13 March 2000


Press Release
SC/6821



SECURITY COUNCIL STRESSES NEED FOR DISARMAMENT, DEMOBILIZATION AND REINTEGRATION OF EX-COMBATANTS IN SIERRA LEONE

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Council Holds Open Briefing on Situation in Sierra Leone

The Security Council was told today that the main steps to be taken in Sierra Leone should include the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and improvement of the country's capacity to ensure its own security.

Briefing the Council on the situation in Sierra Leone, Assistant Secretary- General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, said that sketching those steps would help to establish the priorities and responsibilities of all concerned and provide the international community with benchmarks to measure progress. Progress would require a sustained commitment by all concerned, as well as significant material and financial resources. In that regard, the upcoming donor conference in London on 27 March and contributions to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund would help cover the present shortfall of approximately $20 million in the funding of the peace process.

Resources alone, however, would not be sufficient, he said. The Government, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other groups, as well as all Sierra Leonean leaders, bore personal responsibility for moving the peace process forward, and they should intensify their efforts towards that end.

Describing his recent visit to Sierra Leone, the representative of the United Kingdom noted the overwhelming desire of the great majority of the country's population for peace and a normal life. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, however, was being obstructed by the lack of commitment to peace from the main factional leaders, particularly RUF leader Foday Sankoh. The Council should insist on the proper implementation of its decisions and put pressure on the parties in that respect.

The Security Council should be aware that the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had not been fully successful, he continued. He stressed that the Council should carefully monitor the transition from the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) presence in the country to UNAMSIL and insist on bringing the Mission up to full strength, in quality as well as quantity.


Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6821 4111th Meeting (PM) 13 March 2000

Describing recent efforts aimed at speedy implementation of the 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement, the representative of Mali said that the high-level meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Bamaku on 1 and 2 March had addressed the need for the establishment of proper government institutions in the country and for speeding up the establishment of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres.

The representative of Sierra Leone said that his Government had consistently demonstrated its commitment to all aspects of the peace process, but there remained serious doubts about the commitment of the RUF. There was a clear need for all the stakeholders to agree on a realistic target date for the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of all combatants. As a first step, the RUF should urgently provide full and complete information on the number of RUF combatants under its command, and ensure that they complied with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

Summing up today's meeting, Council President Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh) said that Members of the Council had endorsed in general the contents and recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's report on the matter. The speakers had placed great weight on the early implementation of all elements of the Lomé Peace Agreement and called upon all its signatories, particularly Mr. Sankoh and the RUF, to demonstrate a concrete commitment to the peace process.

Also this afternoon, the Council agreed to extend the time of periodic reports on the situation in Sierra Leone from 45 to 60 days.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Malaysia, Netherlands, Ukraine, China, Jamaica, Namibia, Tunisia, Argentina, United States, Canada and the Russian Federation.

At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Chowdhury (Bangladesh), who also made a statement in his national capacity on the situation in Sierra Leone, expressed deep sympathy to the Government and people of Ukraine for the great loss of life as a result of a recent mining catastrophe in the Barakov mine in the eastern part of that country.

The meeting, which began at 12:15 p.m., was adjourned at 4:32 p.m. It was suspended from 1:27 till 3:26 p.m.



Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6821 4111th Meeting (PM) 13 March 2000

Council Work Programme

When the Security Council met this morning, it was expected to hold an open briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone. The Council had before it the third report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (document S/2000/186), which provides an overview of the latest developments in the country.

In his report, the Secretary-General states that in order for the peace process in Sierra Leone to succeed, it is imperative that the leaders of the Government of Sierra Leone and other groups, including the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) show tangible commitment to the implementation of the Lomé Agreement. In particular, the leader of RUF, Foday Sankoh, and other rebel leaders are expected to fully assume their responsibilities before the people of Sierra Leone. The differences of opinion should be addressed in an open, constructive and democratic manner.

Continuing ceasefire violations perpetrated against civilians and peacekeepers cannot be tolerated by the international community, the report states. Furthermore, the persistent obstruction of UNAMSIL patrols and deployments is unacceptable and must cease immediately. Nothing short of the full cooperation of all the parties concerned, particularly the RUF, is required. A major test of the intentions of the RUF towards the peace process is the speedy return of all the weapons and equipment seized from Guinean and Kenyan troops and allowing UNAMSIL free movement throughout the country.

