29 November: A Sierra Leonean soccer team composed of refugee players living in Guinea and abroad defeated Guinea-Bissau 2-1 Saturday in the Amilcar Cabral football tournament in Gambia. Edward Sesay led the Sierra Leone to victory with goals scored in the 9th and 65th minutes. Sierra Leone's national team, the Leone Stars, was banned by Gambian authorities who cited economic sanctions against the country. Guinea-Bissau equalised shortly before halftime with a goal by Osvaldo. In the only other match held Saturday, Guinea (Conakry) and Mali played to a goalless draw.
28 November: ECOWAS Heads of State will meet December 14 and 15 in Lome, Togo to discuss the Sierra Leone crisis. "We are anxious over the situation in Sierra Leone and this will feature prominently at the summit. We will also adopt the Conakry peace plan as the working document for returning the country to civilian rule," one source said. Talks between ECOWAS officials and the AFRC Thursday failed to resolve three key issues--the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, the dominant role of Nigeria in the ECOMOG force, and the disarmament of combatants including the Sierra Leone army. "These fundamental issues will be addressed at a higher level, ECOWAS director of information, Dr. Andrienne Diop said, referring to the Togo summit. "Disarmament has been put on hold as we have set up a special committee to implement it by stages," Diop said. "The Conakry peace plan is still valid and should be looked on as a framework for the implementation and return of peace in Sierra Leone," she added.
Police on Friday released seven journalists who had been detained for eight days, The seven were not charged with any offence and have been released unconditionally. Other journalists who have been detained without charges for two weeks may be released in the next few days.
The AFRC Friday established an anti-looting squad to protect people "against looting, commandeering of vehicles, and harassment and intimidation." The junta's decree, its sixth since the May 25 coup, was published in the government-owned Weekly Gazette. The squad will be made up of military and police officers appointed by the AFRC. The decree has been backdated to take effect as from May 28. It makes it an offence for "any person to engage in or actively prepare to be engaged in looting of property or the commandeering of vehicles, to intimidate or harass another person, or to occupy the premises of another person." Suspects arrested by the squad will be tried by civilian courts within 14 days. "Any person found guilty of looting, commandeering of vehicles, or receiving any looted property or commandeered vehicle shall be sentenced to death by a firing squad," the decree said. The decree stipulates a sentence of from five years to life for persons in possession of looted property or commandeered vehicles. Any person who harasses or intimidates another faces a jail sentence of between two and seven years. A fine of $500,000, two years imprisonment, or both will be imposed on anyone obstructing the work of the squad. Official figures on arrests for looting have not been released, but up to 50 persons are estimated to be in detention for looting offences. Police sources were quoted as saying that about 1,000 vehicles were commandeered in the wake of the coup, but only a fraction have been recovered.
The Nigerian newspaper "Daily Times" reported Friday that shareholders of the petroleum remarketer Unipetrol are worried about the company's 11.45 million naira ($145,000) investment in Sierra Leone Refinery Corporation. Unipetrol has a 20 percent equity holding in the refinery. The Nigerian newspaper The Guardian on wrote Friday that an AFRC spokesman appealed to ECOWAS and the international community to allow Sierra Leone to solve its crisis alone prior to talks with ECOWAS representatives on Thursday.
27 November: ECOWAS envoys met with representatives of the AFRC at Grafton Thursday, but made no progress toward plans to restore civilian rule. "We definitely have a problem because there was a stalemate on three issues," said ECOWAS information chief Dr. Adrienne Yande Diop. The talks deadlocked on the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria, the role of Nigerian troops in ECOMOG, and junta opposition to plans to disarm the army. The two sides did agree on the meeting of three joint committees dealing with humanitarian assistance, ceasefire violations and disarmament, Diop said. ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate led the delegation, which also included ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu, United Nations special envoy Francis Okelo, a representative of the British High Commission, several senior members of the ECOWAS Secretariat, the Organisation of African Unity, and the United Nations. The Sierra Leonean side was led by AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay. Kouyate later held talks with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma, who welcomed the presence of the first high-level diplomatic mission to Sierra Leone since the coup. "My government is definitely ready for peace as set out in the Conakry accord," Koroma said.
Alimany Bakarr Sankoh, a former associate of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, said Thursday that Sankoh is unwell and has been denied medical attention by the Nigerians. "We are worried because for years now Foday Sankoh is known to be suffering from high blood pressure which would lead to death," Alimany Sankoh said Thursday. "Therefore, we are calling on the civilized world, the UN Commission for Human rights, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross to prevail upon President Sani Abacha of Nigeria to respect the Geneva Convention on the treatment of hostages and allow Foday Sankoh access to a medical doctor." Alimany Sankoh said that he and his group, the Campaign for the Release of Foday Sankoh (CREFOS), demand the immediate and unconditional release of Foday Sankoh to a "third and civilized country, preferably Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, or Cote d'Ivoire." He said Sierra Leone's crisis could only be solved by disarmament, demobilisation, and encampment of combatants, and that these could not be achieved without Foday Sankoh. "Without the release of Foday Sankoh, there will be no peace in Sierra Leone and no foundation for stable and lasting democracy. The rebels can only disarm to their leader who gave them the weapons," he said. Alimany Bakarr Sankoh currently lives in exile in Ghana.
Sierra Leone will be represented at the Amilcar Cabral Soccer Tournament by a team of exiled players based in Conakry. Gambian authorities have banned the Sierra Leone's national team, Leone Stars, from taking part in the competition, citing the economic embargo imposed by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council. The 8 countries in the zone have been divided into two groups, with Cape Verde, Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal in Group A and Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Sierra Leone in Group B. Senegal has won the trophy 7 times, Guinea 4 times, Sierra Leone twice, and Mali once. The Leone Stars last won the tournament in 1995.
26 November: A Sierra Leone military spokesman said Wednesday that a high-level military delegation is expected in Sierra Leone on Thursday to hold talks with junta leaders on restoring Sierra Leone's civilian government. He said the delegation would include ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate, ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu, and a United Nations representative. "We were informed by the ECOWAS Executive Secretary himself yesterday evening that they will be flying to Freetown for the meeting," the spokesman said. He said Kouyate would hold talks with AFRC leader Major Johnny Paul Koroma. The spokesman said the talks would also deal with the reopening of Lungi International Airport, which has remained closed and under ECOMOG control since the coup.
