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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Should we be arming Sierra Leone?

British Royal Marines are preparing to land in Sierra Leone, as part of the UK's effort to help the country's government.

Another, more controversial, move announced by the UK is the supply of arms and ammunition to Sierra Leone government troops.

The British Defence Secretary said the use of these weapons will be supervised by British officers on the ground.

But is this a wise decision, given Sierra Leone's instability and history of violence? Is the UK adding fuel to the fire of the civil war, or is it backing a legitimate government's bid to restore order to the country? Tell us what you think.

HAVE YOUR SAY

I believe that Britain as Sierra Leone's former colonial ruler, has a moral obligation to provide arms to the Sierra Leone Army

Fabrice Martin, New Zealand
Was it in the British Government's interest to conscript Africans during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, wars which they knew nothing about? And does it mean that those little children that we see carrying guns don't have a right to grow up to be adults, to be lawyers, computer consultants, doctors, professors etc, in a peaceful country? Besides, had the British and the rest of those " Super Power" countries not interfered with Africa and carved her up before and during the Berlin conference of 1884, half these problems today would not have happened. The world is a global village.
Kayode Tani-Olu, USA

I believe that Britain as Sierra Leone's former colonial ruler, has a moral obligation to provide arms to the Sierra Leone Army. The SLA is trying as best it can, with the limited resources it has, to rid its country of the ruthless and merciless RUF soldiers who have pillaged and destroyed Sierra Leone over the lucrative diamond mines of the eastern part of the country.
Fabrice Martin, New Zealand



Sending weapons to Sierra Leone can only benefit those who profit from the arms sales. It does not benefit those who want peace

Dave Adams, USA
Britain should not be sending arms to Sierra Leone. This is an internal conflict between two equally unreliable forces. I find it quite disgusting to spend money on arms for a conflict that has absolutely no bearing on British life when Britain needs to spend its taxpayers' money in such areas as health, education and welfare. Get a grip Britain and stay in your own backyard - the weeds are getting high enough at home without gardening for someone else.
Jacki, Phuket, Thailand

Rather than sending arms to Sierra Leone, should not the UK and the international community as a whole, concentrate on the causes of the civil war, rather than the symptoms? Supplying arms and sending in troops, as was the case with Northern Ireland in the late 1960's, is only a short-term solution. Without addressing the long-term problems, violence within Sierra Leone will continually flare up.
Antony Carpen, UK

I find some of the remarks very offensive. I come from Sierra Leone and the UK has been very helpful in restoring sanity in that country. We should applaud their efforts.
S. Tunks, UK

The problem is that guns kill people. Sending weapons to Sierra Leone can only benefit those who profit from the arms sales. It does not benefit those who want peace. In fact, it makes the area even more unstable. We should stop all weapons going into African States. If not, it will cause a great deal of trouble for everybody.
Dave Adams, USA



Sending more arms to Africa is tantamount to pouring petrol on an existing conflagration

Bill Wright, New Zealand
Why should British taxpayers shell out money for arming and training the Sierra Leone army? The money, estimated to be about 20 million, could instead be diverted to help some of the many jobless in the UK improve their existing skills and thereby secure suitable employment. Furthermore, the seemingly senseless violence rocking the West African country is their internal problem. It will be suicidal for Britain to supply arms, ammunition and men to its former colony, however well intentioned it may be.
Albert Devakaram, India

Funny how Britain was one of the main countries who stopped the Bosnians from receiving weapons during the war. I guess that somehow Sierra Leone is more of a national interest being as close to Britain as it is.
Zafar Nadeem, England

The British never seem to learn. By arming today's government in Sierra Leone, you will probably be arming tomorrow's enemy. There is an absence of any good governance in Africa. The entire continent is a mess.
Paul Carter, UK



Ever since Thatcher, our biggest export has been the tools of death. It's what we do best

Adam, UK
Are the British supplying free arms to Sierra Leone? No. They have only beaten off other potential arms dealers in the business. The conflict has caused unnecessary suffering, loss of lives, engendered hatred and planted a culture of violence which more guns will not ease.
Walter Laboke, Gulu, Uganda

Whether or not we should arm any country is entirely irrelevant. Nothing and no one is allowed to stop the weapons shops. Ever since Thatcher, our biggest export has been the tools of death. It's what we do best.
Adam, UK

Words fail me. Sending more arms to Africa is tantamount to pouring petrol on an existing conflagration. When will this madness stop? It is an affront to poor people everywhere (in Britain and Sierra Leonne) to take their money to buy arms when it could be better spent improving their lot.
Bill Wright, New Zealand



How can the government afford to arm this army, when our own UK forces already have severe shortages of equipment?

