Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: MSF volunteers still held by RUF rebels

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ABIDJAN, 10 December 1999 (IRIN) - Two volunteers of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) seized by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels are still being held in eastern Sierra Leone, MSF Country Coordinator Guiseppe Scollo told IRIN on Friday.
"It is quite a tense situation and we are trying to keep in contact with them," he said.

The captives, a doctor and a logistician who have been running a health project in Kailahun District, have been held since Tuesday. MSF said it had been able to contact both volunteers, a Belgian and a German and that they were in good health.

It is still unclear why the captives were taken, although during a recent telephone contact a spokesman for RUF commander Sam Bockarie said he was dissatisfied with the process of disarmament and demobilisation of fighters in Sierra Leone.

"The spokesman said that Bockarie wanted to let the international community know of his dissatisfaction with the disarmament process," Scollo said.

Scollo said MSF had not yet spoken directly to Bockarie.

In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, MSF spokeswoman Amanda Harvey said the detention of the two volunteers was unrelated to their work with MSF, but was connected with the disarmament element of the LomÚ Peace Accord. Therefore, she said, MSF was asking that the captives be freed immediately.

Harvey said the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and ECOMOG were aware of the situation, but said it was still "too early" for them to become involved in negotiations for the release of the captives. MSF has been active in Sierra Leone since 1990, and currently has 30 volunteers working in the country.

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2133

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