Sierra Leone - Foreign policy

Kabbah has been preoccupied with civil wars in Liberia and Côte D'Ivoire. Cross-border incursions in February 2003 took place from Liberia both from rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), and from Liberian army units. In late February, around 300 Gurkha soldiers (Nepalese) from the British army's second battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles arrived to shore up the southeastern border with Liberia. The Gurkhas were expected to leave by mid-March 2003. Fighting, however, around the town of Bo Waterside near the border forced some 30,000 to 40,000 Liberians to seek refuge in Monrovia with 5,000 people crossing the border into Sierra Leone. Some 200 Liberian soldiers recently crossed into Sierra Leone to escape attacks from the LURD. Relations with Taylor are strained over alleged Sierra Leonean support to the LURD insurgency-accusations that Kabbah denies. It is likely, however, that members of the RUF and other rebel groups have joined the LURD in a mercenary capacity.

The UN peacekeeping force UNAMSIL—a 17,000-plus force—has been vital to the stability of the government. In December 2002, UNAMSIL completed the first phase of its downsizing, withdrawing some 600 soldiers in keeping with its Security Council mandate. Another 4,500 troops are scheduled to withdraw by the end of May 2003. By December 2003, only 2,000 UNAMSIL troops will remain in the country, placing the burden of security operations on the government. The involvement of Liberian and Sierra Leonean rebels, however, in the Ivorian insurgency could result in changes that may be part of an eventual Security Council plan to establish a comprehensive peace plan for the sub-region.

President Kabbah has participated in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The union was scheduled to come on-stream in January 2003, but has been postponed till June 2005. An IMF report that examines who would gain, lose, and why, looks skeptically at the desirability of the union and concludes that it would not be in the interests of the members apart from Nigeria to create the zone. Kabbah will likely reconsider his country's prospects in light of this report and the analysis it presents concerning the distortions that an economy the size of Nigeria would make, not to mention issues of corruption, decision-making powers, and economies that differ dramatically in terms of types of exports and foreign exchange earners. Sierra Leone is also a member of the UN, the African Union, ECOWAS, and the MRU.

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