Letter:Sent back to a forgotten war

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article "The end of war - and peace" (14 June) states that the war in Sierra Leone between the government and the Revolutionary United Front was one of "two major conflicts [that] began in 1995". This is incorrect. The war began on 23 March 1991. It is true, however, that the war only began to attract much press attention in this country after it had been in progress for nearly four years, and only then because British hostages had been seized by the RUF rebels.

Sierra Leone was for over 150 years a British colonial possession. Its subjects fought and died for Britain and the Allies in Burma in the Second World War. In November 1991 I wrote to both John Major and Douglas Hurd about the war and its likely outcome. I received the reply that its causes were too obscure for the British government to take any stand.

This did not stop the Home Office from taking an ever firmer line with asylum-seekers from Sierra Leone, introducing visa curbs for the first time in October 1994, and pressing, in case after case, for the return of refugees to a country in turmoil. Surely, Home Office officials have been aided in this policy by a less-than-vigilant press.


Department of Anthropology

University College London

London WC1