The AFRC Wednesday accused ECOMOG of airlifting Kamajor militiamen to reinforce its bases near Freetown. "Dozens of helicopter shuttle flights have been going on for the past four days," a junta statement on SLBS (state radio) said. "The government is completely shocked and dismayed over this development. This act by the Nigerians constitutes undue provocation and blatant disregard for the Conakry Peace agreement." AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay said that ECOMOG was building up its military presence at Lungi and Jui. "This show of military preparedness should not, however, be a cause of alarm to the civilian population, as we are in control of the situation," he said. "We know that in the line up, kamajor hunters are included to beef up ECOMOG forces." Sesay denied allegations that the Sierra Leone army is building up its own forces. "We are respecting the peace agreement and will abide by it," he said.
A meeting between representatives of the military junta and the Kamajor militia is reported to have taken place in Bo. The two sides discussed implementation of the Peace Agreement "amidst high tension and mistrust." The meeting was organised by international non-governmental organizations and the United Nations.
Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grischenko has denied allegations that Ukraine has supplied arms and other items to the Sierra Leone junta. Grischenko made the statement during a visit to Abuja, Nigeria. He said that Ukraine would work to ensure the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Sierra Leone. The Ukrainian statement was in response to recent accusations by Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo, who has repeatedly alleged that the Ukrainian government was supplying arms, including fighter jets, to the junta.
25 November: The ECOMOG force released 40 Sierra Leonean prisoners from its base at Lungi International Airport on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, bringing to 70 the number released in the last couple of weeks. The prisoners, who were captured in clashes between ECOMOG and junta forces, were turned over to Bishop George Bigguzzi, head of the Catholic Diocese in Makeni. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara welcomed the releases as confidence building measures, and said the junta held no ECOMOG prisoners.
An effort by the AFRC to register some 5,000 child soldiers has run into resistance from the Revolutionary United Front. "RUF base commanders up-country are refusing to allow child soldiers under them to register with the mobile teams going round the country for the exercise," one source said. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the RUF first wants their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, released from detention in Nigeria. "The RUF is still skeptical about the disarmament programme," Kamara said.
The international charity Save the Children has called on governments to ensure that the recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflicts be defined as a war crime under the Statute of the Permanent International Criminal Court, currently being negotiated in the United Nations. The group said children under 18 are fighting in 32 armed conflicts, 24 of them involving children under 15, and several involving children as young as 8. The total number of children taking part in armed conflicts has been estimated to be at least 250,000. Save the Children's latest annual list of countries with child combatants includes 32 countries, including Sierra Leone.
The visit to Freetown by the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers will now reportedly take place on November 27. The visit was originally scheduled for November 20. An ECOWAS spokesman was quoted as saying that the meeting was postponed due to the difficulty in getting all five foreign ministers together at one time. Originally, renewed fighting in eastern Sierra Leone had been cited in postponing the visit.
A senior AFRC officer complained Tuesday that Sierra Leone has failed to receive humanitarian assistance as outlined in the peace agreement signed with ECOWAS in October. According to the timetable set down in the agreement, he said, humanitarian assistance should have commenced on November 14. "But we did not see any humanitarian assistance," he said. "It was not our fault." He said an ECOWAS assessment team should visit Freetown on Thursday to determine what should be done. The team should consist of ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate, ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu, senior United Nations representatives, and high-ranking Nigerian military officials.
24 November: The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched an appeal Monday to raise $35 million to fight poliomyelitis in war-affected countries in Africa and Asia. "Wherever armed conflicts erupt in the world, young children are among the first innocent victims," the two groups said in a statement issued in Geneva, Switzerland, adding that "in this situation, getting vaccines to children is an urgent priority." The money raised will be primarily targeted to such countries as Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Tajikistan.
Three newspaper editors were detained Saturday for publishing articles deemed by the junta as threatening state security. Dorothy Awonoor-Gordon, acting editor of the Concord Times, Pious Foray of the Democrat, and Ibrahim Karim Sei, editor of the Standard Times, were arrested separately by detectives. "Their papers have carried several dubious articles which had threatened to undermine the security of the state," a police investigator said. The Democrat reported on November 20 that armed men had robbed the office and residence of the British High Commissioner. The Standard Times carried a story on November 12 which accused the AFRC of conspiring with Liberian President Charles Taylor "aiding the son of the late Guinean President Sekou Toure to attack Guinea and destablise the government of President Lansana Conte." The newspapers subsequently retracted the stories. The Concord Times published an article on the delivery of lubricating oil to a power plant near Freetown, in violation of economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council. On Monday, AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul Sesay called for a truce between the junta and the media. "Press freedom has to stop just where the security of the state begins," Sesay told journalists at a press conference. He urged journalists to "undertake their reporting assignment within professional standards and cross check their facts." Sesay criticised "certain journalists who deliberately and wickedly continue to work on calculated plans to destabilise the nation."ECOMOG Friday turned over 28 Sierra Leonean prisoners who had been captured during clashes at Lungi and Jui. Those released included five soldiers, eight policemen, six civilians, six RUF fighters, and members of the Special Task Force. Director of Defence Administration Colonel Sammy Davies said Saturday that "the ceremony took place on board a Sierra Leone naval vessel at Tagrin, three miles from Lungi International Airport, in the presence of Catholic Mission Bishop George Bigguzzi...Everybody was cheerful and some of the released Sierra Leone soldiers said they would be returning to their Lungi Airport garrison after their debriefing by Sierra Leone authorities."
20 African countries face severe food shortages due to adverse weather and civil strife, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in Tuesday. In a report issued in Nairobi, Kenya, the FAO said the problem is most acute in eastern Africa, the Great Lakes region, and in Sierra Leone. Tight food supplies have persisted in Sierra Leone since the coup in May. Food prices have increased sharply, and serious food shortages are reported despite the entry of small quantities of relief aid in recent weeks. "For a large section of the population, there is now very limited access to expensive commercial food and malnutrition is reported to be on the increase. There are currently more than 92,000 internally displaced people, up from 65,000 last May," the report said.
Central bank officials from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and the Gambia are expected to meet in Abuja, Nigeria next week to adopt a common law on money laundering. The law will establish an anti-money laundering agency in each country, with representatives from the central bank, the police, the corporate affairs commission, the drug law enforcement agency, immigration, and the justice ministry. The agencies will have the power to place bank accounts under surveillance, tap telephone lines, probe business activities, stop suspect transactions, and prosecute offenders in a special court. The law will make it mandatory for casinos to keep records of gamblers and their transactions for ten years. Financial institutions will be required to report all transactions in excess of one million naira (about $12,500) by an individual or five million naira (about $62,500) for businesses.
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate said he would leave for Freetown on Monday to make preparations for a second round of talks aimed at restoring the civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Kouyate said he was mandated by Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi to meet with junta officials and "negotiate" on a peace plan. ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu will also attend the meeting. Kouyate said he would report to the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone upon his return from Freetown, so that it can assess the situation in the country. Kouyate said the talks would take place on November 28. A first round of talks between ECOWAS and the AFRC failed to resolve several key issues, including whether the Sierra Leone army should be disarmed, and the leading role of Nigeria in the ECOMOG force. "Much has to be done before April next year," Kouyate said.
