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DATE=1/28/99 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-42469 TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / REBELS BYLINE=JOHN PITMAN DATELINE=ABIDJAN CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: REBELS FIGHTING SIERRA LEONE'S GOVERNMENT HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF COMMITTING ATROCITIES AGAINST CIVILIANS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. MANY OBSERVERS SAY THE REBELS ALSO LACK A COHERENT POLITICAL AGENDA. BUT THE REBELS SAY THESE CHARGES ARE SIMPLY PART OF A GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN TO SMEAR THEIR REPUTATION. VOA'S JOHN PITMAN HAS BEEN TALKING TO BOTH SIDES RECENTLY, AND FILED THIS REPORT ON THE REBELS' "IMAGE" PROBLEM. TEXT: THROUGHOUT SIERRA LEONE'S EIGHT-YEAR-LONG CIVIL WAR, REBEL SOLDIERS HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF KILLING, MUTILATING, RAPING AND KIDNAPPING CIVILIANS. WHILE THERE IS PLENTY OF EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE CHARGES AGAINST REBEL SOLDIERS, REBEL OFFICIALS SAY THE BLAME FOR THESE ATROCITIES SHOULD NOT FALL ON THEIR TROOPS ALONE. OMRIE GOLLEY IS (THE R-U-F'S) POLITICAL ADVISOR TO THE REBELS KNOWN BY THE INITIALS R-U-F, THE REVOLUTIONARY UNITED FRONT. HE CONCEDES THAT REBEL SOLDIERS MAY HAVE COMMITTED ATROCITIES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR. BUT HE SAYS IT IS NOT OFFICIAL R-U-F POLICY TO TARGET CIVILIANS. IN AN INTERVIEW WITH V-O-A IN THE IVORY COAST, MR. GOLLEY SAID GOVERNMENT LOYALISTS -- ESPECIALLY THE KAMAJOR MILITIAS -- ARE ALSO GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST CIVILIANS. HE SAID THE R-U-F BELIEVES IT WOULD BE VINDICATED, IF THE ATROCITIES WERE INVESTIGATED BY INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS. /// GOLLEY ACT /// THE R-U-F HAVE BEEN UNFAIRLY ATTACKED IN RECENT TIMES BY THE GOVERNMENT ... IN RESPECT TO THESE ATROCITIES. THE GOVERNMENT HAS CONSISTENTLY TOLD THE PRESS ... THAT THE R-U-F HAVE BEEN PRINCIPALLY INVOLVED IN THIS QUESTION OF ATROCITIES. WHAT WE ARE SAYING IS THAT THIS IS AN UNFAIR ALLEGATION, AND THAT A MOVEMENT WITH SOME IMPARTIALITY COMING INTO THIS COUNTRY WOULD VERIFY THIS. /// END ACT /// INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS SAY THERE MAY BE SOME TRUTH TO THE REBELS' COMPLAINT THAT THEY HAVE BEEN UNFAIRLY SINGLED OUT FOR BLAME. PETER STRANDBERG IS A SWEDISH JOURNALIST WHO SPENT TIME WITH THE REBELS IN 1998. HE SAYS HE DID NOT FIND ANY EVIDENCE THAT REBEL LEADERS WERE SANCTIONING THE ATROCITIES. /// STRANDBERG ACT /// BASICALLY, THEY CLAIM THAT THEY COULD NOT SURVIVE IN THE JUNGLE FOR NINE YEARS WITHOUT VERY MUCH -- WITHOUT ANY FOREIGN SUPPORT, IF THEY CUT THE HANDS AND HEADS OFF THE CIVILIAN POPULATION. THEY WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GO FROM THE BORDER, IN THE EAST, TO NEARLY CAPTURE FREETOWN, IF THEY KILLED CIVILIANS ALL THE TIME. /// END ACT /// BUT MR. STRANDBERG ADDS THAT ALTHOUGH ATROCITIES ARE PROBABLY NOT OFFICIAL POLICY, THERE ARE DIVISIONS WITHIN THE REBEL MOVEMENT WHICH ITS COMMANDERS CANNOT ALWAYS CONTROL. AMONG THESE GROUPS ARE MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY JUNTA WHICH OVERTHREW PRESIDENT AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH IN 1997. JOURNALIST PETER STRANDBERG SAYS MANY OF THESE EX-SOLDIERS MAY BE TAKING REVENGE ON CIVILIANS FOR NOT SUPPORTING THEIR COUP. /// OPT /// RECENT EYEWITNESS REPORTS FROM FREETOWN BACK UP THIS THEORY. SEVERAL CIVILIANS WHO HAD THEIR HANDS AMPUTATED SAID THEIR ATTACKERS TOLD THEM THEY WERE BEING PUNISHED FOR SUPPORTING PRESIDENT KABBAH'S GOVERNMENT. /// END OPT /// FOREIGN SOLDIERS MAY ALSO BE INVOLVED IN SIERRA LEONE'S WAR. LIBERIA AND BURKINA FASO HAVE BOTH BEEN ACCUSED OF PROVIDING SOLDIERS AND TRAINING TO