The Security Council this afternoon extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) until 13 June, expressing support for all efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict there and restore lasting peace and stability.
The Council, unanimously adopting resolution 1231 (1999), encouraged the Secretary-General, through his Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, to facilitate dialogue to those ends. It welcomed the 7 February statement of Sierra Leone's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (document S/1999/138, annex) expressing his Government's readiness to continue their efforts for dialogue with the rebels, and called upon all parties involved, especially the rebels, to participate accordingly.
The Council welcomed the Secretary-General's intention to re-establish UNOMSIL in Freetown as soon as possible, and to increase the current number of the military observers from eight to 14. The increase, as well as the redeployment of the necessary staff to support the relocation, would be subject to strict attention to the security situation.
The Council commended the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) towards the restoration of peace, security and stability in Sierra Leone, and called upon all Member States to provide the force with financial and logistical support and to consider the provision of prompt bilateral assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone in the creation of a new Sierra Leonean army.
The Council condemned the atrocities perpetrated by the rebels on the civilian population, in particular those committed against women and children. It deplored all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that had occurred during the recent escalation of violence in the country, including the recruitment of children as soldiers. Further, the Council expressed grave concern at continued reports that both arms and mercenaries were being supplied to the rebels from Liberian territory.
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The Council acknowledged the actions the Liberian Government was taking to curtail the involvement of Liberian nationals in the fighting in Sierra Leone, including measures to encourage their return, as well as directives to the Liberian national security agencies to ensure that there was no cross- border movement of arms. In that regard, the Secretary-General was asked to continue to consider the practicality and effectiveness of the deployment of United Nations monitors along with ECOMOG at the Liberia/Sierra Leone border.
Speaking before action on the resolution, the representative of Sierra Leone said that since its assumption of power in 1996, the Government of President Kabbah had always been serious about peace. The President himself had done everything possible to move the peace process forward, including offering to have a dialogue with the rebels. He could not, therefore, be accused of not making a serious effort. Moreover, he had repeatedly expressed his willingness to exercise clemency over the future of Foday Sankoh -- the Revolutionary United Front leader -- in order to advance that process.
The representative of the United Kingdom said ECOMOG's deployment in Sierra Leone represented a milestone in the development of regional peacekeeping. That improvement had been heavily dependent on international support. Further, the stabilization of Sierra Leone also depended upon continuing international pressure on those supporting the rebels. Indeed, success in Sierra Leone was achievable -- but it required "hard work and hard cash". Ultimately, it was in the hands of the people and the Government, but success would only be possible with the continued commitment of the international community.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Canada, Argentina, Netherlands, Malaysia, Namibia, Slovenia, Gabon, Brazil, Gambia, United States, Bahrain and China.
At the outset of the meeting, the President of the Security Council, Qin Huasun (China), on behalf of the members, expressed deep sympathy to the Government and people of Bahrain for the great loss they had suffered in the passing of Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, the Amir of Bahrain. The long and distinguished leadership of the Amir left an enduring legacy of pride and honour, and of deep commitment to the cause of peace and stability in the region, he said. A minute of silence was observed in tribute to the memory of the Amir.
The conflict in Sierra Leone dates from March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front launched attacks to overthrow the Government. Although a new government took power the following April as the result of a military coup d'Útat, the Front continued the conflict. Despite the unrest, negotiations led to the election of President Kabbah in February 1996. Although the elections were not accepted by the Front, negotiations between the Government and the Front led in November 1996 to a peace agreement known as the Abidjan Accord.
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In May 1997, however, a military coup d'Útat overthrew the democratically elected Government. On 8 October 1997, the Security Council imposed an oil and arms embargo against the country and authorized the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure its strict implementation. In March 1998, President Kabbah was returned to office, when ECOMOG launched a military attack that led to the collapse of the junta and its expulsion from Freetown. The Council established UNOMSIL in June 1998 for an initial period of six months to help monitor the country's military and security situation.
The meeting, which was called to order at 12:32 p.m., was adjourned at 1:45 p.m.
