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THE POOL NEWSPAPER
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Fish for the news in The Pool

MONDAY JULY 10TH 2000
WFP Caters For The Displaced
By Bilal Turay.

The World Food Programme in collaboration with the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) has distrubuted food and non-food items like oil, bulgur, pots and cooking utensils after the successful verification at the Approved School Displaced Camp.

The beneficaries are the new displaced arrivals from Koya, Lunsar, Makeni, Magburaka, Masiaka, Songo, Tombo, numbering about 16,476

Speaking to this Press, Mr Aruna Sesay, Aid Monitor at the World Food Programme said many local NGOs and International NGOs are facing a lot of problems in the verification, but said that the distribution of food was pecfectly done by the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) at the Approved School displaced camp, which he said is the largest camp in Freetown. He added that WFP was determined to ease the problem of the displaced and taget needy people throughout Sierra Leone.

Mr Sesay said he was on a verification exercise at the National displaced camp where they were faced with the same problems.

Speaking in the same vein, the Relief Manager, Mr Ibrahim W. Conteh said with the help of the World Food Programme, the International Islamic Relief Organisation had succeeded in the distribution of food items.

A Displaced woman Kadie Wodie from Gbinti commended the IIRO and WFP.

Okra Hills Soldiers Say . . . “We will not disarm”

The notorious West Side Boys who are supposedly loyal to Johnny Paul Koroma have rebuffed government’s recent announcement and insisted that they would not disarm to anybody.

One of the soldiers interviewed by this press said they no longer regard Johnny Paul Koroma as their leader. “The man is now surrounded by civilians who are bent on gaining political power through our efforts. If Johnny Paul feels he is our boss, let him venture out here,” he said.

From our investigations, it has been revealed that Johnny Paul has no control of the West Side Boys. His instructions are not taken serious. The boys respect their jungle leaders, namely self-styled Brigadier 555, Gullit and Mani.

The Sierra Leone government in a release last week ordered that all ex-SLA soldiers loyal to Johnny Paul turn themselves in to be disarmed by UN peacekeeping troops starting today Monday and Tuesday July 10 and 11 at Masiaka town.

The release warned that if the ex-soldiers failed to report, they would face disciplinary action. But with the seeming defiant attitude by the West Side boys, the populace await what disciplinary action will be meted on them.

UNAMSIL assures confidence
By Sayoh Kamara.

In what could best be described as a show of might, the commander of NIBAT 4 of UNAMSIL, Lt. Col. Paul Boroh, who is in charge of security in the Greater Freetown area was Thursday 6 July, on a routine inspection of strategic deployment points of his troops which span from Juba Brige in the west end to Up-gun rounabout in the east end.

Chatting with journalists at his NIBAT 4 headquarters at Wilberforce, the commander impressed on his audience that the move was aimed at instilling confidence in the civilian population, and also to observe the alertness of his troops at their various points of deployment. He encouraged journalists and the civilian population to assist in providing adequate and appropriate information to either his troop commanders or his office with regards arms dump or any unusual movements of people. He promised to act swiftly on any such information.,

Platoon commanders interviewed during the exercise maintained their vigilance and alertness to respond adequately to any alarm or information. They expressed particular concern about the movement of illegal arms and ammunition within the city.

At the Youyi building checkpoint, the platoon commander, Lt. Emmanuel Nwezi said that they had been successful in apprehending arms and ammunition on several occasions. He also affirmed his men’s commitment to ensuring an arms-free city as well as peace and stability.

Among the convoy were four armoured personnel carriers with dozens of NIBAT personnel. Accompanying the commandert was UNAMSIL spokesman, Hirut Befecadou and the Press Officer, Osman Lahai.

Meanwhile, the newly established UNAMSIL FM Radio station is fast becoming the country's most popular radio station.

578 Prisoners At Pademba

The Pademba Road Maximum Prisons is a host to five hundred and fifty prisoners as at Thrusday 6 July. This figure was disclosed to journalists during a routine inspection of deployment points of NIBAT 4 personnel on Thursday 6 July.

According to the Officer-in-charge of the prisons, Mr.Lamin Ngobeh, this figure included members of the Revolunationary United Front leaders that were rounded up following the May 8th peaceful demonstration that tragically ended with RUF rebels shooting live ammunition at demonstrators. He described their condition as fine and security itself in and out of the prisons as water tight.

Questioned about whether the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, was among and how he was doing, the officer declined to respond, but was however overheard saying, “He is here and he is doing quite fine”. With regards medical facilities and the general sanitary condition of the prisons, the Medical Officer, Dr.J. D. Sandy, stated that they were woeful, saying that the facilities were extremely poor and inadequate. “We have serious problems with water supply, electricity, and toilet facilities,” the doctor stated.

“We Are Going Back To Makeni”

“We are fed up.We are going back to Makeni. This government is very insensitive to our plight. They drove us from Makeni through the distribution of leaflets and the rampant bombing of the township. We came to this Mile 91 place just to face more hardship.”

These were the remarks of 55-year old Pa Alimamy Thoronka of Mile 91 to our correspondent.

Pa Thoronka is among the estimated 60,000 people who fled the northern headquarter town of Makeni six weeks ago to seek shelter at Mile 91.

The people ran away from the atrocities they had been experiencing at the hands of the RUF rebels who are controlling the town. The government too contributed to the massive exodus of the people from Makeni and Magburaka when six weeks ago, a government helicopter gunship distributed leaflets in the two towns asking civilians to vacate. Later, the helicopter gunships continued to carry out rampant street bombings in Makeni and Magburaka.

The state which the Makeni/Magburaka displaced people at Mile 91 are facing is described by many as deplorable. Children continue to die of hunger and disease daily. The elders are malnourished because of lack of food.

The recent tension along the Masiaka/Mile 91 highway has compounded the sufferings of these displaced people as virtually no NGO could risk it. Most people have therefore volunteered to return to Makeni and surrender their fate to God.

SLPP Government Caught In A Web
By Sayoh Kamara.

