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Archive for November, 2000

British plan offensive in Sierra Leone

Sunday, November 12th, 2000

Posted November 13, 2000 – 18:53 by newsdesk

Related SourceThe Observer

UK infantry units may have to be deployed
UK infantry units may have to be deployed

By Jason Burke and Brian Johnson-Thomas

Sunday November 12, 2000

British artillery and helicopter gunships will be thrown into combat against the Sierra Leone rebel forces within weeks under plans being drawn up by Whitehall and defence chiefs.

The plan, which senior diplomatic sources confirmed yesterday, would see a massive escalation in British involvement in the war-torn West African state and possibly result in the fiercest combat involving UK forces since the Gulf War nearly 10 years ago.

The British plan involves deploying helicopter gunships and artillery. The helicopters – Sea Kings from the Royal Navy warships currently off the Sierra Leone shore – would attack rebels of the Revolutionary United Front in support of a government offensive to secure the crucial diamond fields in the south-west of the country which provide the finance for the rebels’ war effort.

On the ground, the commandos’ light artillery batteries – equipped with 105mm guns – would also be used. Such a weapon has only a limited range and gun crews would be vulnerable. It is likely that infantry units would also have to be deployed to protect them.

A key component of the offensive will be the 1,000-strong brigade of government soldiers that has been trained by British advisers at a base near Freetown, the capital. At least 400 British soldiers are already in positions in and around the city.

Informed sources in Sierra Leone told The Observer last week that forces from the RUF – the main rebel group – had started taking up positions closer to Freetown in recent days. It was the imminent capture of the capital – and the apparent collapse of the UN force protecting the city – that precipitated the British intervention in May which successfully stopped the rebel advance.

British troops have already taken casualties in Sierra Leone. One was killed and 17 injured while freeing a group of soldiers held hostage by a renegade militia three months ago. British troops were involved in some fierce firefights with rebel forces when they first landed in the country.

There were reports yesterday that a ceasefire negotiated on Friday between the Sierra Leonean government and the RUF was still holding, though analysts were pessimistic about its long-term chances.

Peter Hain, the Foreign Minister, told The Observer yesterday that the truce vindicated the Government’s policy.

‘[The truce] could be a very significant breakthrough. Any ceasefire agreed with the RUF has to be treated with considerable caution, but does reflect the success of the strategy that Britain has helped to drive forward since May,’ he said.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000

ROYAL MARINES COME ASHORE IN FREETOWN

Sunday, November 12th, 2000

 

ROYAL MARINES COME ASHORE IN FREETOWN

An amphibious force from 42 Commando Group Royal Marines came ashore in Freetown today in an impressive beach landing exercise launched from helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.

Seaking helicopters thundered overhead as the troops poured from amphibious landing craft and secured the beachhead on Aberdeen peninsula, three kilometres west of the capital. Chinook battlefield support helicopters delivered underslung 105mm light artillery guns and Commando all-terrain vehicles while Lynx attack helicopters provided air cover.


This exercise followed the arrival of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) the previous day, which had been diverted to Sierra Leone following the completion of an exercise in the Mediterranean. 

The ARG comprises elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. (JRRF) and is just one capability that we could have chosen to deploy. It is headed by HMS Ocean supported by four Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and support helicopters.




In our announcement on 10 October about further assistance to Sierra Leone, the Government made it clear that, under our memorandum with the United Nations, we were ready to deploy a rapid reaction force in support of UN peacekeeping operations, including that in Sierra Leone. Today’s exercise was a highly visible demonstration of the seriousness of that commitment.

This powerful display of military capability has enabled the Group to practice procedures and conduct a detailed reconnaissance both of which will significantly reduce the time needed to deploy should the JRRF be required in future. It was planned prior to yesterday’s welcome announcement of a cease-fire between the GoSL and the RUF, but we hope it will remind the leadership of the RUF of the need to honour that agreement to ensure that it marks the first step towards a peaceful and prosperous future for Sierra Leone.

The British military mission in Sierra Leone remains unchanged in its efforts to assist in the building of a long term peace and security for the country through creating an effective, democratically accountable, self-supporting indigenous military force that is capable of extending the Government’s control over its territory.