The Secretary-General states that one of the main priorities for the United Nations in Sierra Leone remains the speedy establishment of a credible peacekeeping presence in the country, which should create the necessary confidence and security conditions. UNAMSIL and the Secretariat are doing everything possible in that regard, and the Sierra Leonean parties must provide their full cooperation to UNAMSIL, including unconditional access to all parts of the country. UNAMSIL is to create the conditions for disarmament and national reconciliation. The Mission's presence on the ground should also facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and help to restore normalcy of life and economic activity.

According to the report, other main steps ahead in the Sierra Leone peace process include: the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority, including law enforcement, throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and the improvement of Sierra Leone's capacity to ensure its own security. Those measures would create the essential conditions for the organization of credible parliamentary and presidential elections envisaged early in 2001 and would set the stage for the economic recovery of the country.

The Secretary-General further notes that serious doubts remain about the commitment of the RUF to the peace process. Hostile public remarks by the RUF leader about UNAMSIL and its mandate have led to increasing tension between RUF fighters and UNAMSIL troops on the ground. That dangerous trend is detrimental to the peace process and should be stopped. At the same time, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General will continue to make himself available to Mr. Sankoh and other Sierra Leonean leaders for consultations and, when possible, address any justifiable concerns or doubts they may have in a transparent and constructive dialogue.

The parties to the Lomé Agreement and their international partners must make full use of such mechanisms envisaged in the Lomé Agreement as the Joint Implementation Committee, the Joint Monitoring Committee and the local ceasefire monitoring committees. Early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants should be accelerated and existing gaps and difficulties, such as living conditions in the camps, payment of allowances and the issuance of identity cards, should be addressed as a matter of urgency. In general, there is a clear need for all stakeholders to agree on a realistic target date for the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of all ex-combatants and to increase awareness about the modalities of the programme in the country. In that regard, RUF should urgently provide full and complete information on the number of combatants under its command and ensure that they comply with that programme.

It is also crucial for the Government of Sierra Leone -- through the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and its national and international partners -- to step up its efforts to implement all aspects of the disarmament and reintegration process. While some progress has been made in the planning for the reintegration of ex-combatants, much remains to be done in that respect. There is a need for close coordination with all humanitarian and development organizations, including the United Nations agencies involved.

Further, according to the report, another important aspect is the restructuring of the armed forces, which should absorb a substantial number of former combatants from all groups. That restructuring exercise should be consistent and transparent, and it should be carried out in full accordance with the relevant provisions of the Lomé Agreement.

Another crucial objective is the extension of State authority throughout the country, which is now obstructed through the continuing refusal of access to areas in the northern and eastern provinces by the RUF. That party must immediately cease interference with the circulation of goods and persons through roadblocks and clearance demands. Access to provinces is also obstructed by local authorities operating outside the Government. UNAMSIL stands ready to assist in dismantling such parallel structures and creating a secure environment for the free flow of civilian and commercial traffic, the Secretary-General states.

The humanitarian needs of all Sierra Leoneans still cannot be met in all parts of the country, which is a source of major concern, says the report. The Secretary-General recalls that the Lomé Peace Agreement clearly commits all parties to providing safe and unhindered access to all areas in the country. The rapid implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme could significantly facilitate the work of the humanitarian community in delivering much-needed assistance to all groups in need.

Regarding national reconciliation and democratization, the report states that it is important that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Human Rights Commission, both envisaged in the Lomé Agreement, soon be established with the full cooperation of all Sierra Leonean parties. It is equally important that all political parties, including the RUF, be able to participate fully in the political life of the country. The transformation of the RUF from a rebel movement into a political party, which would be fully incorporated into the political mainstream of the country, deserves necessary support. All major political parties in the country should be able to participate in the electoral campaign in 2001 and have equal access to the media.

