ECOWAS ASKS SECURITY COUNCIL TO SEND 'UNEQUIVOCAL MESSAGE' TO SIERRA LEONE REGIME TO RETURN LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT KABBAH TO POWER

11 July 1997
SC/6393

ECOWAS ASKS SECURITY COUNCIL TO SEND 'UNEQUIVOCAL MESSAGE' TO SIERRA LEONE REGIME TO RETURN LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT KABBAH TO POWER

11 July 1997

Press ReleaseSC/6393

ECOWAS ASKS SECURITY COUNCIL TO SEND 'UNEQUIVOCAL MESSAGE' TO SIERRA LEONE REGIME TO RETURN LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT OF PRESIDENT KABBAH TO POWER

19970711 Zimbabwe's Representative Expresses OAU Chairman's Support for ECOWAS 'Noble Mission'

The Security Council should send a clear and unequivocal message to the regime in Sierra Leone to comply with the demands of the international community and return power to the legitimate Government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Tom Ikimi, told the Council this afternoon on behalf of his colleagues from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. The four Ministers constitute the Committee of Four on Sierra Leone, which was formed at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at Conakry, on 26 June.

Addressing the Council on the situation in Sierra Leone, Mr. Ikimi said that, if they were not contained, developments in Sierra Leone might affect the progress being made in Liberia and create refugee problems in other countries in the region such as Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and the Gambia. "We have a responsibility to ensure that the situation in Sierra Leone, which could bring us to the path of another major engagement as we witnessed in Liberia, is nipped in the bud", he added.

He told the Council that the ECOWAS Foreign Minister had agreed to restore President Kabbah through dialogue, sanctions/embargo and the use of force. While concern had been expressed about the use of force to resolve the crisis, it was recognized that the other two options could not be achieved without military force.

Also addressing the Council, the Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe said that his President and current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Robert Mugabe, had expressed support for ECOWAS noble mission on behalf of Sierra Leone. Africa called upon the Security Council to unconditionally support the efforts of ECOWAS and the OAU in seeking the "non- recognition and demise" of the military regime in Sierra Leone and the restoration of democratic government in that country.

The Council's meeting on Sierra Leone was requested in a letter dated 9 July addressed by Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the Council President (document S/1997/531). The letter states that the deterioration of conditions in that country since the 25 May coup d'état against President

Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6393 3797th Meeting (PM) 11 July 1997

Ahmed Tejan Kabbah had led to a meeting of the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers at Conakry, on 26 June. At that meeting, a Committee of Four -- Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria -- was formed to ensure the implementation of the measures adopted.

In their final communiqué, circulated as an annex to a letter dated 27 June from Nigeria's Permanent Representative (document S/1997/499), the ECOWAS Ministers expressed their decision to "work towards the reinstatement of the legitimate government by a combination of three measures, namely, dialogue, imposition of sanctions and enforcement of an embargo, and the use of force". They stressed that no country should recognize the regime that overthrew President Kabbah and called on the international community to support ECOWAS initiatives on Sierra Leone.

The meeting, called to order at 12:29 p.m., was adjourned at 12:53 p.m.

Statements

TOM IKIMI, Foreign Minister of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Committee of Four on Sierra Leone -- Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria -- said developments in that country were a cause of immediate concern. If they were not contained, the developments might affect the progress being made in Liberia and create refugee problems in other countries in the region such as Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and the Gambia. "We have a responsibility to ensure that the situation in Sierra Leone, which could bring us to the path of another major engagement as we witnessed in Liberia, is nipped in the bud", he added.

The Minister said he and his colleagues had been encouraged by the universal condemnation of the coup in Sierra Leone by, for example, the OAU Summit at Harare, which had not only condemned the coup, but also endorsed the action taken by ECOWAS to reverse the situation. The United Nations Secretary-General, too, had condemned the coup and called for a restoration of legitimate authority in that country. That position was subsequently reinforced by a presidential statement of the Security Council.

Since the coup, he continued, the Chairman of ECOWAS had consulted with other heads of State in the subregion on how best to address the situation. As a result of those talks, a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the region was held at Conakry, where they agreed to the objectives of reinstating the legitimate Government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the return of peace and security to Sierra Leone, and a resolution of the issue of refugees and displaced persons. They then agreed on the means to achieve the objectives through dialogue, sanctions/embargo and the use of force. While concern was expressed by some delegations about the use of force to resolve the present crisis, it was recognized that the other two options could not be achieved without military force. The meeting also created the Committee of Four.

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After their Conakry meeting, the Minister said, he and his counterparts reported to the President of Guinea, who endorsed their report and expressed the view that Sierra Leone's illegal regime should be removed from office immediately. They then briefed President Kabbah, who endorsed their conclusions.

On 5 July, he continued, the Committee of Four had presented the report of the Foreign Ministers' meetings to the Chairman of ECOWAS, who endorsed its recommendations and mandated it to take the necessary steps outlined in the ECOWAS plan. The Ministers are to report back to the Chairman in two weeks. The ECOWAS Chairman had also directed the Committee to brief the Secretary- General and the Security Council on the situation in order to obtain their support and encouragement. Under the Arria formula*, the ECOWAS perspectives on the situation's gravity and the need for prompt action by the international community in support of ECOWAS' efforts were amply emphasized. "The people of Sierra Leone and member States of ECOWAS, and indeed the entire continent of Africa, look with great expectation to the outcome of our present meeting and the support of the Council. That support, we hope, should be a clear an unequivocal message to the regime in Sierra Leone to comply with the demands of the international community and return power to the legitimate Government of President Tejan Kabbah."

MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe) said that President Robert Mugabe, the current OAU Chairman, had expressed support for the "noble mission" of the Foreign Ministers of ECOWAS on behalf of Sierra Leone. The recent meeting of OAU Ministers in Harare had unequivocally condemned the 25 May coup d'état in Sierra Leone. The mounting of that coup on Africa Day had been a brazen challenge to the will and determination of the OAU. The OAU was dedicated to resolving violent conflicts in the continent and to nurturing democracy in Africa, he said.

The coup had also constituted an act of defiance to the United Nations and the international community at large, he said. Africa stood firmly behind the elected Government of Sierra Leone and called upon the Security Council to unconditionally support the efforts of ECOWAS and the OAU in seeking the "non- recognition and demise" of the military regime in Sierra Leone and the restoration of democratic government in that country.

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__________ * The Arria formula is a very informal consultation process initiated by Diego Arria of Venezuela, which affords members of the Security Council the opportunity to hear persons in a confidential, informal setting. These meetings are presided over by a member of the Council as service facilitator for the discussion and not by the President of the Council.

For information media. Not an official record.