Sleone Rebels Demand Interim Gov’t, Threaten to Halt Peace Moves
Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group has warned it will halt peace efforts if President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah refused to form an interim government before legislative polls are held.
RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi said over UN radio late Tuesday that his group would stop disarming if Kabbah stuck to his refusal to form an interim administration before the vote, which is likely to be pushed back until disarmament is completed.
Massaquoi said rebels wanted "an 18-month interim transitional government to be in place" after the tenure of the present administration ends on September 26.
If this is not done, the rebel official said "we will even stop government officials entering our territory. We are not going to fight any longer but this will be a form of protest so that the whole world will know we need to address the political aspect of the problem.
Massaquoi admitted, as has the president, that elections could not be held within the year.
"Six months will not be sufficient to return the country to a place where elections can be held," Massaquoi said.
The elections were originally to have been held this year but are likely to be deferred.
On Sunday, Kabbah said that the government, rebel forces and UN peacekeepers have agreed that there will be no legislative elections until rebels and government-sponsored militia have laid down their arms.
The deadline for an ongoing disarmament programme was initially set for the end of July, and has already been postponed twice. So far, some 16,000 combatants -- of an estimated total of 45,000 -- have laid down their weapons.
The rebel campaign, which began in 1991, saw tens of thousands of civilians killed, savagely mutilated, raped or displaced -- FREETOWN (AFP)
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