31 December: Two men suspected of being members of the Kamajor militia are being detained at Monrovia Central Prison, the Liberian Star Radio reported Wednesday. Ahmed Tarawally and Joshua Kohan said they were detained by security officers in Monrovia in September. Both Tarawally, who said he was a student at Njala University College, and Kohan have denied any connection to the militia. Justice Minister Peter Jallah confirmed the detention of the two men, but declined to comment further.
30 December: Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman claimed success Tuesday in the militia's "Black December" military offensive in southeastern Sierra Leone. In a press release quoted by the BBC, Norman said 92 RUF fighters surrendered to the Kamajor militia at (?Bumpe) Chiefdom in Bo District on December 27. All 92 have been turned over the ECOMOG, the statement said. The militia also claimed to have blocked the Freetown-Bo, Bo-Kenema, and Bo-Pujehun highways. Kamajor spokesman Henry Manjo warned people to avoid travelling on the highways, adding that anyone who contravenes this order will have himself to blame.
The Secretary of State for the Northern Region, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Bottor, accused the international community Tuesday of treating "the complex situation in Sierra Leone with utter neglect." In an address to fuel dealers in Northern Province, Bottor said "the scarcity and high cost of petroleum products is very alarming and a remedy should be found." Petroleum and petroleum products are among the items included in the United Nations Security Council sanctions. Bottor said fuel supplies have virtually dried up and prices have soared since the coup. Fuel is only available on the black market at four times its official price of $3.00, he said. Diesel has practically disappeared from the open market, and now sells at $10.00 a gallon, five times its official price. "It could be disastrous if the prices are not checked," Bottor warned, adding that much of the fuel available has been contaminated with a mixture of jet fuel and soft drinks to give it a reddish color.
The Department of Defence on Tuesday ordered a stop to the "indiscriminate and irresponsible" firing of weapons to usher in the New Year, according to a press release read over SLBS (state radio). "Anyone caught firing during that period will face the penalty of the law," the statement said. Gunshots fired to greet the New Year in 1997 killed 10 civilians and wounded over 30.
Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo accused Sierra Leone's military junta Tuesday of breaching the Conakry Peace Accord by building up its military forces. "The junta in Sierra Leone has acquired fighting aircraft and is developing airfields in Bo, Kenema, and Magburaka to use in its nefarious activities," Ugbo told a news conference in Lagos. There has been no independent confirmation of his claim. Ugbo said the junta's military expansion was being assisted by former Sierra Leonean President Joseph Momoh and the Ukrainian government, and that Ukrainian troops had been sighted in Sierra Leone. During a visit to Abuja in November, Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grischenko denied that Ukraine had provided military assistance to the junta. Ugbo said the military government shows few signs of willingness to abide by an agreement to restore the civilian government next April. "The process to return Kabbah to government is being derailed, which is against the spirit of reconciliation and the Conakry Accord," Ugbo said, adding "We are still appealing to the junta to follow the peace plan."
29 December: An SLBS television crew and three international news agency reporters have visited RUF strongholds in Kailahun and Kangama by helicopter, the Xinhua news service reported Monday. In Kailahun, the RUF displayed some 100 Kamajor militiamen who were captured by RUF fighters on Saturday. "The men surrendered after they were encircled at Buedu," RUF Commander Rufus Ibrahim said. "We also captured a lot of arms and ammunition including G3 weapons, widely used only by the Nigerian contingent in ECOMOG." At Kangama, the reporters interviewed former top RUF leaders Fayia Musa, Philip Palmer, and Ibrahim Deen-Jalloh. The three attempted to overthrow RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh in 1996, and were sentenced to death by the RUF for treason. "We are okay. We regretted to have plotted against the organisation which we set up to regain the freedom of all Sierra Leoneans," former RUF spokesman Musa said. Phillip Palmer blamed their troubles on deposed President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. "He played a double role by promising us political and financial support if we are to overthrow Sankoh and sign an agreement of cooperation with his administration," Palmer said. Ibrahim said the dissidents' lives had been spared as a result of the May 25 coup and the cooperation between the RUF and the military government.
28 December: Radio FM 98.1 confirmed Sunday that it has begun broadcasting on the 99.9 FM frequency used by Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service. In a news release, the station accused the junta of having interfered with its signal by broadcasting noise on the 98.1 frequency, and said it "had no alternative" but to retaliate. "As of 26 December, 98.1 programmes can be heard in most parts of Freetown on two FM frequencies--98.1 and 99.9," the statement said. The news release said Radio FM 98.1 was utilising a new 1,000 watt transmitter, and is in the process of installing one short-wave and three 1,000 watt FM transmitters "in other strategic locations in the country."
27 December: The pro-democracy (clandestine) Radio FM 98.1 has begun interfering with transmissions by Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), a source in Freetown said Saturday. The jamming reportedly began on Friday, when listeners who tuned to SLBS 99.9 heard Radio FM 98.1 programming instead. Radio FM 98.1 broadcasts from ECOMOG-controlled territory in Lungi, and supports the ousted civilian government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
25 December: AFRC Chairman Johnny Paul Koroma has been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. A Defence Department spokesman said the appointment was made by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, which is responsible for all promotions in the military and the police. Koroma reportedly first disclosed his promotion Wednesday during a ceremony at State House for members of the Gambian Community in Sierra Leone, who donated one million dollars to an appeal fund for "relatives of victims of bombardment and shellings by Nigerian Air Force jets and gunners" in October.
In his Christmas message to the country, AFRC Chairman Lieutenant-Colonel Johnny Paul Koroma invited all Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea, Liberia, and Ivory Coast "to return home and join their families in contributing to the salvation of the country." He said transportation would be provided starting December 27 "to enable them to celebrate the New Year with their respective families." Koroma said the security situation in the country had improved, and that the AFRC had "minimized the activities of armed robbers by the application of very rigid measures to curb banditry and lawlessness." Referring to the stalled peace process, Koroma said there was no need Nigerian ECOMOG troops to interfere in Sierra Leone's internal affairs. "The main problem for Sierra Leone remains Nigeria and its leader, General Sani Abacha, and their misapplication of the sanctions and embargo on Sierra Leone," Koroma said. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the head of the ousted civilian government, in a Christmas message broadcast over Radio 98.1, blamed Sierra Leone's problems on the junta, saying that as long as the military refused to step down, international assistance for emergency relief and long-term reconstruction would be delayed. "Let us all resolve to put our differences aside and unite our strength to remove all those obstacles that stand between us and our aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous Sierra Leone," Kabbah said, adding that his government should be restored to power not later than 22 April 1998, as mandated by the Conakry Peace Accord. UNPP leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart, in a statement issued on December 25, called on Sierra Leoneans "to begin to look beyond the current impasse in the peace process to ways in which Sierra Leoneans from every part of the country and representing all sectional and other interests, and the religious leaders, can begin to work together to give serious thought to finding fair and lasting solutions to he problems which in one way or another contributed to the failure in implementing the Abidjan Peace agreement." Karefa-Smart called for a halt to "all forms of abusive name-calling and accusations, (and) also to ethnic and partisan prejudices."
24 December: Army Chief of Staff Colonel Sam Williams said Wednesday that the army has been put on "red alert" for any attempt to destabilise the country over Christmas. "We have monitored intelligence reports of a pending attack hatched by Nigerian troops in ECOMOG, backed by Kamajor militiamen and some hired Liberian mercenaries to make Christmas Day a bloody Thursday," Williams said. "We are ready to react to any such threat to ensure that the free movement of the public will not be deterred by enemies of the state." Williams said people need not fear for their safety and should continue to attend social functions over Christmas. "The job of the army is to defend all civilians residing in the country and we are determined to follow this to the letter," he said. Police Chief Kandeh Williams said Tuesday that he would not approve permits for the traditional carnival processions and masquerades. "We are in a fluid situation," he said. "That is why we decided to ban all demonstrations."
Travellers from Bo have disputed a claim by Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman that the militia has blocked the Freetown-Bo highway. Norman, who was Deputy Defence Minister in the ousted civilian government, said that all areas under Kamajor control were being turned over to ECOMOG troops as part of the deployment programme. "We have also mounted a big military operation to dislodge junta forces along highway check points in the country under operation Rambo raid," Norman said. The military reported a Kamajor raid Monday at the Mile 91 checkpoint, but said troops drove the Kamajors into the bush with aerial bombardment.
