Global Policy Forum

Rebels Agree to Release


By Segun Adeyemi

Panafrican News Agency
May 3, 2001

Efforts to advance the Sierra Leone peace process and end the country's 10-year civil war have received a boost with the agreement by the country's rebels to release, by 30 May, all the equipment they seized from UN peacekeepers last year.

The Sierra Leonean government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) also agreed to meet in Freetown on 15 May, under the auspices of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), to work out a programme for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation (DDR), a critical aspect of the Lome Peace Accord which officially ended the brutal war. The agreements were reached at the second meeting of the UN, ECOWAS and the government of Sierra Leone Co-ordination Mechanism on the peace process and the RUF in Abuja Wednesday.

In addition to officials of the UN, ECOWAS and the OAU, representatives of the government as well as the RUF attended the meeting, called to review the 10 November 2000 cease-fire agreement signed by the parties to the conflict and to find ways of ensuring lasting peace in the West African nation. Omrie Golley, Chairman of the RUF peace council, led the group's six-man delegation, which also included Jonathan Kposowa and Jubrin Massaquoi, while the government's side, led by Attorney-General Solomon Berewa, also included Deputy Defence Minister Norman Hinga, Foreign Minister Ahmed Dumbuya and National Security Adviser Kellie Conteh.

The release of UNAMSIL equipment, including weapons, and the resumption of DDR are critical to efforts at restoring lasting peace in Sierra Leone, where the rebels use the country's diamonds to finance a war characterised by chopping of limbs, raping of women and other atrocities. The rebels seized the weapons last May when the RUF reneged on the Lome Peace Accord and took hostage hundreds of peacekeepers overseeing its implementation. In the weeks leading to the Abuja meeting, UNAMSIL had again started deploying its troops across the country after the rebels eased their hold and dismantled some road blocks in line with their promise to co-operate with the blue berets and ensure free movement across the country.

The Abuja meeting urged the government to extend its authority to the areas where UNAMSIL has deployed. Dangling some carrots at the rebels, the government promised, as part of confidence-building measures, to consider their demand for the release of their cadres who were captured after RUF truncated the peace process. But it warned that the consideration of the request would be on the basis of RUF's implementation of agreements reached at this week's meeting.

Following a request by the meeting that the government should remove all impediments barring RUF from transforming into a political party, the government promised to assist the rebels in locating vacant government buildings across the country that it (RUF) could use for office accommodation. RUF had complained that people were not willing to rent their buildings to the rebel group for establishing their offices.

The government also promised to intercede, on behalf of the RUF, to lift the international travel ban slammed on the rebels. The meeting agreed that the cease-fire agreement, which jumpstarted the peace process after a seven-month break, was generally holding.

A meeting of the co-ordination mechanism in Abuja to take a common position ahead of the meeting with the rebels preceded Wednesday's meeting. After its meeting, the co-ordination mechanism issued a declaration expressing "grave concern" at statements suggesting the use of mercenaries to flush out the RUF rebels and end the war once and for all.

In a statement, "the meeting appealed to the international community not to be misled by such ill-advised proposals. Rather, efforts should be concentrated on the strengthening of national, subregional and international peacekeeping capabilities for the restoration of lasting peace in the conflict zone."

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia


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