Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, December 29, 1998 Published at 10:17 GMT

World: Africa

Extra troops to defend Sierra Leone

Lansana Kouyate (centre) - called for more troops for Ecomog

West African nations are sending reinforcements to Sierra Leone to suport the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

The additional troops were requested on Monday at the end of a regional summit in Abidjan by Lansana Kouyate, general secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

[ image: Several West African nations pledged support]
Several West African nations pledged support
Nigeria, which already provides the bulk of the 10,000 strong West African coalition army known at Ecomog, has sent an additional 1,000 soldiers to back up their positions in the capital, Freetown. Ghana has also sent fresh reinforcements.

"We have sent some men and officers to help beef up what is already on the ground," said an unnamed senior Ghanaian defence ministry official.

Some 500 soldiers from Mali and Gambia are also expected within days, and other West African nations have also pledged troops.

Rebels advance

About half of the Ecomog troops are now stationed in Freetown, following recent advances of the rebels. The intervention forces have been forced to retreat from the key northern town of Makeni in the face of a sustained rebel offensive.

West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle: Ecomog admits the retreat
Force Commander General Timothy Shelpidi described the withdrawal as tactical and said a pro-government militia group was still putting up a defence in the town.

But the BBC West Africa correspondent says that while the pull-out is a blow for the government, the president will be heartened by support from West Africa foreign ministers who also condemned Liberia for backing the rebels.

Residents flee Makeni

Delegates at the Abidjan meeting included key West African foreign ministers, a UN special representative and the ambassadors of the two western powers most influential in Freetown, the UK and the US.

[ image: President Kabbah offered to negotiate]
President Kabbah offered to negotiate
Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister Sam Banya told the meeting that Makeni's several thousand residents had fled.

He also alleged that the rebels were supported by mercenaries recruited in Liberia, Burkina Faso and the Ukraine.

"We have strong evidence that Liberia is helping the rebels and they have also hired these foreign mercenaries," he said.

Although the rebels were not invited to the meeting, Mr Kouyate stressed that Ecowas was also trying to open dialogue.

President Kabbah's government had already offered to negotiate with the rebels and proposed an amnesty for their troops if they lay down their arms.

The rebels have rejected the offer and vowed to storm the capital unless Mr Kabbah resigns.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

29 Dec 98 | Africa
Rebels advance in Sierra Leone

27 Dec 98 | Africa
'Rebel spies' killed in Freetown

26 Dec 98 | UK
Britons return from Sierra Leone

24 Dec 98 | Africa
Sierra Leone's battle of Waterloo

20 Dec 98 | Africa
Sierra Leone rebels capture diamond town

04 Oct 98 | Africa
Thousands flee Sierra Leone fighting

11 May 98 | Arms to Africa row
Sierra Leone - a turbulent history

Internet Links

Sierra Leone Web

UN in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL)

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief