COUNCIL, BRIEFED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE IN SIERRA LEONE, CONSIDERS RECENT SIGNS OF PROGRESS IN PEACE PROCESS
COUNCIL, BRIEFED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE IN SIERRA LEONE, CONSIDERS RECENT SIGNS OF PROGRESS IN PEACE PROCESS
4340th Meeting (AM)
COUNCIL, BRIEFED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE IN SIERRA LEONE,
CONSIDERS RECENT SIGNS OF PROGRESS IN PEACE PROCESS
The peace process in Sierra Leone had witnessed remarkable changes in magnitude and patterns of development in recent months, the Security Council was told this morning as it met to consider the situation in the West African State.
Briefing the Council on developments since March, Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), said UNAMSIL had continued to work closely with the Government of Sierra Leone and had solidified its contacts with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Consultations with the parties had included delicate discussions on the Kambia district. That progress had led to a follow-up to the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement to discuss the practical resumption of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of the RUF in Kambia.
Progress had been made in other aspects of the peace process, he said. Most roads in the country were now open, which had helped spur the resumption of humanitarian operations. An important assessment of humanitarian needs had been undertaken recently. The release of child combatants, and other children, including females, had continued. More than 1,000 children had been released by the RUF.
The international community must step up its support for the DDR process, he said. The current programme would run out of funds in August unless the $31 million in additional funding was forthcoming. The Council might wish to back the efforts of the Secretary-General to encourage States to take urgent steps to pledge funds. If the response was not quick enough, the Council might be called on to seek alternative sources of funding.
Hans Dahlgren, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, briefed Council members on the European Union’s recent mission to Sierra Leone and other countries in the Mano River Union region. He said the mission had found the ceasefire holding and had noted the beginning of dialogue between the RUF and the Government of Sierra Leone. It was too early to be sure, but it seemed as if President Kabbah and his Government were on the right track, and that plans for national elections could soon be implemented, he said. He hoped that the former rebels would be fully integrated, taking into account the need for justice to be done over the atrocities committed.
The humanitarian situation in the region continued to be extremely serious, he said. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were still suffering from previous
hostilities in Sierra Leone and new clashes along the border between Guinea and Liberia. The Union recognized the substantial efforts made by Guinea in hosting most of those refugees. The humanitarian and political crisis in the area could not be resolved without a direct dialogue between the governments concerned, he stressed. It was also vital that the international community act in a coordinated manner in the promotion of basic confidence-building measures.
The representative of Sierra Leone said his country intended to make the best possible use of the unique opportunity provided by the international community’s significant investments. He noted the success achieved in the DDR programme and said he was especially elated over the release of child soldiers and abductees, whose lives could now be set back on their proper courses. He pointed out, however, the extreme lack of resources for the programme. His Government was currently coming to grips with the magnitude of the problem of reintegration, and had embarked on a short-term reintegration programme for ex-combatants, which should jump-start their absorption into society. However, it must be strongly emphasized to the RUF and the Civil Defence Force (CDF) that the process would not be ongoing. The support of the international community was crucial.
Mali’s representative was one of many delegations which stressed that there could be no military solution to the crisis in Sierra Leone. The resolution of the situation there would do much to help end conflict along the borders with Guinea and Liberia. He noted the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help stabilize the region, and stressed that his delegation would support all initiatives aimed at doing so.
Among the many other points raised by speakers during the meeting were the need to address human rights violations carried out against refugees and internally displace persons, and the importance of addressing national reconciliation through establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Special Court to try war criminals.
Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of the United Kingdom, Norway, Mauritius, China, Jamaica, Ukraine, Ireland, United States, Singapore, Colombia, Russian Federation, France, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
In addition to his briefing, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General responded to questions and comments made during the meeting.
The meeting was called to order at 10:50 a.m. and adjourned at 1:41 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning it had before it the tenth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL)(document S/2001/627), which covers developments in the area since 14 March.
