In preparation for the Lomé peace talks scheduled for July 1999, the AFRC-RUF War Council developed their working document outlining their positions. The RUF consulted with Sankoh (under house arrest in Abidjan) to finalise their working draft and make amendments. They then submitted their paper to the official mediator. Omrie Golley, a civilian intermediary who had long been involved with the RUF, was chosen to represent their interests at the talks. Fourteen people took part in the Lomé peace process on behalf of the AFRC-RUF, with RUF Adjutant General Rashid Sandi as one of the younger members.
Track one roles
President Gnassingbe Eyadema and the Togolese government hosted and facilitated the Lomé talks, with Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Kokou Koffigoh as chief mediator. They invited the RUF to the meeting and coordinated with the UN to transfer them from Vahun in Liberia via Monrovia to Lomé, where their security was assured. The RUF felt comfortable with the neutrality of the Togolese government who had shown no signs of favouring one group. There was no discrimination between the sides right down to the details of food and lodging.
On the first day of the talks to launch the peace process, the ECOWAS Committee of Seven (comprising senior ministers from West African countries) officially declared the process open. The extent of their involvement was to speak to all the parties politely and encourage everyone to reach an agreement. After the launch, only Ivorian Minister of Foreign Affairs Amara Essay, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Francis Okelo and US, UK and Commonwealth Representatives were involved in the talks process.
President Eyadema helped facilitate the negotiation process by engaging both parties in substantive discussions about their demands and proposals before the peace talks officially opened. He helped them develop platforms that were appropriate and would generate productive dialogue, finding access points that would eventually lead to agreement. He also regularly invited both the RUF and GoSL delegations to his house (separately) during the peace talks to further encourage the process.
In an additional move to support the talks and facilitate engagement, the Togolese government provided five star hotel accommodation, transportation, food and even 'pocket money' to the RUF. While the RUF delegates were very excited about these benefits, and many had never experienced similar conditions, the benefits were not the primary incentive to stay involved. The delegates were committed to the process in its own right, and the benefits provided added recognition of their participation.
Track two roles
The IRCSL and the CSM were encouraged to come to Lomé by the GoSL and their international partners. The civil society groups did not receive governmental funding to attend, although some benefited from financial support from foreign NGOs. Their representatives sat as observers on each of the committees and took part in the plenary sessions, but were not included in the caucuses or smaller group work. The official talks drove the bargaining process and the eventual agreement; the track two players complemented the track one diplomacy by helping maintain the momentum, mediating the issues and easing competition and negativity between the actors as discussions became tense. Okelo admitted that he, "needed to use the IRCSL members constantly in dealing with the RUF and the government", while US Ambassador to Sierra Leone Joseph Melrose reported that, "when things looked bad in negotiations, they kept the dialogue going".
During the talks, the civil society actors pressured both sides to make concessions and reach agreement. While the RUF were aware that CSM and IRCSL were mainly 'for' the government, they had respect for their point of view and listened to the interlocutors they sent. For example, the RUF's proposal included a provision for quality education, an idea scoffed at by the GoSL representative given the government's financial resources. The civil society delegate Alpha Timbo pressured the government to include the provision in the agreement, saying that it was an appropriate goal for a country and a positive, productive contribution by the RUF. The RUF were pleased with this process and it raised their confidence in engaging with civil society actors.
According to the RUF, the IRCSL and CSM were most effective outside the general meetings. The CSM delegates were staying with their colleagues (teachers) and had to travel some distance to the talks every day. The RUF admired their commitment despite the fact that they were not receiving any substantial material support to play this role. The civil actors used their informal networks and connections to engage RUF delegates and appeal to them to commit to the process and pursue a meaningful peace. They started with Rashid Sandi, who was the youngest delegate at the talks, approaching him through schoolmates and other CSM interlocutors of a similar age group to the RUF who had connections with them through schools and family ties. As they made inroads in discussion with him, they were able to expand their conversations and relationships with other members of the AFRC-RUF delegation. The delegates were initially suspicious, but through connections with extended family members and other relationships they gradually warmed to the civil society representatives and were inspired by their commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. CSM interlocutors joined the RUF socially after the talks each day, eating with them and discussing and analysing the progress and outcomes from the day. As this was their first personal contact together, the RUF group also had the opportunity to show themselves as straightforward people who could be talked to, and both found they could listen to each other and this generated a sense of hope. The civil society actors basically showed confidence in the RUF negotiating group. This role may have been especially important because of the disparity between the negotiating teams evident in the obvious age differential on either side of the table: the government represented by politically seasoned senior ministers and the RUF represented by young, battle-hardened RUF members with a few elder political types.
The practical hospitality shown by the Togolese to the negotiating parties did not extend to the civil society participants who had to rely on their own resources for accommodation, transport, etc. Their effectiveness was somewhat constrained: had they lodged in the same location as the delegates it is possible that they could have continued their individual meetings and lobbying efforts after hours and exerted further influence over the process.