The South African government said on Tuesday it had given the wife of Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh 24 hours to leave the country. A spokesman told IRIN she would return to the United States.
Foday’s wife, Fatou Sankoh, arrived in South Africa on Saturday using an American passport issued in her maiden name, Fatou Mbayi. A South African Foreign Ministry spokesman, Dumisani Rasheleng, said Sankoh was being deported because South Africa did not want to be associated with anyone or anything hampering the peace process in Sierra Leone.
The decision to deport her follows widely reported confusion over which government department had allowed her into the country as a guest of a Mr M.K. Malefane, who said she had been invited to participate in a music and arts festival. Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs said they did not know whether her name appeared on the department’s “stop list” of people prohibited from entering South Africa. The confusion was reportedly compounded by the fact that the Home Affairs ministry, the intelligence services and the Customs Department use three different lists of prohibited people.
“The bottom line is that this has been carefully checked and investigated and we have served notice on her today that she is to leave within 24 hours to whence she came or face immediate deportation,” Rasheleng told IRIN. “She is not welcome in this country and she must leave.”
In February this year Foday Sankoh - now held by the authorities in Freetown, Sierra Leone, following the kidnapping of hundreds of UN peacekeepers by members of his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - was deported from South Africa. At the time he entered the country in defiance of UN travel restrictions, officials recalled.
Analysts said the authorities had ordered the immediate deportation of Sankoh’s wife because they wanted to avoid protests and legal proceedings against the government by rights groups that ensued in December last year when the former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam travelled from exile in Zimbabwe for medical treatment in South Africa.