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Blood diamonds and war crimes: the conflict in Sierra Leone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bruno Waterfield in The Hague   
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:17

Naomi Campbell gives evidence at the Charles Taylor War Crimes trial in the Hague: Over 120,000 people were killed and two million displaced in Sierra Leone’s civil war which was marked by brutal atrocities, the use of enslaved child soldiers and widespread use of amputation as a weapon of terror.  

 Right from the beginning the Revolutionary United Front, insurgents allegedly backed by Charles Taylor, a Liberian warlord later to become the country’s leader, based their violent strategy on seizing control of Sierra Leone’s diamond mines.

First operating from Liberia the RUF quickly established a reputation for brutality, beheading community leaders and raping women and children to terrorise the civilian population.

The signature terror tactic of the rebels was physical mutilation and an estimated 20,000 civilians suffered amputation, with machetes and axes being used to sever arms, legs, lips, and ears.

The RUF was also became notorious for its Small Boys Units, made up of child soldiers as young as eight who were forcibly recruited and then drugged and sent to fight with AK47 assault rifles. The children became among the most feared units in what became one of the world's most vicious civil wars.

It was an RUF assault on Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown in May 2000 and the taking hostage of hundreds of UN military observers that led to Britain sending 1,500 peacekeepers.

Two years later the conflict had ended after a Western intervention that still remains model military operation for humanitarians.

 

 ................................. More News ....................................

 

Naomi Campbell accused over Charles Taylor trial evidence

 By Joe Sinclair, Press Association - Thursday, 5 August 2010

 

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was accused of being not "entirely truthful" today after telling the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor how she was woken in the night and given a pouch containing "small, dirty-looking stones" following a charity dinner.

Giving evidence to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, Campbell described the proceedings as a "big inconvenience" and said she feared they would put her family in danger.

She told how two men knocked on her door in the middle of night as she stayed at the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela and presented her with a pouch containing gems.

Campbell is alleged to have received the gift after a star-studded party hosted by Mr Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.

The model said she discussed the incident with fellow guests the morning after the charity dinner and was told: "That's obviously Charles Taylor."

Campbell is said to have received a "blood diamond" from Taylor, whose faces charges including criminal responsibility for murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers.

The 40-year-old model, from Streatham, south London, refused to take part in the trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague until she was issued with a subpoena.

Taylor is accused of arming and controlling Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel force responsible for widespread atrocities.

The 62-year-old, who denies all charges against him, is alleged to have used diamonds from the RUF to buy arms, which he allegedly shipped from Burkina Faso to the Sierra Leone junta at the Magburaka airfield in October 1997.


Taylor rejects allegations that he possessed or carried rough diamonds. Campbell said she had "read up" on Taylor using the internet and had not wanted to attend today's hearing.

"This is a big inconvenience for me. I really don't want anything to do with this and I care about the protection of my family," she said.

This is someone, I read up on the internet, that has killed thousands of people, supposedly, and I don't want my family in danger in any way."

Prosecutor Brenda Hollis questioned Campbell's account.

She asked the model: "Isn't it correct that your account today is not entirely truthful because of fear of Charles Taylor?"

Campbell replied: "No, that's not correct." The "cross-examination" of Campbell, as a prosecution witness, was branded "totally improper" by defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC.

In documents submitted to the court, actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the party, said Campbell had provided an "unforgettable story" of the incident the following morning.

She said: "She told us she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men - I do not recall how many - who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor."

Farrow's story was backed up by the model's former agent, Carole White, who said she had even held the diamonds in her own hands. The pair are due to give evidence next week.

Speaking in detail about the gift for the first time, Campbell told the court that she was woken by two strangers and handed a pouch.

Asked what she thought the gift was, she said: "They were dirty-looking pebbles. I'm used to seeing diamonds, shiny and in a box."

She told the court that the men had knocked on her door and said: "There's a gift for you."

She said there were "maybe two or three" stones.

Campbell said she was told the stones were "probably" diamonds.

She "assumed" they were a gift from Taylor, whom she had met for the first time at that night's event.

