NGOs Call for U.S. Action on Sierra Leone - signed by Friends of Sierra Leone

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NGOs Call for U.S. Action on Sierra Leone - signed by Friends of Sierra Leone

NGOs Call for U.S. Action on Sierra Leone - signed by Friends of Sierra Leone

NGOs Call for U.S. Action on Sierra Leone

February 9, 1999

The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright Samuel R. Berger
Secretary of State Assistant to the President
U.S. Department of State for National Security Affairs
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. 2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520 Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Madam Secretary and Mr. Berger:

As organizations closely monitoring the deteriorating situation in Sierra
Leone, we appeal to you to commit the United States to more meaningful
action for peace in that country.

"A nightmare is unfolding in the civil war in Sierra Leone ... ," reads a
recent Washington Post editorial. "The fighting is now overwhelming what
national forces of order remain, leaving a desperate civilian population
abandoned and defenseless; an international force does what it can."
Sierra Leone's nightmare has been unfolding for eight years now. As the
fighting reaches the more populous coast, the surging flow of refugees
has finally caught the attention of the world.

What distinguishes this conflict from others waged in the region is the
widespread use of terror as a weapon. Rape and kidnaping of civilians
have become commonplace. The insurgents, who lack popular support, have
committed barbaric reprisals against anyone suspected of favoring the
democratically elected government. Villagers are burned alive-- not only
men, but women and children. Victims whose hands or feet have been hacked
off serve as a warning to others.

Hunger is also a weapon of this war. The large-scale flight prompted by
the atrocities has wiped out much of the country's agricultural economy.
The recent fighting in Freetown has cut supply routes, seriously
disrupting relief efforts and leaving the population without food and
medical care.

Immediate action by the United States is needed if Sierra Leone's misery
is to end. We urge you to do several things.

High Level Diplomatic Attention: Recognizing the urgency of Sierra
Leone's crisis, we ask that you dramatically heighten the United States'
commitment to a negotiated and enduring peace in that country. As part of
its heightened approach the United States should seek to improve the
capabilities of the newly formed Sierra Leone Contact Group, a mechanism
used elsewhere to consolidate peace processes. Strong coordination
between a U.S. led Contact Group and the West African nations attempting
to broker peace in Sierra Leone will help ensure that opportunities for
peace are not squandered because of inadequate international support.
Likewise, sustained diplomatic and financial support by the United States
and the Contact Group is needed if Sierra Leoneans are to meet the
challenges of disarmament, reintegrating refugees, national
reconciliation and democratic governance. A costly humanitarian crisis
will be prolonged unless the United States makes these modest investments
in peace building.

Support ECOMOG: The U.S. government needs to substantially increase the
resources and logistical support to the African multinational
peacekeeping force that is helping to defend Sierra Leone's government.
Nigeria and the other nations contributing troops and supplies to the
effort have depleted their resources. They need more than the words of
encouragement, promises and the minimal aid we have given them. The
United States can help muster, as it did two years ago in Liberia, the
logistical support urgently needed by ECOMOG to transform it into an
effective peacekeeping force. In view of the gravity and urgency of the
crisis the Administration's use of drawdown authority would be

Increase Humanitarian Assistance: The United States should acknowledge
the rapidly growing humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone by increasing its
funding of assistance programs and convincing other nations to step up
their support. Resources for the World Food Program, UNICEF and the
United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees are stretched thin and
need the support of the leading nations.

More is at stake than continuing chaos and suffering in Sierra Leone. The
destruction of Sierra Leone's elected government will reverberate
throughout West Africa causing further instability. ECOMOG, the only
available peacekeeping force in a region with many potential flashpoints,
could be permanently crippled if defeated in Sierra Leone by a terrorist

We note with regret the stark contrast between the attention and
resources the Administration is committing to resolution of the crises in
Kosovo and Central America with its response to the desperate situation
in Sierra Leone. Every human life is precious, none more so than any

Thank you for your consideration of the humanitarian plight in Sierra
Leone and for American attention and resources, diplomatic and

Sincerely yours,

Reynold Levy
International Rescue Committee

For the following organizations:
(listed alphabetically)

Africa America Institute
Africa Faith and Justice Network
African Lawyers Association
Africa Policy Information Center
American Committee on Africa
American Refugee Committee
Association of Sierra Leoneans in Georgia
Baptist World Aid
Center for Civil and Human Rights of Notre Dame Law School
The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy
Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program
Constituency for Africa
Demilitarization for Democracy
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Friends of Liberia
Friends of Sierra Leone
International Medical Corps
Justice and Peace Office, Society of African Missions
Liberians United for Peace and Democracy
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Lutheran Office for Government Affairs
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
National Council of Jewish Women
National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America
National Peace Corps Association
Peace Action
Presiding Bishops Fund for World Relief
Refugees International
School Sisters of Notre Dame and Provincial Council of St. Louis
Shalom North America
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church and
the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
U.S. Catholic Mission Association
U.S. Committee for Refugees
Washington Office on Africa
West African Women's Crusade for Peace
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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