Council Work Programme
When the Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Sierra Leone, it had before it the fifth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), dated 4 March (document S/1999/237). In it, the Secretary-General declares his intention to re-establish UNOMSIL in the capital city of Freetown as soon as possible -- on a small scale initially, and with strict attention to security -- in view of the improved security situation there. He further intends to increase the number of military observers from eight to 14, and to redeploy the necessary staff to support the relocation.
[As indicated in the Secretary-General's report of 7 January (document S/1999/20), UNOMSIL had been substantially scaled back since its relocation to Conakry following the rebel attack on Freetown; at the time of the current report, UNOMSIL comprised only a small core of essential civilian and military personnel under the leadership of the Secretary-General's Special Representative].
The Secretary-General recommends extending the Mission for a further three months, until 13 June, to enable it to render further assistance in the peace process should negotiations between the Government and the rebels take a favourable turn. In the meantime, United Nations programmes, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), have been authorized to re- establish a limited presence in Freetown.
According to the report, UNOMSIL will continue to provide information to the Secretary-General and, through him, to the Council, about the situation in its political, military, security, human rights and humanitarian aspects. The Mission will liaise closely with the Government and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG), and explore ways of pursuing dialogue with the rebels aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict. It will advise the Secretary-General on further actions the United Nations could take as developments unfold, and it will stand ready to take quick action to assist in the implementation of any peace agreement.
The report describes the rebel attack on Freetown on 6 January, in which between 3,000 and 5,000 people died, including rebel fighters, ECOMOG soldiers, members of the Civil Defence Force militia who were defending the capital, and large numbers of civilian inhabitants. Many civilians were severely mutilated by the rebels in the attack. Up to 150,000 people were displaced in and around Freetown, and the rebels burnt down large numbers of buildings and homes.
Although ECOMOG forces and members of the Civil Defence Force managed to expel the rebels and regain control of the city, the report states that several thousand are thought to remain in the Peninsula Mountains surrounding Freetown,
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and that an unknown number of rebels might have infiltrated the city and remain there ready to launch further attacks. Consequently, the security situation in Freetown, despite recent improvements, should still be considered volatile. Indeed, although ECOMOG has succeeded in driving the rebels from Freetown and in restoring a measure of order in its immediate vicinity, the country continues to face an extremely complex and difficult situation fraught with serious risks. The report further notes that the rebel forces reportedly rely on some foreign mercenaries, including Europeans and Liberians, and that they are reported to be receiving weapons from outside the country.
The findings of a mission assessment team are detailed in the report. Those indicate that the ultimate responsibility for the fighting, and for most of the civilian casualties and the related humanitarian emergency in Freetown, rests with the rebel forces. Of the estimated 3,000 to 5,000 casualties, it is feared that at least 2,000 of those were civilian inhabitants of Freetown. Many civilians were killed while being used by the rebels as human shields in combat, or because they reportedly refused to come out into the streets to demonstrate in favour of the rebels. Many others were killed while trying to protect family members from death or rape, or while trying to protect their property from looting and destruction.
Much of the killing seems to have been arbitrary and to have been carried out by child fighters or rebel fighters under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the report states. There is also evidence that some of the murders were targeted, including the murder of 200 police personnel. Many hundreds of civilians were treated for amputations or other forms of mutilation, and it is feared that hundreds of other victims did not survive to seek treatment. Victims of amputation and mutilation included men, women and children, some as young as six years old. The mutilations were usually inflicted with machetes or axes. During February, the report notes, there was a sharp drop in reported incidents of mutilation by rebel elements in areas where they are located.
The rebels abducted a large but unverifiable number of people in Freetown and other places they attacked, the report states. By mid-February, child-care agencies reported that some 2,000 children had gone missing in Freetown alone since 6 January. Agency staff said they had witnessed the abduction by rebels of some 300 of these children. Escapees reported that abducted boys were selected for training as fighters, or used as porters. Women and girls were taken for sexual purposes or to cook food. A small number of prominent Sierra Leonean personalities and foreigners were also abducted.
The report states that rebel forces were also responsible for the deliberate widespread destruction of civilian property and public utilities in Freetown and other locations, such as Makeni and Kambia. In the centre of Freetown, about 20 per cent of the housing stock was destroyed, with as much
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as 90 per cent destroyed in the eastern outskirts of the city. Some public facilities appear to have been deliberately demolished, including police stations, the Pademba Road prison, the Nigerian High Commission and UNOMSIL headquarters. The residences of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and government officials were also targeted, as well as churches, mosques and hospitals.