The rehabilitation of the Sierra Leone police force plays a crucial role in all efforts to strengthen the national security system and restore the rule of law, the report states. Some progress has been achieved in that regard, but much remains to be done to meet basic needs for restoring police authority and to address special areas of concern.

The Secretary-General further notes the commitment shown by the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Alpha Oumar Konaré of Mali, in supporting the peace process in Sierra Leone. His visit to Freetown, the convening of the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee soon after his taking over of the chairmanship of ECOWAS, and the organization of a special meeting at Bamako on 1 and 2 March have provided an important impetus to peace consolidation efforts. The efforts of other leaders of the region also are crucial to keeping the peace process firmly on track.

The Secretary-General concludes that much remains to be done in Sierra Leone and that significant material and financial resources will be required to achieve the objectives before UNAMSIL. In that regard, he welcomes the organization of a donor conference in London on 27 March and appeals to the donor community to make generous contributions to the World Bank Multi-donor Trust Fund to cover the present shortfall of approximately $20 million in the funding of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. While the Multi-donor Trust Fund provides an important funding mechanism for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, it would be useful if financial support for various other aspects of the peace process, including small-scale quick-impact projects, civil affairs, the rehabilitation of the civilian police, support for political parties (including the transformation of RUF into a political party) and other democratization efforts could also be provided through United Nations mechanisms. The Secretary-General believes that it would be useful to revise, accordingly, the terms of reference of the United Nations Sierra Leone Trust Fund, which was originally set up to support the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and other peacekeeping-related efforts.

Statements on Mining Accident in Ukraine

At the outset of the meeting, ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), President of the Security Council, expressed deep sympathy to the Government and people of Ukraine for the great loss of life as a result of a recent mining catastrophe in the Barakov mine in the eastern part of Ukraine.

VOLODYMYR Y. YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) expressed gratitude for the condolences expressed in connection with the death of more than 80 coal miners. He added that the accident was being investigated.

Briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations On Situation in Sierra Leone

HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since the Secretary-General's previous report, there had been some progress in the establishment and functioning of the bodies envisaged in the Lomé Peace Agreement of 7 July 1999. However, on the whole, progress had remained slow. There had been little progress in disarmament in the northern and eastern parts of the country, while rebel groups continued to interfere with provision of humanitarian assistance and UNAMSIL patrols. A special high-level meeting in Bamako, Mali, had been organized at the beginning of March by the current Chairman of the ECOWAS, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the Sierra Leone parties to address the situation in the country. It had adopted a communiqué requesting all the parties to translate their expressions of commitment to the peace process into concrete actions.

Since the issuance of the latest report of the Secretary-General, on 9 March a meeting with the participation of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Foday Sankoh, Johnny Paul Koroma and Chief Hinga Norman, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the UNAMSIL Force Commander and the ECOMOG Force Commander. There, it had been decided to allow unhindered access to all parts of the country to international agencies and humanitarian bodies, as well as all civilians, including refugees. The Government would have full control of the country. Disarmament would take place in selected areas in the northern and eastern provinces, where facilities were in place and thereafter in other areas as facilities became available. On 10 March, the Special Representative had convened a meeting at which it had been decided that within 48 hours, the factions would remove all their checkpoints.

The security situation had generally remained tense and volatile, he continued. In several previous incidents, United Nations troops had been forced to surrender their weapons to the armed groups. Measures had been taken to retrieve the weapons and avoid such incidents in the future. There had also been several incidents when UNAMSIL convoys had been unable to reach their destinations. However, UNAMSIL was now deployed in Freetown, Lungi, Port Loko, Lunsar, Makeni, Magburake, Kenema, Daru, Mile 91, Bo and Moyanba. Efforts were being made to deploy in the eastern part of the country, but they had been unsuccessful in several cases. The Foreign Minister of Nigeria had offered to suspend for 90 days the withdrawal of his country’s troops serving in ECOMOG to avoid a vacuum of power. As a result, 2 Nigerian infantry battalions and one tank company had been incorporated into UNAMSIL to ensure the needed level of security during the establishment of that Mission.

Turning to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, he said that a significant increase in disarmament had occurred, but there was concern over the quality of weapons being surrendered by ex-combatants. The security situation in a number of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps was also a source of concern, especially in Port Loko.

