Expressing its deep concern over the recent deterioration of the situation in Sierra Leone and encouraging all efforts to resolve the conflict and restore lasting peace and stability there, the Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for two months until 13 March.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1220 (1999), the Council requested the Secretary-General to keep it closely informed of the situation and to submit a further report by 5 March with recommendations on the future deployment of UNOMSIL and implementation of its mandate.
The Council took note of the Secretary-General's intention -- as contained in his most recent report on the situation -- to reduce the number of military observers in UNOMSIL and to retain in Conakry, Guinea, a small number who would return to Sierra Leone when conditions permitted, together with the necessary civilian substantive and logistical support staff, under the leadership of his Special Representative, Francis Okelo.
The meeting, which began at 12:51 p.m., was adjourned at 12:55 p.m.
Text of Resolution
The full text of resolution 1220 (1999) (document S/1999/26) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling its resolution 1181 (1998) of 13 July 1998 and the statement of its President of 7 January 1999 (S/1999/PRST/1),
"Expressing its deep concern over the recent deterioration of the situation in Sierra Leone and encouraging all efforts aimed at resolving the conflict and restoring lasting peace and stability,
"Having considered the Third Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) (S/1998/1176) and his Special Report on UNOMSIL of 7 January 1999 (S/1999/20) and noting the recommendations contained therein,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMSIL until 13 March 1999;
"2. Takes note of the intention of the Secretary-General, as set out in paragraph 37 of his Special Report, to reduce the number of military observers in UNOMSIL and to retain in Conakry a small number who would return to Sierra Leone when conditions permit together with the necessary civilian substantive and logistical support staff under the leadership of his Special Representative;
"3. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council closely informed on the situation in Sierra Leone and to submit a further report to the Council with recommendations on the future deployment of UNOMSIL and implementation of its mandate by 5 March 1999;
"4. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
Reports of Secretary-General
When it met this afternoon, the Council had before it the third progress report of the Secretary-General on UNOMSIL of 16 December 1998 (S/1998/1176), in which, among other things, he elaborated his plans for a modest expansion of the Mission's civilian staff, aimed at addressing growing demands on the ground and assisting in efforts to normalize the situation. (For further background on that report, see Press Release SC/6613 of 18 December 1998.)
Also before the Council was the special report of the Secretary-General on UNOMSIL of 7 January (S/1999/20), in which he recommends an extension of UNOMSIL's mandate for two months until 13 March. The Secretary-General also deplores the intensification of hostilities and the recent rebel attacks on the capital, Freetown, adding that the international community should not abandon the country.
He urges the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to meet at the summit level as soon as possible to consider ways of dealing with the current situation. The summit should consider how best to continue its support for the legitimate Government of Sierra Leone, achieve a political settlement of the conflict and how to relieve the humanitarian needs of the people. He encourages Member States to be prepared to make further contributions to the peace process as might be required.
Reminding the rebels that military successes will not win them legitimacy or recognition, the Secretary-General calls upon them to open
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6624 3964th Meeting (PM) 12 January 1999
discussions with the Government on any legitimate political demands or grievances they or their supporters might have.
While acknowledging that UNOMSIL's future appears much less clear than it did only a few weeks ago, the Secretary-General believes there is much that it can do, such as facilitating discussions between the Government and the rebels. The UNOMSIL can also help re-activate the programme to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into society former Sierra Leonean fighters and continue the monitoring of the human rights situation.
The Secretary-General states that the modest expansion of the civilian staff that he envisaged in his previous report is untenable in the present circumstances. He intends to reduce the number of military observers, retaining in Conakry, Guinea, a small number who will return to Sierra Leone when conditions permit.
Elsewhere in the report, the Secretary-General states that the humanitarian implications of the recent developments in Sierra Leone are very troubling. Overland access to the interior has been cut, and the capacity to provide humanitarian assistance has been sharply reduced as all expatriate staff of international non-governmental organizations and most of the United Nations agencies and those of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been located outside of the country.
While sufficient food stocks are available to meet immediate needs, delivery much beyond Freetown is no longer possible. Sierra Leone might soon be facing a humanitarian crisis of major proportions, the Secretary-General notes.
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