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Baptist leader in Sierra Leone among thousands feeling strife

WASHINGTON (BP)–Moses Khanu, general secretary of the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone, and his family fled their home in Lunsar in mid-February when soldiers of the Armed Revolutionary Council (the junta) and rebels who support them turned on people in their path and looted their houses.
“They lost everything but their lives,” said K.S. Kamara, president of the convention, in a call to the Baptist World Alliance.
The Nigerian-led West African military intervention force ECOMOG toppled the government of junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma Feb. 12-13 and captured the capital, Freetown. “However, ECOMOG troops are not in control everywhere and this has left Sierra Leoneans vulnerable to revenge attacks by fleeing junta troops and other rebels,” Kamara said.
Koroma, who overthrew elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah last year, has escaped, and while many rebel fighters and junta soldiers were disarmed by ECOMOG troops, many others were able to run away with their arms and go back to the bush.
The fighters went to the mission compound of the convention, “entered all the houses, took away the furniture and stole their cars,” Kamara said.
The Khanu family had to walk 20 miles to another small town for refuge. As of Feb. 20, Kamara said, Khanu’s two sons were reported to be in another village and he was hoping to be reunited with them soon.
“It seems as if almost all the people from these smaller towns where there are no ECOMOG troops are scattered and have run away into the bush or are trying to cross the borders of Guinea,” Kamara said.
Mostly civilians were killed during the fighting that saw ECOMOG take control of the military, but Freetown is now quiet.
No Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries currently are stationed in the country.
“We have to pray for the people of Sierra Leone who are now between fighting elements,” Kamara said of thousands of civilians.
Kamara asked Baptist World Aid for more help, especially for food. “While the embargo on the country is lifted, food supplies have become very scarce in the last two weeks since the ECOMOG troops took over Freetown,” Kamara said.
Already BWAid has sent $15,000 to Sierra Leone Baptists to help with food” and “we stand ready to assist in any way we can,” said Paul Montacute, BWAid director.