ABOARD THE MOTOR VESSEL OVERBECK, Off the coast of Sierra Leone_The lush, African shoreline that loomed one recent dawn off the bow of this rusting ferryboat should have gladdened the hearts of its beleaguered passengers.
After surviving years of civil war, wasting away in the limbo of foreign refugee camps, and enduring a nauseating ride aboard a ship reeking of vomit and diesel fumes, 250 Sierra Leoneans finally were coming home.
But there wasn't any cheering as the Overbeck chugged into the harbor of Freetown, Sierra Leone's war-haunted capital. Instead, hundreds of grimy and exhausted women, children and men crammed into the passenger deck didn't stir. Most never glanced out the portholes. The battered refugee ship, packed with families, docked in eerie silence.
"Nobody wants us anymore," whispered Aminata Tarawally, 50, a seasick teacher curled in a passageway. "So we have decided it is better to come home to die."
Almost a year after the United Nations stepped in to …