Global Policy Forum

Annan Calls For Rapid Reaction Force


By Jerome Hule

Panafrican News Agency
May 9, 2000

United Nations - Extremely concerned about the rapidly worsening situation in Sierra Leone, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called Monday for the establishment of a rapid reaction force to assist in restoring normal conditions in the country. The call came in the wake of shooting in Freetown and continuing military movements by the Revolutionary United Front, the main rebel movement.

The secretary general's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, announced Monday that the UN had evacuated 266 non-essential staff from Sierra Leone, leaving behind only 55 essential staff. The fighting and hostage taking in Sierra Leone has forced the UN World Food Programme to suspend its emergency humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone.

The agency announced Monday that it had stopped food deliveries to more than 43,000 internally displaced persons as well as 26,000 school children and 40,000 hungry people in Kambia, Lunsar, Makeni and Magburaka towns. About 500 UN peacekeepers have been reported missing, possibly being held hostage by the rebels. The movement's leader, Foday Sankoh, whom the UN has blamed for the missing peacekeepers, has denied that his men are holding the peacekeepers.

Annan repeated Monday his call on the rebels and Sankoh to cease hostilities. In addition, he called on governments in neighbouring states to prevent the reported movement of rebels from their bases. Annan's spokesman explained that there were unconfirmed reports that rebels were moving to Sierra Leone from neighbouring Liberia and Guinea. The secretary general, who Monday met the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, to discuss American support for efforts in Sierra Leone, also appealed to African leaders to redouble efforts to bring the situation in the country under control.

An emergency summit of nine West African countries Tuesday in Abuja is to discuss the situation in Sierra Leone, which began to deteriorate 1 May when rebels attacked and captured 95 peacekeepers in the northern part of the country. Two successive reinforcements of about 200 troops each sent to the area have lost contact with the UN, raising concern they were being held by the rebels. The missing peacekeepers are from Kenya, India, Nigeria, and Zambia.

The UN has authorised a peacekeeping mission of 11,100 troops to help maintain peace in Sierra Leone, with more than 8,000 deployed so far. In the wake of the crisis, efforts have been intensified to fly in more peacekeepers from contributing countries.

With the worsening situation in Sierra Leone, Britain has already dispatched 800 paratroopers to Sierra Leone to evacuate its citizens. The UN spokesman said the British force might be a stabilising element in the country, though he pointed out that their mission there was solely to evacuate British nationals.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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