits. Those found in violation of the country's labour and immigration laws after October 14 "will face the full force of the law," including closure of their businesses, the statement said.

Kamajor militiamen displayed three captured members of the Armed Forces of Liberia at Kenema Wednesday in support of claims that the Liberian government has been assisting AFRC/RUF rebels in their fight against the government.  According to BBC correspondent Prince Brima, they were among 15 rebels captured in a Kamajor ambush in Kailahun District. Kamajor battalion commander Nsimi Hassan Jalloh said the three, identified as Sergeant Mori Sani, Corporal Momoh Fahnbuleh, and Private Patrick Kaidi, were ambushed along with AFRC/RUF fighters at Bumbuna Crossing Point as they tried to infiltrate into Kenema District. Sergeant Sani, interviewed on Thursday morning, said they had been assigned by the Liberian authorities to assist the AFRC and RUF in their fight against ECOMOG and the Kamajors in eastern Sierra Leone. He added that there were other Armed Forces of Liberia troops fighting alongside the rebels in other parts of Sierra Leone. Deputy Defence Minister and Civil Defence Forces head Sam Hinga Norman said that M-60 rifles were captured from the Liberians, and that this was the first time these weapons had been seen during the Sierra Leone conflict. Norman, who had been stationed at Kenema since the beginning the current offensive, left for Freetown Thursday morning, reportedly to brief President Kabbah about the evidence of Liberian involvement, Brima said.

Civilians who fled fighting in Sierra Leone said Thursday that rebels killed 28 civilians in an attack on the town of Kakuna earlier this week. Witnesses said the rebels cut limbs off seven other people and burned down some 60 homes in Tonko Limba Chiefdom. One witness, Saidu Kamara, told the AFP that rebels clad in black t-shirts and armed with heavy guns attacked from three directions. The Electronic Mail & Guardian quoted witnesses who said that more than 100 AFRC/RUF rebels attacked the town wearing t-shirts bearing the picture of the late rap star Tupac Shakur. The raid has prompted Kakuna residents to ban the shirts, which can be purchased in Sierra Leone's major cities for about $3. Anyone wearing the shirt is branded as a rebel and interrogated or punished, the report said. A Sierra Leonean military official said the cost of combat uniforms is beyond the reach of the rebels. ''A military combat uniform costs more than $10  and is not easily accessible to the rag-tag rebels, so they go for cheaper stuffs," he said. "'In any case, dressing in Tupac's t-shirts perhaps reinforces the rebels' love for violence because Tupac is no good role model anyway."

Two delegates from the Libya Arab Investment Co (LAAICO) met with investors, tourism officials and government ministers this week to evaluate investment opportunities in Sierra Leone, particularly in the tourism sector. Amer Jweda, who met Tuesday with Minister of Information, Communications, Tourism and Culture Dr. Julius Spencer to discuss a joint venture, noted that LAAICO's investments in Africa included the Golden Tulip Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Spencer said the Sierra Leone government "is now moving in the direction of diverting its interest in some economic industries."

Military sources in Freetown told the AFP Thursday that security forces had recaptured the towns of Sambalu, Mofindo, Niahun, and Giema in Kailahun District during an offensive earlier this week. They said 25 rebels were killed in the operation.

Liberian factional leader Roosevelt Johnson is reportedly still in Freetown, the Pan African News Agency reported Monday, citing an independent newspaper report. Johnson reportedly remained in Sierra Leone after refusing an offer of temporary asylum by Nigeria after Ghana refused to admit him. Johnson is expected to remain in custody and will likely be returned to Liberia to stand trial on charges of treason. 21 of his followers face similar charges.

7 October: Sierra Leone has received $28.7 million in aid from the World Bank, the European Union, and Britain, which will allow the government to draw up a budget for the remainder of 1998. A senior finance ministry official said Wednesday that the World Bank had released $15 million of a planned $55 million package, Britain had given about $8.2 million, and the United Nations about $5.5 million. Minister of Finance and Economic Planning James Jonah was working on a budget for the fourth quarter of 1998 which will concentrate on education, health, defence, and energy, the official said.

A military team from the Ivory Coast is holding talks with ECOMOG officials and Sierra Leonean commanders in Freetown on deploying troops in Sierra Leone to help end the rebellion, an ECOMOG source said Wednesday. The Ivorian team, which arrived in Freetown on Tuesday, is expected to sign an agreement stipulating the terms of the deployment. "We are in urgent need of more men to be able to crush the rebels once and for all," the source said. "They are now working on the number of troops the Ivorian government is going to deploy in Sierra Leone." He said ECOMOG was asking for 2,000 troops, while the Ivory Coast wanted to send 1,000 soldiers initially.

