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Civil war rages in Sierra Leone

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December 11, 1995
Web posted at: 12:50 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Daryll Hutchison

BO, Sierra Leone -- The military government of Captain Valentine Strasser in Sierra Leone has been struggling since 1991 to contain a rebel movement that has devastated one of the world's poorest countries.

In crowded refugee camps, victims of the civil war are missing limbs -- hacked off by the rebel Revolutionary United Front as a warning to others. The rebels say their fight is to restore democracy.

Peace talks involving the Organization for African Unity and the Rebels were held this week in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, but the end of the civil war is not yet in sight.

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For almost five years, the war has been fought mainly in the countryside. More than 10,000 people have died; homes and sometimes entire villages have been left in ruin.

The only relative security is in the towns. The population of Bo, besieged by the rebels, is now four times what it was just four years ago. The military government promises there will be elections in February, but its leaders warn the country's crisis won't be over, whoever wins.

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"It's going to be very difficult for any leadership," said Sierra Leone' Chief of Defense, Julius Maada Bio, "but I think the challenge is with the nation and they have to choose the appropriate leader to cope with a situation like this."

For now, the military is intent on keeping the rebels out of the population centers with roadside checkpoints to check for weapons and infiltrators. Ultimately, the challenge is to restore the nation's sense of security. However much its people want democracy, they are desperate for peace.


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