The Sierra Leone Web


December 1994

26 December: At least 25 persons died over Christmas in a series of attacks which the military blamed on the RUF. Military sources in Kenema said rebels attacked the outskirts of the town on Sunday, killing five people and shattering the three week old ceasefire. Among the dead was the country's newly-appointed Director of Public Prosecution, Brima Kebbie. On Friday, gunmen attacked the Gondema displaced persons camp near Bo. 20 people drowned trying to swim across the Sewa River to safety, a Red Cross official said. At Mile 91, men in military uniform robbed a bank and burned 10 houses in the town. Eyewitnesses said in the latest three incidents the attackers wore army combat fatigues, fuelling suspicion that they may have been government troops on a looting spree. The NPRC military government has admitted that many attacks initially blamed on the RUF have turned out to be the work of army deserters and Liberian militiamen. The government executed at least nine soldiers last month for such crimes as armed robbery, robbery with violence, murder, and collaborating with the rebels.

23 December: Sierra Leone's military government announced the release of 200 suspected rebels, some held without trial for three years, but said the amnesty was unrelated to the peace talks opened with the RUF on December 4. "The suspects were freed because thorough screening and investigations over a six-month period had shown that not enough evidence had been available to keep them in prison," Health and Social Services Minister Akim Gibril said. "This decision has nothing to do with ongoing dialogue between the government and the RUF."

VSO President and former British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington will appeal for the safe return of two VSO volunteers held captive in Sierra Leone by the RUF. "They were in Sierra Leone to do much-needed work on flood-damaged roads. Letting them go would be an act of good sense and charity, Carrington said. "You've kidnapped people actually helping your own country and you're shooting yourself in the foot, so please let them out." His appeal will be broadcast on the BBC Focus on Africa programme over Christmas.

19 December: Gunmen killed a woman and her four-year-old son, and wounded two other people during a robbery attempt in Kenema, police said Monday. A police officer said the attackers, believed to have been wearing military uniforms, broke into the house on Thursday, waking the owner. He killed one of the intruders with a machete, but the others opened fire, killing Musu Kroma and her son Mustapha. The police officer said military police were helping in the hunt for the assailants.

12 December: The NPRC military government has dismissed its High Commissioner to Britain without explanation, a foreign ministry official said Monday. "Cyril Foray was asked by the government to report to Freetown. He thought he was in Freetown for consultations but to his surprise he was shocked to receive a sacking letter," the official said. Foreign Ministry Director-General B. M. Sallu will take over as High Commissioner. Diplomats and political analysts in Freetown said former Foreign Minister Foray was removed because he was openly critical of the NPRC military government. "The high commissioner was sacked because his activities in Britain while he was a diplomat were not conducive to the military government of Captain Strasser," one diplomat said. Foray reportedly planned to stand in the multi-party presidential elections Strasser has promised for December 1995.

7 December: RUF rebels and the NPRC military government held their first talks on Sunday and agreed to observe a ceasefire, Defence Ministry sources said on Wednesday. They said the rebels had agreed to observe a ceasefire offered last month as part of conditions for the government to recognise RUF and to allow it to form a political party to contest next year's elections. Sunday's talks were held at Mano River Bridge, on the border with Liberia, and lasted about six hours. The meeting followed two radio dialogues between NPRC officials and RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh. Two weeks ago the rebels turned down the NPRC's conditions for peace talks, which included denouncing terrorism and banditry, transforming the RUF into a political party, and observing a ceasefire. Observers suggest that the RUF of position came because RUF fighters have become war-weary and wish to come out of the bush. Also, the RUF's major supply route through territory held by Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor has been cut off. Head of state Captain Valentine Strasser declared a unilateral four-week truce on December 1 last year which the rebels used to win back lost territory.

Reaction: Desmond Luke, head of the banned National Unity Movement (NUM) Party: "There could not have been any better option. I had been calling for dialogue since 1992 but the NPRC thought they would gain a quick military victory--that is totally impossible. The NPRC has been using the war as an excuse to slow down the democratic process. If they agree with the rebels to end the hostilities, then they would have no choice but to go."

2 December: Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Sierra Leone Field Director Gladys Carrol made an appeal on Friday for the release of two VSO volunteers in time for the birthday of one of the men on Sunday. This was Carrol's second public appeal for the release of Robert d'Cruz and Calum Murray, who disappeared after RUF rebels overran Kabala on November 7. "Robert and Calum are two innocent engineers who have been working on road construction in Kabala. As VSO volunteers they are not involved in any political activities in Sierra Leone," Carrol said. "Sunday the 4th of December will be Calum's birthday, please, please, release them as a birthday gift to Calum's parents and to all of us," she added, addressing her appeal to "whosoever has them." Attempts by the British High Commission have so far failed to locate the two men. British police officers have joined in the search for them.

1 December: Sierra Leone's military government raised petrol prices by 20 percent on Thursday, but also announced an increase in civil service wages by the same amount. Petrol has increased to Le 1,650 ($2.75) a litre from Le 1,375 ($2.30), and diesel has increased by 47 percent to Le 1,400 ($2.30) from Le 950 ($1.58). Finance Minister John Karimu said the government could not afford to maintain the old prices, as the world prices for fuel had risen. He said the effects of the increase would be offset somewhat through pay rises made possible through the restructuring of the civil service.