He said that the human rights situation remained a cause of serious concern. There had been some improvement in those areas where UNAMSIL had been able to deploy. The activities of Sierra Leone police continued to be limited to the western part of the country, in particular Freetown. The local police still lacked the necessary personnel, facilities and equipment to fulfil essential tasks. Despite those challenges, some progress had been achieved in the training of police officers, improving service conditions, monitoring and implementing structural and personnel changes.

With the deployment of UNAMSIL military units, humanitarian access was showing signs of improvement, he said. Urgent action was still needed to address the appalling condition of health, water, sanitation and school facilities in most of the assessed areas. Meanwhile, RUF resistance to UNAMSIL deployment continued to slow humanitarian access to approximately 2.6 million war-affected Sierra Leoneans in the upper northern and eastern provinces. Only limited humanitarian assistance had been possible in the critical locations of Kambia in the northern province and Kailahun and Kono in the eastern province. Should humanitarian access increase dramatically, the United Nations agencies would require additional generous support from the international donor community.

At this stage in the peace process, it was both necessary and appropriate to look forward and sketch the main steps ahead in the Sierra Leone peace process, he said. That would help to establish the priorities and responsibilities of all concerned and provide the international community with benchmarks to measure progress. The main steps ahead should be devoted to the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and improvement of Sierra Leone's capacity to ensure its own security. It was obvious that progress towards those objectives would require a sustained commitment by all concerned, as well as significant material and financial resources. In that regard, the donor conference in London on 27 March and contributions to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund would help cover the present shortfall of the approximately $20 million in funding of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. It would also be useful if financial support could be provided for various other aspects of the peace process.

The resources alone, however, would not be sufficient, he continued. The Government, the RUF and other groups, and all Sierra Leonean leaders bore a personal responsibility for moving the peace process forward, and they should intensify their efforts towards that end. The present situation gave rise to serious doubts about the commitment of Mr. Sankoh and the RUF to the faithful implementation of the Peace Agreement. He should therefore dispel such doubts in a tangible and unequivocal manner. His participation in the 9 March meeting was a step in the right direction.

The continued ceasefire violations perpetrated against civilians and peacekeepers could not be tolerated by the international community, he said. Furthermore, the persistent obstruction of UNAMSIL patrols and deployments was unacceptable and must cease immediately. However, UNAMSIL had made significant progress in the face of considerable difficulties. The efforts of regional leaders, in particular of President Konare of Mali, the current Chairman of ECOWAS, were very much appreciated and the United Nations hoped that that those helpful efforts would continue in the future. According to press reports, President Taylor of Liberia soon intended to hold consultations with Mr. Sankoh, and his positive involvement was very much welcomed.

Statements

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that the first thing to strike him as a visitor had been the overwhelming desire of the great majority of Sierra Leoneans for peace and a normal life. Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, however, was slowing to a trickle, because combatants were not being ordered to come in. Good weapons were hidden in the bush and antique weapons were handed in.

The onus was on the political leaders to respond to the tangible desire for peace, he said. He had not gotten the commitment to peace from the main factional leaders, particularly RUF leader Foday Sankoh. The Council’s authority was being thwarted. Insisting on the proper implementation of Council decisions was an important source of pressure on the parties. The rebuilding of new, democratically accountable Sierra Leone armed forces and police was a priority. Clear and transparent selection procedures were necessary and all Sierra Leoneans, from whatever faction, should be eligible.

Elections were going to be a vital part of the implementation process. Presidential elections by end-February 2001 and parliamentary elections three months after that were necessary. The Security Council should be aware that UNAMSIL had not gotten off to a fully successful start. The people had somehow come to believe that the United Nations was responsible for removing the ECOMOG, whom they trusted to protect them, and replacing them with poorly equipped and motivated United Nations contingents. The Council must monitor that aspect carefully, and insist that UNAMSIL was brought up to full strength, in quality as well as quantity.

