Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Peacekeepers find grim situation in Kailahun

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ABIDJAN, 20 March 2000 (IRIN) - UN peacekeepers were deployed last week to the rebel stronghold of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone, where they found civilians in need of humanitarian supplies, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) told IRIN on Monday.
The 107 military personnel and six military observers arrived on Thursday and began setting up in the town, located in the heart of territory dominated by Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

There are 2000 to 2,500 people in the town, mainly RUF members and their dependents, and the situation for civilians is "grim," UNAMSIL Chief Information Officer Philip Winslow said. Food and water are scarce, hunger is widespead and medical supplies are needed.

Roads leading to the town are unusable for any vehicle over 2.5 mt, UNAMSIL said. According to the Sierra Leone News Web, UNAMSIL Force Commander Major-General Vijay Jetley, who visited the area on Saturday, said that engineers would be improving the roads as quickly as possible to allow aid to reach Kailahun. Priorities for UNAMSIL include digging wells for the peacekeepers' use and increasing the civilian water supply in the area. On Tuesday, six military observers will travel to Buedu near the Liberian border to make a preliminary assessment of needs there, Winslow said.

During the civil war, Kailahun changed hands several times between the ex-Sierra Leone Army (SLA) and the RUF and as each side withdrew, its troops looted the town, leaving it in ruins. UN peacekeepers had been trying to deploy to the east for several weeks but had been prevented from doing so until now by local RUF commanders.

Following the presentation last week of the UN Secretary-General's latest report on Sierra Leone, the UN Security Council expressed concern at the shortcomings in the implementation of the Lome Peace Accord, in particular the slow progress in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, and the continued violation of human rights. Terming the situation "unacceptable", Council members said the responsibility lay with Sankoh and the RUF who, they said, had not lived up to their commitments under the peace agreement.

Adeniji said the deployment would give the RUF a chance to show it stood by the peace agreement signed last July in Lome, Sierra Leone News Web reported.

[ENDS]

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