Global Policy Forum

Hundreds Die Fleeing Sierra Leone,


Foreign Desk

The New York Times
April 9, 1998

Hundreds of exhausted people have died among the thousands of refugees fleeing to Guinea to escape rebel attacks in Sierra Leone, aid and Government officials said today.

Many people who have been fleeing the Kono district for weeks have been trying to reach United Nations refugee camps in Guinea, the officials said.

''But hundreds of them die in the difficult trek,'' one aid official told reporters in the capital here. He and a senior Government official spoke of bodies along bush trails.

''I escaped from Kono District, with more than 1,000 people heading for Guinea two weeks ago,'' Sahr Gando, Broadcasting Director in the Information Ministry, said. ''On the 35-mile journey, more than 200 people traveling with me died.''

Officials of the United Nations refugee agency said their camps just inside Guinea were sheltering more than 50,000 Sierra Leoneans, with additional refugees arriving daily. New arrivals told of rebels who were killing and pillaging in Kono, where they had forced local men and boys to join them.

Calm has returned to most other parts after West African peacekeepers, led by Nigerians, had evicted the military junta that seized power last May, plunging Sierra Leone into violence and anarchy. The elected President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, returned last month from Guinea, where he had been in exile since the coup.

After seizing Freetown, the regional force further routed junta troops in towns in the interior. But rebel holdouts put up resistance in the east, the stronghold of the Revolutionary United Front. The group waged a guerrilla war until it signed a short-lived peace with Mr. Kabbah in November 1996.

The coup followed a collapse of that accord.


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