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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Recent Reports

Sierra Leone: Recent Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 981223
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a recent UN Security Council press release on the conflict in Sierra Leone, as well as brief excerpts from a report earlier this year by Human Rights Watch. For recent news and background documents see Sierra Leone Web ( Additional sources are listed in the INCORE guide

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

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12/18/1998 Press Release

Security Council
Press Release

The Chairman of the Security Council Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden), reporting to the Council on his visit to Sierra Leone and Liberia, recalled that the purpose of the visit was not only to get information, but to make clear that those who imposed sanctions were also engaged in making sure they are enforced. His primary assignment was to study the implementation of the sanctions against the rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Those included an arms embargo on the non-governmental forces, as well as a travel ban for the members of the military junta.

Absolute facts were hard to come by, particularly regarding violations of sanctions, he said. However, one thing was indisputable -- the situation in Sierra Leone was tense. The country was still plagued by civil war and the rebels had proven a very tough target. Defeated in one part of the country, they have been able to remobilize and increase terror in others. The ECOMOG was doing a good job at promoting stability and extending the safety to the people of Sierra Leone, but logistical restraints remained and they had requested stronger international support.

It was hard to find words strong enough to describe the atrocities committed by the rebels, he said. The rebels simply cut off parts of the bodies of their victims with large knives. They burned alive men, women and children. More than 4,000 people had been summarily executed or mutilated since April. The humanitarian situation was also serious. Since parts of the country remained out of the reach of humanitarian organizations, the full scope of the situation was not known. During his visit, he had shared his view of the importance of showing respect for humanitarian law.

Of particular concern was the burden carried by the children of Sierra Leone, he added. Many had been abducted long ago into the ranks of the Revolutionary United Front and now, at the age of eight or ten, were some of the most fierce fighters in the war. A big challenge would be to integrate the surviving children into a society where identity is based on respect and common norms, not a rifle. Special attention should be given to the children in the international support for the reconstruction of Sierra Leone. He also pleaded with the Government of Sierra Leone to make a serious effort at national reconciliation.

He said attempts to reach out towards a peaceful solution being made by the Government should be encouraged. No effort should be spared to get the rebels to lay down their arms. Regarding the carrying out of executions of those convicted of war crimes, he said that, in his capacity as Sweden's Ambassador to the United Nations, he pleaded with authorities not to make further use of the death penalty. They were ready to attempt to heed such plea.

Turning to sanctions, he said it was obvious that they were not fully implemented. Some of the resupplies seemed to come from looting and attacks within the country, but also from outside. The land borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia were difficult to monitor. There was a perception that support was coming from Liberia, but there was no tangible evidence. The President of Sierra Leone had indicated that the Liberian proposal for joint border control was a good starting point. It could be useful if the United Nations and the international community were to consider supporting such an operation. Every State must ensure respect for sanctions. There was no excuse for those who made a good living from the arms trade.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, introduced a 16 December report of the Secretary-General that recommends the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) for six months, when its current mandate expires on 13 January 1999. He said that since the drafting of the report, elements of the former junta had advanced southwards from the north-west of the country, attacking villages, killing and mutilating civilians and looting and destroying property. Thousands of people had been displaced and had fled to Freetown, the capital, for safety.

A number of delegates expressed satisfaction with Mr. Dahlgren's report and said that chairmen of the sanctions committees should play a more active role in monitoring the implementation of sanctions. The representative of Portugal said the Council should adopt some guidelines regarding the role of the chairpersons of the sanctions committees.

The representative of the Gambia said there should be greater resources provided for peace-building efforts in Sierra Leone. Without such resources, the Government's programme of reconciliation could not be achieved. Echoing that statement, the representative of the United Kingdom said the international community should give greater support to the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and donor countries should come forward to help peace-building activities. He added that it was time to draw conclusions from the situation in Sierra Leone and ensure that post-conflict situations did not dissolve into conflict situations. The question of how best to contribute to post-conflict peace-building should be examined.

