Welcoming the end of military rule in Sierra Leone, the Security Council this afternoon stressed the imperative need for the immediate restoration of the democratically elected Government of President Tejan Kabbah, whose Government was overthrown in a military coup d'état on 25 May 1997.
Through a statement read out by its President, Denis Dangue Rewaka (Gabon), the Council encouraged President Kabbah's earliest possible return to Freetown [from Conakry, Guinea] and looked forward to his re-establishing a functioning and autonomous government in the country.
The Council commended the important role that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had continued to play towards the peaceful resolution of the crisis. It encouraged the ECOWAS Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) in its efforts to foster peace and stability in Sierra Leone, in accordance with the relevant chapters of the United Nations Charter.
The Council also expressed its grave concern with the continued violence in Sierra Leone and called for an urgent end to the fighting. It condemned the taking of hostages by former members of the deposed junta and called for the immediate release of all international aid workers, religious leaders and others detained or held hostage. It commended ECOMOG for its efforts to liberate individuals being held against their will.
Further, the Council expressed its readiness to terminate the measures imposed against the country by its resolution 1132 of 8 October 1997 as soon as the conditions referred to in that resolution -- the relinquishing of power by the military junta and the restoration of the democratically elected government -- had been fulfilled. Those measures included a ban on the sale of petroleum and petroleum products and arms and related matériel to Sierra Leone, as well as restrictions on travel by members of the military junta and adult members of their families.
It supported the intention of the Secretary-General, subject to security conditions on the ground, to take rapid steps towards the reopening of the United Nations Liaison Office in Freetown in order to support the activities of his Special Envoy, Francis G. Okelo, and particularly to assist national reconciliation and political dialogue. It called upon all the parties in
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Sierra Leone to work towards peace, stability and national reconciliation as provided for in the Conakry Agreement (S/1997/824, Annexes I and II) and the Abidjan Agreement (S/1996/1034).
The meeting, which was called to order at 4:26 p.m., was adjourned at 4:38 p.m.
The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1998/5, reads as follows:
"The Security Council recalls its resolution 1132 (1997) of 8 October 1997, and the statements of its President of 27 May 1997 (S/PRST/1997/29), 11 July 1997 (S/PRST/1997/36) and 6 August 1997 (S/PRST/1997/42), following the military coup d'état in Sierra Leone on 25 May 1997. It expresses its deep regret at the violence, loss of life and property and immense suffering undergone by the people of Sierra Leone since the coup. It remains gravely concerned at the continued violence in the country and calls for an urgent end to the fighting.
"The Security Council welcomes the fact that the rule of the military junta has been brought to an end, and stresses the imperative need for the immediate restoration of the democratically elected Government of President Tejan Kabbah and a return to constitutional order, in accordance with paragraph 1 of its resolution 1132 (1997).
"The Security Council encourages the earliest possible return to Freetown by President Kabbah and looks forward to his re-establishing a functioning and autonomous government in the country.
"The Security Council expresses its readiness to terminate the measures imposed by paragraphs 5 and 6 of its resolution 1132 (1997) as soon as the conditions referred to in paragraph 1 of that resolution have been fulfilled.
"The Security Council commends the important role that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has continued to play towards the peaceful resolution of this crisis. The Security Council encourages the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS (ECOMOG) to proceed in its efforts to foster peace and stability in Sierra Leone, in accordance with relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. It underlines the need for close cooperation between the legitimate Government of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS, and in particular its Committee of Five Foreign Ministers on Sierra Leone, ECOMOG commanders, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and hist staff, United Nations agencies and relevant international organizations in their work, and specifically on the development of a plan for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into civilian life of all combatants in Sierra Leone. In
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this context, it supports the intention of the Secretary-General, subject to security conditions on the ground, to take rapid steps towards the reopening of the United Nations Liaison Office in Freetown in order to support the activities of his Special Envoy, and in particular to assist national reconciliation and political dialogue.
"The Security Council expresses the view that the Conakry Agreement (S/1997/824, Annexes I and II) and the Abidjan Agreement (S/1996/1034) provide important elements for a framework for peace, stability and national reconciliation in Sierra Leone. It calls upon all parties in Sierra Leone to work towards these objectives through peaceful means and political dialogue. In this regard, it condemns all reprisal killings and related violence in Sierra Leone and calls for an immediate end to such acts.
"The Security Council looks forward to detailed proposals by the Secretary-General concerning the role of the United Nations and its future presence in Sierra Leone. It requests the Secretary-General to establish a Trust Fund to support such activities and calls on all Members States to make early contributions to it.
"The Security Council welcomes the interim report of the Inter-Agency Assessment Mission to Sierra Leone of 10 February 1998 (S/1998/155) and commends those Member States and international organizations who have provided urgent humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone. It remains deeply concerned about the serious and fragile humanitarian situation in the country, and calls upon all States and international organizations to provide further urgent assistance to Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries affected by the crisis. It calls on ECOMOG and all those concerned to ensure safe and unrestricted access to those in need.
"The Security Council expresses its concern about the safety of all humanitarian personnel in Sierra Leone, and condemns the taking of hostages by former members of the deposed junta. It calls for the immediate release of all international personnel and others who have been detained or held hostage. It commends ECOMOG for its efforts to liberate those individuals being held against their will.
"The Security Council will remain seized of this matter."
Letter from Secretary-General
When the Council met today, it had before it a 20 February letter of the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Inter-Agency Mission to Sierra Leone (S/1998/155), which concerns that country's humanitarian situation since the coup d'état of 25 May 1997. The report was requested by the Council at its informal consultations on 22 December 1997.
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The reports states that without rapid interventions by humanitarian organizations in the coming months, the country will face a large-scale food crisis. The extreme vulnerability of certain groups in certain areas creates additional humanitarian needs in terms of food assistance and health-care services. United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have faced major difficulties in their plan to respond to these needs under the ECOWAS embargo.
The report further states that the difficulties encountered by those operational agencies to ship their humanitarian consignments into Sierra Leone has revealed that ECOWAS lacks the capacity to administer an exemptions process. The recent blockade of medicine by ECOWAS confirms that the overall procedure needs to be reviewed urgently.
The report also states that the aggravation of the humanitarian situations as a result of the intensification of hostilities requires the agencies to review their action plan, to allow for the shipment of vital humanitarian supplies without unnecessary inspections, or other administrative procedures causing delays. Furthermore, United Nations agencies and humanitarian NGOs should be in a position to offer the necessary guarantees for the adequate and proportionate character of their assistance and the impartiality of their distribution.
In light of those observations, the report recommends that the Emergency Relief Coordinator draw the attention of the Security Council to the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone and request it to facilitate the shipment of humanitarian requirements.
The report is based on the findings of an inter-agency assessment mission led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Because of deterioration of the security conditions in Sierra Leone, the mission worked in neighbouring Conakry, Guinea, and prepared its interim report by drawing on information and analysis provided by United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and NGOs active in Sierra Leone.
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