SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

7 February 2000
SC/6800

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

7 February 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6800

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING

20000207

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, in a briefing to the Security Council on Sierra Leone this afternoon, told members that it was important to impress on all parties the need to implement the Lomé Agreement and to fulfil their commitments under the Agreement. Observing that there had been several incidents last month in which the troops of the UNITED Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had been confronted by rebel troops and had not responded satisfactorily, he stressed the need to apply UNAMSIL's rules of engagement strictly.

In his review of the security situation in Sierra Leone, he stated there remained an apparent ambivalence on the part of rebel commanders regarding the implementation of the Lomé Agreement. He noted that in places outside of Freetown and Lungi, which remained relatively stable, there had been an increase in rebel activity. He called attention to the delay in humanitarian activities caused by continued harassment of humanitarian workers.

Following his remarks, the representatives of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Mali and Bangladesh also spoke.

The meeting which began at 12:20 p.m., was adjourned at 1 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi on the situation in Sierra Leone. It had before it the second report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), in which he provides updates on the status of the peace process, on security conditions on the ground and the continued level of deployment of personnel of the Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOMOG) (S/2000/13 and Add.1).

The Secretary-General recalls his letter of 23 December to the President of the Council (SC/1999/1223) in which he states that Nigeria had decided to repatriate Nigerian troops participating in ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. In that letter, he also recommended that the Council authorize, as soon as possible, the expansion of the military component of UNAMSIL and that the mandate of the Mission be broadened to enable it to assume functions now performed by ECOMOG, in particular the provision of security at Lungi airport and at key installations, buildings and government institutions in and around Freetown. In the current report, the Secretary-General reiterates that recommendation. He emphasizes, however, that the expanded mandate would not fundamentally change the nature of the mandate, which is based on the requirement stipulated in the Lomé Agreement for a neutral peacekeeping force. The main focus of UNAMSIL activities would continue to be cooperation with the Government and other parties in the implementation of the Lomé Agreement.

Under the expanded mandate, he says, UNAMSIL's tasks would also include guarding the weapons and ammunition retrieved during the disarmament process and assisting in their destruction, as well as helping the Government, within the limits of its mandate, to recover illegal arms, a task that would remain essentially a national responsibility. The expanded force would also contribute to the free circulation of people and goods and the delivery of humanitarian assistance along selected key roads and perform other functions. The UNAMSIL would continue, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking into account the responsibilities of the Government.

Describing the concept of operations under the expanded mandate the Secretary-General says that UNAMSIL would continue to function with the cooperation of the parties, but, through its military presence, military capabilities and posture, be able to deter attempts to derail the peace process. The proposed concept of UNAMSIL would:

-- Establish a substantial presence at key locations and government buildings, in particular in Freetown, important intersections and major airports, including Lungi airport;

-- Provide additional security at disarmament, demobilization and reintegration sites and guard and destroy weapons and ammunition collected from ex-combatants;

-- Conduct extensive mobile patrols, in particular throughout Freetown and in the vicinity of UNAMSIL fixed positions throughout the country;

-- Conduct frequent patrols and, if necessary, provide armed escorts on important roads to ensure the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance along main thoroughfares;

-- Affirm, when necessary, through the deployment of the UNAMSIL rapid reaction element, the commitment of the United Nations to the peace process;

-- Maintain adequate reserves to ensure flexibility and sufficient reaction capabilities and reinforce its positions or patrols when necessary; and

-- Maintain close coordination with the Sierra Leonean law enforcement authorities in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Continuing, the Secretary-General says that the expanded United Nations force would require up to 11,100 military personnel, including 260 military observers, 12 infantry battalions, force and sector headquarters personnel, 2 military engineer companies, adequate medical personnel and facilities, communications and transport units, a helicopter and aviation element and other military support elements. Most battalions would be largely self-sustaining, with any additional logistical support being provided by civilian contractors. He notes that extensive efforts to identify Member States willing to contribute a military logistic support unit have been unsuccessful.

According to the report, the increase in the number of infantry battalions from 6 to 12 would make it necessary to establish sectoral command and control structures, which would require approximately 200 military personnel each. The required engineering companies would engage in demining and repair of essential roads, bridges and camp facilities. Since mine warfare has been a feature of the conflict in certain areas of Sierra Leone, a mine action capacity will be required as part of UNAMSIL. The force would be deployed in four sectors, each of which would include important population centres and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities, as well as vital communication lines. The total number of troops of an expanded UNAMSIL would be subject to periodic review. As the overall security situation in the country improves, the Secretary-General would be prepared to recommend to the Security Council a reduction in the force level.

He goes on to say that the new tasks falling to UNAMSIL would require robust rules of engagement for the entire United Nations force. Although the current rules of engagement are deemed to be sufficiently strong, UNAMSIL will keep the rules of engagement under constant review and propose any adjustments that may be required.

In addition, he says, up to 60 United Nations civilian police advisers, who would advise and assist, in close cooperation with other international efforts, the Government of Sierra Leone and local police officials on the restructuring and training of the Sierra Leonean police forces, would be required. They would also be deployed at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration sites and population centres to provide advice on the maintenance of law and order.

