The Sierra Leone Web


November 1994

30 November: Sierra Leone's military government has ordered home five women soccer players who went to play for clubs in Nigeria, officials said on Wednesday. The government issued the order for them to return through its High Commission in Nigeria late on Tuesday, saying it had not been properly involved in the matter. It also suspended the head of the Sierra Leone Football Association Women's League and two other sports officials. A sports ministry official said the players were cleared to travel without the approval of the sports minister or government. The five players include national squad captain Musu Pele Bangura, Jane Babay Wateman Bahoi, Mabinty Kamara, Sia Kamara, and Florence Conteh.

28 November: British police officers have arrived in Sierra Leone to join the search for two missing VSO volunteers, missing since an RUF attack on Kabala on November 7. "British Metropolitan Police officers have arrived in Freetown in an advisory capacity, as they have wide experience of hostage cases," a British High Commission statement said. The statement repeatedly referred to the two missing volunteers as "hostages," but said there was no hard evidence the two were being held by the Revolutionary United Front. "(There is) no clear proof that RUF are holding them beyond what we have heard on the radio," the statement said. A man identifying himself as RUF leader Foday Sankoh contacted the High Commission on November 16 and said the two volunteers were in good health.

18 November: RUF rebels holding two VSO volunteers abducted November 7 in an attack on Kabala have been in contact with the British High Commission in Freetown, but diplomats were unable to talk to the two hostages. He said a senior High Commission diplomat had talked to a man identifying himself as RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who said both hostages were in good health. When the diplomat asked to talk to the hostages, the conversation was cut off abruptly.

17 November: Sierra Leone's teachers called off their three-week old strike Thursday after the military government agreed to meet their demands, Sierra Leone Teachers' Union Secretary-General Alpha Timbo said. Timbo said the government had agreed to a 20 percent wage rise, better pension conditions and free schooling for two children of each teacher, and had pledged to pay teachers promptly each month. He said the government had also agreed to remove teachers from the list of essential services, giving them the right to strike if they gave prior notice. The teachers, who went on strike October 26, had originally sought a 30 percent pay rise.

Sierra Leone police said Thursday they were holding 91 fighters of Liberia's ULIMO militia hired by Sierra Leonean dissidents to overthrow the NPRC military government. Senior police sources said the Sierra Leone navy intercepted a trawler on Tuesday and arrested the ULIMO fighters, whom they accused of planning an attack on Pademba Road prison to free former ULIMO Commander Arma Youlo. "Another group would have travelled to the Guinean border with Sierra Leone to collect more hired men and to attack the city on a particular day," one source said. SLBS (state radio) said on Thursday the government had banned movement of ships in and out of Freetown harbour between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. for security reasons. Arma Youlo, who trained Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone to fight Sankoh's Charles Taylor-backed rebels, was detained in April for security reasons. The group he trained became ULIMO.

16 November: Guinea's Interior Minister Alseny Rene Gomez said on Wednesday that some 1,500 Sierra Leonean refugees had crossed the border in the past 10 days, following the RUF attack on Kabala on November 7.

12 November: The NPRC government, in an effort to crack down on army indiscipline, executed 9 soldiers overnight including 77-year old Lance-Corporal Amara Conteh. Officials said three more soldiers would be executed on Saturday. The soldiers had either been convicted of collaborating with rebels, or of armed robbery, robbery with violence, or murder. About 40 soldiers have been convicted of various crimes in courts martial which began two years ago. 25 have been sentenced to death, and the remainder to jail terms ranging from 5 to 50 years. 6 more soldiers are on trial for murder. The case of Lance-Corporal Amara Conteh led to the resignation of former attorney general Franklyn Kargbo, who disagreed with the death sentence, diplomats said.

British officials said Saturday that poor communications had prevented them from establishing two VSO volunteers missing after an RUF attack on Kabala had turned up alive in Guinea. A VSO spokesman said he understood from a Guinean official that four foreigners, including two Britons, a Belgian, and an American, had taken refuge in Conakry. The spokesman said communications with Conakry were difficult and it was impossible to tell whether the Britons were Murray and D'Cruz or two other VSO volunteers. "We are encouraged, but there is a chance of confusion here," he said.

11 November: Two British Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) volunteers have been missing since Monday's RUF raid on Kabala, a British diplomat said Friday. VSO named the two as Calum Murray, 24, from Scotland, and Robert d'Cruz from London. A statement quoted local residents as saying the rebels had led them away unharmed.

