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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Sierra Leone: Statements/Updates, 1
Sierra Leone: Statements/Updates, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 000518
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +security/peace+
+US policy focus+
Despite the capture of rebel leader Foday Sankoh, it is unclear
whether prospects for deescalating the immediate crisis in Sierra
Leone have improved. The fundamental problems of implementing a
sustainable peace remain. Without consistent engagement of the
international community, with adequate support for peacemaking,
attention to accountability of all parties, and effective action
to implement arms embargoes on illegal arms transfers, any
improvement will be momentary. Sierra Leone still raises the
fundamental question whether or not the world will break away
from the double standard of second-class treatment for African
This posting contains two documents: a press release and letter
from Friends of Sierra Leone and Friends of Liberia, and an update
on the humanitarian situation by the U.S. Committee for Refugees.
Another posting sent out today contains statements by two Sierra
Leonean groups, press releases by Human Rights Watch on the arms
embargo and other issues, and pointers to other on-line sources on
information with background and updates on the current crisis.
Press Release For Immediate Release Date: May 14, 2000
Friends of Sierra Leone and Friends of Liberia Call for President
to Exercise Leadership in Sierra Leone
Contact: For further information or comments, please contact
Billie Day at 202 544 5063 or Kevin George at 202 251 1497.
Friends of Sierra Leone may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at
P.O. Box 15875, Washington, DC 20003-0876. Friends of Liberia may
be contacted at 703-528-8345 (voice), 703-528-7480 (Fax), (703)
525-0192 (FAX & Voice) or at Liberia@FOL.org (e-mail).
Friends of Sierra Leone and Friends of Liberia, organizations
representing returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Sierra Leoneans and
Liberians, today called upon President Clinton to "exercise
leadership to avert a humanitarian and political catastrophe in
With 500 peacekeepers still held hostage, unprecedented barbarity
against civilians, and the further diminishing of the stature of
the United States in Africa, the "...consequences of failure in
Sierra Leone justify a robust course of action by the United
States that leads, first and foremost, to the restoration of
security in Sierra Leone," said the organizations in their letter
With no troops on the ground, the United States "has a special
obligation to provide strong financial and logistical support
urgently need to transform the United Nations peacekeeping force
(UNAMSIL) into a more effective peacekeeping force and
Noting his role in "resolving conflict and threats to the peace
in Bosnia and Kosovo ", the organizations declared that the
President's "intervention is now critical to focusing
international attention and resources on bringing Sierra Leone's
misery to an end."
The complete text of the letter to President Clinton is below.
May 14, 2000
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
Dear President Clinton:
Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL) and Friends of Liberia (FOL)
urgently request that you exercise leadership to avert a
humanitarian and political catastrophe in Sierra Leone.
We have seen a rapid and disturbing deterioration of the peace
process in Sierra Leone over the past several weeks instigated
primarily by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The RUF has
attacked and murdered peacekeeping troops, stolen their equipment
and held up to 500 peacekeepers as hostages. These actions by the
RUF have undermined the effectiveness of the United Nations
peacekeeping force (UNAMSIL) and its capability to protect
civilians and deter factional fighting.
Clearly, UNAMSIL is not adequately prepared to cope with the
current crisis in Sierra Leone. The Security Council expanded
UNAMSIL's mandate in February pursuant to Chapter VII of the
Charter to compensate for a vacuum created by the departure of
ECOMOG, the West African regional peacekeeping force. Member
States failed to contribute the means, particularly increases in
military personnel, for UNAMSIL to fulfil its expanded mandate
and to deter aggression. The RUF, whose desire for control of
natural resources may exceed its commitment to peace, undoubtedly
has taken advantage of UNAMSIL's limitations to keep control of
valuable diamond mining areas that have fueled the banditry of
What is the cost of failure in Sierra Leone? With fighters
already primed by earlier stages of intense barbarity, we can
expect the murder and mutilation of civilians on an unprecedented
scale. Massive numbers of displaced persons and refugees will
overwhelm neighboring countries requiring a dramatic increase in
the need for international humanitarian assistance. Failure by
the international community in Sierra Leone will also have a
serious impact on the broader efforts of the United Nations to
resolve conflicts in other areas of Africa. A resurgence of
factional control in Sierra Leone will further destabilize an
already fragile West Africa. The United States, with democracy
and human rights as cornerstones of its policy on Africa, will
have its stature diminished if it fails to fully support the
peace process it has promoted for Sierra Leone.
The consequences of failure in Sierra Leone justify a robust
course of action by the Unites States that leads, first and
foremost, to the restoration of security in Sierra Leone and then
a strengthening of the Lome Accords. We urge you to take the
following actions to achieve these objectives.