International pressure seems to be mounting on the Tejan Kabba-led SLPP government to observe a cease fire and return to the negotiation table. This was signalled by the pronouncement of UNAMSIL’s Force Commander, General Vijay Kumar Jetley, in his statement at the Miatta Conference Hall, Friday 7th July.

This latest development is seen by many observers as a flaw in United Nations policy, considering the fact that the RUF are still occupying the diamond areas of Kono and Tongofield. “With a ceasefire at this point in time, how will the International Community guarantee that blood diamond money will not continue to fuel the war?” a worried civil servant observed.

Following the May 8th episode, and the unceremonious assimilation of the socalled ‘Westside Boys’ into the loyal SLA fold, the SLPP government changed its approach both to the Lome Accord and the cease fire. It became government’s objective to retake all territories from the RUF before it could observe any cease fire and consequently return to the negotiation table.

However, with the latest developments from the war front, there are clear indications this objective is a far-fetched dream. Infighting, lack of trust and the quest for supremacy are to blame for this, thus paving the way for RUF organised counter-insurgence. This has also resulted in putting the entire government war-machinery in disarray.

These developments have came as a blow to many Sierra Leoneans who had their confidence in the Sierra Leone Army. To most of these people, a ceasefire now and a return to the negotiation table means a prolongation of their sufferings.

During the Sierra Leone Labour Congress’ conference on the Lome Accord, participants resolved to retain the accord as they considered it as the right path to peace. This was again sounded by participants at the CCP conference.

However, the position of government in this whole scenario is not yet certain, taking into consideration its heavy dependency on the International Community’s support. Many observers are of the opinion that President Kabba is likely to lie low in the face of any such international pressure.

“The government hasn’t a coherent army to pursue this war. We have several fighting forces against the common enemy with no central command. If they can’t fight for us, let’s talk to the RUF,” an ex-serevice man observed.

“Humanitarian Bodies Need Security To Act”---AHUNNA
By Sayoh Kamara.

The Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA/SL) Ahunna Eziakonwa, has stated that security is only what is needed for humanitarian organisations to act in the amelioration the numerous humanitarian problems facing the people of this country.

She was speaking in an interview with this press at Walpole Street Office, Tuesday 4th July. She siezed the opportunity on behalf of the Humanitarian Community to appeal to all sides of the conflict to give peace a chance so that humanitarian assistance could reach the suffering people. Eziakonwa stated, “It is only when security is provided that we can penetrate remote areas.”

Ahunna stated that it is their standard policy as humanitarian organisation to provide relief food to civilians wherever they might be and that they sometimes took very risky and aggressive moves to reach the people. She however lamented that the latest upsurge in hostilities and the breakdown in contact with the RUF have, to a greater extent, hampered their activities.

She acknowldged the desperate conditions of people in certain remote areas of the coutnry, but questioned, “How can we reach them?” She therefore observed, “The really fluid and volatile security situation needs to be adequately addressed first”.

Ahunna in her catalogue of humanitarian organisations’ operations stated that it is based on the evaluation of priorities, taking into consideration the security of properties and staff and also beneficiaries as they are always being targeted by armed groups because of these relief benefits. She maintained that it is these organisations’ utmost concern to ensure that relief assistance goes to those who need it most and not to armed groups.

As the present fluid security situation has compounded the humanitarian situation in the country, Ahunna disclosed that a review of this has been made to adapt their programmes to the current situation.

She stated that an Inter-agency appeal for the year 2000 to the tune of US$71million will serve to address needs in all sectors of humanitarian relief assistance such as food, medical and sanitation, education, women’s and children’s affairs and rehabilitation.

Mile 38 is under Siege

Civilian and vehicular traffic along the Freetown/Masiaka highway has been rendered impossible since last Monday as ex-SLA soldiers loyal to AFRC leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, blockaded Magbonthosor commonly called Mile 38.

The socalled “West Side Boys” have closed the road from Mile38 to Masiaka to all Sierra Leone Army soldiers and Civil Defence Forces, while allowing the United Nations peacekeepers (UNAMSIL) and staff to pass without hindrance.

Civilians in the area are reported to be subjected to rigorous searching, molestation and sometimes forceful grabbing of valuables and cash.

The action follows recent fighting between the two pro-government factions at Lunsar and Masiaka. This has been a serious setback for government troop movements. Soldiers further down the road are running short of food and medical supplies.

The renegade soldiers are reported to be demanding their backlog salaries of 18 months which they claimed have been promised them by President Tejan Kabbah.

On the other hand, a UN report stated that rebels of the Revolutionary United Front have engaged in the systematic execution of civilians, rape, sexual abuse and forceful conscription of children since the resumption of hostilities on May 8.

Meanwhile, a UNAMSIL reconnaisance team to Masiaka has made recommendations following the recent skirmishes between renegade soldiers of the West Side Jungle and SLAs along the route.

Among the recommnedations, it was stated that the route between Freetown and Masiaka remains tense, and therefore not appropriate for civilian vehicular traffic without an armed escort.

This is as a consequence of the continued show of recalcitrance and indiscipline by the renegade soldiers.

However,UNAMSIL spokesman, Befecadou, stated that though the provision of armed escort to civilians is the responsiblity of the patrol commanders, UNAMSIL will provide such escort.

However, UNAMSIL spokesman informed journalists Monday 3rd July that the mission was doing all it could to facilitate understanding between the two groups. She affirmed, “We are in contact with the leaders of both sides to ensure understanding and unity among them.”

Befecadou Defends the Ceasefire Option
By Sayoh Kamara

UNAMSIL spokesman, Hirut Befecadou has in no uncertain terms defended the call for a cease fire by the commander of UNAMSIL, General Vijay Kumar Jetley. He made this statement at the recently concluded conference on the evaluation of the Lome Peace Accord at the Miatta Conference Hall last week.

