The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reported today the conclusion of a 10-day disarmament exercise involving ex-combatants in two western districts of the country.
In Kukuna yesterday, UNAMSIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande congratulated the chiefs and people of the town on their cooperation during the disarmament of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) and the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). He urged the local population to cooperate with the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), which began deploying today in the area to protect the border with Guinea.
On a visit to Kambia district, the Force Commander met with a senior representative of the RUF Party (RUFP), who expressed his gratitude to UNAMSIL for its timely deployment in the area. Gen. Opande thanked the population for cooperating with the RUF in bringing peace to Kambia and urged the people to assist the government in its reconstruction efforts.
Disarmament in Kambia and Port Loko districts began on 18 May, in accordance with the 15 May Freetown agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF on the timetable and modalities of the process. According to UNAMSIL, more than 3,300 combatants were disarmed during the operation in the two districts, while the RUF handed over 600 child combatants in Makeni.
Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the country, UNAMSIL's Deputy Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Martin L. Agwai, yesterday made his third confidence-building visit to the town of Koidu in less than a week to meet separately with leaders from the CDF and the RUF. During his meetings, he asked the two parties to prepare for a meeting on 31 May with the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN Mission to review the disarmament process and chart the way forward.
Maj. Gen. Agwai's visit followed a tripartite meeting between the Government of Sierra Leone, the RUF and UNAMSIL in Koidu on 26 May. That meeting, which was held in an effort to stop ceasefire violations and continuation of hostilities in Kono district, was "very productive and resulted in a reaffirmation by the CDF and RUF of strict respect of the ceasefire agreement," the UN Mission said in a statement issued today in Freetown.
In other news, UNAMSIL chief Oluyemi Adeniji today opened a four-day seminar on issues related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Organized by the UN Mission's Human Rights Section, the seminar is addressing strategies and methodologies for investigating human rights abuses, guidelines on the relationship between the Commission and the independent Special Court, and the internal organization of the Commission.