(Rapaport…October 31, 2001) Sierra Leone military sources claim that Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel officials are intentionally delaying the peace and disarmament process so they can round up last-minute conflict diamond profits before handing over control of the diamond-rich areas of the country.
“They need more time for illicit diamond mining before they hand over the last major diamond-rich areas,” a military source said to Reuters, referring to the eastern Tongo Field, one of the few RUF bases left where disarmament has yet to begin.
RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi has been accused of leading a concerted effort to keep fighters from disarming, but Massaquoi denies the allegations, saying instead that he is under fire for his position against those RUF leaders still involved in illicit diamond mining.
Disarmament in Tongo is scheduled to begin in mid-November, and diplomats say the rift is unlikely to seriously impact the process.
“It was just a misunderstanding between two people, and it has now been resolved,” Omrie Golley, chair of the RUF peace council, told Reuters.