Sierra Leone: ex-combatants resume weapons handover to UN mission

Sierra Leone: ex-combatants resume weapons handover to UN mission

The disarmament process in the diamond-rich Kono District has resumed following an agreement reached earlier this week, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reported today.

Sixty-seven combatants from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and 16 Civil Defence Force (CDF) fighters handed in their weapons to UNAMSIL at locations on the outskirts of Koidu.

Disarmament began yesterday during a visit to the area by a team led by UNAMSIL's Deputy Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Martin Luther Agwai; the interim RUF leader, Gen. Issa Sesay and the Chairman of the RUF's Political and Peace Council, Omrie Golley. A CDF delegation headed by Paramount Chief P.C. Kongoba and including several other local chiefs and CDF field commanders also toured the area.

Meanwhile, the head of UNAMSIL, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, also travelled to Kono district on Thursday as a follow-up to the 17 July meeting of the Tripartite Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) in which the parties also agreed to dismantle all checkpoints and halt diamond mining in an effort to reduce tensions in the area.

Ambassador Adeniji visited the Yengema DDR centre to assess its state of readiness to receive disarmed combatants and also witnessed preparations for the discharge of the first group of demobilized ex-combatants.

In Koidu, at the Bangladeshi peacekeepers' headquarters, he met with Gen. Sesay and local CDF commanders, and discussed with them the provisions of the agreement and the need for the commanders to mobilize their combatants on the ground to disarm. Gen. Sesay and CDF Commander Batten pledged their cooperation and commitment to the disarmament process.