SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS CONTINUED CROSS-BORDER ATTACKS ALONG BORDER AREA OF SIERRA LEONE, GUINEA AND LIBERIA

3 November 2000
SC/6946

SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS CONTINUED CROSS-BORDER ATTACKS ALONG BORDER AREA OF SIERRA LEONE, GUINEA AND LIBERIA

3 November 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6946

SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS CONTINUED CROSS-BORDER ATTACKS ALONG BORDER AREA OF SIERRA LEONE, GUINEA AND LIBERIA

20001103

Presidential Statement Expresses Concern At Fragile Situation in Sierra Leone and Instability in Wider Region

Expressing concern at the fragile situation in Sierra Leone and the related instability in the wider region, the Security Council this afternoon condemned the continued cross-border attacks along the border area of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

In a statement read out by its President, Arnold Peter Van Walsum (Netherlands), the Council stressed that only through a comprehensive regional approach could security and stability be restored. It was, further, convinced that the continuation of a credible military presence of the international community in Sierra Leone was still an indispensable element of the peace process.

The Council supported the appeal by the Secretary-General to Member States to urgently consider participating in UNAMSIL or contributing to its reinforcement. It also reiterated its firm intention to take action to strengthen UNAMSIL at the appropriate time, taking into account the readiness of troop contributors to provide sufficient forces to that end.

Following the return of its mission to Sierra Leone, the Council welcomed the recommendations made in the mission’s report. In particular, it expressed support for the establishment of a continuous, United Nations-based process for overall strategic coordination on Sierra Leone. Such coordination would include Council members, the Secretariat, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), troop-contributing countries to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the Government of Sierra Leone.

The Council underlined: the importance of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) relinquishing control of the diamond-producing areas in Sierra Leone; full freedom of movement for UNAMSIL leading to its deployment countrywide; proper provisions for the disarmament and demobilization of all non-governmental forces; full and secure humanitarian access; and the extension of the Government throughout its territory. The Council also called upon those armed groups responsible for human rights abuses to put an immediate end to such activities.

The meeting, which began at 5:45 p.m., was adjourned at 5:55 p.m.

Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6946 4216th Meeting (PM) 3 November 2000

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement (document S/PRST/2000/31) reads as follows:

“The Security Council expresses its concern at the continued fragile situation in Sierra Leone and the related instability in the wider subregion. It condemns the continued cross-border attacks along the border area of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Council stresses that only through a comprehensive regional approach can security and stability be restored. In this regard, it expresses its support for the efforts undertaken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address the situation, and calls on Member States to provide support.

“In this context, and following the return of its mission to Sierra Leone, the Security Council welcomes the recommendations made in the mission's report (S/2000/992). It in particular expresses its support for the establishment of a continuous, United Nations-based process for overall strategic coordination on Sierra Leone, bringing together Security Council members, the United Nations Secretariat, ECOWAS, troop-contributing to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the Government of Sierra Leone. The Council notes the Secretary-General's support for this proposal in his report of 31 October 2000 (S/2000/1055) and encourages him to take early steps to put such a process into effect.

“The Security Council underlines that such a coordinated strategy for lasting peace in Sierra Leone must combine both political and military elements. The Council fully supports efforts to strengthen the State institutions of Sierra Leone and to maintain the principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law. It welcomes the current efforts of ECOWAS to explore the possibilities of dialogue towards peace, but stresses that this should only be pursued under terms acceptable to the Government of Sierra Leone. In this context, the Council underlines the importance of the Revolutionary United Front relinquishing control of the diamond-producing areas, full freedom of movement for UNAMSIL leading to its deployment throughout the country, proper provision for the disarmament and demobilization of all non-governmental forces, full and secure humanitarian access and the extension of the authority of the Government throughout its territory. The Council also calls upon all armed groups responsible for continuing human rights abuses to put an immediate end to such activities.