During the reporting period, the Secretary-General writes, the two-track approach pursued by the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community has begun to bear fruit, and significant progress has been achieved in the Sierra Leone peace process. Those developments constitute grounds for cautious optimism that Sierra Leone, with the assistance of the international community, is turning a page and is now embarking on a course that could lead to long-awaited peace. Despite this positive outlook, however, many challenges remain, and considerable efforts need to be made to maintain the recently achieved momentum.
In particular, he writes, the United Nations must remain vigilant and continue its efforts to establish security throughout the country. In that regard, UNAMSIL will continue its forward deployment, in particular to the key diamond-producing areas in the east of the country, as well as its robust patrols to all areas, including towards the borders with Guinea and Liberia.
While the progress achieved in Sierra Leone is encouraging, the security situation in the subregion remains difficult, he writes. He reiterates his call upon the leaders of the Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) to start, without delay, a political dialogue that would have as its principal objective the restoration of security and stability in the subregion. This would also allow the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees to return to their places of origin and resume their lives in peace.
The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme remains crucial to all aspects of the Sierra Leonean peace process, including the creation of conditions conducive to the holding of free and fair elections throughout the country, the report continues. Therefore, in the coming months, the Government and its international partners should concentrate their efforts on the effective implementation of that programme.
The report states that the most urgent tasks to be addressed in the short term include the early establishment of adequate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration facilities and the development of a realistic timetable for implementing the programme in the remaining districts and for the timely creation of reintegration opportunities. The reinsertion of ex-combatants into their communities will require particular and sustained attention in the broader context of the reintegration of war-affected populations and the overall economic recovery of the country.
In the months ahead, the report continues, once UNAMSIL has deployed further, the establishment of State authority and law and order in the diamond-producing areas will be a particular challenge. The Secretary-General urges the Government to give this issue its full attention in order to avoid the serious consequences that could result from a possible surge in uncontrolled diamond mining.
The Secretary-General states that UNAMSIL, in particular its civilian police component, could play an enhanced role in providing training and advice to Sierra Leonean law enforcement officials, in cooperation with the team of Commonwealth police advisers. To that end, the Secretary-General states his intention to bring the civilian police component of UNAMSIL to its authorized strength of 60 civilian police advisers as soon as possible.
The Secretary-General writes that in the light of progress achieved on the ground, he is assessing what deployment pattern UNAMSIL should adopt and the overall military strength that may be required in the next phases, which will involve deployment throughout the country and, subsequently, support for the holding of free and fair elections. As indicated in previous reports, this may require a further temporary increase of the Mission’s military strength.
The Secretary-General writes that he is very conscious that support for the peace process in Sierra Leone places a heavy financial burden on the international community. In addition to financing UNAMSIL through assessed contributions, governments are also asked to make voluntary contributions for a whole range of activities, including the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Court, the preparation and organization of elections and humanitarian assistance, as well as the long-term development and economic recovery of the country. The Secretary-General hopes, therefore, that the Sierra Leonean people will make the best possible use of the current unique opportunity created by the international community’s significant investments.
OLUYEMI ADENIJI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), said that since his last opportunity to brief the Council in February, the peace process had witnessed remarkable changes in magnitude and patterns of development -– a detailed account was available in the Secretary-General’s report.
Happily, in view of the fact that a ceasefire –- agreed in Abuja -- was in place, neither the Government nor the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had been eager to resume armed conflict. Throughout the period under review, UNAMSIL had continued to work with the Government and had solidified its contacts with the RUF. The period had also enabled UNAMSIL to build up its troops.
The consultations with the parties had included delicate discussions on the Kambia district, he said. That progress had led to a follow-up to the Abuja meeting on 15 May to discuss the practical resumption of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of the RUF in Kambia.
Kambia had been chosen to “kill several birds with one stone”, he said. Among other things, it had been chosen to demonstrate that the RUF was committed to laying down its arms. The Brigade Commander in Kambia had been disarmed by the Special Representative himself.
He then drew the Council’s attention to the deployment of the Sierra Leone army into Kambia to stop RUF incursions into Guinea, which had occurred without major incident. The presence of the army in the Kambia district for the first time in four years represented a major step in the expanding authority of the Government. The success of the Kambia operation had precipitated the desire of Sierra Leoneans in the Kono district to return to their own homes. No facility for disarmament existed in that district, which had caused some problems that were now being resolved.