23 December: 8 people were killed over the weekend in clashes between the army and the Kamajor militia, Director of Defence Information Lieutenant-Colonel John Milton said Tuesday. Milton said the army repelled an attack by Kamajors at Masingbi, where they were attempting to block the Makeni-Kono highway.
Kamajor leader Sam Hinga Norman announced that a military operation, named "Black December", was launched over the weekend to capture main roads in Sierra Leone and put them under the control of the ECOMOG force. Norman denied junta allegations that ECOMOG is arming the Kamajor militia.
Sources from the Committee on Food Aid (CFA), which includes the World Food Programme (WFP), said Tuesday that Sierra Leone is facing serious food shortages, which have already become acute in some areas. The CFA said that the balance of the relief supplies, which have fallen below 500 metric tons, would provide rations for only 60,000 of the most vulnerable of the 157,000 registered internally displaced persons. The sources said feeding programmes for the most needy had virtually come to a halt.
22 December: An AFRC spokesman on Monday dismissed as a "cosmetic venture" ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's visit to Lungi on Sunday. "He needn't have come sneaking into the country in which he is a citizen and sought the help of Nigerian troops for this," the spokesman said. The junta has "always said that Kabbah is free to return so that he, (RUF leader Foday) Sankoh, and (AFRC Chairman) Major Koroma can sit down and work out a comprehensive plan for sustainable peace in Sierra Leone," the spokesman added. Kabbah was accompanied by a number of his ministers, including Vice President Joe Demby and Deputy Defence Leader Sam Hinga Norman, who now leads the Kamajor militia. Journalists from Freetown were prevented from reaching Lungi for the ceremony, and their boats were turned back by ECOMOG gunboats.
21 December: President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told Sierra Leoneans Sunday that peaceful means to end Sierra Leone's crisis had failed, and that "immediate steps must be taken" to bring the crisis in the country to an end. Kabbah addressed the nation over Radio 98.1 from ECOMOG-controlled territory at Lungi, the first time the exiled President had entered Sierra Leone since the military overthrew his government on May 25. Kabbah blamed Sierra Leone's military junta for the breakdown in the peace process, and said the junta could not be trusted to negotiate in good faith. "It is ironic that the junta has strongly criticized the very document it had signed in Conakry, and has come up with unreasonable and unrealistic pre-conditions on at least two cardinal provisions of the Agreement, namely, the deployment of ECOMOG and the disarmament/demobilization of combatants," Kabbah said. He accused the junta of rearming "to start its own rebel war" in northern Sierra Leone. "The illegal regime has prepared the old airstrip near Magburaka in the north, where it is actually bringing into the country arms and ammunition in order the escalate the crisis," Kabbah said. AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma's statement Thursday that the AFRC is unlikely to hand over power next April "has brought us to the edge of a crisis," Kabbah told the country. "All peaceful means now seem to have been shattered. Events of the last few weeks have brought the problem to a stalemate. I am therefore compelled to face reality and come to this sad and realistic conclusion that the resolution of this problem can only be achieved through other means." Kabbah said he hoped the junta might still "see reason," and that the conflict could be settled peacefully. "If it happens, then we can avert the impending crisis," he said. "If not, we as the democratically-elected government whose duty it is to protect the people and seek their welfare would have no choice in the matter but to pursue other options."
20 December: The ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers on Sierra Leone ended their meeting in Abuja Saturday with a demand that Sierra Leone's military junta respect the date set in the Conakry Peace Plan to return power to the civilian government. "The ministers reaffirmed the date of 22 April 1998 for the reinstatement of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to office and emphasized the need to adhere to the timetable," the ministers said in a 16-point communiqué. The Committee also called on the United Nations Security Council to speed up efforts on agreeing to a U.N. observer force for Sierra Leone. "They also called on member states to urgently contribute more troops to enhance ECOMOG's operational capability in Sierra Leone," the statement said. In response to reports that the junta is violating the arms embargo by upgrading an airstrip to import weapons, the Committee authorised ECOMOG to prevent the airstrip from being used. The Committee called on countries within and outside of ECOWAS to repatriate junta members and their families who violated the travel ban, with immediate effect. The ministers also agreed to talk again with RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh, who remains under house arrest in Abuja. The meeting was also attended by ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate, U.N. Special Envoy Francis Okello, representatives of the OAU, and observers from Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Leone army was put on maximum alert Saturday after about 100 Kamajors on Friday briefly blocked the highway between Masingbi and Kono. Military sources said the army's Rapid Deployment Force "put them to flight and seriously wounded seven of them." The junta said the army suffered no casualties. A Kamajor statement last week threatened "to block all roads in the interior as from Saturday" to put pressure on the junta to implement the Conakry Peace Accord. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) News Service referred to reports of Kamajors "regrouping" near Tongo "vowing to retake the Kono District." Military sources quoted a diamond miner who said he had seen hundreds of well-armed Kamajor militiamen at the village of Manaima, planning an attack on Tongo.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma approved a number of military promotions on Saturday. Military sources said 13 lieutenant-colonels were promoted to colonel, while at least 7 majors were promoted to lieutenant colonel. Among the new lieutenant colonels is Director of Defence Information John Milton. Two brigadiers were also appointed, bringing the total to 4. One of the new brigadiers is Chief of Defence Staff Samuel Koroma, the elder brother of the AFRC Chairman. Dozens of privates and other ranks were also promoted.
Guinean security officers intercepted a boat in Conakry loaded with foodstuffs and fuel being smuggled to Sierra Leone, Liberian Star Radio reported Saturday. Security officers fired at the boat to force the smugglers to discontinue their journey, officials said. One person was killed and several others were injured during an ensuing gun battle. Several arrests have reportedly been made and the wharf, which is often used to smuggle goods to Sierra Leone, has been cordoned off.
19 December: A spokesman for exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has accused Sierra Leone's military junta of "not negotiating in good faith" after Thursday's statement by AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma that he is unlikely to hand over power next April, as stipulated in the Conakry Peace Accord. "Any attempt to postpone the restoration of the legitimate government on or before 22 April 1998 is totally unacceptable to the government and people of Sierra Leone," Minister of Presidential Affairs Momodu Koroma said Friday. Koroma said the AFRC was not serious about peace, and accused the junta of constructing secret airstrips in the north for the delivery of arms and ammunition. "From the outset, the junta has put a lot of obstacles in the way of commencement of the implementation of the Peace Plan. They cannot now use these obstacles to delay the restoration of the legitimate government on or before 22 April 1998," Koroma said. President Kabbah is expected to address the nation on Sunday.
The ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers on Sierra Leone met in Abuja, Nigeria Friday to discuss difficulties in implementing the Peace Plan. Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said the ministers would discuss problems in putting the plan into practice, but warned that the Conakry Peace Accord must be respected. "To overcome these difficulties is a matter we should address at this meeting, bearing in mind that the timeframe for the conclusion of the ECOWAS peace plan needs to be strictly observed," Ikimi said. He said it is important to begin deployment of ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone immediately, bearing in mind the fact that the ECOMOG force is due to leave its rear base in Liberia in February. "If that deployment in Sierra Leone is not accomplished by that date the logistics of their deployment thereafter could pose some difficulties which may endanger the peace plan," Ikimi said. A proposed summit of the ECOWAS Committee of Five, earlier scheduled to take place following the ministerial meeting, has been postponed until the first week in January.
18 December: AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma said Thursday it is unlikely he will hand over power to the elected civilian government next April as agreed in the Conakry Peace Accord. Koroma told the BBC that because of delays in disarming rival factions, he did not think the deadline could be met. "The disarmament should have started on December 1, but up to now nothing has been done. So naturally, I think we will not meet the time that is stated," Koroma said. A spokesman for Koroma, Samura Mohammed, blamed the delay in distributing relief food and other goods, saying this had caused Koroma to favour a delay in the handover date.
A draft budget resolution before the United Nations Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) would appropriate $827,800 from the General Assembly for the office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone. The money would cover staff salaries, mission subsistence allowances, common staff costs, communications, and transport operations.
The nations of Sierra Leone and Congo have been downgraded from "partly free" to "not free" in the latest annual report by the group Freedom House, which was released on Thursday.
