Global Policy Forum

UN Council Lifts Sierra Leone Arms Embargo


by Evelyn Leopold

June 5, 1998

UNITED NATIONS - The Security Council on Friday lifted its arms embargo against the government of Sierra Leone and its West African supporters battling brutal rebel forces in eastern and northern areas of the country.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member body also imposes a travel ban against leaders of the country's deposed military junta and its militia supporters, unless authorised by the council.

Nigerian-led West African troops entered Freetown in February and evicted the military junta that overthrew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in a May 1997 coup. He was returned to office in March from exile in neighbouring Guinea.

The troops ended resistance in most areas but the rebels have since launched a series of raids in the north and east, hacking off arms and legs of men, women and children, gang-raping women and girls and killing civilians in revenge for their loss of power.

The council's resolution said all weapons and ammunition must enter Sierra Leone through specific government-controlled border points to ensure they do not fall into the hands of the rebels.

It said the Sierra Leone government should ``mark, register and notify'' the council of all arms imports.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to report to the council within six months on the state of arms imports to the country.

The council also ``expresses its readiness'' to end all restrictions once the rebels have been disarmed and demobilized and the government controls the entire country.

Arms embargoes are usually difficult to enforce, especially in West Africa where the arms trade flourished during the civil war in neighbouring Liberia.

In the case of Sierra Leone, however, the British government, which initiated the embargo last October, became embroiled last month over possible violations of the ban after a British firm sold weapons to Kabbah's supporters.

The company, Sandline International, defended its actions saying it had been given the go-ahead from the Foreign Office.


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