The Sierra Leone Web



Back Ground

1. The Lome Peace Accord was signed in July 1999 to end the eight-year-old bloody civil war in Sierra Leone. The primary reason for the signing of the accord was that a stalemate had been reached in the fighting and the ECOWAS states were finding it extremely difficult to support their Peacekeeping Force - ECOMOG due to the extreme financial drain on their fragile economies.

2. The accord called for deployment of a peace keeping force comprising ECOMOG and UNOMSIL to oversee the peace process. This was interpreted by the Nigerians (who formed the major chunk of ECOMOG) that ECOMOG would form a major part of the UN Peacekeeping Force and that this Force would be headed by the ECOMOG Force Commander Maj Gen Kpamber. However when Gen Kpamber went to UN HQ New York, he was very disappointed to learn that he was not going to be the Force Commander of UNAMSIL and that Nigeria would have three bns as part of UNAMSIL, out of this they had to concede one battalion to the Guineans. The Nigerians therefore felt that they were not getting a fair deal in the Peace Process in Sierra Leone despite the sacrifices they had made to pave the way for the peace process. This to a very large extent is the genesis of the present crisis. It is my opinion that the ECOMOG Force Commander along with the SRSG and DCF have worked hard to sabotage the peace process and show Indians in general and me in particular in a poor light.

Relationship Between ECOMOG and RUF

3. It is well known that public opinion in Nigeria was against the continued dply of Nigerian troops as part of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone, however the Nigerian Army was interested in staying in Sierra Leone due to the massive benefits they were getting from the illegal diamond mining. Brig Gen Maxwell Khobe was commonly known as the "Ten Million man", it is alleged that he received up to 10 million dollars to permit the activities of RUF. The ECOMOG Force Commander Maj Gen Kpamber was also involved in the illegal diamond mining in connivance with RUF leader Foday Sankoh.

4. After the initial fighting between ECOMOG and RUF, the relationship had thawed when a stalemate had been reached militarily. It is understood that a tacit understanding was reached between the RUF and ECOMOG of non-interference in each other's activities, the total absence of ECOMOG deployment in RUF held areas is indicative of this. I believe, that the RUF leader Foday Sankoh was also under the impression that the UN Peace Keeping Force agreed to in Lome was primarily a rehatted ECOMOG with Maj Gen Kpamber as its boss. The dply of a neutral peacekeeping force (UNAMSIL) under an Indian General, keen to implement the Peace Accord in letter and spirit was not what Sankoh had bargained for. He viewed UNAMSIL as a big obstacle in his ambition of becoming the next President of Sierra Leone.

Relationship Between Force Commander, SRSG and DFC

5. The SRSG and DFC had instructions from Nigeria to pursue the agenda for which they had been sent by him. Keeping the Nigerian interests was paramount even if meant scuttling the Peace Process and this also implied that UNAMSIL was expendable. To this end the SRSG and DFC cultivated the RUF leadership especially Foday Sankoh behind my back.

6. I was sandwiched between the two of them which severely hampered my functioning. Some instances which reflected my predicament -

a. The DFC was sent to Nigeria in Jan 2000, without my approval on the pretext of of resolving the equipment of Nigerian Battalions, clearly a task not forming a part of the charter of duties of the DFC. The DFC returned after 13 days and did not think it fit to meet me for two days thereafter.

b. During the discussions on the rehatting of the Nigerian battalions for 90 days, the DFC spoke openly against the logic given by me. The SRSG conducted the entire conference with a pro-Nigeria bias.

c. Notwithstanding the fact that the SRSG had absolutely nothing to do with military matters, he insisted on knowing the reasons why INDBAT could not dply on widely separated axis at Koidu and Kailahun as it mistakenly planned off the map earlier. Even after my explaining to him in detail, he insisted on arranging a meeting with the DFC, COS (observer) who had joined UNAMSIL just two days ago and the COS of the force; just to undermine my position and embarrass me in front of my subordinates. In hindsight it appears that my decision has been vindicated. If I had dply as SRSG was insisting we would have had the entire INDBAT either disarmed or decimated.

d. With a view to making in roads into the certain most districts of Kailahun and Koidu I sent strong patrols each of KENBATT and GHANBATT to Koidu and INDBATT to Kailahun respectively. While the GHANBATT CO failed to execute my orders, KENBATT could only achieve partial success. It was only INDBATT which successfully reached Kailahun. When I informed the SRSG about the above events, instead of complimenting INDBATT'S spectacular achievement, he, in the presence of my subordinate staff officers like the DFC and CMO, started questioning the rationale of my actions suggesting that I should have sent joint patrols of all three battalions to Koidu rather than the individual unit identities. At the end I had to categorically ask him to leave the military matters to me since such plans are made and decisions taken after due consultation with my staff.

e. On numerous occasions the DFC has not executed tasks given by me, he has not even bothered to give a feedback weeks after the scheduled date of submission of report of projects entrusted to him.

