Two things caught my attention about U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit to Sierra Leone [news story, Oct. 19].

First, Secretary Albright pledged $55 million in aid to this impoverished nation, and second, she challenged President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's administration to embark on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to qualify the country for a waiver on its $65 million debt (subject to congressional approval).

Many have criticized the United States for not doing enough to save this war-ravaged country from self-inflicted ruin. Critics have failed, however, to observe that Sierra Leone's eight-year war was not a rebellion targeted entirely at the political establishment but a war fought by bandits to gain control of mineral resources.

Militia leaders Foday Sankoh, the new vice president, and his comrade, Johnny Paul Koroma led a campaign that brought carnage to the nation, destroyed its historical infrastructure, killed and maimed its citizens and halted democracy.

Aid money must not be given directly to politicians. Aid should come in the form of technical assistance with direct involvement of agencies to oversee food and medicine distribution and infrastructure development. Only this strategy will prevent a repetition of the greed and corruption that have brought Sierra Leone to its present state.


Silver Spring

While U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with President Kabbah and rebel leaders in Sierra Leone, lending support to the reconciliation process [news story, Oct. 18], reports are of infighting and another abduction (of the bishop of Makeni and several aid workers and priests) by disgruntled rebel troops.

The peace accord is an international capitulation to thugs and warlords at the expense of a democratically elected regime. However, the country is exhausted, the leaders of the parties to the conflict seem ready to collaborate and this accord is all there is.

But for even this poor compromise to have a chance, peacekeeping must be funded. Currently, peacekeeping is being shouldered by the ill-equipped and financially strapped West African force for which U.S. support has been inadequate at best. The U.N. Security Council has yet to approve a proposed 6,000-strong peacekeeping force. The United Nations -- crippled by a $1.7 billion arrears in U.S. payments -- is stretched thin in Kosovo and East Timor.

Stabilization also demands humanitarian relief for the displaced and mutilated civilian victims of the war. The Post reports, however, that the U.N. World Food Program, for lack of contributions, has cut emergency aid to Sierra Leone's refugees [World in Brief, Oct. 17].

Pressure must be brought to bear on our representatives to stop their obstruction of American foreign policy, to pay U.N. dues and to support humanitarian and peacekeeping programs for Sierra Leone.