Association of Nigerian Scholars for Dialogue

Nowa Omoigui, MD

It is very important to understand the history of Sierra Leone before taking a position on Nigeria's military adventure in that country. A review is in order.


The modern day West African country called Sierra Leone was originally populated by the Bulom people. The Mende, Temne and Fulani peoples were subsequent inhabitants, arriving in waves of migration during and after the fifteenth century. There are today approximately 18 ethnic entities in the country, the largest of which are the Mende and Temne (along with related subgroups). These groups include the politically and administratively dominant Creoles (less than 2% of the population) who are descendants of emancipated African slaves brought back in the late eighteenth century to colonize the coastal area. The dynamics of their integration (or lack thereof) into the aboriginal groups that predated their arrival is at the core of political instability in Sierra Leone today. Therefore, I will go into some detail regarding the mechanics of their accession.

Pre-colonial Times

Following Lord Mansfield's landmark 1772 court decision in the Somerset case (declaring that English Common Law did not recognize slavery) and the end of the American War of Independence in 1783, a group of former sugar plantation slaves in the West Indies along with American refugees became a "black underclass" for whom some kind of disposition was needed. The St. Georges Bay Company was thus formed in 1786 to propagate "legal trade" or "honorable commerce." It aimed to resettle the "black poor" of England (along with "recaptives") in West Africa from whence they came. An unstated but parallel goal was that these "resettlers" would be a beacon of 'civilization' for the rest of Africa. Following a recommendation by an explorer (Henry Smeathen), a patch of land negotiated with local Temne rulers near the Sierra Leone river was determined to be most suitable for this purpose. That patch of land is today the site of the Sierra Leone State House (or what remains of it).

On May 14, 1787 a vanguard of about 400 blacks and some 30 white prostitutes from London's slums arrived to establish the colony. They were settled in what became known as "Granville Town" (named after Granville Sharp). But in what was to presage the future, disagreement quickly developed between the Temne and the first settlers resulting in the burning down of Granville Town by King Jimmy.

In 1792, approximately 1000 settlers arrived under the aegis of the Sierra Leone Company. They consisted of freed "Negroes" from Nova Scotia (listed in Brigadier Samuel Birch's 'Book of Negroes') who had initially been settled there after fighting on the side of Britain during the American war of independence. In 1800 another 500 "maroons" (runaway slaves living independently) were evacuated from Jamaica to Sierra Leone following a revolt.

The dispute with the Temne was over "rent" which the Temne felt they were owed by the colony. In a twist that became the hallmark of politics in the subregion, the Temne had indeed signed a treaty granting full sovereignty to the Colony but then turned around to say that this was not their understanding. This misunderstanding became violent, when in 1801, the Temne attacked Freetown. The assault failed, resulting instead in the expulsion of the Temne from the area.

Although a large group, the Temne were divided into small chiefdoms and kingdoms. After retreating from the peninsula area, they found themselves under Susu rule in Port Loko. But in 1815 they regained control in a counterstroke. >From then until 1841 they were preoccupied with the Temne-Loko war which they won. The Mende on the other hand had a more unobtrusive pattern of migration, gradually emerging as a major group in the region.

Slavery was formally abolished in Britain in 1807. In part because of the financial collapse of the Sierra Leone Company, but also because of the need to control Freetown as the base of British naval operations against slavery, the British government took over the colony in 1808. A "Liberated African Department" was created to handle new arrivals. Such arrivals were enlisted into the Army, provided opportunities for trade apprenticeship or inserted into villages where they learned to manage livestock, cultivate crops and perform carpentry or masonry. However, little intermarriage or social integration took place. The "Creoles," as they became known, preferred existence along the coast venturing into the hinterland only when it facilitated their role as middlemen. In the late nineteenth century, trade wars (for control) were to become a common feature of the political landscape.

For 55 years the colony was ruled by appointed governors along with seven officials with no local representation. A few educated West Indians did, however, find their way into the administration. The Sierra Leone Committee of Correspondence demanded for local representation in 1853. This was followed by the emergence of a local private newspaper ("New Era") in 1855. A 'legislature' was finally created in 1863 with one appointed representative nominated by local merchants. The first such representative was a "Nigerian" called John Ezzidio, born in Nupe (Niger state) and brought to Freetown as a child where he evolved into a major importer. Freetown became a municipality in 1893 but elections were not introduced until 1924.

