The problem in Sierra Leone is, yet again, the presence of minerals and the nature of the land. Just as in Angola, or Zaire, military intervention can defend the towns, but so long as the rebels in the country can have access to diamonds or other goods, then they can survive and arm themselves. Should we then despair? The answer has to be no. No, because the West has to bear some responsibility for what goes on in the Forgotten Continent, not least because its purchases still fuel the funds of rebellion, while its arms exports give the means of revolt. Where the Angola crisis has drawn in the armies of five different African nations and threatens to set off the first all-African war this century, Sierra Leone has not drawn in its neighbours in the same way. Intervention has been organised regionally and multi-nationally though the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which is to meet again today to consider the situation. .
Fighting could still get a great deal worse. But that is surely the lesson of Sierra Leone, just as it is of Kosovo. Immediate solutions are not always readily available. The responsibility of the outside world is not to meddle, still less to try to change the military power by arming one side or another. It is to promote stability by negotiation through the offices of international organisations and to keep on doing so even when the fighting appears to be eternal.Reuse content