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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Sierra Leone: Statements/Updates, 1

Sierra Leone: Statements/Updates, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 000518
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
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 crises.

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.

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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 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 (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 Sierra Leone."

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 to Clinton.

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 deterrent."

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 the conflict.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Leone.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 inhumanity.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Jackson's mission.
  7. Appoint a Special Envoy A Special Envoy whose sole mission is to help resolve this crisis should be appointed as soon as possible.

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.

Sincerely yours,

Cynthia Barron, President, Friends of Sierra Leone

John Kucij, Chairman of the Board, Friends of Liberia


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 or at P.O. Box 15875, Washington, DC 20003-0876


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 (e-mail)

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 Leone-Liberia border.

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 threat.

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 tools.
  • 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.

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