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Thursday, August 5, 1999 Published at 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK

World: Africa

Sierra Leone rebels 'want to atone'

UN leaders want an inquiry into atrocities like amputations

Rebels in Sierra Leone say they want to atone for the atrocities they have committed and help rebuild their country.

Sierra Leone
Revolutionary United Front spokesman Omrie Golley admitted in a BBC interview that they had committed "a certain amount of atrocities" during the eight-year civil war and had "already begged for forgiveness".

Following last month's peace deal, he said the important thing now "is to reconcile, apologise, to atone, to ask forgiveness, to do practical things to help our country".

Mark Doyle questions the RUF over atrocities committed
When asked if he would visit hospitals in the capital, Freetown, to apologise to civilians that had lost limbs in brutal rebel attacks, he said he would "be very pleased to go to see these people".

"Insofar as the RUF is concerned not only would I want to engage in sympathy with them, but I will be looking at how we were going to help these people," he said.

[ image:  ]
He admitted he could not predict when the RUF leaders would actually arrive in Freetown because of continuing security concerns.

BBC West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle says that one of the tactics of the rebels during the war was to chop off people's limbs as a warning to others against supporting the democratically-elected government.

And he believes that creating a new administration to include rebels as ministers, as evisaged under the peace deal, is unlikely to be politically easy as they are deeply unpopular among many Sierra Leoneans.

Peace-keeping under scrutiny

In New York, detailed discussions are due to get under way on the future of peace-keeping in Sierra Leone.

[ image: The rebels are often young and indisciplined]
The rebels are often young and indisciplined
The details are being worked out between the Nigerian-led Ecomog West African intervention force and unarmed UN observers.

Eight years of civil war have devastated Sierra Leone. Nearly half the country's population is thought to have been displaced.

The United Nations recently placed Sierra Leone bottom of its list ranking how countries are meeting the needs of their people.

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