Global Policy Forum

Security Council Meets in Open Session to Consider Situation in Sierra Leone

Security Council Press Release (SC/6613)
December 18, 1998

The Chairman of the Security Council Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, Hans Dahlgren (Sweden), reporting to the Council on his visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia, recalled that the purpose of the visit was not only to get information, but to make clear that those who imposed sanctions were also engaged in making sure they are enforced. His primary assignment was to study the implementation of the sanctions against the rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Those included an arms embargo on the non-governmental forces, as well as a travel ban for the members of the military junta.

Absolute facts were hard to come by, particularly regarding violations of sanctions, he said. However, one thing was indisputable -- the situation in Sierra Leone was tense. The country was still plagued by civil war and the rebels had proven a very tough target. Defeated in one part of the country, they have been able to remobilize and increase terror in others. The ECOMOG was doing a good job at promoting stability and extending the safety to the people of Sierra Leone, but logistical restraints remained and they had requested stronger international support.

It was hard to find words strong enough to describe the atrocities committed by the rebels, he said. The rebels simply cut off parts of the bodies of their victims with large knives. They burned alive men, women and children. More than 4,000 people had been summarily executed or mutilated since April. The humanitarian situation was also serious. Since parts of the country remained out of the reach of humanitarian organizations, the full scope of the situation was not known. During his visit, he had shared his view of the importance of showing respect for humanitarian law.

Of particular concern was the burden carried by the children of Sierra Leone, he added. Many had been abducted long ago into the ranks of the Revolutionary United Front and now, at the age of eight or ten, were some of the most fierce fighters in the war. A big challenge would be to integrate the surviving children into a society where identity is based on respect and common norms, not a rifle. Special attention should be given to the children in the international support for the reconstruction of Sierra Leone. He also pleaded with the Government of Sierra Leone to make a serious effort at national reconciliation.

He said attempts to reach out towards a peaceful solution being made by the Government should be encouraged. No effort should be spared to get the rebels to lay down their arms. Regarding the carrying out of executions of those convicted of war crimes, he said that, in his capacity as Sweden's Ambassador to the United Nations, he pleaded with authorities not to make further use of the death penalty. They were ready to attempt to heed such plea.

Turning to sanctions, he said it was obvious that they were not fully implemented. Some of the resupplies seemed to come from looting and attacks within the country, but also from outside. The land borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia were difficult to monitor. There was a perception that support was coming from Liberia, but there was no tangible evidence. The President of Sierra Leone had indicated that the Liberian proposal for joint border control was a good starting point. It could be useful if the United Nations and the international community were to consider supporting such an operation. Every state must ensure respect for sanctions. There was no excuse for those who made a good living from the arms trade.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, introduced a 16 December report of the Secretary-General that recommends the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for six months, when its current mandate expires on 13 January 1999. He said that since the drafting of the report, elements of the former junta had advanced southwards from the north-west of the country, attacking villages, killing and mutilating civilians and looting and destroying property. Thousands of people had been displaced and had fled to Freetown, the capital, for safety.

A number of delegates expressed satisfaction with Mr. Dahlgren's report and said that chairmen of the sanctions committees should play a more active role in monitoring the implementation of sanctions. The representative of Portugal said the Council should adopt some guidelines regarding the role of the chairpersons of the sanctions committees.

The representative of the Gambia said there should be greater resources provided for peace-building efforts in Sierra Leone. Without such resources, the Government's programme of reconciliation could not be achieved. Echoing that statement, the representative of the United Kingdom said the international community should give greater support to the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and donor countries should come forward to help peace-building activities. He added that it was time to draw conclusions from the situation in Sierra Leone and ensure that post-conflict situations did not dissolve into conflict situations. The question of how best to contribute to post-conflict peace-building should be examined.

Regarding a proposal to conduct a joint patrol of the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia, the representatives of the United States and Japan said there were still questions, such as what steps would have to be taken to facilitate such activity and who would participate. The representative of Japan added that there was nothing in UNOMSIL's mandate about participating in a joint border patrol and the present strength of the mission would not support such activity.

Despite the difficulties faced in Sierra Leone, the representative of France said the Secretariat report had indicated that there was an encouraging evolution, making it possible to envisage a rapprochement between the three countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The prerequisite for dialogue would be a cessation of hostilities by the rebels and a solution would require support for regional initiatives.

Link to Global Policy Forum's page on Sierra Leone.

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