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Sierra Leone Government and rebel group agree to speed up disarmament

Sierra Leone Government and rebel group agree to speed up disarmament

Meeting under the chairmanship of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have re-affirmed their commitment to the peace process and agreed "to implement in good faith" all the decisions reached in prior meetings.

In a meeting held yesterday in Freetown, the Joint Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) also drew up a timetable for the completion of disarmament in the remaining districts of the country. The gathering, comprising representatives of the Government, UNAMSIL and the RUF, was chaired by Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, the head of the UN peacekeeping operation.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting and signed by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, and the chairman of the RUF's Political and Peace Council, Omrie Golley, the parties agreed to complete disarmament in Koinadugu and Moyamba districts by 22 October, and in Bo and Bombali districts by 31 October. They also agreed to an accelerated schedule for the remainder of the process, with disarmament of the Western Area from 1 to 7 November, Tonkolili and Pujehun districts from 1 to 14 November, and Kenema and Kailahun districts from 15 to 30 November.

Addressing the issue of shotguns not covered by the disarmament programme, the Government agreed to announce as soon as possible an initiative to collect all such weapons with the collaboration of UNAMSIL. The weapons collected by the Government will be kept by the UN operation in safe custody.

The parties also agreed that commanders of the RUF and the government-backed Civil Defence Force (CDF) would disarm along with combatants in their respective districts and that the previously established criteria for group disarmament would be applied uniformly. Leaders from both parties undertook to inform their combatants clearly on the agreed criteria.

The meeting welcomed the announcement by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration that it had started payment of reinsertion benefits for ex-combatants and encouraged the Committee to accelerate the payment process.

According to the communiqué, the Joint Committee meeting was held "in a remarkable atmosphere of cordiality and constructive dialogue." The Committee's next meeting will be held in Freetown on 8 November.