Sierra Leone: RUF Party leaders meet with UN official on election issues

Sierra Leone: RUF Party leaders meet with UN official on election issues

The political party formed by former rebels in Sierra Leone has asked the United Nations to temporarily lift the travel ban imposed on its leaders in order to allow it to campaign more freely in advance of the country’s upcoming general elections.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), Pallo Bangura, and Mike Lamin met with Behrooz Sadry, the deputy head of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) for Operations and Management, to discuss a number of political issues affecting the party.

According to Mr. Bangura, the travel ban was hindering the activities of the RUFP as the country moved closer to the presidential and parliamentary elections set for 14 May. He said the ban was putting the RUFP at a disadvantage since other political parties in Sierra Leone did not face similar travel restrictions.

Of immediate concern to the RUFP was a temporary lifting of the ban to enable its chief of administration, Jonathan Kposowa, and Mr. Lamin to travel to Senegal to meet with the chairman of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) on party business.

Mr. Bangura – explaining that the Lomé Peace Agreement of 1999 required the Government of Sierra Leone to help the RUF transform into a political party and for a trust fund to be established for this process – presented Mr. Sadry with a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan requesting the lifting of the travel ban and the establishment of the trust fund. He also disclosed that the RUFP now had offices in Kenema, Bo and Makeni, and would be presenting its documents for formal registration within the coming week.

Mr. Sadry responded that as long as the proposed travel of the RUFP leaders was to further the peace process, he did not foresee any difficulties in the UN granting them an exemption. He also pledged to discuss the issue of the trust fund with the Government.

Other issues raised by the RUFP leaders included the lifting of the state of emergency in order to create a level playing field, and the release of RUF leaders still in prison.