He said that donor support was vital. The high-level donor meeting in London on 27 March would further energize political and financial support for the peace process and identify the priorities for international funding over the coming period. Council members should endorse the Secretary-General’s report. They should call upon all signatories to the Lomé Agreement, in particular Mr. Sankoh and the RUF, to reaffirm and demonstrate a concrete commitment to the peace process by allowing the extension of State authority throughout Sierra Leone, in full cooperation with UNAMSIL and the United Nations team as a whole, and by instructing the RUF membership to disarm and surrender all weapons.

AGAM HASMY (Malaysia) said that considering the reports coming from Sierra Leone, today’s meeting was of particular importance. The developments and shortcomings in the implementation of the Lomé Agreement had been highlighted by the Secretary-General’s report. The hostile and conflicting public statements by the leader of the RUF were regrettable and raised questions about his commitment to the peace process. Continued harassment of civilians was unacceptable and must stop immediately.

The situation remained volatile, he continued, and it was important to bring the number of international military personnel to the planned number. It was imperative to respond assertively to the blocking of roads by armed groups. A firm line should be taken with former rebel leaders as far as human rights abuses were concerned. The recommendations of the Secretary-General should be implemented. Sierra Leone’s capacity to ensure self-government should be supported, and its Government must receive the much-needed materials and financial resources. A shortfall in funding should be overcome, and the appeal for financial assistance should be supported.

ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) said that the report of the Secretary-General pointed out some positive developments, but most news was bad. Intimidation and human rights violations had continued. The situation was unacceptable, and the responsibility lay primarily with Mr. Sankoh. The disarmament and reintegration of ex-combatants had proceeded slowly because of the lack of commitment on the part of the RUF. Mr. Sankoh took part in the Government, all the while “dragging his feet when it came to fulfilling his part of the deal” under the agreement. He was, in fact, trying to intimidate the international community.

The success of the measures indicated by the Secretary-General depended on the enforcement of compliance by the RUF with the terms of the agreement. The Security Council must show that its patience with Mr. Sankoh was running out. No efforts should be spared in ensuring full deployment of UNAMSIL in the country. It was also important to avoid the security vacuum during the transfer of power.

Mr. YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) said that the progress of several implementation organizations in Sierra Leone had been encouraging. The prospect for stability in the country depended on the political will of the parties. The security situation remained tense, however. The lack in compliance with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme constituted a source of concern.

The humanitarian challenges in Sierra Leone were a source of concern, he said. It should be reiterated that those responsible for atrocities should be held accountable as soon as possible. The Secretary-General should be commended for the tireless efforts of the United Nations in Sierra Leone. He called upon all Sierra Leone parties to maintain a credible relation with UNAMSIL forces. The Security Council should signal that real and urgent deeds were expected for the implementation of the Lomé Agreement.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said that recently the situation in Sierra Leone had remained stable. However, the performance of the RUF, and Mr. Sankoh in particular, had become the major roadblock to the peace process. He was deeply concerned about the slow progress of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and deeply disturbed by the human rights violations.

He emphasized that the RUF should unconditionally implement the provisions, be actively involved in the disarmament process and stop looting and kidnapping. The international community should continue its support for the peace process. He welcomed the donors meeting in London.

The deployment of UNAMSIL had progressed efficiently, he said. He hoped that the Mission would continue to play a positive role and supported the extension of the report cycle to 60 days.

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that there was a clear indication that most people in Sierra Leone wanted peace. That made the lack of compliance with UNAMSIL and the continuation of human rights abuses intolerable. Disarmament and demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants were of particular importance, and the low quality of the surrendered weapons remained a source of concern.

Today’s briefing and the report of the Secretary-General had noted several positive developments, which included the set-up of the national election commission, she continued. The contribution of UNAMSIL should be commended. She fully supported the expansion of UNAMSIL forces in Sierra Leone and the appointment of a senior children’s rights monitor. Continued reports about the poor humanitarian situation were a source of concern. She strongly urged the Council to send a strong message to the forces in Sierra Leone to cooperate with relief agencies. The Council should also make it clear to the RUF leadership that it must cooperate with UNAMSIL.

