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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 11:57 GMT
IMF unblocks aid for Sierra Leone
Displaced people
Many people were forced to flee during the conflict
The International Monetary Fund says it is making more aid available to Sierra Leone because of improved economic and financial performance.

Sierra Leone will be able to draw $12m in low-interest loans.

The IMF said Sierra Leone had made "remarkable progress" in advancing the peace process last year.

The improved security situation had helped bring about a broad-based economic recovery in the country which had been engaged in prolonged civil war.

Inflation 'well down'

The aid is being made available as part of an IMF programme aimed at reducing poverty and boosting economic growth.
Members of the Sierra Leonine army
The UK backs and advises Sierra Leone's army

Apart from allowing greater freedom of movement and the return of displaced people, the improved security situation in Sierra Leone had also increased confidence and supported the resurgence in economic activity, an IMF statement said.

Real GDP was estimated to have risen by 5.4% in 2001 "reflecting a broad-based recovery in many sectors". The average annual rate of inflation was sharply reduced to about 3%.

The conflict which devastated Sierra Leone was officially declared over in January this year.

It began in 1991 when rebel leader Foday Sankoh launched a campaign to overthrow the government and gain control of lucrative diamond mines.

His Revolutionary United Front rebels are accused of extreme brutality during the conflict, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people.

They agreed to a ceasefire in November 2000 after earlier peace efforts failed.

Foday Sankoh, who has been held without trial since he was arrested nearly two years ago, appeared in court in Freetown on Monday to face charges of murder and other abuses.

The United Nations is also creating a war crimes tribunal to try Mr Sankoh and his followers.

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Africa
Sankoh murder trial begins
13 Feb 02 | Africa
Sierra Leone refugees go home
28 Apr 01 | Business
Africa pushes for more IMF reforms
13 Mar 02 | Africa
In pictures: Foday Sankoh emerges
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