Background - History of the Conflict in Sierra Leone.

On 27 April 1961, Sierra Leone achieved independence as a constitutional monarchy within the British commonwealth. The SLPP, lead by Dr (sir) Albert Margai, half brother of its former leader, won elections in May 1962.

In March 1967, the army assumed control through a military coup, establishing the National Reformation Council. It was later declared that the All-People's Congress (APC) had won the disputed March elections. Following another military coup in April 1968 a civilian government, led by Dr. Siaka Stevens, the leader of the APC, was put in place. Stevens was inaugurated as President for a seven year term on 14 June 1978 after legislature had declared the APC to be the sole legitimate political organization.

Civil unrest began in the 80's as the government faced increasing opposition resulting from reports of corruption and misappropriation of public funds. By the end of 1985, the diamond industry, which had previously composed twenty five percent of the country's Gross National Produce, was run with tax exemption, by associates of the president.

The successive president, Joseph Momoh, who was elected through what is believed to have been a staged election, lacked sufficient popularity amongst independent strongmen to end the private control of Sierra Leone wealth that was enjoyed by Steven's cronies. The National Constitutional Review Commission submitted a draft proposal in March 1991 to the Sierra Leone Government requesting the adoption of a multi-party system and limiting the presidential term of office to a maximum of two five-year terms. Conflicts began to arise in the APC due to differing opinions over the new constitution. This led to the resignations of the first vice-president, the second vice-president and the finance minister, signifying the beginning of a break down of power, law and order in Sierra Leone.

 The successive president, Joseph Momoh, who was elected through what is believed to have been a staged election, lacked sufficient popularity amongst independent strongmen to end the private control of Sierra Leone wealth that was enjoyed by Steven's cronies. The National Constitutional Review Commission submitted a draft proposal in March 1991 to the Sierra Leone Government requesting the adoption of a multi-party system and limiting the presidential term of office to a maximum of two five-year terms. Conflicts began to arise in the APC due to differing opinions over the new constitution. This led to the resignations of the first vice-president, the second vice-president and the finance minister, signifying the beginning of a break down of power, law and order in Sierra Leone.  

 

A refugee in Kobekoro. He suffered a gunshot wound when returned to Sierra Leone (after previously fleeing to Guinea) when he heard on the BBC that his village had been liberated. He fled back to Guinea. Photo: Bill Christopher.

 Since 1991, Sierra Leone has been embroiled in a civil crisis as rebel forces, mainly the Revolutionary United Front, battle the Government of Sierra Leone through civilian by attacking mainly civilians. More than 20,000 have died almost half of Sierra Leone's 4.5 million inhabitants have been displaced.

In April 1992 Valentine Strasser, a 27yr old army official lead a successful coup in Freetown. After declaring himself president, he replaced most of the military officials within the cabinet with civilians appointees. The idea being to allow the military members of the government to concentrate on winning the rebel war. Strasser however, found himself in a dire situation than Momoh. Unable to finance a loyal and consequently efficient army, or deliver his popular promises, made especially to young Sierra Leoneans, to renew state services he saw increasing violence of civil war and political instability.

In April 1995, president Valentine Strasser called in South African based, Executive Outcomes (EO); a private military security company.

In July 1999, the Lome Peace Accord was signed, bringing a tenuous peace to the country.
Terms of the Lome peace accord:
· general amnesty for combatants who had committed atrocities
· set up of power sharing arrangements
· established a process for the demobilization and disarmament of combatants
· called for the release of all abducted civilians, and promised unhindered access to humanitarian organizations.

United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).
On October 22, 1999: the UN Security Council approved a 6,000-strong UN peacekeeping force, known as UNAMSIL, for Sierra Leone. In November 1999. UNAMSIL's strength in Sierra was 12,500, following an expansion of the UNAMSIL mandate.

Economic Community of West Africa Peace Monitoring Force (ECOMOG).
April 30, 2000 : ECOMOG troops, who had supported the Sierra Leonean government during the war, completed their withdrawal from Sierra Leone, leaving UNAMSIL to provide security for Freetown, because of the lack of a viable Sierra Leonean army.

May 2000 : RUF rebels took hundreds of U.N. peacekeeping troops hostage, leading to the resumption of hostilities.

Fighting continues between rebels and pro-government forces, particularly in the northern areas of the country. Sporadic kidnappings of international peacekeepers also continue.

quick facts about Sierra Leone from ABC...

more pictures of the conflict....

 

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