Sierra Leone: Time for a New Military and Political Strategy

Sierra Leone is a human tragedy of massive proportions that is rapidly becoming a security nightmare for all West Africa. Two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s population are thought to have been displaced during the ten-year civil war. Another 600,000 have become refugees in neighbouring countries. The war is spilling over into Guinea, where heavy fighting since September 2000 threatens the collapse of the government and has already produced a massive, new refugee problem. In effect, Sierra Leone is now at the heart of a series of conflicts that risk forming an arc of violence from southern Senegal to the Ivory Coast. ICG believes the international community needs to take a radically different approach to that in which it has engaged so far. There should be no further negotiations with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) other than for its complete disarmament and demobilisation. The RUF has blatantly used negotiations for the purpose of rearming. It has consistently shown bad faith in the string of agreements it has signed in Abidjan, Conakry, Lomé and Abuja. The RUF has no meaningful political constituency. Its main backer is Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, who uses it as a proxy army to pursue his drive for regional hegemony: not for nothing is Taylor known widely as the Milosevic of West Africa. And, of course, the RUF has committed heinous atrocities qualifying as war crimes. This report reaches the conclusion, stark, but we believe unavoidable -- that the international community must help Sierra Leone take decisive military action against the RUF.