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Cablegate: Sierra Leone Reacts to Conte's Death: Initial

VZCZCXRO3673
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0598 3581524
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231524Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2372
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000598

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SL
SUBJECT: SIERRA LEONE REACTS TO CONTE'S DEATH: INITIAL
RESPONSE CALM

1. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and citizens are
quietly responding to early news of President Conte's death.
The GoSL is preparing to mobilize security forces to patrol
the borders, while publicly expressing sympathy for the loss.
Keeping criticism of Conte's regime to a minimum, he was
identified in a statement by the Minister of Information as a
leader who brought peace and security to his country. The
Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and Republic of Sierra Leone Armed
Forces (RSLAF) will be conducting joint patrols at key border
posts, including Kabala, Kambia, and Kailahun and are
discussing their refugee contingency plan, which includes
three catchement areas that can each contain up to 1000
refugees. A source with the RSLAF stated that a number of
soldiers are currently on leave for the holiday season,
resulting in some disorganization, but this is expected to be
quickly addressed. Military Assistance to the Civilian Power
has yet to be called, and sources within the UN feel that the
SLP are prepared to lead the enhanced border security
strategy. The National Security Council is holding an
emergency meeting on the afternoon of December 23.

2. Sierra Leoneans are generally ambivalent to the news,
though discussions with local staff indicate that some are
worried about an influx of refugees and any spillover effects
if the coup becomes violent. A few wonder if this will impact
the ongoing border dispute surrounding the Yenga area, but
seem generally unconcerned. Freetown's news outlets are
reporting a state of relative calm in Conakry, and most
Sierra Leoneans are placing their focus on the holidays,
rather than reacting to news that has yet to impact them
directly.

3. Besides the National Security Council meeting, an
emergency Cabinet meeting was held this morning and a
diplomatic corps briefing is expected at some point. A press
conference has been scheduled for late in the afternoon on
December 23, and most sources expect further statements about
SLP/RSLAF readiness. Further information will be reported
septel.
PERRY

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