According to the spokesman, the mandate of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone was determined by a cease fire, and that it was the signing of the cease fire that ensured the presence of the Mission in the country, first as UNOMSIL and later UNAMSIL as provided for in the Lome peace agreement of 7th July 1999.

The Spokesman maintained that without an effective cease fire in place, it will be extremely difficult for UNAMSIL to institute talks between the belligerent parties. “If there is a cease fire, there is a possibility of negotiations taking place and the Lome Peace Agreement can be adequately looked into,” the spokesman stressed.

In a press statement issued by UNAMSIL Tuesday last week, it was categorically stated that, “UNAMSIL, is here to keep peace in Sierra Leone and in doing so has been and will continue to remain absolutely impartial and neutral in the discharge of its duties.”

‘UNAMSIL will accept any troop’ .... Gen. Jetley
By Sayoh Kamara.

In a press briefing Wednesday 5th July, at t he UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko Hotel, UNAMSIL Force Commander, General V. K. Jetley, stated that they would welcome troops from any country to compliment their efforts within the mission to restore peace and stability to Sierra Leone.

The General stated, “we are not opposed to any nation contributing troops to UNAMSIL,” referring to the United Nations as a world body of all countries aiming at achieving the same goals and objectives in ensuring a peaceful and stable world. “This is why the organisation is referred to as the United Nations,” the General stressed.

However the General in his submission maintained that the acceptance of troops from member countries into the fold of UNAMSIL operations was not the responsibility of UNAMSIL officers. “The final decision as to the acceptance of troop contributors lies with the beleaguered state and those political leaders at the United Nations in New York,” the General emphasized.

During the latest ECOWAS summit meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, leaders agreed on the return of ECOMOG with a three thousand man-power. Among those which pledged to contribute troops was Liberia. This however met with an uproar of protestations by Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad. They accused Charles Taylor of religiously supportive of the RUF and that presence of his troops would only add to the complexities of the crisis.

Meanwhile General Jetley has spoken on the need for pro-government forces to be under a single command and to forget about attributing accolades to fighting factions that will endanger the progress of the war.

He stated that this separation is causing more problems in the cause of the prosecution of the war against the rebels.

RUF Rebels May Surrender To UNAMSIL
By Yayah Bilal Turay

As the RUF operation intensifies in the Kambia District, fleeing civilians from Rokupr, Kambia Town, Rosenoh, Rokon, Bompeh, Kychom, and Mapotolon who are presently camped at Bailor intimated this press that rebels had mobilised at Yomkellah farm, the former SSD training camp, at Samu for fear of any possible attack from the Great and Little Scarcies end.

According to them, Rokupr Town is referred to as water-side camp and is the collection point for logistics and goods siezed from the poor civilians. Speaking to this press, Kadiatu Sesay, a displaced from Rokupr Town over the weekend said that over 300 rebels want to surrender to UNAMSIL mainly because they were tired of fighting as most of them are child combatants. Kadiatu further said that they lacked food and other logistics to keep them alive.

According to her, this move was made when the helicopter gunship dropped leaflets in Kambia, Rokupr and Mambolo, adding that the leaflets indicated where the rebels should surrender if they wanted to. She said rebels were appealing to UNAMSIL to lift them to Port Loko or Lungi as they were afraid of surrendering to government forces.

Meanwhile, the Kambia District Desendants Association is appealing to the government and UNAMSIL to help the people of Kambia and its environs.

UNDP orientation on human resources development
By Sayoh Kamara.

The United Nations Development Programme in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone on Friday 30th June, 2000 organised an orientation seminar at the Sierra Light House Restaurant Aberdeen, as part of the planning process to kick-start full implementation of the recently approved programmes aimed at developing the human resource base in the country.

The programmes, namely, Support to National Long Term Perspective Studies (NLTPS) Vision 2025; Support To Peace and Development Forum, Support to Integrated Approach to Aid Coordination, Support To Capacity Building and Support To Resettlement and Reintegration, are a compressed project which, according to the project document, is to be implemented within an eighteen-month period.

The project is to kick-start with a total capital of 8.8 million dollars. This capital base is said to be a catalyst for the encouragement of more donor support to enhance its full-scale operation..

The seminar which attracted representatives from government-line ministries, local non-governmental organisations and beneficiaries of UNDP funded projects, focussed on the modalities for programme implementation in line with UNDP vision 2002, the empowerment of the institutions responsible for implementing the programmes, the establishment of a common platform for the smooth flow of information and networking among implementing bodies, understanding UNDP procedures, tasks and organic responsiblities of each partner in national capacity building.

Making his maiden statement at the seminar, the UNDP Resident Representative Mr. K.O. Amaning emphasised the need to upgrade the standard of life of Sierra Leoneans and maintained that it was appalling to see citizens been reduced to destitution and deprivation in their own country. To make his point, he challenged participants to visit displaced camps within the western area and evaluate the deplorable situation these displaced are living in.

He however assured would be implementators that “the UNDP will always be open to you. We will always be available to assist you. Wherever you find difficulties, please come, for we are always disposed to helping you out.”

Various speakers made crash-lectures on the different focus points of the seminar, giving participants an insight into the work pattern of the project’s implementing organs.

Student Beaten For Girl friend
By Abu Whyte Fofanah.

Hundreds of students were reported to have stormed the 7th battalion on the 27th of June, 2000 to protest against the beating of their colleague student by a soldier.

According to an eye witness, Bammy Neral, the soldier was deployed at Police Beach (Milton Margai Beach) for security purpose. The soldier was reported to have claimed that one student at Milton Margai was in love with his girl friend, Binta.

According to sources, Binta was reported to have told his soja boyfriend that Bangura, a first year Religious and Moral Education student had attacked her and proposed love to her.

The soldier could not waste time to attack Bangura and mercilessly beat him. Bangura was reported to have been bayonetted on the head. Several bites were also reported to have been given to Bangura by the angry soldier.

Irate Milton Margai students were said to have approached the scene to rescue their colleague but the soldier was well armed with an RPG and a grenade.