A Press Release by the UK Joint Task Force Headquarters (JTFHQ)
Contact: Flt Lt Julie Phillips, Media Ops

UNAMSIL Press Briefing – Friday, 10 November 2000

Friday, November 10th, 2000

UNAMSIL Press Briefing – Friday, 10 November 2000 
Posted November 13, 2000 – 18:51 by newsdesk

Related SourceUNAMSIL

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of a briefing with UNAMSIL Spokesman Hirut Befecadu and military spokesman Lt. Commander Patrick Coker 

The meeting of the Coordination Mechanism for ECOWAS, Government of Sierra Leone and the UN started in Abuja on 8 November under the chairmanship of the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, standing in for his Malian counterpart whose arrival was delayed. The meeting has concluded its deliberations and has made several recommendations whereby it expressed that the meeting with the RUF should focus exclusively on a ceasefire, and that all the other outstanding issues relating to restarting the political dialogue would be discussed after a through assessment of progress made in implementing the ceasefre agreement. The Coordination Committee emphasized the importance of deploying UNAMSIL troops throughout Sierra Leone to monitor the ceasefire, and called on ECOWAS to press the RUF to return all the seized UNAMSIL weapons and equipment. It further called for the need to build trust and confidence between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF, as well as to encourage the RUF to have direct contacts with the government and President Kabbah, UNAMSIL and ECOWAS. It also called on the RUF to establish a presence in Freetown as soon as possible.

The delegation of the RUF led by Col Jonathan Kposowa and six other members have been airlifted from Monrovia by an aircraft provided by the Nigerian Government to travel to Abuja for the meeting between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF. The Liberian delegation also travelled on the same plane. We expect the meeting to have started by noon today.

UNAMSIL’s Civil Affairs Section in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), provided 1000 kits of vegetable seeds to the NGO Farming Families Project named PLASAS, operating in the Freetown Western Area and the Northern Province. The delivery ceremony took place November 9, 2000. The project beneficiaries are 43 community groups comprising 1075 women gardeners, who have traditionally been engaged in community farming, but due to the civil war, their condition worsened. The donation will allow the beneficiaries not only to ensure food security, but also to generate a minimum income. Their request for funding was made to UNAMSIL’s Civil Affairs Section by FAMINE, an umbrella organization supporting efforts of Community Based organizations (CBO), involved in rehabilitation and reintegration activities.

On November 8, a Civil Affairs Officer Ms Laura Linares conducted a field visit to Bo to establish links with regional and local authorities, representatives of NGOs, the UNAMSIL Guinean contingent, MILOBS and UN Civ Pol officers. The role of the Civil Affairs Section was discussed with the Resident Minister, the Mayor and the Counsellors of Bo, and NCRRR representatives. Emphasis was made on governance and the humanitarian situation. The Resident Minister pointed out that his effort is focused on promoting confidence building, and stressed the need to work in close collaboration with UNAMSIL to enhance the capacity of regional and local government. He also suggested that a sensitisation campaign be initiated to further explain the role of UNAMSIL to the population. The NCRRR representatives on his part identified three areas of concern: The restoration of civil authority; rehabilitation of roads infrastructure and rehabilitation of community basic services such as health centres, primary school and court barriers.

Freetown MILOBS at Wilberforce Reception Centre disarmed two-RUF child combatants and one-AFRC unarmed child combatant on November 8, they were transported to LAKKA Child Camp the same day.

The DDR Camp at Lungi was officially closed on November 8, as the last ex-combatant was discharged. The camp will be handed over to the SLA on November 11.

You will recall that we informed you that the withdrawal of the Indian and Jordanian peacekeepers will be carried out in phases. The first phase of this withdrawal commenced during the week. The details are not available, however, the general outline is as follows: from the western area, Jorbatt 1 which is located at Waterloo-songo will be the first to pull out from the Jordanian contingent next week. The Jorbatt 1 area of responsibility will be taken-over by NIBATT 5 and 6. Jorbatt 2 located at Masiaka will vacate their position to the Kenyan Battalion. In the eastern area, the Ghanaian Battalion that was located at Kenema will now take over from Indian Battalion 1 at Daru. The Zambian Battalion currently located at Lungi will take over form Ghana Battalion at Kenema. The advance redeployments and phased withdrawal has commenced however none of the peacekeepers have left the shores of Sierra Leone yet. These general movements will ensure that no vacuum is created to jeopardize the current security situation in UNAMSIL positions.

There was a wreath laying in honor of Lance Corporal Nabu who drowned at the Lumley Beach. He was sent off by senior military and civilian officers of UNAMSIL. His remains will be flown to India.

***********

For additional information, contact:
UNAMSIL Public Information Office
UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko, P. O. Box 5, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Tel: 232-22-273-183/4/5 Fax: 232-22-273-189 e-mail: odine@un.org

(c) United Nations 2000
For information purposes only; not an official document of the United Nations.