The total figure of disarmed combatants now stood at 6,342, he noted. That was 2,004 RUF, 4,210 Civil Defence Force (CDF) and 128 from the former Sierra Leone army.
Progress had been made in other aspects of the peace process, he said, which strengthened the perception that peace was now in sight. Most roads in the country were now open, which had helped spur the resumption of humanitarian operations. An important assessment of humanitarian needs had been undertaken recently. The release of child combatants and other children, including females, had continued. More than 1,000 children had been released by the RUF.
The expansion of the Government authority had continued with the support of UNAMSIL, he said. Confidence-building measures were also ongoing. That had considerably reduced mutual suspicion and had virtually stopped RUF questioning of the Government. More would need to be done in recognition of the current RUF leadership’s commitment to the peace process. Among other steps that must be taken was the release of detained RUF members -– with the exception, of course, of the core leadership.
The international community must step up its support for the DDR process, he said. The DDR programme would run out of funds in August unless the $31 million in additional funding was forthcoming. The greatest danger that could sidetrack the progress being made was disruption of the DDR programme. The Council might wish to back the efforts of the Secretary-General to encourage States to take urgent steps to pledge funds to the DDR fund being managed by the World Bank. If the response was not quick enough, the Council might be called on to seek alternative sources of funding. The amount needed was relatively modest.
It was heartening to note the growing spirit of reconciliation in the country, he said. The Government of Sierra Leone was in the forefront of the process. The UNAMSIL had also been playing a leading role. Intensified efforts had been made to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He hoped the relatively modest amount for the Commission would be donated as soon as possible.
JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom supported UNAMSIL and the Government of Sierra Leone actively and was encouraged by recent developments. The coordination had markedly approved. There was, however, a need to maintain momentum. Sierra Leone had to negotiate a safe course through the handover of diamond fields and the elections. In the short term, the success of DDR had to be ensured. His country had contributed significantly and it was time the burden was shared more widely. Success depended on more donors coming forward.
He said it was important that DDR did not get ahead of the planned programme. He was concerned that the military reintegration programme was only available for a small minority. Government control over the diamond fields for all Sierra Leoneans was a major challenge. His Government had helped the Government of Sierra Leone in the planning of the takeover of the diamond fields and in the certification scheme of diamonds. Free and fair elections were also an important part of the process of reconciliation. He supported UNAMSIL’s intention to increase focus on elections. UNAMSIL should ensure coordination with other organizations and agencies.
He hoped for the early establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court. They were equally important elements of the reconciliation process, and delay for one should not mean delay for the other.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) was pleased to see the revitalization of the DDR programme. The reintegration of ex-combatants, returnees and internally displaced persons in the regions that had been declared safe required concrete and comprehensive measures. Particular attention should be given to the situation of child ex-combatants.
For the long term, it was crucial that income-generating activities be created. Extension of civilian authority was another precondition for the success of the DDR process. Incentives for disarmament must be created by providing citizens with a basic sense of security. Norway was preparing to have another Norwegian police officer, a superintendent, in place in Sierra Leone shortly. Norway had also pledged support for several projects, including half a million dollars for the establishment of a Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The return of refugees had placed a heavy burden on the resources and the infrastructure in Government-controlled areas. It was important that local governments should provide the necessary protection and security for the returning population in areas declared secure. It was also essential that the Government was able to provide for a minimum of public services in the former RUF-controlled areas. Improvements in the human rights situation were also necessary.
He asked the Special Representative about the discrepancy between the total number of ex-combatants disarmed and the number of weapons collected. He also inquired about crime among ex-combatants and information to ex-combatants about support, inquiring in particular about measures taken to support the 12,000 child ex-combatants.
ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) said his delegation had been pleased to note the significant progress in the country. While recent developments enhanced prospects for peace, however, the international community must remain vigilant. He was satisfied by the results of the May meeting in Abuja, particularly regarding the progress made in the DDR programme.