The students were reported to have gone the 7th batallion in protest agianst the sad event. Sources confirmed that it was the timely intervention of one Lieutenant Sankoh that calmed the situation.

According to sources, the soldier was later disarmed by seven gallant soldiers and taken to the 7th batallion and detained in a guard room.

The matter was later referred to Congo Cross Police station for further investigation.

Campaign for the release of children and women heats up
By Bilal Turay.

The Forum of Conscience, a local human rights organisation, had learn from the research and reliable reports that at least 3000 chilren are held behind rebel lines and thousands of women a nd they used as sex slaves and carriers of looted goods while children are reported to be training near Makeni, Kono as fighters.These two groups women and children are vulnerably groups whose interesst must be sought by all human promoters.

Speaking at press briefing the executive Director of Forum of Conscience Mr. John Caulker said. In the wake of the Hostage taking of some members of the United Nation in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in May this year, the international community mounted a heavy campaign for the release of the UN hostages and the campaign was successful.

Mr. John Caulker said his organisation was calling on the UN and the International Commuity to mount the same pressure which resulted in the release of the UN hostages on behalf of these vulnerable groups.

He said the (F.O.C) is requesting an urgent action by the International community asking Charles Taylor to put pressure on the RUF to release all women and children forthwith.It should be noted that the continued abduction of these persons is a crime against humanity and also violates international laws.

Police In Dubious Deal
By Sorie I. Sesay

Residents of the Jalloh Terrace Community last Sunday accused the Chief Police Officer attached to the Kissy Mess Mess Police Station, Amadu Mannah, of collaborating with one Alie Kamara to molest and defraud them of their land area which they have occupied for the past 15 years.

The spokesman of the community, Mr. Sorie Kamara, disclosed that CPO Mannah has been promised two acres of land by Alie Kamara to help him acquire the said land by all means. To this, he went on, the CPO on several occasions ordered his officers including some SSD and military officers, to molest and victimise innocent residents in the area.

He further pointed out that the CPO deliberately refused to send the matter to court despite the fact that both parties had made statements in respect of the land issue.

“He is aware of the fact that his dubious activities will be exposed if the matter goes to court,” remarked Madam Ramatu, a resident of the area.

“What surprised us most is that even when we reported this naked aggression by his officers to him, he has made little or no effort to control the situation. We expect him to be neutral but this officer is far from that for reasons best known to himself,” said 60-year old Pa Amadu Kamara.

It all started two weeks ago when Mr. Amadu Kamara took some well armed security men to the area on the guise of receiving instructions from the High Court that the present occupants should quit the locality. The people protested to what they described as naked aggression and in the circumstances, they were beaten up and molested by the officers. Others sustained serious injuries.

RUF Hit Northern Towns
By Sayoh Kamara.

Fighters of the Revolutionary United Front have intensified their attacks on civilians in certain towns and villages in the north, apparently in search of the food and other basic logistics.

Reports stated that on the 24th June, rebels attacked Yeliboya in the Kambia District, burnt houses and looted food stuff and cattle. The rebels were reported to have fired sporadically into the air as they entered the island town. No casualty reports were available yet.

In a similar development, RUF rebels attacked the towns of Kumrabia-Mamilla and Robis, burning houses and looting properties and food stuff.

This, according to reports, has caused civilians in and around these villages to flee to Mile 91 and Masimera town in the Masimera chiefdom. Masimera is currently reported to be hosting 25,000 displaced persons who are currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

RUF’s Grip On Detainees
By Sayoh Kamara.

The stand-off between UNAMSIL and RUF fighters in Pendembu seems to be tightened up by the later, and until something militarily is done, no headway by way of negotiation is feasible.

According to UNAMSIL spokeswoman, Hirut Bafecadou, the twenty-one UNAMSIL detainees have been transfered from their previous point of detention to another house, formerly occupied by the International Committe of the Red Cross within the same Pendembu environs. She did not however establish the exact location of the house, but stated that their health and nutrition conditions are good.

It could be recalled that the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan, in an earlier statement regarding the detainees categorically stated that they must be released immediately and unconditionally.

However, in spite of this affirmative stance by the United Nations, the Indian government, whose citizens are involved in this breathtaking scenario have stepped up diplomatic efforts to ensure the release of their citizens.

Some time ago, it was reported that the Indian Prime Minister met with the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and called for his intervention to secure the release of his citizens.

Quite recently, the Indian Consul, Ken Azad, also called on the Foreign Minister, Dr. Sama Banya, to express his concern over the continued detention of the Indian UNAMSIL detainees, and urged government to intensify efforts to get his compatriots released.

These latest diplomatic overtures are clear indicators that the confidence reposed on the Liberian President Charles Taylor, is gradually dissipating presumably for his double standard role in the Sierra Leone crisis.

Aftermath of Masiaka attack, Six bodies discovered
By Sayoh Kamara.

UNAMSIL military spokesman, Lt.Commander Patrick Coker confirmed last week that six bodies had been seen and identified as SLAs and RUF combatants, following the recapture of Masiaka from the rebels by UNAMSIL. According to him, these bodies were seen after a random check and moppingup exercise by their men on the ground. Commander Coker stated that in due course, further bodies might be seen and identified as their men progressed with the consolidation of their positions in and around the township.

However in a seperate interview, Lt. Commander Coker disclosed that through intelligence sources, they had confirmed the admission by the RUF of sustaining serious casualiteis. He could not dilate further on that. He disclosed also that the RUF must have had a long term intention for Masiaka, stating that the attack on a UNAMSIL convoy fifteen Miles from Mile 91 was aimed at rendering that route blockaded so that they could use it to by pass UNAMSIL positions to Masiaka. “They must have approached Masiaka from the northern axis, probably via the Magburaka/Malal axis,” the Lt. Commander disclosed.

Masiaka itself is reported by UNAMSIL spokesman Hirut Befecadou as calm and quiet. She also reported that efforts are underway by UNAMSIL troops on the ground to bring into the town,civilians that had fled the fighting to nearby bushes. MONDAY JULY 10TH 2000

WFP Caters For The Displaced
By Bilal Turay.