Parallel to absolute political control, missionary activity was intense. Consistent with the dream of its founders, an infrastructure was established from which generations of civil servants, missionaries and teachers were trained and sent to other places in Africa. Beginning in 1804, when the first Church Missionary Society (CMS) school was created, both the CMS and Wesleyan missions established primary, secondary and teacher training schools during the rest of the nineteenth century. [In more recent years, however, a larger proportion of African traditionalists have converted to Islam.]

In the last thirty years of the nineteenth century cultural nationalists like Blyden (a Liberian), Grant, Johnson and May began to advocate "Africanization" of thinking, dressing, religious worship and education. Unfortunately, their appeals for "Africanization" did not light a fire, however, because western ways of life had taken root among the elite. But the CMS Teacher Training College established at Fourah Bay in 1827 was affiliated with Durham University in 1876 and thus became West Africa's first University. A "Nigerian", Samuel Ajayi Crowther had been its first student as a Teacher Training institution. He returned to "Nigeria" to head the Niger mission and was made Bishop in 1864. Many "liberated" Africans chose to return to their ancestral homes. Such Yoruba "Creoles," for example, became the ancestors of a number of prominent families in Lagos and Abeokuta in modern Nigeria. Years later, Nigerian leaders like Awolowo and Azikiwe were influenced in their political thoughts and writings by the Sierra Leonean educational, labor and press establishment.

British Colonization and Colonial Rule

In the run-up to the Berlin conference, large chunks of West Africa were ceded to France, including much of the hinterland of modern day Sierra Leone. Liberia, for example, was cannibalized. The British excised the Gallinas area near the Mano and Moa rivers and added it to Sierra Leone. The French grabbed the area beyond Cape Palmas and appended it to Ivory Coast. But for territorial rivalries between France and Britain along with American pressure, Liberia would not have been a separate country today.

Finally, in 1896 the British 'protectorate' of Sierra Leone was proclaimed. No local ruler was consulted. But in order to generate revenue to administer the protectorate, a "Hut Tax" was introduced by the Governor of Sierra Leone. Families were told to pay a tax to England for their own homes! This led to the Temne insurgency of 1898, championed by Bai Bureh of Kasseh. For nine months he harassed British forces in a classic guerrilla campaign. The Mende, on the other hand, were encouraged to revolt by the actions of the Temne. They took a different approach by simply killing all Europeans and Creoles living among them. Both the Temne and Mende rebellions were brutally suppressed by the British. Entire villages and towns were simply razed to the ground. Bai Bureh was exiled. Many Mendes were hanged. The 'Hut Tax' was retained, although the British cynically enforced it through "indirect rule."

The Sierra Leone Battalion fought alongside the Nigeria Regiment, the Gambia Company, the Gold Coast Regiment and French Senegalese soldiers during the Cameroon campaign (against Germany) from September 1914 to February 1916. Otherwise, the early part of this century was relatively stable. But in 1920, following violent riots against Syrian control of rice trade, the Sierra Leone delegation asked the National Congress of West Africa to declare all Syrians in Sierra Leone as "undesirables." Many decades later, a similar protectionist policy was promulgated by the first independent government of the country to exclude Lebanese from trading in rice. [More recently, the Kabbah government has expelled Lebanese merchants accused of links to the RUF.]

Elections were introduced in 1924. The period saw the rapid expansion of the immigrant class who found themselves fighting over fewer and fewer jobs at low wages. [Aboriginal groups were completely out of the picture]. In 1926 there was a serious Railway Strike. Although diamond mining had begun by 1930 (monopolized by the Selection Trust), the year 1931 witnessed the explosion of long simmering rural dissatisfaction with the worsening economic situation and irritation with the Hut Tax. A Guinean Marabou called Haidara from the Senegalese Mouride sect led a revolt against not only Europeans and Creoles but also against rich Moslems who chose not to help their brethren. He was killed in 1934. His supporters then killed the British Force Commander who had been sent to pacify the region. Later, the second world war (1939-45) brought economic expansion to many British colonies in West Africa, including Sierra Leone. Freetown in particular, was a staging point for Atlantic convoys. Shortly afterward, Iron Ore was discovered. The opportunities thus created (along with Diamond taxes which generated up to 15% of national revenues) helped pacify the country albeit briefly. Unfortunately, illegal exports of diamonds have always exceeded legal export.

As with other colonies and possessions, the post-World War II period saw an increase in calls for independence. Wallace Johnson set up a West African National Secretariat in London.