17 December: Ghana has granted refugee status to 400 stranded Sierra Leoneans who said they had won visas in the U.S. green card lottery, but were turned away by the U.S. Embassy in Accra. Ghanaian immigration officials said 700 Sierra Leoneans arrived in Ghana in September saying they had been invited to come and collect their visas. Only 5 eventually received visas and left for the United States. Dr. Edmund Delle, head of the African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters which sheltered Sierra Leoneans at a camp in Accra, said only 300 of 400 visa seekers remained there. "Of the original 700, some have deserted the centre to find their own accommodation while some have returned home with the assistance of their relatives abroad," Delle said. The Ghana Refugee Board has completed registration to facilitate the refugees' evacuation to the Sanzule Refugee Camp in the western region before Christmas.
Military sources said Wednesday the Sierra Leonean army is fighting a pitched battle on four fronts against the Kamajor militia. "Our men are engaged in Makpele, Fairo, Wonday, and Zimmi, all small-sized towns along the Sierra Leone-Liberia border," the source said. He said casualties had been high since the fighting began on Monday. Sam Dumbuya, a Kamajor leader attending the disarmament talks in Freetown, said the junta was "provoking the Kamajor into fighting" by attacking their positions in the southeast. "Government troops are using helicopter gunships to pound our areas and setting fire to houses and rice farms in the area. We resorted to action as we cannot sit by and let the atrocities continue," he said. Director of Defence Information Major John Milton rejected the charges. "This is nonsense. How can we do that when we keep asking the Kamajor to drop their weapons and join us in finding a workable solution to the political problem now facing us?", he asked.
People are reported to be dying of starvation in parts of southern Sierra Leone. "People are dying at about ten a week because there is no food," medical officer Dr Boise Williams said. He added that there are no medicines, and that people are using local herbs to cure themselves. Former Minister of Health Colonel Kis Kamara, transferred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Monday's cabinet reshuffle, said that "much needed drugs are running out because of the sanctions and embargo." He said more people will be at risk of dying, because the hospitals are affected. "Many patients would have to die at an alarming rate if the situation continues as it is," a nurse at Connaught Hospital was quoted as saying.
ECOWAS Heads of State meeting in Lome, Togo agreed Wednesday to set up a permanent mechanism for peacekeeping and conflict management, according to an official communiqué. "The heads of state have decided to use the experience acquired (in Liberia and Sierra Leone) for the putting in place of a mechanism of prevention, management and settlement of conflicts and of peacekeeping in West Africa," the communiqué said. Details of the new structure will be hammered out at an upcoming meeting for foreign and defence ministers in Ivory Coast. "In a couple of weeks there will be a meeting in Abidjan of ministers of foreign affairs, defence and other experts to put together promptly proposals for the mechanism," said President Abdou Diouf of Senegal who chaired the summit. The West African leaders also reportedly agreed to step up the pressure on Sierra Leone's military junta to reinstate the ousted government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Nigerian radio reported Wednesday that Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha called upon ECOWAS member states to contribute troops and logistics to ECOMOG to enhance its capability to carry out its mandate in Sierra Leone. In a message to the delegates, Abacha said that a summit meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Five on Sierra Leone will soon be convened to assess the implementation of the peace plan. Abacha announced that the OAU had contributed $250,000 in support of ECOMOG's work in Sierra Leone. Abacha, who is the current ECOWAS chairman, missed the summit for what Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema described as "health reasons."
16 December: Military spokesman Maj. John Milton said Tuesday that the army is engaged in heavy fighting with the Kamajor militia on the Liberian border, with casualties reported on both sides. "We are pushing Kamajor troops from towns at the edge of the southeast of the country towards the Mano River Bridge. But ECOMOG troops have brought 15 armoured vehicles and heavy artillery to that part of the border and have been shelling towns and villages across the border into Sierra Leone," Milton said. "We admit we lost several men killed in the fighting area. But we in turn have been massacring the Kamajors. We have killed over 60 of them in the past few days alone," he added. ECOMOG officers at Jui confirmed that the ECOMOG force had blocked the Liberian border with heavy armour, but denied helping the Kamajors. "We have done this to stop the fighting spilling over into Liberia, and not to help the Kamajors against the Freetown junta troops," one officer said. Kamajor commanders said Tuesday they had given the junta until Tuesday to allow ECOMOG troops to start deploying, or they would cut off all highways and attack Freetown.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma reshuffled his cabinet late on Monday, dropping three cabinet members, SLBS radio and television reported Tuesday morning. Losing their posts were Secretary of State for Internal Affairs Brigadier (Ret.) Leslie Lymon, Secretary of State for Works Colonel Saaba Kamara, and Secretary of State for the East Captain Edward Kanneh. RUF Col. Eldred Collins, formerly Secretary of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises, takes over the new Ministry of Works, Energy and Power. Dr Baila Leigh, who was Director General of the Department of Social Welfare, now becomes Secretary of State for Health. The Department of Information has been merged with Tourism and Culture and is now headed by Kandeh Bangura. Sedu Turay was appointed Under Secretary for Marine Resources. A new Ministry of Religious Affairs has been created, and will be led by Rev. David Bangura. The Ministry of State Works and Labour has been renamed the Department of Employment, Industrial Relations, Youth and Social Mobilisation, while the former Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Mobilisation becomes the Department of Recreational Sports. Junta spokesman PRO-1 Allieu B. Kamara has been named Under Secretary of State for Information. The current 24-member cabinet includes ten civilians, four RUF members, and one woman.
ECOWAS foreign ministers finished preparations Tuesday for Wednesday's Heads of State summit in Lome, Togo. The West African leaders are expected to agree on a permanent mechanism for managing and preventing conflicts in the sub-region. "We want to establish a framework to ensure that we do not reach the level of full-blown crisis before we attend to it," Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said. Ikimi said that ECOMOG would have a future role in whatever structure was adopted. "I think ECOMOG is a very viable mechanism. I'm sure whatever would emerge in the long run will not ignore ECOMOG as a framework," he said. Togolese Foreign Minister Koffi Panou said ECOWAS was looking for a security mechanism that went beyond the ad hoc peacekeeping efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. "At the end of the Lome meeting, a clear mandate will be conferred on foreign and defense ministers on the setting up, operation, and financing of a structure for maintaining peace," Panou said at the end of Monday's ministerial meeting. Although ECOWAS faces immediate challenges with ECOMOG operations in Sierra Leone and a dispute with President Charles Taylor over security issues in Liberia, Ikimi insisted that neither would be on the agenda. "Sierra Leone will be discussed coming Friday in the Committee of Five," he said, adding that there could possibly be a summit meeting on Sierra Leone on December 22. Exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was the first Head of State to arrive in Lome on Tuesday. A military spokesman in Freetown said Sunday the AFRC would send a delegation to the summit, led by AFRC Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Alimamy Pallo Bangura. Ikimi warned that if the AFRC delegates arrived, they would be arrested. "They are not allowed to leave their country without the express permission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and if they come here they will be arrested," Ikimi said. "We work with Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the only legal representative of Sierra Leone, and as such our only interlocutor."
Liberian Vice President Enoch Dogolea has called on ECOMOG to remove its military hardware from Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, saying it would encourage investors. ECOMOG currently has several cargo planes and Alpha jet fighters stationed at the airport. The fighter jets have been used to enforce sanctions in Sierra Leone.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi on Tuesday dismissed AFRC claims that Nigerian warplanes bombed villages in eastern Sierra Leone last week, saying he was "sorry that some members of the press are susceptible to propaganda by the junta." On Monday, ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu said the bombardments targeted a runway construction site which the junta planned to use to ship in arms. Malu refused to say where the construction site was located. The AFRC now says 80 people were killed at Zimmi Friday in an attack by a Nigerian fighter jet.
15 December: At least 60 refugees fleeing renewed fighting in Sierra Leone died over the weekend when the canoe ferrying them to Liberia capsized on the Mano River. Liberian Star Radio reported that the refugees, most of them women and children, were escaping from Tonkia Chiefdom where junta forces had launched an attack on the Kamajor militia for control of the area. The accident happened between the Sierra Leonean border town of Toloe and Kissi Camp on the Liberian side. Local aid workers and ECOMOG soldiers said on Sunday that 13 survivors had been rescued. "Everybody rushed into the canoe and when all 73 persons came on aboard, it first moved up the river slowly but capsized in the middle of the river," one ECOMOG soldier said. Star Radio, quoting witnesses, put the number of passengers at about 77. Thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees have crossed into Liberia as fighting between the army and the Kamajor militia in the south and southeast has intensified in recent days.
