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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Tough action urged on Leone rebels
Sierra Leone rebels
The International community should watch the rebels closely
By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

A report on Sierra Leone has called on the United Nations to destroy the capability of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to return to war.

The study, by the think tank, the International Crisis Group, says the RUF has a record of using peace agreements such as the current one to gain military advantage.

Young girl walking on crutches
The rebels have committed many brutal atrocities

It says that if free and peaceful elections due to be held next year are to take place, the UN, and the British army which has a contingent of soldiers backing the Sierra Leone Government, will have to adopt a tough security policy.

The study says there is no room for complacency about a war which at one point threatened to engulf the whole of West Africa with border conflicts and millions of refugees.

Disarmament process

The conflict in Sierra Leone has dropped from the spotlight, partly because since British troops intervened on the government side there last year, the security situation has steadily improved.

The United Nations has deployed peacekeepers through most of the country and a disarmament process is well under way.

The rebels only made concessions, it says, because they were forced to, notably by the British army.

A British soldier on street patrol in Sierra Leone
British troops have helped contain rebels

The report says a much more robust UN force, with British backing, and cooperation from the Sierra Leone Government army is needed to deter the rebels "from a return to war, and destroy their capability to do so".

It also warns that the Sierra Leone Government itself has the potential to unravel next year's elections if they look like going against it.

In short, this study says the world should watch Sierra Leone carefully, as all the ingredients exist for a possible return to chaos.

What the report does not say is that in the current international context, with all eyes on a much larger conflict, such attention is a remote possibility.

See also:

19 Oct 01 | Correspondent
Blood diamonds
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