The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 

November 2002
 

30 November: Sierra Leonean human rights organisations, government and United Nations agencies, and women's advocacy groups have joined this month for a 16-day campaign for the elimination of gender-based violence toward women. The campaign was launched on November 25 – the International Day Against Violence Against Women – with a march from the Youyi Building to Victoria Park, and is set to end on December 10 with the observation of International Human Rights Day. This is the first time that the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence has been organised in Sierra Leone, and it comes at the end of a decade of civil war in which women and children were frequently targeted as the victims of rape, abductions and mutilations. On Tuesday, human rights groups sponsored a workshop to discuss how the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) could be used to promote women's rights in Sierra Leone. On Thursday and Friday, a similar workshop was organised for the Sierra Leone Police's Family Support Unit, to look at how law enforcement agencies could undertake to protect women from violence. On Sunday, human rights agencies will sponsor an event in Calaba Town for World AIDS day, and on December 6 memorial services will be held at the Central Mosque and in a church to commemorate the  "Montreal Massacre" – the 1989 murder of 14 female engineering students at Canada's L'Ecole Polytechnique by a gunman who professed a hatred of women's rights. The campaign will end December 10 with an open-air concert at Freetown's Victoria Park, at which a wide range of people will have a chance to advance their views. Patrice Vahard (pictured right), from UNAMSIL's Human Rights Section, stressed that the event was intended to be more than a celebration, and was intended to "raise people's awareness" about the problem. "Gender violence is not only women's business, it is a development issue," he said. "It's an issue that should concern everybody. To people to realize that we can build a culture that says no to violence against women but also to promote equal participation, it can be done. I think it will be good for the betterness of the country."

29 November: About 500 Sierra Leonean refugees in the Ivorian town of Danane have asked to be returned to Sierra Leone, as a ceasefire between Ivory Coast's government and rebels collapsed this week. A UNHCR spokesman said Friday that refugees in the town reported hearing gunfire on Thursday. Danane alone hosts some 30,000 refugees. The agency said it planned on Friday to repatriate 56 Sierra Leoneans who had made their way to Abidjan. 

The United Nations Security Council has scheduled consultations on Sierra Leone for next Wednesday, December 4, a spokesman said on Friday.

28 November: Four of the judges for Sierra Leone's Special Court were due to arrive in Sierra Leone Thursday, ahead of Monday's official swearing-in ceremony. The court, a war-crimes tribunal mandated to prosecute those deemed to bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's civil war, will have two chambers and a total of eight judges: five appointed by the United Nations and three by the Sierra Leone government. "This is a significant step in establishing the court," Special Court Registrar Robin Vincent said in a statement. "Since we arrived at the end of July we have mostly supported the prosecutor and his team as they began to investigate and prepare their cases. Now we must focus on providing the judges as well as the defense with their needs in order to make this court fair and impartial." Named in July to the court's Trial Chamber were Rosolu John Bankole Thompson (Sierra Leone), Pierre Boutet (Canada) and Benjamin Mutanga Itoe (Cameroon). Emmanuel O. Ayoola (Nigeria), Alhaji Hassan B. Jallow (Gambia), Renate Winter (Austria), George Gelaga King (Sierra Leone) and Geoffrey Roberts (Britain) will sit on the court's Appeals Chamber.

26 November: United Nations sanctions against the Liberian government will remain in place for at least another six months, U.N. Security Council President Wang Yingfan of China announced on Wednesday. Ambassador Wang said members of the 15-member Council concluded that the Charles Taylor regime had imported weapons in violation of an arms embargo and had otherwise failed to meet the Council's demands. The sanctions, which also includes a travel ban on senior Liberian officials and an embargo on the sale of rough Liberian diamonds, were first imposed in March 2001 for Liberia's alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and for its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade. The Security Council required that the Liberian government sever its relationship with the RUF, something a U.N. Panel of Experts said it had failed to do. "Members of the Council had full and detailed discussions, including on the relevance of the progress made in Sierra Leone and its effect on the current sanctions, whether the sanctions were having the desired effect, reports of continued violations of the sanctions, prospects for enhancement of the current sanctions regime and how to ensure that the present sanctions regime remained targeted," Wang told reporters. The Council stressed that the arms embargo applies to all parties in Liberia, notably including the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which is fighting the government along its borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone. Wang said Council members pointed to the Panel of Experts conclusion that U.N. sanctions have had a negligible impact on the humanitarian situation in Liberia. The Liberian government has frequently blamed the sanctions for the deteriorating conditions in the country, but Wang said this wasn't true. "Members of the Council expressed regret that the Government of Liberia has used the sanctions as an excuse for its failure to improve services and reform," he said. "In this regard, the members of the Council urged the Government of Liberia to direct its resources towards addressing the humanitarian crisis in Liberia." The next review of the sanctions regime is scheduled for May 2003.

A British Coastguard team evacuated an injured Sierra Leonean crewman from a fishing vessel overnight Monday in what is being described as one of the longest rescue missions ever flown by a civilian helicopter. According to the Press Association News, the Stornoway-based rescue team responded to the emergency after being called in by the Spanish Rescue Centre in Madrid. The helicopter took five hours and 40 minutes to complete the 570 mile round trip mission, and had to refuel on an oil drilling rig after picking up the injured man from the 54-metre Spanish fishing boat Nuska, 287 miles northwest of Stornoway in the Western Isles. The helicopter, a Sikorsky 561N, typically has a range of 245 nautical miles "with 30 minutes on scene endurance" and a total endurance of five hours and ten minutes. "Even with the extra fuel on board, the helicopter crew only had five minutes to evacuate the crewman before heading back to the rig for more fuel and then returning to Stornoway," a Coastguard spokesman was quoted as saying. The unidentified crewman, who had reportedly injured his hand in machinery, was taken to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway. 

25 November: The United Nations Security Council is due to hold consultations Monday on whether to extend sanctions on Liberia, first imposed in March 2001 for that country's alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and for its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade in the sub-region. A U.N. Panel of Experts concluded last month that Liberia had continued to violate U.N. sanctions, which include an arms embargo, restrictions on international travel by senior Liberian officials, and a ban on the sale of Liberian rough diamonds. 

24 November: The U.S.-based group Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL) distributed 40 bags of rice Sunday to Sierra Leoneans still displaced nearly a year after the end of the country's civil war, at the Grafton Camp outside of Freetown. The distribution was conducted by FOSL board member Aiah Fanday (pictured left), who explained that the camp was divided into 20 sections, with each section receiving two bags of rice. Fanday said the people were "appreciative," but he noted that some complained about living conditions in the camp. Camp leaders also expressed concern that residents were sometimes given no more than a day's notice before being transported up-country for resettlement, he added. On Tuesday, FOSL donated $400 to the Progressive Women's Association of Kono, which trains young displaced women in tailoring, gara dying and agriculture. Friends of Sierra Leone was founded in 1991 by former Peace Corps Volunteers.

