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Sierra Leone: Security Council members laud disarmament progress, urge follow-up

Sierra Leone: Security Council members laud disarmament progress, urge follow-up

Members of the Security Council today welcomed the recent advancement of the disarmament process in Sierra Leone but noted that substantive progress in other areas is needed before credible elections can be held.

The Council President for the month of August, Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, said in a press statement that government authority, including the deployment of a robust police presence, must extend throughout the country before conditions for balloting can be obtained.

In addition, Council members stressed that the Government of Sierra Leone and other partners must develop a fully working strategy for conducting the elections as soon as conditions permit, Ambassador Valdivieso said. The members also looked forward to seeing "as soon as possible" an outline of plans by the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to support the process.

Council members "noted the moratorium on diamond mining announced by the Government of Sierra Leone and RUF [Revolutionary United Front] and encouraged the Government to come forward with a long-term strategy for managing the diamond districts," the President said.

Ambassador Valdivieso's statement followed a closed-door briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hédi Annabi, who noted that since the current disarmament exercise began on 18 May, more than 13,000 combatants have been disarmed, while the RUF has released more than 1,100 children.

At the same time, Mr. Annabi pointed to logistical constraints facing the mission, including challenges in transporting combatants to disarmament centres, as impediments to the disarmament efforts.

On the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr. Annabi noted an appeal from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to donors to disburse pledges for the Court and to propose candidates for a prosecutor.

Supporting this call in his statement, Ambassador Valdivieso said Council members "underlined the importance of donors quickly fulfilling existing pledges as well as the need for new contributions." He also welcomed the UN Secretariat's intention to send a planning mission to the country, and emphasized that work on the Court must be done in close collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is helping to organize a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Sierra Leone.