Security Council discusses lessons learned from UN Mission in Sierra Leone
Speaking this morning at the outset of the Council's daylong meeting, which was chaired by Baroness Valerie Amos, the United Kingdom's Minister for Africa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the timeliness of the discussion and its effort to develop a coordinated approach to the situation in that part of Africa.
"It comes at a critical juncture, when UNAMSIL is about to begin a new phase of its operations in Sierra Leone, but at the same time the escalating conflict in Liberia threatens to destabilize he whole area," Mr. Annan said.
The Secretary-General said that the UN's peacekeeping experience in Sierra Leone offered invaluable lessons not only because of the success achieved so far but also because of the trials encountered in the early stages of the Mission and how they were dealt with.
"Lessons were learned the hard way from that tragic experience," Mr. Annan noted. "But, thank goodness, the international community did not give up."
According to Baroness Amos, the meeting's objectives were to identify lessons from the UN's experience in Sierra Leone, which may be relevant to other conflict situations in Africa; consider how the UN might manage the transition from peacekeeping to peace-building in that country and examine what more the UN and the international community could do to reduce the instability in the Mano River Union subregion, especially the fighting in Liberia.
Holding its discussion in a workshop format, the Council heard from all 15 of its members as well as the Foreign Ministers of Sierra Leone, Momodu Koroma, and Guinea, François Lonseny Fall.
In his statement, Mr. Koroma told the Council that the United Nations peace mission in Sierra Leone was in many ways unique because of its recognition of the linkage between peacekeeping, peace-building, good governance, security and post-conflict concerns. UNAMSIL's success in achieving its objectives was due in large part to its acting in concert with other partners - which could augur well for future UN operations in similar situations.
Nevertheless, Mr. Koroma said, the gains already achieved in Sierra Leone would be temporary without peace, security and stability within the region. The current situation in the Mano River Union subregion was indeed cause for concern, as the escalating violence in Liberia was overshadowing the recent successful gains in the Sierra Leone peace process. It was now widely accepted that peace and stability in the Mano River Union was a key factor for security and development in West Africa.
For his part, Mr. Fall echoed the concerns of the Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister. In an attempt to settle the situation in Liberia, the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring developments there. Meanwhile, he pointed out, the Presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea met earlier this year in Rabat and had held several other meetings, making recommendations for the approval of a protocol on relations between the countries and rapid deployment of border units.
Other officials participating in the meeting included the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Sir Kieran Prendergast, as well as Ivan Šimonovic, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), General Chekh Diarra, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Sylvian Ngung, the Deputy Permanent Observer for the African Union.