The World Food Programme in collaboration with the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) has distrubuted food and non-food items like oil, bulgur, pots and cooking utensils after the successful verification at the Approved School Displaced Camp.

The beneficaries are the new displaced arrivals from Koya, Lunsar, Makeni, Magburaka, Masiaka, Songo, Tombo, numbering about 16,476

Speaking to this Press, Mr Aruna Sesay, Aid Monitor at the World Food Programme said many local NGOs and International NGOs are facing a lot of problems in the verification, but said that the distribution of food was pecfectly done by the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) at the Approved School displaced camp, which he said is the largest camp in Freetown. He added that WFP was determined to ease the problem of the displaced and taget needy people throughout Sierra Leone.

Mr Sesay said he was on a verification exercise at the National displaced camp where they were faced with the same problems.

Speaking in the same vein, the Relief Manager, Mr Ibrahim W. Conteh said with the help of the World Food Programme, the International Islamic Relief Organisation had succeeded in the distribution of food items.

A Displaced woman Kadie Wodie from Gbinti commended the IIRO and WFP.

Okra Hills Soldiers Say . . . “We will not disarm”

The notorious West Side Boys who are supposedly loyal to Johnny Paul Koroma have rebuffed government’s recent announcement and insisted that they would not disarm to anybody.

One of the soldiers interviewed by this press said they no longer regard Johnny Paul Koroma as their leader. “The man is now surrounded by civilians who are bent on gaining political power through our efforts. If Johnny Paul feels he is our boss, let him venture out here,” he said.

From our investigations, it has been revealed that Johnny Paul has no control of the West Side Boys. His instructions are not taken serious. The boys respect their jungle leaders, namely self-styled Brigadier 555, Gullit and Mani.

The Sierra Leone government in a release last week ordered that all ex-SLA soldiers loyal to Johnny Paul turn themselves in to be disarmed by UN peacekeeping troops starting today Monday and Tuesday July 10 and 11 at Masiaka town.

The release warned that if the ex-soldiers failed to report, they would face disciplinary action. But with the seeming defiant attitude by the West Side boys, the populace await what disciplinary action will be meted on them.

UNAMSIL assures confidence
By Sayoh Kamara.

In what could best be described as a show of might, the commander of NIBAT 4 of UNAMSIL, Lt. Col. Paul Boroh, who is in charge of security in the Greater Freetown area was Thursday 6 July, on a routine inspection of strategic deployment points of his troops which span from Juba Brige in the west end to Up-gun rounabout in the east end.

Chatting with journalists at his NIBAT 4 headquarters at Wilberforce, the commander impressed on his audience that the move was aimed at instilling confidence in the civilian population, and also to observe the alertness of his troops at their various points of deployment. He encouraged journalists and the civilian population to assist in providing adequate and appropriate information to either his troop commanders or his office with regards arms dump or any unusual movements of people. He promised to act swiftly on any such information.,

Platoon commanders interviewed during the exercise maintained their vigilance and alertness to respond adequately to any alarm or information. They expressed particular concern about the movement of illegal arms and ammunition within the city.

At the Youyi building checkpoint, the platoon commander, Lt. Emmanuel Nwezi said that they had been successful in apprehending arms and ammunition on several occasions. He also affirmed his men’s commitment to ensuring an arms-free city as well as peace and stability.

Among the convoy were four armoured personnel carriers with dozens of NIBAT personnel. Accompanying the commandert was UNAMSIL spokesman, Hirut Befecadou and the Press Officer, Osman Lahai.

Meanwhile, the newly established UNAMSIL FM Radio station is fast becoming the country's most popular radio station.

578 Prisoners At Pademba

The Pademba Road Maximum Prisons is a host to five hundred and fifty prisoners as at Thrusday 6 July. This figure was disclosed to journalists during a routine inspection of deployment points of NIBAT 4 personnel on Thursday 6 July.

According to the Officer-in-charge of the prisons, Mr.Lamin Ngobeh, this figure included members of the Revolunationary United Front leaders that were rounded up following the May 8th peaceful demonstration that tragically ended with RUF rebels shooting live ammunition at demonstrators. He described their condition as fine and security itself in and out of the prisons as water tight.

Questioned about whether the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, was among and how he was doing, the officer declined to respond, but was however overheard saying, “He is here and he is doing quite fine”. With regards medical facilities and the general sanitary condition of the prisons, the Medical Officer, Dr.J. D. Sandy, stated that they were woeful, saying that the facilities were extremely poor and inadequate. “We have serious problems with water supply, electricity, and toilet facilities,” the doctor stated.

“We Are Going Back To Makeni”

“We are fed up.We are going back to Makeni. This government is very insensitive to our plight. They drove us from Makeni through the distribution of leaflets and the rampant bombing of the township. We came to this Mile 91 place just to face more hardship.”

These were the remarks of 55-year old Pa Alimamy Thoronka of Mile 91 to our correspondent.

Pa Thoronka is among the estimated 60,000 people who fled the northern headquarter town of Makeni six weeks ago to seek shelter at Mile 91.

The people ran away from the atrocities they had been experiencing at the hands of the RUF rebels who are controlling the town. The government too contributed to the massive exodus of the people from Makeni and Magburaka when six weeks ago, a government helicopter gunship distributed leaflets in the two towns asking civilians to vacate. Later, the helicopter gunships continued to carry out rampant street bombings in Makeni and Magburaka.

The state which the Makeni/Magburaka displaced people at Mile 91 are facing is described by many as deplorable. Children continue to die of hunger and disease daily. The elders are malnourished because of lack of food.

The recent tension along the Masiaka/Mile 91 highway has compounded the sufferings of these displaced people as virtually no NGO could risk it. Most people have therefore volunteered to return to Makeni and surrender their fate to God.

SLPP Government Caught In A Web
By Sayoh Kamara.

