Us Interaction In Sierra Leone Essay Research

Us Interaction In Sierra Leone Essay, Research Paper

Since the United States has become one of the most authoritative nations in the world, they have taken on the position of protecting petty, insubstantial countries from harm. However, so many wars are going right now that the United States cannot get involved with all of them. The United States should get involved with the most atrocious and vexing wars, but they decide to get involved with the wars that will give them the most financial gain.

Roughly the size of South Carolina, Sierra Leone is a small, tropical country located in West Africa and bordered by Guinea, Liberia, and the Atlantic Ocean (General Board of Global Ministries). Sierra Leone was, and still is a battleground, used for murder, rape, abduction, slavery, and torture. This was all a result of the Revolutionary United Front rebels, or RUF. The conflict began in March 1991, when armed combatants crossed the border from Liberia into the south-eastern part of the country, attacking and subsequently occupying the border town of Bomary in the Kailahun district (Centre for Documentation and Research).

In retaliation, the government increased its military force from three thousand, to fourteen thousand men during the first two years of the conflict. After the first month of the conflict, many different military factions were born. Some were allied, and the rest fought each other. The RUF quickly rose during this time, and the government was forced to get assistance


from foreign mercenaries. With the revenue of the diamonds the government sold, they were able to pay off the mercenaries. The

Mercenaries stayed in Sierra Leone for 22 months. Within that time, they successfully launched attacks against the RUF, which cause them to withdraw from a number of bases they had established around the area. After this the RUF captives surrendered.

Because the captives were treated well, this caused fear among the RUF, and was also dangerous to them. So in turn, they committed new and more atrocities against the civilians. Attempts to reach a peace agreement was postponed, because the government wanted peace before negotiations, and the RUF wanted all foreign troops withdrawn from the country. A peace agreement was finally reached on November 30, 1996, but violent acts on the civilians still continued to be inflicted by the rebels and soldier.

The RUF had no specific targets. People were selected at random. They would gun down people in their house, burn them alive in their cars, cut off various parts of their body, and gouge out their eyes with a knife. The women and girls were sexually abused, the children and young people were abducted from their homes, school, or while out getting food. These atrocities were usually carried out in the way of a game. RUF rebels would dress up as ECOMOG soldiers (Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group), and punish all civilians who came to


them for help, and talked bad about the RUF. They would light houses on fire, hide, then shoot the people running out of the house. They would also hide, and shoot people who went out to help their family or friends that lie in the street. Upon gaining control of a neighborhood or suburb, the rebels went on systematic looting raids, in which families were hit by wave after wave of rebels demanding money and valuables. Those who didn’t have what the rebels demanded were often murdered; even the ones who gave them what they wanted were still murdered. While rape and abduction were widespread throughout the offensive, the pace of the executions, amputations and burning of property picked up dramatically as the rebels were forced to withdraw. The abuses committed in the last several days of rebel occupation of any given neighborhood were of immense proportion. It was stated that this was their punishment for supporting the existing government.

This civil war is being waged through attacks on the civilian population. Soldiers capture them, and commit these atrocities in hope to instill terror. The soldiers further terrorize their victims by forcing them to participate in their own mutilation, asking them to make choices about which finger, hand or arm to have amputated.

Such cruelty would violate the rules of war, even it were only combatants who were being subjected to it. But in this case it is civilians – men, women and


especially children who, during the nine years of the internecine bloodletting that is the Sierra Leone civil war, are bearing the brunt of the gruesome maiming

(Johnson K7412).

The vast majority of victims are males between the ages of sixteen and forty-five, but women, children, and the elderly are not spared. They use this method to gain political and military control.