21 November: The AFRC lifted the suspension of the Standard Times newspaper on Friday, but "temporaily suspended" another newspaper, The Democrat, after Thursday's edition reported a burglary at the British High Commissioner's offices and home by seven uniformed men. The Standard Times ban was lifted after the newspaper retracted an earlier story accusing the AFRC of plotting with Liberian President Charles Taylor to overthrow the Guinean government.
The National Power Authority restored electrical power to Freetown on Thursday night, ending a three-month blackout. National Power Authority officials declined to say how they managed to obtain lubricants used to dilute the generator fuel oil. "We worked out a secret scheme which paid off," an engineer said. An economic embargo imposed by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council bans the importation of petroleum and petroleum products into Sierra Leone.
The Central Organ of the Organisation of African Unity Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution reiterated its condemnation on Friday of the coup in Sierra Leone and repeated its call for the reinstatement of the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "We requested OAU member states and the international community at large to provide assistance to meet the resettlement and rehabilitation needs of disarmed combatants," said Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge. "In this connection the organ welcomed the financial contribution of ECOMOG of 250,000 U.S. dollars announced by the Secretary-General of the OAU to mobilize financial assistance from the international community in that regard." The Central Organ called on the military junta to fulfill its obligations under the Conakry Peace Accord. Also on the agenda were the conflicts in Burundi, the Comoros, Congo, and Somalia. Mudenge pointed out that 12 of the 16 foreign ministers who make up the conflict prevention committee failed to attend the two-day conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which ended Friday. Only Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Burundi were represented at the ministerial level. "Unless we in Africa are willing to tackle the African issues in earnest, no one can take what we decide upon seriously," Mudenge said.
20 November: A visit to Freetown by the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers scheduled for Friday has been postponed. The foreign ministers were to have met with junta officials to discuss the return of the country to civilian rule. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura was quoted as saying that the meeting will now probably be rescheduled for November 27. The postponement was due to renewed fighting between the army and the Kamajor militia near Tongo, in eastern Sierra Leone.
Renewed fighting between the army and the Kamajor militia has been reported in the Tongo area, with each side accusing the other of violating the ceasefire. Kamajor spokesman Eddie Mando said the Kamajors had accepted the peace agreement because it was in the best interest of Sierra Leone. He accused the junta of attacking the milita and civilians as part of their "tricks." AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara accused the Kamajors of breaking the ceasefire, and said he will report the incidents to ECOMOG. A Kamajor spokesman said the militia had only responded when attacked. Residents fleeing the area were quoted as saying that the Kamajors hold all roads leading into Tongo. They said Tongo residents were warned to leave the town by November 28, before the Kamajors launch an all-out attack on the junta forces holding the town. Thousands of people fleeing the area reportedly arrived in Kenema on Wednesday.
Liberian President Charles Taylor said Thursday that the crisis in Sierra Leone is a threat to Liberia's security. "There is a real threat of the activities on the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, but that threat is not sufficient for our citizens to panic," Taylor said in a national radio broadcast. He said the Liberian government had arrested an unspecified number of Kamajor milita members and seized "massive documentations, including hospital records and rosters which prove that there is a threat." Although Liberia is not armed yet, Taylor said, if threatened from outside "there are ways that we will take the arms from those who have them and we will use them." Taylor said he supports efforts by the United Nations and ECOWAS to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone, "but Liberia continues to object to economic sanctions, especially food and medicine, because women and children die." In a BBC interview Thursday, Taylor said that he favours the release from detention of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh.
19 November: The Associated Press (AP) quoted "various newspapers" Wednesday which reported that Steve Bio, who was arrested on Tuesday, had plotted with various members of the RUF to overthrow AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. Bio's plot was discovered, the reports said, when he tried to enlist the support of Colonel Sam "Maskita" Bockarie, the RUF's second-in-command. Bockarie turned Bio in to authorities, who also arrested a number of lower-ranking RUF officials and civilians over the weekend. The arrests were announced on Tuesday, but the AFRC has not yet publicly stated the reasons, saying only that the men were involved in "clandestine" activities. AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul Sesay said the plot had "a tribal origin." Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday that 15 people have so far been detained in connection with the alleged coup plot. A source close to the AFRC reported that the detainees include AFRC Supreme Council member Sergeant George Adams and "55."
The Paris-based organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) condemned the suspension of the Standard Times newspaper Wednesday in an open letter to AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma. "Reporters Sans Frontieres condemns the suspension of the magazine Standard Times and urges you to do everything in your power to allow it to resume publication," the letter said.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma has sacked one top AFRC official on Sunday and suspended eight more, aides said on Wednesday. Alfred Muna, Secretary-General of the Boat Owner's Association and a member of the AFRC Supreme Council of State, was sacked for his involvement in "some dubious activities," an aide said. Koroma also suspended eight other "honourables" (members of the AFRC Supreme Council) and placed them under "mess arrest." The eight are alleged to have "undermined the revenue-generating capacity" of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Junta sources said the eight had "set in place a reign of anarchy inconsistent with state stability." For the past three months, ministry officials have refused to travel to the eastern diamond mining areas, saying they were fearful of senior AFRC members seen in the area with heavily armed bodyguards. Koroma "has been pushed to the limit of his tolerance," a senior State House staffer said. "This is the time for all to work in the most peaceful atmosphere without harrassing anyone," he quoted Koroma as saying. He said Koroma had warned all honourables "moving about with an unauthorised number of bodyguards to desist or risk disciplinary measures," adding that "civilians using soldiers to harrass civilians will now receive the same punishment as soldiers." The eight have not been officially identified, but Corporal Tamba Gborie, who first announced the coup over SLBS (state radio) is reported to be among them. Some of the eight are said to be civilians.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma has ordered the arrest of PLO 2 Staff Sergeant Alex Tamba Brima on charges of "failing to hand over a large consignment of cigarettes he confiscated at two local wharves in the city last week." Brima, whose post is senior to any ministerial portfolio, "refused to make a statement to police about the cigarette incident and has been dodging any discussion concering the matter which is now being handled by Chairman Koroma," a State House aide said.
Cross-border relief operations into Sierra Leone have been rescheduled for Thursday, according to humanitarian sources in Abidjan. Eight World Food Programme (WFP) trucks loaded with 200 metric tons of food will depart Conakry for Kambia latter than originally planned because of difficulties in obtaining clearances from "various quarters." The WFP plans to position an international staff member in the Kambia area to supervise the implementation of its targeted food programme. The WFP convoy will also carry UNICEF vaccines, and World Vision, CARE-USA, and Catholic Relief Services food commodities.
