Global Policy Forum

UN Security Council Briefed

May 16, 2001

The need for an integrated regional approach to political and humanitarian challenges in West Africa was stressed on Monday when senior UN officials briefed the UN Security Council at a special session on the subregion. The Mano River countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - featured prominently in presentations by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie, and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall.

McAskie, who led a UN mission to the three countries on 17-12 April, said that while it was hard to tell exactly how many people were affected by an ongoing crisis involving the Mano River countries, between one million and 1.5 million people were displaced in the three countries.

In Liberia, McAskie said, observers fear a return to an all-out state of war similar to that of 1989-1997. In Guinea "border conflicts are fuelling a growing IDP crisis" and have caused tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees to return home. McAskie noted that "the humanitarian community would need to increase its capacity to cope with people who return to Sierra Leone on their own."

She said she was "cautiously optimistic" about Sierra Leone, but noted that "there is a crucial need to empower the authorities to govern, and to extend aid beyond humanitarian assistance, towards a more sustainable approach of supporting development and governance".

Guehenno described a 10 May meeting in Abuja between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, Government of Sierra Leone and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) as a "first step" towards building confidence between the parties. The meeting reviewed a November 2000 ceasefire agreement between the RUF and government and, Guehenno said, "if properly implemented by both sides in good faith, it has the potential to create the confidence to make further progress".

The RUF has promised to withdraw on 18 May from the district of Kambia, on the border with Guinea, release at least 200 child combatants by 25 May and return all weapons seized from UN peacekeepers by 30 May. Guehenno said the RUF withdrawal from Kambia could facilitate efforts to repatriate Sierra Leonean refugees from Guinea and set a positive precedent for the RUF's withdrawal from other areas, including the diamond-producing ones.

The UN needs to cooperate with ECOWAS to develop a joint plan of action for dealing with conflicts in the Mano River countries, according to Fall, who headed an inter-agency mission to West Africa in March. He highlighted the importance of establishing a proposed UN office for West Africa, especially with regard to taking early preventive action, and managing and resolving conflicts in the subregion.

He also stressed the need for international support to revive Cote d'Ivoire's economy and avert a return of internal strife, to prevent a recurrence of armed conflict in Guinea-Bissau and to help Guinea cope with its humanitarian crisis.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.