Eyewitnesses interviewed by the assessment team also reported summary executions of alleged rebels or rebel sympathizers by ECOMOG soldiers, according to the report. The ECOMOG jets attacking Freetown during the fighting are also reported to have caused civilian casualties. The ECOMOG soldiers also detained and physically mistreated national staff members of a number of humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), apparently accusing them, without evidence, of being rebel collaborators. The ECOMOG High Command has subsequently indicated their intention to investigate these allegations and to take corrective action as necessary.
In the report, the Secretary-General unreservedly strongly condemns the murders, mutilations and other appalling human rights violations perpetrated by the rebels on the innocent civilian inhabitants of Freetown, and the widespread property damage they have inflicted. In the light of some allegations that members of pro-government forces may also have been guilty of human rights violations, he hopes that the Government will fulfil its assurances that such allegations will be investigated. He welcomes its assurances that these forces will adhere to international human rights standards in the future.
Following the latest round of fighting, the number of refugees in neighbouring countries has increased to an estimated 450,000, with an estimated 700,000 internally displaced persons, the report states. With ECOMOG expanding its hold on the capital, the number of known vulnerable displaced persons in Freetown is now estimated at 200,000, out of which some 60,000 have sought refuge in the national stadium. Many more are living in abandoned churches and schools.
The report notes that a human rights committee for Sierra Leone, facilitated by UNOMSIL, has been temporarily established in Conakry, comprising the Sierra Leonean National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights, the National Forum for Human Rights, United Nations agencies, humanitarian organizations and UNOMSIL. The committee is facilitating the active participation of the human rights community in the process of peace-building in Sierra Leone. In the coming weeks, if possible, significant activities of the committee will be relocated to Freetown.
The report also outlines recent political developments in Sierra Leone. Referring to one of those developments, the Secretary-General describes Sierra
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Leonean President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's decision to allow Revolutionary United Front leader Foday Sankoh to meet with rebel leaders -- to develop a coherent set of political demands which would form the basis of subsequent negotiations with the Government -- as a bold and valuable initiative. The preliminary meeting of the Secretary-General's Special Representative and representatives of the Revolutionary United Front in Abidjan on 21 February may have helped lay the groundwork for further negotiations, the report also states. In order to proceed, however, the Revolutionary United Front must recognize the legitimacy of the Government, agree to a ceasefire, renounce violence, especially attacks on civilians, and permit safe humanitarian access to the areas they control.
Highlights of United Nations activities in the aftermath of the rebel attack are also included in the report. Those include a description of diplomatic efforts culminating in a meeting in Conakry on 29 January with the heads of State of the three troop-contributing countries of ECOMOG: Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. At that meeting, the three Presidents agreed on the need to convene an ECOWAS summit meeting on Sierra Leone, to be followed by a visit by representatives of the ECOWAS Committee of Six on Sierra Leone to New York to brief the Council. The Foreign Affairs Ministers of Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria were asked to develop a strategy for pursuing the dual-track approach, aimed at strengthening ECOMOG while opening up dialogue with the rebels.
[The Committee of Six on Sierra Leone comprises the above-mentioned three countries, as well as Togo, C˘te d'Ivoire and Liberia.]
If the Council decides to extend the mandate of UNOMSIL, as recommended by the Secretary-General, the cost of maintaining the Observer Mission during the extension period will be well within the resources already provided by the General Assembly, the report states.