ECOMOG Chief Information Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Jimoh Okunlola said Tuesday that the move of ECOMOG's headquarters from Monrovia to Freetown is imminent. "ECOMOG is setting up its headquarters in Freetown," Okunlola said. "In the past month, we have been shipping machinery and flying in our officers and men. The move is almost complete and the field commander is now here and we are busy setting up the headquarters. There are a few more personnel who are still being moved over from Monrovia. When that is finished shortly, the headquarters will become fully operational." Okunlola said a residual force would remain in Liberia. "We have left a skeleton but strong-enough force in Monrovia to take care of the security situation, if fighting breaks out there again, until reinforcements can be sent," he said.

More parastatals are being investigated by a Special Parliamentary Select Committee set up to look into allegations of mismanagement by senior parastatal management, the BBC reported on Wednesday. Security will reportedly be stepped up around buildings occupied by parastatals following Sunday's suspicious fire at the Sierra Leone Lottery Building.

Judge-Advocate Captain Godwin Ayamalechi, presiding at the court martial of 38 military officers and soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army accused in connection with last year's military coup, indicated Tuesday that the court will render a verdict on Monday, according to a government news release issued on Wednesday. Ayamalechi said he would begin his address Wednesday and conclude Thursday, after which the court would be adjourned to allow the panelists at least three days to deliberate over the verdict. Defence Counsel Captain S.I. Musa, in his final address to the bench, urged the Judge-Advocate to be fair and not to allow prejudicial comments. "You are next to God and into your hands I commit the accused," Musa concluded.

AFRC/RUF rebels attacked the town of Kasseh Bureh, about 20 miles from Port Loko, killing 8 civilians and mutilating 10 more, relief workers said on Monday. They said the death toll was likely to rise as the rebels had set fire to at least 20 homes in the town. The attack caused a mass exodus from villages in the area.

ECOMOG commanders have put the rebel death toll from Monday's Kamajor ambush in eastern Sierra Leone at 82, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Andrea Rosario-Gborie, the wife of Corporal Tamba Gborie, said Wednesday that she would end her hunger strike as of midnight Wednesday. Rosario-Gborie  announced her hunger strike on Saturday in protest over the U.S. State Department's silence over treatment of her husband and his 37 co-defendants on trial before a military tribunal in Freetown for their role in last year's military coup.

6 October: Kamajor militiamen clashed with rebels late in eastern Sierra Leone Monday killing at least 52 and wounding many others in a six hour battle, Staff Officer Francis Silikie said on Tuesday. 15 of the rebel casualties were reported to be women. That battle, which included hand-to-hand combat between the two sides, reportedly occurred after Kamajors disguised as women lured the rebels into a trap on a road near Mandekelema village, 30 miles from the Liberian border. Silikie said at least one Kamajor was killed and three others were missing. An unknown number of rebels were killed when they tried to cross a small river, he added. Kamajor officers paraded several captured rebels in front of journalists. "These are the lucky ones," said Silikie. "Some of the rebel commanders killed have not been identified because they were completely mutilated by fighters for our just cause." There was no independent verification of casualty figures, but journalists reported seeing five wounded Kamajors arriving at Kenema Government Hospital Tuesday in a blood-soaked lorry.

Ten people have been arrested in connection with Sunday's fire at the national lottery headquarters in Freetown, the head of Sierra Leone's Criminal Investigation Department, Amadou Kaikai, said Tuesday. The fire broke out two weeks after the government sacked the parastatal's board and senior management, and moved to take over the national lottery amid allegations of massive fraud. The fire gutted the entire third floor of the Sierra Leone Lottery Building, where sensitive information was kept. The lottery's accounting records were presumed to have been destroyed. Kaikai said four dismissed senior lottery officials were among those detained, including former deputy manager Vandi Coker, former company secretary Villan Kargbo, former marketing officer Abubakar Kamara, and the company's chief accountant. "The whole episode was an act of sabotage." Minister of Information, Communications, Tourism and Culture Julius Spencer told the Mail newspaper."Nothing will stop government from ensuring that Sierra Leone becomes a corruption-free society," he added.

