RUF Slams New Agreement
December 14, 2000
Sierra Leone rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has issued new "nonnegotiable" demands, including the release of their imprisoned leader Foday Sankoh and all other rebel prisoners, before submitting to the terms of the November ceasefire agreement calling for the deployment of UN troops behind RUF lines.
"RUF believes that permitting UNAMSIL and other 'observers' behind our lines will serve no purpose if no equal action of goodwill is made by releasing our leadership, both military and political", the rebels said in a press release dated 13 December 2000. .
Recent reports speak of horrible conditions, including amputations and the use of children as slaves, behind RUF lines. In a release sent to The Perspective and other news outlets dated 13 December 2000, and signed by rebel General Sesay, the RUF said, "Effective immediately", they were "ordering that the UNAMSIL 'observers' be barred from entering RUF fields of operations until certain conditions have been met. The conditions, which are nonnegotiable, are as follows:
"1.That our leader, Foday Saybana Sankoh, be released from the British/Kabbah political imprisonment and that he be provided safe escort to a location to be mutually agreed upon in advance.
"2. That all of the political prisoners of the Revolutionary United Front Party presently being held in British/Kabbah solitary confinement, incommunicado, be released and be provided safe passage to their appropriatedestinations to be mutually agreed upon in advance.
"3. That our leader, Foday Saybana Sankoh, and all of his political party presently imprisoned, immediately before their release have appropriate blood samples drawn under proper supervision for the purpose of establishing thatthey have not been injected with life-threatening chemicals during or just prior to their release from prison. The Kabbah government prisoner The Honorable Susan Lahai died shortly, unexpectedly and mysteriously, after being released from the custody of Johnny Paul Koroma.
"4.That the British/Kabbah government state and reaffirm that the LomePeace Agreement is the active document which binds both the Kabbah governmentand the Revolutionary United Front together; and that immediate steps will be taken to provide for appropriate quarters-mutually agreed upon-to be restored to the Revolutionary United Front in the unity government as agreed in Lome, July, 1999, but not later than 25 January, 2001.
"Our leader, Foday Saybana Sankoh, and we in the RUF do not want to prolong this conflict. We have been and continue to be committed to the Lome Peace Agreement and see it as Sierra Leone's last, best hope for peace and stability. This peace and stability can only come about if government officials keep their word (both written and spoken) and end the treachery, deceit, attempts to destabilize, and attempts to marginalize our partnership as defined in the Lome Peace Agreement.
"RUF continues to believe that the Lome partnership can be honored by both sides, forgetting that UN Secretary General Annan did not schedule a meeting with RUF on its recent visit to our land.
"If the British government will allow President Kabbah to keep his word to RUF (both written and spoken) progress toward peace, stability and resumption of the implementation of the Lome Peace Agreement is possible".
Meanwhile, there are credible claims that the RUF, along with Liberian fighters loyal to President Charles Taylor, are currently engaged in a series of raids into Guinea that have sent tens of thousands refugees and residents fleeing. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, told a Congressional Committee on Africa that:
" As long as the (Sierra Leone) conflict continues, there is a risk that it will spill over even more dramatically into neighboring countries and create more instability and human suffering. Liberia has been involved in this conflict almost from the beginning, and now Guinea is victim to cross-border incursions by RUF elements and their allies. This has led to increased domestic instability within Guinea, which is already hosting nearly half a million refugees from both Sierra Leone and Liberia. An estimated 5,000 of these refugees have crossed into Guinea since renewed violence erupted in May"
She added that it was essential to halt the "diamonds-for-guns" trade between the RUF and Liberian President Charles Taylor and others that is fueling the conflict.
Local news reports from Liberia say President Taylor has gained the backing of an unnamed West African state to press for the withdrawal of British troops from Sierra Leone.
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