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UN deployment leads to more security, economic revival in Sierra Leone – report

UN deployment leads to more security, economic revival in Sierra Leone – report

The full deployment of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has led to a secure environment, with increased freedom of movement, gradual return of refugees and a resurgence of economic activity in the provinces, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a just-released report.

At the same time, some important steps towards sustainable peace and stability are lagging behind, particularly the extension of the Government's authority throughout the country, the reintegration of disarmed combatants, as well as the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, the Secretary-General observes in his latest report to the Security Council on the activities of UNAMSIL.

As for the disarmament process, Mr. Annan reports that from mid-May until 9 December more than 36,000 combatants from all sides turned in their weapons, exceeding initial estimates. The final figure is expected to reach some 40,000.

Regrettably, the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has slowed down the disarmament of its combatants in Kailahun and Kenema districts, which raises questions about its intentions, the Secretary-General notes, although disarmament in those districts is now expected to be completed by the end of the month.

The report also details UN plans to support Sierra Leone's elections, which are to culminate in a vote on the President and Parliament on 14 May 2002. UNAMSIL intends to establish one electoral office in each of the country's five electoral regions, and UN troops will be tasked to patrol more widely to promote confidence during the polling period.

Mr. Annan warns that while the forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone are another chance to consolidate the peace process, the months leading up to the vote could be filled with risks that might create tensions if the electoral process is not transparent and credible. "The prevailing situation therefore calls for continued vigilance, as well as the concerted efforts of all concerned, to ensure that the elections are a success," he writes.