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Peace process in Sierra Leone making remarkable changes, Security Council told

Peace process in Sierra Leone making remarkable changes, Security Council told

The peace process in Sierra Leone has witnessed remarkable changes in magnitude and patterns of development in recent months, the Security Council was told this morning as it met to consider the situation in the West African State.

Briefing the Council on developments since March, Oluyemi Adeniji, the head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), said the UN operation had continued to work closely with the Government of Sierra Leone and had solidified its contacts with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Consultations with the parties have included delicate discussions on Kambia district, he said, noting that progress has led to a follow-up to the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement to discuss the practical resumption of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the RUF in Kambia.

The international community must step up its support for the disarmament process, he said, warning that the current programme would run out of funds in August unless the $31 million in additional funding was forthcoming. The Council might wish to back the efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to encourage States to take urgent steps to pledge funds, he said. If the response was not quick enough, the Council might be called on to seek alternative sources of funding.

Following Mr. Adeniji's presentation, Hans Dahlgren, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, briefed Council members on the European Union's recent mission to Sierra Leone and other countries in the Mano River Union region. He said the mission had found the ceasefire holding and had noted the beginning of dialogue between the RUF and the Government of Sierra Leone. It was too early to be sure, but it seemed as if President Kabbah and his Government were on the right track, and that plans for national elections could soon be implemented, he said. He hoped that the former rebels would be fully integrated, taking into account the need for justice to be done over the atrocities committed.

Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, said his country intended to make the best possible use of the unique opportunity provided by the international community's significant investments. He noted the success achieved in the disarmament programme and said he was especially elated over the release of child soldiers and abductees, whose lives could now be set back on their proper courses. He pointed out, however, the extreme lack of resources for the programme. His Government was currently coming to grips with the magnitude of the problem of reintegration, and had embarked on a short-term reintegration programme for ex-combatants, which should jump-start their absorption into society. However, it must be strongly emphasized to the RUF and the Civil Defence Force (CDF) that the process would not be ongoing, he said, stressing that the support of the international community was crucial.