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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Sierra Leone: UN Report

Sierra Leone: UN Report
Date distributed (ymd): 010111
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from the executive summary of the unofficial text of the report of the UN panel of experts on conflict in Sierra Leone, presented to the Security Council in December 2000. The full unofficial text is available on two sites: and

Given the prior coverage received by the section of the report on diamonds, this excerpt concentrates on the section on weapons.

Another posting today contains a summary of the report also released in December on sanctions against UNITA in Angola.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


December 2000


A. Diamonds

1. Diamonds have become an important resource for Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in sustaining and advancing its military ambitions. Estimates of the volume of RUF diamonds vary widely, from as little as $25 million per annum to as much as $125 million. Whatever the total, it represents a major and primary source of income for the RUF, and is more than enough to sustain its military activities.

2. A certain volume of RUF diamonds are traded in Kenema and elsewhere in Sierra Leone. These are most likely smuggled out of the country. Some RUF diamonds have also been traded informally in Guinea. But the bulk of the RUF diamonds leave Sierra Leone through Liberia. The diamonds are carried by RUF commanders and trusted Liberian couriers to Foya-Kama or Voinjama, and then to Monrovia. Such trade cannot be conducted without the permission and the involvement of Liberian government officials at the highest level. Very little Liberian trade, in fact, whether formal or informal, takes place without the knowledge and involvement of key government officials. This is true of all imports, and where exports are concerned, it is especially true of diamonds. ...

17. Throughout its work, the Panel was struck by the widespread breaking of UN Security Council sanctions on both weapons and diamonds. If existing and future sanctions are to be effective, the Security Council will require an on-going capacity to monitor their observance and conduct research. Where diamonds are concerned, there have been three Expert Panels examining many of the same issues concurrently. There has been useful collaboration, but there has also been overlap and duplication. Considering the complexity and the changing nature of the conflict diamond issue the Panel recommends that in future, it would serve the Security Council better to have an on-going focal point within the UN to monitor adherence to sanctions, as well as progress towards the goals stated in the December 1, 2000 General Assembly resolution on conflict diamonds.

18. The attention of the Security Council, the Government of Sierra Leone, donor agencies and other interested parties is drawn to observations contained in the report about the need for probity and transparency. Without serious reform and due diligence within government and government agencies in Sierra Leone, international efforts to assist will be wasted.

C. Weapons and Air Traffic Control

19. Despite an ECOWAS-Moratorium on arms shipments to West Africa, the region is awash in small arms. Guerrilla armies receive weapons through interlinked networks of traders, criminals and insurgents moving across borders. Systematic information on weapons smuggling in the region is non-existent, and information that could be used to combat the problem on a regional scale - through ECOWAS or through bilateral exchanges - is generally not available. Few states in the region have the resources or the infrastructure to tackle smuggling.

20. In Sierra Leone, the RUF depends almost exclusively on light weaponry, although it does have access to more sophisticated equipment. It has captured many weapons during confrontations with the Sierra Leone Army, ECOMOG and UNAMSIL forces. The Panel, however, found unequivocal and overwhelming evidence that Liberia has been actively supporting the RUF at all levels, in providing training, weapons and related matériel, logistical support, a staging ground for attacks and a safe haven for retreat and recuperation, and for public relations activities.

21. There is also conclusive evidence of supply lines to Liberia through Burkina Faso. Weapons supplied to Burkina Faso by governments or private arms merchants have been systematically diverted for use in the conflict in Sierra Leone. For example, a shipment of 68 tons of weapons arrived at Ouagadougou on 13 March 1999. They were temporarily off-loaded in Ouagadougou and some were trucked to Bobo Dioulasso. The bulk of them were then trans-shipped within a matter of days to Liberia. Most were flown aboard a BAC- 111 owned by an Israeli businessman of Ukrainian origin, Leonid Minin. Details of the flights and dates are included in the report.

22. The role of aircraft in the RUF's supply chain is vital, especially over the past two years as their sphere of influence in Sierra Leone has widened. It is known that the RUF were supplied by helicopter on a sporadic basis before 1997, and on a regular basis since then. Helicopters originating in Liberia land at Buedu, Kailahun, Makeni, Yengema, Tumbudu and elsewhere in Kono District.

23. President Charles Taylor is actively involved in fuelling the violence in Sierra Leone, and many businessmen close to his inner- circle operate on an international scale, sourcing their weaponry mainly in eastern Europe. One key individual is a wealthy Lebanese businessman named Talal El-Ndine. El-Ndine is the inner-circle's paymaster. Liberians fighting in Sierra Leone alongside the RUF, and those bringing diamonds out of Sierra Leone are paid by him personally. The pilots and crew of the aircraft used for clandestine shipments into or out of Liberia are also paid by El- Ndine.