The Secretary-General stresses the importance of maintaining law and order in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps. The problem can best be addressed through a preventive approach, including an enhanced information policy, political engagement between the rebel leaders and the Government, efforts to shorten the period of encampment as much as possible and the general rehabilitation of the country. However, law and order problems have already occurred and should be expected when large numbers of ex-combatants are cantoned. UNAMSIL should be prepared, if needed, to assist the Government in its efforts to maintain law and order at the sites. In that regard, the Government must deploy a credible law enforcement presence at the sites as soon as possible. Given the present lack of adequately trained police personnel and equipment, the Secretary-General encourages donors to provide the necessary assistance to the Government.

In an addendum, the Secretary-General states that the financial implications of the expansion of UNAMSIL for a four-and-a-half month period from 15 February to 30 June 2000 would require an addition of some $100.8 million. The total estimated cost of UNOMSIL/UNAMSIL from the period July 1999 to 30 June 2000 is projected at $310.8 million, inclusive of $200 million already appropriated by the General Assembly. The additional resources will be sought from the Assembly.

Statement by Assistant Secretary-General

HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, recalled that following its announcement that Nigeria would withdraw, the Nigerian Government later agreed to suspend the withdrawal if those troops could be included as part of the United Nations force in Sierra Leone. Talks were held in Freetown today to discuss the modalities of including Nigerian troops and equipment. With the withdrawal of ECOMOG, UNAMSIL had to accelerate the deployment of its troops. The total strength stood at 4,830 personnel. Some of the battalions, however, lacked essential equipment, thus affecting their capabilities.

He said that last month there had been several incidents in which UNAMSIL troops had been confronted by rebel troops and had not responded satisfactorily. The matter was addressed at the troop contributors meeting and at the meeting for representatives of the major troop contributors on Friday. The need to apply UNAMSIL’s rules of engagement strictly was impressed on the participants. Johnny Koroma was also informed of the need to put an end to such actions by the rebel troops.

Describing the security situation in Sierra Leone, he said there had been an increase of rebel activity in places outside of Freetown and Lungi. Since the Council was last briefed, more than 60 child soldiers had been released. As of the end of last month, over 7,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed. There remained, however, ambivalence on the part of rebel commanders, thus raising questions about their commitment to honour the Lomé Agreement. He cautioned that any deadline for disarmament must be realistic.

Regarding the human rights situation, he said there was an investigation of human rights abuses in Port Loco and Kabala. There were almost daily reports of human rights abuses in Port Loco. Abuses had somewhat subsided in Kabala. In RUF-dominated areas, the continued imposition of so-called taxation was having an effect on food supplies. Plans for the rapid extension of humanitarian activities continued to be delayed by continued harassment of humanitarian workers. Accordingly, the activities of the humanitarian agencies have had to remain limited.

At a meeting of the Joint Military Commission held in late January, members agreed to undertake visits to the provinces in order to give fresh impetus to the peace process, but the implementation of the Lomé Agreement remained difficult. He noted that Johnny Koroma had resigned from the Army in order to facilitate his political activities.

He went on to say that it was important for members of the region and the Council to impress on all parties the need to implement the Lomé Agreement and to cooperate in implementation of their commitments under the Agreement. It was important to also pursue the efforts to train the military police to further facilitate the peace process.

Statements

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) asked if there were still shortfalls in equipment or whether those shortfalls were being filled by civilian contractors. Further, which countries had agreed to contribute and what was the time frame for the operation?

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said the draft resolution before the Council focused on the shortcomings of the Agreement. It underlined that the responsibility of the peace process ultimately lay with the parties themselves. Some important aspects of the peace process had experienced delays. The parties must make every effort to speed up the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. They must also refrain from activities against the United Nations forces and refrain also from defamatory statements against the United Nations. The mechanism set up in the Lomé Agreement must become fully operational.

He said the activities of Robert Fowler of Canada had opened the Council’s eyes to the role which natural resources played in exacerbating disputes, a fact that was relevant in the West African context. The Council was responsible to see that the letter and spirit of the accord were respected.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) emphasized the strong commitment of ECOWAS to bringing about a speedy peace to Sierra Leone. He hoped to see the rapid implementation of the draft resolution that was before the Council. ANRAWUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the situation in Sierra Leone was still precarious and peace was of critical significance. He supported the expansion of UNAMSIL and welcomed the recommendations of the Secretary-General. He asked if Mr. Annabi could brief the Council on the conditions on the ground in Sierra Leone. He also questioned whether 60 civilian police would be adequate to train the Sierra Leone police. He supported the idea of discussing the role of natural resources in keeping the accord from being implemented.

Responding, Mr. ANNABI said that UNAMSIL troops were expected to come fully equipped and to be self-sustaining for a period of 60 days. Some troops had difficulties in meeting those requirements. It had been necessary to deploy some troops before they were ready. The Secretariat was working with the contributors to see how best to make up the shortfalls in equipment. They were also working with civilian contractors, in that regard. There was always a delay, but the main difficulty stemmed from a shortfall of equipment to certain contingents, which was supposed to have been made available, but had not.

He expected that, in addition to the two Nigerian battalions, there would be another two battalions, as well as a motorized company. Four other countries were waiting for the adoption of the resolution before confirming their offers.

The present 60 civilian police were a significant increase over the 6 that had been there previously, he said. It was felt that 60 was enough to carry out the task. They were only going to advise on training and restructure. They would establish a presence on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration sites and key locations solely for the purpose of advice.

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For information media. Not an official record.