Sierra Leone: UN envoy praises stability and urges calm ahead of polls next year

Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone Michael von der Schulenburg. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

12 September 2011 – Sierra Leone remains on track to become a stable democracy with a viable economy, but recent violent incidents between rival political groups have highlighted the potential for unrest, the United Nations envoy for the West African country told the Security Council today.

“I feel that [this] is an occasion to commend in this Council the people of Sierra Leone for what has been achieved during the last nine years in consolidating peace and building a democratic society,” said Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for Sierra Leone, when he presented the UN chief’s latest report on the country to the Council.

On the recent clashes between supporters of the two main political parties, Mr. Schulenburg, urged Sierra Leonean politicians not to forget what the country has achieved, build on those accomplishments and conduct their affairs responsibly.

“Elections are still one and a half years away and this must not start to embitter the social and political climate in Sierra Leone,” said Mr. Schulenburg, who is also the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).

He called for resolving of outstanding issues ahead of the next year’s general elections, including reaching agreement on the polls’ legal framework and an electoral code of conduct. Mr. Schulenburg voiced support for the idea of an inclusive and non-partisan national conference floated by President Ernest Bai Koroma to discuss the country’s future.

He told the Security Council that Sierra Leone’s economy continues to grow and that the Government was implementing infrastructure projects and pursuing a policy of privatization. Iron mining is expected to generate considerable revenues for the country in the coming years, he said, cautioning that transparent management of new resources could pose challenges.

Widespread poverty, youth unemployment and limited capacity for the delivery of social services, however, continue to put a damper on the country’s development potential, Mr. Schulenburg said.

“Notwithstanding the creation of the Youth Commission and concerted efforts by development partners, no substantive success has been made in fighting Sierra Leone’s rampant youth unemployment,” he said.

He called for the better targeting of development programmes implemented through better cooperation between the Government, its development partners and the private sector.

Sierra Leone is one of six countries – along with Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia – on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up in 2005 to help post-conflict countries avoid slipping back into war.

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