Violence against civil police officers must stop, she said. The current leadership of ECOWAS should be commended in its role in the fulfillment of the Lomé Agreement. The same was true for the leadership of Nigeria, which had provided important assistance in Sierra Leone. A strategic framework approach should be adopted to ensure coherence among partners. Once the security situation had been stabilized, attention should be paid to the economic development of the country. In that respect, the upcoming international donor conference would be particularly important. Insecurity and terror against civilians must stop, and an international presence must provide a climate of security and confidence. Sierra Leone’s capacity to provide its own security must be reinforced, and the elections in the country must be supported. Much depended on the political will of the parties to implement the Agreement.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said he shared the appraisal of the situation indicated in the report. The situation in Sierra Leone was fragile, even though progress had been made. The Joint Implementation Committee acknowledged that establishing lasting peace in Sierra Leone was the first responsibility of the involved parties.

The high-level meeting of ECOWAS in Bamaku on 1 and 2 March had stressed the slowness of the disarmament process and the need for the establishment of proper government institutions. Obstacles placed by the RUF in the path of UNAMSIL deployment should be lifted immediately. Immediate return by the RUF of weapons seized from Guinean and Kenyan forces was also called for. The meeting also stressed the need to speed up the establishment of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres, he reported.

It had also been agreed that efforts to implement the provisions of the Lomé Agreement would be boosted by receipt of additional resources, he said. He endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations.

Following a suspension -– from 1:27 to 3:26 p.m. -- SELMA ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) said that the security situation in Sierra Leone was certainly worrying. In all conflicts, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration had proved to be most difficult. The process depended on the commitment of the parties, but also depended on the extent of support from the international community. With regard to the human rights situation, she underscored that perpetrators of violence against civilians and aid workers were not covered by the amnesty under the Lomé Agreement. The human rights situation in the RUF-held areas was most disturbing.

The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was being held back by the RUF, she continued. There was a need to examine how UNAMSIL could maximize its progress in that area. One of the main priorities for the United Nations in Sierra Leone remained the speedy establishment of a credible peacekeeping presence throughout the country to create the necessary climate of confidence and security conditions for the implementation of various aspects of the peace process. She stressed that for national reconciliation and democratization to prosper in Sierra Leone, all parties should cooperate; the international community should assist in that regard.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said that the Secretary-General’s report presented a comprehensive picture of the situation in the country and he noted with satisfaction the progress made. It was necessary to speed up the peace process and support the elections in Sierra Leone. The situation was still disquieting, particularly in view of the reluctance of the RUF leadership to cooperate in the implementation of the Lomé Agreement. It was essential for that party to fulfil its responsibilities in good faith, especially in view of the fact that Mr. Sankoh held an important position in the Government of the country.

Continuing, he said that the obstacles in the way of humanitarian assistance and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration had become a daily practice. That situation needed to be reversed. The proposals of the Secretary-General required full support. The most urgent steps to be taken included a rapid establishment of the peacekeeping mission on the whole territory of the country, the speeding up of deployment of civilian police officers in the field and increased financial assistance to the country. The question of development should be one of the priorities because of the close connection between development and lasting peace. Resettlement of refugees and displaced persons was also important.

OSVALDO MARSICO (Argentina) said that the lack of commitment to the Lomé Agreement by the rebel forces was cause for concern. There had been serious attacks against UNAMSIL personnel, and he condemned the violations of human rights carried out by the rebel forces. Crimes against humanity had no exemptions under the amnesty. The personnel of UNAMSIL might face hostile actions and the rules of engagement should be applied according to the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Given the situation, the relevant resolution should be applied firmly. The illegal sale of diamonds should also come to a halt.

The expansion of UNAMSIL had begun to have positive results, he said. The human rights situation had also improved. For the deployment to be possible, the parties, in particular the rebel parties, should cooperate fully with the Mission. What was needed was a clear commitment to peace from all parties, especially the rebel forces.

NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said that the mission in Sierra Leone was one of the most difficult ones today, and it deserved international attention. She shared the view that the people of Sierra Leone were committed to peace, and the international community should help them to achieve it. The failure of RUF leader Foday Sankoh to live up to his promises was disquieting. Without the RUF’s commitment, it would be difficult to implement the Lomé peace accord. It was important to send a message to him that he had to reverse his behaviour.

