Sierra Leone: December 20, 1999



The Economic Community of West African States has said it plans to keep its peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone. Some of the 4,000 ECOMOG peacekeepers will be absorbed into the future 6,000-man UN peacekeeping force. The RUF rebels, however, have said they will not hand over their weapons to ECOMOG troops (who are mostly Nigerian) even if they are wearing UN helmets. Pacific Architects and Engineers, a Colorado-based company comprised of an astonishing number of former US military personnel, has a contract from the State Department to operate in Sierra Leone to provide logistical support for ECOMOG. The details of this support are a bit murky. In one case, a PAE helicopter was used to carry ECOMOG generals and RUF rebel leader Sankoh to a northern rebel stronghold for peace talks; former US special forces troops rode the helicopter with weapons pointed outwards. Sources in Freetown have said that last year, PAE helicopters were flying ECOMOG troops and South African mercenaries on raids into Sierra Leone, but these reports cannot be confirmed. Another US company, ICI, is also involved, providing equipment and former US military personnel to PAE. Executive Outcomes (through its subsidiary Lifeguard) provides security for UN officials and facilities. Sandline, another branch of Executive Outcomes, also has people in Sierra Leone, although there is no clear indication of what they are doing. Some former EU mercenaries remain in Sierra Leone working for a new company called JESA AIR.--Stephen V Cole 

December 16; PEACE PROCESS HITS A ROCK IN SIERRA LEONE: The RUF (Revolutionary United Front) rebels in Sierra Leone refused on 8 Dec to give up their weapons to UN military observers as called for under the peace accords. RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh denounced the UN and the ECOMOG peacekeepers (officially the Military Observer Group from the Economic Community of West African States) for doing nothing to disarm the other rebel group, the former Army soldiers of the ousted Junta (known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council). The RUF and AFRC were allies during the last two years of the civil war, but after the ceasefire, turned on each other. The peacekeepers and UN military observers policed the line between the new government and the former rebel alliance. Any fighting between the two rebel groups was ignored by the peacekeepers and UN, which would just as soon have seen the two groups destroy each other. --Stephen V Cole


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