22 November: The Special Court's Chief Prosecutor travelled to Daru this week, where he met with a crowd which included civil society leaders, former combatants and local residents – many of them victims of Sierra Leone's ten-year civil conflict. Wednesday's visit was part of Prosecutor David Crane's effort to educate Sierra Leoneans about the role of the court, which is mandated to prosecute those deemed to bear greatest responsibility for atrocities committed during since November 1996 – the date of the ill-fated Abidjan Peace Agreement. Crane and his staff have now travelled to most of Sierra Leone's twelve districts, the Court said in a statement. Crane also met with hundreds of secondary school students to assure them that although the court statute allows him to prosecute children over the age of 15, he would not do so because they do not bear "greatest responsibility." Daru, during the latter stages of the war, was the government's easternmost enclave in the rebel-held Kailahun District.

21 November: The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has launched a campaign to free jailed 'For di People" editor Paul Kamara, and to bring about the repeal of the criminal libel laws under which the journalist was convicted. On Wednesday, members of SLAJ's ad hoc Free Press Committee plastered Freetown with posters condemning Kamara's conviction with the caption "unfair trial, biased judge, vicious sentence," and calling for an end to Sierra Leone's criminal libel statute. On Friday, the group will repeat its message by sending out 10,000 newspaper inserts. Peep! Editor Olu Awoonor-Gordon, who heads the Free Press Committee, said the fight to overturn the law was not a new one: SLAJ first petitioned for the repeal of the criminal libel laws in 1996. "Now that they actually jailed somebody under those laws for the first time in about 30 years, we felt that we would merge the two things," he told the Sierra Leone Web. "Our third responsibility is to monitor press coverage on the issue internally, and make sure that everybody adheres to the SLAJ position that was taken that all journalists rally round Paul in coverage." The threat is not an idle one. When the pro-government New Vision newspaper backed the court against Kamara on Wednesday, newspaper vendors in Freetown boycotted the publication. Awoonor-Gordon insisted, however, that SLAJ was not behind the action. "It had absolutely nothing to do with us," he said. "SLAJ does have other sanctions that we can impose on our members, but we did not talk to the vendors. The vendors came out in solidarity basically with what SLAJ is doing. That was their way of showing their displeasure." Awoonor-Gordon said the journalists' association was primarily concerned about two things: the criminal libel laws, and alleged irregularities in Kamara's trial. And while he acknowledged that Kamara could sometimes be abrasive, he argued that was not the point. "It could be anybody," he said. "It could be me tomorrow; it could be anybody else tomorrow. So he might not win many popularity contests, but on this issue we really intend to see that he gets justice." Awoonor-Gordon said public opinion in Freetown appeared initially to be against the journalist, with many believing that Kamara had gone too far in showing disrespect to a senior judge, and in "some of his antics" during his trial. "But now that we’ve actually taken a cool and calm look at the situation and have begun to analyze the trial and the sentence, I think people are beginning to change their minds," he said. "I think the public is coming around to our point of view: a miscarriage of justice occurred here." The five-member Free Press Committee consists of Awoonor-Gordon, Jonathan Leigh of the Independent Observer Jonathan Leigh, David Tam-Baryoh of the Centre for Media Education and Technology, Betty Foray of the Democrat, and Foday B. Fofanah, coordinator for the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression project in Freetown.

20 November: Special Court Chief Prosecutor David Crane has appealed to ex-combatants to come forward and testify about atrocities committed during Sierra Leone's civil war, the BBC reported on Wednesday. Crane made the plea in a meeting with about 200 former fighters at a church in Freetown. "As the Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court, I feel that I work for and represent the people of Sierra Leone – people such as yourself," he said. "The Special Court is a court of law, so we have rules and regulations which we pretty much follow. It is a criminal case, looking after people who bear the greatest responsibility for the tragedy that took place over the past ten years." Crane promised witness protection for those who gave evidence, and he urged the former combatants to come forward for the good of their country, the BBC said.

Sierra Leone's efforts to recover from a decade of civil war are in danger of being sidetracked by corruption, a lack of institutional transparency, and a poor investment climate, U.S. officials have warned. In a statement recounting positions put forth by the U.S. delegation to last week's Sierra Leone Consultative Group conference in Paris, the U.S. Embassy in Freetown warned that Sierra Leone's reputation with many potential investors was that of "an unstable country that is both costly and risky to operate in."  "It is not just regional instability that gives them pause," the statement said. "They also see a devastated infrastructure – including grossly deficient telecommunications and inadequate and damaged road networks – widespread corruption, and government ownership and mismanagement of enterprises better operated by the private sector. They also observe the difficulties faced by investors who have made long-term commitments to Sierra Leone and yet experience great difficulty in obtaining fair treatment from government, which would permit them to operate profitably." The U.S. urged Sierra Leone's government to demonstrate its commitment to overcoming "the pervasive corruption that was so fundamental in creating the circumstances that led to the past decade of violence," and also to come up with "a strong and clear investment code...to offer incentives to foreign and domestic investors alike and to assure them that the rules of the game will endure." The U.S. welcomed the establishment of a commission to oversee the privatization of some of Sierra Leone's largest parastatals, but warned that it should be free to pursue its work unhindered by political pressure or corruption. "International investors wait in the wings to see how this program proceeds," the statement said. "Particularly critical will be timely action to privatize Sierra Leone's woefully inadequate telecommunications sector, which is currently a drag on all potential investment and on efforts to harness modern telecommunications to rebuild critical sectors such as health and education."

A judge has heard arguments in the lawsuit filed against the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) last month by two football clubs, Premier League team Wellington People and First Division Team Easton Rangers, Awoko editor Kelvin Lewis said on Wednesday. The case was then adjourned. In a suit filed on October 24, the two clubs sought to force the SLFA to disclose how much money it had received from FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association), CAF (the Confederation of African Football), and WAFU (the West African Football Union), suggesting that Association officials had squandered the money. The court filing was part of the fallout from a year-long dispute between journalist Paul Kamara, who owns the Wellington People team, and Appeals Court Judge M. E. Tolla Thompson, who also serves as SLFA president. Kamara was convicted last week on 18 charges of criminal libel for articles he wrote in his 'For di People' newspaper attacking Thompson's integrity and his management of the Football Association. Hours after the verdict against Kamara was handed down, SLFA suspended the two teams, citing Articles 24(c) and (d) of its constitution which require that teams first exhaust all possible internal remedies before taking the Association to court, Lewis said.

A lack of donor response for U.N. refugee programmes has resulted in a serious funding shortfall which is affecting care for refugees around the world, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) warned on Wednesday. Only 57 percent of the U.N.'s interagency budget request for 2002 has been funded to date, while humanitarian efforts in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have only received about half the money they need. "The current funding crisis is more than a matter of dollars and budget charts – it is a matter of human misery made worse when the international community fails to fulfill its responsibilities to refugees, who are among the world's most destitute and vulnerable people, the USCR said in a statement. In Sierra Leone, the shortfall has meant that camps housing thousands of newly-arrived Liberian refugees lack adequate sanitation and drinking water, while support to 21 existing schools in eight refugee camps has virtually ceased and plans to build ten additional schools have been put on hold. Relief agencies have shifted resources from Guinea to meet the emergency needs of the growing refugee population in Sierra Leone. The result is that, for the time being, the repatriation of up to 50,000 Sierra Leonean refugees has been suspended even as some 14,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugee children are expected to lose access to education because of the budgetary crunch. Sierra Leonean refugees who did make it home are finding resources for reintegration in short supply. "Aid workers estimated at mid-year that 90 percent of essential reintegration needs, such as potable water and education, were being ignored in some areas of the country because of funding and staffing shortfalls," the USCR statement said, adding that because of funding problems the U.N. refugee agency had only three fully-trained protection officers to monitor the safety of 150,000 returned Sierra Leonean refugees and 30,000 Liberian refugees, many of them living in potentially insecure border areas.