18 November: 10 people, 6 of them from the military, have been arrested in connection with an attempt to overthrow the AFRC military junta, senior military sources said on Tuesday. The 10 are being detained at Pademba Road Prison in Freetown. They include Steve Bio, a close relative of former NPRC Head of State Julius Maada Bio, and RUF Colonel Gibril Massaquoi. Both are members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. "They were plotting to overthrow the AFRC government and to abort the Conakry (peace) agreement," said one unidentified military officer. He said security forces were still searching for other suspects, adding that members of the military would be court-martialed while civilians would be tried in the regular courts. An AFRC spokesman confirmed the arrests, but declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation. In Lagos, Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo said that about 80 members of the military and RUF had been arrested. There has been no independent confirmation of his claim. Steve Bio was linked to an attempt to overthrow President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in February 1997. He fled the country after police issued a warrant for his arrest, but returned to Sierra Leone after the civilian government was overthrown. Bio, who owns a private airline and charter helicopter company, had announced plans to stand for president in the March 1996 elections, but was pressured to withdraw by Julius Maada Bio, who was returning the country to civilian rule. Massaquoi was a key aide to RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh.
Western Area Security Patrol (WASP) vigilantes clashed with heavily armed robbers in various parts of Freetown Tuesday night. WASP spokesman said the group captured 7 armed robbers in military uniform. 6 more escaped. The vigilantes claimed to have captured 120 more robbers in eastern Freetown after exchanges of fire. "Anyone who challenges WASP and is caught will be executed," WASP Captain Manderah Kamara said. Kamara attributed the violence to factions "within or outside Sierra Leone" opposed to the military government. WASP has recently strengthened its presence in Freetown.
17 November: Sierra Leone's military junta began identifying and registering child soldiers Monday as a first step towards the disarmament of combatants which is due to begin in December. 500 volunteers set out from Freetown to conduct a census of the estimated 4,000 to 5,000 child soldiers, some as young as 9 years old. "The teams have already started identifying and registering the child combatants this morning in the regional capitals Bo, Kenema, and Makeni, and also in other towns," said Secretary of Social Welfare, Children and Gender Affairs Major Kula Samba. She said the census was being undertaken in the spirit of the Conakry Peace Agreement. "Disarmament under the Conakry agreement should start December 1 and we are registering and documenting the children to get them ready for the start of that disarmament of the adult combatants," Samba said. Although the majority of the children are believed to be with the Revolutionary United Front, Samba said there were also children serving with the army, the Kamajors, and other militias. Sources close to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) predicted there would be problems with both the RUF and the Kamajors. "RUF officials have told us that they are bringing their child soldiers for registration but that they will never allow the children to be disarmed until their leader Foday Sankoh is released from detention in Nigeria," one said. Humanitarian sources in Freetown and Monrovia said they had heard little of the AFRC plans for child demobilisation. "It is probably a publicity stunt, but if there is a genuine opportunity to demobilise the children we will do what we can to help," one source said.
ECOMOG Chief of Staff Brigadier General Abdul Mohammed denied Monday that ECOMOG's fighter jets had violated a ceasefire agreement over the weekend. "Our aircraft were shot at so we returned fire," Mohammed said from Monrovia. "There wre ships coming in to the port to bring lubricants and other fuel products. We detected them from Saturday," he added, pointing out that this had violated the United Nations Security Council sanctions against the junta. The ships "were given warnings, it was announced all over the place. They were given 24-hour warnings in the Freetown press. But it didn't work out, so we sent Alpha jets to enforce the U.N. embargo," he said. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent in Freetown reported that no warning advertisements were published in the press over the weekend, and that anti-aircract guns had been dismantled in accordance with the Conakry Peace Agreement.
Liberian President Charles Taylor said Monday that he is seriously concerned about the current economic sanctions being imposed on Sierra Leone, stressing that the situation has caused the deaths of thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees due to the lack of food. Taylor appealed to the world not to ignore the plight of the Sierra Leonean people, describing the sanctions imposed on a poor nation by the United Nations through the influence of world superpowers as a gross violation of human rights. Taylor's comments were reported on Liberia Communications Network Radio.
AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said Monday that the junta remains committed to the peace agreement despite what he called a breach of the ceasefire by a Nigerian Alpha jet fighter plane on Sunday. Kamara said ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu would meet with AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma on Wednesday to resolve differences over disarming of combatants and the dominance of Nigerian troops in ECOMOG.
The Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices identified Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Egypt as pockets of resistance in eradicating harmful traditional practices which affect the health of at least 100 million African women and children. The Committee's president, Berhane Ras-Work of Ethiopia, said religious and cultural arguments were being advanced by authorities in these countries to blunt the struggle against harmful practicies--identified as female genital mutilation (female circumcision), early marriage, and nutritional taboos. Senegalese Minister of Health and Social Action Ousmane Ngom advised the Committee to diversify information and training programmes so as to reach all target groups in Africa. He also called for the full application of the Convention on Children's Rights and the African Charter of Rights and the Well-being of the Child, which call for the protection of children against harmful practices. The Committee, which operates in 26 African countries, is holding a five day congress in Dakar, Senegal.
16 November: A Nigerian Alpha jet fighter flew over Freetown Sunday, triggering a five-minute exchange of fire with Sierra Leonean troops. An AFRC spokesman, speaking over SLBS (state radio), said the jet broke the ceasefire by firing on a house west of the capital; military officials said the target was a barracks. Local sources said the jet fired at boats near King Tom and Tengbeh Town which were attempting to evade the blockade, but missed its targets. A statement issued from ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia said its planes would attack two ships if they failed to leave the area by the end of Sunday. "The ships...currently discharging in Sierra Leonean waters are warned that they will be neutralised by ECOMOG military aircraft if they fail to leave," the statement said, accusing them of delivering arms and oil products to the junta. "ECOMOG has the right to carry out the mandate of the U.N. by striking ships on the coast of the West African country." Two ships warned off by ECOMOG on November 7 were said to have left, but fishermen have reported spotting two ships lurking off the coast of Freetown since then.
The leone's exchange rate against the dollar is reportedly between Le 1,000 and Le 1,100 at the bank, and up to Le 1,400 on the black market.
14 November: Fighting between army troops and the Kamajor militia is continuing in eastern Sierra Leone, witnesses and AFRC officials said on Friday. The fighting began Monday between Kenema and Tongo, according to one traveller who arrived in Freetown. "There has been no let-up since then, even as I left the area on foot to join a vehicle at Kenema yesterday (Thursday) afternoon," he said. One witness said the outskirts of Tongo are "full of armed men in Kamajor regalia." Kamajors have also been seen near the villages of Kamboma, Pujehun and Kangahun, along the Kenema-Tongo road. "The militiamen were stopping vehicles and threateningly asking passengers for food and money," a witness said.