Regarding a proposal to conduct a joint patrol of the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia, the representatives of the United States and Japan said there were still questions, such as what steps would have to be taken to facilitate such activity and who would participate. The representative of Japan added that there was nothing in UNOMSIL's mandate about participating in a joint border patrol and the present strength of the mission would not support such activity.

Despite the difficulties faced in Sierra Leone, the representative of France said the Secretariat report had indicated that there was an encouraging evolution, making it possible to envisage a rapprochement between the three countries -- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The prerequisite for dialogue would be a cessation of hostilities by the rebels and a solution would require support for regional initiatives.

Human Rights Watch

July 1998

Brief excerpts from Section V of "Sierra Leone: Sowing Terror."
The full report is available on the HRW web site (
For more information contact
Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104;
TEL: 212/972-8400; FAX: 212/972-0905; E-mail:


Overshadowed by conflict in Liberia and events elsewhere on the continent, Sierra Leone has largely escaped the attention of the international community. Over the past seven years, aside from the involvement of diamond mining firms, international interest has focused on the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims of the internal conflict and, to a lesser extent, finding political or military solutions to end the violence. Until recently, human rights concerns have largely taken a back seat to emergency relief, support for military interventions, or efforts to negotiate peace between the various warring parties.

The recent surge in atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone has raised a limited level of awareness from the international community regarding the human rights implications of the crisis. In general, the plight of civilians in Sierra Leone has had to compete with other refugee-related emergencies for the attention of international players. This competition, often with crises in Europe, combined with a general lack of funds for UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies, has resulted in insufficient responses to the political, humanitarian, and human rights situation in Sierra Leone. ...

In June 1998, a team of three experts from the World Bank visited Sierra Leone to discuss and refine a program for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) with the Sierra Leonean government. The World Bank, UNDP, and other donors have agreed to fund this program, to be carried out by ECOMOG. The United Nations Observer Mission to Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) will have the critical role of monitoring and assisting with the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants and assuring the respect for international humanitarian law during this process. The success of this program and the humane treatment of former combatants from all sides will be crucial to bring about an end to the conflict in Sierra Leone.

A major challenge to the international community is developing policies and providing assistance that protect human rights and promote peace and stability in the long run. Some past and present policies of governments and international organizations, as discussed below, have targeted only short-term political, economic, or military objectives, while ignoring fundamental human rights concerns. As the reinstated Kabbah government rebuilds national institutions of justice, and ECOMOG creates a new national army, the international community is presented with a unique opportunity to promote human rights in Sierra Leone. ...

As required by its mandate, UNOMSIL should insist that ECOMOG respect the rights of demobilized combatants and that high standards are maintained throughout the training of the new Sierra Leonean army in international humanitarian law. Linked with this responsibility, UNOMSIL should work closely with ECOMOG to monitor arms flows and recruitment in support of AFRC/RUF. Human Rights Watch received numerous allegations that the AFRC/RUF was continuing to receive arms from outside the country, via land and air. In order to monitorand deter military support to the AFRC/RUF, a strong presence of UNOMSIL will be necessary to monitor arms trafficking, in particular along the porous border with Liberia. The monitoring of the Liberian border should be performed in conjunction with ECOMOG forces in Liberia. ...

ECOWAS and ECOMOG have played key roles in recent political negotiations and military interventions respectively in Sierra Leone. As part of bilateral security accords, Nigerian forces and Guinean forces have been in Sierra Leone since 1995 to help the NPRC and, later, the Kabbah government to fight the RUF. The Nigerian and Guinean forces were in Sierra Leone at the time of the May 25, 1997 coup, and later reinforced ECOMOG's efforts to oust the AFRC/RUF.

Following the 1997 coup, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) called on ECOWAS to restore constitutional order to Sierra Leone. When their negotiations with the AFRC/RUF failed to achieve progress, ECOWAS imposed an economic embargo, which was later reinforced by an October 1997 U.N. Security Council global arms and oil embargo and restrictions on international travel by AFRC/RUF members and their families. ECOMOG enforced these sanctions with the permission of ECOWAS and the Security Council. With the failure of diplomatic efforts and the escalation of tension, ECOMOG's mandate was upgraded from sanction enforcement to actual military intervention to oust the AFRC/RUF. The ECOMOG contingent in Sierra Leone is led by Nigerian Commander Brigadier General Maxwell Khobe and composed of approximately 9,000 troops, predominately Nigerian with several Guinean support battalions. As of June 23, Gambia, Ghana and Niger had all promised to send troops to reinforce ECOMOG. In late July, ECOMOG announced that it was finishing the transfer of its headquarters from Monrovia to Freetown and that an additional 3,500 troops would soon arrive. ...

