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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK

World: Africa

Sierra Leone rebels get cabinet posts

Despite the peace process, the scars of war are deep

Sierra Leone's rebels have been brought into the government of President Tejan Kabbah - but have been excluded from the senior ministerial positions they had been led to expect.

Sierra Leone
Former members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) have been granted four cabinet posts.

They include:

  • Trade and industry
  • Land, housing and central planning
  • Energy and power
  • Tourism and culture

They were also given four deputy ministerial positions.

However, the rebels have failed to get one of three key ministries - finance, foreign affairs or justice, which the Lome peace deal signed in July had suggested they would be offered.

Sankoh 'reservations'

According to the text of the Lome agreement, which ended eight years of civil war, the rebels would be granted "one of the senior cabinet appointments such as finance, foreign affairs, and justice".

However, a presidential spokesman said trade and industry was a senior position and that the portfolios mentioned in the Lome accord were quoted only as "examples" of key posts.

The list of ministries is to be submitted to parliament for approval.

The leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh, said he would respond to the announcement later but has already said he has "reservations" about the cabinet proposals.

He himself has been given powers equivalent to a vice-president and is due to head a commission overseeing the reconstruction of the mineral resources industry.

Disarmament starts

According to the presidential statement, the trade portfolio has been offered to the RUF's Mike Lamin.

Pallo Bangura - a former foreign minister in the AFRC junta - has been offered the energy post.

The RUF's Peter Vandy has been suggested for land and ABS Jomo-Jalloh, also of the RUF, would get tourism.

The cabinet announcement came a day after Sierra Leone officially launched a programme to disarm and demobilise rebel fighters.

On Wednesday, rebels and child soldiers handed in weapons at a symbolic ceremony in the capital, Freetown.

'Put down the guns'

[ image: The peace process has come too late for many]
The peace process has come too late for many
It is estimated there are 45,000 fighters to be disarmed in towns and dense jungle throughout the country following the peace accord in July.

A United Nations envoy, Francis Okelo, told those present at the Wilberforce barracks that the disarmament process, already several weeks behind schedule, could take two months.

Hundreds of civilians at the ceremony chanted: "We want peace - put down the guns!"

Mr Okelo said that the UN Security Council would on Friday approve the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone which would help disarmament and deliver aid.

He said the force - up to 6,000 strong - would monitor compliance with the peace agreement and deploy throughout the country.

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