Global Policy Forum

UN Stalling Two Weeks After

Agence France Presse
November 25, 2000

Two weeks after the Sierra Leone government and rebels signed a ceasefire accord, UN peacekeepers are dragging their feet over a plan to deploy in rebel-held areas, analysts said Saturday. The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) "is being overly cautious not to venture into hostile (rebel) territory and see its troops abducted a second time," said one analyst, who preferred not to be named, recalling the events of May when rebels seized hundreds of peacekeepers, derailing a peace accord signed in July 1999. Analysts noted that the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has reneged on previous agreements to give up areas of control including the lucrative diamond fields in the east of the country.

People in the capital Freetown want the United Nations and the government to pin the RUF to the letter of the ceasefire agreement signed in the Nigerian capital Abuja on November 11. "The RUF rebels have a notorious record of reneging on ceasefire and peace treaties. Therefore we must push them to the corner so that they will decide to talk," said Paul Kamara, managing editor of the widely read For di People newspaper. "The people of this country are tired, frustrated and traumatised. All they need is peace and that peace must come," Kamara added.

Civil society groups are urging the government and UNAMSIL to act with the current momentum. The non-governmental organisation Action for Peace told AFP that the government "should take the bull by the horns to get things moving" and that the United Nations "must play a robust role as it did in Operation Khukri" when it stormed the rebel enclave in eastern Kailahun to free its peacekeepers earlier in the year.

"It is true that there is no fighting going on but the fact that the country is split nearly in half is worrisome," said Alimmamy Bah, a trader whose once lucrative timber business now lies in ruins.

Critics are accusing the government of not being firm with the rebels, but the authorities say thay are doing everything possible to honour the accord. UN officials have not openly countered this belief, but the UN Special Representative in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, said: "The unhindered movements of UN peacekeepers all over the country (as stated in the Abuja accord) has been communicated to the new RUF leader, General Issa Sesay." He added: "Sesay promised to discuss the issue with his men and he will probably contact me this week."

The RUF is rumoured to have divisions within its ranks with Sesay's influence waning and spokesman Gibril Massaquoi emerging as the organisation's strongman. Liberian President Charles Taylor remains another factor in the situation. Widely believed to support the RUF, Taylor's recent criticism of the presence of British troops in the country prompted more than 2,000 demonstrators to take to the streets of Freetown to denounce him and express support for the British military presence. Britain has a total of 2,500 soldiers on and offshore, including 500 elite Royal Marines.

Meanwhile, hopes are being pinned on next week's two-day visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Sierra Leone.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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