“The Security Council stressed that the continuation of a credible military presence of the international community in Sierra Leone remains an indispensable element of the peace process. The Council concurs with the Secretary-General's view that a key aspect of the overall approach on Sierra Leone is the continued provision of security by UNAMSIL in key areas of the country. The Council reiterates its view that to achieve this UNAMSIL requires strengthening. The Council also underlines the importance of continued action to improve the effectiveness of UNAMSIL through the full implementation of the recommendations of the May assessment mission. The Council notes the decisions by the Governments of India and Jordan to end their troops' participation in UNAMSIL, and expresses its appreciation for the important contribution made by these two contingents. It also warmly welcomes the new commitments made by Bangladesh and Ghana of additional battalions, by Ukraine of equipment and support personnel and by Slovakia of equipment to enhance the force's capability. The Council urges both departing and incoming contingents to display all possible flexibility to ensure that force capability is maintained as UNAMSIL moves into this period of transition.

“The Security Council supports the appeal by the Secretary-General to Member States, as set out in paragraph 55 of his report, to urgently consider participating in UNAMSIL or otherwise contributing to its reinforcement, and encourages him to continue his consultations to this end. The Council reiterates its firm intention to take action to strengthen UNAMSIL at the appropriate time, taking into account the readiness of troop contributors to provide sufficient forces to this end.”

Reports before Council

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Sierra Leone. It had before it the report of the Security Council mission to Sierra Leone (document S/2000/992) and the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (S/2000/1055).

The Council mission left New York on 7 October and visited Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria and Liberia during which time it held extensive discussions with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, regional leaders and senior civilian and military personnel in UNAMSIL. Members of the mission visited various locations where UNAMSIL is deployed, as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration facilities and camps for internally displaced persons and child combatants.

They found that the complexity of problems in the region represents an extraordinary challenge, which requires extraordinary action, the report states. The Government, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UNAMSIL each held a different perception of the reality on the ground, and of policy objectives and the strategy and means necessary to meet them, the report states. The mission concluded that the highest priority must be given to the coordination of a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives. It recommended the establishment of a United Nations-based mechanism for overall coordination.

The mission, assigning a similar priority to intensifying the momentum of the peace process, suggests that the Special Representative of the Secretary- General give immediate priority to the coordination of active contacts -- liasing in particular -- beyond UNAMSIL itself, with the Presidents of Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria and Liberia. The mission concluded that a comprehensive strategy requires action on the peace process which should, inter alia, cover an early ceasefire throughout the territory of Sierra Leone, agreed arrangements for withdrawal, the return of all seized UNAMSIL weapons and equipment and the opening up of humanitarian and other access in the north and east of the country.

The mission noted suggestions that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) might now be prepared to permit UNAMSIL deployment into the diamond-producing areas. The peace process should also focus on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in order to attract full participation by ex-combatants.

In the context of the peace process, the report states, the Security Council and the Sierra Leonean authorities will need to reflect carefully before taking any final decisions on the scope of the proposed special court. The right balance must be struck between the requirements of justice and the need to minimize any potential disincentive to entering the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process that the threat of prosecution may represent -- especially to child combatants.

Regarding military aspects, the report says that only a sustained and effective military instrument can maintain pressure on the RUF and create incentives for dialogue and disarmament. To meet those challenges, UNAMSIL must be strengthened in terms of numbers, effectiveness and capability, as recommended by the Secretary-General, taking advantage of the offers of further troops from, inter alia, ECOWAS countries.

There can be no lasting progress without comprehensive action to tackle the current instability in the West African region, in particular in the Mano River Union member countries –- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the report says. The Council and individual governments should look at what they can do to support the ECOWAS decision to prepare for and deploy an observer force on the borders of the three Mano River Union member countries, in coordination with UNAMSIL. The Government of Guinea in particular needs encouragement and support to provide access and protection for humanitarian personnel and aid. The Secretary-General should be requested to comment on those regional aspects in his reports to the Council on UNAMSIL. The disturbing situation in Côte d'Ivoire may also need to be watched.