The stones were in her possession for six hours before she gave them to Jeremy Ratcliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, she said.

"Once I handed them over... it was out of my hands," she added.

The model insisted she had wanted them to be donated to charity but said: "He still has them so they didn't benefit."

Campbell denied being a "boastful person" and flirting with Taylor during the dinner.

"When I am with Nelson Mandela - and I think everyone in the world feels the same way - my focus and attention is on him," she said.

She was asked to identify her fellow guests. They included Taylor, Jemima and Imran Khan, Mr Mandela and his wife, music producer Quincy Jones and actress Farrow.

The court was shown a photograph of the group, in which Campbell stood alongside Taylor.

Under cross-examination by Mr Griffiths, Campbell denied speaking directly to Taylor, the former leader of Liberia.

"I spoke in general," she said. "I was interested in him. I had never heard of Liberia before. He said that he was the president of Liberia."

Documents from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which were presented in court, "categorically" stated that the charity had not received the diamonds, although records showed that Campbell made cash donations in 1997 and 1998.

The war, in the world’s poorest country, officially played out between 1996 and 2002 but the real conflict, and the Liberia backed and Libya trained rebels behind the insurgency, dated back to 1991. Over a decade of fighting, fuelled by the use of “blood diamonds” to fund insurgents, only ended after Tony Blair sent British troops into the country in an intervention later used to justify the invasion of Iraq. {jcomments on}

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

Read more...

Business News

ACC CAPACITATES SIERRA LEONE COMMERCIAL BANK STAFF ON ANTI-BRIBERY AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ISSUES

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the request of the Management of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) on Thursday 20th July, 2017 commenced anti- bribery and anti-corruption training with staff of the Bank.

The training which was held in the Bank's Conference Room 9th Floor, Christian Smith Building 29/31 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown attracted over twenty members of the Executive Management.

Addressing colleagues, the Managing Director, SLCB, Idrissa Aloma Kamara disclosed that the Bank has integrated into the Bank's operations anti-corruption measures, such as the development of anti-corruption policy, anti-graft messages inscribed on Bank Statements and sensitization of staff on the dangers of corruption. With all these, the MD stated, it is the view of the Bank that the ACC which is the statutory body responsible for the campaign against corruption be brought in, to provide awareness training on anti-bribery issues for an efficient and effective banking system.

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Media News

Freedom of Expression Violations Rise Sharply in West Africa

The incidents of freedom of expression rights violations in West Africa more than tripled in the first quarter (January-March) of 2017.

Over the three-month period, a total of 47 violations were recorded as against 14 violations for the last quarter (October-December) of 2016. The violations recorded in the quarter under review range from arrests and detentions to physical attacks, online violations, shutdown of media houses, censorship, seizure and destruction of property and killings. The 47 violations occurred in 10 out of the 16 countries in West Africa.

These findings are contained in the latest edition of the West Africa Freedom of Expression Monitor, a quarterly report by the MFWA which analyses and highlights freedom of expression developments in the sub-region.

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Commentary

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT

A PASSIONATE LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT:  44TH EDITION

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT
 Your Excellency Sir,
 It’s been six months since I subscribed to my usual publications of this piece. And this is primarily because I have been out of the country for the entire period, and as such would not normally objectively tender a subscription. I do apologize to my readers for this. So having being in Monrovia, Liberia for the recently concluded ECOWAS Summit, I would like to do some analysis on such a historic august body and gathering of this sub-Saharan/West African region.
 
In resume, among other crucial achievements, ECOWAS, through its military apparatus, ECOMOG, played very sacrificial and invaluable roles in bringing peace, security and democratic governance to both Sierra Leone and Liberia during their past civil wars, and most recently ensuring that the Gambian people’s democratic change of government from the notorious dictatorial twenty seven years regime of Yaya Jarmeh, to the current government of President Adama Barrow, through their tactical robust intervention, overseen by President Helen JohnsonSirleaf of Liberia and other ECOWAS Presidents/actors, was enforced. Furthermore, ECOWAS has also spearheaded the enactment of several socio-political, advocacy and economic treaties in the sub region.
Read more...

