Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

First Africa-Wide Effort to Restore A Democracy: So Far, So Good Sierra Leone's Leader Returned Home from Exile March 10, Thanks to Nigerian-Led Force

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

First Africa-Wide Effort to Restore A Democracy: So Far, So Good Sierra Leone's Leader Returned Home from Exile March 10, Thanks to Nigerian-Led Force

Article excerpt

It was like an old-fashioned colonial show of force. The Nigerian gunners set up two mortars in a convenient open space on the edge of Makeni, Sierra Leone, and, without even clamping the sights on, fired three rounds off into the surrounding bush.

As the sound of the detonations subsided, the few rebels still holding out against the Nigerian infantry were seen flitting off into the countryside. Gunfire crackled from a rocky hillside to the east, but brigade commander Col. Rafui Adeshina, sitting nonchalantly in his open staff car, was unconcerned.

"They are retreating into the bush," he said. "We will follow them later." Makeni, the main town in northern Sierra Leone, had been captured after less than 30 minutes of shooting. The only casualties were a few bullet-marked houses and a car with a broken window. In one week, the Nigerian-led advance into northern Sierra Leone finished off the military pretensions of the junta that deposed elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in a coup last May. In that week, one Nigerian soldier and two rebel soldiers were killed in the fighting. There were no known civilian fatalities as a result of Nigerian fire. A small number of rebels were killed by civilians and dozens more injured. A couple of battalions of Nigerian troops, acting under the mandate of the West African peacekeeping force (ECOMOG), have been enough to send the rebels flying from all the towns and villages reached so far. With most of the country now under ECOMOG control, the stage was set for triumphant reinstallation of President Kabbah March 10. His return from exile marks the success of Africa's first experiment with using a multinational force to restore democracy. Jubilant crowds in the capital, Freetown, cheered his return and his promise to rebuild the impoverished country. Though possessing a wealth of gold and diamonds, Sierra Leone has the world's worst poverty, according to a 1996 UN report. And that was before the junta's looting spree. The ceremony in Freetown was attended by representatives of the UN, the Economic Community of West African States, and Western democracies. …

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