A cholera epidemic has claimed some 55 lives, an official at Sierra Leone's Disease Prevention and Control Agency said on Monday. Haroun Turay said most of the fatalities occurred in Freetown, but deaths were also recorded in Port Loko and Kambia. Turay said clinics were distributing rehydration salts to combat the epidemic, which he said was "now going down."

Mutilations, massacres, and other atrocities carried out by AFRC/RUF rebels are on the rise again, a diplomat in Freetown told the AFP. "We are noting a higher level of mutilations, amputations, rape, atrocious tortures, people being burned alive, and villages destroyed," the diplomat said.

Sierra Leone is one of 13 African countries facing food shortfalls and requiring urgent assistance, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said Tuesday. It listed the countries as Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia.

5 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of treason, after High Court Justice Samuel Ademusu ruled that the trial should proceed despite Sankoh not having a lawyer to represent him. Asked by Ademusu whether he was able to defend himself, Sankoh replied, "God will defend me, but it is advisable for me to have legal representation from an overseas country." Ademusu ruled that under Sierra Leone's Public Order Act on States of Emergency, the trial could proceed. A decree published last month under the emergency provisions under emergency provisions which give President Kabbah the power to enact laws stipulated that "a trial shall not be invalidated or adjourned merely because of the absence of a legal practitioner representing that person." Ademusu had asked judicial authorities to give Sankoh a list of defence lawyers so that he could choose one, but the Freetown Bar Association refused to comply. At the request of the government, the United Nations is working to secure defence counsel for Sankoh. A 12-member jury was sworn in at the hearing, and the proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday.

68 children have reportedly died of measles or starvation in the war-ravaged areas of Kailahun District during the past week. The coordinator of the Kailahun District Development Foundation, Andrew Baio, was quoted as saying there was severe hunger in the district, and that his organisation had had to step in to distribute food to vulnerable groups, especially women, children, and the aged. BBC correspondent Prince Brima said Monday he saw hundreds of people arriving at Daru and Segbwema from the war-affected over the weekend in very bad shape. Dr. Joseph Musa, the medical superintendent at Nixon Memorial Hospital, said many of those arriving from Segbwema were suffering from measles and malaria. "Prices of foodstuffs in the area have skyrocketed as most farms and plantations were burnt down by rebel troops," Brima added. ECOMOG troops reportedly captured the gold and diamond mining town of Sandaru Saturday after a fierce battle with RUF troops, who had held the town for the past six months. Brima said that although there had been no independent confirmation of the claim, "I did see truckloads of troops from Kenema yesterday morning moving towards the area."

4 October: The Sierra Leone Lottery Building went up in flames Sunday, barely two weeks after the government sacked the parastatal's board and senior management and moved to take over the national lottery amid allegations of massive fraud. Security guards said the fire started mysteriously on the building's third storey, and that the lottery's accounting records were presumed to have been destroyed. Ministers have ordered a police investigation into the cause of the fire.

AFRC/RUF rebels have called on the government to participate in peace talks sponsored by the United Nations or the Commonwealth, diplomatic and government sources said on Sunday. A Western diplomat said the rebels had contacted both the U.N. office in Freetown and the Commonwealth secretariat in London, asking them to facilitate talks. "The Commonwealth secretary-general told the rebels that if they wanted the Commonwealth secretariat to play a role in getting the government to meet the rebels in talks, the rebels must first of all recognise the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and also lay down their arms," the diplomat said. He said the U.N. had not yet responded. Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai said the government was not interested in a power-sharing arrangement, which is what the rebels appeared to want. "We made that categorically clear to them when we talked with rebel leader Colonel Sam Bockarie on the phone a few days ago," Kaikai said. "The time for that is past. We told them to lay down their arms and surrender to the U.N. observer mission in the country and then we will decide from that point what to do." The Western diplomat said the government seemed confident that the rebels could be defeated militarily since ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Forces stepped up their offensive last month, so a diplomatic breakthrough was unlikely.

The world's five poorest nations, as measured a per-capita income of only $90 per annum, are Sierra Leone, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, according to a World Bank report that was issued on Sunday. The richest countries were Switzerland ($44,320), Japan ($37,850), Norway ($36,090), Singapore ($32,940), Denmark ($32,500), the United States ($28,740), and Germany ($28,260).