19 November: The United Nations wants nearly $83 million for humanitarian activities in Sierra Leone next year, with the bulk of the request being earmarked to help refugees return and resettle in their communities. In the Consolidated Inter-Agency Annual Appeal which was unveiled Tuesday in eight cities around the world, U.N. agencies requested $69,179,226 for emergency relief, including $62,108,539 to facilitate the return and integration of refugees, and $7,070,687 to ensure protection and services for tens of thousands of Liberian refugees in Sierra Leonean host communities. The balance of the appeal, $13,730,892, would fund recovery efforts: $5,557,599 for basic social services, $3,741,000 for economic recovery, $2,244,263 for restoration of civil authority, and $2,188,030 for human rights and peace building. This year's total Appeal of $82,910,118 is $5.7 million less than the request for 2002, reflecting the improving humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone. Donor response, however, has been sluggish. So far this year, the 2002 Appeal for Sierra Leone has received just 45 percent of the money the U.N. asked for. For neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, where tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans still languish in refugee camps, the Appeals were funded at 49 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Sierra Leone has formally asked Guinea to withdraw its troops from the border town of Yenga following a finding between the two governments that the town belongs to Sierra Leone, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The Guineans first occupied the town in 1997, but their presence only came to the notice of the Sierra Leonean authorities last July, when Sierra Leonean troops seeking to deploy along the border found Guinean soldiers already holding the town. "We are requesting the Guinean soldiers to fold up out of Yenga," Internal Affairs Minister Sam Hinga Norman (pictured left) was quoted as saying. "The circumstances under which they occupied Yenga no longer exist." Norman was unable to say how many Guinean troops were deployed at Yenga, or when they might leave the town.

Many of the estimated 550 Sierra Leonean refugees in the Ivory Coast have asked to be repatriated due to rising insecurity in the country, but the UNHCR says it may not be able to help them return home because of financial constraints. Many have been made homeless as the Ivorian authorities continue to destroy shantytowns in the country's commercial capital, Abidjan. The refugee agency recently sent 26 Sierra Leoneans home but says it may have insufficient funds to help those who remain. Civil conflict which followed a military uprising last September has forced some 200,000 persons from their homes. In Abidjan, security forces have razed 13 shantytowns, displacing an estimated 40,000 people. Up to 30 more shantytowns are slated for destruction. Meanwhile, Abidjan's displaced persons, both Ivorians and foreigners, are being forced to live in increasingly unsanitary and inhumane conditions, the UNHCR said. Some of those who lost their homes are living amid the ruins, while others have moved to equally precarious sites.

18 November: President Kabbah has made no decision on whether to shut down the 'For di People' newspaper because he has not yet received a judge's recommendation that it be closed, according to a statement released by his spokesman on Monday. The recommendation of a six-month publication ban was part of a stiff sentence handed down by High Court Judge Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh, who last week found 'For di People' Managing Editor Paul Kamara guilty on 18 counts of criminal libel over a series of articles he wrote attacking Appeals Court Judge M.E. Tolla Thompson for allegedly mismanaging the Sierra Leone Football Association. Monday's presidential statement stressed, however, that Kabbah would not intervene in the court case. "The executive arm of government cannot interfere with the judicial process between two citizens," the statement read in part. Both the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and a number of international press organisations have registered their opposition in recent days to the criminal libel laws under which Kamara was tried, arguing that libel should be tried as a civil offence. The government statement insisted that updating, amending or repealing the law could only be done through legislation, and it suggested that the matter could best be taken up by the Law Reform Commission. "Until an existing law or legislation has been reviewed, amended or repealed and replaced, it shall remain in force, and all shall be bound by it," the statement said.

The Sierra Leone government has recalled its Ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salia-bao (pictured right), and President Kabbah has announced he will nominate Patrick F. Foyah as his new envoy in Monrovia, government officials confirmed on Monday. Salia-bao was initially recalled for consultations earlier this month after a "note verbal" he sent to a United Nations committee deliberating on whether to extend sanctions against that country was construed by the Liberian foreign minister as supporting his government's bid to have the measures lifted. The letter had not been authorised by Sierra Leone's foreign ministry. Foyah is a graduate of the West African Methodist Collegiate School and holds an M.A. in Public Administration.

Sierra Leone and Guinea have resolved their eastern border dispute, agreeing that the disputed town of Yenga is in fact part of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone government announced on Monday. The dispute first surfaced last July, when Sierra Leonean troops sent to the border area found the town already occupied by Guinean soldiers. A comparison of their maps showed that the Sierra Leonean maps claimed the town for Sierra Leone, and the Guinean maps showed it as Guinean territory. The two sides agreed to resolve the issue peacefully, and last week Sierra Leonean and Guinean officials met in the nearby Guinean border town of Nongoa, but were unable to agree on exactly where the border should be. The Guinean delegation maintained that their territory should extend to the river's western bank at flood stage, which they suggested was as much as a quarter of a mile from the river's normal channel. Now, after a second meeting together with their experts in the Guinean capital Conakry, the two sides agreed that while the entire Makona River and its islands belonged to Guinea, "it became very obvious to both parties that Yenga and its environs which are far removed from the Makona river are well within the borders of Sierra Leone, and therefore constitute Sierra Leonean territory," the government statement said. The two sides, led respectively by Sierra Leonean Interior Minister Sam Hinga Norman and Guinean Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Security Minister el-Haj Moussa Solano, agreed they would continue to base the delineation of the border on the map and accompanying protocol drawn up 90 years ago by former colonial powers Britain and France. The ministers also agreed to establish a Committee of Experts charged with establishing permanent border markers in the area by the end of next May. Meanwhile, President Kabbah has instructed his Chief of Defence Staff, Major-General Tom Carew, to contact his Guinean counterpart for "an orderly and smooth withdrawal of Guinean troops from Sierra Leonean territory and to be replaced with Sierra Leonean troops," the statement said.

