Experts discuss the peace deal in Sierra Leone
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Few Americans know where Sierra Leone is, let alone all the horrific things that have been happening to the people who live there.
Sierra Leone has been locked in a civil war for 8 years and more than 20,000 people have died.
The small country on the west coast of Africa erupted in violence when an army photographer, Foday Sankoh, started a rebellion against elected President Ahamd Kabbah.
Photographer turned rebel leader
Sankoh created a militia group called the Revolutionary United Front or R.U.F. The group quickly gained a reputation for savagery. The R.U.F killed men, women, children, and even babies.
R.U.F members routinely terrorized villages by hacking off the hands, arms, legs, and feet of people with machetes. The rebels tried to show their power by leaving their victims alive but crippled.
In 1997 the rebel groups seized control of the government, ousting President Kabbah. The president was back in office within a year, but the bloodbath would continue. An exact number of those killed during the civil war remains unknown.
Trying to stem the bloodshed
At the request of the international community, the United Nations intervened to end the mass killings.
On July 7, the U.N. arranged a meeting between the R.U.F leader Sankoh and President Kabah. The two men signed a peace agreement to end the bloodshed. But most people are skeptical that the agreement will work.
Sierra Leone peace activists question the stability of the agreement. Three months into the peace deal, more than 100 soldiers have been killed in skirmishes with radicals. Furthermore, many people wonder if the two sides can actually share power and work together. There is still lots of distrust on both sides.
Many people in Sierra Leone are also upset with the deal's terms. For starters, it makes Sankoh the vice president of Sierra Leone. It also grants amnesty to the very same rebels who murdered civilians and gives the R.U.F four seats in government.
Amnesty for the killers?
Human rights groups are criticizing the amnesty and are urging the U.N. to seek justice against those who committed war crimes.
The Security Council of the U.N. will send 6,000 peacekeeping troops to help uphold the agreement. The troops are expected to stay in Sierra Leone at least a year.
For more on the situation, click to this NewsHour report.
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