Sierra Leone was defeated by Morocco 3-0 in their African Nations Cup Group 2 qualifying match played Saturday night at Casablanca before a crowd of 25,000. Scoring for Morocco were Youssef Chippo (22nd minute), Salaheddine Bassir (42nd minute), and Abdeljalil Haddad Camachou ( 82nd minute). Morocco's coach, Henri Michel, indicated he was pleased with the result. "It was important to win this one because we have some very difficult games to come away from home," he said. Other first round results: Congo over Namibia 1-0 at Windhoek; South Africa 1-0 over Angola at Johannesburg; Kenya tied Madagascar 1-1 at Nairobi, and Uganda over Algeria 2-1 at Kampala. (Sunday) Ghana over Cameroon 3-1; Nigeria tied Burkina Faso 0-0 at Ouagadougou; Tunisia 2-1 over Liberia; Ivory Coast over Mali at Bamako; Mozambique over Eritrea 3-1 at Maputo. The next round of qualifying matches will be played in January.

3 October: More than 50 people have been killed in rebel raids in clashes between Guinean ECOMOG and AFRC/RUF rebels in Kambia District, relief workers and survivors said on Saturday. The raids began on Monday, and ECOMOG says the rebels have again resorted to hacking off the limbs of civilians. "The fighting started on Monday when the rebels attacked Kukuna in the Kambia district less than ten miles from the border with Guinea,'' a Guinean ECOMOG officer said in Freetown. He said the Guineans had intervened, leading to fighting in the towns and villages in the area. The current state of the fighting was not immediately clear, but relief workers said up to 5,000 persons had been forced to flee their homes. "More than 3,000 have fled across the border into Guinea,'' one said. Relief workers reported that at least 25 people had been mutilated by rebels wielding machetes.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Director-General Carol Bellamy complained to Sierra Leone  leaders Friday that the recruitment of child soldiers was still going on, despite the government's commitment to end the practice. UNICEF estimates there are some 4,000 child soldiers involved in the Sierra Leone conflict; 2,500 recruited by the RUF and the rest serving with the Kamajor militia. "We have reports saying recruitments are still going on, Bellamy said, adding that "The fact that the conflict is (still going) on shouldn't justify recruitment of children." On Thursday, Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman cited "difficulties" in discharging teenage soldiers, including lack of resources and the fact that the fighting was continuing. Bellamy urged Sierra Leone to halt further recruitment, to demobilise all soldiers under age 18, and to release all child soldiers of war. While the government recently announced an amnesty for child prisoners, UNICEF says a number of children are still being held by ECOMOG. President Kabbah assured Bellamy of his government's "full commitment" to the demobilisation of child soldiers, adding that those discharged were being cared for by various institutions. Bellamy responded that she had seen children with the Kamajors at Bo on Thursday. "They came for registration but it was clear they were going back" to the front, she said. Kabbah, described by the AFP as "smiling, but clearly annoyed," said "We don't need to be reminded of all that." Following a visit to a hospital in Freetown run by the International Committee of the Red Cross for victims of  rebel atrocities, Bellamy said she was horrified. "If you care about your country and fight for it, how can you kill the children, which are the future of the country?" she asked.

Andrea Rosario-Gborie, an African-American filmmaker and the wife of Corporal Tamba Gborie, who is on trial before a court martial for his part in last year's military coup, said Saturday she will go on a hunger strike in front of the U.S. Department of State beginning Sunday to protest the State Department's silence over treatment of her husband and his 37 co-defendants. It was Gborie who announced on SLBS (state radio) the coup that overthrew President Kabbah in May 1997. "The European Union, Great Britain and Amnesty International among others have urged President Kabbah to set some sort of appeals process in place for all those facing the death penalty," Rosario-Gborie said. "To date no such process has been put in place, and my husband as First Accused faces immediate execution. President Kabbah has justified Sierra Leone's use of the death penalty by saying that many countries, including the United States of America, still have the death penalty. But in the United States, we also have a lengthy appeals process that insures due process of law that must be exhausted before the death penalty can be carried out." She disputed whether her husband or RUF leader Foday Sankoh could receive a fair trial in Sierra Leone, and called for the defendants to be tried or to have their appeals heard in another ECOWAS country, with the exception of Nigeria which has played a leading role in the ECOMOG force. "I was assured by the Department of State that my husband and the others on trial in Sierra Leone would be treated fairly. They have not been treated fairly," Rosario-Gborie said. "I have been told that the Department of State is in favor of a negotiated settlement. But they continue to pump money into armed conflict." She said she will remain on hunger strike until the United States joins those in the international community who have urged President Kabbah to "to institute proper appeals for all those who face death sentences in a neutral country."

