Sierra Leone Rebels Resume Disarmament

July 17, 2001

Sierra Leone Rebels Resume Disarmament

After suspending disarmament over the weekend, Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone on Sunday pledged to continue disarmament in the interest of the peace process, the Associated Press reports. The disarmament process has been particularly slow in the areas around rebel-held diamond fields.

RUF rebels halted disarmament late last week because they were unhappy about United Nations Security Council sanctions that blocked travel by the group's leader, Omrie Golley. The group also complained of cease-fire violations by pro-government militias and the Sierra Leone government's refusal to release jailed rebel leaders, AP reports.

RUF members are meeting today with officials from the U.N. mission in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone government to discuss problems they have with the disarmament plan. More than 6,000 combatants – from RUF and pro-government militia – have laid down their weapons since May 18, AP reports. However, disarmament slowed dramatically this month when it reached the diamond-rich Kono district. Only 33 rebel fighters and 89 militia fighters have laid down their weapons in the area since July 2. The rebels have held the diamond fields for at least three years.

In related news, RUF rebels handed over 107 children to U.N. officials on Monday in the central town of Makeni. U.N. officials say the group consisted of 62 girls and 45 babies belonging to the girls, AP reports. The children were mostly healthy, though some of the babies were malnourished.

- by Julia M. Duncan