The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1999/262), which reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling its resolutions 1181 (1998) of 13 July 1998 and 1220 (1999) of 12 January 1999 and the statement of its President of 7 January 1999 (S/1999/PRST/1),
"Expressing its continued concern over the fragile situation in Sierra Leone,
"Affirming the commitment of all States to respect the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Sierra Leone,
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"Having considered the fifth Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) of 4 March 1999 (S/1999/237) and noting the recommendations contained therein,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMSIL until 13 June 1999;
"2. Welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to re-establish UNOMSIL in Freetown as soon as possible, and to that end to increase the current number of military observers and human rights personnel as referred to in paragraphs 46 and 54 of his report, and to redeploy the necessary staff to support the relocation to Freetown, subject to strict attention to the security situation there;
"3. Condemns the atrocities perpetrated by the rebels on the civilian population of Sierra Leone, including in particular those committed against women and children, deplores all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which have occurred in Sierra Leone during the recent escalation of violence as referred to in paragraphs 21 to 28 of the report of the Secretary-General, including the recruitment of children as soldiers, and urges the appropriate authorities to investigate all allegations of such violations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice;
"4. Calls upon all parties to the conflict in Sierra Leone fully to respect human rights and international humanitarian law and the neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian workers, and to ensure full and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to affected populations;
"5. Expresses its grave concern at continued reports that support is being afforded to the rebels in Sierra Leone, including through the supply of arms and mercenaries, in particular from the territory of Liberia;
"6. Acknowledges the letter of the President of Liberia to the Secretary-General of 23 February 1999 (S/1999/213) and the statement by the Government of Liberia of 19 February 1999 (S/1999/193) on the action it is taking to curtail the involvement of Liberian nationals in the fighting in Sierra Leone, including measures to encourage the return of Liberian fighters and directives to the Liberian national security agencies to ensure that no cross-border movement of arms takes place and that there be no transshipment of arms and ammunition through Liberian territory, and requests the Secretary- General to continue to consider, in coordination with the countries of the Mano River Union and other member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the practicability and effectiveness of the deployment of United Nations monitors along with forces of the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS (ECOMOG) at the Liberia/Sierra Leone border;
"7. Reaffirms the obligation of all States to comply strictly with the provisions of the embargo on the sale or supply of arms and related matÚriel
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imposed by its resolution 1171 (1998) of 5 June 1998;
"8. Expresses its intention to keep the issue of external support to the rebels in Sierra Leone under close review, and to consider further steps to address this in the light of developments on the ground;
"9. Expresses its support for all efforts, in particular by ECOWAS States, aimed at peacefully resolving the conflict and restoring lasting peace and stability to Sierra Leone, encourages the Secretary-General, through his Special Representative for Sierra Leone, to facilitate dialogue to these ends, welcomes the statement of the President of Sierra Leone of 7 February 1999 (S/1999/138, annex) expressing his Government's readiness to continue their efforts for dialogue with the rebels, and calls upon all parties involved, especially the rebels, to participate seriously in these efforts;
"10. Commends the efforts of ECOMOG towards the restoration of peace, security and stability in Sierra Leone, and calls upon all Member States to provide ECOMOG with financial and logistical support and to consider the provision of prompt bilateral assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone in the creation of a new Sierra Leonean army to defend the country;
"11. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council closely informed on the situation in Sierra Leone and in this regard to submit an additional report to the Council with recommendations on the future deployment of UNOMSIL and the implementation of its mandate by 5 June 1999;
"12. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
FODE M. DABOR (Sierra Leone) thanked various governments for the support being given to his country. He particularly acknowledged the special role being played by the Nigerian Government in maintaining international peace and security, not only in the subregion, but in Africa at large. The prevailing peace in Liberia, for example, would not have been possible without Nigeria. When the coup occurred in Sierra Leone on 25 May 1997, Nigeria quickly intervened to bring an explosive situation under control. Moreover, the Nigerian Government was spending a colossal amount of money to provide that support. Thus, the role it was playing should be reinforced with added financial and logistical support by the international community.
He said it was not news to Council members that the prevailing rebel war had not only destroyed the country's infrastructure, but had destroyed human life and brought conditions for improvement to a virtual standstill. Since the assumption of power in 1996, the Government of President Kabbah had always been serious about peace, and President Kabbah himself had done everything to move the peace process forward, including offering to have a dialogue with the
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rebels. He, therefore, could not be accused of not making a serious effort. Moreover, he had repeatedly expressed his willingness to exercise clemency over the future of Foday Sankoh in order to advance that process.
