McKINNEY WANTS PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION IN
May 17, 2000
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to convey my support for the courageous decision
by Prime Minister Tony Blair to deploy ground troops in Sierra Leone.
The arrival of British troops is the first meaningful display of
resolve by any western nation. I encourage you to join Mr. Blair
in taking decisive action to end the bloodshed in Sierra Leone.
I am convinced that if the facts could ever be presented accurately,
it would be clear that this is not a civil war, but a collapsed
state that RUF is determined to kill off. In fact, it is a tribute
to the people of Sierra Leone that this conflict, noted by its remarkable
savagery, has not degenerated into ethnic or religious cleansing.
Foday Sankoh and the RUF represent lawlessness and thuggery. Thus,
it is a far less intractable situation than many other conflicts
where U.N. peacekeepers are deployed today. If the right structures
are put in place, there is good reason to believe that Sierra Leone,
with the continued commitment of the international community, can
raise itself up rapidly.
In hindsight, our behavior in Sierra Leone is very similar to that
in Rwanda in 1994--for which you have apologized. It is clear that
our collective failure to act in Sierra Leone has left thousands
dead and mutilated unnecessarily; raped; and has prolonged the conflict.
When Madeleine Albright traveled to Sierra Leone in a hastily-planned
trip, she remarked that "It's hard to extend your hand to shake
hands with people who don't have hands."
Mr. President, that those children didn't have hands when your
Secretary of State visited them is a direct result of your policy.
You then forced the Sierra Leoneans to accept the unacceptable--the
legitimization of the rapists and the hand-choppers into the democratically-elected
government. And, moreover, you authorized a blanket amnesty for
them in the Lomé Accord.
That agreement should now be recognized as having been abandoned
by Foday Sankoh and the RUF. 350 United Nations peacekeepers being
held hostage is a direct reflection of that fact. Once again, I
encourage you to act to save democracy in Sierra Leon. Your Administration
should, among other things:
a. Move swiftly to embargo Sierra Leonean diamonds. Unfortunately,
you still have not stated your support for Tony Hall's legislation.
b. Declare Foday Sankoh and the RUF as war criminals and try them
for their crimes. Your indictment of Slobodan Milosevic shows that
you can act with dispatch and determination when you are so moved.
c. Provide funding and assistance to support those who will act
decisively to protect Sierra Leone's democracy. I continue to be
disappointed by the fact that you have not even moved the money
that you committed to support the Lusaka Accords. I implore you
to at least keep the commitments that you do make.
One only need look at the money flows to see that Africa is not
your commitment. However, this matter is of extreme urgency. Please
do all you can to mobilize your Administration to support Sierra
Leone as the embodiment of the notion of the African Renaissance
which you have championed so effectively.
Cynthia A. McKinney
Member of Congress