Letter: What FO policy?

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The Independent Culture
Sir; For Anne McElvoy (Comment, 10 February) to write that British foreign policy towards Sierra Leone wasn't right and didn't work misses the point. There is no clearly articulated policy regarding Sierra Leone. The most urgent need is a clear statement of policy towards Sierra Leone from the British government.

The ethical issue is clear. This matter is about the future of the ballot box in West Africa - do we support the democratically elected President Kabbah and give democratic government a chance to take root or, through inaction or procrastination, allow a bloody and futile civil war to rage?

The rebels have their backers - Liberia and, reportedly, mercenaries and arms from Ukraine. The rebels have no political programme and no desire to engage in the democratic process. They are murderous thugs who kill their own indiscriminately. The rebel interest is purely power and personal greed. This is the alternative for Sierra Leone.

The murky goings-on in the Foreign Office could have been avoided. The failure of this government was not to provide unequivocal backing to President Kabbah from the outset. Sierra Leone is now left with a devastated economy, with the democratic experiment in tatters and with no obvious end in sight to the civil war.

It is ironic that our own preoccupation with the lack of parliamentary scrutiny over Foreign Office officials is exercising political opinion to a greater degree than the issue itself - helping a nation to move away from "rule of the gun" towards "rule of law".

MARK WITHERS

ANNA WITHERS

Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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