SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES UN SIERRA LEONE MISSION WILL PROVIDE WIDE-RANGING SUPPORT FOR MAY ELECTIONS

16 January 2002
SC/7272

SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES UN SIERRA LEONE MISSION WILL PROVIDE WIDE-RANGING SUPPORT FOR MAY ELECTIONS

16/01/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7272

Security Council

4451st Meeting (Night)

SECURITY COUNCIL DECIDES UN SIERRA LEONE MISSION WILL PROVIDE

WIDE-RANGING SUPPORT FOR MAY ELECTIONS

Resolution 1389 (2002), Unanimously Adopted,

Also Authorizes Increase in United Nations Civilian Police

The Security Council this evening gave the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) wide-ranging security tasks for the upcoming May elections, stressing that holding them freely, fairly and transparently was vital to long-term stability.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1389 (2002), the Council decided UNAMSIL should assist the National Electoral Commission in transporting electoral materials and personnel, storing and distributing election materials before the elections, and moving ballot papers after the vote.

The United Nations Mission will also provide security while the elections are being prepared, during the polling period and immediately after the announcement of election results.  It will also be prepared to respond to public disorder, with the Sierra Leone police taking the lead, especially near polling stations or related locations.

The Council authorized UNAMSIL to take the action necessary to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

Further, the Council approved an increase of 30 officers to the United Nations civilian police, as recommended by the Secretary-General. That force will support the Sierra Leone Police in election tasks, and assist them in implementing an electoral training programme for their personnel, focusing on security for public events, human rights and police conduct.

The meeting began at 6:15 p.m. and adjourned at 6:18 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1389 (2002) reads, as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the situation in Sierra Leone,

Affirming the commitment of all States to respect the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Sierra Leone,

Welcoming the significant progress made in the peace process in Sierra Leone, determining that the situation in Sierra Leone continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region, and calling for the further consolidation and advancement of the peace process,

Welcoming the official completion of the disarmament process, calling for the continuation of efforts to collect arms remaining in the hands of the civilian population, including ex-combatants, and urging the international community to provide adequate resources for the reintegration programme,

Emphasizing the importance of free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections for the long-term stability of Sierra Leone, and, in this regard, stressing the importance of all political parties having the freedom to campaign and having unrestricted access to the media,

“Welcoming the progress made by the Government of Sierra Leone and the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone in preparing for elections, with the assistance of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and encouraging further efforts, particularly by the National Electoral Commission, in this regard,

Stressing the primary responsibility of the Sierra Leone Police for the maintenance of law and order,

Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 13 December 2001 (S/2001/1195), and taking note of the request by the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations to provide support for the elections,

“1.   Decides that, further to paragraph 8 (i) of resolution 1270 (1999) of 22 October 1999, in order to facilitate the smooth holding of elections, UNAMSIL shall undertake election-related tasks within the parameters set out in paragraphs 48 to 62 of the Secretary-General’s report of 13 December 2001 (S/2001/1195), within its existing mandate, capabilities and areas of deployment and in the light of conditions on the ground, and decides that these tasks shall include:

“(a)  Assisting with logistic support to the National Electoral Commission for the transport of electoral materials and personnel, including the use of the air assets of UNAMSIL to reach areas inaccessible by road, the storage and distribution of election materials prior to the elections, the movement of ballot papers after the elections, logistic assistance to international election observers, and the use of the civilian communications facilities of UNAMSIL in the provinces;

“(b)  Facilitating the free movement of people, goods and humanitarian assistance throughout the country;

“(c)  The provision of wider security and deterrence, through its presence and within the framework of its mandate, throughout the period of preparation for the elections, the polling period itself, and the period immediately after the announcement of the election results, and, exceptionally, being prepared to respond to situations of public disorder, with the Sierra Leone police taking the lead, especially in the vicinity of polling stations and the locations of other related activities;

“2.   Reiterates its authorization to UNAMSIL, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, as provided for in resolution 1270 (1999) of

22 October 1999 and resolution 1289 (2000) of 7 February 2000, to take the necessary action to fulfil the tasks set out in paragraphs 1 (b) and 1 (c) above, and reaffirms that, in the discharge of its mandate, UNAMSIL may take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking into account the responsibilities of the Government of Sierra Leone, including the Sierra Leone Police;

“3.   Authorizes the increase in the United Nations civilian police proposed by the Secretary-General in his report of 13 December 2001 (S/2001/1195), encourages the Secretary-General to request a further increase if appropriate, and endorses the Secretary-General's recommendation that the United Nations civilian police should perform the following tasks:

“(a)  To advise and support the Sierra Leone Police in carrying out their election-related responsibilities;

“(b)  To assist the Sierra Leone Police to devise and implement an electoral training programme for their personnel, focussed mainly on establishing security for public events, human rights and police conduct;

“4.   Welcomes the interim establishment of an electoral component in UNAMSIL aimed at strengthening UNAMSIL’s contribution to facilitating, in particular, the coordination of electoral activities between the National Electoral Commission, the Government of Sierra Leone and other national and international stakeholders;

“5.   Welcomes the intention of UNAMSIL, as indicated in the Secretary-General’s report of 13 December 2001 (S/2001/1195), to establish in each electoral region a UNAMSIL electoral office from which to monitor the electoral process, and to provide, within available resources, assistance to international election observers;

“6.   Notes with appreciation the ongoing support provided by the Public Information Section of UNAMSIL to the National Electoral Commission in designing and implementing a civic education and public information strategy, and encourages UNAMSIL to continue these efforts;

“7.   Underlines the responsibility of the Government of Sierra Leone and the National Electoral Commission for the holding of free and fair elections, and encourages the international community to provide generous support and assistance to that end;

“     8.    Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

Background

When it met to consider the situation in Sierra Leone this evening, the Council had before it a report by the Secretary-General (documents S/2001/1195 and Add.1) on implementing the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).  The report, which covers events since 7 September, focuses primarily on the forthcoming elections in May.