The second problem was the fact that the United Nations operation was not fully up and running, she continued. It would take several months for the Mission to expand, and it was up to the international community to provide the necessary resources. The donor conference in London should help in that respect. Until a full peacekeeping force was on the ground, the Mission would have difficulties in fulfilling its mandate. It was necessary to reiterate the international commitment in Sierra Leone. She also wanted to underscore the concern over the human rights situation in the country, especially in relation to women and girls.

ANDRAS VAMOS-GOLDMAN (Canada) said the modest progress made in implementing the Lomé Agreement and in establishing various bodies towards that end, notably the Commissions of Consolidation of Peace and Truth and Reconciliation, gave some encouragement. Canada was gratified about the improvement in the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the country, mostly in the areas where UNAMSIL had been deployed. That confirmed that a robust troop commitment in support of a strong mandate was the best contribution the Council could make to individual security.

It was important, he said, that troop-contributing countries provide their contingents with adequate equipment to use the full measure of their mandate and rules of engagement. That was particularly important in the context of sporadic acts of aggression and systematic interference by ex-rebel elements against United Nations and humanitarian personnel. Canada was concerned that, without an adequate resource base, UNAMSIL’s ability to protect civilians might erode with future confrontations.

All parties in Sierra Leone had an obligation to ensure the protection of civilians and the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he continued. They should recall that the amnesty provisions of the Lomé Agreement did not apply to offences committed since the signing. The parties must refrain from interfering with the free movement of people, goods and particularly UNAMSIL and humanitarian personnel, through the use of illegal roadblocks.

He said Canada was gravely concerned with reports that the RUF had begun to lay landmines near Bendu, presumably with a view to interfering with UNAMSIL deployments to the area. That would be a basic and grievous violation of the Lomé Agreement. A tangible expression of commitment to the peace process was needed from the RUF and Mr. Sankoh.

ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) noted the progress on the ground in Sierra Leone and said that further expansion of UNAMSIL would help re-establish normal life in the country. He expressed gratitude to the Government of Nigeria, which had helped to build a favourable climate for the increased United Nations presence in the country.

Continuing, he expressed concern over the dangerous trend of increased tensions between the RUF combatants and the military personnel of the Mission. Recalling the incidents when UNAMSIL personnel had encountered difficulties in reaching their destinations and when they had been forced to surrender their weapons to the rebels, he said that those unlawful actions had followed the same kind of logic as the recent hostile statements on behalf of Mr. Sankoh. It was appropriate for the Council to warn the RUF about the consequences of such incidents.

His country supported the view of the Secretary-General concerning the four key areas on which future United Nations action should be focused, he continued. He was convinced that progress was possible solely in conditions of cooperation between the Government of Sierra Leone, the RUF and other groups in the country. He called on all parties to cooperate in the implementation of the Lomé Agreement, for such cooperation was a decisive factor. His country was ready to continue to render assistance to the Mission in Sierra Leone. Currently, it was conducting negotiations regarding introducing a Russian unit into the composition of UNAMSIL. Commending a high level of participation in the international efforts to normalize the situation in Sierra Leone, he also underlined the role of regional leaders, including the current Chair of ECOWAS.

Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), President of the Security Council, speaking in his national capacity, said reports of obstruction of UNAMSIL forces, seizure of arms from its troops and the refusal of rebel groups, in particular the RUF, to cooperate with the Mission were unacceptable. Only the early establishment of a credible peacekeeping mission throughout the country could create the security conditions essential for peace. During recent months, the activities of Mr. Sankoh and the RUF had also been suspicious, he noted. The RUF still needed to provide a list of combatants and had handed over very few weapons. The Council should be prepared to take specific measures for him and the RUF to comply fully with the Lomé Peace Agreement.

The slow movement in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process remained another concern, he said. The report had stated that the slow deployment of UNAMSIL, among other factors, had hindered that progress, but the success of the programme would ultimately depend on the ability of the Government, through its relevant national commission, and in cooperation with its national and international partners to fully implement the disarmament process. In that regard, he wondered whether Mr. Annabi saw a short or medium-term possibility of the Sierra Leonean police becoming effective and participating in the process.

