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Vol 41 No 24

Published 8th December 2000

Sierra Leone

Bringing back the British

Critically dependent on UN and British military support, President Kabbah's government is facing growing civilian opposition

Desperation and nostalgia help explain why more than 5,000 Sierra Leoneans crowded in to the National Stadium in Freetown on 23 November to show their support for British soldiers in their country. Many of the crowd went further, to demand that the government of Sierra Leone be handed back to Britain on a trusteeship basis for several years. Earlier in the month, on 11 November, many more Sierra Leoneans had joined British soldiers in Freetown to commemorate the millions of allied troops who had perished in the two world wars. Thousands of Sierra Leoneans fought in the Second World War and Freetown was an important staging post in the Falklands War. Yet the clamour for recolonisation must seem bizarre to the many self-respecting nationalists who pushed Britain out 40 years ago. Above all, it shows Sierra Leone's dire political and military predicament and the chronic dependency of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government on outsiders (AC Vol 41 No 14). Unquestionably, that government hangs on to power courtesy of some 750 British forces and about 13,000 peacekeepers in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (Unamsil). Without the cordon sanitaire these forces provide around Freetown, Revolutionary United Front soldiers and their allies from Burkina Faso and Liberia would have overrun the capital. That is little comfort to the other three million Sierra Leoneans living outside the capital, a million of whom survive hand-to-mouth in RUF-controlled areas. As diplomatically as he could, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on his 2-3 December visit to Sierra Leone urged the Kabbah government to take more responsibility for ending the crippling war with the RUF.

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