He said there were two forces at play in the political arena in Sierra Leone: the supporters of democracy, namely, the people of Sierra Leone who in 1996 elected a government of their choice; and the anti-democratic forces, namely, the rebels and collaborators who wanted to assume power by illegitimate means. By killing and mutilating innocent civilians, they had thought they would achieve their desired results. Yet, they had been unable to do so.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) expressed his sadness over the passing of Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa -- a man who guided his people well since his country's independence in December 1971. Many might have forgotten the uncertainty facing the Gulf Emirates in those years, to which he had made a notable contribution, not just in Bahrain, but to the Gulf States through the 1970s and beyond.
He said the crisis in Sierra Leone was complex, the humanitarian problems were horrifying, and the message of risk for African development generally was graphic. The gravity of the situation demanded a response of appropriate magnitude from the Council, the wider United Nations system and the international community as a whole.
Against that background, he said his country recognized the important progress that had been made on the ground since the security crisis of late December. Also welcome was the planned return of UNOMSIL to Freetown, which demonstrated the stabilization of the situation there. That redeployment would help bolster confidence in the country and send the right signals about international engagement. It would also reinforce United Nations efforts to promote a ceasefire and dialogue with the rebels and to monitor the fragile human rights situation.
He said that ECOMOG's deployment in Sierra Leone had represented a milestone in the development of regional peacekeeping. That improvement had been heavily dependent on international support for ECOMOG, and the draft before the Council urged the need for continued international financial and logistical support for ECOMOG. The Secretary-General in his report was right to draw attention to the possible consequences of ECOMOG's withdrawal or reduction, because of a lack of adequate support.
The stabilization of Sierra Leone also depended upon continuing international pressure on those supporting the rebels, he continued. In that regard, much attention had been rightly focused on support coming from Liberia and through the involvement of Liberian nationals. Pressure seemed to be paying dividends and the resolution recognized certain proposals made by the Liberian Government to address that problem. The assurances of concrete
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action given by the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, must be verified. For example, the Liberian Government was expected to meet its commitment to arrest and prosecute any Liberian citizen found to be engaged in armed conflict in Sierra Leone after the 45-day amnesty that began on 19 February.
He said his country had paid much attention to the urgent requirement for financial, logistical and material support to shore up security in Sierra Leone. It was also conscious of the need to search for a peaceful solution, as a matter of urgency. In that regard, a political exchange was necessary to pave the way towards a better future for that country and its people. Indeed, success in Sierra Leone was achievable -- but it required "hard work and hard cash", he said. Ultimately, it was in the hands of the people and the Government, but success would only be possible with the continued commitment of the international community. The Council's unanimous support for the resolution before it would mark that commitment.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) thanked the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, and UNOMSIL personnel for their good work under the most trying and difficult circumstances. He fully supported the Secretary-General's recommendation that UNOMSIL's mandate be extended and the Mission's human rights unit strengthened.
His Government remained extremely concerned at the grave security and humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone. He was appalled by the unspeakable atrocities committed by rebel forces against the civilian population, especially those committed against women and children. He condemned in the strongest possible terms human rights abuses perpetrated by the rebels, including torture, amputation, rape, mutilation and the forcible recruitment of children as combatants.
He called upon all concerned to observe international norms and standard, in particular, for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to ensure full and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to affected populations. He also called for an end to violence and the establishment of a dialogue for the restoration of lasting peace and stability. He hoped that a meaningful level of human security could soon be established, so that efforts could begin for rebuilding a capacity within the Government and civil society to manage conflict without recourse to violence.
He said he welcomed President Kabbah's recent decision to allow the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, Foday Sankoh, to meet with rebel leaders, in the hopes that that would lead to negotiations between the rebels and the Government on a peaceful settlement. He also welcomed assurances that alleged human rights abuses by pro-government forces would be properly investigated and called on all parties to adhere to international human rights standards. He supported ECOMOG's efforts to protect the legitimate, democratically elected Government of Sierra Leone and commended the force for repelling the rebels
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from Freetown. In response to the Secretary-General's appeal for support to ECOMOG, Canada would contribute $1 million (Canadian) in support of the peacekeepers and the Government of Sierra Leone.
