Sierra Leone's RUF rebels said Tuesday they are committed to a political end to the war that has ravaged the country for 10 years, Reuters reports. In a telephone conversation with Reuters, rebel spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said the war has gone on for too long, and the rebel group wants to pursue a peaceful end because of the suffering of the country's people. He said the group is allowing United Nations peacekeepers to deploy throughout rebel territory, including the diamond-rich areas. In addition, Massaquoi said RUF is committed to elections, but will not disarm before Sierra Leone's official army. RUF wants the government's army to disarm and have U.N. peacekeepers take over the country's security efforts.
RUF rebels visited Sierra Leone's capital Freetown this week to discuss an end to the war. Omrie Golley, the head of RUF's Political and Peace Council, met with U.N. officials, but not with members of Sierra Leone's elected government, Reuters reports. Golley says the rebels are very keen to revive the 1999 peace deal that gave the group some government posts, and they recognize it was wrong to have kidnapped U.N. peacekeepers among other things.
The U.N. Security Council voted at the end of March to send more peacekeepers to Sierra Leone. The council unanimously passed a resolution to extend the mission until Sept. 30 and increase the number of peacekeepers in the country to 17,500, the Associated Press reports. In addition, Pakistan announced today it will send more than 4,000 troops to Sierra Leone, and the government of Nepal is considering offering a battalion of about 800 to the U.N. mission, AP reports. Currently, there are just over 12,000 U.N. troops in Sierra Leone.
- by Julia M. Duncan