RUF is no lean, mean fighting machine
Negotiations to form a new government in Sierra Leone will not be easy, according to Professor Paul Richards. Nevertheless, he believes that the population really wants to see an end to the civil war which has gripped the country since the beginning of the nineties. Is the coup the answer to their problems?
At last people are paying attention to Sierra Leone, says Professor Paul Richards, head of the WAU work group Technological and Agricultural Development. Since the coup last Sunday the west african country has been the focus of international attention. A month ago that was not the case. While in Brussels Richards, who worked for many years in the west african country, was interviewed by British television about the situation in Sierra Leone. Everything was ready, cables connected, make-up done. Unfortunately the interview was not broadcast recalls Richards with regret, as priority was given to the landslide victory for Labour in Britain
Now that there is fighting in the capital Freetown involving the forces behind the coup together with the rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) against the Nigerian troops, the press is finally taking notice. Richards is glad: At last the situation is being taken seriously, which can only be good. The way in which the rebels in Sierra Leone go about their business is starting to break down the stereotype image which many people have of marginalised gangs committing ruthless acts of barbarity and causing a general breakdown of law and order. Richards cites an example of skirmishes with the Nigerians around the Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown. At some point the Nigerians had run out of ammunition. By calling a brief cease-fire, the RUF showed that they were not just out to slaughter defenceless Nigerians. The RUF has reached political maturity, according to Richards, And that is accompanied by popular support. The Nigerians on the other hand, under the guise of fighting for democratic principles, are going for a military dictatorship.
Fighting escalated after a group of soldiers led by Corporal Gborie ousted the democratically elected President Kabbah on 25 May. Thousands of rich Sierra Leonians grabbed their second American or British passport and decided to get out. For the poor left behind this is just more proof that they are being left to their fate. They are being killed by the Nigerians, but they can find protection with the RUF
Rebel leader Sankoh has joined forces with the breakaway soldiers. The coup leaders are young disillusioned soldiers and lower ranking officers from the army who were pushed aside after Kabbah's election. The Ministry of Defence under Kabbah did not trust the army it inherited and installed its own paramilitary force, made up of foreign soldiers, many of which are Nigerians. Richards continues, The coup leaders are dissatisfied with conditions in the army. They are street kids who joined the army in the hopes of getting a better life. Now they realise this hasn't got them anywhere. Some of the kids have links with the RUF. They are frustrated because the paramilitary troops broke the agreement between Kabbah and the RUF and started fighting again with the RUF.
Last Monday Nigerian troops were sent in to crush the coup leaders and the RUF after negotiations in the British embassy reached deadlock. Richards' assessment of the situation is that Johnny Paul Koromah, recently released from jail and current leader of the coup forces, was prepared to negotiate, but that the RUF was not interested in reaching agreement
Richards: They are very determined and do not want the president back. They are not interested in the opinions of the international community, and are only out for personal survival. From that point of view things are going well. They have Freetown under their control and they will continue to do so for some time to come. They are competent streetfighters. They know how to handle weapons and have enough supplies for the time being. Many of the kids come from East Freetown. They are dropouts, but well trained. There is little disorder. Looting is selective, only from rich houses. Of course they have problems. It's not a lean mean fighting machine, but they do have a fair ideology. There is little drug addiction. Living in the bush there's no room for that kind of problem. Those who break the rules are punished severely.
Richards believes that an interim government will definitely be formed. The form it will take remains unclear. The coup leaders have no long term political ambitions. Sankoh is the only one in the RUF with his eye on a political position. Power sharing arrangements will have to be found. Richards: Not with politicians because the RUF doesn't trust them. Politicians are always manoeuvring to their own advantage. The RUF's main concern is that they are not wiped out by dirty tricks. That's why they have so little faith, even less in civilian regimes than in military regimes. They are willing to talk to civilian groups or trade unions, or even perhaps with Desmond Luke, the former foreign minister who is seen as a man of principles, an ex-politician and now a constitutional lawyer. Negotiations will be tricky, but I am confident that the people of Sierra Leone want to see an end to this war, on their own terms.
Growth models for fish
African catfish larvae can be made to grow faster by decreasing the amount of energy used for protein synthesis. In the juvenile stage, which follows the larval stage, the energy costs of growth increase and the growth rate decreases. This is also expressed in less efficient food metabolism. The transition from the larval stage to the juvenile stage, however, is gradual in terms of growth costs. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that, under optimal circumstances, the pattern of high larval growth rates at low cost can be extended during the transition period to the juvenile stage. This is the conclusion reached by Luis E.C. Conceicao in his thesis Growth in early life stages of fishes. Conceicao, who will receive his PhD coming June 17, was supervised by Professor Bram Huisman, chair of the WAU Department of Fish Culture and Fisheries, Dr Martin Verstegen chair of the WAU Department of Animal Nutrition and Professor Dominic Houlihan, of the Department of Zoology of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Conceicao's aim was to develop an explanatory model that can simulate growth during the early life stages of fish. Lack of a balanced diet is often the cause of low survival and growth rates of fish larvae. Conceicao studied the growth of African catfish and turbot larvae. In both sorts the costs of growth are entirely taken up by the costs of protein synthesis. The model developed by Conceicao indicates that imbalances between the amino acid composition of the food and the amino acids in the larvae lead to unavoidable amino acid losses. In periods of high food consumption these losses lead to an increase in fat deposition. According to Conceicao higher concentrations of protein in the food would result in better growth rates and decreased fat deposition. It is therefore extremely important to determine as accurately as possible the ideal amino acid profile and the changes which occur in this profile during the larval growth stage