Gains in Sierra Leone vulnerable unless government asserts role in security, Annan warns

Gains in Sierra Leone vulnerable unless government asserts role in security, Annan warns

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, today warned that stability in Sierra Leone would remain vulnerable unless the Government extends its authority throughout the country, restores control over national resources, and begins to assume responsibility for security.

"The people of Sierra Leone and the international community have accomplished a great deal together in helping the country to recover from a long and devastating conflict," Mr. Annan said in a message to the Consultative Group Meeting for Sierra Leone in Paris, delivered on his behalf by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi. "But the newly laid foundations for peace and development will remain fragile unless potential sources of renewed instability are addressed."

The recently approved proposal for a gradual downsizing of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) over the next two years has given the country and its international partners a "window of opportunity" to tackle critical issues of post-conflict peace building, the Secretary-General noted. The move will also enable the country to lay the foundations for sustainable development while the security umbrella provided by the UN peacekeepers is still present.

"The gradual draw down of UNAMSIL will be carefully synchronized with efforts to build up the capacity of Sierra Leone's security sector," he stressed.

The Secretary-General also acknowledged that with the assistance of the United Kingdom, remarkable progress had been made in training and restructuring the army, as the rehabilitation of the penal system and judiciary was continuing. "Additional assistance is now needed so that the national police force has the training, infrastructure, vehicles and communications equipment it needs to take on primary responsibility for internal security as UNAMSIL departs," said Mr. Annan.

Meanwhile, 32,000 ex-combatants have been reabsorbed into society, and another 24,000 were awaiting reintegration opportunities, the Secretary-General said. "Despite generous contributions, the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for this process faces a shortfall of approximately $10 million," he said.

In addition, the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has a vital role to play in promoting national unity, also faces a major funding shortfall, the Secretary-General added, urging governments to respond to the appeal for additional resources made by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.