17 November: Sierra Leone joined 15 other West African countries this week to carry out a final round of vaccinations aimed at immunising all children in the sub-region under the age of of five against the disease of polio. The campaign is part of a worldwide effort spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Rotary International, aimed at eradicating the often-debilitating illness by the year 2005. In 1988, the year the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, there were an estimated 350,000 transmissions of the disease in 125 countries. So far this year, polio was found in just ten countries worldwide, and only two of those – Nigeria and Niger – were in West Africa. In 2002, only seven African countries reported cases of polio, and only Nigeria had more than just a handful. The rest of the continent has been classified as having "no wild virus," but not yet certified as polio-free. In Sierra Leone, where the disease was once endemic, no cases of polio have been uncovered in the past two years. Polio, or Acute Poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious disease caused by a poliovirus – a type of enterovirus, meaning that it multiplies in the intestine. In most people the virus produces no symptoms at all, or at most a minor illness resulting in two or three days of mild symptoms such as low fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea and vomiting. In a very small percent of cases, however, polio can result in the paralysis of the muscles in the victim's arms, legs, or respiratory system. To administer the two doses of the oral polio vaccine, one month apart, which are necessary to provide immunity to the disease, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative instituted National Immunisation Days, or "NIDS", during which health workers span out to vaccinate children under the age of five. In conflict zones, the agencies, uniquely, sought to negotiate a temporary truce with the warring factions to allow their workers access to vulnerable children. During this final round of NIDS, carried out from October 5-7 and November 9-11, health workers targeted 1,210,375 Sierra Leonean children ages 0 to 5 years. The October figures indicate that 1,186,603 children – 98 percent of the target population – received the oral vaccine. Numbers for the November round are not yet in. The programme started in Sierra Leone in 1998, in the midst of the country's civil war. That year, 346,191, or a relatively low 78 percent of the estimated 442,166 vulnerable children in the seven accessible districts, received the vaccine. Following the temporary lull in fighting which followed the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord in July 1999, and the "not-war-not-peace" which followed in late 2000, health workers conducted three rounds of NIDSs. 627,928 children received vaccinations in October 1999 and 826,913 were vaccinated in April 2000. In October and November 2000, health workers reached 862,000 children, but with the breakdown in the peace process which occurred that May, seven of the districts were inaccessible. By early 2001 the situation had improved, and in February and March health workers conducted "sub-NIDS" to vaccinate children in 52 RUF-held chiefdoms. During the first round, 289,777 children – 87 percent of the target of 330,000 – received vaccinations. A month later 296,017 children received the second dose of the vaccine, for an overall coverage rate of 90 percent. In October and November 2001, two rounds of National Immunisation Days were able to access all chiefdoms in the country with an average of 95.5 percent coverage of the targeted 1,165,750 under-5 children. In March and April 2002, Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and UNICEF conducted another sub-NIDS in districts which previously had been off limits to health workers: Bombali, Kambia, Kailahun, Kenema, Koinadugu, Kono, Port Loko and Tonkolili. 647,931 of the 658,163 children targeted were immunised during that first round, and 654,548 during round two for an estimated 99.5 percent coverage. In June and July 2002, UNICEF assisted with "mopping up" activities at Sierra Leone's border towns, crossing points, market places and border camps. That exercise targeted 87,940 returnee and refugee children in June with 99.7 percent coverage, and 94,230 in July with coverage of  99.4%.

16 November: Sierra Leone's High Court has amended a fine imposed on journalist Paul Kamara (pictured left), reducing it from Le 4.5 million (about $2,100) to just Le 4,500, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) President Ibrahim El-Tayyib Bah said on Saturday. Kamara, who is Managing Editor of the Freetown newspaper 'For di People,' was convicted on Tuesday on 18 counts of criminal libel in connection with a series of articles he wrote denouncing Appeals Court Judge M.E. Tolla Thompson's leadership of the Sierra Leone Football Association. Under the first nine counts, Kamara received nine six-month prison sentences –  mandatory under Section 26 of the Public Order Act – and nine fines of Le 500 each. The prison sentences are to run concurrently. On the second nine counts, optional under Section 27 of the Act, Kamara was sentenced to pay Le 2.7 million or serve three months in jail. The judge also sent a recommendation to the president that the newspaper be banned for a period of six months. Bah told the Sierra Leone Web that SLAJ had initially questioned whether the judge had acted properly in calling for the newspaper's closure. Sierra Leone's Chief Justice responded that the power to make such a recommendation derived from the 1965 Public Order Act, and that Tejan-Jalloh had acted within the law. Bah said he visited Kamara for 30 minutes at Pademba Road Prison on Friday, and found the journalist in high spirits. "He still maintains his innocence and he says he did not put in any defence because he felt that the process of his trial was wrong," Bah said. Prior to the verdict, Kamara had appealed to the Supreme Court, asserting that the court was supposed to be in recess, and questioning whether the criminal charges had been approved by the attorney-general. "For the criminal case against him – for it to have begun and charges made – they must have received permission from the attorney-general, because criminal cases are state matters," Bah said. "So he said it was wrong for him to have been tried and sentenced while this matter was still receiving the attention of the Supreme Court." Bah said Kamara indicted he had not yet decided on his next move. "He was not very clear about whether he was going to appeal or not, but his wife is now working on that, together with his solicitor," he said. Meanwhile, SLAJ is calling for the repeal of Sierra Leone's criminal libel laws. "We have always been against criminal libel laws, and we are still fighting to have them repealed, because they in themselves are bad laws," Bah said. "Secondly, we have set up a committee to look at (Paul Kamara's case) and how we are going to approach it. I think that is the best position we can take in this matter. We have to be very, very careful not to give in to judicial dictatorship, whilst at the same time SLAJ wants to be as responsible for the nation, for everybody, so that people can enjoy their rights and freedoms."

15 November: International donor nations and institutions meeting this week in Paris have pledged financial and technical support to help Sierra Leone recover from a decade of devastating civil conflict, according to a World Bank statement released on Thursday. In their first postwar meeting, the Consultative Group for Sierra Leone and the Government of Sierra Leone, represented by a team led by Vice President Solomon Berewa, agreed to a results framework for 2003 and 2004. The Sierra Leone government side committed itself to working towards greater inclusion, good governance, decentralization, equity, and sustainable growth. In addition, it expressed its intention to focus on basic education and primary health care. To spur economic growth, the Sierra Leone government said it would focus on five key areas: private sector development, agriculture, reviving the mining industry, improving the country's infrastructure, and building "human capital" with community-driven programmes in education, health and HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. The World Bank statement noted that Sierra Leone had established "a unique track record for a post-conflict country." Less than a year after the war officially ended, the country has achieved a six percent growth rate while inflation has fallen to zero percent. This has been achieved, the Bank said, despite ten years of war, the resettlement of 300,000 displaced persons, and the demobilisation of more than 70,000 combatants.

The Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster will make a three-day stopover in Sierra Leone next week, where British naval officers will conduct joint exercises and security patrols with members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Maritime Wing, the British High Commission in Freetown said on Friday. Apart from docking in Freetown to replenish supplies, the ship's crew will host a number of school children on board where they will be given a personal tour of the trip. The visit by the Westminster, a Duke-class Type 23 frigate, is being made as part of the ship's South Atlantic Patrol.