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said his country would vote in favour of the draft resolution before the Council because it contained, among others, elements for the solution of the conflict. The text supported the strengthening of the United Nations presence in the country. The message in the draft resolution was truly relevant. There was clear support for President Kabbah and the legitimacy of democracy. He hoped the President's offer of dialogue with the rebels would be reciprocated.
The draft resolution condemned the atrocities committed against the civilian population and noted that it would not go unpunished, he continued. The message of the Council should be heard by those perpetuating the atrocities. There was also unequivocal support for ECOMOG. He expressed appreciation for the work of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, and all the countries contributing to the protection of democracy and freedom there. He added that Argentina had a direct interest in the situation in Sierra Leone, as both countries belonged to the organization of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic.
A.P. VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) joined previous speakers in expressing his country's sadness at the loss of Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa of Bahrain.
He said the Netherlands would vote in favour of the draft, which would enable UNOMSIL to play its key role in the peace process, in tandem with ECOMOG. The situation continued to be volatile and, accordingly, a credible military presence should be maintained. Moreover, the current window of opportunity could be used to enter into a dialogue and find a peaceful solution to the conflict. He welcomed signals from both sides that they would pursue such a dialogue, and urged the parties to enter into talks without delay.
The efforts of ECOMOG should be commended, he said. It should be clear that those troop contributors did not stand alone. They deserved the Council's strong support. Furthermore, thousands of innocent civilians had been maimed, and they deserved more than compassion. They were in desperate need of the international community's help. As such, humanitarian organizations must be allowed to reach the victims without any hindrance whatsoever.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said he supported the proposed extension of the United Nations mission, as well as the increase in the number of military observers and human rights personnel attached to it. He was deeply concerned at the extremely volatile and fragile situation in Sierra Leone. In that regard, he welcomed President Kabbah's stated willingness to engage the rebel leaders in a dialogue, to be held under the framework of the 1996 Abidjan peace accord.
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The road towards peace ultimately rested on the successful outcome of the proposed talks, he said. As an immediate measure, the rebels must agree to cease hostilities and recognize the legitimacy of the democratically elected Government. It was vital that the window of opportunity for a political solution not be lost. He shared the sense of outrage felt by the international community in the wake of the atrocities committed against the civilian population. He was also concerned at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country and urged that the safety of humanitarian workers be ensured.
He was also concerned about reports of support being provided to the rebel forces, including the supply of arms and the dispatch of mercenaries, which would only further aggravate and complicate the situation. He, therefore, urged strict compliance with existing arms embargoes imposed by the relevant Security Council resolutions.
The road towards finding a political settlement and healing the wounds of that horrific war would be a long and painful one, he said. In that regard, the dual track approach being pursued -- combining ECOMOG's military action to maintain law and order with diplomatic efforts towards a peaceful settlement -- was the right approach. It should be sustained and strongly supported by the international community.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) welcomed President Kabbah's readiness to release rebel leader Foday Sankoh to meet with other Revolutionary United Front leaders. He hoped the President's gesture would be the beginning of a true dialogue. The people of Sierra Leone had been subjected to unspeakable human rights abuses for too long and, unless reason prevailed, that human tragedy was bound to continue or even escalate. The recent escalation of hostilities had resulted in disappearances, abductions, recruitment of child soldiers and violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Sierra Leone could be a dangerous precedent -- allowing rebels to overthrow legitimate governments in Africa. That must not be allowed to happen.
He hailed ECOMOG for its determination and courage. The member countries of ECOMOG were making sacrifices for Sierra Leone. The least the rest of the world could do was support and sustain ECOMOG financially and logistically. He appealed to the international community to stand by the democratically elected Government of President Kabbah. It was of utmost importance that the international community contribute to the two-pronged approaches: military operations by ECOMOG to deny rebels military victory; and dialogue to end the conflict peacefully. His delegation supported the extension of UNOMSIL's mandate.
DANILO T▄RK (Slovenia) said that the most recent offensive by the rebel forces in Sierra Leone had been described as one of the biggest single calamities to have befallen the country since March 1991, when members of the
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Revolutionary United Front entered Sierra Leone for the first time from the territory of Liberia. Resorting to their trademark habit of inflicting pain and misery on defenceless civilians, the rebels had killed hundreds of people and engaged in a veritable orgy of rape and rapine. Much of the capital of Sierra Leone lay in ruins and the reconstituted Sierra Leone police force had been literally wiped out.