The report goes on to say that the primary responsibility for the resolution of the conflict must rest with the Government, Parliament and people of Sierra Leone. The Government, with sustained international assistance, can do more to develop and communicate its vision for taking the peace process forward, as well as its strategic planning for economic and social development. Advice and financial help on a communications and public awareness strategy would be especially useful.

Referring to human rights and humanitarian assistance, the mission recommends that UNAMSIL and ECOWAS explore with the RUF the possibility of access under conditions of adequate security for a needs assessment process to be conducted in the areas under its control, and for safe access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance thereafter. All components of UNAMSIL, including the military, should accelerate efforts to work with the Government and civil society to develop an environment of respect for human rights.

A high priority should be to raise the awareness in Sierra Leonean society of the need for a concerted conciliation process, the report continues. The current vacant human rights posts at UNAMSIL should be filled as soon as possible and military units reminded of their obligation to protect civilians. The proposed human rights commission should be established as soon as possible.

The report states that rehabilitation and reintegration programmes should be targeted towards protecting the rights of women and children. The promised commission on war-affected children should be established, and the international community should be encouraged to support and assist in the assessment of the needs of the juvenile justice system. The international community should also assist by providing child protection and advocacy experts.

The members of the mission state that at a minimum, the Council and the Secretariat, ECOWAS, UNAMSIL troop-contributing countries and the Government of Sierra Leone need to consult through some form of continuous structure rather than simply a series of meetings held at regular intervals. The leadership of ECOWAS is displaying energy and vision, but the organization itself -- by its own admission -- lacks sufficient resources and expertise to carry forward and implement its initiatives, such as the proposal to place ECOWAS military observers on the borders. As a key first step, the mission recommends an immediate package of international assistance to help the ECOWAS secretariat to develop its capacity, including the placing of UNAMSIL liaison staff at ECOWAS headquarters.

The mission, which was led by the permanent representative of the United Kingdom, was composed of representatives of the following Member States: Bangladesh, Canada, China, France, Jamaica, Mali, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States.

The report of the Secretary-General, which reflects developments in the country since 24 August, notes that in spite of the designation of a new interim leader of the RUF, there has been no progress towards the establishment of a political dialogue and a possible ceasefire. Some RUF commanders have continued to maintain a hostile posture, insisting that they will neither lay down their weapons nor give up the diamond-mining areas under their control. There are also reports that the RUF may be preparing for military operations in Guinea.

The Government of Sierra Leone, the report says, has stated its preference for a permanent cessation of hostilities, but on condition that the RUF withdraw from most of the areas it currently controls, as well as from the diamond- producing areas. At the same time, the Government of Sierra Leone is also pursuing an ambitious military strategy to dislodge the RUF.

The report says that since early September, at least 15 attacks against Guinean border villages have been carried out by armed insurgents. The Government of Guinea has accused the Governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso of complicity in the attacks. The Government of Guinea has armed civilians and mobilized civil defence committees in the border areas. Guinea has refuted allegations by Liberia that it is allowing the dissidents to operate from Guinean territory. The situation appears to have stabilized somewhat recently.

At a meeting on 16 September, the report states, the Ministers of Defence and Security of the Mano River Union countries issued a communiqué calling for the deployment of ECOWAS military observers along the common borders of the three countries. International assistance would be needed to deploy and maintain an observer group on the ground.

On 11 September, the Secretary-General chaired the first meeting of the United Nations, Government of Sierra Leone and ECOWAS Coordination Mechanism, which was held in New York. Discussions focused on modalities for restarting the peace process and examined issues such as the new RUF leadership; return of weapons seized by the RUF; a ceasefire; and regional investigations into the resumption of hostilities and illegal trafficking in diamonds.

The overall security situation in Sierra Leone remains precarious and unpredictable, the report says. The period was marked by the increase in the number of cross-border attacks along the border area of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Within Sierra Leone, there has been no change in the areas controlled by either RUF or pro-Government forces. The RUF has largely maintained a defensive posture, but has also continued to mobilize its forces in its strongholds and to dig craters on major roads.