The United Nations Security Council expressed support on Friday for the efforts of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone "to seek a peaceful settlement of the crisis and the restoration of the democratically-elected tovernment and constitutional order." A statement read out by Security Council President Qin Huasun welcomed the peace plan agreed to in Conkary on October 23, and noted President Kabbah's acceptance of the plan in his statement of 5 November. The Security Council also called upon the junta "to fulfil its obligations under the peace plan, and in particular the ongoing maintenance of the ceasefire." The statement also reiterated the need for the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance and called on states and international organisations to assist countries in dealing with the influx of Sierra Leonean refugees. The Security Council also reminded member states of their obligation "to comply strictly" with the economic sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone.
Organisation of African Unity foreign ministers will meet in Addis Ababa November 20 and 21 to discuss conflicts in Sierra Leone, Burundi, the Comoros, Somalia, and the Republic of Congo, where Angolan-backed forces overthrew president Pascal Lissouba last month. The meeting will be chaired by OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim.
13 November: Kamajors ambushed a convoy carrying a member of the AFRC Supreme Council between Tongo Field and Kono, Military Spokesman Major John Milton said on Thursday. Milton said a military escort fought off the attackers. "The Supreme Council Member, the Honourable George Adams, was not hurt," Milton said.
The AFRC temporarily suspended the newspaper Standard Times Thursday following a story on Wednesday which suggested that the junta was involved in a plot to overthrow the Guinean government. The article claimed that "Liberian President Charles Taylor, assisted by the government in Sierra Leone, were assisting the son of the late Guinean leader Sekou Toure to invade Guinea." SLBS (state radio) accused the newspaper of "violating the basic ethics of journalism." Standard Times editor Abdul Sesay said the newspaper was only involved in normal news reporting. "The suspension has come as a surprise," he said.
Andriy Kukin, Director General of the Ukrainian state company Ukrespetseksport which is reponsible for all imports and exports of military products and services from Ukraine, denied Friday that Ukraine has supplied arms and military equipment to Sierra Leone's military junta. His statement came in response to accusations made by Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo, who accused Ukraine of selling three fighter jets to the AFRC for use against ECOMOG troops. "These accusations are a consequence of the competition on the arms market, where Ukraine managed to gain a lead this year," Kukin told Ukraine's Unian News Agency. He said that an arms sales operation to Sierra Leone is "fundamentally impossible, because Ukraine's customs will never allow any 'sensitive' goods to leave the country without an official export permit." Olexandr Kluban, Press Assistant to the Head of Ukraine's State Export Control Service, said no permission had been granted for jet fighters to be sold to an African country. He said Ugbo's accusations "should be described as a provocation, because this is disinformation aimed at harming Ukraine's international image" to the benefit of Ukraine's main competitors on the world arms market. "There has not been a single case of unsanctioned arms sale by Ukraine" since the country set up an export control structure, Kluban said. "It is possible to smuggle a pistol out, but never a plane."
The Ministry of Children's Affairs said it is sending a team of experts to the Western Area, which includes Freetown, to identify armed children and prepare them for demobilisation. "This is a nationwide identification, documentation and registration exercise of all children in arms and it is extremely important that it is executed successfully as it is dealing with the welfare and future of our children who have participated in the conflict," Sam Keister said. Keister said the operation would begin Monday, 17 November, and appealed for cooperation from paramount chiefs, police, hunter militias, and other armed groups.
Ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah arrived in Nigeria Thursday for two days of talks with Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha. Nigerian foreign ministry officials said the two would discuss the implementation of the ECOWAS Peace Plan.
12 November: Representatives of ECOMOG and the AFRC ended their talks on Wednesday by giving differing accounts of progress made on agreements to implement the ECOWAS Peace Plan for Sierra Leone. ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu said the two sides agreed on the disarmament of Sierra Leone's various combatants in December. Malu said Sierra Leone's military junta will no longer object to the presence of Nigerian soldiers in the ECOMOG force, and that these will soon be deployed around the country. He said the two sides had also agreed on enforcement of the sanctions which have been imposed on Sierra Leone by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council. "We all agreed to that," Malu said. Two major issues are still in dispute: which combatants should be disarmed, and the deployment of Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone. ECOMOG insists that the peace plan calls for the disarmament of the Sierra Leone, while the AFRC maintains that the constitutional army should not be included. Military spokesman Major John Milton complained that Malu was providing misinformation and making hostile propaganda, saying that the two issues had not been decided. "We did not agree on disarmament...and also we did not agree on the domination of the Nigerian contingent in ECOMOG," he said. The junta downplayed its opposition to Nigerian soldiers taking part in the implementation of the peace plan. "We are not opposed to the Nigerian deployment in Sierra Leone. What we are opposed to is the dominance of Nigeria in ECOMOG and also in the pursuance of peace in Sierra Leone," Milton said. He added that the junta wants to see an expanded ECOMOG force with Nigerian involvement, not Nigerian dominance.
ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu issued a statement in Monrovia Wednesday warning the AFRC to "think twice about the implications of being seen as rejecting some aspects of the Conakry agreement." Malu's statement came in response to the junta's refusal to allow the Sierra Leonean army to be disarmed by ECOMOG. Refusal, Malu said, "will be tantamount to challenging the whole world." He emphasised that "there will will be no discrimination during the time of disarmament."
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on Wednesday ruled out a sharing power with soldiers who ousted him in a May 25 coup. "My constitution prevents me doing a number of things and I am not interested in that kind of compromise," Kabbah said. However, Kabbah said that he might be able to work with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who is currently being detained in Nigeria. "We all make mistakes. If he recognises his and promises to work for the good of the country, I cannot rule out forgiving him and considering him a compatriot, associating him with the future of this country," he said. Kabbah said the sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council would immediately be lifted upon his return to Sierra Leone. "The population is suffering from lack of electricity, that is part of the game to expel the military," he said. "The cruelty witnessed in the first days of the coup...even if I've promised an amnesty for the coup-makers, I would come under great pressure to punish them in an exemplary manner." Kabbah said that support from the European Union, Britain, the United Nations, and the United States would allow large-scale humanitarian aid to resume as soon as his government is returned to power. "I am not a career politician, but I cannot allow the constitution to be changed every six months. If I did certain things, my parliament would not hesitate to criticise me." Kabbah stressed that the military should be disarmed under terms of the ECOWAS Peace Accord. "All of the regular army must be disarmed, it's a question if discipline," he said, adding that the AFRC's reluctance to disarm "reflects its continuing bad faith."