A member of the Kamajor militia's negotiating team in Freetown has disputed reports on progress at the talks. "From all indications, even when we were at the meeting, when deliberations were going on, we discovered they are just only playing for time," Alpha Koroma told the BBC. Koroma accused the junta of using Liberian and Ukrainian mercenaries, and of hiding arms and ammunition all over the country. "We of the civil defence force are not prepared to accept this," he said. Koroma denied AFRC claims that the Kamajor militia is being supplied by ECOMOG. "Their claims are false and totally baseless. We use your traditional weapons and, also, those weapons we capture from the junta forces. That is how we get our arms and ammunition. We are getting no supplies from ECOMOG whatsoever." Koroma said the Kamajors have given the junta a December 20 deadline to begin disarming. "If the junta does not start disarming on the 20th...we are going to start disrupting traffic all over the country, and we may even extend the theatre of our operations."
A second round of talks of the Technical Committee on Disarmament, due to have taken place over the weekend, has been cancelled. The meeting was to have finalised the modalities for disarming rival factions across the country. Military sources in Freetown said the problem arose over a dispute on the venue. AFRC sources said previous talks had been held at Jui, in an area under ECOMOG control. The junta insisted that the next round of talks be held at Wilberforce Barracks. When ECOMOG and the Kamajors refused, the meeting was cancelled.
Army Chief of Staff Colonel Samuel Williams said Monday that 80 people were killed and more than 400 left homeless by Friday's attack on Zimmi by Nigerian warplanes. Williams said ECOMOG's bombardment of an airstrip at Makeni Saturday was "totally unnecessary" because it had no strategic value. "The strip has not been used for several years and it is definitely not suitable for jets to land, let alone large cargo planes," he said. Williams accused Nigeria, which leads the ECOMOG force, of "provoking the Sierra Leone army to go to the offensive and derail the Conakry Peace Agreement."
Sierra Leonean refugees at the Liberian border town of Bo-Waterside are reportedly facing food shortages. Refugee spokesman Sajuma Kemokai said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has refused to supply food to the approximately 14,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in the area for their failure to be relocated from the border area to Sinje, in Grand Cape Mount County. The refugees say they have adjusted to living in the villages around Bo-Waterside. Many of them are engaged in farming, and fear they will face problems readjusting at Sinje.
14 December: Two Nigerian warplanes bombarded an airstrip at Makeni Saturday, military officials said on Sunday. The report was filed by the The Agence France-Presse (AFP) News Service, which quoted officials as saying that the raid caused no damage to the airstrip and that there were no victims. Makeni residents said two jets flew across the town at about 6:00 p.m. headed for the airport. The planes strafed the airport for about 10 minutes before reportedly flying in the direction of Guinea. An officer from the Military High Command at Makeni said that had worked out "contingency plans to ensure the security of the area." Diplomatic sources suggested that the AFP had confused Makeni with Magburaka, where an Alpha fighter jet bombarded a 7,000 ft.-long landing strip over the weekend. There were said to be a number of trucks at the airstrip awaiting cargo at the time of the attack.
Junta sources said Sunday that a Nigerian warplane returned to bomb villages around Zimmi on Saturday morning, destroying houses, causing casualties, and forcing hundreds to flee. The junta has said that 25 people were killed in a similar raid on Kenema on Thursday and at least 20 in an attack on Zimmi on Friday.
West African leaders are expected to meet in Togo on Wednesday to discuss regional security issues and the future of the ECOMOG force. A dozen of the 16 ECOWAS Heads of State have confirmed they will attend, a Togolese official said on Sunday. "They will review the future of ECOMOG which is present in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and possible changes to be made," the official said. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, along with representatives of the United Nations, the United States, and France, will attend the meeting.
13 December: United Nations spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said Saturday that the long-expected United Nations military observer mission to Sierra Leone has been put in abeyance due to continuing insecurity in the country and a deadlock in implementation of the peace plan. He said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended to the Security Council on Thursday that the United Nations set up a small office to liase with ECOWAS and with the various political forces in Sierra Leone. Annan informed the council that actions by the junta had undermined the Conakry Peace Plan. He listed such action as the junta's refusal to disarm their soldiers, their insistence on the release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh from detention in Nigeria, and their demand that Nigerian soldiers be removed from ECOMOG. Annan said the junta should not be allowed to procrastinate in carrying out their obligations under the plan, adding that the United Nations was prepared to participate in negotiations to ensure its proper implementation. Security Council President Fernando Berrocal Soto announced members' demand that the junta must fully comply with the agreement and must hold dialogue with ECOWAS to ensure its full implementation. Sierra Leone's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Fode Dabor, said the junta's actions had confirmed suspicions that they never intended to comply with the agreement. "They signed the agreement, they read it, they did not raise any objections as to the presence of Nigerian soldiers. Without Nigeria, there is no ECOMOG," he said.
Sierra Leone's military junta said on Saturday that the town of Zimmi was bombed by a Nigerian military jet on Friday. "The jet dropped one bomb close to a military position in Zimmi but missed the target and hit civilian areas, killing 20 people," a junta spokesman said, adding that there had been reports of attacks by ECOMOG on five villages near Zimmi. The Xinhua news agency quoted military sources who said a plane dropped three cluster bombs on the town before flying on to Monrovia. There has been no independent confirmation of the reported attacks. The spokesman denied an ECOMOG statement issued Friday which said the jet had come under fire during a routine patrol, and had fired back in self-defence. "Our men were taken by surprise by the jet, as they were in Benduma, so there was no way for them to shoot at the jet," the spokesman said. The military government has now put at 25 the number of people killed at Benduma on Thursday evening by a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet.
Sierra Leone Red Cross officials have reported that 100 people, including children, have died in displaced camps at Kenema and Bo. 20 people died at Kenema from cholera, measles, and starvation, while 80 people have died at the Gondama camp, near Bo.
Sierra Leone's East End Lions soccer team will face off against Benin's Mogas 90 in the preliminary round of the 1998 African Champions' League, according to the draw issued by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday. The first leg of the tournament will be held January 30-February 1, with the winner advancing to play Morocco's Raja Casablanca in the second leg the weekend of February 13-15. Other preliminary round pairings: St Michel United (Seychelles) v Coffee FC (Ethiopia); Rayon Sport (Rwanda) v Maniema (Burundi); Telecom Wanderers (Malawi) v Botswana Defence Force XI (Botswana); Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) v Lesotho Defence Force XI (Lesotho); Medlow Megbi (Eritrea) v Utali (Kenya); St Louissienne (Reunion) v Sunrise SC (Mauritius); Desportivo (Equatorial Guinea) v Congo representative; Wallidan (Gambia) v AS Douanes (Senegal); and Tempete Mocaf (Central African Republic) v Tourbillon (Chad).
12 December: Director of Defence Information John Milton said Friday the military government was "baffled" over the bombardment of Benduma village, in eastern Sierra Leone, by a Nigerian Alpha fighter jet. Military sources said 20 people were killed when the jet dropped two bombs on the village. "We don't know why the Nigerians picked on that target, as the village is inhabited by subsistence farmers who have nothing to do with any political crisis," Milton said. Military sources in Freetown said all of the country's military positions were on high alert for fear of another attack. The ECOMOG high command in Monrovia issued a statement calling the junta's allegations "malicious, misleading and untrue." The statement said one of ECOMOG's planes had come under attack while on routine patrol, and had fired back in self-defence. "The ECOWAS/UN embargo on Sierra Leone will be enforced vigorously and relentlessly," the ECOMOG statement said. ECOMOG Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Abdul-One Mohamed said the jets had been on a reconnaissance mission in eastern Sierra Leone. "As you are aware, we are enforcing an embargo on the junta. So yesterday when on a reconnaissance mission, some people fired at them, so they fired back," Mohamed said. "As a standing rule, we normally tell them to fire back only in self-defence." He said he was unaware of any casualties. "I am yet to get the details," he said. An aid agency official confirmed the attack on the town. "We received information from our office in the area that a jet bombed this village last evening, killing several people and wounding others," the official said. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said the plane had apparently targeted the military barracks at Daru, about 2.5 miles from Benduma.