On 25 August, 11 British military personnel and one Sierra Leone army officer were taken hostage by the West Side group, the report states. The United Kingdom forces conducted a successful rescue operation on 10 September after which the West Side group was dislodged from its Okra Hills base and has lost most of its capability. The operation also resulted in the surrender of a significant number of West Side group combatants, including some of their senior commanders.

The Secretary-General calls upon donors to contribute to the United Nations Trust Fund for Sierra Leone to enable UNAMSIL to launch quick impact projects where it is deployed. Regarding disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he says that until there is a cessation of hostilities, the overall strategy is to maintain the limited ongoing activities to provide facilities for those combatants who voluntarily decide to disarm and return to normal civilian life. Non- compliance by the RUF has been a fundamental obstacle to the implementation of the programme. The National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration is devising a programme that will provide an incentive to disarm without appearing to be paying for weapons.

Continuing, the report says the unpredictable security situation remains a major obstacle to efforts to assist in the restoration of effective policing and to support the extension of the Government's presence and authority. The retraining programme for the police is proceeding at a very slow pace owing to the lack of facilities and resources. The Secretary-General appeals to donors to contribute generously to the Trust Fund to enable UNAMSIL, in coordination with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, to execute a variety of projects in support of the peace process.

Regarding human rights, he says the prevailing human rights situation remained precarious during the reporting period. In particular, thousands of displaced persons and refugees from Guinea have fled to the Lungi peninsula following the recent harassment of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea. Meanwhile, civilian allegations of Civil Defence Force harassment, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions and extortion of money and property at checkpoints, have been endemic in the past months. In addition, the relationship between the Civil Defence Force and civilian police forces has deteriorated markedly.

The Secretary-General says that during the reporting period, the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone has continued to deteriorate. In particular, lack of access severely restricted humanitarian operations inside the country. Attempts to alleviate overcrowding in the camps for displaced persons have been hampered by the lack of security. Further, the humanitarian community continues to face difficulties in obtaining approval from the Government for new land allocation in safe areas to alleviate overcrowding and expand services to internally displaced persons, such as water and sanitation facilities. As a result, high levels of mortality and infectious disease are worsening. About 1 million Sierra Leoneans remain beyond the reach of aid agencies in rebel- controlled areas.

The Secretary-General recalls that on 20 September, the Government of India informed him that it had decided to withdraw from UNAMSIL. The Government of Jordan announced on 19 October that it also had decided to withdraw from UNAMSIL. The movements of the various contingents will put a heavy strain on the Mission's logistic capabilities and will need to be carefully coordinated to avoid creating

a dangerous security gap. The Secretary-General calls on the contributors involved to be flexible with regard to the withdrawal and/or induction of troops.

In the near future, he asserts, UNAMSIL will not be able to achieve significant gains in its authorized strength. In fact, current offers of troops and equipment will not be sufficient to compensate for the withdrawal of the large Indian and Jordanian contingents. He states that he has approached a number of governments with a proven military capability, including members of the Security Council, to ascertain their willingness to provide the necessary troops and equipment. So far, offers of troops and equipment, will barely compensate for the loss of the Indian and Jordanian contingents. Unless additional troop contributors can be quickly identified, it will not be possible to envisage the further strengthening of UNAMSIL until well into the year 2001.

As a result, he warns, the credibility of the international community's military presence in Sierra Leone, which is a key element of its peace efforts in that country, could be undermined. He appeals to Member States, in particular those with large and well-equipped armed forces, to participate in UNAMSIL with troops and/or equipment, and to provide support for the airlift of military units.

The Secretary-General says he has established an interdepartmental task force to provide recommendations concerning a coordinated and coherent United Nations response aimed at addressing the multifaceted problems confronting the subregion, taking into account initiatives under way or being proposed by the various actors.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.