View Point

WHY SIERRA LEONEANS HATE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

Honestly speaking Sierra Leoneans are well known for their hospitality all over the world, especially in Africa. But ironically many of them hate each other. But they love foreigners. They have high respect for strangers. But unfortunately they do not have respect among themselves. You can attest this to what is happening in the social media. Where they are showing their pull him down (PhD) syndrome. By castigating their compatriots unnecessarily. Some of them just because of jealousy and envious evil spirit they possess. They prefer to promote foreigners than their own brothers and sisters both in and out of the country.

Day in day out they are insulting each other.They are using all sorts of vulgar languages against each other. And even their own highly respected president in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma they are insulting him openly. Therefore, it is an open secret that many Sierra Leoneans are not well cultured.

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News - Press Release

Regent village head calls on LAB to tackle domestic violence

The village head for Regent, Ms. Jokomie Browne has called on the Legal Aid Board to help curb the increase in incidence of domestic violence in the Regent Community in the outskirts of the capital Freetown.

Ms. Browne wants the Board to hold outreach events in the village to educate the people on issues of law relating to domestic violence, gender, women’s rights, redress mechanisms and support services for victims.

‘We want to benefit from the Legal Aid Board’s Legal Empowerment Programme because there is an urgent need for one in the community,’ Ms. Browne told the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles on the phone. ‘The situation is desperate. I am afraid if you do not come in now the situation could spiral out of control.’

The call follows series of referral of victims of domestic violence to the Legal Aid Board office in Freetown. The latest victim sent to the Board is one Baindu who was battered by her boyfriend Borbor Abu in the presence of their one year old son.

Read more...

Society -Local News

China-Aid Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project hand over Agriculture Materials to the Ministry of Agriculture

On  21st July ,2017 at a handing over ceremony held at Ogoo Farm in Freetown, China-Aid Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project Team handed agricultural materials to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS). 

The items include seed rice, maize, agro chemicals, fertilizer, pesticides and power tillers for farmers within the western area district. Dignitaries present included The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food security Prof. Monty Jones and his entourage ,  Mr Shen Xiaokai, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, the District agricultural officer, the Chinese technical team, National federation of farmers Sierra Leone representative and lot of farmers in the western Area.

During his statement, Mr Shen said for over 40 years China has been fulfilling its commitment to Sierra Leone with regard the agricultural technical cooperation project.

He said China will continue to assist Sierra Leone in its developmental strides by providing technical support and assistance and by also providing training to help develop the human resource capacity of the workforce.

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Development

30 Staff of the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development will go China for Seminar on Economic Planning

Thirty (30) staff of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development will depart the shore of Freetown to China on 14th August 2017. The purpose of their trip is to attend a seminar on Medium and Long-Term Economic planning for Sierra Leone. The National Development and Reform Commission of China will organize the seminar from 16th August to 7th September 2017 in the capital city of Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

The Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Freetown, Mr. Shen Xiaokai met with the 30 participants at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) on 2rd August 2017. In his remarks he told the participants that in December 2016, His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu Kargbo visited China, where they had high level bilateral meetings with Chinese Government Officials. 

He said this seminar is as a result of those meetings. “When China makes a commitment, China will fulfil it” he reiterated. He said The Ministry of Finance is one of the most important ministries in this country, therefore this seminar was designed specifically to meet the needs of the ministry.

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Politics

News from China, June 28th: Youth Affairs Minister addresses 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development in Beijing, China
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Youth Affairs has said, the 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development hosted by the Chinese government should help enhance the ties of friendship and foster the wheels of bilateral cooperation between the two nations and particularly strengthen cooperation in the field of human resource development.
 
Hon. Bai Mamoud Bangura spoke on Wednesday, 28th June, 2017, at the start of the week long Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation, which has brought together participants from various countries, including eight (8) from Sierra Leone.
 
According to minister Bangura, in line with the spirit of friendship and cooperation, the event could serve as an opportunity to jointly define new strategic directions in Sierra Leone’s ties with China and in opening up another episode of friendship and cooperation between the two.
Read more...
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