ECOMOG holds the key responsibilities of disarming and demobilizing combatants as well as forming and training the new Sierra Leonean army. ECOMOG commander Maxwell Khobe has stated that the new army will be ethnically and regionally balanced. ECOMOG's past human rights record in Liberia and problems in the present, however, underscore the need for UNOMSIL to provide assistance and closely monitor the disarmament, demobilization, and training processes to assure that the new army is founded upon principles of respect for international humanitarian law.

Misinformation regarding the security situation in Sierra Leone has created serious risks for both Sierra Leonean refugees and civilians within the country. ECOMOG, along with Sierra Leonean government and some U.N. officials, has downplayed the capacity of the AFRC/RUF and portrayed the security conditions in Sierra Leone as safe and returning to normal in many districts. This information has contrasted sharply with reports from aid organizations with a field presence as well as from other U.N. officials. ...

The United Kingdom, European Union and United States

Since May 1998, the United Kingdom, European Union (E.U.), and United States have issued several strong statements denouncing the human rights violations committed by the AFRC/RUF in Sierra Leone. On May 21, 1998, the U.S. Department of State and European Union issued a joint statement which expressed their grave concern over the atrocities. ...

In June, the U.S. and E.U. sent a joint high-level assessment mission to the region led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Julia Taft which resulted in financial pledges for humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. These calls for an end to atrocities against civilians and financial commitments for humanitarian assistance should be combined with long-term support from the U.S. and the E.U. that promotes human rights and the rule of law. ...

Both the U.S. and U.K. have played significant roles in recent political and military developments in Sierra Leone. The U.S. is the single largest donor in response to the Sierra Leonean crisis, having contributed $53 million in food, humanitarian and other aid in fiscal year 1998, including support for ECOMOG. The British have led fund-raising efforts at the European Union for the 1996 elections, ECOMOG, and other assistance. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have provided support for the Nigeria-led ECOMOG force in Sierra Leone. In May, the U.S. StateDepartment announced $3.9 million for logistical support to ECOMOG through Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE). PAE is a U.S.-based military logistics firm contracted to provide transportation, communication, and other support to ECOMOG. The U.K. has contributed 2 million pounds (U.S. $ 3.3 million) to a U.N. trust fund for peacekeeping activities in Sierra Leone, some of which may be used to support ECOMOG.

This support for ECOMOG should be accompanied by close monitoring of its conduct and complemented by additional efforts to protect human rights. The U.S. and U.K. should closely monitor the performance of ECOMOG in international humanitarian law observance and in its disarmament, demobilization, and training efforts. In particular, the U.S. and U.K. should insist on high-quality training in international humanitarian law for the new Sierra Leonean army and on the humane treatment of demobilized combatants from all sides. The U.K. has sent an evaluation team to Sierra Leone to consider a police training program to Sierra Leone. The success of these types of initiatives in contributing to building institutions that protect human rights will depend largely on their careful design and monitoring of their implementation.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. have encouraged negotiated solutions to end the violence, most recently during talks at Abidjan in November 1996 and at Conakry in October 1997. Since the scale of atrocities has increased, the U.K. has been cautious about promoting negotiations with the AFRC/RUF. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, U.K. High Commissioner Peter Penfold stated that the U.K. was not pushing in "public or in private" for negotiations with the AFRC/RUF. The U.S. has taken a more open stand, stating that it:

did not preclude any possible option that might lead to peace. ECOWAS, with the support of the international community, must explore every political avenue and determine the best way to proceed.

The U.S. elaborated that the RUF and former junta leadership must first, however, "unambiguously and honestly renounce" atrocities against civilians before talks could begin.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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