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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Conference Report

Sierra Leone: Conference Report
Date distributed (ymd): 970713
Document reposted by APIC

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Contact Persons: Ismail Rashid (514 484 9779) and Adrian Q. Labor (613 236 6163 Ex 2266)
C/O Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), 1 Nicholas Street, Suite 1200, Ottawa Ontario, Canada KIN 7B7.
Fax: (613 562 8334) Email:

An Emergency Conference on the crisis in Sierra Leone took place in Ottawa on Friday, July 4, 1997 at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa. The conference was sponsored by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a coalition of African and Canadian NGOs.

The Ottawa meeting was co-chaired by former Canadian cabinet minister, the Honourable Flora MacDonald, and by the Director of the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL), Marion Morgan. It drew representatives from African and Canadian non-governmental organizations, religious organizations and Sierra Leonean groups in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Boston.

During the morning plenary meeting and afternoon workshops, some 50 speakers and participants, including the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the United States and Ambassador Designate to Canada, H.E. John Leigh, shared information and ideas on the situation in Sierra Leone. The participants discussed the origins and character of the crisis in Sierra Leone and ways in which it can be constructively resolved. The immediate and medium-term needs of the country were considered and suggestions made on how the Canadian government, non-governmental organizations and Sierra Leoneans can contribute.

Participants devoted special attention to Canada's response to the crisis and ways in which that response can be supported, strengthened and more concretely expressed. Ways in which Sierra Leonean groups can effectively organize and coordinate their activities to keep the government and people of Canada informed about the situation in Sierra Leone, and work effectively with Canadian and African non-governmental organizations to help resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone were also discussed.


Short Term Issues and Needs

Among the many proposals and suggestions arising out of the meeting were to:

  • commend Canada for the swift and principled condemnation of the attempted coup and recognize the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, for his appeal to Commonwealth countries and members of the international community to press for an immediate, peaceful return to democracy in Sierra Leone;
  • encourage the Canadian Government to continue to strengthen its diplomatic isolation of, and non-cooperation with the regime of Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and to extend this policy to include Canadian businesses and public organizations currently operating in Sierra Leone;
  • ask the Canadian Government and people to express their strong support for the African initiative being undertaken by ECOWAS and OAU countries to resolve the crisis, and for the efforts of the legitimate government and its representatives and civic groups in resisting the military junta and in restoring democracy in Sierra Leone;
  • request that the Canadian Government provide diplomatic and material support for the legitimate and democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and the Sierra Leonean Parliament in exile to enable them to continue to function as effectively as possible especially with regard to meetings, travel and communication (particularly with people of Sierra Leone);
  • ask the Canadian Government and NGOs to help encourage the active participation of the different components of civil society in Sierra Leone in the resolution of the stand-off and in the restoration and strengthening of the democratic process; provide diplomatic and material support for civilian groups which have been active in the passive resistance against the coup and the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone;
  • ask the Canadian Government and NGOs to provide urgently needed relief for Sierra Leonean refugees displaced in Guinea, Gambia, Ghana and other countries in the West African subregion, and to encourage and support the efforts of these African governments whose resources are being stretched as a result of the crisis in Sierra Leone;
  • ensure that various Sierra Leonean groups organize and coordinate their efforts to effectively inform and lobby the Canadian public and government and to network and cooperate with other African NGOs in the resolution of the crisis;
  • work on the possibility of setting up a secretariat or office which will help in the organization and coordination of efforts by Sierra Leone groups;

On Medium Term Issues and Needs

  • ensure that the Canadian government, the international community, NGOs and Sierra Leoneans will help promote and support a resolution of the crisis, which includes not only the restoration of legitimate government and parliament, but also the strengthening of the democratic process and institutions in Sierra Leone;
    • alert the Canadian government, NGOs and the international community to be prepared to provide the urgent relief and rehabilitation which will be needed in Sierra Leone after the resolution of the stand-off;
    • request that the Canadian government also provide expert advice and support for the encampment, demobilization and monitoring of all armed groups, the retraining of the state security forces and the rehabilitation and reintegration of armed combatants into society;
    • appeal to the Canadian government and NGOs to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure of Sierra Leone, the harnessing of the country's natural and human resources and the development and implementation of training and employment programs for women and youth.

Participants in the meeting hoped that these suggestions and proposals will help provide direction for the role that Canada, NGOs and Sierra Leonean groups can play in the resolution of the crisis, and institution of long-term peace and development in Sierra Leone.

A six-person delegation consisting of Hon. Flora MacDonald, Mrs. Marion Morgan (CHASL), Mr Adrian Labour (IDRC / Coordinator Emergency Conference), Mr. David Haslett (CUSO), Mr. Bernard Taylor (PAC) and Mr. Ismail Rashid (McGill University / Sierra Leonean Groups in Canada) was chosen to present the discussions and conclusions to the Canadian Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, Mr. David Kilgour at a meeting scheduled for Monday July 7, 1997.

Ottawa, July 8 1997

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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