Global Policy Forum

UN Chief Calls for Increased Presence


By Edith M. Lederer

Nando Media
August 2, 1999

UN - Urging quick action to support the peace agreement in Sierra Leone, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Monday for an expanded UN military observer mission and more human rights monitors. Eight years of civil war in the West African nation formally ended July 7 when the government and the rebel Revolutionary United Front signed a peace agreement in Togo's capital, Lome. The conflict killed tens of thousands and maimed many more.

Annan said implementation of the agreement "will require the presence of a substantial number of peacekeepers throughout the country, together with the deployment of additional UN military observers, in mutually supporting roles." Detailed discussions are scheduled to begin Tuesday at UN headquarters on the size of the peacekeeping operation and the division of labor between the UN Mission in Sierra Leone and the Nigerian-led West African intervention force known as ECOMOG, which will form the core of the new peacekeeping force.

In the interim, Annan asked the UN Security Council to increase the UN mission to 210 military observers from the 70 now authorized "in order to offer maximum support to the parties and ECOMOG, and maintain momentum in the peace process." The additional observers, he said, will expand contacts with rebel troops in the countryside, extend cease-fire monitoring, and assist and monitor the disarmament and demobilization of combatants. The secretary-general also proposed that the UN mission be strengthened with additional political, civil affairs and human rights staff. The peace deal provides amnesty for the rebels, who are blamed for the bulk of the atrocities against unarmed civilians.

Annan's special representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, signed the accord on behalf of the UN but wrote in a disclaimer saying the amnesty didn't apply to gross violations of human rights. The UN has nonetheless been condemned for signing the peace deal by some human rights groups.

UN officials haven't said what exactly what the UN was prepared to do to ensure that those responsible for committing atrocities be punished.

In Monday's report to the Security Council, Annan said it was essential to collect testimonies, document abuses and bring forward witnesses and survivors of atrocities. A thorough fact-finding process will be critical in order for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission envisioned in the peace agreement to function effectively, he said.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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