The ongoing commitment to peace by the RUF remained crucial, he said. It should be encouraged to continue to show its firm commitment to the process. The agreement reached by the RUF and the CDF was a welcome development. It was also encouraging to note that both those parties were engaged in simultaneous disarmament. The Government must become more involved in moving the peace process ahead. He was heartened, in that regard, to note the steps taken by the Government to address the RUF’s concerns.
He said he fully subscribed to the view that reintegration of ex-combatants remained pivotal to the entire DDR programme. He supported the call for additional resources to ensure the success of the DDR. He was heartened by the prospect for the holding of elections in the country, most probably in December. He added that regional and subregional organizations had a key role to play and must be supported by the United Nations and the international community.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the report was encouraging and was conducive to strengthening confidence in the peace process in Sierra Leone. The Council’s continued attention to the problem was essential. To maintain the momentum of the peace process, stabilization of the military and security situation was key.
The DDR programme was one of the core issues in the peace process, he said. Important achievements had been made in disarmament, but work on reintegration was complex and required further attention. He noted the results of the donor conference held recently in Paris, and called for donations to be made to help the DDR programme. China was satisfied with the work of the Special Representative and UNAMSIL. Peace was dependent upon the full deployment of UNAMSIL in Sierra Leonean territory. He hoped that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Court would be established at an early date. China would provide material assistance to the Court.
The problems of West Africa should be resolved in a comprehensive and integrated fashion, he said. The situation in Liberia was particularly troubling. High vigilance must be maintained. China supported the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Mano River region.
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said significant progress had been made in the implementation of the peace process. The two-track approach had started to yield results. However, the positive trend was not necessarily irreversible. The peace process was still fragile and vigilance should remain the order of the day. Ongoing difficulties, basically financial, could shatter the entire process, particularly since they affected DDR, the organization of elections and reintegration of returnees. He urged the international community to continue its support for the people of Sierra Leone. The considerable investment the international community had made over the last 10 years would be pointless otherwise.
The political track should continue to be a top priority, he said. He associated himself with the Secretary-General’s appeal to the Sierra Leonean Government and RUF leaders to work hard and in good faith. Concerns expressed by the RUF about its security and other matters should be taken into consideration. The situation in Sierra Leone could only be resolved if security was restored to the region. He appealed to the leaders of the Mano River Union to enter into a dialogue to reach a solution to the alarming security situation in the region.
VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the recent positive developments in Sierra Leone provided a unique opportunity to resolutely pursue efforts for durable peace and stability. Establishment of security throughout the country was one of the main challenges. The successful implementation of the DDR programme remained a key element in the overall peace process.
There was a need for increased assistance from the international community. Restoration of State authority throughout the country was a critical element. Success in addressing this and other challenges was important for establishing an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. The issue of safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons remained of concern region-wide. Political dialogue between the Mano River Union countries was necessary.
There was no area where UNAMSIL did not play a role in the country, and Ukraine was proud to be a contributor to the peacekeeping mission. It was of the utmost importance that the signs of progress continued to be strongly supported by the international community, he said.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said he was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s view that the current situation merited cautious optimism, but at the same time continued vigilance. It was clear that the two-track approach comprising the forward deployment of UNAMSIL and the opening of political dialogue with the RUF had achieved tangible progress. That momentum must not be lost, but built on. The Council should continue to exert pressure to ensure that the RUF had changed their approach “from bullets to ballots”.
He welcomed the successful completion -– on schedule -- of the DDR programme in the Kambia and Port Loko districts. The Secretary-General was absolutely correct to focus on the gaps that remained in the reintegration programme, and to state in his report that a provision should be made to track ex-combatants to ensure their successful reintegration into society.
He said the foundation of national reconstruction would be individual forgiveness and national reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission would have a vital role to play in that regard. But justice, too, would be required. He was encouraged by the progress made recently in respect of financial commitments to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said there was real reason to be encouraged, and he was pleased to see that strategic planning to extend the authority of the Government throughout the region and to hold elections was under way. Just a year ago, the Government had almost been swept out of power by the RUF. The UNAMSIL was now achieving the results the Council wanted, and the future could be looked at with a degree of cautious optimism. That was a genuine success.