9 November: James Jonah, Head of the Electoral Commission charged with preparing the return of Sierra Leone to civilian rule, said Wednesday that the military government is on course to hand over power next year, despite a cash crisis and the persistent rebel war. Jonah, who is a former United Nations Undersecretary-General, and a veteran of elections in Cambodia, South Africa, Mozambique, and elsewhere, returned home at the request of the head of state, Captain Valentine Strasser, to oversee the transition. "We in the commission have said that we hold on to the date for presidential elections," Jonah said. Elements of the programme are already months behind schedule, but Jonah said the target date of December 1995 still held. The main holdup at present is lack of funding for an information campaign to precede voter registration, which he hopes to begin in March. "Reliable voter lists are the key to the whole process. After that everything else is easy," he said. The Commission has to combat widespread mistrust of the electoral process in Sierra Leone. "We have to convince people it's not just the same old game as usual," Jonah said.

7 November: At least 20 residents of Gerihun, in Bo District, drowned while trying to flee across a river after rebels attacked while they were in church, officials said on Monday. The rebels burned down five houses in their first reported attack in the south in two months. Government troops counter-attacked and drove the rebels from the area, but many displaced Sierra Leoneans from other areas who had taken refuge in the town fled into the bush.

Military officials said 100 RUF rebel fighters attacked the town of Kabala on Monday, killing at least 10 civilians and burning down 72 buildings, including a police station and a bank. The rebels were well armed and operating further north than before, suggesting that they had extended their area of operation. Army troops counter-attacked, captured 8 rebels, and restored order, the officials said.

Four British restaurant workers charged with plotting to overthrow Sierra Leone's military government were freed Monday after the prosecution dropped its case. Attorney-General Claude Campbell, who asked the court to drop the charges, suggested that the evidence in the case could serve as a warning to others. "We would wish this to be a lesson that those who have dispositions like those disclosed in the depositions will advise themselves better next time," Campbell told the court. The four appeared in the court and pleaded not guilty treason by plotting to overthrow the government. "We're just overwhelmed by the occasion, except that it comes too late," defendant Bui Vinh Ly said on the ferry from Freetown to Lungi Airport. "We don't want to say anything now. We just want to get home." Police and the British consul accompanied the four to the airport where they were to board a Monday night flight to Amsterdam. Strasser's aide-de-camp, Captain Abubakr Tarawali, testified that he flew to Birmingham posing as an accomplice. The four flew to Sierra Leone on October 9, 1993, and met Tarawali who on October 12 took Bui Vinh Ly round Freetown, pointing out strategic sites for attack. The defence said the four, who have no military connections, were innocents caught up in the rivalry between Musa and Strasser.

6 November: The Nigerian national women's soccer team on Sunday defeated Sierra Leone 9-0 at home in a qualifying match for the second women's World Cup in Sweden in 1995. Nigeria is the current Women's World Cup holder.

4 November: Four British Asians held for more than a year on charges of plotting to overthrow Sierra Leone's military government will go on trial in Freetown's High Court on Monday, diplomatic sources said. Bui Vinh Ly, Bui Hai Ly, and Nat Mui Ly, of Vietnamese origin, and Hong Kong-born Kelvin Shu Lee Law, said they were on holiday in Sierra Leone. The four, who worked in the Chinese restaurant business in London and Birmingham until their arrest at a Freetown hotel on 14 October 1993, face the death penalty if convicted. A magistrate ruled in May after a five-month preliminary investigation that there was enough evidence to send the case to the High Court. The NPRC military government has alleged that the four were soldiers of fortune hired to overthrow Captain Valentine Strasser and reinstate exiled former Deputy Head of State Captain Solomon "SAJ" Musa. The defence says the four were holidaymakers who were duped by Strasser's aide-de-camp, Captain Abubakr Tarawali. Tarawali testified that he went to Birmingham in September 1993 posing as a coup plotter. In May, the four went on a hunger strike to press for a speedier trial. They started eating again after appeals from British High Commission staff who had been visiting them at Pademba Road Prison. Diplomats say the four have requested a lawyer from the Sierra Leone government as their families could no longer afford the fees of the Freetown lawyer who has defended them so far.

Sierra Leone's military government sacked the police chief, his deputy, and 11 other senior officers on Friday. The third in command of the Sierra Leone police force, Senior Commissioner of Police William Safa, has been named to replace Inspector-General Walter Nicol. Police sources said Nicol, his deputy Lamin Bangura, and the others had been accused of subversive political activities.

3 November: Troops killed 18 rebels in an operation launched after attacks near the hydro-electric power station at Bumbuna, military sources said on Thursday. Rebels set fire to homes and looted property on Tuesday, and stole two vehicles from a compound at the Bumbuna dam. Dam officials said no damage had been done to the hydro-electric project and no staff there were hurt.

1 November: Six soldiers accused of attacking civilians in eastern Sierra Leone in July appeared before a court marital on Tuesday charged with murder.