An ECOWAS mission arrived in Conakry, Guinea over the weekend to hold meetings with U.N. aid agencies. Humanitarian sources said the mission is evaluating the level of preparedness of the agencies for cross-border relief operations in Sierra Leone. The mission is due to meet with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on Thursday in order to gain his approval. Kabala will reportedly be used as a relay point for food distribution throughout the country. Humanitarian sources have described the food situation in Sierra Leone as critical. There are estimated to be more than 150,000 displaced persons in the country, mainly residing in Bo, Kenema, Port Loko, and Kambia.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi called on the United Nations Wednesday to extend military and technical assistance to ECOWAS in its efforts to restore Sierra Leone's democratic government. In a statement conveyed to the U.N. by Nigeria's permanent mission, Ikimi said such aid was "highly desirable and necessary" in order to deploy an observers group in Sierra Leone. Such a group, he said, would provide assistance to ECOMOG in the same way as the U.N. Observers' Mission in Liberia (UNIMOL). Ikimi said that technical and material assistance from the United Nations would enable ECOMOG to enforce the sanctions on Sierra Leone and to maintain peace and security. Ikimi also stressed the need to provide relief supplies to refugees who had fled to Guinea and Liberia.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said Wednesday that 18 countries in Africa, including Sierra Leone, face food shortages because of adverse weather, civil strife, and economic reforms. The affected countries are Angola, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, the FAO said in a special edition of its "Food Outlook" report. FAO experts said the El Niño phenomenon is expected to peak in the next few months and may affect the 1998 harvest.
11 November: A day-long meeting between ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu leading four senior ECOMOG officers, and an AFRC delegation headed by Army Chief of Staff Colonel Samuel Williams have produced a number or agreements, Malu said after the talks ended Tuesday. Malu arrived by helicopter at the venue, the teachers college compound at Kossoh Camp, amid tight security. Two Nigerian fighter planes flew overhead for about 45 minutes after Malu's arrival. Malu said after the talks that the two sides had reached consensus on the main issue of deploying ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone in December for disarmament and security duty, and that ECOMOG troops would be deployed in specific areas to enforce the embargo in a way that will not bring hardship to the people of Sierra Leone. "We have agreed on ECOMOG deployment in Freetown which includes the seaports, airports and other selected vulnerable points and strategic installations including guarding the facilities of the U.N. agencies and non-governmental organisations in conjunction with the Sierra Leone army," he said. "We have asked the military government in Sierra Leone to immediately start reopening the roads and dismantle unnecessary checkpoints which will later be manned by a joint Sierra Leone army and ECOMOG soldiers." Malu said humanitarian relief supplies will be allowed into the country starting on Friday. The ferry service connecting Freetown and Lungi will begin operating shortly, and landmines at the airport will be removed. "The sea and airports are to be re-opened soon and Sierra Leone prisoners of war are to be released to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Catholic Mission as from tomorrow (Wednesday)." The two sides will meet again on Wednesday to set up joint committees to work out the details for restoring Sierra Leone's civilian government. Malu said that three committees on disarmament, the ceasefire, and humanitarian agencies will be set up within 48 hours. Malu said that three key issues, "the return of Corporal Foday Sankoh, an observation on who should be disarmed, and the dominant role of Nigeria in ECOMOG," require further discussion by the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers. "They have reservations on our plan to disarm every armed group including the Sierra Leonean government soldiers," Malu said. "Their argument is that the government soldiers are a constitutional army of Sierra Leone and therefore must not be disarmed. The two sides also differed on the release of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. "I told them I was not authorised to speak on the issue on behalf of Nigeria," Malu said. Malu expressed optimism during a break in the talks Tuesday. "Everything that will push the peace process seemed on course. The AFRC representatives appeared very willing to work with ECOMOG in realising the goals of the sub-region," he said. A spokesman for Sierra Leone's military delegation said the AFRC has accepted the agreement "in principle" and that "further discussions are necessary to put them into gear." The ECOMOG delegation included Deputy ECOMOG Force Commander Lieutenant Sulaiman Camara, a Guinean. The Sierra Leone delegation included Labour Minister Salam Williams and Secretary of State for Development and Economic Planning Victor Brandon.
RUF Colonel Eldred Collins said Tuesday that the Revolutionary United Front will disarm only if Nigeria releases its leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh. "One of the clauses of the peace plan signed in Conakry is the immediate and unconditional release of Foday Sankoh," Collins said, adding that Sankoh is held "illegally" in Nigeria. "I was with the Sierra Leonean delegation at Conakry. I know what ECOWAS promised us. Every day I see Nigeria does not keep its promises." he said. "We went to war against a system, against corruption, and we won't give up. Ours is a just cause and we must be part of the broad-based government planned in the Conakry accord. Under no curcumstances can the Nigerians disarm us...We, the RUF, are well organised. We have been well organised for years. Nigeria should watch out. They have citizens all over the world. We can hit them everywhere," Collins said. Collins, who is the RUF's third-in-command, is the AFRC Secretary of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises.
10 November: ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu and AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma will meet Tuesday to discuss implementation of the ECOWAS Peace Accord signed in Conakry last month. "We are going tomorrow," Malu said in Monrovia on Monday. He said he would meet AFRC leaders near Jui, where ECOMOG has a military base. "The meeting is taking place where our troops are deployed and security is our responsibility," Malu said. The two were to have met last Friday, but the talks were postponed at the last minute by the military junta. AFRC spokesmen cited security concerns for the AFRC's refusal to meet at Lungi, and said they needed more time to study the agenda. Malu said the talks will focus on details of deploying peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone in preparation for disarming the warring factions. "There are 17 items on the agenda which the AFRC had to study so that we can have a fruitful meeting," military spokesman Major John Milton said. Five of the agenda items were submitted by the AFRC in preliminary meetings. Sources close to the talks were quoted as saying that Koroma will press for the release from detention in Nigeria of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. The two sides are also expected to discuss the economic embargo on Sierra Leone and a prisoner exchange.
Four cargo ships bound for Freetown have reportedly turned back after ECOMOG on Friday threatened two of them with attack.
The cost of living in Freetown has skyrocked since imposition of sanctions, the BBC reported Sunday, with food and fuel in short supply. "Prices of essential commodities such as rice, fish, onions, pepper, vegetable oil, sugar, and even gari are rising rapidly and there seems to be no price-control system in the country as Lebanese and Indian importers with street traders hike prices with impunity. A pint of vegetable oil now costs Le 650 instead of the pre-revolution price of Le 250. Onions today is Le 300 instead of Le 100. Other foodstuffs such as tomato paste, milk, meat are not only too expensive but are rarely seen in the market...In another development, the AFRC junta has annouced the rationing of petroleum products as hundreds of motorists and other fuel consumers continue to spend long hours in queues across Freetown to purchase petrol and kerosene."