2 October:  More than 3,000 Sierra Leoneans have fled to Guinea in the past week to escape fighting in Sierra Leone, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokeswoman Judith Kumin said on Friday. "There is no respite for the population in Sierra Leone," Kumin said. "More than 3,000 Sierra Leoneans crossed into the Forecariah area on Tuesday after rebels reportedly killed civilians and burned down dozens of houses in Kukuna village, four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the border with Guinea. This is an indication that fighting has moved to the northwest, whereas up to now it had been in the northeast." A UNHCR briefing paper said the arrivals in Forecariah, between Freetown and Conakry on the coast, were the first in the region for some time. Approximately 3,300 refugees had been given rations for two weeks and transferred to existing camps. The UNHCR estimates there are currently some 340,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea including 210,000 who arrived this year, making it one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Previously, rebels had attacked refugee camps in Guinea, along Sierra Leone's eastern border. In a raid on a refugee camp at Tomandou, near Gueckedou, on September 1, rebels killed seven Sierra Leonean refugees and several Guineans. "UNHCR has moved thousands of refugees from Tomandou, among the most vulnerable of the sites in the forested region, to camps farther inside Guinea," Kumin said.

ECOMOG, backed by the Civil Defence Forces, have captured the gold mining town of Sandaru in eastern Sierra Leone, military sources said Friday. They said ECOMOG troops and Kamajor militiamen entered the town on Tuesday after three days of heavy fighting and rebels retreated, leaving behind more than 40 dead. Aid agencies in Kenema said hundreds of displaced persons from Sandaru were streaming into the town.

The United Nations is trying to find a lawyer to represent RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, SLBS (state radio) said on Friday. According to the SLBS report, Sankoh had agreed to allow the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone to find him a lawyer. "The United Nations has started the process," the radio said. Liberian Star Radio reported that Sierra Leone's High Court has ordered an inquiry to determine whether the Nigerian government has money belonging to Sankoh. Sankoh told the court Thursday that he could not pay for legal representation because money which had been given to him by the United Nations and several countries supporting the peace process had been seized by the Nigerian authorities.

1 October: RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh appeared in court for the third time Thursday, and complained that he was unable to afford a lawyer to defend him. His claim was disputed by the prosecutor, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Solomon Berewa, who showed Sankoh a hand-written document indicating that before his arrest in March 1997, a Mohamed Talib, working with the Libyan Embassy in Accra, Ghana, had given him half a million dollars. Sankoh, after a long silence, denied knowing any Mohamed Talib and said the signature on the document was not his. He said that while in Accra he had received $29,700 from a friend named Mohamed, but that it was not the Mohamed Talib Berewa was referring to. Under cross-examination, Sankoh acknowledged that he had received money from the government of the Ivory Coast, Ivorian Foreign Minister Amara Essy, the United Nations, some foreign ambassadors in Abidjan and Accra, and some other countries supporting the Abidjan Peace Accord. Sankoh said he had also received $50,000 from the late Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha, but that this money, along with other money in pounds sterling, CFA francs, and Canadian dollars, was taken from him by the Nigerian authorities when he was arrested in Lagos in March 1997. Sankoh said the money was for the purpose of transforming the RUF into a political organisation. Justice Samuel Ademusu ordered the master and registrar to forward a list of names of solicitors to the High Court, and said the court should inquire about Sankoh's money in Nigeria.  The handcuffed RUF leader reportedly urged the court to continue, but instead Ademusu adjourned the proceedings until Monday, October 5.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Director-General Carol Bellamy has again called for the demobilisation of some 4,000 child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Deputy Defence Minister Sam Hinga Norman replied that he was committed to the demobilisation of all children, but that it could not be accomplished while fighting continued. Bellamy, accompanied by a team of UNICEF officials, began a visit to Freetown on Thursday.

Heavy seasonal rains have caused flooding in Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia, near the Sierra Leone border, causing more than 5,000 persons to flee their homes. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that heavy rains throughout Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have halted the repatriation of tens of thousands of people displaced by conflict in the sub-region.

The application period for the United States diversity lottery began on October 1 and will run through the end of the month. The winners will be determined on the basis of a computer-generated lottery drawing, and will be notified between April and July or 1999. Countries whose citizens qualify for the diversity lottery within Africa include Sierra Leone, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.