Global Policy Forum

UN to Apply Limited Sanctions


By Jerome Hule

Panafrican News Agency
May 4, 2001

The UN Security Council decided Friday that its ban on Liberia's diamonds and restrictions on the travel of its officials should come into force on Wednesday (7 May). The council on 7 March imposed the measures but decided that they would take effect after two months only if Liberia did not take a number of actions to sever its support for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a brutal rebel movement in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The sanctions were imposed to compel the Liberian government to end its support for the RUF and help end the 10-year war in Sierra Leone.

At the end of a council meeting at which members deliberated on the latest report of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Liberia and were briefed by the chairman of its Sanctions Committee on Liberia, Council President James Cunningham of the US, said Liberia had not done enough for the council to decide to hold back the sanctions.

In the 7 March resolution, the Council had asked Liberia to expel all RUF members from Liberia and prohibit their activities on Liberian territory; to cease all financial and military support for the RUF and to stop the import of Sierra Leone's rough diamonds that are not certified by the Sierra Leonean government. The Council also asked the Liberian government to freeze the financial assets of the RUF and those who support them and ground all Liberia-registered aircraft.

To avoid sanctions, the Liberian government of President Charles Taylor subsequently announced measures in all the areas demanded. But in deciding that the sanctions should go into force, Cunningham said Council members felt that the information provided by Liberia were not enough to show that Liberia had really met the requirements of the resolution.

In a report to the Council issued Tuesday, Annan said it was difficult to verify measures announced by Liberia, but he also said some sources, including those close to the RUF, had indicated that Liberia still maintained relations with the RUF. In particularly, Annan cited the case of the most prominent RUF member in Liberia, Sam Bockarie, whom Liberia claimed had been expelled. But when asked to show evidence to prove that Bockarie had left Liberia, such as the border point at which he crossed and which country he had gone to, Liberia would not give any answer, Annan said. ECOWAS, the West African grouping that has also been involved in the peace effort in Sierra Leone, had asked that Liberia surrender Bockarie to them but Liberia failed to do so.

Commenting on the Council decision Friday, British ambassador to the UN, Jeremy Greenstock, said the decision was taken in the overall context of the Council's desire to end the war in Sierra Leone for which Liberia has been held responsible. He pointed out that the failure of Taylor's government to fully comply with Council demands was responsible for the decision to go ahead with the sanctions. But he said the Council would maintain dialogue with Liberia to make progress on the issues involved.

Cunningham also said the Council would continue discussing the issue with all ECOWAS states, including Liberia. He maintained that the sanctions, meant to encourage better performance by Liberia, were limited and targeted at the country's leaders in order to limit their humanitarian impact on the ordinary people.

The sanctions are to be in force for 12 months after which they will be reviewed, with the decision to terminate or continue with them based on the determination of Liberia's compliance with requested actions. The arms embargo on Liberia, which took immediate effect in March, are also to be reviewed at the same time with the diamond and travel ban. Annan is required to submit a report to the Council on Liberia every six months.

Reacting to the Council decision, Sierra Leonean envoy, Sylvester Rowe, expressed gratitude at the decision, saying Liberia had obviously not complied with council demands. He also pointed out that the sanctions were meant to make the Liberian leadership to comply and not to punish the Liberian people.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict


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