ECOMOG accused Sierra Leone's military junta Friday of "flagrant violation of the ceasefire in Sierra Leone." The statement said that the junta and its RUF allies on Tuesday and Wednesday launched "massive unprovoked attacks on positions of the Civil Defence Force, the Kamajor hunter militia, in eastern and southeastern Sierra Leone." The statement, which was signed by Major S.O. Adewusi on behalf of ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu, named the villages of Joru and Gorahun in the east and Sonoshun (?), Fairo and Dia in the southeast as the towns most seriously affected. "These attacks were backed by helicopter gunship, artillery, mortar rocket propeller grenade and other small arms. These attacks afforded the rebel troops the opportunity to loot, rape and traumatize innocent citizens," the statement said. It added that some women, children, and elderly had escaped the fighting and managed to reach ECOMOG troops at Bo Waterside in Liberia where they are receiving treatment. The ECOMOG statement also accused the junta of carrying out unprovoked attacks on the Kamajor militia in an effort to push the Kamajors back and enter the ECOMOG location to create an avenue for more attacks on civilians. The statement said ECOMOG considered the attacks to be a serious violation of the Conakry Peace Accord, and warned of grave consequences. "This High Command is therefore constrained to reiterate its preparedness and commitment to enforce the ceasefire. The junta is therefore warned that any further violation will inevitably draw appropriate action from the ECOMOG High Command." The Kamajors and junta troops have reportedly been engaged in intense fighting in the southeast since Wednesday.
In a press release issued by the Friday, the Kamajor militia said it would launch new attacks against the junta, because the military government had failed to implement the peace agreement. Anyone working for the junta would be a target, the statement said. A Kamajor field commander accused the junta of killing a number of people during an attack on a town in the southeast earlier in the week. He said the entire town was burned down before junta forces were repelled. The army also attacked a town on the border with Liberia on Thursday, killing 15 people, he said. AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara said it was the Kamajors who were killing people and destroying property in the southeast. Kamara also blamed Nigerian ECOMOG troops for the continuing crisis in Sierra Leone. "We'll not disarm on schedule if Nigeria keeps bombarding our innocent civilians and keeps harassing our people with their jets," Kamara said. Military sources in Freetown said Friday they had information that most of the military arsenal used by ECOMOG in Monrovia would be transferred to Freetown. They suggested that the ECOMOG were aimed at trying to establish a corridor to move a number of tanks into Sierra Leone as they disengaged from Liberia. There was no independent confirmation of the claims.
Guinea has tightened its border controls to prevent the smuggling of petrol, flour, sugar, and other necessities into Sierra Leone, according to diplomatic sources in Freetown. "The Guinean government has undertaken this action to bring pressure to bear on the Freetown junta to comply with the Conakry agreement and to work with all parties to effectively implement it," one diplomat said. Guinean gunboats have reportedly eight boats in the last three days attempting to smuggle goods into Freetown. Only the junta appears to have any fuel left, and the prices of staple foods has nearly doubled in the past week as a result of the tightened blockade, diplomats said.
Sierra Leone identified 976 child soldiers in a campaign last month to register child combatants in preparation for disarming them and returning them to a normal life, the Ministry of Children and Gender Affairs said Friday. The campaign had aimed to disarm 5,000 children, but lack of cooperation from some of the armed factions, as well as by some of the children themselves, hindered the operation. "Many factors affected the exercise not reaching the projected figure," said Baila Leigh, who was in charge of the disarmament programme. "In most cases, half of the target was not met." Registrars expressed concern over the fate of a colleague, Samuel Conteh, who failed to return from a mission to Kailahun. No child soldiers were registered in the east of the country. Leigh said he was optimistic that the next attempt at registration would prove more successful.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma on Wednesday ordered the release of six prisoners who were detained in October after an anti-junta demonstration which left three people dead. The six include former logistical director Colonel Kes Boyah, former senior paymaster Colonel Sahr Sinnah, and four customs officers. Officials at Pademba Road Prison said that hours before their release, shortly after midnight on Tuesday, a group of soldiers led by Corporal Tamba Gborie "stormed the prison" and demanded that the men be released. "They instructed Assistant Supervisor of Prisons Alie Sesay, who was the night orderly, to release the detained men," a prison official said. "They were turned down flatly as the orders did not come from the proper channel. It is very unusual for us to release prisoners or detainees at night. They were told it was impossible and that they had a hidden agenda." Military spokesman Joseph Amara confirmed Gborie's attempt to free the six. Corporal Tamba Gborie first was the first to announce the May 25 coup over SLBS (state radio). He was reportedly suspended from his position in the AFRC and placed under "mess arrest" last month for "undermining the revenue-generating capacity" of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources in the eastern diamond mining areas.
The aid agency Oxfam called on Friday for a European code of conduct which would prevent arms sales to repressive governments, or those using child soldiers. Oxfam UK said 200,000 children were being used as soldiers around the world, and that 45 percent of those killed in wars between 1993 and 1996 were children. "British arms export licenses were issued to Sierra Leone and Liberia as recently as 1996, where the killing of children, and by children, has been rampant," the agency said in a statement. "If we are to stop small arms falling into small hands, then a vital part of the solution is for both British and EU arms sales to be regulated by a far tougher code of conduct than the government appears to be committed to," said Dianna Melrose, Oxfam's head of policy.
11 December: The ECOWAS Council of Ministers ended its 42nd session in Abuja Wednesday with a call for the international community to ensure strict observation of the embargo and sanctions against Sierra Leone. A communiqué issued after the meeting said the measure had become necessary because Sierra Leone's military junta had failed to respect the peace plan it signed with ECOWAS in October. Implementation of the accord has become problematic because AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma opposes disarming the army. "He is demanding the immediate release of (RUF leader) Foday Sankoh, who is supposed to be released six months after the implementation of the accord," the ministers were reported as saying. A series of talks between representatives of ECOWAS and the AFRC have failed to agree upon modalities for the implementation of the Conakry Peace Accord. To resolve disagreements over the implementation of the agreement, the ministers agreed that negotiations between the AFRC and ECOWAS resume at the highest level, presumably referring to the Heads of State.
ECOWAS Heads of State will hold a summit meeting December 16 and 17 in Lome, Togo, Nigerian Foreign Minister Tom Ikimi said Thursday. The summit was arranged at the request of Nigerian leader and ECOWAS chairman General Sani Abacha, and will be preceded by a foreign ministers' meeting on December 15. Sources at the Togolese foreign affairs ministry said the leaders would discuss "peace and security." The agenda will include Liberia, where President Charles Taylor wants ECOMOG to leave the country, and Sierra Leone, where ECOWAS is putting pressure on the military junta to honour an agreement which calls for the restoration of the civilian government by April 22, the sources said.
An ECOMOG statement has accused the Sierra Leonean junta with massive and unprovoked attacks on the Kamajor militia. The statement said the junta, particularly the RUF, intensified its attacks in the eastern and southeastern parts of Sierra Leone on December 9 and 10. These attacks were backed by helicopter gunships, artillery, mortar, RPG's, and other small arms. The report said that the junta soldiers, in a coordinated move, entered some of the villages and burned them down. The ECOMOG command has gathered reliable information that the junta intends to push the Kamajors back and enter ECOMOG-held areas, the statement said.
The Organization of the Islamic Countries (OIC), which ended a three-day summit in Tehran, Iran on Thursday, has elected exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to a two-year term as Vice President for Africa. "There's a need to stress religion as a unifying force," said Foreign Minister Shirley Gbujama, who attended as a delegate from Sierra Leone. "Some states are so far away from each other, and it's not all that often that there's time to interact." In a private meeting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told President Kabbah that Iran will always remain on the side of Sierra Leone. He expressed the hope that new chapters would be opened in relations between the two countries within the framework of the OIC. Kabbah briefed Khatami on recent developments in the region, and expressed pleasure over satisfactory relations between the two countries. The summit was attended by 28 heads of state. On Monday, AFRC Public Relations Officer Allieu Kamara issued a statement expressing the AFRC's "utter dismay" that Sierra Leone was listed as a "Moslem state" with member rather than observer status. "The AFRC, under the leadership of His Excellency Major John Paul Koroma wishes to assure all Christians, Moslems, and other religious groups that we shall NEVER succumb and allow our Nation to be labeled a Moslem State," the statement said. "We are an Inter-religious state. We have always been and we will always remain as such." Sierra Leone joined the OIC as a member Islamic State during the government of the late Siaka P. Stevens. President Kabbah is expected to return to Conakry on Friday, and reportedly plans to address the nation over Radio 98.1.
