Trading with the atrocity merchants
Friday 06 August 1999
First, an apparently well- intentioned attempt to bring military assistance to the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah blew up in Robin Cook's face when the Foreign Secretary had to deal with accusations that Britain had broken UN sanctions against the country. Now, having put its weight squarely behind a peace deal between a section of the rebels and the beleaguered Kabbah government, Britain finds the troops it has sent under the UN flag to help to smooth the path to peace are kidnapped by a disaffected rebel group which was not party to the peace deal.
The kidnappers - the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council - ruled the country from May 1997, when they overthrew President Kabbah in a coup, until February 1998, when a Nigerian-led West African force, Ecomog, drove them out of Freetown and brought back Mr Kabbah. Yesterday, the men holding the British soldiers were reportedly wearing tattered Sierra Leone Army uniforms. The AFRC rule, under the leadership of Johnny Paul Koroma, was characterised by widespread arbitrary arrests and the banning of political parties. It did, however, make common cause with the other main rebel grouping, the Revolutionary United Front, that entered the country from Liberia in 1991 and, backed by the Liberian leader Charles Taylor, has ensured the country has not known peace since then.
It is the RUF, under the leadership of Foday Sankoh, that prosecuted the campaign of terror against supporters of Sierra Leone's elected government. Thousands of civilians, many of them children, had their limbs hacked off by machete, or were gang raped, or both. The youngest documented case of dismemberment was against a child of two. Through this campaign of terror, in a deal backed by Britain, the RUF has won itself four seats in the government, with the key position of minister responsible for the country's gold and diamond mines earmarked for Mr Sankoh.
Quite what the Government thought it was doing in backing the Togo peace deal, signed on 7 July between Mr Kabbah - surely under considerable duress - and Mr Sankoh, is not clear. True, the rebels controlled much of the interior, including important mining areas. But the Foreign Office position, that this was the best chance of peace for the people of Sierra Leone, seems naive at best and irresponsible at worst. The insistence by Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, that the deal had popular backing must be treated with extreme caution. Neither is it clear how many, if any, of those who lost arms or legs, and now face being ruled by those responsible, were consulted.
After regarding Slobodan Milosevic through the 1990s as a regional powerbroker the international community had to deal with, the Government finally adopted the principle this year that it was both pointless and wrong to deal with those guilty of human rights atrocities. Such leaders simply had to be removed. This sound principle now applies in Europe, it seems, but for Africa, other rules, and immeasurably lower standards, are still acceptable.
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
Israel-Gaza conflict: President Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
Zayn Malik on Israel-Gaza: One Direction singer bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine
MH17 crash: Black boxes show plane suffered 'massive explosive decompression' following shrapnel hit
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...
£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...
Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...