Sierra Leone's Johnny Paul Koroma Says No Peace Without Taylor

Former Sierra Leone military leader Johnny Paul Koroma, says peace in Sierra Leone will be difficult to achieve without Liberia's President Charles Taylor's agreement. He however emphasized that war will end only after Government forces retake diamond areas from the RUF. Speaking during an interview with the United Nations Integrated Information Network(IRIN) this week, Koromah, the coup leader toppled by West African forces in 1998, said: "I don't know what he (Taylor) wants, but the only way to move forward is for him and president (Ahmed Tejan Kabbah) to sit down and sort things out He has influence over the RUF and in some areas where it could be extremely difficult to talk to the RUF, he can brake the barrier "

Once an ally of the RUF, Koroma noted that the RUF has no coherent ideology and that their drugged fighters would kill for no apparent reason. "I think they got their indoctrination from the Liberian war in which the RUF participated in support of Taylor's NPFL faction."

The former Armed Forces Revolutionary Committee head, who pulled the RUF from the bushes to join him in government, but retreated to Liberia after his ouster, nevertheless added said the Lome Agreement was now "shaky," and that the Government must now negotiate peace "from a position of strength." He said mining areas, now firmly under rebel control with reports this week that hundreds of Liberian fighters have been dispatched to defend them, "have to be taken under Government control. If that is not done, the war will continue. Until these areas are under Government control, we will find it difficult to talk to the RUF. .. I am saying Taylor has influence over the diamond fields".

Meanwhile, Taylor has repeated his warning against British training and arming of the Sierra Leone Army. According BBC reports quoting his private radio station, Taylor also warned against further demonstrations in Freetown. He said President Kabbah should not have permitted the May demonstration which prompted RUF fighters to gun down over 19 persons while protecting Sankoh. Taylor condemned similar British attempts at training the Sierra Leone Government Army in 1999, contending that the British plan was meant to encourage instability. But fighting later intensified, with the RUF nearly taking Freetown and leaving over 5000 people dead. Many parts of Freetown were set ablaze. Increase in the RUF military strength led to the Lome Agreement which brought the rebels into the Government with diamonds under their control. The radio also quoted Taylor as saying UN Sectary-General Kofi Annan has decided against peace enforcement in Sierra Leone because, he added, "this is not the appropriate" manner of resolving armed conflicts.

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