10 December: ECOMOG has reportedly stepped up monitoring and enforcement of sanctions against Sierra Leone. On Monday, a Nigerian warship seized two fishing vessels owned by a Ghanaian businesswoman operating in Freetown. "The vessels were escorted to the ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia," officials said. There was no indication as to what cargo the vessels were carrying. The Guinean ECOMOG contingent arrested four Sierra Leonean petrol dealers who were attempting to smuggle 2,400 five-gallon containers of fuel to Freetown by sea. ECOMOG sources at Jui said the four "braved the terrific waves of the Atlantic Ocean early Monday to smuggle the petrol on board a vessel equipped with two outboard motor engines." The four men were later released, but the consignment of petrol was seized. A statement released by ECOMOG headquarters in Monrovia on Wednesday said a Chinese tanker, the Haigon You-301, with 17 crew members was intercepted on Friday and escorted to Monrovia for interrogation and search. The statement said the ship was violating the sanctions by attempting to provide fuel to Sierra Leonean fishing trawlers. The Monrovia Star News reported that the tanker was allegedly carrying fuel for a number of Chinese fishing vessels in the area.
AFRC Secretary-General Colonel A.K. Sesay Wednesday accused the ECOMOG force of preparing to attack Sierra Leone over Christmas. "Sufficient funds have been provided to ECOMOG and the organisation has already brought in 18 amphibious vehicles for the operation," Sesay said at State House press conference. He said ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was backing the plan. "(Kabbah) is using both the military and diplomatic front to reverse the May 25 coup which is irreversible." Sesay warned Nigeria against further military action in Sierra Leone. "We have had four effective military engagements with the Nigerians and we would advise against a fifth, which would be bloody and not in the interest of anyone," he said. ECOMOG Commander in Sierra Leone Max Khobe denied Sesay's accusations. "I have no knowledge of all this talk of assault and invasion," he said. "We are still on the negotiating table and I believe we will resolve the outstanding issues there, not on the battlefield. This is a malicious propaganda to tarnish the image of ECOMOG and create concussion in the country. There will be no bloody Christmas." Khobe said ECOMOG naval vessels were used only to enforce the embargo against Sierra Leone. "The boats are not even based on Sierra Leone territorial waters," he said. "They come and go. They are stationed in the high seas as they are around to tighten sanctions, not to fight."
Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported Monday that the prices of essential commodities have risen sharply in the past 72 hours due to the effects of the sanctions.
9 December: Representatives of Sierra Leone's military junta, ECOMOG, and the ethnic militias have reached agreement on a 14-point disarmament plan, Lt. Col. Bashiru Conteh said on Monday. Conteh, who heads the Technical Committee on Disarmament, said the agreement covers "coordination and cooperation with other committees serving under the Conakry Peace Agreement, transportation of arms to central storage facilities, security arrangements for disarmament, and demobilisation." Conteh said the agreement was supported by all participants at the talks, which were held at Jui, including the AFRC, ECOMOG, the RUF, and civil defence groups. "The meeting is the best session we have had with ECOMOG," Conteh said, adding that "after the visits of the committee to bases in the western areas and the interior, a time frame will be set for an all-out disarmament in the country." Sources quoted said that although ECOMOG had sent two observers to the meeting, the 14 points raised still had to be discussed by ECOWAS. The sources said it was unclear whether other parties to the conflict who would be expected to attend the committee meetings had actually been present. There has so far been no confirmation of the agreement by any of the other groups reported to have been represented at the meeting.
Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) officially announced the formation of its internet website on Tuesday. "The site is still very much in its infant stages," Director-General of the Mass Media Gipu Felix-George said in a statement. "However, we are doing a test run based on the events of November 27th 1997, the date the international community sent the first fact-finding mission to Sierra Leone since the events of May 25th 1997." The web site, which was set up by Dr. Olayinka Blyden, operates from Freetown via a server located in the United States. Word of the SLBS site, which is not yet fully operational, was circulated on the internet last week in advance of the official announcement.
8 December: Talks at Jui between representatives of Sierra Leone's military junta, ECOMOG, and the Kamajor militia have shown "positive signals," Head of the Technical Committee on Disarmament Lt. Col. Bashiru Conteh said on Monday. "We have reached a decision to visit all bases, in Freetown and the interior, of all combatants involved in the country's political crisis," Conteh said. "We have agreed that the visits should begin on December 10 and end on December 22 in order to assess the task ahead. We are on course as we've agreed to include civil defense groups in all talks relating to the peace process." Conteh said the delegates had discussed selection and assessment of all disarmament sites, and set up guidelines for operations, codes of disarmament, provision of data, and the classification of all arms and ammunition received from the combatants. On the disputed question as to which groups should be disarmed, Conteh said: "This is not for me to decide. This will be looked into and decided by higher authorities. My duty is to see that modalities for the disarmament process are worked out effectively." Conteh said the Kamajor delegation was led by former Special Security Division (SSD) head Sam Dumbuya, and included a university lecturer and two students. He said the Revolutionary United Front and two northern ethnic militias, the Kapras and the Tamborrahs, are also expected to join the talks.
The European Union Monday urged all parties to Sierra Leone's conflict "to honour their commitments and to seek a peaceful resolution of their continuing disputes over the interpretation of certain provisions of the peace agreements." The statement, which was issued by the European Union Presidency, said the European Union "is ready to give them every support" in resolving their differences. The statement reiterated the European Union's condemnation of the May 25 coup, its support for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1132 imposing sanctions on Sierra Leone, and its support for ECOWAS efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Two British soldiers are to be decorated for their actions during the May 25 coup, which were credited with saving many lives. Major Lincoln Jopp, who is awarded the Military Cross, headed a U.K. training team which was advising the Nigerian force at the Mammy Yoko Hotel when it was attacked by AFRC/RUF troops using mortars, missiles, heavy machine guns, and a helicopter gunship. Despite suffering injuries, Jopp positioned himself on the roof of the hotel and, as the Nigerian force fell into disarray, personally guided and advised the Nigerian colonel on how to defend his position. Despite overwhelming odds, the hotel was defended for seven hours until the Nigerians ran out of ammunition. Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Gale is to receive the Queen's Gallantry Medal for bravery during the coup. Gale, who was despatched from Ghana to help evacuate British and other foreign nationals, successfully defused an extremely tense situation between rebel and pro-government soldiers. Then, despite abuse and threats of execution, he persuaded the rebels to release unarmed civilians they had taken captive.
7 December: Representatives of Sierra Leone's military government and the Kamajor militia met over the weekend for peace talks brokered by the Nigerian government. The two sides reportedly agreed to start assessing the location and type of arms. No agreement has yet been reached on the actual disarmament of combatants, as provided under the Conakry Peace Plan.
Church leaders in Freetown called Sunday for early action to disarm child combatants. "Children should not be involved in warfare," the clerics said in a statement. "As arrangements are being made for other children to go to school, let us also make provision for our child combatants to be fully and properly integrated into our society." An official of the Department of Social Welfare, Children and Gender Affairs said efforts to disarm children have been hindered by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The official said a commander of the RUF "People's Army" had "ordered child fighters not to cooperate on the grounds that he was not informed of the exercise by the RUF hierarchy." The registration of child combatants has only been "30 percent successful," the official said.
6 December: A rice shortage in Freetown has caused the price of a 110-pound bag of rice to nearly double, from $20-25 to $35-40. The price increase has caused panic in the capital as hundreds of people trying to buy rice were told that stocks had been sold out. Some residents blamed "unpatriotic rice sellers," primarily Lebanese, of hoarding rice in anticipation of further price rises caused by the sanctions. Lebanese merchants have denied the accusation. "We cannot do this as we have stood behind the Sierra Leone people since the coup," one merchant said. "We would be endangering our own security to create hardship on the people." Secretary of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises Eldred Collins said, "We wonder over the reason for this shortage. It is likely to undermine the people's confidence on us, so we won't take things lightly if we find out that our detractors are using rice as a political weapon to derail the government." Thousands of bags of rice are allocated to the army and the RUF "People's Army" at the rate of one dollar a bag. The last large consignment of rice was brought into Sierra Leone in August by a Lebanese merchant.
Thousands of crates of soft drinks, including Coca-Cola, Fanta, Pepsi, and Vimto, have reached Sierra Leone, ending three months of scarcity. Customs officials said they believed the consignment had been brought in by civilian traders.