24. Regional air surveillance capacities are weak or totally inadequate in detecting, or in acting as a deterrent to the arms merchants supplying Liberia and the RUF. Weak airspace surveillance in the region in general, and abusive practices with regard to aircraft registration, create a climate in which arms traffickers operate with impunity.

25. Because of its lax licence and tax laws, Liberia has for many years been a flag of convenience for the fringe air cargo industry. Liberia also has lax maritime and aviation laws that provide the owners of ships and aircraft with maximum discretion and cover, and with minimal regulatory interference. A schedule of Liberian-registered aircraft provided to the Panel by the government listed only 7 planes. No documentation was available on more than 15 other aircraft identified by the Panel. Many aircraft flying under the Liberian flag, therefore, are apparently unknown to Liberian authorities, and are never inspected or seen in the country.

26. In November 1999, a Kenyan national named Sanjivan Ruprah was authorized by the Liberian Minister of Transport to act as the 'Global Civil Aviation agent worldwide' for the Liberian Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority, and to 'investigate and regularise the ... Liberian Civil Aviation register'. During its visit to Liberia the Panel asked the Transport Ministry, the Ministry of Justice and police authorities about Ruprah and his work, but was told that he was not known to them. Ruprah is, in fact, a well- known weapons dealer. He travels using a Liberian diplomatic passport in the name of Samir M. Nasr, and carries additional authorization from the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry.

27. Victor Bout is a well-known supplier of embargoed non-state actors - in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. He oversees a complex network of over 50 planes and multiple cargo charter and freight-forwarding companies, many of which are involved in shipping illicit cargo. Bout has used the Liberian aviation register extensively, operating mainly out of the United Arab Emirates. Sharjah Airport is used as an 'airport of convenience' for planes registered in many other countries. One of Bout's aircraft, an Ilyushin 76, was used in July and August 2000 for arms deliveries from eastern Europe to Liberia. This aircraft and an Antonov made four deliveries, on July 4 and 27, and August 1 and 23, 2000. The cargo included military helicopters, spare rotors, anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, missiles, armoured vehicles, machine guns and ammunition.

28. It is difficult to conceal something the size of an Mi-17 military helicopter, and the supply of such items to Liberia cannot go undetected by customs authorities in originating countries unless there are false flight plans and end-user certificates, or unless customs officials at points of exit are paid to look the other way. The constant involvement of Bout's aircraft in arms shipments from eastern Europe into African war zones suggests the latter.

29. In addition, there have been few significant cases of aircraft with weapons being grounded at important fuelling points such as Cairo, Nairobi or Entebbe, or anywhere in West Africa. Although some countries have temporarily or permanently stopped aircraft registered in Liberia from entering their airspace, the Liberian register continues to be used fraudulently. The practice has clearly been organised from Liberia in cooperation with shrewd businessmen abroad, and Liberian-registered planes remain prominent in many African countries, particularly in countries at war.

30. In short, Liberia is actively breaking Security Council embargoes regarding weapons imports into its own territory and into Sierra Leone. It is being actively assisted by Burkina Faso. It is being tacitly assisted by countries allowing weapons to pass through or over their territory without question, and by those countries that provide a base for the aircraft used in such operations.

31. The report concludes with a full technical report on the adequacy of air traffic control and surveillance systems within the region.

D. Recommendations on Weapons and Air Traffic Control

32. The Panel strongly recommends that all aircraft operating with an EL-registration number and based at airports other than in Liberia, should be grounded immediately and until the provisions in the following recommendation are met. This includes planes based in Sharjah and other airports in the United Arab Emirates, in Congo Brazzaville, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Angola, Rwanda and Kenya. Airport authorities and operators of planes registered in Liberia over the past five years should be advised to keep all their documentation, log books, operating licences, way bills and cargo manifests for inspection.

33. It is further recommended that all operators of aircraft on the Liberian register, wherever they are based, be required to file their airworthiness and operating licences and their insurance documents with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's headquarters in Montreal, Canada, including documentation on inspections carried out during the past five years. The aircraft of all operators failing to do so should be grounded permanently. Aircraft that do not meet ICAO standards should be grounded permanently.

34. The Security Council, through ICAO, IATA and the WCO should create a centralized information bulletin, making the list of grounded Liberian aircraft known to all airports in the world.

35. Burkina Faso has recently recommended that the UN Security Council supervise a proposed mechanism that would monitor all arms imports into its territory, and their use, for a period of three years. The Panel endorses this proposal. The Panel also recommends that under such a mechanism, all imports of weapons and related matériel into Burkina Faso over the past five years be investigated. The Panel further recommends that any state having exported weapons during this period to Burkina Faso should investigate the actual end-use of these weapons, and report their findings to the Security Council and to the Program for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) established under the ECOWAS Moratorium.

