November 17, 2000

U.N. Ambassador Speaks on Peace in Sierra Leone

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Yesterday, less than a week after an insurgent group agreed to a cease-fire with the Sierra Leone government, Ibrahim M’Baba Kamara, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.), came to Cornell to discuss the nine-year conflict.

Lecturing in Phillips Hall, Kamara, a native of Sierra Leone, also explained the role of the U.N. in peace-keeping efforts. The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) and the Institute for African Development sponsored the talk.

“My country is saddled with an unprovoked conflict that has claimed thousands of innocent lives [and] created in the region of West Africa the largest number of refugees the continent has ever seen,” Kamara said.

The rebel group, known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), claims that they are fighting against government corruption. But Kamara argued that they have “no ideology, no cause” and that they aren’t fighting for ethnic or religious reasons.

The conflict is “born out of greed by a few armed individuals given succor and support by external forces, namely President Charles Taylor of Liberia and President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso, both of whom are personally profiting from the illegal extraction and smuggling of our diamonds,” Kamara explained. The smuggling also finances the war activities of the rebels.

“They [the rebels] do not fight a conventional war,” he said. “They use civilians as human shields