Sierra Leone's last chance for peace by Peter C. Andersen, a former Peace Corps volunteer, who runs Sierra Leone Web out of his home in Elk River, Minnesota.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sierra Leone: Peace Corps Sierra Leone : The Peace Corps in Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone's last chance for peace by Peter C. Andersen, a former Peace Corps volunteer, who runs Sierra Leone Web out of his home in Elk River, Minnesota.

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 9:49 pm: Edit Post

Sierra Leone's last chance for peace by Peter C. Andersen, a former Peace Corps volunteer, who runs Sierra Leone Web out of his home in Elk River, Minnesota.

Sierra Leone's last chance for peace by Peter C. Andersen, a former Peace Corps volunteer, who runs Sierra Leone Web out of his home in Elk River, Minnesota.

Sierra Leone's last chance for peace
Danger increasing for troops on their way to war-torn West Africa


Sierra Leone's Murray Town Amputee Camp, home to several hundred scarred victims of rebel atrocities, provides at once a metaphor for one of Africa's most brutal conflicts and a photo backdrop for visiting officials. It is the clearest window into the country's recent horrific past, which saw tens of thousands of civilians killed, mutilated, abducted and raped, and hundreds of thousands more forced to flee their homes. To an outside world that knows little of this war-torn West African nation, Murray Town Camp is the face of Sierra Leone. And without a substantial commitment by the international community to support its fragile peace process, Murray Town Camp could also be a window into Sierra Leone's future.

Although they came late to the conflict, UN peacekeepers are now in a position to shape the endgame of the country's more than eight years of civil strife. When the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) fully deploys this June, it will be the world's largest active UN peacekeeping operation. Currently at about three quarters of its authorized 11,100 troop strength, UN peacekeepers face the daunting task of disarming and demobilizing between 30,000 and 45,000 former combatants scattered over a rugged and often inaccessible area of 73,000 square kilometers.

These "stakeholders," as they sometimes call themselves, are not inclined to make the UN's job easy. Rebel leader Foday Sankoh, whose Revolutionary United Front (RUF) signed a peace agreement with President Kabbah's government last July in exchange for a share of power, has questioned the propriety of a UN role. Sankoh has yet to disarm a significant number of his followers, and his troops have frequently challenged UN patrols or blocked their deployment in rebel strongholds. Earlier this year, a Guinean battalion on its way to join the UNAMSIL force was disarmed by RUF fighters, to the consternation of the international community, which wondered aloud whether the UN was up to the job. And in early May, rebels killed seven Kenyan UN peacekeepers and took dozens hostage after a series of confrontations in the central and northeastern parts of the country. The Front continues to control much of northern and eastern Sierra Leone, including the diamond mining areas, where it operates as a virtual state within a state.

Armed rebel soldiers of Johnny Paul Koroma's Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) also control pockets of the north. These troops, many of them hastily recruited and poorly trained irregulars, are remnants of the military junta that overthrew Sierra Leone's civilian government in May 1997 and who, in partnership with their erstwhile RUF enemies, ruled the country until they were ousted in February 1998. They still consider themselves to be Sierra Leone's legitimate army, and are demanding reinstatement. On the government side are the Civil Defence Forces, a patchwork of chiefdom-based and mostly ethnic civil militias with roots in traditional hunting societies. They were reorganized into a fighting force to combat the RUF and later the AFRC, and are reluctant to hand over their weapons until they see those two groups disarm.

When the UN Security Council approved the peacekeeping force for Sierra Leone last October, it counted on ECOMOG, the Nigerian-dominated military wing of the regional Economic Community of West African States, to provide a security umbrella for the UN's operations. ECOMOG sent troops to Freetown in mid-1997 after the AFRC military coup overthrowing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's elected government. The Security Council imposed sanctions on the junta and delegated enforcement responsibility to ECOMOG. After several months of attempting to enforce a blockade, ECOMOG moved beyond its UN mandate in February 1998 to oust the junta and restore Kabbah to power.

But the Security Council had failed to take into account how much political realities on the ground have changed. Nigeria's new civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, was anxious to end his country's involvement in an expensive and unpopular war inherited from the former military regime. After restoring Sierra Leone's civilian government, the ill-equipped and under-funded ECOMOG force failed to achieve a military victory over the rebels. In late 1998, the ECOMOG shield collapsed before a rebel counter-offensive that ended in a deadly assault on Freetown. Western nations, who had been reluctant to support a military force controlled by the late Nigerian military dictator Sani Abacha, now intensified pressure on President Kabbah to cut a deal with the rebels.

In response, the Security Council enlarged UNAMSIL and retooled its mandate to fill the security vacuum left by the departing ECOMOG force. By the end of April the UN was at least nominally deployed in nine of the country's twelve districts, and was poised to open new disarmament centers in rebel-held areas. But even as UNAMSIL has made incremental gains in rebel areas with assurances it will not use force to compel rebel fighters to disarm, the UN has so far failed to convince a tense Freetown population that its soldiers would fight to protect the capital from any new rebel attack should the peace process break down.

ECOMOG withdrawal, however, is a fact, and the UN may now be Sierra Leone's only hope. Given sufficient resources and backed by a new resolve by the international community, UNAMSIL may well succeed in restoring an uneasy peace to Sierra Leone-but its success is not yet assured. Many Sierra Leoneans will regret the lost opportunities to end the country's woes short of UN intervention. But against the backdrop of Murray Town Camp, most would also agree that if the United Nations peacekeeping force was not their country's best hope for peace, it might now well be its last one.

Peter C. Andersen, a former Peace Corps volunteer, runs Sierra Leone Web out of his home in Elk River, Minnesota.

By Adolfo João Gomes Romano ( on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 8:10 am: Edit Post

Hello, my name is Adolfo Romano, am from Guinea-Bissau(West Africa and North of Guinea Conakry). Now I am studing in Portugal(Western Europe).
Since 5 years ago I knew that my uncle is in Sierra Leone and I have tryed several time to have a contact with him but we never talk. Last tree years I got the following e-mail throught USAID: and he found my uncle, but I never talk to him. I have contacted Mr Mbayo so many times but he never return me e-mail.
I know that my uncle live in Amputy Town and he has converted to muslim religion and his new name is Ishmael but his real name is Salvador Gomes Romano. He is well built(tall and strong man). I think he is working with Mr Domenic A. Sam in Okikie Agences (telf: .....230265).
What a whish at all is your help. Please help me to find him again. I need to talk with him....we didn't see each other about 24 years ago. He knew that I was looking for him. Please help me and contat me by these folowing adresses:

CETHE, Av. Condes de Barcelona
2769-Estoril- Portugal
Cell: 00351-965786711
e-mail: or

Adolfo João Gomes Romano

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