The Sierra Leone Web


Dr. John Karefa-Smart, Member of Parliament
October 26, 1997

I wholeheartedly rejoice with the people of Sierra Leone and their friends in the international community over the agreement reached in Conakry, Guinea, on October 23 between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Five Foreign Ministers and a delegation of Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to “accelerate efforts toward the peaceful resolution of the Sierra Leone crisis.”

Before commenting on the agreement, I wish to note some facts about my efforts to resolve the crisis. My motivation for participating in the negotiations in Freetown during the early days of the coup d’etat, in the first meeting of the ECOWAS committee and a delegation of the AFRC in Abidjan in July, and in two visits to the United States for meetings in Washington, D.C., and New York City, has always been to fulfil my duty as a concerned senior citizen and an elected representative of the people in Parliament.

I could not remain silent when I learned during the first negotiations that forces of ECOWAS’s monitoring group, ECOMOG, had received orders to attack Freetown. I therefore broadcast a warning so that the attack would not come as a surprise. The naval bombardment of Freetown took place as I had warned on Monday morning, June 2. I have since condemned the occupation of our only international airport by ECOMOG forces, as well as the attacks by ECOMOG military jets and naval vessels on the civilian population—which, in my opinion, are acts of war and not, as claimed, enforcement of the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and supported by the U.N. Security Council.

I am therefore personally gratified that the Conakry agreement addresses important issues I and other concerned citizens have consistently advocated from the very beginning of the crisis, namely:

  • Support for continued dialogue, with no reference to the use of force, as a means of achieving the goal of resolving the crisis;
  • Recognition of the importance of the role of RUF leader Corporal Foday Sankoh and his return to Sierra Leone to participate in the peace process; and
  • Renewal of appeals to the international community of humanitarian assistance.

However, both the communiqué issued by the ECOWAS Committee of Five and the Schedule of Implementation of the ECOWAS Peace Plan contain three important inadequacies:

  • Neither document addresses the important role to be played by the people of Sierra Leone in the resolution of the conflict and in the achievement of an enduring and equitable peace. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reminded the leaders of the Commonwealth meeting in Edinburgh on Friday, 24 October, that it is the people who provide “the real soul, the motive, the drive, call it what you will,” in each country for the exercise of their right to choose how they can be governed. In Sierra Leone it is the people—not ECOWAS, nor its ECOMOG instrument, nor the U.N. Security Council—who must assume the responsibility of devising and agreeing on the most effective way to restore constitutional government in our country.
  • Responsibility is assigned to ECOMOG to enforce sanctions. It is difficult to see how the leaders of ECOMOG, who have claimed that sanctions give them the right to cause suffering and the loss of many lives, can now be accepted by the people of Sierra Leone as capable of enforcing the same sanctions peacefully. Either the leadership and composition of ECOMOG forces must be changed or an international peace-keeping force must replace ECOMOG.
  • The schedule of implementation makes no mention of the role of Parliament, which alone can exercise the constitutional right to give legal validity to executive proposals.

I believe that we Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad must now direct all our efforts during the next six months toward the implementation of the agreement reached in Conakry. The people of Sierra Leone have already demonstrated in the two Bintumani Conferences that they can make the right political decisions about the future of our country. It is for this reason that I support the suggestion that a national conference of the representatives of all groups and sectors that are essential stakeholders in the peace and security and good governance of our country should be convened as early as possible. I am convinced that there are men and women in all parts of the country who, with technical and material resources from the international community, can use the opportunity provided by the present crisis to decide on the steps to be taken that will result in a lasting solution to the many problems now facing the nation so that we can safely return to constitutional order.

I intend to continue in my role as concerned senior citizen, and as leader of the United National People’s Party, to support and participate in any measures acceptable to the people of Sierra Leone that will achieve the national goal of returning to constitutional government.