As UNAMSIL reached its authorized ceiling, he said, it was important that it continue to expand its area of authority. Some 10 months ago the Council had decided that it wanted those most responsible for war crimes -– the ringleaders -– to be held accountable. He regretted that the project to establish a Special Court had turned into an extremely time-consuming and inconclusive affair. The United States urged all to join in contributing to the Court so it could be brought into being. The process should begin with the trial of Foday Sankoh.
He stressed the need to avoid the mistakes made at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and added that he supported the emphasis placed by other speakers on the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He added that there was no conflict between the pursuit of peace and the pursuit of justice.
CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) said that as the situation Sierra Leone improved, it was not too early to consider ways in which the economy could become self-sustaining. For that reason, it was imperative that the Government establish control over the diamond-producing areas. It must not be forgotten that Government mismanagement of diamond resources in the past was one of the reasons for the conflict.
The track record of the RUF had been encouraging during the reporting period, but not perfect, she said. The talks between several parties had helped, especially regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Court and reintegration. The legitimate concerns of the RUF should be addressed. One of them was the mistreatment of ex-combatants when returning home. The reintegration aspect was pivotal and it was important to spread the word of reconciliation to the people of Sierra Leone. But tolerance could be shown to anyone sabotaging the process.
She appreciated the active role of ECOWAS. Inter-State dialogue was particularly important for the resolution of the refugee crisis of the Mano River Union. She looked forward to a swift return of refugees and internally displaced persons as soon as the time was ripe. Sierra Leone presented the Council with an opportunity to turn the dismal situation of a year ago into a success story.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said he was satisfied with the important progress achieved. The ECOWAS had made a tremendous contribution to that progress. The United Nations Mission was making a successful transition to a complex phase. He supported the Secretary-General in responding favourably to requests for assistance for elections by the end of next year.
The UNAMSIL’s presence in diamond-production areas reflected the commitment of the United Nations to peace. The Sierra Leonean authorities must respond to that commitment by providing basic services to the population and holding free and fair elections. He urged continued dialogue in the Joint Committee, and called for acceleration of preparations for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Colombia was a country interested in justice, and he believed there was no conflict between the search for peace and the search for justice.
He remained concerned about the humanitarian situation. The process of involving the RUF leadership was another example of United Nations dialogue with non-State actors. He supported the manner in which the DDR programme was being implemented. Since considerable resources had been invested, the peacekeeping mission should be strengthened.
MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said that since the May meeting in Abuja, significant progress had been made in the peace process. He encouraged the parties to continue in a resolute manner to work for peace. He was not unaware of the difficulties facing the process, including the need to ensure adequate funding for the DDR programme. He echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal to urgently and generously contribute to the fund for the programme.
Sierra Leoneans must show tolerance to help lay the ground for reconciliation. There was no military solution to the crisis. The dialogue between the Government and the RUF was increasingly focused on political issues. The holding of elections would require international assistance if they were to be free and fair. The resolution of the crisis in Sierra Leone would do much to help end incursions along the borders with Guinea and Liberia. Regional stability could only be assured through dialogue. He noted the efforts made by ECOWAS, and stressed that his delegation would support all initiatives aimed at establishing peace in the subregion.
ANDREY GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said he was pleased at the way things were going with the peace process. The ceasefire was holding and success had been achieved in disarmament. That progress reaffirmed the strategy adopted by the Council. Strict compliance with the DDR timetable and extension of State authority must be supported. He agreed with the Secretary-General regarding the need for the immediate expansion of support of the DDR programme by the international community.
He said he supported the holding of elections and the Secretary-General’s stated intention to provide assistance for them. The elections must be democratic and must include all groups. National reconciliation would require the just punishment of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
JEAN-LUC FLORENT (France) said he was gratified to note the constructive developments in Sierra Leone. Government control over the entire area of Sierra Leone, and in particular the diamond-producing region, should be a gradual one. Dialogue must be pursued beyond the end of the conflict, and the RUF should evolve into a recognized political party. France supported ECOWAS’ efforts to bring about a dialogue between the Mano River Union States.
