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Vol 42 No 13

Published 29th June 2001

Sierra Leone

Precarious calm

The fighters are disarming and demobilising fast but the much tougher job of building the peace remains to be done

Has Sierra Leone's war run out of steam? Many rebel fighters, as well as their opponents, want a break, if not an end to the war. Their warlord commanders, inside and outside the country, find the current tentative ceasefire and demobilisation convenient but not wholly to their liking. The changing fortunes of President Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia - from rebel sponsor to rebel target - are behind the new mood. Significant rebel territory is being ceded to the United Nations peacekeepers, then to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government. Valuable diamond areas such as Tongo Field are now under UN control but the UN peacekeepers' real test, to bring the richest diamond fields in Kono District back under government control, is yet to come. Three battalions of Pakistani troops are landing in Freetown in shifts and will be sent up to establish UN control of Kono in July and August. If they succeed, the rebel Revolutionary United Front - and its sponsors in Liberia and Burkina Faso - will have lost its biggest source of funds.

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