Global Policy Forum

Sierra Leone Rebels Want to End

April 3, 2001

Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) said on Tuesday it wanted to end more than 10 years of war, but complained that loyalist forces had just attacked its positions from neighboring Guinea. Rebel spokesman Gibril Massaquoi told Reuters by telephone from the northern Sierra Leone town of Makeni that the RUF was committed to a political end to the war and was allowing U.N. peacekeepers to deploy even to its diamond-rich heartland. ``The war has gone on for too long. We don't want to fight any longer. We want to pursue the peaceful option because of the suffering of the masses,'' Massaquoi said.

Horrific brutality to civilians has marked the war that has destroyed the small West African country, where the United Nations has its biggest peacekeeping field operation and hundreds of British troops back an elected president. Massaquoi said U.N. peacekeepers were deploying freely throughout rebel territory, which includes most of northern Sierra Leone and the diamond-mining areas around Kono in the east, whose stones have helped fuel the conflict. ``Even today or tomorrow the peacekeepers are going to the area of Kono. What we learned is that they will carry out a patrol there, going by foot and by helicopter,'' Massaquoi said.

But Massaquoi complained that the same area had come under attack since Monday by forces loyal to Sierra Leone's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah based in Guinea. ``As we speak there is fighting on the border between Kono and Guinea. The forces attacking are Sierra Leonean but they are being given covering shelling by the Guineans,'' he said.

Guinea accuses the RUF and Liberia of backing an insurgency which has cost at least a thousand lives since last September. Both Sierra Leone's rebels and Liberia deny supporting Guinean dissidents.

Massaquoi said the RUF was committed to elections, but wanted an interim government and would not disarm before Kabbah's army -- which is being trained by troops from former colonial power Britain. ``The security of this country should be in the hands of the peacekeepers,'' said Massaquoi. ``Yet at the same time they are training what they call a new Sierra Leone army. What they are doing is unimaginable. We insist that they disarm and while they have not disarmed we will not disarm.''

Sierra Leone has been largely peaceful since a cease-fire last November. It was intended to put back on track a 1999 peace deal that collapsed in May 2000, when rebels struck toward Freetown and took hundreds of peacekeepers hostage.

Massaquoi was dismissive of a plan by Sierra Leone's electoral commission to hold overdue presidential and parliamentary elections by December. ``They are just doing things on their own. We should be involved in appointing electoral commissioners and if they think they can hold elections without that they are making a sad mistake,'' he said. After the 1996 elections which brought Kabbah to power, some rebel units hunted down anyone they could find who had voted and hacked off the hand they had used to cast their ballot.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Peacekeeping


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