Letter: Sierra Leone agony

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Alex Duval Smith and James Roberts (reports, 5, 6 August) both argue against the Sierra Leone peace deal signed a month ago. Mr Roberts disparages the Foreign Office view that this is the best chance for the people of Sierra Leone as "naive at best and irresponsible at worst".

It is easy to demand a truly just settlement from the safe distance of a newspaper office. Does Mr Roberts believe Sierra Leonean people should continue to be killed and maimed until a deal more acceptable to Western sensibilities is on the table?

I was in Freetown when the news of the peace deal was released . The whole population of the city came out to dance in the streets and celebrate the first real sign of hope after eight years of war. The option for Sierra Leone was either an immediate end to the violence or an indefinite continuation of the the killing, brutal mutilations and destruction of the country described in reports in The Independent.

As the first European to travel inland from Freetown I have witnessed the widespread malnutrition you have described . In the two weeks since I returned to England that has got worse. People are now dying of starvation. This peace deal is the only chance of getting food aid to starving people in the rebel-dominated territories.

This deal is not the end of a process; it is the beginning. The large deployment of international peace forces is what we must now demand in addition to, not instead of, the fragile agreement that is right now saving many lives. Ecomog must continue to monitor the agreement and can only do this with strong backing from UN forces.


Sierra Leone Programme Officer


London SW9