- Enhance Troop Levels and Peacekeeping Capabilities. We believe
that the United States, with no troops on the ground, has a
special obligation to provide strong financial and logistical
support urgently needed to transform UNAMSIL into a more
effective peacekeeping force and deterrent. Not only should the
United States assist other governments to fulfill current troop
commitments to UNAMSIL, but it should offer substantial support
for the expansion of UNAMSIL beyond the 11,100 military personnel
now permitted under its mandate. In view of the urgency of the
crisis the Administration should continue to use its drawdown
authority as needed to provide logistical support to UNAMSIL
until other funds can be allocated from the budget.
- Swiftly Develop Consensus on an Effective Assistance Package.
Firm, substantial and timely commitments of support beyond your
"drawdown" authority should back the commitment of the United
States to peace in Sierra Leone. Your leadership and personal
intervention with the leaders of the United States Congress are
vital to the development of an effective assistance package. A
logical starting point is to seek the release of the "hold" in
the Senate of the ninety-six million dollars that is the United
States' assessed contribution for peacekeeping in Sierra Leone.
We also encourage you to actively promote passage by the U.S.
Senate of the Sierra Leone Peace Support Act of 2000, passed by
the House of Representatives on May 3 and referred to the Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations. This legislation will provide
funding for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of
combatants and for a truth and reconciliation process in Sierra
- Support Regional Peacekeeping Forces. The United States should
encourage and support the accelerated contribution of troops from
ECOWAS member states preferably as a component of UNAMSIL.
Alternatively, if these forces compose a separate regional
peacekeeping force, they should have a command and control system
that is closely coordinated with UNAMSIL and monitored to ensure
the observation of human rights by military personnel.
- Protect Civilians. The United States should seek the
strengthening of UNAMSIL's mandate, as amended by the U.N.
Security Council on February 7, 2000, to give peacekeepers a
clear duty to protect civilians, and identify, apprehend and
detain violators of international laws of war and crimes against
- Prevent External Support of Rebel Factions. The United States
should take steps, including the imposition of international
sanctions, against any government that is providing direct
support to a warring faction in Sierra Leone or facilitating
their trade of natural resources in contravention of Article VII,
Section 6 of the Peace Agreement.
- Give High Level Diplomatic Attention. We understand that you
have dispatched Rev. Jesse Jackson, your Special Envoy for
Africa, to West Africa. Rev. Jackson should deliver a firm
message to the President of Liberia that the United States will
no longer tolerate his support of the RUF. A visit to the region
by Secretary of State Albright should closely follow Rev.
- Appoint a Special Envoy A Special Envoy whose sole mission is
to help resolve this crisis should be appointed as soon as
Your leadership had a direct impact on resolving conflict and
threats to the peace in Bosnia and Kosovo. Your intervention is
now critical to focusing international attention and resources on
bringing Sierra Leone's misery to an end. We hope that you make
peace in Sierra Leone part of your legacy.
Cynthia Barron, President, Friends of Sierra Leone
John Kucij, Chairman of the Board, Friends of Liberia
FRIENDS of SIERRA LEONE
Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL) is a US-based voluntary,
not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving Sierra Leone.
FOSL is non-political and supports all of Sierra Leone,
regardless of ethnicity or region.
FOSL was founded by returned Peace Corps volunteers who had
served in Sierra Leone in an effort to share news about Sierra
Leone, and find ways in which they could contribute to the
development of the country they served.
Their vision was to create an organization to include all persons
- Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans - who are interested in
the welfare of Sierra Leone. Today, FOSL has over 500 members
around the world. About 65% are former Peace Corps volunteers;
25% are Sierra Leoneans and Sierra Leonean-Americans; and 10% are
others who have worked, lived or studied in Sierra Leone.
FOSL strives to educate Americans about Sierra Leone's peoples,
cultures and history. FOSL also supports small-scale development
and relief projects in Sierra Leone.
FOSL's relief and development assistance is designed to respond
to Sierra Leone's changing needs. Between 1991 & 1999, FOSL
sponsored over six million dollars of relief and medical
materials to aid refugees and displaced Sierra Leoneans - victims
of a protracted rebel war.
FOSL advocates for America's attention to Sierra Leone issues via
direct visits to congressional leaders & administration
officials; and organizing nation-wide grass roots letter writing,
& telephone campaigns. FOSL is widely regarded as a major
advocate for Sierra Leone issues in the United States.
Funding for FOSL's development & relief projects comes from
membership dues and donations from individual and/or group
supporters. As a 501(c) (3) voluntary organization, FOSL members
perform all tasks without pay.
FOSL may be contacted at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 15875,
Washington, DC 20003-0876
FRIENDS OF LIBERIA
Friends of Liberia (FOL) is dedicated to helping Liberians
achieve peace, democracy and the reconstruction of their nation.