Deputy Secretary of Mineral Resources Captain Paul Thomas lifted a widely-ignored ban on diamond mining in eastern Sierra Leone Saturday, while warning illicit diamond miners to comply with mining regulations. "The government is totally annoyed with the manner and way diamond mining operations have been going on," Thomas said following a visit to Kono. "We would from now on brook no nonsense, and defaulters of the law governing mining will be severely dealt with. The rising trend in smuggling of precious gems by unscrupulous businessmen with the help of ill-motivated public officials will no longer be tolerated." Thomas said that miners will have to obtain licenses, and that monitors from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the Government Gold and Diamond Office will be sent to the mining areas.
Director of Defence Information Major John Milton said Sunday that talks between high-level AFRC and ECOMOG delegations which began Friday are proceeding well. He said that three technical committeeson disarmament, humanitarian assistance, and ceasefire violationshave "made some progress since they started," which should end speculation that the Conakry Peace Accord was in jeopardy. "Both sides in the three meetings are understanding each other better," Milton said.
5 December: The European Union has pledged over $360 million to the Kabbah government upon its restoration to power, Minister for Presidential Affairs Momodu Koroma said Friday over the pro-democracy 98.1 radio station. Koroma said Britain had given the exiled Kabbah government £130,000 to "enable it to operate a Sierra Leone government house" in Conakry. "The money would cover rent and other attendant issues, but not salaries," he said, adding that the British government had also provided computers, faxes, photocopiers, and generators. He said that the Kabbah government has set up a committee in Conakry "to run the affairs of state in preparation for its return to Freetown in April next year." Koroma said that British High Commissioner Peter Penfold "would work closely with the Tejan Kabbah government in exile to facilitate interaction with the international community."
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told the clandestine pro-democracy radio station 98.1 on Friday that his ousted government had taken legal action in Britain "to block access" to state funds by the AFRC after the junta tried "to withdraw money left in de la Rue's custody for Sierra Leone after a printing job." Kabbah said the British government advised him "that any action against de la Rue would only take effect if an injunction was brought against the company in a court of law."
AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara accused the exiled Kabbah government on Friday of waging a diplomatic war against the military junta. "Kabbah has got the American government to deny the current government here access to any money or property owned by the Sierra Leone government," Kamara said. After signing the Conakry Peace Accord, the AFRC applied to the United States Federal Reserve Bank for access to Sierra Leone's money, property, and other facilities so that it could transact business for the government abroad. "Apparently, the American authorities contacted Kabbah about the matter. After the consultation, the Reserve Bank sent a message to the Sierra Leone Government saying that the American government only recognises Kabbah as President of Sierra Leone," said Kamara. "The telex message said that Kabbah had instructed that the Bank of Sierra Leone should not be allowed to do any business with the Reserve Bank, or be allowed to draw any money for Sierra Leone." Kabbah gave instructions that any further requests from the Bank of Sierra Leone or the junta should be considered "null and void," Kamara said.
4 December: Lawyers representing the exiled Sierra Leone government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah have succeeded in obtaining a restraining order to prevent the currency printing firm Thomas de la Rue from printing billions of leones in new currency for the AFRC, Kabbah said Thursday. Speaking to a cross-section of the Sierra Leonean community in Conakry, Kabbah said the junta had entered into a contract with the firm to print new notes, which would have gone into circulation at the end of December. According to Kabbah, some 20 billion leones were in circulation in Sierra Leone prior to the May 25 coup, with four times that amount in reserve at the Central Bank. Apparently, he said, the money had been misappropriated by the junta, resulting in the AFRC's attempt to print new notes. He said this demonstrated the junta's reckless and irresponsible spending of the nation's money.
AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma appealed Thursday to Nigerian leader and current ECOWAS chairman General Sani Abacha to lift economic sanctions on Sierra Leone. In a letter to Abacha, Koroma expressed "grave concern over the afflictions on the ordinary Sierra Leoneans," foreign minister officials said. "Since the Conakry Agreement has mandated the (military) government to continue to govern and conduct the affairs of state without hindrance for a period of six months, the sanctions and embargo should be lifted," Koroma wrote. "The health and welfare of the citizens is our direct responsibility, and Sierra Leoneans are now looking up to us as a government to fulfill their needs and basic requirements...The continuing imposition of sanctions and embargo on all commodities entering Sierra Leone makes neither sense, nor can it be in the interest of peace and the ordinary people of Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone cannot be expected to survive for six months without imports of food, fuel and medicine." Koroma said that transportation is "slowly grinding to a halt due to the non-availability of petrol. The masses are forced to walk long distances to earn their livelihood. The prices of all basic goods have been more than doubled, and drug and health services are becoming increasingly inaccessible." He said farmers "cannot get their produce to the markets, the national electrical power generation is at a standstill, and (there is) a pending inability to treat any water at all in the very near future." Koroma argued that the lives of many Sierra Leoneans have been put at risk by what appeared to be an arbitrary and indiscriminate use of sanctions which are destined to brutalise the people of Sierra Leone through starvation and disease.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore will attend the world premiere of Stephen Spielberg's new film Amistad on Thursday evening. The Amistad was a Spanish schooner which entered U.S. waters in 1839, after its cargo of Africans kidnapped from the coast of present-day Sierra Leone seized the ship off the coast of Cuba.
Kamajor militiamen killed eight people in the southeast this week, a military official in Kenema said Thursday. On Tuesday, four soldiers and a woman were killed in an ambush along the Kono-Tongo road, he said. "The four soldiers were butchered with machetes and buried in shallow graves," the official said, adding that the bodies had been recovered. At Jembeh, on the Bo-Kenema road, Kamajors ambushed a commercial truck carrying over 200 bags of rice. A radio correspondent said two men and one woman were killed in the attack. "They shot and killed a woman who owned part of the truckload as well as two men. Their bodies were riddled with bullets, and another man was badly wounded," he said. On Wednesday, the Kamajors reportedly ambushed and seized a Sierra Leone Red Cross truck delivering relief food to Moyamba. Town Chief Joseph Benda and other officials were quoted as saying the Kamajors had manhandled the Red Cross staff and told them that in the future all relief supplies should be handed over to them for distribution. The AFRC has condemned the attacks, saying they "violate the Conakry Peace Plan which called for a cessation of hostilities by all sides involved in the Sierra Leone conflict." A Kamajor spokesman in Kenema accused the army of using airborne troops to attack Kamajor positions in Moyamba and Bonthe, and tormenting civilians in the two areas. "We are only defending ourselves from repeated harassment from government soldiers," the spokesman said. "We are also blocking soldiers from depleting the country's diamonds through illegal mining in Kono and Tongo."
Liberian President Charles Taylor called Thursday for a re-definition of the ECOMOG force as a condition for ECOMOG's continued stay in Liberia. "But the functions of ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone should be defined and separated," Taylor was quoted as saying at the conclusion of a two-day official visit to Nigeria. Taylor described as "rumor" statements attributed to him that he would not allow Liberia to be used as a base of operations to solve the Sierra Leone crisis. Since Liberia is a member of ECOWAS, Taylor said, the country will support any ECOWAS plans on Sierra Leone.
3 December: ECOMOG Deputy Force Commandeer General J.A. Kwateng on Wednesday denied an AFRC accusation that Nigeria had dispatched three naval warships to Sierra Leone. "This is rubbish. We have only one ship there," Kwateng said. Nigerian Director of Defence Information Colonel Godwin Ugbo also denied the claim. "This is a lie," Ugbo said. "I don't know why the junta made such lies." Ugbo also said no plans have been made to transfer ECOMOG troops withdrawn from Liberia to Sierra Leone. "It is up to ECOWAS to decide," he said. Ugbo did confirm that ECOMOG will tighten the economic blockade on Sierra Leone in a bid to force the junta to implement the Peace Plan signed in Conakry in October.
Eight suspected robbers were executed by firing squad Saturday at Community Center soccer stadium in Koidu. The eight, whom Sierra Leone's military called "notorious armed robbers," were part of a group of 26 suspects rounded up in a joint military and police operation. Koidu residents were invited to attend the executions via a mobile public address system, and the stadium was filled to capacity. After the executions, a Major Metzgar told the crowd, "We are tired of this armed robbery and we now take a different line of action to combat armed robbery in Kono and its environs." A source in Koidu said the accused appeared before a one-day military tribunal. It was not clear whether they had access to legal representation. One of the executed was identified by the AFP as Jonathan Moore, who had been serving a 25-year jail term until he was freed from prison during the May 25 coup. Teddy Cole, of the Society for the Advancement of Civil Rights, condemned the executions as "extrajudicial killings," saying the accused should have been tried before a court of law.
