Global Policy Forum

Sierra Leone Rebel Chief Freed

BBC News
April 15, 1999

By West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle

The appeal court in Sierra Leone has agreed to temporarily release the jailed rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, from death row. He can now attend peace talks in Togo to try to end Sierra Leone's nine-year civil war. The legal decision to release Foday Sankoh was confirmed to the BBC by Sierra Leone's attorney-general. It could be the most important step towards peace in the country for several years.

Mr. Sankoh's followers have consistently demanded that their leader be let out of jail before they even consider laying down their arms. Among them are rebel ground force commanders accused by the United Nations of conducting a scorched-earth policy.

Talks Progress

The war in Sierra Leone has destroyed a diamond-rich country which could be relatively wealthy, and created the largest refugee population in Africa. The conflict is still far from over, but both sides appear now to have realised that a final military solution is not possible. The plan is for Mr. Sankoh to consult his followers in Togo in three days' time and for this to be followed by substantive peace talks between the government and the rebels.

Foday Sankoh has been thoroughly vilified by Sierra Leone's government, and in these circumstances, the prospect of his release is extraordinary enough. But almost equally extraordinary is the government's insistence that after the peace talks Mr. Sankoh should return to jail to continue his legal appeal against his death sentence.

If the peace talks go well, it see ms inconceivable that such a return would be anything more than a formality pending final release. On the other hand, if the talks go badly, Mr. Sankoh would probably not be well advised to return to Sierra Leone.

More on Sierra Leone


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.