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    Press Release No:   UNIS/SC/1195
    Release Date:   14 March 2000
    Security Council Stresses Need for Disarmament, Demobilization
    And Reintegration of Ex-combatants in Sierra Leone

    Council Holds Open Briefing on Situation in Sierra Leone
     

     NEW YORK, 13 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council was told today that the main steps to be taken in Sierra Leone should include the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and improvement of the country's capacity to ensure its own security.

     Briefing the Council on the situation in Sierra Leone, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, said that sketching those steps would help to establish the priorities and responsibilities of all concerned and provide the international community with benchmarks to measure progress.  Progress would require a sustained commitment by all concerned, as well as significant material and financial resources.  In that regard, the upcoming donor conference in London on 27 March and contributions to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund would help cover the present shortfall of approximately $20 million in the funding of the peace process.

     Resources alone, however, would not be sufficient, he said.  The Government, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other groups, as well as all Sierra Leonean leaders, bore personal responsibility for moving the peace process forward, and they should intensify their efforts towards that end.

     Describing his recent visit to Sierra Leone, the representative of the United Kingdom noted the overwhelming desire of the great majority of the country's population for peace and a normal life.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, however, was being obstructed by the lack of commitment to peace from the main factional leaders, particularly RUF leader Foday Sankoh.  The Council should insist on the proper implementation of its decisions and put pressure on the parties in that respect.

     The Security Council should be aware that the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) had not been fully successful, he continued.  He stressed that the Council should carefully monitor the transition from the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) presence in the country to UNAMSIL and insist on bringing the Mission up to full strength, in quality as well as quantity.

     Describing recent efforts aimed at speedy implementation of the 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement, the representative of Mali said that the high-level meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Bamaku on 1 and 2 March had addressed the need for the establishment of proper government institutions in the country and for speeding up the establishment of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres.

     The representative of Sierra Leone said that his Government had consistently demonstrated its commitment to all aspects of the peace process, but there remained serious doubts about the commitment of the RUF.  There was a clear need for all the stakeholders to agree on a realistic target date for the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of all combatants.  As a first step, the RUF should urgently provide full and complete information on the number of RUF combatants under its command, and ensure that they complied with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

     Summing up today's meeting, Council President Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh) said that Members of the Council had endorsed in general the contents and recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's report on the matter.  The speakers had placed great weight on the early implementation of all elements of the Lomé Peace Agreement and called upon all its signatories, particularly Mr. Sankoh and the RUF, to demonstrate a concrete commitment to the peace process.

     Also this afternoon, the Council agreed to extend the time of periodic reports on the situation in Sierra Leone from 45 to 60 days.

     Statements were also made by the representatives of Malaysia, Netherlands, Ukraine, China, Jamaica, Namibia, Tunisia, Argentina, United States, Canada and the Russian Federation.

     At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Chowdhury (Bangladesh), who also made a statement in his national capacity on the situation in Sierra Leone, expressed deep sympathy to the Government and people of Ukraine for the great loss of life as a result of a recent mining catastrophe in the Barakov mine in the eastern part of that country.

     The meeting, which began at 12:15 p.m., was adjourned at 4:32 p.m.  It was suspended from 1:27 till 3:26 p.m.

     Council Work Programme

     When the Security Council met this morning, it was expected to hold an open briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone.  The Council had before it the third report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (document S/2000/186), which provides an overview of the latest developments in the country.

     In his report, the Secretary-General states that in order for the peace process in Sierra Leone to succeed, it is imperative that the leaders of the Government of Sierra Leone and other groups, including the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) show tangible commitment to the implementation of the Lomé Agreement.  In particular, the leader of RUF, Foday Sankoh, and other rebel leaders are expected to fully assume their responsibilities before the people of Sierra Leone.  The differences of opinion should be addressed in an open, constructive and democratic manner.

     Continuing ceasefire violations perpetrated against civilians and peacekeepers cannot be tolerated by the international community, the report states.  Furthermore, the persistent obstruction of UNAMSIL patrols and deployments is unacceptable and must cease immediately.  Nothing short of the full cooperation of all the parties concerned, particularly the RUF, is required.  A major test of the intentions of the RUF towards the peace process is the speedy return of all the weapons and equipment seized from Guinean and Kenyan troops and allowing UNAMSIL free movement throughout the country.

     The Secretary-General states that one of the main priorities for the United Nations in Sierra Leone remains the speedy establishment of a credible peacekeeping presence in the country, which should create the necessary confidence and security conditions.  UNAMSIL and the Secretariat are doing everything possible in that regard, and the Sierra Leonean parties must provide their full cooperation to UNAMSIL, including unconditional access to all parts of the country.  UNAMSIL is to create the conditions for disarmament and national reconciliation.  The Mission's presence on the ground should also facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and help to restore normalcy of life and economic activity.

     According to the report, other main steps ahead in the Sierra Leone peace process include:  the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority, including law enforcement, throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and the improvement of Sierra Leone's capacity to ensure its own security.  Those measures would create the essential conditions for the organization of credible parliamentary and presidential elections envisaged early in 2001 and would set the stage for the economic recovery of the country.

