LETTERS:Sierra Leone: solutions to a human tragedy

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The Independent Online
From Mr John E. Tricks Sir: Sierra Leone at Independence in 1961 enjoyed a peace maintained by a largely unarmed police and one battalion of local troops. Its relentless descent from relative prosperity to the barbaric anarchy you report ("Sierra Leone savagery rips nation apart", 31 January) is surely attributable to the indiscipline of the army since then. Massive corruption at the top distorts the economy to the point when even minor officials cannot make ends meet without getting involved.

Andrew Graham (Letters, 2 February) is naive in giving credence to the present junta's commitment to return the country to civilian rule. Such promises are needed to pacify the diplomats and keep the aid coming, but only a regime of rare integrity can investigate its own stewardship. Britain should therefore launch an initiative to help ordinary Sierra Leonians suffering from this cycle of coups and corruption.

We should ask the United Nations for a mandate to administer the country and restore security. The Secretary General could appoint a respected Sierra Leonian as titular head of state with authority to hold a plebiscite annually on the continuation of themandate.

Britain has the capability and cohesion to intervene that the UN and OAU have proved elsewhere in Africa that they lack. I believe that Sierra Leone would celebrate our return, shorn of the trappings of colonialisation, just as enthusiastically as the previous generation celebrated our departure.

Yours faithfully, JOHN TRICKS Crediton, Devon 3 February