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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

World: Africa

'Forgive and forget' says Koroma

Nigerian peacekeepers return from duty in the Sierra Leone bush

The former leader of the military junta in Sierra Leone has said the country must forgive and forget if it is to move forward.

Sierra Leone
Johnny-Paul Koroma, who returned to the capital Freetown on Sunday with rebel leader Foday Sankoh, said every group involved in the country's eight-year civil war had to take responsibility for what had happened.

"God is a faithful God," he told the BBC.

"Once you repent he is ready to reconcile with you."

Johnny-Paul Koroma: "We must forget the past if we want to move forward"
It is alleged that Mr Koroma's men were largely responsible for the atrocities that took place in Freetown last January when large parts of the city were ransacked.

However, he told the BBC he himself had been furious when he had heard about the atrocities including the amputation of limbs.

And he said that whenever he had been in contact with his commanders he had urged them not to harm civilians.

New role

Mr Koroma and Mr Sankoh returned to Sierra Leone from Monrovia where they had been negotiating their return with Liberian President Charles Taylor.

They are both due to play a role in implementing the Sierra Leone peace accord signed three months ago in Togo.

Mr Sankoh is due to take up a vice-presidential role under a deal that gives the former rebels four ministerial posts.

Mr Koroma is pushing for members of his Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) junta to be reinstated into the Sierra Leone army with back pay for the time they were fighting in the bush.

The AFRC ousted President Kabbah in May 1997 and ruled for nine months before being toppled by Nigerian-led peacekeeping forces.

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