Nigeria has agreed to admit some 32 Gambian students evacuated from the University of Sierra Leone to Nigerian universities, Nigerian Minister of State for Education Iyabo Anisulowo said Monday. The announcement came after a request by Gambian Secretary of State for the Interior Momodou Bojang, a day after Gambian President Gambian President Yayah Jammeh's three day offical visit to Nigeria.
8 November: ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu told the Voice of America late Saturday he is willing to travel anywhere to meet with AFRC leaders for talks on implementing the peace agreement. "I will go to Freetown at any time. I have no problem with where we meet," Malu said. Malu also repeated an ECOMOG ultimatum for two ships in Sierra Leonean waters, the MV Sky and the MV Mercury, to leave immediately or face attack.
7 November: A planned meeting between AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu was abruptly postponed by the junta on Thursday, barely a day before it was to have taken place. In its notification of the postponement, the junta called for the meeting to be rescheduled for Wednesday, November 12. The junta is also demanding that the meeting take place either at State House or at the military's bombed-out Defence Headquarters at Cockerill. The two sides were to have discussed the modalities to begin implementation of the Conakry Peace Accord at Friday's meeting. Malu reportedly had also intended bring up the AFRC's demand that Nigerian ECOMOG troops be withdrawn from Sierra Leone. Malu expressed concern about the postponement on Friday, saying "The reluctance of the junta to meet (with ECOMOG) is sending a strong signal that they signed the agreement to buy time." He said that although the junta had not attacked the ECOMOG force since signing the peace agreement, "the junta has been recruiting desperately." Malu said the AFRC's actions since the signing of the accord were "beginning to give cause for concern." ECOMOG will not tolerate any departure from the peace agreement, Malu said, adding that ECOMOG intends to implement fully the terms of the accord, as well as to continue to enforce the economic embargo against Sierra Leone. AFRC Secretary-General A. K. Sesay, in a press release issued Friday, responsed that "the AFRC has absolutely no reservation in meeting General Malu for the proposed discussions," but that Lungi was unacceptable to the junta as a venue because it is occupied by Nigerian troops. Sesay said AFRC leaders had made it clear to the Nigerian contingent that they would meet with Malu "in the same neutral buffer zone at Orugu Bridge where the first two preliminary meetings were held." The junta also cited their desire "to study, thoroughly, the items on the agenda" in their decision to postpone the meeting.
ECOMOG on Friday warned two merchant vessels in Sierra Leone's territorial waters to leave by 11:00 p.m. local time or be attacked. The ECOMOG statement said the MV Sky and the MV Mercury were approaching Freetown in violation of an embargo imposed by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council. One of the ships in currently berthed at the King Tom power station "preparatory for whatever nefarious activities it intended," the statement said. "In their own interest, the two ships are once again advised to leave Sierra Leone within the next six hours or risk being attacked at the expiration of this ultimatium," ECOMOG warned, noting that the embargo imposed on the military junta "is very much in place. The two ships cannot claim ignorance of the economic sanctions."
More than 200,000 people in Sierra Leone are in need for food aid as a result of the violence that followed the May 25 coup, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday. The WFP statement said the health of tens of thousands of vulnerable people could deterioriate in the coming weeks unless the agency could bring in more food immediately. "Many of these people are in hospitals, clinics, orphanages, or are simply displaced in urban centres and have been receiving food through programmes supported by the World Food Programme," the agency said. "WFP estimates that right now over 200,000 Sierra Leoneans who have been left virtually destitute by the five-month-old conflict are in need of WFP's assistance." The WFP said it requires 2,400 tons of food each month to feed at-risk people, but that its stock in Sierra Leone is critically low.
Guinean Foreign Minister Lamin Kamara, who helped negotiate the ECOWAS Peace Plan for Sierra Leone, said he remains optimistic the accord will work. "We knew it would not be easy," Kamara said. Kamara made the statement in Libreville, Gabon, where he attending the summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries. Kamara termed the AFRC's call for the removal of Nigerian ECOMOG troops and its imposing of conditions for a meeting with ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Malu as initial hitches. "These are only early problems in the implementation process, but I am convinced that the Freetown government will respect the terms of the accord," he said.
6 November: ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Thursday that new demands by the AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma are likely to impede the peace accord aimed at restoring Sierra Leone's civilian government. Malu was quoted as saying that Koroma's statement came as no surprise. "Koroma believes ECOWAS and ECOMOG have lost their resolve on the matter [restoring constitutional rule] and may want to renegotiate certain terms of the peace accord," he said, adding that if the AFRC did not abide by the peace agreement ECOMOG could resume its bombardment of Sierra Leone. Malu said his planned trip to Sierra Leone on Friday to discuss plans for disarmament would likely be cancelled because of new conditions imposed on his visit. He said AFRC leaders had demanded at the last minute that the venue of the talks be changed from Lungi International Airport, which is held by Nigerian ECOMOG troops, to their bombed-out military headquarters. "My local commander met them yesterday and we offered an aircraft to take them to Lungi, which is part of their territory, but they turned down the offer," Malu said. "If they don't agree to hold the talks in Lungi I'm not going anywhere else," he added, saying that the venue issue suggested an attempt by the juna to derail the peace accord. Malu rejected Koroma's demand that Nigerians be withdrawn from the ECOMOG force. "That accord does not give anyone the power to determine which ECOMOG country participates in the Sierra Leone disarmament," he said.
SLBS (state radio) quoted Secretary of State Captain Eddie Kanneh on Thursday as saying that the death toll from a Kamajor ambush in eastern Sierra Leone Sunday has now reached 25. Witnesses said the civilians died in a shoot-out between Kamajor militiamen and government soldiers. Kanneh said the Kamajors used modern weapons, including Rocket-Propelled Grenades and mortars, and were dressed in blue uniforms similar to those worn by the South African mercenary force Executive Outcomes. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.
ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu has denied "false persistent rumours" of fighting and clandestine military training in northwest Liberia. Malu said ECOMOG troops stationed along the Sierra Leone and Guinea borders would "certainly have received intelligence reports of such matters," adding that "The troops undertake patrols to ensure that no arms enter or leave Liberia."
Organisers said Thursday that Sierra Leone has given verbal confirmation that it will participate in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia next year. Sierra Leone has been temporarily suspended from the Commonwealth, and the country's participation will be up to the Commonwealth Games Federation.
