Sierra Leone: July 16, 1999


The UN asked it's members to donate 35 million dollars to pay for disarming the estimated 35,000 fighters in the Sierra Leone civil war. The peace settlement may fall apart if the promised funds and services for the demobilized fighters is not available. Britain has contributed ten million dollars and the world bank nine million.

In early July, Nigerian troops encountered resistance from rebel troops, who insisted they would only surrender their weapons to UN troops. The UN is expected to send 3,000 soldiers to Sierra Leone to help with enforcing the cease fire and peace treaty. There are an estimated 20,000 rebel troops to be disarmed. The current peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops is largely Nigerian and has developed some bad relationships with many rebels and some civilians.

An eight year civil war apparently ended on June 28th when the rebels agreed to join the government. The Revolutionary United gets four cabinet seats in a national unity government, as well as a blanket amnesty preventing them from being prosecuted for atrocities committed against civilians during their rebellion. The war has killed more than 50,000 people, mostly civilians. In addition to the deaths, there were many more mutilations (amputating hands and feet) and rapes. Sierra Leone is ranked by the UN as the poorest nation on earth. But the nation is rich in natural resources, and control of these might lead to another outbreak of fighting.

The peace talks, held since May 25th in Togo, brought together representatives from the UN, Nigeria, Togo, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Liberia, Burkina Faso Sierra Leone (government) and the Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The final agreement brought the rebels into the government. There have been complaints that the savagery of the rebels should keep them out of the government and ineligible for amnesty.

In May 1997, young officers overthrew the elected civilian government of Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and set up a military government with rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). ECOMOG troops drove the rebel troops out of the capital in February 1998 and brought back the elected Kabbah government. The RUF revived their rebel movement.


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