Sierra Leone sets election mandate

Elections in strife-torn Sierra Leone will be held only after rebels and pro-government militia groups fulfill promises to disarm, officials told the Associated Press (AP).

Walter Nicol, chairman of the National Electoral Commission, said August 27 that with disarmament expected to be finished in November elections could be held during “the first six months of next year,” the AP reported. “We want to see that the conditions are right for holding the elections.”

A press release issued Monday by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s office said the government had agreed with rebel forces that elections should be held after disarmament is completed, the AP reported.

Around 16,000 former fighters have handed over their arms to the United Nations under a nationwide disarmament program that started in mid-May-raising hopes for an end to more than 10 years of savage conflict.

The West African country has been torn apart by civil war since the Revolutionary United Front launched an insurgency in 1991.

The rebels, who have gained a reputation for killing, maiming, and raping tens of thousands of civilians, still control about half of this diamond-rich country.

Kabbah’s current five-year term in office was extended by parliament by six months earlier this year. That term is due to end in September, but Kabbah has requested an additional six months.