The success of the DDR programme would be crucial. He was concerned about the fate of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea. A number of them had returned to RUF-controlled areas. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should proceed as planned in assisting the return of refugees.
CURTIS A. WARD (Jamaica) said that both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court were essential dual tracks towards conciliation. He urged the donor community to respond to the appeal for funding of those programmes.
The importance of the DDR programme could not be overemphasized. Unless urgent voluntary contributions were received, alternate funding mechanisms must be considered. Reintegrating of ex-combatants into society and finding them sustainable employment opportunities were also critical to the success of the peace process. The ex-combatants could easily return to a life of war and banditry, as previous experience had shown, which would constitute a risk to the stability of the country.
Improved access of humanitarian workers to the country was welcome. Long-term plans to assist returnees should also be considered. Attention should also be paid to reconstruction of the infrastructure.
IBRAHIM M. KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said his country intended to make the best possible use of the current unique opportunity provided by the international community’s significant investments. The relaunching of the DDR programme following the May review meeting had met with considerable success, in that a considerably large quantity of arms and ammunition had been deposited with UNAMSIL by the RUF and the CDF, as well as the fact that a sizeable number of ex-combatants had also been demobilized. He was especially elated over the release of child soldiers and abductees, whose lives could now be set back on their proper courses.
He stressed that the reduction in the momentum of the DDR programme had largely been due to the extreme lack of fiscal resources. The inadequacy of accommodations to encamp the ex-combatants in various districts within the country was but one of the many difficulties confronting the programme. His Government was currently coming to grips with the magnitude of the issue of reintegration. It had embarked on a short-term reintegration programme for ex-combatants, which should jump-start their absorption into society. However, it must be strongly emphasized to the RUF and the CDF that the process would not be ongoing. The support of the international community was crucial.
He said the current security of the State, which remained hampered by capacity constraints, rested on the ability of UNAMSIL to react rapidly to and enforce preventive measures before any unforeseen disturbance. “Although we are now treading on the path to peace, my delegation is of the conviction that the authorized troop strength of 17,500 military personnel should be met, especially when UNAMSIL is preparing to embark on the fourth phase of operations, leading up to elections”, he said.
HANS DAHLGREN, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, briefed Council members on the Union’s recent mission to Sierra Leone and other West African countries. He said the mission had found the ceasefire holding and had noted the beginning of dialogue between the RUF and the Government of Sierra Leone. A special tribute should be paid to UNAMSIL –- their efforts to stabilize the situation and to help with DDR were leading to results.
It was too early to be sure, but it seemed as if President Kabbah and his Government were on the right track, and that plans for national elections could soon be implemented, he said. He hoped that the former rebels would be fully integrated, taking into account the need for justice to be done over the atrocities committed. Civilian institutions and basic social services also needed to be established in former rebel territories. The Union stood ready to support the peace and positive developments in Sierra Leone, including the holding of free and fair elections. It was now looking actively at possibilities to increase its contribution to the DDR programme.
The European Union mission had gone to Sierra Leone in the context of a visit to the entire Mano River region, including Guinea and Liberia, he said. The humanitarian situation in the region continued to be extremely serious. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were still suffering from earlier hostilities in Sierra Leone and new clashes along the border between Guinea and Liberia. The Union recognized the substantial efforts made by Guinea in hosting most of those refugees.
The humanitarian and political crisis in the area could not be resolved without a direct dialogue between the governments concerned, he said. President Kabbah’s initiative to engage the countries of the Mano River in a dialogue could be a first step. It was also vital that the international community act in a coordinated manner in the promotion of basic confidence-building measures.
SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said his country’s decision to participate in UNAMSIL was motivated by its deep commitment to the cause of peace and the United Nations peacekeeping role in the world. He welcomed signs of improvement in the political and economic situation in the country and the bold steps taken by the Government of Sierra Leone in moving towards peace and reconciliation. However, there was also a danger of complacency. The Council and the Secretariat must remain vigilant and ensure that mistakes of the past were not repeated. He urged the Council to work closely with all relevant actors, including troop contributors.