THE REBELS -- ALLEGATIONS BOTH COUNTRIES HAVE DENIED. OBSERVERS SAY THE RELATIVE YOUTH OF MANY REBEL SOLDIERS MAY ALSO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ANARCHY WHICH SEEMS TO RULE IN AREAS CONTROLLED BY THE R-U-F. //OPT// VICTIMS OF ALLEGED REBEL ATROCITIES SAY THEIR ATTACKERS WERE OFTEN JUST BOYS WHO WERE HIGH ON MARIJUANA OR DRUNK. //END OPT// THE KILLINGS AND MUTILATIONS HAVE OVERSHADOWED THE REBEL'S POLITICAL AGENDA -- WHICH SOME CRITICS SAY IS ALREADY UNFOCUSED. R-U-F POLITICAL ADVISOR OMRIE GOLLEY SAYS HE BELIEVES THE REBELS DO HAVE AN AGENDA. //OPT// HE'S EVEN PUT A LUCRATIVE CAREER AS A COMMERCIAL LAWYER ON HOLD TO SUPPORT IT. //END OPT// /// SECOND GOLLEY ACT /// THE R-U-F WANTS A POLITICAL-ECONOMIC-AND-SOCIAL STRUCTURE WHICH TAKES AWAY THE PROBLEMS THAT HAVE AFFLICTED SIERRA LEONE IN PAST DECADES ... WHAT THE R-U-F IS SAYING (IS THAT) THIS IS THE RESULT OF ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT, OF NEPOTISM AND OF CORRUPTION. /// END ACT /// //OPT// MR. GOLLEY SAID HIS JOB IS TO ARTICULATE THE R-U-F'S POLITICAL AGENDA. BUT HE WOULD NOT GIVE ANY SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT WHAT AN R-U-F GOVERNMENT MIGHT DO TO TACKLE THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS. SWEDISH JOURNALIST PETER STRANDBERG SAYS THE R-U-F APPEARS TO BE BUILT ON A FOUNDATION OF WHAT HE CALLS "RADICAL" MARXIST IDEAS. /// SECOND STRANDBERG ACT /// AS I SEE IT, IT (THE R-U-F) IS A VERY NATIONALISTIC, PATRIOTIC MOVEMENT WITH SOME RADICAL IDEAS -- FORMER MARXIST IDEAS ABOUT CONTROLLING THEIR OWN MINERAL RESOURCES, THE DIAMONDS AND THE GOLD. /// END ACT /// //END OPT// //OPT// R-U-F ADVISER OMRIE GOLLEY SAYS THE REBELLION DOES ESPOUSE SOME MARXIST IDEAS, BUT HE ADDS THE GROUP ALSO BELIEVES IN FREE MARKET ECONOMICS AND FREE TRADE. //END OPT// SIERRA LEONE'S REBELLION HAS ITS ROOTS IN POPULAR DISSATISFACTION OVER PAST GOVERNMENTS' ECONOMIC POLICIES -- POLICIES WHICH THE COUNTRY'S POOR SAY DIRECTED MOST OF THE PROFITS FROM DIAMOND MINING INTO THE POCKETS OF GOVERNMENT MINISTERS AND FOREIGN CORPORATIONS. ACCORDING TO MR. STRANDBERG, THE REBELLION'S FOUNDER, FODAY SANKOH -- WHO IS CURRENTLY FACING A DEATH SENTENCE IN A GOVERNMENT JAIL -- IS SEEN BY MANY AS A CRUSADER FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE POOR, AND SOMETHING OF A FATHER FIGURE FOR THOUSANDS OF YOUNG, UNEMPLOYED MEN AND BOYS WHO RALLIED TO HIS CAUSE. THE REBELS SAY DIAMOND MINING IS THE "ROOT OF ALL EVIL" IN SIERRA LEONE, AND CLAIM NOT TO BE EXPLOITING THE MINES IN AREAS THEY CONTROL. BUT THIS CLAIM HAS BEEN REJECTED BY PRESIDENT KABBAH'S GOVERNMENT, WHICH SAYS THE R-U-F IS GUIDED BY SELF-INTEREST, NOT PATRIOTISM. SEPTIMUS KAIKAI IS THE PRESIDENT'S SPECIAL ADVISER. /// KAIKAI ACT /// THERE ARE NO ISSUES FOR THESE PEOPLE. THEY DO NOT HAVE A POLITICAL AGENDA. THEY DO NOT HAVE A RELIGIOUS AGENDA. THERE IS NO SOCIAL AGENDA. WHAT THEY ARE SIMPLY DOING IS PERSONAL -- PERSONAL AGGRANDIZEMENT, SELFISHNESS ON THEIR PART, JUST TO AMASS WEALTH. /// END ACT /// THE DEBATE OVER THE DEPTH OF THE REBELS' AND THE GOVERNMENTS' INVOLVEMENT IN THE ATROCITIES AGAINST CIVILIANS MAY NEVER BE RESOLVED. //REST OPT// HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS AND SOME PEOPLE IN THE UNITED NATIONS HAVE CALLED FOR AN INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL FOR SIERRA LEONE, WHERE, AT LEAST, THESE QUESTIONS WOULD BE ADDRESSED IN AN OPEN FORUM. PERHAPS MORE DIFFICULT, HOWEVER, WILL BE THE TASK OF PARENTS THROUGHOUT SIERRA LEONE, WHO WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN THE PAST TO CHILDREN WHO HAVE LOST HANDS OR FEET TO ANOTHER GENERATION'S POLITICAL AGENDA. (SIGNED) NEB/JP/PCF 28-Jan-99 2:27 PM EST (1927 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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