Fresh moves to end war in Sierra Leone
Thursday 24 June 1999
As Human Rights Watch publishes a report detailing thousands of murders, mutilations, rapes and other brutal war crimes by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the rebel movement's leaders are taking part in talks to end eight years of civil war.
So strong is the RUF's position at the talks in Togo that it yesterday rejected an offer of three cabinet seats in return for peace. The RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, wants the vice-presidency and eight cabinet seats.
The war in Sierra Leone, a small West African country with a democratically elected government, has left up to 50,000 people dead since 1991 and half the country's 4.5 million population displaced. It is largely the result of rival claims to the former British colony's massive mineral wealth.
Human Rights Watch cites Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as examples of `'the terrible consequences of access to power by those who have committed gross human rights violations''. In its report on the RUF offensive against the capital, Freetown, in January, the New York-based watchdog lists evidence of entire families being gunned down, children having their limbs hacked off with machetes and girls being gang-raped.
Corinne Dufka, a war photographer currently working in Freetown as a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "I have interviewed hundreds of people and what has been most shocking has been the systematic nature of the brutality.
"The RUF will tell you that the attacks were acts of indiscipline. In fact, they were often pre-meditated and involved large groups of rebels, including commanders. There were special units, such as the `cut hands unit'," she said.
Yet since the latest ceasefire, on 18 May, a power-sharing arrangement between President Tejan Kabbah and the RUF has emerged as the only means likely to achieve peace. Crucially, President Kabbah has virtually no army and the RUF, backed by the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, controls the diamond-rich Kono district.
But Sierra Leoneans are largely opposed to any power-sharing arrangement. Last Friday, Freetown was brought to a standstill as demonstrators opposed concessions to the rebels. President Kabbah's standing has already been weakened, in some eyes, by his decision to release and negotiate with Mr Sankoh, who was on death row.
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Kim Jong-un 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role
Black Friday UK: The shops hit by chaos and violence as shopping frenzy sweeps country
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Russell Brand: 'Katy Perry? I don’t know who that is'
Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
David Cameron sets out immigration reforms: We should distrust Ukip and their 'snake-oil of simple solutions'
£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...
£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...
£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...