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Sierra Leone: Recent Reports
Sierra Leone: Recent Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 981223
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
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 (http://www.sierra-leone.org).
Additional sources are listed in the INCORE guide
Holiday Special at APIC's Africa Web Bookshop.
plus music and more (www.africapolicy.org/books/cdvid.htm)!
SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS IN OPEN SESSION TO CONSIDER SITUATION
IN SIERRA LEONE
12/18/1998 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
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
Brief excerpts from Section V of "Sierra Leone: Sowing Terror."
The full report is available on the HRW web site (http://www.hrw.org/reports98/sierra).
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
V. THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
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.