The United States and Britain condemned Liberia and Burkina Faso for their military assistance to a brutal rebel group in Sierra Leone, accusing the West African nations of violating a United Nations embargo. Liberia and Burkina Faso may face unilateral sanctions from the U.S. and Britain for arming the notorious Revolutionary United Front (RUF) group with weapons, food, fuel, and medical supplies in return for access to Sierra Leone’s diamonds. RUF depends on its smuggling of diamonds to Liberia and Burkina Faso for its purchase of weapons. “The governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso … are fueling the war in Sierra Leone and profiting from the arms-for-diamonds trade,” remarked Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. At a two-day United Nations hearing on Sierra Leone diamonds beginning on July 31st, witnesses testified that the presidents of Liberia and Burkina Faso were directing RUF’s war strategy and facilitating the diamond business.
The RUF is known for gruesome practices such as chopping off the breasts of women, systematically raping women and children, and kidnapping children to use them as soldiers. In recent months, the rebels held more than 500 U.N. hostages and incited conflict with U.N. peacekeepers.