The most horrible act of human abuse is considered to be, the use of children in combat. Typically, RUF troops would enter a village and round up its children. Girls as young as ten would be raped, boys would be forced to execute village elders and sometimes even their own parents, thus cutting themselves off from their past lives and beginning their absorption into their new rebel family (Pratt). Once children were conscripted, their loyalty was maintained through drugs–they were injected with speed, which numbed their sensitivity to violence and rendered them dependent on their adult suppliers–and violence. When conscripts tried to escape, RUF leaders amputated their limbs. The RUF has even been accused of cannibalism.

Although the rebels have committed the greater atrocities, the government forces have not been blameless. They, too, have been guilty of on-the-spot executions of captured rebels and collateral killings of civilians, who often have been used as


human shields. So have the Nigerian-led peacekeeping forces of the ECOMOG.

In dealing with Africa, previous U.S. administrations were largely unsentimental. Africa was too poor to affect the U.S. economy, too alien to command a powerful domestic lobby, too weak to threaten American security. As a result, past presidents spoke about Africa modestly and not very often (Lizza 22).

Not Bill Clinton. He has proclaimed frequently and passionately that Africa matters. He has insisted that black suffering has as great a claim on the American conscience as white suffering. He has vowed that the United States will no longer be indifferent. These words have borne no relation whatsoever to the reality of his administration’s policy. Indeed, confronted with several stark moral challenges, the Clinton administration has abandoned Africa every time: it fled from Somalia, it watched American stepchild Liberia descend into chaos, and it blocked intervention in Rwanda. But Clinton’s soaring rhetoric has posed a problem that his predecessors did not face–the problem of rank hypocrisy. And so, time and again, the imperative guiding his administration’s Africa policy has been the imperative to appear to care. Unwilling to commit American blood and treasure to save African lives, and unwilling to admit that they refuse to do so; the Clinton administration have developed a policy of coercive dishonesty. In Rwanda, afraid that evidence of the unfolding genocide would expose their


inaction, they systematically suppressed it. And in Sierra Leone, unwilling to take on a rebel group that was maiming and slaughtering civilians by the thousands, the Clinton administration insisted that all the rebels truly wanted was peace and a seat at the negotiating table.

Abandoning Africans is nothing new. But the Clinton administration has gone further. It has tried to deny them the reality of their own experience, to bludgeon them into pretending that the horrors around them do not truly exist–so that they won’t embarrass the American officials who proclaim so eloquently that their fates are inextricably linked to our own (Tucker).

The Clinton administration helped design a peace agreement that was signed in Lome, Togo; an agreement that forced the democratic president of Sierra Leone to hand over much of his government and most of his country’s wealth. For close to a year, the Lome agreement did what the Clinton administration hoped it would do, but they should realize that to help end the conflict in Sierra Leone the international community should boycott the purchase of diamonds worldwide for at least the next year. It is reported Sankoh logged more than 2,000 diamonds mined by the RUF during his 10 months in government–gems that were never reported to the authorities (Masland et al.). Since the source of rebel funds for weapons is largely dependent on illegal diamond sales, the rebels will quickly feel the effect of this boycott.


As a modest contribution to the defense of Freetown, the United States was scouring NATO depots in Europe for spare concertina wire, sandbags and other materials. Washington also offered to airlift peacekeepers to Sierra Leone, but at rates higher than those offered by commercial airlines. What the Clinton pledge does not mean, in any case, is that U.S. combat troops will be heading to Africa. (At the most, U.S. soldiers might help with logistics.) Clinton may be haunted by Rwanda, but the administration won’t risk a repeat of its failure in Somalia.

Now that the shaky cease-fire has come apart, another orgy of death, destruction and mayhem is beginning. The insurgency in Sierra Leone has left 75,000 dead and 2 million homeless (Gerry 338), and it is only the beginning. Only the insertion by the international community of enough forces to overwhelm the RUF can stop the barbarity. But that appears unlikely because the Western powers no longer see that they have any vital interests in places like Sierra Leone. It would be next to impossible to convince the American public that there is any reason to put the lives of American troops at risk in such a place, although humanitarian concern should be sufficient.


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