Global Policy Forum

UN To Send 6,000 Personnel To Sierra Leone


By Jerome Hule

Panafrican News Agency
October 23, 1999

The UN Security Council has authorised the immediate settting up of a UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) with a military component of 6,000 personnel, among them 260 military observers. The establishment of the mission was envisaged in a peace agreement for Sierra Leone, reached in July by the government and the rebels under the auspices of Economic Community for West African States, Ecowas, with the support of the UN. A resolution by the council Friday said the new mission, mandated for an initial period of six months, would take over the military and civilian functions as well as assets of the existing UN observer mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL). UNOMSIL is to be terminated as soon as UNAMSIL is set up, the council said.

To expedite the setting up of the new mission, the council asked the government of Sierra Leone and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to conclude a status-of-forces agreement within 30 days of the adoption of the resolution. The council mandated UNAMSIL to assist in the implementation of the Sierra Leonean peace agreement, including disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants into society. UNAMSIL is also to ensure the security and freedom of movement of UN personnel, monitor adherence to the ceasefire, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and encourage the parties to the peace agreement to create confidence-building mechanisms.

The council further authorised UNAMSIL to take "the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and within its capabilities and areas of deployment" and to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. The resolution also defined the role of the West African peace-keeping force in Sierra Leone, known as Ecomog, saying it should be involved in the provision of security in areas where the regional force is currently deployed, protection for the government of Sierra Leone and conduct of other operations to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement. The parties to the conflict, the resolution urged, should promote peace and national reconciliation, foster accountability and respect for human rights.

Noting that the plight of children is among the pressing challenges facing Sierra Leone, the security council encouraged the national government, all UN and other agencies to address the needs of all children affected by the war. To support the disarment process, peace building and reconstruction, the council called on the international community to increase resource contribution to a trust fund set up for Sierra Leone. Addressing the council before the adoption of the resolution, Nigeria's new permanent representative to the UN, Arthur Mbanefo, said the resolution was an opportunity for the UN to fulfil its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security.

"It also represents a concrete attempt to assist the West African sub-region in resolving a local conflict," he said. He pointed out that "for Nigeria, the creation of UNAMSIL not only vindicate our conviction that the Sierra Leone crisis is a threat to international peace and security, but also relieves us of a disproportionate burden in human and material resources." The envoy paid tribute to Ecowas leadership, particularly the troop contributing countries of Ghana and Guinea Bissau, for their vision and perseverance in the face of daunting conditions during the Sierra Leonean crisis. He reiterated Nigeria's commitment to international peace and security, citing as examples, the country's efforts Liberia and now Sierra Leone.

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