14 November: Britain has agreed to commit £120 million over the next three years to support social and economic development programmes in Sierra Leone in exchange for progress towards improved governance, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Stipulated in the agreement, known as the Poverty Reduction Framework Arrangement (PRFA), Sierra Leone commits to building a "competent, transparent and open modern state" and to institute reform in key areas such as public administration, corruption, financial management and security. The agreement includes benchmarks to be achieved by both governments beginning in 2003. It also provides for direct support to the Sierra Leone government's budget to be linked to progress in key reform issues. "This agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone is a partnership for reconstruction," said Clare Short (pictured left), Britain's Secretary of State for International Development. "It is a demonstration of the Sierra Leone Government's commitment to reform and ours to support it. I hope this will be a successful new approach to cooperation on poverty reduction and that other development agencies will join in supporting this partnership for reconstruction."

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called Thursday for the release of journalist Paul Kamara, who was jailed on Tuesday after being found guilty by Sierra Leone's High Court on 18 counts of criminal libel. On nine of the counts, Kamara was sentenced to spend six months in prison and ordered to pay a Le 4.5 million fine. On the other nine counts, he was given the choice of paying an additional fine of Le 2.7 million or of spending three additional months in jail. The judge also recommended that the government close the newspaper for six months. "We call on the competent authorities to dismiss the charges against this journalist, order his immediate release, and authorise the reopening of For Di People," Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a statement. Meanwhile, the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) also called on the Government of Sierra Leone to rescind the sentence. "The incarceration of Paul Kamara sends the wrong message to the people of Sierra Leone and to the international community at a time when the country is struggling to recover from a brutal civil war," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said, adding: "We understand the government also intends to close Kamara's newspaper, 'For Di People,' for six months. This is an unacceptable attack on free expression in Sierra Leone." The CJFE also questioned whether the libel charges should have been heard in criminal court. Without passing judgment on what the journalist wrote, CJFE believes defamation suits should be heard in civil court only," the group said. "There can be no question of imprisonment for writing in a newspaper."

13 November: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to international donors to provide financial support for Sierra Leone to consolidate peace and stability in the country. Hédi Annabi, the U.N.'s Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, delivered Annan's message on Wednesday to members of the Consultative Group for Sierra Leone, who are meeting this week in Paris. Annan stressed that stability in Sierra Leone would remain vulnerable until the government succeeds in extending its authority throughout its territory, takes control of the country's natural resources, and begins to assume responsibility for its own security. The two-year downsizing of the U.N. peacekeeping force, he said, gives the Sierra Leone government and its international partners a "window of opportunity" to tackle issues of post-conflict peace-building and to lay a foundation for sustainable development while the security umbrella provided by UNAMSIL is still present. Annan also pointed to the need to fund the reintegration of ex-combatants. "Some 32,000 ex-combatants have been absorbed, but another 24,000 are awaiting reintegration opportunities," he said. "Despite generous contributions, the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for this process faces a shortfall of approximately $10 million." He added that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, also considered to have a vital role in promoting reconciliation, faces a major funding shortfall. In the aftermath of ten years of civil war, the secretary-general said, "the newly laid foundations for peace and development will remain fragile unless potential sources of renewed instability are addressed."

Efforts to bring Sierra Leone's diamond sector under control are being hindered by a lack of transparency and poor government oversight, allowing the illicit trade in gems to flourish and effectively putting much of the industry into the hands of outsiders vying for control of the country's diamond resources, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the Ottawa-based group Partnership Africa Canada. In the report, "War and Peace in Sierra Leone: Diamonds, Corruption and the Lebanese Connection," author Lansana Gberie notes that many of the factors which led to the industry's collapse in the mid 1980s and the subsequent rise of the RUF – a brutal rebel group which over the past decade fought the government for control of the country's diamond fields – still exist. The report points to rampant corruption, the historically poor regulation of the industry, and a lack of resources which makes it nearly impossible for the government to exercise proper control over the diamond region. And while Sierra Leone has had a diamond certification system in place since late 2000, the system is easily circumvented by smuggling the gems to Europe via neighbouring countries where controls are non-existent. Much of Sierra Leone's diamond industry is dominated by foreigners, notably by the Canadian-registered "junior" diamond mining companies, and – at the buying and selling level – by expatriate Lebanese diamond traders who have at times moved aggressively to protect their near-monopoly from competition by the legitimate industry. At times cumbersome financial regulations and the chance for additional profits through export tax evasion give those involved in the trade an additional financial incentive to avoid the government system and smuggle the gemstones abroad. The report recommends a five-year commitment by the United Nations while Sierra Leone establishes law, order and security throughout the country, efforts to curb corruption among diamond traders and a mechanism to "name and shame" those who do not comply, and the creation of a special diamond investigation unit by the country's Anti-Corruption Commission. Beginning in January 2003, all countries involved in the diamond trade will be required to put in place a Certificate of Origin System. The report argued that this system should be subject to oversight by an independent monitoring group which would be empowered to conduct random checks and ensure that diamonds will be sold only through legitimate channels. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has denounced the jailing of For di People Managing Editor Paul Kamara, who was convicted Tuesday on 18 counts of criminal libel and sentenced to six months in prison. Kamara, who was brought to court in connection with a series of articles he wrote critical of Appeals Court Justice M.E. Tolla Thompson's management of the Sierra Leone Football Association, also faces a mandatory Le 4.5 million fine. On nine of the counts, the judge gave Kamara the option of paying a second fine of Le 2.7 million, or of spending an additional three months in jail. The judge also recommended that the government close the newspaper for a period of six months. "Journalists in Sierra Leone have endured terrible violence in recent years, including the death of 15 of their colleagues," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "It is outrageous that authorities are now imprisoning journalists simply because of what they write." 

12 November: For di People Managing Editor Paul Kamara was remanded to Pademba Road Prison Tuesday after Sierra Leone's High Court found him guilty of 18 counts of criminal libel in a complaint brought against him by Appeals Court Justice M.E. Tolla Thompson. Journalist Sylvester Suaray, who covered the story for the Awoko newspaper, told the Sierra Leone Web that the counts were divided into two, with the odd-numbered counts falling under Section 26 and and the even-numbered counts falling under Section 27 of Sierra Leone's Public Order Act. On the odd numbered complaints, Kamara was sentenced to a mandatory six month prison sentence and a Le 500,000 fine on each of the nine counts, for a total of Le 4.5 million, or roughly $2,100. On the even-numbered counts, the journalist was given the option of paying Le 2.7 million – that is to say, Le 300,000 on each count – or of serving an additional three months in prison. In addition, High Court Judge Umu Tejan-Jalloh sent a recommendation to the president that the newspaper should be banned from publication for six months. Prior to the verdict, Kamara had appealed to the Supreme Court to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that the High Court lacked jurisdiction, according to For di People Senior Reporter Harry Yansaneh. Yansaneh said the Supreme Court was expected to hear arguments on the matter this week. He added that the paper was planning to go ahead and publish its usual edition on Wednesday.

