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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK

World: Africa

Analysis: Battle to rebuild shattered Sierra Leone

Corruption is said to be a major problem in Freetown

By BBC West Africa Correspondent Mark Doyle

The ceasefire now in effect in Sierra Leone is likely to be very difficult to implement.

Sierra Leone
The war has almost completely destroyed the economic and social infrastructure of a country which is potentially wealthy, with rich natural resources.

Many Sierra Leoneans believe that it is this very wealth, particularly the diamond wealth, which has attracted the wrong sort of local leadership and drawn in all manner of foreign mercenaries and adventurers eager to make a quick fortune.

Traumatised children

Both sides in the war rely on militia groups. Bringing these under control and combating high levels of criminality, often connected with diamond trading, may be just as difficult as getting the trained soldiers from the two sides to work together.

Many of the so-called rebels are in fact little more than armed gangs which have forcibly recruited child soldiers, who could well be traumatised and dangerous to the public for the rest of their lives.

The rebels say they started fighting because of corruption and mismanagement centred on the capital Freetown.

Deep-rooted problems

Most Sierra Leoneans would agree that corruption is a major problem, but it is ironic that some of the worst rebel attacks and atrocities against civilians have taken place while the country has been led by a government which came to power in what were probably the freest elections in Sierra Leonean history.

Democracy has not solved Sierra Leone's deep-rooted economic and social problems and equally, few Sierra Leoneans will expect the ceasefire to work miracles overnight.

But most people - with the exception perhaps of local and foreign arms dealers - will see the announcement of an end to hostilities as a big step in the right direction.

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