     The Secretary-General further notes that serious doubts remain about the commitment of the RUF to the peace process.  Hostile public remarks by the RUF leader about UNAMSIL and its mandate have led to increasing tension between RUF fighters and UNAMSIL troops on the ground.  That dangerous trend is detrimental to the peace process and should be stopped.  At the same time, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General will continue to make himself available to Mr. Sankoh and other Sierra Leonean leaders for consultations and, when possible, address any justifiable concerns or doubts they may have in a transparent and constructive dialogue.

     The parties to the Lomé Agreement and their international partners must make full use of such mechanisms envisaged in the Lomé Agreement as the Joint Implementation Committee, the Joint Monitoring Committee and the local ceasefire monitoring committees.  Early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants should be accelerated and existing gaps and difficulties, such as living conditions in the camps, payment of allowances and the issuance of identity cards, should be addressed as a matter of urgency.  In general, there is a clear need for all stakeholders to agree on a realistic target date for the completion of the disarmament and demobilization of all ex-combatants and to increase awareness about the modalities of the programme in the country.  In that regard, RUF should urgently provide full and complete information on the number of combatants under its command and ensure that they comply with that programme.

     It is also crucial for the Government of Sierra Leone -- through the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and its national and international partners -- to step up its efforts to implement all aspects of the disarmament and reintegration process.  While some progress has been made in the planning for the reintegration of ex-combatants, much remains to be done in that respect.  There is a need for close coordination with all humanitarian and development organizations, including the United Nations agencies involved.

     Further, according to the report, another important aspect is the restructuring of the armed forces, which should absorb a substantial number of former combatants from all groups.  That restructuring exercise should be consistent and transparent, and it should be carried out in full accordance with the relevant provisions of the Lomé Agreement.

     Another crucial objective is the extension of State authority throughout the country, which is now obstructed through the continuing refusal of access to areas in the northern and eastern provinces by the RUF.  That party must immediately cease interference with the circulation of goods and persons through roadblocks and clearance demands.  Access to provinces is also obstructed by local authorities operating outside the Government.  UNAMSIL stands ready to assist in dismantling such parallel structures and creating a secure environment for the free flow of civilian and commercial traffic, the Secretary-General states.

     The humanitarian needs of all Sierra Leoneans still cannot be met in all parts of the country, which is a source of major concern, says the report.  The Secretary-General recalls that the Lomé Peace Agreement clearly commits all parties to providing safe and unhindered access to all areas in the country.  The rapid implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme could significantly facilitate the work of the humanitarian community in delivering much-needed assistance to all groups in need.

     Regarding national reconciliation and democratization, the report states that it is important that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Human Rights Commission, both envisaged in the Lomé Agreement, soon be established with the full cooperation of all Sierra Leonean parties.  It is equally important that all political parties, including the RUF, be able to participate fully in the political life of the country.  The transformation of the RUF from a rebel movement into a political party, which would be fully incorporated into the political mainstream of the country, deserves necessary support.   All major political parties in the country should be able to participate in the electoral campaign in 2001 and have equal access to the media.

     The rehabilitation of the Sierra Leone police force plays a crucial role in all efforts to strengthen the national security system and restore the rule of law, the report states.  Some progress has been achieved in that regard, but much remains to be done to meet basic needs for restoring police authority and to address special areas of concern.

     The Secretary-General further notes the commitment shown by the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Alpha Oumar Konaré of Mali, in supporting the peace process in Sierra Leone.  His visit to Freetown, the convening of the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee soon after his taking over of the chairmanship of ECOWAS, and the organization of a special meeting at Bamako on 1 and 2 March have provided an important impetus to peace consolidation efforts.  The efforts of other leaders of the region also are crucial to keeping the peace process firmly on track.

     The Secretary-General concludes that much remains to be done in Sierra Leone and that significant material and financial resources will be required to achieve the objectives before UNAMSIL.  In that regard, he welcomes the organization of a donor conference in London on 27 March and appeals to the donor community to make generous contributions to the World Bank Multi-donor Trust Fund to cover the present shortfall of approximately $20 million in the funding of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.  While the Multi-donor Trust Fund provides an important funding mechanism for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, it would be useful if financial support for various other aspects of the peace process, including small-scale quick-impact projects, civil affairs, the rehabilitation of the civilian police, support for political parties (including the transformation of RUF into a political party) and other democratization efforts could also be provided through United Nations mechanisms.  The Secretary-General believes that it would be useful to revise, accordingly, the terms of reference of the United Nations Sierra Leone Trust Fund, which was originally set up to support the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and other peacekeeping-related efforts.

     Statements on Mining Accident in Ukraine

     At the outset of the meeting, ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), President of the Security Council, expressed deep sympathy to the Government and people of Ukraine for the great loss of life as a result of a recent mining catastrophe in the Barakov mine in the eastern part of Ukraine.

     VOLODYMYR Y. YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) expressed gratitude for the condolences expressed in connection with the death of more than 80 coal miners.  He added that the accident was being investigated.
     

     Briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
     On Situation in Sierra Leone

     HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since the Secretary-General's previous report, there had been some progress in the establishment and functioning of the bodies envisaged in the Lomé Peace Agreement of 7 July 1999.  However, on the whole, progress had remained slow.  There had been little progress in disarmament in the northern and eastern parts of the country, while rebel groups continued to interfere with provision of humanitarian assistance and UNAMSIL patrols.  A special high-level meeting in Bamako, Mali, had been organized at the beginning of March by the current Chairman of the ECOWAS, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the Sierra Leone parties to address the situation in the country.  It had adopted a communiqué requesting all the parties to translate their expressions of commitment to the peace process into concrete actions.

     Since the issuance of the latest report of the Secretary-General, on 9 March a meeting with the participation of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Foday Sankoh, Johnny Paul Koroma and Chief Hinga Norman, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the UNAMSIL Force Commander and the ECOMOG Force Commander.  There, it had been decided to allow unhindered access to all parts of the country to international agencies and humanitarian bodies, as well as all civilians, including refugees.  The Government would have full control of the country.  Disarmament would take place in selected areas in the northern and eastern provinces, where facilities were in place and thereafter in other areas as facilities became available.  On 10 March, the Special Representative had convened a meeting at which it had been decided that within 48 hours, the factions would remove all their checkpoints.

     The security situation had generally remained tense and volatile, he continued.  In several previous incidents, United Nations troops had been forced to surrender their weapons to the armed groups.  Measures had been taken to retrieve the weapons and avoid such incidents in the future.  There had also been several incidents when UNAMSIL convoys had been unable to reach their destinations.  However, UNAMSIL was now deployed in Freetown, Lungi, Port Loko, Lunsar, Makeni, Magburake, Kenema, Daru, Mile 91, Bo and Moyanba.  Efforts were being made to deploy in the eastern part of the country, but they had been unsuccessful in several cases.  The Foreign Minister of Nigeria had offered to suspend for 90 days the withdrawal of his country’s troops serving in ECOMOG to avoid a vacuum of power.  As a result, 2 Nigerian infantry battalions and one tank company had been incorporated into UNAMSIL to ensure the needed level of security during the establishment of that Mission.

     Turning to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, he said that a significant increase in disarmament had occurred, but there was concern over the quality of weapons being surrendered by ex-combatants.  The security situation  in a number of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps was also a source of concern, especially in Port Loko.

     He said that the human rights situation remained a cause of serious concern.  There had been some improvement in those areas where UNAMSIL had been able to deploy.  The activities of Sierra Leone police continued to be limited to the western part of the country, in particular Freetown.  The local police still lacked the necessary personnel, facilities and equipment to fulfil essential tasks.  Despite those challenges, some progress had been achieved in the training of police officers, improving service conditions, monitoring and implementing structural and personnel changes.

     With the deployment of UNAMSIL military units, humanitarian access was showing signs of improvement, he said.  Urgent action was still needed to address the appalling condition of health, water, sanitation and school facilities in most of the assessed areas.  Meanwhile, RUF resistance to UNAMSIL deployment continued to slow humanitarian access to approximately 2.6 million war-affected Sierra Leoneans in the upper northern and eastern provinces.  Only limited humanitarian assistance had been possible in the critical locations of Kambia in the northern province and Kailahun and Kono in the eastern 

    province.  Should humanitarian access increase dramatically, the United Nations agencies would require additional generous support from the international donor community.

     At this stage in the peace process, it was both necessary and appropriate to look forward and sketch the main steps ahead in the Sierra Leone peace process, he said.  That would help to establish the priorities and responsibilities of all concerned and provide the international community with benchmarks to measure progress.  The main steps ahead should be devoted to the early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants; the extension of State authority throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratization; and improvement of Sierra Leone's capacity to ensure its own security.  It was obvious that progress towards those objectives would require a sustained commitment by all concerned, as well as significant material and financial resources.  In that regard, the donor conference in London on 27 March and contributions to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund would help cover the present shortfall of the approximately $20 million in funding of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.  It would also be useful if financial support could be provided for various other aspects of the peace process.

     The resources alone, however, would not be sufficient, he continued.  The Government, the RUF and other groups, and all Sierra Leonean leaders bore a personal responsibility for moving the peace process forward, and they should intensify their efforts towards that end.  The present situation gave rise to serious doubts about the commitment of Mr. Sankoh and the RUF to the faithful implementation of the Peace Agreement.  He should therefore dispel such doubts in a tangible and unequivocal manner.  His participation in the 9 March meeting was a step in the right direction.

     The continued ceasefire violations perpetrated against civilians and peacekeepers could not be tolerated by the international community, he said.  Furthermore, the persistent obstruction of UNAMSIL patrols and deployments was unacceptable and must cease immediately.  However, UNAMSIL had made significant progress in the face of considerable difficulties.  The efforts of regional leaders, in particular of President Konare of Mali, the current Chairman of ECOWAS, were very much appreciated and the United Nations hoped that that those helpful efforts would continue in the future.  According to press reports, President Taylor of Liberia soon intended to hold consultations with Mr. Sankoh, and his positive involvement was very much welcomed.

    NOTE: Summarized statements are available upon specific request. Please contact 260 60 - 3336

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