The long-standing Rural-Urban, Aboriginal-Creole, and Protectorate-Colony dichotomies formed a backdrop against which tensions developed between and within the two main political parties that emerged in the period 1946-51, namely, the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the National Council for the Colony of Sierra Leone (NCCSL). Socially, economically and politically stratified, the Creoles viewed the "backwoods" natives with contempt. But since the protectorate had a greater population than the colony, it held the keys to power in a truly representational democratic system, although clearly more backward. Such rivalry delayed constitutional progress after 1945. But results of elections in 1951 consolidated the future role of the SLPP. In February 1955, there was a major Artisans and General Workers Union Strike to protest conditions of service. From then until 1958, strikes, riots, and various intraparty crises rocked the hold of the SLPP gained in the 1951 elections. However, the party was able to form the first independent government on 27 April 1961.

It is important to recall that Liberia and Sierra Leone have striking similarities in the way they were settled, one by the British in 1787 and the other by the Americans in 1822. Although Liberia became independent 114 years before Sierra Leone, they have always influenced each other's political developments and are sister enclaves of anglophone culture in a local atmosphere of French dominion. Deep social, political and economic stratification and massive corruption have always been a feature of both countries. Sierra Leone and Liberia were originally conceived as "Beacons of Light" for the rest of the African continent. Instead, they have emerged as one of its valleys of darkness.

Post-independence Instability

Sir Arthur Margai was Sierra Leone's first Prime Minister. In 1967, in the setting of an electoral dispute, Major Charles Blake seized power. He alleged that Brigadier Lansana (Army Chief) had arrested the presumed winner (Siaka Stevens) along with the British Governor-General in a move (instigated by Margai) designed to forestall Siaka Stevens's emergence as Prime Minister. Colonel Genda who was outside the country at the time, was invited to form the government. But before he landed in Freetown, Lt. Col. Juxton-Smith assumed control. Col. Smith began to drag his feet about handing over power back to civilians, leading to his removal in April 1968 by non-commissioned officers who promptly invited Siaka Stevens to take charge of the country.

In 1971 Sierra Leone became a republic. In 1978 Siaka Stevens made the country a one-party state under the All People's Congress (APC). Upon his retirement in 1985, Stevens appointed Army Chief General Joseph Momoh as President.

But all was not well. The country continued to decline economically and the alienation of its peasant class continued. By 1990 peasants had begun boycotting private and public transport because of exorbitant fares and illegal taxes. Faced with public disclosures of massive corruption among government officials the Newspaper Amendment Act of April 1990 was passed to control and suppress information flow. Faced with growing calls for a multiparty system the government reacted by placing ministers and members of parliament who were deemed sympathetic to multipartyism under surveillance for treason. But other events in the subregion were to take on significance in Sierra Leone.

On Christmas eve of 1989, the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor (who had escaped from a Boston jail) launched an attack from Ivory Coast with the intent of removing President (former Master-Sergeant) Samuel Doe from power. This attack introduced a new element into West African politics. Encouraged by Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) viewed the development with alarm and deployed a military monitoring group (ECOMOG) to Liberia in 1990. Nigerian troops were thus inserted into the mine field of "Mano River" politics.

In 1991 two major developments took place in Sierra Leone. A cashiered Corporal, Foday Sankoh founded the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to take up arms against the system. The first attacks were launched in March 1991. Major-General Joseph Momoh held a referendum for a multi-party system, which was endorsed by 60% of voters.

On April 29 1992, pre-empting the introduction of a multiparty system, President Momoh was overthrown by 26 year-old Captain Valentine Strasser. Barely 8 months later in December, Strasser arrested nine of his colleagues and had them executed for an alleged coup plot along with 17 other prisoners. In part because of economic sanctions imposed by Britain in 1993 and other types of international pressure, (UN, OAU, ECOWAS) Strasser eventually made a commitment to a 2-year transition to civil rule. But in January 1996 Strasser was overthrown by Brigadier Julius Maada Bio allegedly because Strasser was in the process of reneging on his promise to hand over to civilians. Brigadier Bio kept his word and supervised multiparty elections a few weeks later in February.

The February 1996 elections were violent but adjudged "free and fair" by international observers and monitors. Both RUF rebels and Government troops were accused of cutting off people's hands to prevent them from voting! However, about 60% of the electorate turned out and elected Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejjan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People's Party as their President.