36. In view of the sanctions-breaking cases investigated by the Panel and the information gathered in the region, it is recommended that the Security Council encourage the reinforcement of the ECOWAS Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) with support from Interpol and the World Customs Organisation. PCASED should have an active capacity to monitor compliance with arms embargoes and the circulation of illicit weapons in the region.

37. The Security Council should encourage ECOWAS member states to enter into binding bilateral arrangements between states with common frontier zones, to initiate an effective, common and internationally agreed system of control that includes the recording, licensing, collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons. These bilateral arrangements can be promoted and facilitated through ECOWAS and through the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development. A common standard and the management of a database on significant cases of smuggling and sanctions busting in the region could be developed by Interpol. The IWETS (International Weapons and Explosives Tracking System) programme of Interpol could be used by all states and the United Nations for the purpose of tracking the origin of the weaponry.

38. In this report, the Panel has identified certain arms brokers and intermediaries responsible for supplying weapons to the RUF. A project should be developed to profile these arms brokers with the cooperation of Interpol. Similarly, considering the importance of air transport in the sanctions busting, profiles of major cargo companies involved in such practices should be developed, with a view to exploring ways and means of further strengthening the implementation of sanctions.

39. Responsibility for the flood of weapons into West Africa lies with producing countries as well as those that trans-ship and use them. The Security Council must find ways of restricting the export of weapons, especially from eastern Europe, into conflict areas under regional or UN embargoes. 'Naming and shaming' is a first step, but consideration could be given to placing an embargo on weapons exports from specific producer countries, just as diamonds have been embargoed from producer countries, until internationally acceptable certification schemes have been developed.

40. An analysis of the firearms recovered from rebels should be undertaken in cooperation with Interpol, and its International Weapons and Explosives Tracking System. This would help in further identifying those involved in the RUF supply line.

41. The World Customs Organization should be asked to share with the Security Council its views on creating adequate measures for better monitoring and detection of weapons or related matériel to non-state actors or countries under an arms embargo.

42. Current Security Council arms embargoes should be amended to include a clear ban on the provision of military and paramilitary training.

43. Countries in West Africa that have not signed the 1989 UN Convention on the Recruitment, Use, Training and Financing of Mercenaries should be encouraged to do so.

44. Consideration should be given to the development of special training programs on sanctions monitoring for national law enforcement and security agencies, as well as airport and customs personnel in West Africa, and the development of a manual or manuals on the monitoring of sanctions at airports for worldwide use by airport authorities and law enforcement services.

45. Consideration should be given to placing specialised United Nations monitors at major airports in the region (and perhaps further afield), focussing on sensitive areas and coordinating their findings with other airports. This would enable better identification of suspect aircraft. It would also create a deterrent against illicit trafficking, and would generate the information needed to identify planes, owners and operators violating UN sanctions and arms embargoes.

46. The Security Council should consider ways in which air traffic control and surveillance in West Africa can be improved, with a view to curtailing the illicit movement of weapons. Possibilities include:

* encouraging the installation of primary radar at all major West African airports, and finding the financial support to do so. Only primary radar can independently detect the movement of aircraft; ...

Other Recommendations

47. In this report, the Panel makes a variety of specific recommendations that deal with diamonds, weapons and the use of aircraft for sanctions-busting and the movement of illicit weapons. Many of these recommendations and the problems they address are related to the primary supporter of the RUF, Liberia - its President, its government and the individuals and companies it does business with. The Panel notes with concern that Security Council resolutions on diamonds and weapons are being broken with impunity. In addition to the foregoing, the Panel offers the following recommendations with a view to making the message of this report more clear, and to ensuring that there is better follow-up to Security Council decisions in future:

48. A travel ban similar to that already imposed on senior Liberian officials and diplomats by the United States should be considered for application by all UN member nations until such time as Liberia's support to the RUF and its breaking of other UN sanctions ends conclusively.

49. The principals in Liberia's timber industry are involved in a variety of illicit activities, and large amounts of the proceeds are used to pay for extra-budgetary activities, including the acquisition of weapons. Consideration should be given to placing a temporary embargo on Liberian timber exports, until Liberia demonstrates convincingly that it is no longer involved in the trafficking of arms to, or diamonds from, Sierra Leone.

50. Consideration should be given to creating capacity within the UN Secretariat for on-going monitoring of Security Council sanctions and embargoes. This is imperative to the building of an in-house knowledge base on current issues such as conflict diamonds, as noted in paragraph 17 above, but it is even more important to creating greater awareness of, and capacity to deal with problems, which are not likely to be solved in the near future, such as the illicit trade in weapons and related materiel.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC provides accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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