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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Sierra Leone: Quiz Mark Doyle

Mark Doyle, the BBC's West Africa correspondent, is in Sierra Leone covering the current crisis in the war-torn country.

Sierra Leone is in the grip of the worst crisis since a peace deal was signed last July. The clashes between government troops and rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have already killed scores of people, and UN peacekeepers have been sidelined and humiliated by RUF fighters.

We put your questions about the situation in Sierra Leone to Mark Doyle LIVE on World Service radio and BBC News Online. Read his answers on this page.

Or click here to watch or listen to highlights from the rest of the Talking Point On Air programme.

Richard and Lucy November, UK: We returned from Freetown two weeks ago. The atmosphere seemed very hopeful. Was this a delusion?

Mark Doyle: Freetown does appear to be secure following the intervention of the British troops and the advances made by the Sierra Leonean army, and the UN forces appear also to be involved in the defence of Freetown. The situation in the rest of the country is much less clear.

Kayode Ishola, Nigeria: What exactly do Sankoh and the RUF want?

Mark Doyle: They started their rebellion saying they were against corruption but that's not the only reason. It's also fairly clear since they seized the key diamond mining areas in the east of Sierra Leone, that they are after money, and many people here believe that this whole war is not really about military success but is being fought so that chaos can be created and money made out of the diamond mines.

Ishmael Taylor-Kamara, USA: Given the restrictive mandate of the UN forces, what's wrong with bringing in the mercenaries?

Mark Doyle: Most of the people of Sierra Leone would rather have a well-trained national army. They don't want to rely on mercenaries, partly because they're so expensive. They are very happy that a foreign army has come to help them out in this crisis, but they'd much rather put faith in their own army.

Blanche E Williams, USA: Did the UN create this disaster by deploying a peace-keeping force with such a narrow mandate and so few resources?

Mark Doyle: Africa has had a pretty raw deal from the UN system in terms of peace-keeping troops. There was no big first world country providing command, control or weaponry to Sierra Leone.

Mike, UK: How much influence does President Charles Taylor have over the RUF?

Mark Doyle: The RUF was originally formed in Liberia because Liberia wanted to punish the Sierra Leonean government at the time, for supporting a peace-keeping force in Liberia, which was preventing Charles Taylor, who was then a rebel leader, from coming to power. Since then it has become very clear that a lot of the diamonds dug by the rebels in Sierra Leone are exported via Liberia. The rebels have very close contacts with Liberia and President Charles Taylor. Some of the RUF rebels were trained in Libya alongside Charles Taylor's rebel movement before he became elected.

Why did the elected government sign a treaty with the rebels which gave them a place in government?

Mark Doyle: It had no choice really. The rebels were being prevented from seizing power by the Nigerian forces and although they were relatively popular here in Sierra Leone, the Nigerians were unable to beat the rebels completely. The Nigerians then voiced their intentions to get out and the Sierra Leonean government simply had no choice.

Does it look as if the worst of this recent crisis is now over?

Mark Doyle: No, it's not over in the rural areas by any means. We've talked a lot about the failure of the international community but we have to talk also about the failure of the political class here in Sierra Leone, and the inability to deal with

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