International pressure seems to be mounting on the Tejan Kabba-led SLPP government to observe a cease fire and return to the negotiation table. This was signalled by the pronouncement of UNAMSIL’s Force Commander, General Vijay Kumar Jetley, in his statement at the Miatta Conference Hall, Friday 7th July.

This latest development is seen by many observers as a flaw in United Nations policy, considering the fact that the RUF are still occupying the diamond areas of Kono and Tongofield. “With a ceasefire at this point in time, how will the International Community guarantee that blood diamond money will not continue to fuel the war?” a worried civil servant observed.

Following the May 8th episode, and the unceremonious assimilation of the socalled ‘Westside Boys’ into the loyal SLA fold, the SLPP government changed its approach both to the Lome Accord and the cease fire. It became government’s objective to retake all territories from the RUF before it could observe any cease fire and consequently return to the negotiation table.

However, with the latest developments from the war front, there are clear indications this objective is a far-fetched dream. Infighting, lack of trust and the quest for supremacy are to blame for this, thus paving the way for RUF organised counter-insurgence. This has also resulted in putting the entire government war-machinery in disarray.

These developments have came as a blow to many Sierra Leoneans who had their confidence in the Sierra Leone Army. To most of these people, a ceasefire now and a return to the negotiation table means a prolongation of their sufferings.

During the Sierra Leone Labour Congress’ conference on the Lome Accord, participants resolved to retain the accord as they considered it as the right path to peace. This was again sounded by participants at the CCP conference.

However, the position of government in this whole scenario is not yet certain, taking into consideration its heavy dependency on the International Community’s support. Many observers are of the opinion that President Kabba is likely to lie low in the face of any such international pressure.

“The government hasn’t a coherent army to pursue this war. We have several fighting forces against the common enemy with no central command. If they can’t fight for us, let’s talk to the RUF,” an ex-serevice man observed.

“Humanitarian Bodies Need Security To Act”---AHUNNA
By Sayoh Kamara.

The Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA/SL) Ahunna Eziakonwa, has stated that security is only what is needed for humanitarian organisations to act in the amelioration the numerous humanitarian problems facing the people of this country.

She was speaking in an interview with this press at Walpole Street Office, Tuesday 4th July. She siezed the opportunity on behalf of the Humanitarian Community to appeal to all sides of the conflict to give peace a chance so that humanitarian assistance could reach the suffering people. Eziakonwa stated, “It is only when security is provided that we can penetrate remote areas.”

Ahunna stated that it is their standard policy as humanitarian organisation to provide relief food to civilians wherever they might be and that they sometimes took very risky and aggressive moves to reach the people. She however lamented that the latest upsurge in hostilities and the breakdown in contact with the RUF have, to a greater extent, hampered their activities.

She acknowldged the desperate conditions of people in certain remote areas of the coutnry, but questioned, “How can we reach them?” She therefore observed, “The really fluid and volatile security situation needs to be adequately addressed first”.

Ahunna in her catalogue of humanitarian organisations’ operations stated that it is based on the evaluation of priorities, taking into consideration the security of properties and staff and also beneficiaries as they are always being targeted by armed groups because of these relief benefits. She maintained that it is these organisations’ utmost concern to ensure that relief assistance goes to those who need it most and not to armed groups.

As the present fluid security situation has compounded the humanitarian situation in the country, Ahunna disclosed that a review of this has been made to adapt their programmes to the current situation.

She stated that an Inter-agency appeal for the year 2000 to the tune of US$71million will serve to address needs in all sectors of humanitarian relief assistance such as food, medical and sanitation, education, women’s and children’s affairs and rehabilitation.

Mile 38 is under Siege

Civilian and vehicular traffic along the Freetown/Masiaka highway has been rendered impossible since last Monday as ex-SLA soldiers loyal to AFRC leader, Johnny Paul Koroma, blockaded Magbonthosor commonly called Mile 38.

The socalled “West Side Boys” have closed the road from Mile38 to Masiaka to all Sierra Leone Army soldiers and Civil Defence Forces, while allowing the United Nations peacekeepers (UNAMSIL) and staff to pass without hindrance.

Civilians in the area are reported to be subjected to rigorous searching, molestation and sometimes forceful grabbing of valuables and cash.

The action follows recent fighting between the two pro-government factions at Lunsar and Masiaka. This has been a serious setback for government troop movements. Soldiers further down the road are running short of food and medical supplies.

The renegade soldiers are reported to be demanding their backlog salaries of 18 months which they claimed have been promised them by President Tejan Kabbah.

On the other hand, a UN report stated that rebels of the Revolutionary United Front have engaged in the systematic execution of civilians, rape, sexual abuse and forceful conscription of children since the resumption of hostilities on May 8.

Meanwhile, a UNAMSIL reconnaisance team to Masiaka has made recommendations following the recent skirmishes between renegade soldiers of the West Side Jungle and SLAs along the route.

Among the recommnedations, it was stated that the route between Freetown and Masiaka remains tense, and therefore not appropriate for civilian vehicular traffic without an armed escort.

This is as a consequence of the continued show of recalcitrance and indiscipline by the renegade soldiers.

However,UNAMSIL spokesman, Befecadou, stated that though the provision of armed escort to civilians is the responsiblity of the patrol commanders, UNAMSIL will provide such escort.

However, UNAMSIL spokesman informed journalists Monday 3rd July that the mission was doing all it could to facilitate understanding between the two groups. She affirmed, “We are in contact with the leaders of both sides to ensure understanding and unity among them.”

Befecadou Defends the Ceasefire Option
By Sayoh Kamara

UNAMSIL spokesman, Hirut Befecadou has in no uncertain terms defended the call for a cease fire by the commander of UNAMSIL, General Vijay Kumar Jetley. He made this statement at the recently concluded conference on the evaluation of the Lome Peace Accord at the Miatta Conference Hall last week.

According to the spokesman, the mandate of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone was determined by a cease fire, and that it was the signing of the cease fire that ensured the presence of the Mission in the country, first as UNOMSIL and later UNAMSIL as provided for in the Lome peace agreement of 7th July 1999.