The thirteen- year old organization, with the support of our 800
members, has conducted fact-finding missions, provided relief and
medical assistance, implemented community-based reconstruction
projects, trained Liberian teachers, built the capacity of
Liberian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), brought
representatives of warring factions together in public forums and
conflict resolution workshops, and advocated for effective
policies on Liberia. Friends of Liberia's 34-member delegation
observed the July 1997 election in Liberia.
Friends of Liberia is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit
organization that is recognized and registered by the U.S. Agency
for International Development as a private voluntary organization
(PVO). We are a member of InterAction, the association of
international humanitarian organizations, and affiliated with the
National Peace Corps Association.
Friends of Liberia may be contacted at 703-528-8345 (voice),
703-528- 7480 (Fax), (703) 525-0192 (FAX & Voice) or at
U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR)
Contact: Eleanor Bedford / Jeff Drumtra 202-347-3507 (office)
202-588-1068 (home). For more information, see USCR's website
No. 4 Sierra Leone Humanitarian Situation:
Update On a Rapidly Changing Situation
May 12, 2000
Internally Displaced Persons: Situation Fluid
- An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 persons fled toward Freetown
earlier this week, but many have reportedly returned home as
British and UN troops have restored a sense of security to the
capital, Freetown, and to nearby towns.
- New population movements in the country's inaccessible
rebel-held territory remain unknown.
- Even before recent events, Freetown already hosted some 50,000
displaced people from previous years of conflict. Some 500,000 to
1 million people are internally displaced throughout Sierra Leone
after ten years of war, according to widely divergent estimates.
Refugees from Sierra Leone: Large Flows Not Expected
- Approximately 500 refugees have fled from Sierra Leone to
neighboring Guinea during the past week. Most new refugees
settled into Guinea's long-established camps in Fourecariah.
About 60 Sierra Leoneans refugees fled by boat to Guinea's
capital, Conakry, along with some 400 Guineans and other African
nationals who had resided in Sierra Leone.
- New Sierra Leonean refugees continue to assert that rebels in
western Sierra Leone have blocked several thousand would-be
refugees from fleeing into Guinea. Although aid workers do not
expect massive new refugee flows, contingency planning is
underway. Sierra Leone has already produced more refugees than
any other African country.
- Refugee assistance programs in Guinea operated by the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees already face a potential $8.5 million
funding shortfall and lack adequate resources should a large
refugee influx occur. Guinea already hosts some 300,000 Sierra
Leonean refugees who fled to Guinea in previous years.
- Neighboring Liberia has reported no significant new refugee
flows from Sierra Leone. Liberia already hosts some 90,000 Sierra
Leonean refugees who fled to Liberia in previous years. Some
might have been combatants in Sierra Leone. Unconfirmed reports
allege that RUF rebels have attempted to recruit new combatants
from Sierra Leonean refugees at Liberia's Sinje camp in the past
week. Sinje camp is located about 25 miles from the Sierra
Population At Risk: Demobilized Child Soldiers
- The population currently most at risk in Sierra Leone is some
900 recently disarmed and demobilized child soldiers-many of them
former rebels-living at special interim care centers scattered
across the country. The young former combatants are vulnerable to
attack and forcible remobilization by RUF rebels, and are fearful
of pre-emptive attacks by both sides: pro-government combatants
who regard the youths as RUF sympathizers, and rebels who regard
them as deserters.
- About 150 former child combatants reportedly have fled 60 miles
on foot from Lunsar to Freetown seeking protection. Officials
hope to evacuate demobilized child combatants from Bo and Makeni
towns when possible. Aid workers report that they are
hard-pressed to find new locations willing to accept the children
because local residents regard their presence as a security
Food Security: Planting Season Disrupted
- Sierra Leoneans are not starving, and nearly 30,000 tons of
relief food remain stockpiled in Freetown and government-held
towns of Bo and Kenema. But the current conflict could trigger
significant food shortages later if insecurity prevents farmers
from planting new crops during the country's main agricultural
planting season, which usually begins during May-June. The crisis
has forced cancellation of scheduled distributions of seeds and
- The current crisis has temporarily halted food deliveries to
more than 200,000 beneficiaries.
- Even before the current security crisis, humanitarian aid
organizations reported that they lacked reliable access to seven
of the country's 12 administrative districts. In northern and
eastern regions devastated by years of war, "food security in
most communities [is] fragile and vulnerable," the UN reported
prior to recent events.
[The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) will continue to provide
information and analysis of the situation in Sierra Leone as it
unfolds. This is the fourth update issued by USCR since May 5.]
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC provides
accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S.
and international policies toward Africa that advance economic,
political and social justice and human and cultural rights.