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Sierra Leone: Humanitarian Crisis
Sierra Leone: Humanitarian Crisis
Date distributed (ymd): 990119
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
This posting contains three recent documents on the escalating humanitarian
crisis in Sierra Leone, from the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans
in North America (NOSLINA), Refugees International, and Amnesty International.
For additional recent news and background documents see Sierra Leone Web
and Africa News Service (http://www.africanews.org/west/sierraleone).
January 10, 1999
National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA)
4401 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 107
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 298-1426
The following statement has been issued by:
Dr. Cecil Blake, Chairman
Board of Directors, NOSLINA.
Tel: (219) 980-6985
The National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America views
with grave concern the deteriorating humanitarian situation that currently
exists in Sierra Leone. The situation is dangerously alarming. Basic life
support systems in the capital have been rendered inoperable leading to
wanton death. Other parts of the nation have suffered tremendous infrastructural
damage and loss of life and property. Citizens in the capital are presently
trapped in their homes without access to food, water, power, and medical
supplies. This grave state of affairs requires an immediate and intensified
increase in humanitarian assistance from the international community. Specifically,
we call upon the United Nations and all of its pertinent agencies, the
Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union, the Organization of African
Unity, and the United States government to mount a massive humanitarian
drive in efforts to provide needed food and medical supplies. We also call
upon the major powers and friendly nations to respond positively to our
call and also to facilitate the setting up of temporary off-shore power
supply units in order to render operable water supply and other energy-dependent
NOSLINA considers the humanitarian situation as a top priority as much
as the political. Equal attention and intensified effort are needed in
bringing about immediate large-scale humanitarian assistance to Sierra
Leone. We urge all organizations in North America with interest in Sierra
Leone to join NOSLINA in calling upon the international community to respond
urgently and positively to our call for immediate humanitarian assistance
to help curb this crisis in Sierra Leone. Finally, we urge all Sierra Leoneans
and well wishers of Sierra Leone to join NOSLINA in a mail and telephone
campaign to the United Nations and the governments of the United States
and Canada to step up efforts that will lead to the solution of the crisis
in Sierra Leone.
Please call the following people to express your concern and, preferably,
follow up with a letter:
The Under-Secretary General
Office of Political Affairs
Tel: (212) 963-1234
Mr. Michael D. Thomas
Country Desk Officer for Sierra Leone
United States Department of State
Room 4250, AF/W
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-3430
Tel: (202) 647-3469 or 647-4567
Fax: (202) 647-4855
Sylvia Ojukutu-Macauley, Ph.D.
Sierra Leone: On The Brink Of Catastrophe
January 15, 1999
Washington - The following document was released by Refugees International
(Washington, DC) on January 15, 1999: As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
recently said, "a humanitarian crisis of major proportions" looms
in Sierra Leone. The World Food Programme declared January 11 that hundreds
of thousands of civilians are trapped in their homes in the capital city
of Freetown and could suffer from severe food shortages.
Rebel forces attacked Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on January
6. ECOMOG, the West African Peacekeeping Force, lost control of part of
the city, but has since been reinforced by troops from Nigeria and is now
reportedly advancing. The infrastructure of the city has been severely
damaged and casualties on both sides and among civilians are heavy. Two
hundred corpses were reported to be stacked in and around Connaught hospital
on January 13; there is no information on those who may have been injured
in the attack.
Several international agencies had warehouses full of food and medicine
in Freetown. The fate of the warehouses is unknown, but if they have been
looted or destroyed, it will be difficult to alleviate quickly food shortages
in the capital and countryside.
So far, the new refugee flow from Sierra Leone to Guinea is not heavy.
Only about 500 new refugees, arriving mostly by boat, have been registered.
However, others may be crossing at unofficial border points into Guinea.
Guinean officials, fearing infiltration by rebels, are making it difficult
for Sierra Leonean refugees to cross into the country.
Approximately 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are located
near the Guinea border in the Kambia district, but apparently they are
not trying to cross the border at present, though this needs to be closely
monitored. There is little information about the thousands of other IDPs
throughout the rest of the country.
A humanitarian catastrophe threatens Freetown and most of Sierra Leone.
About 250,000 refugees fled Sierra Leone in 1998. Hundreds of thousands
of war-affected persons in every part of the country were threatened before
this most recent rebel offensive; that number has surely grown now. Most
of the population of Freetown was desperately poor before the fighting;
many may now suffer from life-threatening shortages of food, water, and
medical care. If immediate action is not taken to provide aid to Freetown
residents as soon as the fighting ceases, major new refugee and IDP flows
Refugees International, therefore, recommends:
- The international community must persuade Guinea to reduce the bureaucratic
obstacles it has erected to keep out refugees from Sierra Leone. Guinea
has been very hospitable in the past, and its concern about possible rebel
infiltrators mixed in with the refugees is understandable. International
agencies should assist Guinea to receive, register, and care for refugees
and to prepare for possible new refugee flows in the near future.
- The U.S. and other governments must immediately place a higher priority
on meeting the emergency needs of Sierra Leoneans. Gaining access for humanitarian
aid to Freetown is a first step; establishing secure routes or humanitarian
corridors to other parts of the country would be a second step. International
resources to help Sierra Leoneans have long been scarce; there is now an
urgent need for governments to increase resources and political attention
to Sierra Leone and the neighboring countries which host refugees.
