The following editorial appeared in Friday's Los Angeles Times:
Africa's most gruesome conflict has been eased by the capture of Foday Sankoh, a rebel leader whose cruelty put Sierra Leone at the top of the continent's recent run of brutal commanders. The former British colony was plunged into war by the Revolutionary United Front, a guerrilla command headed by Sankoh, whose prime practice was cutting off the limbs of his enemies.
Sankoh was captured Wednesday in Freetown, the capital. His guerrilla movement had shared power in Sierra Leone, a small country on the west coast of Africa, but he broke with his partners and captured several hundred U.N. soldiers during a bid for full control.
With Sankoh in custody, the United Nations moved promptly Thursday to send in more troops. Contingents from India, Bangladesh and Jordan were reported ready to move into the civil war, but the rebels hold more than 300 U.N. captives and the conflict appears to be at a standoff.
The challenge for the United Nations is clear. There can be no deals, no trading of combatants at this point. The U.N. should focus on containing the conflict and pressing Sankoh's guerrillas to lay down their weapons. The U.N. cannot do business with a man like this. He was unreliable in government, and he remains a national threat.
The capture of Sankoh presents an element for a future accord, but his release must not be negotiable. Sankoh should face justice, and still more U.N. troops should be dispatched to control the situation.
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