Global Policy Forum

Sierra Leonean Disarmament

Afrol News
May 23, 2001

According to UN sources in Sierra Leone, the disarmament process, which had been hampering for one year, finally is gaining momentum. A new UN initiative to disarm combatants, following the positive peace talks, has been met with measurable success.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) yesterday reported that more than 1,700 combatants from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels/terrorists and the government-backed Civil Defence Force (CDF) had been disarmed in two districts of Sierra Leone - Kambia and Port Loko. In a statement issued in Freetown, the UN Mission said that 813 RUF combatants - 618 adults and 195 children - had handed over their weapons in the newly established UNAMSIL disarmament centres. Of the 915 CDF fighters to disarm, 907 were adults and 8 were children.

According to UNAMSIL, the ex-combatants turned in a range of heavy and light weapons, including an anti-aircraft battery and mortars, as well as AK-47s, AK-58s, rocket-propelled grenades and other small arms and ammunition. The weapons were immediately disabled on hand-over. UNAMSIL military spokesman Major Mohammed Yerima said, the moment the combatants disarm "we destroy the weapons right there and then."

Prior to the new UN disarmament initiative, only some 500 combatants had handed their weapons over to the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR). The NCDDR heads a national effort to disarm all fighting units in the country, except the army.

The change in mind came after the fairly successful talks between the RUF and the government, hosted by the UN, in Abuja (Nigeria) and Freetown (Sierra Leone). Prior to the new negotiations, RUF had seen the UN troops as a party to the conflict, siding with the government. Handing over weapons to UN forces therefore was not an option.

The RUF 3rd Brigade commander at Kambia, "Colonel Bai-Bureh," told the BBC that 700 of his men had already been disarmed, and that only 30 to 40 of his personnel were still carrying weapons. Bai-Bureh said he would like to join the restructured national army, but that he was first looking towards presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to take place before the end of the year, according to Sierra Leone Web.

The weapons collected are being destroyed and recycled at various locations around the country. They are cut into pieces and converted into productive tools - hoes, sickles, cutlasses, shovels, axes and other garden implements. According to UNAMSIL, these tools will immediately be distributed to former soldiers within the disarmament programme's reintegration schemes.

The numbers of weapons recovered so far however represent an insignificant percentage of the waste amount of weapons circulating in the war-torn country. Further, control over these weapons is poor, as is control over the large amount of armed groups.

Ceasefire violated

The UN Mission yesterday also reported that the CDF attacked RUF positions approximately 20 miles east of Koidu on the night of 19/20 May, in violation of the 15 May cessation of hostilities agreement. The attack was verified by the Bangladeshi UN Battalion, which maintains a permanent patrol presence at Koidu. The attack caused some 600 internally displaced persons to flee the area and move westwards towards Sefadu, UNAMSIL said.

To show its commitment to the peace process and help to resolve the situation, a joint UN-Government of Sierra Leone delegation travelled to Koidu yesterday to talk to the CDF militia, according to the UN.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia


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