Sierra Leone

UN travel ban worries Sierra Leone rebel leader

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Peter Kahler, PANA Correspondent
MONROVIA, Liberia (PANA)- A UN travel ban imposed on the leadership and officers of Sierra Leone's Rebel Revolutionary United Front is a source of worry for the organisation, its leader, Cpl. Foday Sankoh, has said.

"We are very much concerned about the UN travel ban on the leadership and senior officers of the RUF and the former AFRC (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council military junta)," he told PANA.

The UN imposed the ban a year ago after the ouster of Johnny Paul Koroma's military junta that deposed elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in May 1997.

The ban was intended to constrain the leaders of the RUF and AFRC which had formed and alliance to comply with efforts towards restoring peace to that country.

Sankoh said the purpose of his visit to Liberia was to plead with President Charles Taylor to urge leaders of the Economic Community of West African States to act so that "this ban be lifted."

He again dismissed reports of a rift between him and RUF field commander, Sam Bockarie, although he agreed that "Bockarie is misbehaving and going out of the way of the Lome peace accord" by taking foreign relief workers hostage.

Last week, Bockarie, who controls the RUF forces in the eastern part of Sierra Leone, took two workers of Medicins Sans Frontieres hostage and has failed to yield to calls even from Sankoh to set them free.

"Even this morning I reinforced my orders for the release of the MSF relief workers. and I think it's just a child's play anyway, I am not surprised, a child is a child. In our pidgin English we say, "pekin na pekin," Sankoh said of Bockarie in a tone that suggests acrimony.

He denied allegations that he was plotting to "eliminate" Bockarie, pointing out "I am not a killer. I take him (Bockarie) just like my son. Why should I when in the RUF there are rules to deal with people who go wrong."

"I don't think people should believe such an allegation by Bockarie. It's just a big bluff," Sankoh said.

He cautioned his "brothers in the struggle" to be aware that "there is no more war in Sierra Leone and so no one should hold the people ransom."

"We should do the right thing to implement the Lome accord to give peace to the people of sierra," Sankoh stressed.

Commenting on speculations that dissension brewing in the RUF was centred around money matters, Sankoh admitted that "the movement has financial problems," but clarified that "the RUF never promised to give combatants any money."

"I always say I am the poorest rebel leader in the world. I live on charity...on friends, and I challenge anyone to prove that I have sold one piece of diamond or that I have a bank account anywhere," Sankoh said.

He described relations with the Kabbah government as "cordial" and vowed to yield to the desire of the Sierra Leonean people for peace.

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