Unless a democratically elected national Government was established throughout the State with administrative control over all economic activities, the peace process could not be successful, he said. The report had pointed out that UNAMSIL had no mandate to prevent illegal activities and the Council could examine that limitation in the future.

SYLVESTER ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that his country acknowledged that the peace process as a whole had been slow, and that there had been little progress in disarmament in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The Government of Sierra Leone had consistently demonstrated its commitment to all aspects of the peace process. The same could not be said for the other party to the Lomé Agreement. There remained serious doubts about the commitment of the RUF to the peace process. The RUF should take immediate and convincing measures to dispel doubts about its commitment.

President Kabbah had visited several areas of the country, he said. He had wanted to help break the cycle of distrust, suspicion and misconceptions about disarmament, and stress the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. In response to the President’s appeal, there had been an impressive disarmament exercise by the Civil Defense Forces.

He said that disarmament and demobilization remained the highest priority on the peace agenda. Those were closely linked to security, the protection of human rights, the unimpeded flow of humanitarian relief to victims of the rebel war, and of course to the capacity of the nation to concentrate on rehabilitation and reconstruction of the economy and other aspects of the life and livelihood of the nation. There was a clear need for all the stakeholders to agree on a realistic target date for the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of all combatants. As a first step, the RUF should provide, as a matter of urgency, full and complete information on the number of RUF combatants under its command, and ensure that they complied with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. “The process cannot and should not be prolonged indefinitely”, he said.

Responding to questions raised in the discussion, Mr. ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that a number of projects were under way to provide vocational training and increase literacy in the country. Those projects were to be financed through the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Regarding the mechanisms to allow the people of Sierra Leone to take advantage of their natural resources, he said that the United Nations would like the country to use its rich resources in support of reconstruction and development. A national commission had been set up for the management of strategic resources, reconstruction and development, but it had not yet adopted a programme of work or started to follow up on the Government’s efforts in taxation and other efforts to control the diamonds trade.

Turning to the recent hearings in the Parliament of Sierra Leone, he said that Mr. Sankoh had failed to respond to the invitation to participate in those discussions. Regarding the deployment of civilian police, he said that offers had been received from countries to provide for about half the required number of police advisers. He would appreciate additional offers, keeping in mind equitable geographic representation.

Concern had been expressed in the debate regarding the withdrawal of several humanitarian organizations from the country, he said. While a couple of such organizations had in fact withdrawn, most recently established humanitarian operations were continuing, and further work was being carried out. On the question of ECOMOG troops currently participating in the transition to UNAMSIL, he said that three countries -- Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea -- were continuing in UNAMSIL. Equipment shortfalls would be addressed in the near future. The contingent for which incorporation had been less smooth was a battalion from Guinea, which had been forced to surrender much of its equipment and weapons. Efforts were being made to face the challenges in that regard.

The activities of Sierra Leone’s police were limited to the western part of the country, he continued. It was not an easy task, for the police lacked the necessary equipment and facilities. Support in that respect would be appreciated. With improved access to various parts of the country, further deployment of the police would become possible. Civilian police advisers would support the Sierra Leone police officers in their work. Regarding the reporting schedule, he said that the next report of the Secretary-General would be submitted 60 days from the March report -- on 7 May. He appreciated support from the Members regarding the reporting schedule change.

In conclusion, Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), Council President, said that the Members of the Council had agreed on a statement that would be delivered to the press following the meeting. The Council had also agreed on the extension of the time of periodic reports from 45 to 60 days.

Elements of the statement to the press would include the endorsement in general by the Members of the contents of the Secretary-General's report, he said. The Council placed great weight on the early implementation of all elements of the Lomé Agreement. They would express their disappointment at the slow implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and call upon all signatories, particularly Mr. Sankoh and the RUF, to demonstrate the concrete commitment to the peace process. The State authority should be allowed to extend to the whole territory of the country, and the RUF members should be instructed to surrender all weapons. The Council would urge Member States to strictly enforce the travel ban enforced by the Council. It would also urge Member States to contribute generously to the peace process and development in Sierra Leone through the upcoming donor conference in London. The Council would remain seized of the matter.

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