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House Legislation

House Legislation

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

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