UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT OF NIGERIA (UDFN) INFORMATION RELEASE
June 5, 1997
Media reports indicate that the Organization of African Unity, at its Summit Meeting in Harare, has given support to Nigeria’s military intervention in Sierra Leone to force the military coup leaders to yield power back to the elected government of President Ahmad Tajan Kabbah. I am dismayed by this report, and so, I am told, are a very large number of people in Sierra Leone. I wish to appeal to Your Excellency to call for an urgent meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations to consider the situation in Sierra Leone, and in the meanwhile to demand that Nigeria stop all further military action against the people of Sierra Leone.
Tens of people have been killed and hundreds more wounded, most of them innocent civilians, by Nigeria’s naval bombardment of the City of Freetown on Monday, 2 June. Indications suggest that she is planning to launch an even bigger military attack against the City. As a result of the rebel war in the hinterland of Sierra Leone, the civilian population has been compelled to seek refuge in Freetown and other urban centers to the extent that it is estimated that more than half of the country’s population of 4 million people now reside in Freetown and its environs. It is thus the civilian population that would be the predominant victim of any military action by Nigeria.
I cannot believe that this is what the OAU or the rest of the international community would like to see happen to the people of Sierra Leone. I know there is a minority which supports the military coup but the overwhelming majority of the people of Sierra Leone oppose Nigeria’s military intervention and are calling for the immediate withdrawal of her troops. This also reflects my personal position. Calling for the withdrawal of Nigerian troops is therefore not an expression of support for the coup which I have already opposed publicly. I believe strongly that the chances of restoring civilian rule by way of a negotiated settlement have not been exhausted, and that Sierra Leone should be given the opportunity without military interference to continue to pursue this veritable option. They demonstrated a capacity to resolve their internal problems last year, to the commendation of the world, when, faced with a military government intent on entrenching itself in power, it successfully pressed for civilian rule through elections. I believe the people of Sierra Leone can do it again if given the chance to seek a peaceful negotiated settlement of their crisis based upon a consideration of all available options including the restoration of President Kabbah.
A framework for such a negotiated settlement already exists under the Abidjan accord of 30 November 1996. The view is widely held in Sierra Leone that the Government of Cote D’Ivoire, the United Nations, the OAU and the Commonwealth, as the moral guarantors of the accord, reinforced by other disinterested states, could help Sierra Leoneans develop a peaceful solution. This alternative is certainly more welcome than the military option being pursued by Nigeria. Already, the RUF rebels have integrated themselves into the regular army. Although this poses a myriad of problems on its own, it does at least provide some guarantee against the recurrence of hostilities by the RUF against the people of Sierra Leone.
Attempts have been made by various officials to justify the Nigerian military intervention as one sanctioned by the ECOWAS legal instruments while also comparing it with that of Haiti. Allow me to say a word or two about this. In the first place, Nigeria’s military intervention cannot be justified under any ECOWAS legal instrument. The battalion of ECOMOG peacekeepers, which had been emplaced in Sierra Leone since 1991, had no permission from ECOWAS to interfere in matters purely internal. Essentially, it complemented the efforts of the Sierra Leone army in a non-combat role.
If the justification for Nigeria’s intervention is the "invitation" from President Kabbah, this is impermissible under the ECOWAS Protocol on Mutual Assistance in Defence of 1981 which is now the d defining law for intervention by invitation for the ECOWAS member states. This Protocol spells out four situations but for the present purposes only two are pertinent. First, it allows for Community military intervention at the invitation of the assailed government in a rebellious situation where the rebels have received external assistance. No one has suggested that in the Sierra Leone case, the coupists have received any assistance from outside. The best example that would have warranted such intervention under the Protocol was the written request by President Samuel Doe of Liberia in 1990.
However, ECOWAS could not take any action under the Protocol because although it was in force it had never been implemented. The legal justification for the ECOMOG intervention in Liberia had therefore to be found outside the regime of the Protocol and, more appropriately, in the realm of humanitarian intervention since ECOWAS citizens from different ECOWAS countries were trapped in Liberia without any means of escape or protection, and were being killed in the thousands by both the government and rebel forces. Ecomog’s primary mission therefore was to go to Liberia and rescue: foreign nationals and, secondarily, a peacekeeping mission was tagged on. The situation in Sierra Leone, on the other hand, is markedly different. All foreign national wishing to leave have been allowed to leave and they have nearly all left. No Nigerians are reported to be in mortal danger, and no such claim is made by the Nigerian government to justify its military intervention.
The second pertinent scenario is where there is a rebellion which is not assisted or engineered from outside. The Protocol says invitation or no, the Community is barred from military intervention where the conflict is "purely internal." Therefore President Kabbah’s invitation cannot avail the Nigerians even if there were an "ECOWAS decision" to intervene.
Nigeria’s intervention in Sierra Leone has also been compared with that of the United States in Haiti. In my humble opinion, there are material differences. In Haiti, Father Aristide, who invited foreign intervention to restore democracy, clearly continued to enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of his people. In Sierra Leone, the failure to implement the Abidjan accord had alienated public opinion, nor was the military the only section of society which had become disenchanted. Further, the United Nations Security Council has not authorised Nigeria’s military intervention in Sierra Leone, as it did the American intervention in Haiti which it authorized only after all the non-military options have been thoroughly exhausted. But there is another crucial factor: the Haiti intervention was led by a country who democratic credentials are not in doubt anywhere.
Once more, I appeal to Your Excellency to do all that is required to get the Security Council to become seized of the situation in order to prevent its further deterioration.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my deepest respect.
(Editor's note: We have put this paragraph in red because we want to show just how evil Abass Bundu can be in his self-serving missions as we ask him to give us evidence of the alleged naval bombardment of the city on June 2 1997 as he claims. He should be ready to tell us and the world where the shells fell, who were the casualties and the role of the helicopter gunship as well as troops and armed thugs in the junta.)