5 November: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has expressed his support for the ECOWAS Peace Plan for Sierra Leone. In a press released issued Wednesday, Kabbah urged all Sierra Leoneans to embrace the Plan, calling it "an instrument which will lead to sustainable peace, to be followed by the reconstruction, rehabilitation, reconciliation, and ultimate development and prosperity" of Sierra Leone. "It is my view that it contains a number of positive elements which will lead to a resolution of the crises in Sierra Leone. My Government on its part will do everything to cooperate with ECOWAS and its monitoring organ, ECOMOG and other organisations like the UN and UNHCR which are to be involved in the implementation of their respective roles within the Peace Plan," Kabbah said
AFRC spokesman Major John Milton said Wednesday that local ECOMOG commander Colonel Maxwell Khorbie and AFRC Chief of Staff Colonel Samuel Williams met Wednesday to prepare the way for Friday's talks between AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma and ECOMOG Force Commander General Victor Malu. "The two delegations met and drew up and discussed the agenda for the meeting tomorrow between Major-General Malu and Major Koroma," Milton said. The talks will reportedly center on an exchange of prisoners captured during clashes between the Sierra Leone army and the Nigerian ECOMOG force, and the reopening of Lungi International Airport.
A United Nations Inter-Agency Security Mission which visited Sierra Leone on Monday and returned on Wednesday reported that areas under AFRC/RUF control were tense, economically depressed, and had "invisible sparse population." By contrast, areas under ECOMOG control were thriving, with trade and agricultural activity continuing and local services such as schools and clinics functioning. The mission, which visited Kambia District and Port Loko, was unable to visit some of the hardest-hit areas and thus did not have an overall view of the situation.
4 November: AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma has described the Conakry peace agreement as "a broad declaration of intent (which) we accept in principle." In a speech to the nation Tuesday night, Koroma set forth a number of "concerns and conditions" which, he said, were necessary to lead to "sustainable peace, security and development" in the country. Koroma said Sierra Leone would not accept any participation by Nigeria in monitoring the implementation of the peace plan, and he demanded that Nigerian ECOMOG troops leave the country immediately. Invoking a provision of the accord which provides for the disarmament of the warring factions, Koroma said that the Nigerian ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone should be classified as combatants. "They are the initiators of the recent unprovoked aggression against our country and they must leave immediately if the six-month plan is to be given any chance to succeed," Koroma said. He said the ECOMOG II monitoring group "should not include any Nigerian soldier or officer, and the command structure should not include any Nigerian. Sierra Leone will not accept an ECOMOG II that is spear-headed by Nigeria, and any attempt to force this issue will torpedo the six-month plan." Koroma called on the other ECOWAS nations to commit resources and to take over Nigeria's role in the peace monitoring process. "Let them put their money where their mouths are, and stop this Nigerian bullying in its talks," he said. Koroma also questioned the "formation, composition, duration and role" of the civilian government which will replace the military junta.
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lassana Kouyate will brief United Nations Security Council officials on the situation in Sierra Leone next Tuesday. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi, who is chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone, will accompany Kouyate on the trip. The ECOWAS delegation will brief the Council on the peace accord agreed to between ECOWAS and the AFRC on October 23, and is expected to seek the Council's help in implementing the peace plan.
Nigerian Director of Defense Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo accused the junta Tuesday of not being sincere in implementing the ceasefire as required under the peace agreement. Ugbo said the AFRC is preparing a fresh attack against ECOMOG. He said Steve Bio, the brother of former NPRC Head of State Julius Maada Bio, had called an a meeting to discuss the attack "because they got machinery from Ukraine," including jet fighters. "What they are now thinking is different from what they were really discussing in Guinea. It is very unfortunate that the junta is thinking different from what the ECOWAS is doing," Ugbo said.
The AFRC Tuesday disputed an Agence France-Presse (AFP) news report which described a clash on Sunday between soldiers and Kamajor militiamen on the Bo-Kenema Road, resulting in the deaths of nine bus passengers. The AFP report cited state bus company officials who said the Kamajors had stopped the bus and ordered the passengers to disembark. The soldiers refused, leading to the shoot-out. The AFRC statement denied that any soldiers had been on board the bus. "Active duty soldiers to not travel by RTC buses. They travel in military vehicles when plying the highways," the statement said. The AFRC accused the Kamajors of ambushing the bus, killing passengers who did not speak Mende, and firing on men who refused to join the Kamajor militia, wounding 27.
The AFRC Secretariat reaffirmed its commitment to the Conakry Peace Accord Tuesday, saying it will hand over power to ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on 22 May 1998. "He will then be sworn in again as the Head of State. The present Head of State, His Excellency Major Johnny Paul Koroma, will hand over the staff of office to Tejan Kabbah on May 22, 1998. Members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council are fully committed to the Conakry Peace Plan," the statement said.
2 November: Nine bus passengers were killed between Kenema and Bo Sunday in a clash between soldiers and members of the Kamajor militia. State bus company officials said the shoot-out occurred when soldiers on the bus ignored an order to disembark given by the Kamajors, who had stopped the vehicle.
Nigerian ECOMOG commanders and their Sierra Leonean counterparts met at the town of Orogoo on Sunday to work out modalities for implementing the peace accord agreed to in Conakry on October 23. Lieutenant Colonel Buhari Musa headed a six-member ECOMOG delegation, while the Sierra Leonean side was led by Chief of Army Staff Colonel Samuel Williams. Military sources said the Nigerians agreed to stop disarming Sierra Leonean soldiers passing through ECOMOG checkpoints, while the Sierra Leoneans will return weapons captured from two Nigerian bases. West African diplomats described the talks as friendly. "If the trend continues, the peace agreement would far exceed the expectations of both sides," one diplomat was quoted as saying. Sunday's talks had originally been scheduled to take place on Friday. No explanation was given for the delay.
ECOMOG Force Commander General Victor Malu is expected to visit Freetown shortly to plan the deployment of ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone. "His talks will focus mainly on the strategic positions to be occupied by the allied troops for the disarmament of combatants and the supervision of the supply of relief items," a diplomat said.
Chief of Defence Staff Samuel Koroma sent a message of solidarity to his Guinean counterpart on Sunday, commemorating the 28th anniversary of the defeat of a Portuguese-led invasion by mercenaries in 1969. "We join you in celebrating this august occasion in a spirit of brotherly relations," the message said.
1 November: AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Pallo Bangura confirmed Friday that the junta will hand over power to ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah next April, as specified in the Conakry peace agreement. The accord also calls for the disarmament of combatants, but Bangura said this provision did not apply to the regular army, but only to the Revolutionary United Front and the ethnic militias. He said the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers would make several visits to Sierra Leone to help build confidence with the junta. "It is not impossible that hiccups mays arise, but with the kind of goodwill the government has the terms of the agreement will be accomplished," Bangura said.