The Sierra Leone Web



Freetown, 21 December 1997


My Fellow Sierra Leoneans:

It is almost seven months since the terrible events of May 25, 1997 brought an end to all you had worked for from 1996 to that day. You sacrificed your lives to bring to an end the rule of the NPRC regime, and you succeeded. You had suffered greatly during the rebel war, which was all along sustained by unprofessional and greedy elements of our national army. And just when we had almost succeeded in putting an end to that cruel war, bring peace to our people, evil elements of our army in collusion with the RUF, on May 25th this year, once again interrupted our progress, our hopes and our future.

For the past seven months you have been suffering needlessly in the hands of a few callous and power-hungry individuals who used brute force indiscriminately to impose themselves on you against your will.

We, the legitimate and constitutionally elected Government, with the support of our brothers in the ECOWAS region, and the entire international community, have done everything possible to solve this crisis peacefully.

Two months ago, in Conakry, the junta found it necessary to engage in serious discussions with the ECOWAS, and in the end actually signed the Conakry Peace Plan.

It is noteworthy that having signed the agreement, the leader of the junta delegation, in submitting his report in a Minute dated 24 October 1997, and marked "Annex I", to his chairman, said that their "guiding principle was that the interest of Sierra Leone should come above all else".

In other sections of the same Minute, the delegation leader made the following pronouncements:

"The Sierra Leone delegation was able, for example, to see at first hand the manner in which our people were suffering in desperately trying to move out of Freetown taking the Freetown/Peninsular treacherous road. The delegation saw for itself, how hundreds and hundreds of little kids were packed in lorries which had no security safeguards and whose engines could not even be relied upon, since they broke down ever so often on those very tight roads. Our delegation was of the view that anything that would bring an end to such unnecessary exodus should be done.

"The delegation also realized that our economic life had grounded to a halt, i.e. industries were not operating. Banks remained largely closed. Prominent shops remained closed, schools remained closed, business was virtually at a standstill. The lives of the citizens of the area had been severely disrupted, professionals and other prominent economic actors had fled the country, etc. etc. In the view of the delegation, it was not in the interest of the AFRC for such a situation to continue. Any agreement that could allow that kind of situation to be reversed would be better for the AFRC."

I am sure that in the light of these statements you will be surprised that the junta is still raising matters on which agreement had been reached, and that in spite of its own admission that the agreement is in the best interest of the country and its people.

The truth of the matter is that the illegal regime signed it only because you the people of Sierra Leone denied them legitimacy and refused to cooperate with the regime. Secondly, the junta signed because of the political, diplomatic and economic pressures brought to bear on it by ECOWAS, the United Nations Security Council and the rest of the international community.

Moreover, let us not forget that according to the Conakry Peace Plan, sanctions and embargoes against the regime in Freetown should be "strictly enforced throughout the period of the implementation of the Plan". Sanctions cannot and should not be lifted until the military junta takes steps "to relinquish power in Sierra Leone and make for the restoration of the democratically elected-Government and the return to power of the constitutionally-elected order Government". Let us face it, fellow citizens, there would have been no need for sanctions if the junta had respected the will of the people and the demand of the international community for the early restoration of the democratically-elected Government.

Regarding the negative impact of the sanctions on our people, the UN sanctions resolution 1132, does in fact provide for humanitarian assistance. This should however be done under appropriate arrangements; specifically provided for in the UN Security Council Resolution, and under the guidance of ECOMOG and a sub-committee set up by the UN Security Council to monitor implementation of the sanctions. But if the sanctions continue to be implemented, it is because of the junta's clear refusal to comply with the decisions of the United Nations and ECOWAS. The fact is that whatever effects the sanctions are having on the people, the responsibility falls squarely on the junta. Besides, the impact of the sanctions on the people who, I must emphasize, are not the target, would have been far less if the junta had not stolen all the food, medicines, and other humanitarian supplies which the relatives and friends of the junta are selling throughout the country at prices which the people who own these supplies cannot afford.

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.

The intransigence by the junta is evident in other ways that must be of desperate concern to the entire nation. 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 to escalate the crisis. It hopes to start its own rebel war in the North. This is an extremely dangerous situation, and I appeal to you my people in the North to remember what happened to former prosperous towns like Mile 91, Makali, Masingbi, Bumbuna, Batkanu, Kambia and many others, and not to mention those in the South and East of the country. I urge you not cooperate with the junta in this evil plan, because the country and the poor people will suffer.

At this critical moment pressure must be brought on the military junta to honour its obligations under the Conakry Peace Plan. Sanctions, including travel restrictions of members of the junta and their adult family members must be enforced and maintained. This is one of the last options left to save our nation and avert the crisis which is now emerging as a direct result of the junta's obstruction of the peace process, and its refusal to cooperate.

My fellow citizens, I do not wish to sound alarmist or threatening when I say that the continued intransigence of the military junta, as was reflected in its chairman's recent statement of 18 December that it is unlikely to hand over power on 22 April 1998, as provided for in the Conakry Peace Plan, has brought us to the edge of a crisis. 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.

However, I have not entirely given up hope that someone might see reason, and that at this eleventh hour decide to act according to the will of the people of Sierra Leone who want their elected Government back. If it happens, then we can avert the impending crisis. 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.

The illegal junta consistently proved itself to be unreliable in any negotiation. It has come up with unreasonable and unrealistic pre-conditions on certain cardinal provisions of the Agreement.

The junta has told the whole nation and the rest of the world that the Sierra Leone army and the RUF had joined together in a so-called "Peoples Army". How can the junta now argue for instance that the disarmament of combatants should not include the army? Let me make it quite clear that the current security situation demands that ECOMOG be deployed throughout the country. Since the coup seven months ago, there has been an uncontrolled proliferation of arms and ammunition, especially urban areas. I need not tell you that armed elements are now masquerading as custodians of law and order, terrorizing innocent people in defence of the illegal regime.

It has become absolutely clear to all that within the army and the RUF, there is a very small minority of people who are being manipulated by extremely selfish, dishonest and frustrated politicians who want to enrich themselves at the expense of our people. These greedy elements are the people who have taken up all sorts of illegal appointments with the junta, totally oblivious of the lessons of history. Much less do they care about the moral welfare of the people or the censure of the international community. For them as long as their selfish interest is satisfied, the interest of the country is irrelevant. They are the people who, irrespective of who ever had won the last elections, would have gone ahead with their plans to rape and destabilize the country.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I wish to state unequivocally that disarmament means all combatants, including those of the Sierra Leone Military Forces, and indeed this is what the Conakry Peace Plan states. Disarmament does not mean abolition of our Army. It is merely an action to improve the security and safe environment of our people which is paramount. There are far too many guns in the hands of trigger-happy people.

The fact is that the military junta has deliberately upset the timetable for the implementation of the Conakry Peace Plan. All of us who had looked forward with great expectation to returning to school and college, to our farms and our offices, our markets, workshops and factories, are seriously disappointed. Worse still, the refugees and displaced continue to suffer in difficult circumstances.

In the light of all this, how can we or anyone trust the junta? How long can our people tolerate this untenable situation? How many more pre-conditions should the junta, which has absolutely no mandate to govern the country, be allowed to dictate its terms to us? Sierra Leoneans have suffered enough. They no longer have the time nor the patience to continue like this. Therefore immediate steps must be taken to bring this catastrophe to an end.

May God or Allah bless you.