- Relief agencies will face a major humanitarian challenge when they
are able to return to Freetown and other cities in Sierra Leone. They should
identify now their resource needs to prepare to meet the requirements for
food, medicine, water, and shelter of hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans
displaced or impoverished by the recent fighting.
- Allegations of excessive force being used by ECOMOG in the battle for
Freetown are extremely worrisome. Nevertheless, if discipline can be restored,
ECOMOG should be further reinforced so that it can support the democratically-elected
government and contribute toward the establishment of peace in Sierra Leone.
A reinforced UN Observer Mission for Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) should be reinserted
into Sierra Leone as soon as possible to help prevent human rights violations
by all sides and monitor ECOMOG's performance. The international community
should also consider expanding UNOMSIL to station observers in Guinea and
Liberia to monitor and facilitate care of arriving refugees from Sierra
Leone and prevent rebel infiltration and arms smuggling
- Sierra Leone seems faced with near perpetual conflict. Governments
and UN agencies should step up efforts to search for a peaceful solution,
including supporting a cease fire and other steps which could lead to an
accommodation between the government and the opposition forces.
For more information, contact Refugees International,
2639 Conn. Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008.
Phone: 202-828-0110 Fax: 202-828-0819
Escalating human rights crisis requires urgent action
January 15, 1999
London - The following news release issued by the International Secretariat
of Amnesty International News Service
14 JANUARY 1999: Respect and protection of human rights must be at the
centre of all efforts to end the crisis in Sierra Leone, Amnesty International
said today, adding that "the imperative to end the fighting must not
be at the expense of establishing accountability for human rights abuses."
Intense political activity in now taking place to try to resolve the
crisis in Sierra Leone and to bring an end to the fighting in Freetown.
The international community -- including the United Nations (UN), the Organization
of African Unity (OAU), the Economic Community of West African States,
the Commonwealth and the European Union -- has committed itself to contributing
to peace and security in Sierra Leone.
"The international community's commitment to resolve the crisis
must include initiatives to end the gross human rights abuses perpetrated
by rebel forces, prevent further violations and lay solid foundations for
the protection of human rights in the future," Amnesty International
added. The organization regrets that the OAU has missed the opportunity
to ensure that human rights are at the centre of discussions on Sierra
Leone by postponing the OAU Ministerial Conference on Human Rights scheduled
to take place in Mauritius later this month.
The OAU should nevertheless urgently convene a heads of state level
meeting of the Central Organ of its conflict resolution mechanism in order
to address the human rights crisis in Sierra Leone. Amnesty International
is particularly concerned about reports that children and young people
have been abducted by rebel forces in Freetown and forced to join their
Civilians in Freetown have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed
by rebel forces and have also been caught in hostilities between the West
African force deployed in Sierra Leone, known as ECOMOG, and rebel forces
of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary
United Front (RUF). "Rebel forces must respect international humanitarian
law and end the gross human rights abuses which they are perpetrating against
unarmed civilians," Amnesty International urged.
"ECOMOG forces must at all times distinguish between the civilian
population and combatants and take all necessary measures to protect civilians
from the dangers arising from military operations," the organization
added. "Civil Defence Forces fighting alongside ECOMOG must also respect
international humanitarian law."
The UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) -- the peace-keeping
operation established by the UN Security Council in July 1998 -- has been
forced to evacuate from Freetown to Conakry in neighbouring Guinea.
It is essential, however, that UNOMSIL human rights officers, who have
been effectively monitoring and reporting human rights abuses and contributing
to the long-term protection of human rights, continue their work. "Sierra
Leone continues to face a human rights emergency,"Amnesty International
The Security Council on Tuesday extended UNOMSIL's mandate for another
two months. "The activities of the human rights component of UNOMSIL
must be fully supported, both politically and financially, by the international
community," Amnesty International said.
Liberia has been widely reported to be providing combatants, arms and
ammunition to rebel forces in Sierra Leone. In view of the appalling level
of violence against civilians which continues to characterize the conflict
in Sierra Leone, Amnesty International believes that all military assistance
to rebel forces will result in continuing violations of international human
rights and humanitarian law.
"All government should take all possible measures to end immediately
military assistance to those committing human rights abuses in Sierra Leone,"
the organization said. The international community has strongly condemned
continuing support to rebel forces in Sierra Leone.
Following a visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia in December, the chairman
of the Security Council sanctions committee on Sierra Leone, Hans Dahlgren,
said that arms and ammunition were crossing the Sierra Leonean border with
neighbouring countries, including Liberia. It has become increasingly difficult
to obtain information from Freetown since telephone communications ceased
on 7 January.
Although mounting daily, the exact number of civilian casualties since
rebel forces entered Freetown on 6 January is unknown. The people of Freetown
have been trapped and unable to escape the violence.
They have been unable to leave their homes to obtain food. There is
extensive looting and destruction of property.
Food supplies and vehicles of humanitarian agencies have been looted.
"Humanitarian agencies must be allowed to assist civilians in Freetown
without threats to their safety and security," Amnesty International
In a report published in November 1998, Sierra Leone: 1998 - a year
of atrocities against civilians (AI Index: AFR 51/22/98), Amnesty International
described in detail the widespread atrocities -- killings, mutilations,
rape -- which have been committed by rebel forces, after they were forced
from power by ECOMOG in February 1998.
For further information, contact Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street,
London WC1X 8DJ,+44-71-413-5500, +44-71-956-1157. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web: http://www.amnesty.org/. You
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