The Spokesman maintained that without an effective cease fire in place, it will be extremely difficult for UNAMSIL to institute talks between the belligerent parties. “If there is a cease fire, there is a possibility of negotiations taking place and the Lome Peace Agreement can be adequately looked into,” the spokesman stressed.

In a press statement issued by UNAMSIL Tuesday last week, it was categorically stated that, “UNAMSIL, is here to keep peace in Sierra Leone and in doing so has been and will continue to remain absolutely impartial and neutral in the discharge of its duties.”

‘UNAMSIL will accept any troop’ .... Gen. Jetley
By Sayoh Kamara.

In a press briefing Wednesday 5th July, at t he UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko Hotel, UNAMSIL Force Commander, General V. K. Jetley, stated that they would welcome troops from any country to compliment their efforts within the mission to restore peace and stability to Sierra Leone.

The General stated, “we are not opposed to any nation contributing troops to UNAMSIL,” referring to the United Nations as a world body of all countries aiming at achieving the same goals and objectives in ensuring a peaceful and stable world. “This is why the organisation is referred to as the United Nations,” the General stressed.

However the General in his submission maintained that the acceptance of troops from member countries into the fold of UNAMSIL operations was not the responsibility of UNAMSIL officers. “The final decision as to the acceptance of troop contributors lies with the beleaguered state and those political leaders at the United Nations in New York,” the General emphasized.

During the latest ECOWAS summit meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, leaders agreed on the return of ECOMOG with a three thousand man-power. Among those which pledged to contribute troops was Liberia. This however met with an uproar of protestations by Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad. They accused Charles Taylor of religiously supportive of the RUF and that presence of his troops would only add to the complexities of the crisis.

Meanwhile General Jetley has spoken on the need for pro-government forces to be under a single command and to forget about attributing accolades to fighting factions that will endanger the progress of the war.

He stated that this separation is causing more problems in the cause of the prosecution of the war against the rebels.

RUF Rebels May Surrender To UNAMSIL
By Yayah Bilal Turay

As the RUF operation intensifies in the Kambia District, fleeing civilians from Rokupr, Kambia Town, Rosenoh, Rokon, Bompeh, Kychom, and Mapotolon who are presently camped at Bailor intimated this press that rebels had mobilised at Yomkellah farm, the former SSD training camp, at Samu for fear of any possible attack from the Great and Little Scarcies end.

According to them, Rokupr Town is referred to as water-side camp and is the collection point for logistics and goods siezed from the poor civilians. Speaking to this press, Kadiatu Sesay, a displaced from Rokupr Town over the weekend said that over 300 rebels want to surrender to UNAMSIL mainly because they were tired of fighting as most of them are child combatants. Kadiatu further said that they lacked food and other logistics to keep them alive.

According to her, this move was made when the helicopter gunship dropped leaflets in Kambia, Rokupr and Mambolo, adding that the leaflets indicated where the rebels should surrender if they wanted to. She said rebels were appealing to UNAMSIL to lift them to Port Loko or Lungi as they were afraid of surrendering to government forces.

Meanwhile, the Kambia District Desendants Association is appealing to the government and UNAMSIL to help the people of Kambia and its environs.

UNDP orientation on human resources development
By Sayoh Kamara.

The United Nations Development Programme in collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone on Friday 30th June, 2000 organised an orientation seminar at the Sierra Light House Restaurant Aberdeen, as part of the planning process to kick-start full implementation of the recently approved programmes aimed at developing the human resource base in the country.

The programmes, namely, Support to National Long Term Perspective Studies (NLTPS) Vision 2025; Support To Peace and Development Forum, Support to Integrated Approach to Aid Coordination, Support To Capacity Building and Support To Resettlement and Reintegration, are a compressed project which, according to the project document, is to be implemented within an eighteen-month period.

The project is to kick-start with a total capital of 8.8 million dollars. This capital base is said to be a catalyst for the encouragement of more donor support to enhance its full-scale operation..

The seminar which attracted representatives from government-line ministries, local non-governmental organisations and beneficiaries of UNDP funded projects, focussed on the modalities for programme implementation in line with UNDP vision 2002, the empowerment of the institutions responsible for implementing the programmes, the establishment of a common platform for the smooth flow of information and networking among implementing bodies, understanding UNDP procedures, tasks and organic responsiblities of each partner in national capacity building.

Making his maiden statement at the seminar, the UNDP Resident Representative Mr. K.O. Amaning emphasised the need to upgrade the standard of life of Sierra Leoneans and maintained that it was appalling to see citizens been reduced to destitution and deprivation in their own country. To make his point, he challenged participants to visit displaced camps within the western area and evaluate the deplorable situation these displaced are living in.

He however assured would be implementators that “the UNDP will always be open to you. We will always be available to assist you. Wherever you find difficulties, please come, for we are always disposed to helping you out.”

Various speakers made crash-lectures on the different focus points of the seminar, giving participants an insight into the work pattern of the project’s implementing organs.

Student Beaten For Girl friend
By Abu Whyte Fofanah.

Hundreds of students were reported to have stormed the 7th battalion on the 27th of June, 2000 to protest against the beating of their colleague student by a soldier.

According to an eye witness, Bammy Neral, the soldier was deployed at Police Beach (Milton Margai Beach) for security purpose. The soldier was reported to have claimed that one student at Milton Margai was in love with his girl friend, Binta.

According to sources, Binta was reported to have told his soja boyfriend that Bangura, a first year Religious and Moral Education student had attacked her and proposed love to her.

The soldier could not waste time to attack Bangura and mercilessly beat him. Bangura was reported to have been bayonetted on the head. Several bites were also reported to have been given to Bangura by the angry soldier.

Irate Milton Margai students were said to have approached the scene to rescue their colleague but the soldier was well armed with an RPG and a grenade.