Once in power President Kabbah was initially preoccupied with putting down the rebellion of the RUF militarily. Dissatisfied with the performance of the regular Army, he encouraged the arming of traditional hunters ("Kamajors") in a Civil Defense Militia. As might be expected, the Army was resentful. However, although the RUF did not recognize the elections they agreed nonetheless to meet with Kabbah. This led to the November 1996 Abidjan Accord for which the government of Cote d'Ivoire, the UN, OAU and Commonwealth were to act as "moral guarantors."

In May 1997 soldiers broke into the Freetown prison and released Major Johnny Paul Koromah who was being held for plotting a coup. They seized power after a firefight with ECOMOG (Nigerian) Guards deployed at the State House as part of an ECOMOG arrangement to protect the government against the RUF. Kabbah escaped to Guinea. Major Koromah assumed power, accusing Kabbah of foot dragging on the Abidjan Accord. He then invited the RUF to help form the government alongside the "Armed Forces Revolutionary Council." (AFRC)

The coup was opposed by the international community as well as the Kamajors. Within Freetown there was an initial attempt at civil disobedience. But clumsy military attempts by Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone to dislodge the coupists failed. A Nigerian unit was even surrounded and held hostage. Nigeria's ruler, General Abacha, himself a coupist, was not amused.

A "cat and mouse" game then began in which attempts at negotiated settlement were launched while the Koromah regime consolidated and secured support allegedly from countries like Burkina Faso, Liberia, Libya and others in Eastern Europe. Every now and then a fire-fight would break out with ECOMOG units. ECOMOG, meanwhile was gradually reinforcing its positions in the country while working out its own internal differences on the use of force. ECOWAS was by no means united on the issue.

Kabbah continued to muster the international community. The Commonwealth suspended Sierra Leone from membership in July just as the Sierra Leone government-in-exile was engaging 'Sandline International', led by former British Commandos to provide technical support for a counter-coup.

On October 8, 1997 the UN imposed an oil and arms embargo against Sierra Leone and authorized ECOMOG to enforce the embargo. On October 23, 1997 the "Conakry" accord was reached guaranteeing the coup leaders a safe passage while assuring the peaceful return to power of Kabbah on April 22, 1998 preceded by disarmament and demobilization of combatants. This plan was to be monitored by ECOMOG, assisted by UN military observers. Like the Abidjan accord, this agreement was not implemented either. By January 1998 it was apparent that Koromah had no real intention of keeping his word, particularly the item that called for demobilization of combatants.

Beginning on February 5, 1998, civil defense units (Kamajors) launched an attack in the Bo and Kenema areas against the junta. Reportedly responding to an attack by junta forces, ECOMOG (Nigerian) troops overran Freetown, and subsequently moved to secure the rest of the country. President Kabbah was restored on March 10. The UN lifted its Arms and Oil embargo three days later.

Furor erupted in London when it became known publicly that Sandline International had provided helicopters for logistic support and reportedly arranged air freight for 35 tons of Bulgarian automatic rifles in contravention of an existing UN Arms embargo to which Britain was a signatory. A major road in Freetown was named after late General Sani Abacha, then Nigeria's leader, while then Colonel (now Brigadier) Maxwell Khobe who led ECOMOG (Nigerian) troops into Freetown, was named Sierra Leone's Chief of Defence Staff charged with rebuilding the Sierra Leonean military establishment.

Although many were captured, including a large helicopter-borne batch that was apprehended while escaping to Liberia, quite a number of former junta leaders (including Major Koromah) eluded arrest. As they retreated from the ECOMOG onslaught they implemented a scorched earth policy, inflicting mindless violence on civilians in much the same way as became standard during the Liberian civil war next door. However, the RUF and Junta rebels added a new subregional twist - wholesale mutilations and machete amputations of limbs - on a scale far beyond what had been reported during the 1996 elections. Children and women were not spared. Women were raped and defenceless men and women were shot, and burned alive.

Nigeria and ECOMOG and Recent Events

It must be mentioned that although an external appearance of pride and gratitude for ECOMOG's success in Sierra Leone was projected, internal differences among ECOWAS members soon emerged. Indeed, at a March 12 1998 ECOWAS ministerial summit in Yamoussoukro shortly after Kabbah returned to Freetown, divisions emerged among ECOWAS member states on issues of force structure, legality, control and deployment of ECOMOG as the basis for a strategic peace-keeping mechanism in the region. While Nigeria pushed for the retention of ECOMOG as constituted to remain as a standing peace-keeping army, Francophone states like Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Togo were more interested in pre-positioning task-oriented troops in different countries to be assembled as needed on a case to case basis. The fear was that a standing ECOMOG army as a Nigerian dominated force would evolve into hatchet-man for Nigeria's dictates in the region. Charles Taylor of Liberia, a longtime ally of Foday Sankoh, was not pleased with the ECOMOG (Nigerian) offensive. In his usual passive-aggressive style, he not only fussed about the interception of AFRC renegades in Liberian airspace but also moved to get ECOMOG to remove its headquarters from Monrovia thus denying it a pedicled logistic hinge-point from which to launch ground operations in Sierra Leone next door. This was in spite of the Liberian peace accord which had brought him to power after a supervised election and assured a role for ECOMOG on the ground in Liberia.

