The rebel advance is especially embarrassing to the ECOMOG peacekeepers, who last year claimed to have routed the insurgents. But, says Mutiso, Nigerian reinforcements could easily restore a workable peace. "Although it's almost impossible to totally eliminate the rebels, they can be contained sufficiently to allow the country to continue functioning," says Mutiso. Until then, Freetown will be hard-pressed to live up to its name.
Like a horror-movie monster, Sierra Leone's brutal rebels keep coming back. One year after a West African peacekeeping force drove them out of Freetown and restored the elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former army mutineers claimed to have recaptured the capital. While the government and the Nigerian-led ECOMOG peacekeeping force disputed the claims, the rebels clearly have made a dramatic comeback. "These people are in the business of warfare and they don't simply disappear when they're defeated," says TIME reporter Clive Mutiso. "They regroup and fight on, because it's how they make a living."