National rights group tells government to let RUF speak

The influential Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) has called on the government to listen to what the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has to say. In a statement received today (Wednesday) by IRIN, the IRCSL welcomed a proposed dialogue between the rebels and the government, centred on a modified version of the 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord. “We urge that the government in this dialogue should talk less and listen more,” the statement said. “Let the people of Sierra Leone be given the opportunity to hear from the RUF and its allies what they seek.”

However it added that power-sharing after armed insurrections “has never provided a lasting answer”. The IRCSL urged the international community to facilitate a free and open dialogue between the parties within the next six weeks. It also called for the immediate temporary closure of Sierra Leone’s border with Liberia as “that area continues to be a threat to this nation’s security”. Liberia has been accused of helping the rebels in the Sierra Leone conflict, a charge repeatedly denied by Monrovia. The statement also warned the government to be “much more vigilant” at the international level.

It further expressed concern over surrendered soldiers, currently encamped at the Mammy Yoko hotel in Freetown. “The government should listen to the view of the public as to the formation of the new national army vis-a-vis those surrendered soldiers at Mammy Yoko.” The government has pledged to rebuild the national army, including the reinstatement of some 200 former officers.