The UN, on the other hand, commended ECOWAS. In June, the UN Security Council established a monitoring unit in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL). It had both a military and a civilian element contributed by many countries and a projected one year budget of more than 31 million dollars. In support of the government of Sierra Leone and ECOMOG, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of about 33,000 former combatants was a key objective. UNOMSIL observers were later deployed alongside ECOMOG units in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, and Makeni as well as the Lungi and Hastings airports. Given the estimated 500,000 refugees displaced within and outside the country (Guinea, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal), the UN also continued to appeal to all member states to provide humanitarian assistance.

As the rainy season began, activities of the AFRC/RUF rebels lulled but this eventually turned out to be a pause to regroup and rearm. The lull in guerrilla activities appeared coordinated with an apparent improvement in relations between Liberia and Sierra Leone and coincided serendipitously with a government ban on diamond mining as well as the sudden cardiac death of Nigerian strongman General Sani Abacha in early June. On July 25, 1998, the new Nigerian leadership released RUF Leader Foday Sankoh [from a Nigerian jail] to the Sierra Leonean government. Meanwhile Kabbah had set up treason trials in five Freetown courts against persons who were allegedly involved in the May 1997 putsch. Of the 96 initially charged, 77 were later sentenced to death. In early November, another 16 of 21 defendants were found guilty of collaborating with the former AFRC. Former President Joseph Momoh was also sentenced to jail.

Beginning in late August and September 1998 during the run-up to the Sierra Leonean dry season, RUF/AFRC rebel attacks resumed in force revealing a level of determination, organization and strength in numbers and equipment which surprised ECOMOG and UNOMSIL observers even as they issued "rebel body counts" and public statements to the contrary. In mid-October, 24 military officers were shot for their part in the 1997 coup while Foday Sankoh himself was subsequently found guilty of treason on October 23. Along with other civilians so convicted, he is appealing the verdict. Competition by international Lawyers to defend Sankoh has been intense with several bids as large as almost $5,000 daily plus expenses. Not to be outdone, a Nigerian legal team offered to do the job for $2,000 daily. Eventually a British MP and former conservative government Agriculture Minister got the nod, with an international human rights organization underwriting costs.

Subsequently, mutually suspicious Liberian (Taylor), Sierra Leonean (Kabbah) and Guinean (Conte) leaders met in a subregional 'Mano River Union' summit in November and issued the usual exhortations to work toward better relations. This was particularly crucial at the time because of flared tempers resulting from an alleged coup plot against Taylor which had led to shooting in Monrovia as Taylor attempted to arrest Roosevelt Johnson, a former rival warlord and now cabinet minister. Kabbah had allegedly tipped Taylor off about the putsch but Taylor later turned around to accuse Kabbah of "meddling." Taylor, on the other hand, was opposed to the executions of convicted AFRC/RUF elements and repeatedly put pressure on Kabbah to negotiate a political solution to the crisis even as Kabbah was accusing Taylor of backing the RUF. Clearly, there was no trust.

By December 1998 it was clear that UN sanctions targeted at non-governmental organizations in Sierra Leoene were not being enforced. The rebels had signalled that not only were they better armed and trained than had hitherto been the case; they were well on their way in executing a major dry season offensive, advancing southwards towards Freetown from the North-west and diamond-mining eastern region in a move they said was aimed at "forcing the government to the negotiating table." But this was not all. The rebels also implemented a wave of kidnappings of priests and journalists while maiming and killing any "neutral" civilians along with agents of the state, including policemen. As if the conflict with the AFRC/RUF was not enough, the Kabbah government had to deal with a University lecturers strike and appeal against massive corruption among civil servants demanding bribes before service - for long a key grievance of the rebels.

