TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / NIGERIA (L-O)
INTRO: The commander of ECOMOG, the West African
peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, says Nigeria has
suspended the withdrawal of its troops from the
country. As V-O-A's John Pitman reports from our West
Africa bureau, the decision to stop the withdrawal
comes amid renewed concerns about security around
Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown.
TEXT: ECOMOG's force commander, Nigerian General
Gebriel Kpamber, announced the suspension of the troop
withdrawal on Saturday, in an address broadcast on
Sierra Leonean radio and television.
Speaking to V-O-A by telephone after the address,
General Kpamber said the decision to stop the
withdrawal was made after Sierra Leone's president,
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and the United Nations secretary
general, both appealed for continued Nigerian military
Sierra Leone is currently implementing the first
stages of a peace agreement signed by the government
and rebels in July. However, delays in disarming
combatants on both sides - and a spate of kidnappings
by disgruntled rebels - have raised concerns about
security in the country.
Rumors have also reportedly circulated in the capital,
Freetown, that the rebels could launch another assault
on the city if the delays continue.
For his part, General Kpamber said rumors of a rebel
attack were, in his words, "unfounded." But he
conceded that Sierra Leoneans are anxious about the
future of the peace accord.
/// KPAMBER ACT ///
There is an anxiety on the part of the rebels
and the public to disarm and get into all the
other aspects of the peace accord. But the
problem, really, is there is an opportunity for
the disarmament to be conducted. But if it is
not done, the public is not safe. It is also
expected that the rebels might change their
minds if nobody's willing to disarm them.
/// END ACT ///
A United Nations peacekeeping force has been charged
with disarming and reintegrating soldiers from the
rebel and pro-government forces. General Kpamber said
ECOMOG would also assist the U-N troops.
Following the signature of the peace accord in July,
Nigeria began pulling some of its soldiers out of
Sierra Leone. For security reasons, General Kpamber
would not say how many soldiers had already left
Sierra Leone. But published news reports say about 12-
hundred Nigerians have returned home since July.
At its peak, close to 12-thousand Nigerian soldiers
served in ECOMOG, forming the backbone of the force.
ECOMOG has backed the government in Sierra Leone since
1997, when it helped restore President Kabbah to power
after a coup.
In his radio address, General Kpamber sought to dispel
concerns that ECOMOG had been weakened by the first
round of withdrawals, saying the force would continue
to guarantee people's lives and property.
Speaking to V-O-A, General Kpamber expanded on the
role ECOMOG will continue to play in Sierra Leone.
/// KPAMBER ACT ///
The troops we have on the ground are up to the
task. They are capable of carrying out the
tasks, operational tasks assigned to them in the
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
program. We feel we can do that task and we
feel we can start the disarmament without any
/// END ACT ///
Concerns about security in Sierra Leone have
intensified in recent weeks as small groups of
disgruntled former soldiers have complained that their
interests were not addressed by the peace agreement.
04-Sep-1999 14:18 PM EDT (04-Sep-1999 1818 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list