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Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 16:23 GMT
UN troops arrive in Sierra Leone
Kenyan soldiers The first peacekeepers to arrive were Kenyans

The United Nations has begun deploying a 6,000-strong peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone to police an agreement signed in July between the government and rebels

A spokesman for the UN said the first Kenyan peacekeepers had arrived at Freetown airport and were setting up a transit base there.

Sierra Leone
The UN force will take several weeks to gather. A battalion of Indian soldiers is scheduled to arrive next, along with Indian Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley who is to command the entire UN force.

About 2,500 Nigerian troops, who as part of the West African intervention force Ecomog had been defending the Sierra Leone Government against the rebels, will change uniforms and become UN soldiers.

The Kenyan UN soldiers will later be transferred to the rebel-held north of Sierra Leone where, according to a senior Kenyan officer, the local rebel commander has said he will welcome them.

But our West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says that in some other parts of the country the deployment will be more complex since the rebels are a disparate force.

Troops 'not welcome'

Kenyan soldiers The peacekeepers have arrived in a country which is still unstable
On Monday, rebel military commander Sam Bokari said the UN peacekeepers were not welcome in territory which he controls.

Mr Bokari, who has his base in the diamond-rich jungle of eastern Sierra Leone, said he was opposed to the arrival of 6,000 UN troops when he had understood only some 200 UN personnel were due.

The rebel commander, commonly known as "Mosquito", said his main argument was not with the UN, but with the former Ecomog troops who are to join the UN forces.

Mr Bokari said the Nigerians would have to go before he would co-operate with the UN.

"Mosquito" is a commander in the Revolutionary United Front, the main rebel group led by Foday Sankoh, who signed the July peace accord.

The implications of his latest statement are not yet clear. Despite Mr Bokari's stated objections, It has been widely said that some of the rebel leader's men co-operate freely with the Nigerians, even to the extent of reportedly dividing up the eastern diamond fields to their mutual benefit.

Disarmament delays

Refugees from the eastern district of Kailahun near the Liberian border say Mr Bokari has ordered his men not to give up their arms.

In response, the pro-government Kamajor tribal militiamen in the area are also reportedly refusing to disarm.

Elsewhere, the UN's disarmament programme is proceeding slowly, partly because soldiers who have already given up their guns are frustrated by not receiving the cash benefits that they have been promised.

This has discouraged others from entering the disarmament camps.

The peace agreement, designed to end a nine-year civil war, has already been violated on numerous occasions. Last month, there was a battle for a key northern town between two rebel groups who were supposed to be allies.

Expectations

Sierra Leone is nevertheless more stable than it was during the countrywide conflict and rebel terror campaign which preceded the signing of the peace agreement.

Our correspondent says the arrival of the UN has raised huge expectations among ordinary Sierra Leoneans who warmly welcome the international force.

Some two million people have been made homeless or destitute by the war.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Africa
Minister survives Sierra Leone shootout
25 Nov 99 |  Africa
British clean-up for Sierra police
22 Nov 99 |  Africa
Sierra Leone rebels form political party
24 May 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Battle to rebuild shattered Sierra Leone
13 Feb 99 |  Africa
Grim facts of Sierra Leone's war

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