Events Leading to the Present Crisis and the Conduct of Nigerian during the Crisis

7. The present crisis was precipitated by the incident at Makeni where 10 RUF cadres had voluntarily disarmed and joined the DDR programme. However this was not acceptable to the RUF leadership which had its own agenda. The complexity of Nigeria in the crisis is evident from the following:-

a. The RUF action is timed with the withdrawal of ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone.

b. The SRSG was on leave at the same time and could not be contacted for at least two days despite the best efforts of New York.

c. RUF intercepts received by DHQ of Republic of Sierra Leone Army clearly indicate the close relationship between RUF and Nigerians.

d. Initially the RUF effort was directed only against Kenyans and Indian and when this aspect was discussed in the Senior Staff Meeting there was a symbolic gesture at Kambia against the NIBATT-2 company located there.

e. The complete Nigerian company at Kambia was permitted to move to Port Loko, and the two Indian drivers with them were detained. They were later released after I intervened.

f. No fight given by Nigerian troops of NIBATT-2 to RUF at Lunsar and Rogberi, Rokel, Masiaka and Laia junction.

g. I was given confirmation that the NIBATT-3 company was deployed at Newton, an important loc on the Masiaka — Freetown Axis, however when I personally landed there during my rccce I found no troops deployed.

h. The DFC has been in constant touch with Foday Sankoh through out this crisis, he has probably also compromised a lot of my operational plans.

g. It is popularly believed by the locals in Freetown that CO NIBATT-4 took Foday Sankoh in his APC when the demonstrators turned violent at his house. In fact eye witnesses corroborated this. One of my source has also confirmed above. He was reportedly kept in custody in the house of CO NIBATT-4 in Freetown, a fact which have been hidden from me so far.

Other Constraints in my Functioning

8. In addition to the above problems, I have also had following logistics difficulties in the mission to cope with:-

a. Transport. The present capability of the mission does not permit movement of one company at a time. Despite this out of the 20 UN trucks, ten had been given to the private contract organisations called Dyncorp. My staff officers were forced to travel in mini buses and few gypsies on the pretext that the Indian Guard and Admin Coy was to provide the transport, whereas the MOU does not say so.

b. Communications. Even after months, since the establishment of peace keeping mission, I cannot talk directly to any battalion commander. There are severe shortages of communication equipment in a number of units which have not been made up despite several reminders to the adm staff. Some battalions have only one radio set in the company available with them. Most battalions have no Fax facilities to fwd sitreps or reports and returns.

c. Fuel. The fuel contract for the mission has not yet been finalised. On numerous occasions I have had to cancel operational moves because of non availability of POL. The system of fuel replenishment is based on few POL bowsers held by the UN, fwd dumping facilities or kerb side petrol pumps have yet not been established.

d. Rations. The troops are still being provided rations on an interim contract. On occasions battalions have got their up to seven days late and that too with large number of deficiencies. In fact during the on going crisis units like KENBAT at Makeni and Magburaka and INDBAT coys at Kailahun which had been surrounded ran out of food and water and had to be resupplied under fire. If the units had been stocked for 15 days as is normally practiced the units would have not had to look over their shoulder.

e. Water. As per all MOUs, water supply is a UN responsibility. In the absence of availability of potable drinking water UN is to provide bottled water to all troops. Till date the adm staff has not been able to dig a single well in the country nor have they provided bottled water. What is most appalling is that troop labour was used for digging these wells. This, despite repeated discussions on the issue even in the presence of the CAO.

f. Camp Infrastructure. It was brought to the notice of the administrative staff that due to the heavy rains in the country it was extremely necessary to provide a hard standing in the camp sites of all units. The demands for construction materials was fwd accordingly in Feb 2000. Not a single bag of cement has been received to date and the wet season has already begun.

9. Capability of Units. Most units under my command other than India, Kenya and Guinea have very little or no equipment with them. They have not been properly brief in their country about the application of chapter VII in this mission for certain contingencies. It is for this precise reasons that the troops do not have the mental aptitude or the will to fight the rebels when the situation so demanded, and resorted to handing over their arms on the slightest danger to their life. This aspect enabled the rebels to gain a moral ascendancy and thereby emboldened them to take on the United Nations in the manner in which they have done in the present crisis. Guinea, Kenya and Zambia case in point. Also units hoped that negotiations would help the rebels see reason. The rebels took advantage of the gullibility of these units and disarmed them.

CONCLUSION UN Peace Keeping operations are a combination of diplomacy and tact. Generally in African countries the Peace Accord signed is shaky and fragile. In a mineral rich country like Sierra Leone, politics has a very major role to play in finding solutions to civil wars. In my case, the Mission Directive given to me and which I tried to follow implicitly, directly conflicted with the interests with the interests of not only the warring factions but also of the major players in the diamond racket like Liberia and Nigeria. As an Indian, and having no hidden agenda to promote, I became a victim of the machinations of these countries. By placing their stooges in the right places they have not only tried to scuttle the peace process but also try and denigrate me and the country I represent, to promote their own personal ambitions and personal interests.