The Sierra Leone Web



Freetown, Friday 7 May 1999

Government is seriously concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation facing thousands of innocent civilians, including young children, caught in areas where rebels are found. As we witnessed recently in Songo and Masiaka, the atrocities committed by the rebels and their allies as they retreat from some of those areas have been horrendous. Those people who managed to escape the rebel onslaughts by hiding in the bush, and are now returning to their liberated but devastated towns and villages, are also facing a humanitarian crisis.

Government considers that the need to facilitate the delivery of large-scale emergency relief to these innocent civilians should be the first credible confidence-building measure the parties to the conflict can take at this stage of the peace process. The RUF rebels, on their part, should also give the matter priority consideration. Failure to do so now could delay the search for comprehensive and sustainable peace in our country.

At the same time, Government is concerned that the prolonged RUF internal consultations in Lome, have already delayed the start of substantive dialogue between Government and the rebels.

Last month, the Sierra Leone judiciary allowed the RUF leader, Cpl. Foday Sankoh, to travel to Lome under United Nations auspices, for consultations with other members of his organisation, on the understanding that their meetings would last for about six days. However, today, two weeks later, the consultations are still in progress.

In order to ensure that Government and the RUF address, face-to-face, and as a matter of priority, the need to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian relief in several parts of the country, as well as other preliminary confidence-building measures, Government would like the RUF to conclude its internal consultations soonest. Any further delay could have a negative impact on the peace process as a whole.

Security and lasting peace in Sierra Leone are well overdue. The people are anxiously waiting for the RUF to renounce violence and pursue real peace through dialogue. The people, especially the children, deserve no less.