Elections to fill 63 vacant paramount chieftaincies, originally scheduled to take place in October and November, have been pushed back to December and January, the National Electoral Commission's Executive Secretary said on Tuesday. "It will be the 2nd of December to the 20th of January," David Kai-Rogers told the Sierra Leone Web by telephone from Freetown. The Declaration of Rights process, which determines who is eligible to be elected as a traditional ruler, began on October 15. To streamline that process, Kai-Rogers said that the declaration lists would also be used as nomination lists. "Those that have been declared eligible to stand in the elections by the assessor chiefs and the provincial secretary, and of course the chiefdom councilors, will be nominated automatically," he said. So far, 34 chiefdoms have gone through the Declaration of Rights process. Meanwhile, President Kabbah has expressed concern over reports of alleged irregularities in the pending paramount chieftaincy elections. In a November 6 statement issued by his office, the government stressed that only members of ruling houses which were in existence at independence in 1961 were eligible to stand. As of that date, 33 chiefdoms had gone through the Declaration of Right process, and some of the candidates reportedly belonged to ruling houses created after independence. 

Government officials from Sierra Leone and Guinea failed to resolve a four-month old border dispute Tuesday Sierra Leone's eastern border with Guinea. The question first arose last July, when Sierra Leonean soldiers attempting to deploy in the border town of Yenga found it already occupied by Guinean troops who insisted it lay in their territory. A comparison of maps showed that that Sierra Leonean maps claimed Yenga for Sierra Leone, while the Guinean maps indicated it was part of Guinea. The two sides agreed to go back to colonial maps to resolve the question, and on Tuesday they made an attempt to put the matter to rest. Delegations led by Interior Minister Sam Hinga Norman (pictured left) and his Guinean counterpart, Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Security el-Haj Moussa Solano, met at the Guinean border town of Nongoa where, according to Awoko editor Kelvin Lewis, they examined the original frontier map demarcated by Britain and France in 1912, and consulted the accompanying 1913 protocol under which the two former colonial powers agreed to respect the boundaries. Sierra Leone and Guinea are separated by the Makona River, but the protocol gives the entire river to Guinea. The Guineans argued that their border should be marked by the river's flood stage, which they said would place it about a quarter of a mile into territory claimed by Sierra Leone. "On the map they argued that there were three lines – the first line showed the middle of the river, the second line showed the bank of the river, and the third line showed the bank of the river again when the water is full," Lewis said. "Chief Norman contended that this third line is not showing the bank of the river; rather it is an abandoned footpath linking two villages." Norman also pointed out that the protocol referred to two marker stones which had originally been placed to mark the border, "and that the protocol had said that whether the river widens afterwards or reduces afterwards, these two milestones would be used as the boundary, as the width of the river, and these two milestones were placed on the Thirteenth Meridian," Lewis said. Unfortunately these markers no longer exist, and the two sides were unable to agree about the exact location of the meridian. "Chief Norman suggested that they should now form a committee which would translate the map to what is on the ground and which would now implant again these two milestones, both in Guinea and in Sierra Leone, demarcating the boundary," Lewis said.

Sierra Leoneans wishing to travel to the United States on a non-immigrant visa will now have to pay $100, the U.S. Embassy in Freetown said on Tuesday. The $35 increase, which went into effect worldwide as of November 1, was said to be in line with the actual cost of administering non-immigrant visa services. Those costs have increased due to added security screening procedures, restrictions on the role of support staff, and further increases in management oversight, the statement said. At present, the U.S. Embassy in Freetown is not authorised to issue visas. Sierra Leoneans wanting a United States visa must instead apply at the U.S. Embassy in Guinea, while the processing fee of 200,000 Guinean francs has to be paid in local currency at the Ecobank in downtown Conakry.

11 November: The Consultative Group for Sierra Leone will meet in Paris this week in an effort to promote dialogue between the Sierra Leone government and international agencies and donor governments, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Monday. The two-day talks, which are being convened on Wednesday by the UNDP and the World Bank, will focus on post-conflict policies for security, governance and anti-corruption action, public sector reform, private sector promotion, control of diamond resources and aid coordination. Vice President Solomon Berewa (pictured right) will lead the Sierra Leonean delegation to the Paris meeting.

Officials from Sierra Leone's Youth and Sport Ministry were in Kenema Monday, their first stop on a two-week nationwide tour to meet with young people and youth groups throughout Sierra Leone. Youth and Sport Minister Dr. Dennis Bright said the delegation included officials from both the youth section and the sports section of his ministry, and "youth animators" from civil society groups. "We’re going to have discussions around all the things that they want to talk about – their concerns, aspirations – then what their expectations are," he said. "And it will be an opportunity also for me to tell them what the programmes and policy we are having for them, and then to try to establish a kind of an information network" to identify the various groups and their membership around the country. "This is the response to the observation that people target the youth organisations (but) only meet a few, and there are many others, especially in rural areas and places that they don’t really get into contact with," he said. "At the end of month we’ll have a report which will give a fair idea of what the problems are, and according to regions...It will be an opportunity look at the broader issues as well as the local ones." During the first phase of the tour, which runs through Saturday, the team will meet with residents of Kailahun, Tongo, Bo and Moyamba. Next week, the team will travel to the towns of Makeni, Port Loko, Kabala, Kambia and Koidu. Bright said the tour should help his ministry craft policies which would take into account "issues that are peculiar" to the various localities. "We had worked on a youth policy which we were able to get through cabinet," he said. "But we’re taking it to the people, just to discuss certain aspects of that, and we believe that these consultations will enable us to fine-tune the programmes we have before the beginning of the new financial year." Sierra Leone's youth crisis in the 1980s is often cited as one of the factors which plunged the country into ten years of civil war – a crisis which, in the aftermath of that conflict, government ministries, local organisations and international agencies are still struggling to address. Bright said a recent survey of youth Sierra Leoneans showed clearly that their highest priority was to obtain education and training – and jobs. "(The desire for education) is across the board – not just ex-combatants, but also the non-combatants," he said. "This is followed closely by employment. You know that a wrecked economy like this has no way of absorbing the work force, which is very, very young, because you don’t have all the structures installed. The industries are not installed, and we need some time for that to take off." The minister added that access to health care was also high on the list of priorities for the nation's youth. Bright pointed also to the desire of Sierra Leonean youths to be involved in the decision-making process. "The war has exposed many of them to involvement or to taking decisions at some point, even though probably it might be on the wrong side of the law," he said. "But they are now accustomed to responsibility. And I think that it is one interesting aspect of our democracy that some of these people are coming now with a high level of awareness of their own position in the nation, and they also want to be included. So that is another thing we’re going to address: how can we work on this inclusion of young people, and how can we get them into influencing decisions that are affecting them."

