Salone News

"ICRC Are Not Rebels"----TRC

22 August 2005 at 03:03 | 520 views

In the heated battles to restore the deposed Kabbah government in 1998, a lot of accusations and allegations were flying back and forth in and out of the country.The International Commitee of the Red Cross is one of the organizations kicked out of the country because of such accusations.It is however back in the country, vindicated and triumphant.

A recent statement from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has cleared the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of a 1998 accusation by the Sierra Leone government of supplying arms and ammunition to rebels of the Revolutionary United Front of Foday Sankoh.

The accusation was made by the then Sierra Leone Minister of Information Julius Spencer who announced on public radio that a helicopter belonging to the ICRC has been dropping arms and ammunition in rebel-held territory at a time the Kabbah government was battling remnants of the AFRC and the RUF in the interior of the country.A few days after Spencer’s accusation, the ICRC, which had been providing emergency food and medical aid to people trapped in rebel-controlled areas was asked to leave the country. Since then it had been providing relief assistance to Sierra Leonean refugees in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. Observers believe the recent statement from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a back-door effort by the Sierra Leone government to correct its 1998 mistake and lure back to the country one of the biggest relief agencies in the world especially now that the country is in the middle of the rainy season, a time of hunger and water-borne diseases including malaria.

At the time of the accusation, the ICRC vehemently maintained its innocence, stressing that the helicopter concerned was not one of theirs and that in any case the mandate of the ICRC was to provide urgent humanitarian assistance in any part of the world without bias as to race, religion or politcal convictions of the actors on the ground.In Sierra Leone and Liberia ICRC food and medical supplies often fell into the hands of rebels in the two countries.That had been a cause of friction between the ICRC and the governments fighting those rebels.ICRC officials were also frequently held as hostages or even killed by the different rebel groups in the two countries.
Spencer, a former university lecturer and dramatist, later resigned from the government claiming that his 500 dollars a month salary was inadequate to sustain him and his family.

Photo: Julius Spencer, Kabbah’s former Information minister. He owes the ICRC an apology.