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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 16:16 GMT
Sierra Leone rebel chief scorns UN

Foday Sankoh Foday Sankoh: UN "not helping us"

Former Sierra Leonean rebel leader Foday Sankoh has told United Nations peacekeepers that the UN has no reason to be in Sierra Leone.

"We have no business with you. You are not helping us," Mr Sankoh said in a speech to Kenyan officers serving with the local UN peacekeeping force.

[UN presence] a threat to the security of our people
Foday Sankoh
The speech which the leader of the Revolutionary United Front delivered two weeks ago, was later printed in the Sierra Leonean newspaper the Concord Times.

Last year's peace accord granted places in government to RUF members - a move sharply crtiticised by human rights organisations which said the RUF had used widespread killings, rapes and mutilations to gain a place at the negotiating table after the nine-year war.

The head of the UN mission in Sierra Leone has responded that he was "amazed" by Mr Sankoh's remarks, "which could only have incited his audience against the Sierra Leone peace process".

Mr Sankoh said the presence of an armed peacekeeping force was "a threat to the security of our people".

Kenyan soldiers UN peacekeepers arrived as part of a peace agreement
"Our people need peace here, they don't need guns. If you see around us, you don't need guns, you don't see any gun with me, but we can fight with our guns, it's simple, just like that.

"We started with sticks and captured even helicopters, I'm not talking about destroying jet bombers. So there's no need for you people to be here."

He said President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah had encouraged the presence of the peacekeepers "because he feels he has influence with the United Nations, or international community".

Mr Sankoh said he and his followers had been fighting against colonialism - which he called "the highest stage of capitalism".

'Politicians made us poor'

[Kofi Annan] just a nuisance in Africa
Foday Sankoh
In an apparent reference to the Sierra Leone political establishment represented by President Kabbah, he said: "The agents of colonial masters called politicians made our people poor.

"This is why we have been fighting. We are not against our people. We are against a rotten system.

"We have been misunderstood. Still fighting, but we decided to put the guns behind us."

The revolutionary rhetoric of the 1960s, which is meaningless today, can only confuse simple minds
UN representative Oluyemi Adeniji
He also hit out at the UN Secretary-General, Ghanaian Kofi Annan.

"He's just a nuisance in Africa, being used by world war power against his own brothers," Mr Sankoh said.

'Unwarranted personal attack'

Oluyemi Adeniji, head of the UN mission in Sierra Leone, issued a statement pointing out that the Lome peace agreement, signed by Mr Sankoh, provided for the creation of a neutral peacekeeping force including United Nations troops.

The special representative would hope that Mr Sankoh has no such hidden agenda and that his propositions merely arose out of misunderstanding
Oluyemi Adenij
The statement said Mr Sankoh had made an "unwarranted personal attack" on Mr Annan, "in terms most unbecoming of a leader".

"For Mr Sankoh to assert that the resolution is contrary to the interest of the Sierra Leone people can be interpreted as indicative of a hidden agenda which will certainly be unattainable through the presence of the United Nations peacekeepers," the statement read.

"The special representative would hope that Mr Sankoh has no such hidden agenda and that his propositions merely arose out of misunderstanding."

The statement concluded with "fraternal advice that the revolutionary rhetoric of the 1960s, which is meaningless today, can only confuse simple minds, but will not enhance credibility in the African and the wider international community".

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See also:
02 Feb 00 |  Africa
Rape, mutilation continue in Sierra Leone
24 May 99 |  Africa
Analysis: Battle to rebuild shattered Sierra Leone
23 Jan 00 |  Africa
Sierra Leone diamond trade halted
02 Dec 99 |  Africa
Gurkhas to tackle Sierra Leone troublespot
30 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN troops arrive in Sierra Leone
22 Nov 99 |  Africa
Sierra Leone rebels form political party
13 Feb 99 |  Africa
Grim facts of Sierra Leone's war

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