Gary Holcombe, UK
If we are not careful this could end up as the UK's Vietnam. Blundering around in Africa can have untold consequences. Finally, remember the weapons we sold to the likes of Iraq and Indonesia eventually ended up being used against civilian populations.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

How can the government afford to arm this army, when our own UK forces already have severe shortages of equipment? It was only a few weeks ago that all Lynx helicopters were grounded and there were stories of ammunition shortages in Kosovo. This government should get our own UK forces back up to strength before offering to supply equipment this country needs to other countries.
Gary Holcombe, UK

For once we are doing something right abroad. I'm very much in favour of helping out Sierra Leone's legitimate government. The RUF are ruthless, heavily armed, and well funded from diamond sales. There is no peaceful way to stop this war.
Paul R, UK

I think the UK has a moral obligation to protect innocent civilians, women and children from the cruel inhumane hands of the RUF. I accept the UK condition thet the guns should never be given to children. This must be fully adhered to by the Sierra Leone army and the civil militia and it is the duty of the British government to ensure this does not happen.
Nabie Bayoh, UK

Can someone explain to me just why we're sending troops to all these countries when there are much better things we could be spending the money on at home instead? Is the government deliberately trying to encourage foreigners to see Britain as a new imperialist power to fight against?
Mark Grant, Britain



I am delighted and grateful that Britain is taking a moral stance and helping to save a lot of lives

Winston Hunter, UK
Yes I think Britain is right to arm the legitimate Government of Sierra Leone. What is happening in Sierra Leone is not about Mr. Cook's ego. It is about real human beings who are being mutilated, raped and hacked to death by no fault of their own. So I am delighted and grateful that Britain is taking a moral stance and helping to save a lot of lives.
Winston Hunter, UK

I am against young males holding large loaded weapons in their hands as they aimlessly wander the streets of Sierra Leone trying to impress the older males by discharging randomly on innocent people. Ajit Rehal, UK

It is an African problem. We should not be there in the first place. When this war finishes, another will start somewhere else. We will never fully understand why they always have wars. In any case, in the future, these UN trained troops may turn on us. We never learn from the past.
James Thorlby, England



Don't kid me that British advisers will be able to keep an eye on whose hands these weapons will end up in

Henry Case, UK
I can't believe it. British taxpayers are to fork out 20 million to be spent on equipping and retraining the Sierra Leone army. Yet in 1995 the Sierra Leone government estimated that at least 20 percent of its own troops were disloyal - forcing it to turn instead to South African mercenaries to defend Freetown. Don't kid me that British advisers will be able to keep an eye on whose hands these weapons will end up in.
Henry Case, UK

It looks like the options are, leave our troops there indefinitely, or arm and train the local forces to a standard whereby they can do the job effectively. My preferred option is to train and arm them, at the end of the day it is a lot better than loosing even one life.
James Jeffrey, USA, but English

It makes a mockery of an ethnical foreign policy by arming a foreign nation that uses child soldiers. The picture at the top of this screen shows a child carrying a British-made SLR rifle. Add to that the fact that their commanding officers are giving these children alcohol and drugs so-called 'morale boosters' to keep them fighting.
We should either go in there and sort it out alone, or secure the peace by being a part of a larger UN force to engage the rebels.
By supplying arms, we will cause children to be killed and allow the weapons given to keep the peace to fall into the wrong hands.
Mike Thomas, UK



We still have a responsibility to protect our former colonial territories

Matt Pettitt, England
We still have a responsibility to protect our former colonial territories. This is a start, but I can't help thinking that a battalion or two of Paras would finish the job a lot quicker/cheaper than our current strategy of arming/training their guard.
Matt Pettitt, England

There is nothing our troops can do to bring order to the feudal tribalism that afflicts this area of the world and we should withdraw and let them learn their own tragic lessons just as we had to do in the past. Let's not allow one more drop of British blood to be spilt in what seems to be a futile conflict.
Mark, Germany (UK citizen)

I assume that the government forces do not hack off civilian limbs and are to some extent accountable to its people. The RUF however, has no such distinction. Any contributions that will support a legitimate government against a ruthless organisation should be welcomed. However, any assistance should be well thought out and committed to a final outcome.
Michael Kidman, Kuwait

I think its stupid of the Brits to give them more weapons. If we must get involved then our troops should sort the rebels out, disarm the lot of them and then get the hell out
Gulf War Vet Dave Lewis, UK



Isn't it much more "ethical" to send in the marines and paras to defeat the rebels?

Johan Elg, Sweden
The fact that Britain indirectly has armed children to fight the rebels in Sierra Leone will severely damage the credibility of the UK government's foreign policy. Isn't it much more "ethical" to send in the marines and paras to defeat the rebels?
Johan Elg, Sweden

The British going in and doing a 'proper job' would be an unmitigated disaster, we only have to look at past conflicts to see that. How do you avoid pushing the RUF further into Liberia and Guinea?
The Sierra Leonean Forces, if properly trained, supplied and commanded would be the most effective counter-rebel force available.
Jon M. Evans, England

The UK should neither sell nor give weapons abroad. A genuinely ethical foreign policy would take a stand against the arms trade, not participate in it.
Jon Burn, UK

I definitely believe Britain is doing the right thing. The Sierra Leone Army is poorly armed, and with Britains help, Sierra Leone's days of peace will be restored.
Oga Nabush, USA

We should either go in and do a proper job or not intervene. We only went in originally to fuel Robin Cook's ego and deflect public opinion away from other government mishaps. Now it looks like we shall have to pay for another blunder by the worst foreign secretary we have had for ages.
Neil Martin, UK

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25 May 00 | Africa
Fatal ambush in Sierra Leone


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