The students were reported to have gone the 7th batallion in protest agianst the sad event. Sources confirmed that it was the timely intervention of one Lieutenant Sankoh that calmed the situation.

According to sources, the soldier was later disarmed by seven gallant soldiers and taken to the 7th batallion and detained in a guard room.

The matter was later referred to Congo Cross Police station for further investigation.

Campaign for the release of children and women heats up
By Bilal Turay.

The Forum of Conscience, a local human rights organisation, had learn from the research and reliable reports that at least 3000 chilren are held behind rebel lines and thousands of women a nd they used as sex slaves and carriers of looted goods while children are reported to be training near Makeni, Kono as fighters.These two groups women and children are vulnerably groups whose interesst must be sought by all human promoters.

Speaking at press briefing the executive Director of Forum of Conscience Mr. John Caulker said. In the wake of the Hostage taking of some members of the United Nation in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in May this year, the international community mounted a heavy campaign for the release of the UN hostages and the campaign was successful.

Mr. John Caulker said his organisation was calling on the UN and the International Commuity to mount the same pressure which resulted in the release of the UN hostages on behalf of these vulnerable groups.

He said the (F.O.C) is requesting an urgent action by the International community asking Charles Taylor to put pressure on the RUF to release all women and children forthwith.It should be noted that the continued abduction of these persons is a crime against humanity and also violates international laws.

Police In Dubious Deal
By Sorie I. Sesay

Residents of the Jalloh Terrace Community last Sunday accused the Chief Police Officer attached to the Kissy Mess Mess Police Station, Amadu Mannah, of collaborating with one Alie Kamara to molest and defraud them of their land area which they have occupied for the past 15 years.

The spokesman of the community, Mr. Sorie Kamara, disclosed that CPO Mannah has been promised two acres of land by Alie Kamara to help him acquire the said land by all means. To this, he went on, the CPO on several occasions ordered his officers including some SSD and military officers, to molest and victimise innocent residents in the area.

He further pointed out that the CPO deliberately refused to send the matter to court despite the fact that both parties had made statements in respect of the land issue.

“He is aware of the fact that his dubious activities will be exposed if the matter goes to court,” remarked Madam Ramatu, a resident of the area.

“What surprised us most is that even when we reported this naked aggression by his officers to him, he has made little or no effort to control the situation. We expect him to be neutral but this officer is far from that for reasons best known to himself,” said 60-year old Pa Amadu Kamara.

It all started two weeks ago when Mr. Amadu Kamara took some well armed security men to the area on the guise of receiving instructions from the High Court that the present occupants should quit the locality. The people protested to what they described as naked aggression and in the circumstances, they were beaten up and molested by the officers. Others sustained serious injuries.

RUF Hit Northern Towns
By Sayoh Kamara.

Fighters of the Revolutionary United Front have intensified their attacks on civilians in certain towns and villages in the north, apparently in search of the food and other basic logistics.

Reports stated that on the 24th June, rebels attacked Yeliboya in the Kambia District, burnt houses and looted food stuff and cattle. The rebels were reported to have fired sporadically into the air as they entered the island town. No casualty reports were available yet.

In a similar development, RUF rebels attacked the towns of Kumrabia-Mamilla and Robis, burning houses and looting properties and food stuff.

This, according to reports, has caused civilians in and around these villages to flee to Mile 91 and Masimera town in the Masimera chiefdom. Masimera is currently reported to be hosting 25,000 displaced persons who are currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

RUF’s Grip On Detainees
By Sayoh Kamara.

The stand-off between UNAMSIL and RUF fighters in Pendembu seems to be tightened up by the later, and until something militarily is done, no headway by way of negotiation is feasible.

According to UNAMSIL spokeswoman, Hirut Bafecadou, the twenty-one UNAMSIL detainees have been transfered from their previous point of detention to another house, formerly occupied by the International Committe of the Red Cross within the same Pendembu environs. She did not however establish the exact location of the house, but stated that their health and nutrition conditions are good.

It could be recalled that the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan, in an earlier statement regarding the detainees categorically stated that they must be released immediately and unconditionally.

However, in spite of this affirmative stance by the United Nations, the Indian government, whose citizens are involved in this breathtaking scenario have stepped up diplomatic efforts to ensure the release of their citizens.

Some time ago, it was reported that the Indian Prime Minister met with the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and called for his intervention to secure the release of his citizens.

Quite recently, the Indian Consul, Ken Azad, also called on the Foreign Minister, Dr. Sama Banya, to express his concern over the continued detention of the Indian UNAMSIL detainees, and urged government to intensify efforts to get his compatriots released.

These latest diplomatic overtures are clear indicators that the confidence reposed on the Liberian President Charles Taylor, is gradually dissipating presumably for his double standard role in the Sierra Leone crisis.

Aftermath of Masiaka attack, Six bodies discovered
By Sayoh Kamara.

UNAMSIL military spokesman, Lt.Commander Patrick Coker confirmed last week that six bodies had been seen and identified as SLAs and RUF combatants, following the recapture of Masiaka from the rebels by UNAMSIL. According to him, these bodies were seen after a random check and moppingup exercise by their men on the ground. Commander Coker stated that in due course, further bodies might be seen and identified as their men progressed with the consolidation of their positions in and around the township.

However in a seperate interview, Lt. Commander Coker disclosed that through intelligence sources, they had confirmed the admission by the RUF of sustaining serious casualiteis. He could not dilate further on that. He disclosed also that the RUF must have had a long term intention for Masiaka, stating that the attack on a UNAMSIL convoy fifteen Miles from Mile 91 was aimed at rendering that route blockaded so that they could use it to by pass UNAMSIL positions to Masiaka. “They must have approached Masiaka from the northern axis, probably via the Magburaka/Malal axis,” the Lt. Commander disclosed.

Masiaka itself is reported by UNAMSIL spokesman Hirut Befecadou as calm and quiet. She also reported that efforts are underway by UNAMSIL troops on the ground to bring into the town,civilians that had fled the fighting to nearby bushes.

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