United States diplomats have dismissed as "preposterous" allegations made by AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay on Monday that ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had been given access to frozen Sierra Leonean funds held in a U.S. bank. Sesay alleged that $8 million was missing from the account. In an interview with the BBC, Kabbah denied using funds from the account, saying that to do so would be immoral.
Gambia, Mali, Guinea, and Senegal will play in the semi-final round of the Zone Two Amilcar Cabral Football Tournament Friday in Bakau, Gambia. Sierra Leone, with one win and one loss, failed to advance Wednesday after a 1-1 draw with Mali. Sierra Leone needed a win to go on to the next round. Seyba Traore scored for Mali in the 14th minute. Francis Korma scored the equaliser for Sierra Leone in the 88th minute of the match.
2 December: Sierra Leone's military junta accused Nigeria on Tuesday of moving an amphibious tank landing ship and two support vessels into Sierra Leone's territorial waters. A military spokesman said the NNS Ambe and two support ships had anchored 30 nautical miles off the Sierra Leonean coast before pulling back into international waters. "The three Nigerian warships which anchored about 30 nautical miles in Sierra Leone territorial waters have sailed back into international waters from their former position," the spokesman said. Two Sierra Leonean gunboats had been alerted to the Nigerian presence on Monday, the spokesman said, adding that when contacted by radio the crew had said they were enforcing the economic embargo against Sierra Leone. An AFRC statement carried over SLBS (state radio) Tuesday denounced the presence of Nigerian naval ships as a breach of the peace agreement. "This naked aggression by Nigeria is a naked disregard for the Conakry Peace Agreement," the statement said. "The government views the act as provocative and a ploy to destablise and create panic among Sierra Leoneans. Such moves will not alter the spirit of the government in defending the territorial rights of Sierra Leone." ECOMOG ground commander Colonel Max Khobe said the ship, which is under ECOMOG command, was "purely on routine sailing" and that there should be no cause for alarm. "We are anxious for peace to return to Sierra Leone and for the fulfillment of the Conakry Peace Plan as soon as possible," Khobe said.
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said Tuesday that he still believes the Conakry Peace Accord will be implemented, despite disagreement on several key issues between the AFRC and ECOWAS. "I made a statement saying that I accepted the agreement," Kabbah told the BBC. There are certain aspects of it that I didn't like, but for peace I was prepared to accept it. Now, even some people criticized me (saying) 'Why do you accept that type of agreement?' I said I am not hungry for power. All I am interested in is to make sure that there is peace in our country. If they say that peace will be there in six months, please, let's be patient. I'm prepared and will go along with it." Kabbah said the junta's actions and statements since they signed the Peace Agreement have not given the impression that they negotiated in good faith or that they could be trusted to give up power at the appointed time. "I'm depending on the skill and perseverance of those who are negotiating with them," he said, adding, "When the sanctions start biting very hard, then perhaps that will let them change their minds." Kabbah said he thought the timetable for a return to democracy would not be altered as a whole, although there might be a delay in implementing some of the steps. "For example, the disarmament should have started today. Now, I don't think they have even started to deploy the ECOMOG troops yet. But I believe that as we go down the road, they will catch up."
The Sierra Leone Teacher's Union has said that the nation's schools, which have been closed since the May 25 coup, will reopen in January if all combatants are disarmed under the terms of the Conakry Peace Accord, and once armed men occupying school compounds have been evacuated.
1 December: Warring parties in Sierra Leone have failed to live up to an agreement to begin disarming on Monday. The disarmament of combatants, which was to have begun on December 1 under the ECOWAS Peace Plan, has been derailed due to disagreement on key issues, including the question of whether the army should be disarmed, and on the dominant role of Nigeria in ECOMOG, which is charged with implementing the disarmament. AFRC Secretary-General Abdul Sesay on Monday blamed ECOWAS for the deadlock, and called for renegotiation of the peace accord. "The disarmament programme should have started today but the problem for the delay is in the hands of ECOWAS," Sesay said. "We need to go back to the drawing board of the Conakry accord for renegotiation." Sesay insisted that the disarmament programme could not include the Sierra Leone army. "The Sierra Leone army cannot be disarmed, but restructured," he said. "We have a constitutional army which has remained intact throughout the rebel war." Sesay also restated the AFRC's objection to Nigerian participation in the ECOMOG force. "We are saying that Nigerian soldiers also should be disarmed because they have not been honest in the peace process," Sesay said. He said no date has been set for regional talks to try to resolve the deadlock, adding that the junta is "still committed to handing over power to a constitutional government in April next year." The RUF has also resisted being disarmed, demanding that their leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, first be released from detention in Nigeria. ECOWAS officials say Nigeria is unlikely to allow Sankoh to return to Sierra Leone before exiled President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, whose government is to be returned to power in April 1998 under the peace agreement.
Sierra Leone's military junta is not in a position to dictate to ECOWAS the composition of troops ordered to implement the Conakry Peace Plan on Sierra Leone, ECOMOG Force Commander Major-General Victor Malu said Monday. Malu said the junta's demand that Nigerians be excluded from the ECOMOG force was untenable. "If you remove Nigerian troops from ECOMOG, which country in the subregion will replace them?", he asked. Malu expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in last week's talks between ECOWAS and the AFRC. "Nothing was achieved at that meeting because the military government in Freetown saw it as a forum to restate what it considered its complaints against the ECOWAS peace plan, and that is not the way forward," Malu said. Malu expressed cautious optimism that the peace plan would be carried through, but he warned that ECOMOG is ready to tighten the embargo on Sierra Leone to make the junta see reason. "It was the pressure, especially military pressure, which we applied that brought them to the negotiating table," Malu said. Another round of talks between the ECOWAS Committee of Five foreign ministers on Sierra Leone and the AFRC is expected next week.
AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay said Monday that the junta will lodge an official protest at last week's United Nations decision to base its humanitarian coordination office in Conakry, instead of Freetown. "We found this unacceptable and will protest over this," Sesay said. "Why could they not set up here where the problem is? It appears that the international community has ganged itself up against Sierra Leone while its people suffer. We want the international community to play a fair game in the name of neutrality."
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate said that RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh could disrupt the peace process if he were allowed to return to Sierra Leone. "We should not hurry over his return to Sierra Leone, which could disrupt the political situation of his country," Kouyate said on Guinean television over the weekend. In the Conakry Peace Agreement, AFRC and ECOWAS negotiators agreed that Sankoh should return to Sierra Leone "to make his contribution to the peace process." Sankoh has been detained by the Nigeria government since April 1997. "Even from Nigeria, Foday Sankoh can play a role in the peace process and the return to constitutional legality," Kouyate said. Kouyate insisted that "there is no direct link" between the reinstatement of the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the return of Sankoh.
AFRC Secretary-General Colonel Abdul K. Sesay complained Monday that the junta has been denied access to a Sierra Leonean government bank account in the United States. The bank has refused to "pay certain bills for and (on) behalf of the (military) government," Sesay said. He quoted a letter from the bank, which he declined to name, which said that funds from the account would be released only on the instructions of President Tejan Kabbah. "In other words, it is a tussle between the concept of democracy versus the junta and who is in control of the country," he said. Sesay said that only $4 million remained in an account which was known to contain $12 million shortly before the May 25 coup.
Liberian President Charles Taylor left for a one day visit to Conakry on Monday to hold talks with Guinean President Lansana Conteh on the Sierra Leone crisis. Taylor says he wants the Mano River Union to be reactivated. This would allow the Union to become involved in seeking a peaceful solution to the Sierra Leone conflict, Taylor said. The Mano River Union is a sub-regional organisation which includes Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. It became inactive in 1990, when the Liberian civil war intensified. Taylor over the weekend expressed concern about the slow progress of the Sierra Leone peace process, saying the situation in Sierra Leone has direct socio-economic implications for Liberia.
A source close to the AFRC quoted junta leaders Monday as saying that the ECOMOG has moved amphibious landing craft to the mouth of the Rokel River.