He said the destruction and mayhem would have been even greater were it not for the valiant efforts of ECOMOG forces, which managed to check the rebel advance. The fact that a measure of order had now been restored spoke volumes about the vital importance of ECOMOG for the maintenance of peace and security in Sierra Leone. He commended the ECOWAS countries for all the support they had provided to the beleaguered democratically elected Government of President Kabbah.
He said that while the Government of Sierra Leone should continue to refine its policy with regard to negotiations with the rebels, it must also continue to rely on military action to maintain law and order. That dual track approach was all the more necessary in light of the publicly expressed determination of some rebel commanders to seize power at any cost. Nevertheless, emphasis should be placed on a negotiated solution.
He strongly supported the appeal of the draft resolution for the provision of assistance in the creation of a new Sierra Leone army. At the current critical juncture in Sierra Leone's history, the support of the international community was of vital importance. The presence of United Nations personnel on the ground would go a long way towards demonstrating the continued concern of the outside world for the predicament of the people of Sierra Leone. He, therefore, supported the extension of UNOMSIL's mandate.
CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon) expressed his sadness over the enormous loss of the Amir of Bahrain, for the region and the world. By his great wisdom, experience and spirit of compromise, he had contributed to peace in the Gulf and also directed his efforts towards a lasting solution in the Middle East. His august successor would undoubtedly pursue those goals with the same devotion.
He said the draft before the Council to extend the mission in Sierra Leone bore witness to the Council's solidarity with the people of that country, who had suffered so much from the fighting and abuses committed by the rebels. That solidarity would be concretely reflected in the speedy re-establishment of UNOMSIL and the increase in its strength. It was also encouraging that the text took into account the need to respect the weapons embargo, as well as the Council's readiness to pursue the issue of external support of the rebels.
Continuing, he said that the willingness of President Kabbah to engage the rebels in a constructive dialogue was a welcome sign. Likewise, the courageous measures undertaken by Liberian President Charles Taylor, aimed at
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encouraging the return of Liberian combatants, together with a promise of amnesty, suggested hope for a lasting solution. The role and efforts made by ECOMOG in attempting to restore peace and stability in Sierra Leone could not be forgotten. Those efforts should be increasingly supported by the international community.
HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said he favoured the extension of UNOMSIL's mandate, and considered it necessary to restore the United Nations presence in Sierra Leone to its previous levels. Indeed, the Mission might have to be extended well beyond 13 June. That country had suffered long years of protracted conflict, culminating in a frenzy of horror. The UNOMSIL was an expression of the political commitment of the Council to the process of pacification and peace-building there.
The grim events of January were an indication that the United Nations and ECOMOG should keep a strong and effective presence in Sierra Leone, he said. The efforts of the Government, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy and the Committee of Six ECOWAS countries to promote a political agreement that included the rebels should also be supported. The Abidjan peace agreement of 1996 was the natural basis for such a political agreement.
The rebels' repeated history of disrespect for agreements and their appalling human rights record was evident, he continued. He joined in condemning those heinous acts committed against children and women and those entrusted with defending human rights. There was no excuse for those who had masterminded or committed such crimes, including the recruitment under duress of child soldiers.
He said the international community must increase support to ECOWAS, which was a key element in maintaining order and protecting the Government and the people of Sierra Leone. Tribute should be paid to the troop contributors, especially Nigeria, which lost a number of its soldiers in defending peace in Sierra Leone. The leadership of the United Kingdom in dealing with the situation should also be highlighted. The issue of foreign military assistance to the rebels was a matter of grave concern that should be pursued by the sanctions Committee. The providers of weapons and ammunition -- neighbouring or distant States, as well as arms traffickers -- shared the responsibility for the brutality that had taken hold of that country.