The problem afflicting Sierra Leone was not restricted to that country. The situation in the entire Mano River Union needed to be addressed. He supported the efforts of ECOWAS and urged the United Nations to take a more proactive role in seeking a comprehensive solution to the subregion’s problems.
Collective and determined efforts were now under way, not only on the part of the Government and people of Sierra Leone but also by others from within the region and beyond, to heal and reconstruct that war-ravaged country. His country looked forward to working with all concerned to achieve the joint objective of restoring permanent peace and stability to Sierra Leone.
ARTHUR C.I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said the deployment of UNAMSIL soldiers to Lunsar, Makeni, Magburaka, as well as the extension of patrols to the major diamond-producing centre of Koidu, were welcome developments. It was gratifying to observe the progress being made in the implementation of DDR. It was noteworthy that arms handed in by the RUF in the Kambia district were of serviceable quality and included several heavy weapons.
However, accommodations at the various DDR centres were inadequate, resulting in overcrowding and water shortages, and there was a critical gap between demobilization and reintegration. He urged that in the short term ex-combatants be provided with adequate food, material, cash and vocational training. In the long term, employment and other income-generation would depend on the revival of the economy. He called on donor countries to seize the window of opportunity presented by the ceasefire in Sierra Leone to successfully implement the DDR programme.
The issue of elections in Sierra Leone was of critical importance to the whole peace process. He urged the RUF to form a political party and participate in the forthcoming election. Furthermore, he called on the United Nations to provide support to ensure free and fair elections and urged the Government of Sierra Leone to help facilitate that process. The situation of internally displaced persons and returnees was still of major concern. He hoped that UNAMSIL would continue to carry out regular monitoring of human rights abuses. He appealed to donors to make additional contributions so that the Special Court could be established.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), Council President, then made a statement in his national capacity. He said it was clear that a number of things were going in the right direction in Sierra Leone. He was happy that UNAMSIL was continuing to expand its range of activities to facilitate the peace process, and agreed that eventually UNAMSIL would expand its presence across the entire country, including the diamond-producing areas. He welcomed the release of more than 800 children by armed groups and strongly urged that those groups, particularly the RUF, immediately release all children, including girls, remaining with them.
Despite the progress made, the situation remained very fragile, he said. He was concerned by the difficult situation in the subregion as a whole, and stressed that the only long-term solution lay in dialogue. He was also concerned by the critical nature of the humanitarian situation and noted alarming reports of human rights violations of internally displaced persons and returnees. The lack of resources for the DDR process must also be resolved.
To sustain peace in Sierra Leone, the international community must keep up its assistance, he said, noting that “We will not have peace in Sierra Leone on a shoestring”. The key to lasting peace was the rebuilding of the economy. The
steps to achieve that were DDR, national reconciliation, restoration of State authority, the holding of elections, promotion of the rule of law and respect for human rights. While UNAMSIL would be assisting in all those areas, the support of the international community and measures by the Government of Sierra Leone would bring ultimate success.
Mr. ADENIJI then responded to questions and comments posed during the meeting. He said the support of the Council had been instrumental in the progress achieved. It should be borne in mind that the weapons collected represented both personal arms and group weapons used by a number of combatants -– this was the reason for the low number of weapons compared to the number who had been disarmed. To enter the DDR programme, persons must either turn in a personal or a group weapon. The weapons ranged from personal weapons to machine guns, to mortars and even to anti-aircraft guns.
Crime among ex-combatants had not yet reached an alarming level, he said. But the situation must be monitored from the beginning. That was why great emphasis was being placed on reintegration programmes and also why those programmes must be adequately funded. Reintegration programmes were being developed for child combatants. Counseling, education and help in adjusting were among the services provided.
Responding to another question, he said that in the past there had been a “sort of lacuna” between what DDR programmes were available and the knowledge of those resources by ex-combatants, but that problem had since been addressed. Regarding the provision of funding, he stressed the need to avoid donor fatigue at this critical stage of the peace process.
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