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SIERRA LEONE: CHRONOLOGY

26 April 1961: Independence from Britain

1962: Sir Milton Margai, of the Sierra Leone People's party (SLPP), becomes the first prime minister of Sierra Leone.

1967-92: All People's Congress (APC) - led by Siaka Stevens - in power under a one-party system. Keeps a stranglehold on power for 25 years, despite a brief military takeover in 1967, anti-government demonstrations and elections marred by violence and irregularities.

1991: Major-General Joseph Momoh appointed as successor to Stevens in 1985, holds a referendum for a multi-party system, which is approved by 60 percent of the voters.
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels launch their insurgency.

1992: Military coup ousts Momoh. Captain Valentine Strasser takes over as leader of the new National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).

December 1992: Attempted coup by former army officers - nine suspected coup plotters and 17 other prisoners are executed. Strasser promises to end the civil war, but fighting intensifies.

1993: In response to international pressure, Strasser announces a two-year transition programme for the registration of political parties and presidential and legislative elections.

January 1996: Strasser is overthrown by his deputy, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, who adheres to the timetable for democratic elections.

February 1996: Multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections end four years of military rule. Voters defied outbreaks of violence and threats of sabotage by the RUF who boycotted the elections. The SLPP wins most of the votes in the legislative polls. Its leader, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who worked for the United Nations Development Programme for 20
years, wins the presidentials. International observers say the elections were largely free and fair. However, because of the insecurity, there were no elections in some areas. The RUF claim that Kabbah won only in those parts of the country where the polls were held..

November 1996: Kabbah and the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, sign a peace agreement.

March 1997: Foday Sankoh is arrested on an arms charge in Nigeria. Most diplomats see this as the end of the peace agreement. While in detention in Nigeria he expresses his support for the May 1997 coup in a radio broadcast.

25 May 1997: Major Johnny Paul Koroma heads a military coup by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). He immediately announces the suspension of the constitution, bans all demonstrations and abolishes all political parties. Kabbah flees to Guinea and begins to mobilise international support. The coup is condemned by the international community and a global economic embargo is imposed. The Organisation of
African Unity (OAU) gives a mandate to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take action to restore constitutional rule and provides strong support for ECOWAS' initiatives to restore peace. UN Security Council also expresses support for ECOWAS and the ECOMOG troops who later carry out its mandate.

July 1997: British firm, Sandline International, hired by allies of Kabbah to provide "logistical support" for a counter coup.

October 1997: The UN Security Council adopts a resolution, which Britain helped draft, introducing sanctions against the regime in Sierra Leone and banning the supply of arms and petroleum products. Meanwhile, Sandline arranges for a shipment of arms to Sierra Leone saying they understood the embargo only applied to the military junta, not Kabbah's deposed government.

The AFRC's foreign minister signs a peace agreement in Conakry
with his counterparts from Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. The accord provides for the reinstatement of Kabbah as president within six months and an immediate end to all hostilities. In addition, leaders of the junta are to be given immunity and Sankoh is to play a role in the peace process.

April 1998. Despite the agreement, fighting intensifies between the AFRC/RUF and the Kamajors, a militia loyal to the Kabbah government.

February 1998: Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces drive AFRC/RUF out of Freetown after several weeks of fighting, restoring Kabbah's government. Reports of atrocities by rebels surface as civilians flee the countryside.

October 1998: High Court in Sierra Leone sentences rebel leader Foday Sankoh to death for his role in the 1997 coup d'etat. Kabbah makes repeated calls for rebel forces to surrender and offers amnesty.

January 1999: Rebels invade Freetown and heavy fighting takes place between ECOMOG and AFRC/RUF forces. Further atrocities and
mutilations of civilians take place in Freetown and other parts of the country. ECOMOG forces retake Freetown but rebels remain active in the interior.

April 1999: Sankoh temporarily released from prison and allowed by Kabbah to go to Togo for internal consultations with his field commanders in capital, Lome.

May 1999: The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General,
Ambassador Francis Okelo, expresses the concern of the UN that the dialogue process should be given a fair chance to succeed, in a statement issued by the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).

However, reports indicate that both ECOMOG and the rebels appear
to be consolidating their positions. Despite planned talks between the two sides, there are still reports of fighting in the interior. Humanitarian sources say that at least two thirds of Sierra Leone remains inaccessible to aid agencies.

11 May 1999: The rebels submit their peace proposal report to Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, current chairman of ECOWAS, who is leading regional mediation efforts to end the conflict. They call for the unconditional release of Sankoh as a condition for negotiations on ending the war.

[Sources: IRIN reports, Economic Intelligence Unit, ECOMOG, AFP, Reuters, Amnesty International, regional analysts]


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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