Sierra Leone Government, RUF Differ on Elections

The Perspective

September 10, 2001

The Sierra Leone government has announced May 14, 2002, as the new date for holding parliamentary and presidential elections. The elections timetable was previously postponed from December 2001 due to what officials described as "logistical problems." There has also been a lack of movement in the disarmament exercise. Out of an estimated 45,000 combatants, only 16,000 had laid down their arms, according to the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) - the body responsible for disarming and mainstreaming these combatants back into civil society.

However, at a recently held international donors conference this past May, an estimated U.S.$14 million was pledged by the European Union (EU), Germany and Sweden. The NCDDR says it will need a total of U.S.$31 million to achieve maximum disarmament.

But as disarmament proceeds unhindered, the rebel RUF, which is positioning itself to transform itself into a political party has not received the announcement by the Sierra Leone government to hold elections, favorably. Expressing its dissatisfaction with this move, the RUF has boycotted a monthly peace meeting with the government and UN officials that was scheduled for last Thursday.

According to the RUF Spokesman, Gibril Massaquoi, the boycott was "aimed at highlighting several grievances against President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah."

He said these included "a refusal by Kabbah's team to step down for an interim government after its term ends on September 26, alleged ceasefire violations by a state-backed civil militia and the government's refusal to free detained RUF leader Foday Sankoh."

A contentious issue for the RUF has been the establishment of an interim government modeled after the Liberian experience that ushered into power the Taylor-led National Patriotic Party (NPP) government. The RUF takes its marching orders from the NPP.

But despite its objections to the announced date, its spokesman has said the RUF would not deter the ongoing peace efforts if Kabbah refused to form an interim government before legislative polls were held.

The Sierra Leone government - has said it will need U.S.$15 million to conduct its upcoming elections. According to the Election Commission, well over 21 political parties have registered to contest the elections. This is almost double what it was in 1996.

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