Sierra Leone: Sustaining the hard-won peace


Sierra Leone has come a long way since the arrival of the first United Nations peacekeepers in 1999.While the country has made significant strides in the past six years, with the assistance of the UN and other partners, these achievements need to be consolidated and sustained. Concerted efforts are required to address the root causes of the conflict and the prevailing stability has yet to produce tangible economic dividends and social benefits for the majority of Sierra Leoneans.


To assist the Government of Sierra Leone in addressing these challenges, the Security Council established a follow-on mission, the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL).The Integrated Office – operational since 1 January 2006 – in collaboration with the Government and the entire UN Country Team, has already made some progress in consolidating peace, enhancing democratic transformation and building national capacity for conflict prevention.


The Secretary-General’s visit to Sierra Leone in July, provided an opportunity for both the Government and the UN to review developments in the country. Progress made includes the finalization of the peace consolidation strategy, prepared jointly by the Government and UNIOSIL, as well as reform of the security sector, promotion of good governance, and democratic transition. In addition, the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2006- 2007 has been revised and signed to prioritize and focus the support of the UN system in the social and economic areas that contribute to increase security, improve access to justice, and enhance human development.


However,without substantial progress in economic and social development, the achievements reached so far could unravel, the country’s Vice-President, Solomon Berewa, told the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) during its first country-specific meeting in October. Seizing the opportunity to alert the international community to the urgent need to accelerate efforts towards peacebuilding, Mr. Berewa said: “We are here because we are beginning to hear the alarm bells that signal very credible threats to our peace."


The head of UNIOSIL and Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Victor Angelo, at the same meeting emphasized that it was essential for the international community to help address the root causes of the country’s conflict,which still threaten the peace.


Many potential sources of tension remain, including poverty, regional instability, corruption and lack of accountability, youth unemployment, weaknesses in the rule of law and low capacity for public services delivery. There are fears that progress might stagnate as international attention turns to other crises. UNIOSIL is designed to assist the Government in tackling these concerns and to ensure a cohesive approach among UN agencies, funds and programmes.


The second presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone since the end of the conflict will be held in July 2007. With the support of UNIOSIL and other external partners, preparations for the elections have included the completion of the electoral boundary demarcation exercise. The elections are critical for the country’s continued progress on the path to stability,democratization and development. In addition to some constraints facing the electoral process, there are indications of growing intolerance among some political actors that could lead to violent campaigns and disruption of the process.These tendencies suggest that the UN and the wider international community should pay greater attention to the forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone.


UNIOSIL is the first Security Council mandated follow-on mission with a broad mandate in the political, security, human rights and development areas, in an integrated manner. But first experiences have already shown that it is hard to attract resources to overcome the heritage of yesterday's crisis.


UNIOSIL's primarily challenge will be to sustain the international attention necessary to consolidate peace that is still in the making. The inclusion of Sierra Leone on the agenda of the PBC is an encouraging indication of continued engagement of the international community in Sierra Leone. In this regard, the Government, national partners and civil society organizations, are working in collaboration with UNIOSIL, the UN Country Team and other external partners to ensure a well coordinated and effective engagement with the PBC.


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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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