The report notes that the peace process has progressed, the ceasefire had held, and that the disarmament of combatants of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civil Defence Forces (CDF) has been completed in 10 of the 12 districts. The Mission's troop strength has reached the authorized ceiling of 17,500 and the Government has continued to extend its authority in areas formerly controlled by the RUF.

Indeed, a secure environment with increased freedom of movement, gradual returns of refugees and a resurgence of economic activity has emerged, the report states.  However, important steps towards sustained peace are lagging, such as extending the Government's authority throughout the country, reintegrating disarmed combatants, and resettling refugees and internally displaced persons. 

Furthermore, the months leading up to the upcoming elections could be fraught with risks and tensions if the electoral process is not transparent and credible, the report warns.  Meanwhile, the disarmament process should be completed in the coming few weeks.  Regrettably, the RUF has slowed down disarmament of its combatants in the two remaining districts, which raises questions about its intentions.

A comprehensive assessment of the credibility and effectiveness of disarmament and demobilization in the weeks following their completion will be needed, the report says.  It commends the parties for agreeing to a programme to collect illegal weapons from the general populace and shotguns from armed groups, which had been excluded from general disarmament.  However, limited reintegration opportunities for ex-combatants, due to inadequate funds, remains a serious concern.  Large numbers of additional combatants that have come forward to disarm will further complicate reintegration. 

The main reason for deploying UNAMSIL throughout Sierra Leone is to assist government efforts in restoring State authority, as well as law and order in the entire territory, the report continues.  Gains achieved through UNAMSIL deployment and disarmament, therefore, should be matched by progress in restoring the Government's authority in areas formerly controlled by the RUF.  Setting a target date to restore State administration in all districts is a welcome step, but this will be difficult without additional capacity-building support.

The United Nations and other international partners will provide support in organizing and conducting the elections, the report states.  To minimize electoral risks, the National Electoral Commission must act expeditiously in tackling outstanding concerns.  It should maintain continuous dialogue with all parties to ensure transparency and a level playing field.

At the same time, the report adds, the Sierra Leone Police should enhance security for the polling stations.  Sierra Leonean non-governmental organizations and civil society groups could play an important role in enhancing electoral transparency and credibility.  These organizations could undertake civic education and field local electoral observers, both before and during the elections.

The report goes on to say that, in the post-electoral period, several crucial elements of the crisis will need close attention, particularly State institutions and governmental responsibility for the country's security.  The ultimate goal of the international community's efforts in Sierra Leone must be to leave behind well-established State institutions, as well as security agencies that can defend it from internal and external threats. 

Other major post-electoral challenges will include assisting Sierra Leone in rehabilitating its infrastructure, supporting national reconciliation, addressing impunity and accountability, and resettling returnees and internally displaced persons.  The situation in the subregion, in particular within the Mano River Union (MRU), deserves sustained attention.

The report highlights the importance of supporting the promising dialogue that has opened up among Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and encouraging them to convene the summit meeting proposed by their Foreign Ministers as early as possible.  It was hoped that the summit will provide a solid political framework to address pressing issues affecting the subregion, particularly disarmament of the still numerous armed groups.

Backgound to Conflict

Fighting broke out in Sierra Leone in March 1991, when the RUF launched a war from the east of the country to overthrow the Government.  Sierra Leone's army at first tried to fend off the rebels, but itself overthrew the Government the following year.

In February 1995, the United Nations Secretary-General appointed a Special Envoy, Berhanu Dinka, to work with the Organization for African Unity (OAU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in negotiating a settlement to the conflict.  After parliamentary and presidential elections in February 1996, the army gave up its power to the winner, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.  The RUF, however, refused to recognize the results and the conflict continued.

Mr. Dinka helped negotiate the Abidjan Accord between the Government and the RUF in November 1996, but another military coup in May 1997 derailed that agreement.  This time the army joined the RUF in a ruling junta and the President and his Government were forced into exile in neighbouring Guinea.  A new Special Envoy, Francis Okelo, failed to persuade the junta to step down.  The Security Council imposed an oil and arms embargo on 8 October 1997, which was to be implemented by ECOWAS using troops from the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG).

A peace plan was signed between the junta and ECOWAS on 23 October, which called for a ceasefire to be monitored by ECOMOG.  However, the junta later criticized key provisions of the agreement, and it was never implemented.  In February 1998, ECOMOG launched a military attack to fight off an attack by rebel/army forces, which led to the junta's collapse.  President Kabbah returned to office on 10 March, and the Security Council ended the oil and arms embargo.

In June 1998, the Council set up the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), naming Mr. Okelo as the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Chief of Mission.  The Mission monitored and advised efforts to disarm combatants and restructure the nation's security forces, and also reported ongoing human rights atrocities committed against civilians.

Hostilities flared up again in December 1998 when the rebel alliance retook Freetown, which led to the evacuation of all UNOMSIL personnel.  Later that month, ECOMOG took the capital back and again set up the civilian government.  After a series of diplomatic efforts, Mr. Okelo initiated negotiations between the Government and the rebels.  On 7 May 1999, all parties signed an agreement in Lomé to end hostilities, and also asked that UNOMSIL be expanded.  The Mission was increased to 210 military observers on 20 August.

On 22 October, the Security Council authorized a new and larger mission, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), with up to 6,000 military personnel, and terminated UNOMSIL.  The Secretary-General appointed Oluyemi Adeniji as his Special Representative in Sierra Leone and head of the Mission.  The Mission has since been expanded three times to reach its current strength of 17,500.

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For information media. Not an official record.