Sierra Leone's Under-17 cricket team has brought the West Africa Cricket Council trophy to Freetown, defeating along the way teams from Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia during a week-long competition in Lagos. Sierra Leone cricketers have done well in recent years, with the National Team winning the West African championship in 2000 and 2001. According to the official Sierra Leone News Agency, Sierra Leone's Lansana Lamin was named "Man of the Series." He also received the "Man of the Match" award for his play against Ghana, while Charles Senesie took "Man of the Match" honours for the Sierra Leoneans'  win over their Nigerian hosts. Last week's competition was organised jointly by the International Cricket Council and the West African Cricket Council with the aim of re-establishing the game as a school sport in the sub-region. Sierra Leone's Minister of Youth and Sport, Dr. Dennis Bright, noted that in past years his country's best cricketers were students who played for such schools as Prince of Wales, Bo School and Magburaka. "Now the idea is to bring cricket back to the schools," he said. Bright, who spoke to the Sierra Leone Web by telephone from Kenema, said that with the end of Sierra Leone's civil war, it was his plan to try and re-establish "secondary sports" in schools and clubs throughout the country. "That’s the policy of my ministry, to not just concentrate on football, (but) to begin to promote other sports as well," he said. "Cricket definitely, since it’s doing well, is one of those ones that we are ready to give all the support to." He added that his ministry was also looking at lending support to programmes for additional sports such as basketball, volleyball, and swimming. "Most of these things that you’re hearing, it is not accidental," he said. "It is coming from the will of some of us that Sierra Leone needs to tell the world that we are back. And this is not just crazy optimism. A lot of people here, if you split them and you see deep down in their minds, they really want to show that Sierra Leone can do it, and we’re trying to come back. And sports is just one of the ways that we want to show that at least we are trying to get our act back together again."

8 November: Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 3000 / 3250. [€] 1500 / 2000. Frandia: [$] 2150 / 2300 [£] 3000 / 3200. Continental: [$] 2150 / 2250 [£] 3000 / 3200. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2700 / 2320 [£] 3250 / 3370.

7 November: 46,000 Sierra Leoneans still live in refugee camps in Guinea, even as the U.N. refugee agency has halted repatriations because of a lack of funding, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday. In Sierra Leone, the arrival of new Liberian refugees continued to slow during the past two weeks, the agency said. Nationwide, the WFP provided food assistance to over 65,700 persons through vulnerable group feeding programmes, emergency school feeding, supplementary feeding, mother and child health, food-for-training and safety net programmes. 

5 November: Representatives of 52 diamond exporting and importing nations and members of the diamond industry have agreed on measures to curb the international trade in so-called "conflict diamonds" – alluvial-mined illicit gemstones which have funded wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Under the agreement, all rough diamonds must be exported in tamper-proof parcels accompanied by government certification that they do not originate in rebel-held areas. Those who violate the rules, whether exporters or importers, would lose their licenses, and governments which try to circumvent the measures will be barred from selling diamonds and could face international sanctions. The proposed certification system is similar to one which has been in place in Sierra Leone since late 2000. Tuesday's agreement, which followed two and a half years of meetings known as the "Kimberley Process," will now be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly and is expected to go into effect on January 1. Meanwhile, a consortium of eight civil society and human rights groups welcomed the progress made toward stopping the flow of conflict diamonds, but said the measures may not go far enough. In a statement released on Tuesday, the group said they were concerned that some countries were not in a position to implement the scheme, and that those countries would eventually be excluded from the international diamond trade. The organisations also worried that there was still no provision for regular, independent monitoring of all national diamond control systems. "Without this, the overall process remains open to abuse," the statement said. "Lack of commitment to the Kimberley Process will be a betrayal of the trust placed in the process, not only by NGOs (non-governmental organisations), but also by the civilians of Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo." Swiss Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin told reporters that the scheme was not perfect, but that Kimberley Process members would meet again next year to discuss tougher monitoring. "We know our solution is only partial," he said. "The Kimberley Process is a work in process that has to be improved."

Sierra Leone's Minister of Mineral Resources welcomed Tuesday's Kimberley Process agreement, and noted that the elements of his country's two-year old diamond Certificate of Origin system "has perfectly coincided with what has been agreed in Interlaken here today." But Alhaji Swarray Deen told the BBC that unless all diamond exporting and importing countries signed on to the process "there will still be some loopholes for non-members to go into the world marketplace with illegal diamonds." Said Deen: "We are encouraging everybody (to join), and what we fear now is that if one or two stay out there can be a loophole." The minister said that the industry was putting in place a self-monitoring system to ensure compliance "where members of this body can monitor from time to time," and that the system would become obligatory over time. "We are asking that independent monitoring will come later," he said. "At the moment we are going to adopt self-monitoring in the industry itself." Asked about reports that the terrorist al-Qaeda Network had purchased rough diamonds from RUF rebels to finance its operations and later to launder funds, Deen said his government had heard the reports but had no independent means of confirming them. "We do not have any means of proving that our RUF rebels had any connections with al-Qaeda," he said. "At that time we didn’t have any knowledge of what al-Qaeda was capable of doing, but we do not have any proof of that." 

213 Bangladeshi troops left Sierra Leone on Tuesday as the United Nations continued the process of downsizing the world's largest standing peacekeeping force. 200 Bangladeshis departed for home last week, and today's withdrawal "marks the end of the repatriation of the Bangladeshi Artillery," UNAMSIL spokesman Patrick Coker told the Sierra Leone Web. Meanwhile, the rotation of Nigerian troops continued on Monday when 465 soldiers from Nigeria's Tenth Battalion, NIBATT 10, left Sierra Leone and were replaced by about the same number of troops from NIBATT 14. "The rotation and repatriation of Nigerian peacekeepers continues tomorrow," Coker said.

Deputy Finance and Economic Planning Minister Ibrahim Sesay told the BBC in London Tuesday that in the past three months his government had developed and had begun implementing plans aimed at rebuilding Sierra Leone's economy, shattered by a decade of civil war. "We are trying to unleash the economy and we are targeting key sectors like agriculture," he said. "In agriculture we are trying to make sure that all those aspects of the economy which should be put under control for agriculture to kick off are being taken care of." Sesay said one of the areas of concentration was the rebuilding of rural feeder roads to allow farm produce to reach the towns, and he stressed that the improvements were not being put on hold until the studies were out. "We are doing spot improvements," he said. "The Sierra Leone Roads Authority is very, very active in that. And we have also committed a lot of contracts for these feeder roads to be done. So hitherto inaccessible hinterlands which are actually the areas from which the food will come from are now being accessed because the roads are being done." Sesay acknowledged that the government faced a shortage of funds to draw on in rebuilding the country. "The biggest problem is lack of resources," he said. "And this problem is because the economy was grounded during the war. Ours is purely a donor-driven economy, where 65 percent of what we spend in the country comes from IMF, World Bank, and other international financial institutions."

4 November: Sierra Leone's Health and Sanitation Minister, Dr. Agnes Taylor-Lewis, has proposed hiring unemployed youths and contracting with private truck owners to remove the mounds of garbage littering street corners and marketplaces in the nation's capital, BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana reported on Sunday. On a radio call-in show, Taylor-Lewis "blamed the problem partly on people who want to sabotage the government and also on what she called ‘illiteracy on hygiene’ among the displaced population that has overwhelmed the city," Fofana said, adding: "In many parts of the city, including markets, accumulated garbage has become an eyesore. Some streets have even been blocked off, making it difficult for both motorists and pedestrians, and the health hazard to the population is ever increasing."

Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salia-Bao, has been recalled to Freetown for consultations after a letter he wrote was submitted by Liberia's foreign minister to a United Nations committee considering the future of Liberian sanctions. The U.N. Sanctions Committee on Liberia is meeting in New York this week to decide whether to recommend that the sanctions – first imposed in March 2001 because of Liberia's alleged support for Sierra Leone's RUF rebels, and for its involvement in the illegal arms-for-diamonds trade – should be extended, modified, or even ended entirely. Salia-Bao's letter reportedly did not refer directly to the issue of sanctions, but was construed by the Liberians as supporting their efforts to have the sanctions lifted. Presidential spokesman Kanji Daramy said the government's main concern was that the ambassador did not have the authority to write the letter without clearance from Freetown. "He works for the government of Sierra Leone and he reports to the Director-General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is the reporting officer," Daramy told the Sierra Leone Web. "So he cannot discard all of that and take this unilateral step – not only unilateral, but a step which falls out of his usual channels of communication." Minister of Foreign Affairs Momodu Koroma (pictured left) said he was unfamiliar with the letter, adding that the matter was "not too clear yet." He downplayed the ambassador's recall, calling it "routine."  "I know it’s normal for ambassadors to be recalled for consultation, briefing them about government policy, if there are changes in government policy – telling them about it, trying to make sure they keep in line with government policy," he said. "Some of these issues are issues where you recall ambassadors back home if, for example, you also call him to carry out a specific assignment. So it’s routine, it happens all the time in the diplomatic world." Koroma insisted that the Sierra Leone government had no official position on the sanctions against Liberia. "We normally don’t take a position on whether or not sanctions should be lifted, because we did not initiate the idea of imposing sanctions on Liberia," he said. "The U.N. did, but as a member of the U.N., if the U.N. asks us to clarify our position – to state the facts on the ground that will help clarify the situation for them – we normally do that. This we have been doing all the time, and it is not for us to judge whether or not sanctions should be imposed on Liberia."

Officials from diamond producing and importing nations and representatives of the diamond industry began a two-day meeting in the Swiss town of Interlaken Monday in what is supposed to be the last chapter of the two-year old Kimberley Process, designed to curb the trade in the so-called "conflict diamonds" which are blamed for fueling wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A final report is due to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly next month, and a Certification of Origin system where forge-proof certificates would accompany rough diamonds through each stage of their journey from the mine to the distributor is supposed to be in place beginning in January. Non-governmental organisations have expressed concern over what they say is the lack of an independent monitoring system to ensure that illicit diamonds are not entering the system during the process.

3 November: The outgoing UNAMSIL force commander, Major-General Martin Luther Agwai, said as he left Sierra Leone on Saturday that after ten years of civil war a foundation for peace had been laid in Sierra Leone. "Today, Sierra Leoneans go to every part of their country," he said. "You cannot have absolute peace anywhere in the world, but I think there is element of peace in Sierra Leone. What we need now is to build upon the good foundation laid after the election." Agwai, who is headed for New York to take up the post of Deputy Military Advisor in the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, warned that challenges still lay ahead. "There is still a very large number of unemployed youth," he said. "Some of them have been combatants all their lives. Some of them even at the age of ten started holding arms – they were introduced to violence. So if they are not properly reintegrated into society, what they know is guns and violence, and they could create a problem." 

2 November: 200 peacekeepers from the Bangladeshi artillery battalion left Sierra Leone on Saturday, UNAMSIL spokesman Patrick Coker told the Sierra Leone Web. The rest of the 450-member battalion is expected to leave by Tuesday, as the United Nations continues the process of reducing its troop presence in Sierra Leone by 600 soldiers before the end of the year. News services reported that thousands of people lined the streets to Lungi International Airport to bid an emotional farewell to the Bangladeshi troops. "The mood here is charged," said BBC correspondent Lansana Fofana. "You can hear big singing and drumming in the background. Local musicians, local entertainers are around to bid the peacekeepers here well." Fofana noted that Bangladeshi troops had helped to build schools and had distributed medicine in the local communities where they were deployed during their stay in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal will not prosecute children, the Special Court's Chief Prosecutor told students Friday at Kabala Secondary School. Under the statute hammered out between the Sierra Leone government and the United Nations last January, the court could have indicted persons who were between the ages of 15 and 18 at the time of their offence. But prosecutor David Crane told the gathered students, many of them former CDF or RUF combatants, that it wouldn't happen. "The children of Sierra Leone have suffered enough both as victims and perpetrators. I am not interested in prosecuting children," he said. "I want to prosecute the people who forced thousands of children to commit unspeakable crimes." Crane told the young people he planned to prosecute "crimes against children" as war crimes. Child abduction and forced recruitment – both crimes under the court's statute – have never previously been prosecuted by any international tribunal. 

1 November: The Voice of America began broadcasting Friday from a new 2,000-watt digital FM station in Freetown, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. Voice of America broadcasts will now be heard on a frequency of 102.4 Mhz in the Sierra Leonean capital. Meanwhile, KISS-104 FM in Bo will continue to be a Voice of America affiliate.

President Kabbah has appointed Deputy Inspector-General of Police Kande Bangura as head of the government's newly-created National Drug Control Agency, according to a statement from the president's office. The agency is charged with developing a government policy to combat drug abuse and to control the flow of illicit drugs. It will provide counseling and rehabilitation for drug abusers, work to curtail both supply and demand for illegal drugs, and coordinate the implementation of anti-drug programmes inside and outside of government.

The United Nations has begun the process of reducing its troop strength in Sierra Leone with the rotation of 480 Nigerian peacekeepers from NIBATT 9 at Goderich, of whom 73 will not be replaced, UNAMSIL spokesman Patrick Coker (pictured left)  told the Sierra Leone Web. NIBATT 13 will take over for NIBATT 9, while NIBATT 14 is taking over from NIBATT 10 at Spur Road in Freetown. 450 soldiers from BANARTY, the Bangladeshi artillery unit at Lunsar, will also begun to pull out on Saturday. "The movement of peacekeepers from the Nigerian Contingent and Bangladeshi Artillery will continue tomorrow, 2 November - 5 November," Coker said. Troops from KENBATT 8, the Kenyan 8th Battalion, currently deployed at Masiaka, Magbontoso and Makite, will also not be replaced when they end their tour of duty before the end of the year. UNAMSIL has been mandated by the U.N. Security Council to downsize its 17,380 troops in Sierra Leone by 600 before December 31, and by a total of 4,500 by the end of May. Meanwhile, UNAMSIL's Chief Military Observer, Major-General Syed Athar Ali of Pakistan (lower left), will replace Deputy Major-General Martin Luther Agwai (right) of Nigeria as UNAMSIL force commander. Agwai will take over the post of Deputy Military Advisor in the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York.

Exchange rates for the leone against the U.S. dollar and pound sterling, posted in Freetown on Friday: [Buying / Selling] Standard Chartered Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 3000 / 3250. Commercial Bank: [$] 2100 / 2300. [£] 3050 / 3250. Frandia: [$] 2150 / 2300 [£] 3000 / 3200 [€] 1500 / 2000. Continental: [$] 2150 / 2300 [£] 3050 / 3350. Dollar Boys (Black Market): [$] 2240 / 2260 [£] 3250 / 3300.