The international community, through the coordinated efforts of the United Nations system, intended to develop a long-term strategy for Sierra Leone, he added. The resolution about to be adopted was just a first step in a set of measures needed to implement such a plan.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said the latest round of violence unleased by the rebels was unique in both scale and the grotesque nature of the attacks on civilians. The Secretary-General's report spoke for itself. The
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perpetrators of the gross violations of human rights should be pursued and brought to justice. The humanitarian situation was also a cause for grave concern, in particular, the problem of access to those in need. He welcomed the plan being finalized by the international humanitarian community and the Government of Sierra Leone. It equally urged the rebels to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and to ensure unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to the needy.
He said the relative calm in the country could not have prevailed without the enormous sacrifices of ECOMOG forces. The marked improvements in the security situation would also not have been possible without the timely assistance of friendly governments. While welcoming the recent reinforcements from Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and Mali, he said ECOMOG still needed to be further strengthened in terms of logistics and material support.
A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said human rights abuses and atrocities on the scale seen in Sierra Leone were appalling and unacceptable. Such crimes against civilians were an affront to Africa, to the international community and to the Council. The authors of those crimes against civilians must be brought to justice. Efforts must be intensified to bring an end to that terrible conflict, he said.
The Security Council and the international community must continue to take concrete and practical steps to support the democratically elected Government of President Kabbah, he continued. The international community must also remain vigilant to ensure that existing sanctions on weapons transfers were respected. States bordering Sierra Leone had particular responsibilities in that regard, as well as in preventing their nationals from further intensifying the fighting.
Now, more than ever, ECOMOG needed support, he said. The United States had contributed $9 million to provide logistical support to ECOMOG, and was seeking to do more. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada and others also had contributed. Now was the time for current and prospective donors to consider contributing to ECOMOG, either through the United Nations Trust Fund or bilaterally. The United States supported the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, who had worked tirelessly to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict and to bring the parties to the negotiating table. He hoped the slowly improving situation would permit UNOMSIL personnel an opportunity to rapidly resume their duties.
He said ECOMOG's gallant efforts had restored a semblance of order and security to Freetown following the recent rebel offensive. The international community owed a great debt of gratitude to countries -- including Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and Mali -- that had provided forces to promote peace and restore stability. In particular, he commended Nigeria, which had carried a disproportionate share of the burden in defending the democratically elected
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Government. The United States looked to ECOMOG to stay the course, as Sierra Leone worked towards a settlement of the conflict.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) expressed his deeply felt thanks for the warm condolences expressed by previous speakers for the loss experienced by his country and the world. Under the Amir's rule, Bahrain had entered the age of modernization, although he never wanted that to be at the expense of social traditions. Hence, he had created a wise balance and maintained the country's particular characteristics, while keeping pace with modern changes.
Turning to the situation in Sierra Leone, he said that despite the improved security situation, the country continued to face a most difficult and complicated situation. The international community must, therefore, continue to provide logistical support to the military observers. He paid tribute to the donor countries for their assistance and he expressed his support for all related efforts, particularly those by ECOWAS. The role played by the United Nations in that context was also highly valued, particularly in terms of the humanitarian emergency assistance it had provided. His country supported the extension of UNOMSIL's mandate and would, therefore, vote in favour of the draft resolution.
QIN HUASUN (China) expressed his profound condolences for the passing of the Amir of Bahrain, who had contributed to peace and development both in his country and his region. He had also contributed to enhancing relations between Bahrain and China. He asked the representative of Bahrain to convey his and his country's heartfelt sympathy to the family.
He said he was pleased that the situation in Sierra Leone was finally improving, thanks to the efforts of ECOMOG and ECOWAS, in particular. He firmly supported the elected Government and appreciated the dual-track approach being taken, as well as the President's determination to pursue peace through dialogue. He urged the rebels to lay down their arms immediately and to cease all hostilities against civilians, as well as to commence dialogue. His country called upon the countries concerned to strictly abide by international law.
Continuing, he said his country was gravely concerned about the support and participation of outside forces in the rebel forces. He reiterated the importance of the relevant paragraphs of the draft, as well as China's support for necessary measures to be taken by the Council in that regard. The UNOMSIL was a concrete example of the Council's support for the efforts of Sierra Leone's Government. China had provided material for civilian use and emergency assistance. It would continue to help through bilateral channels.
Action on Draft
The Council unanimously adopted the resolution to extend UNOMSIL, as Security Council resolution 1231 (1999).
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