Faced with an increasing threat, Kabbah offered conditional amnesty to five important rebel commanders; ECOMOG imposed selective curfews; while Kamajor militia resorted to executions of suspected rebel sympathizers as well as illegal diamond miners. Civil Defence units also attempted to create a buffer zone along the Liberian border to prevent infiltration. Many demobilized former soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF) were re-inducted by the Sierra Leone government to fight alongside ECOMOG and the Kamajors against the AFRC/RUF rebels. This turned out to be mistake because many of these soldiers simply switched sides at critical junctures.

On December 19, 1998, the alliance of deposed RSLMF and RUF rebels seized the diamond town of Koidu and then advanced on Makeni while probing ECOMOG defences at Waterloo. ECOMOG reinforcements, (long sought after by both Generals Khobe and Shelpidi) were rushed in by Nigeria. But by December 30 rebels had captured Lunsar, an important road junction. Panic gripped Freetown. Foreign nationals as well as international workers were evacuated, anticipating full fledged urban warfare.

The pattern in each town was similar. Rebels would probe, then ECOMOG would withdraw "to save civilian lives" or "prevent our lines of communication from being cut off." Now and again ECOMOG would retake their previously held positions. It was the typical scenario of a regular army fighting against a guerrilla campaign in unfamiliar territory. On January 6, 1999, aided by probable leaks from the Sierra Leonean ministry of defence and coordinating their attack with already prepositioned elements, a rebel force consisting mostly of disaffected rural children and teenagers entered Freetown from the east having first slipped through the Kissy Safecon Terminal supposedly protected by the 93 mechanized battalion of the Nigerian Army. The Statehouse (located in the historic "Granville town") was seized and burned along with key parts of the city center. Within days they came very near to capturing all of Freetown, humiliating ECOMOG and forcing Kabbah to call for peace and cessation of hostilities even as confused, undertrained, underarmed, poorly logistically supported, allegedly underpaid and poorly motivated ECOMOG units regrouped.

With some international logistic support, thousands of Nigerian troops were rushed in. By mid-January anywhere from 15-20,000 Nigerian soldiers were reportedly in the country. After weeks of fierce fighting the rebels were cleared out of most parts of Freetown, even though further attacks have occurred in and around Freetown and Kenema. Additional troops from Ghana, Guinea and Mali were also flown in after equivocations and conditionalities typical of the ECOWAS membership. Meanwhile, Togo, leading a group of countries with no troops on the ground, quickly offered to host peace talks, citing its current chairmanship of the ECOWAS. Anywhere from 3-5000 civilians were killed but the true numbers will never be known. For Nigerian troops, the casualty rate was horrific. Although the government has kept mum about figures, foreign news agencies and some Nigerian newspapers reported an average figure of 30 deaths on a daily basis for all of January and early February, 1999. News reports (quoting former US President Jimmy Carter) of poor medical treatment for wounded ECOMOG soldiers surfaced along with reportedly secret mass burials. The Army (predictably) reacted angrily to these news reports as well as "false" and "culturally abominable" reporting about dead officers who were actually alive, ethnic selectivity in deployments to Sierra Leone and non-payment of the federal minimum wage to soldiers - all matters potentially capable of inciting soldiers to mutiny and causing disaffection among the war-weary and ethnically polarized Nigerian public. However, as of the time of this write-up, the government has still not released its own official casualty reports either for Sierra Leone or the preceding eight year adventure in Liberia. To compound the public relations crisis, newspaper reports have surfaced that some Nigerian officers in Sierra Leone have made diamond mining and trading their preoccupation rather than conducting a counter-insurgency war.

But perhaps most provocatively, a Sierra Leonean Minister announced that the conflict was costing Nigeria 1 million US dollars daily! This has not been denied by any knowledgeable Nigerian official. Faced with declining oil prices, deteriorating conditions of living in Nigeria (with internal security implications), a transition program to civil rule and the anticipated emergence of a democratically elected President on May 29 this year, Nigeria's leader, General Abubakar, hinted that Nigerian troops may be pulled out of Sierra Leone before he hands over. This announcement by Nigeria has caused panic and increased pressure not only for more vigorous international interest and support for Sierra Leone but also for a political settlement. Kabbah has agreed to allow Sankoh meet face to face with his RUF colleagues in a confidence building measure. Unconfirmed rumors have circulated that Presidential candidates in the forthcoming democratic elections in Nigeria have been lobbied by warring factions in Sierra Leone seeking to influence Nigerian foreign policy after May 1999.


END OF DOCUMENT |  DISCLAIMER  | Return to Main Page
website architect:y.g-m. lulat