Sierra Leone: efforts to consolidate peace, prosperity remain fragile – Ban

Sierra Leone: efforts to consolidate peace, prosperity remain fragile – Ban

Road rehabilitation work on Plantain Island, Sierra Leone (file)
Despite some impressive gains in rebuilding Sierra Leone seven years after the end of its brutal civil war, the situation in the West African nation remains fragile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“The outbreak of political violence in March of this year was a wake-up call on challenges that require urgent and continued attention,” Mr. Ban told the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission’s high-level meeting on Sierra Leone.

“It also reminded us of the importance of sustained global support,” he added.

The governing All People’s Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) signed a Joint Communiqué on 2 April, ending violence that threatened to spiral out of control between the two parties in early March.

“I commend President Koroma, government and opposition leaders and ordinary Sierra Leoneans for rising above differences and overcoming the recent crisis,” said Mr. Ban, adding that the adoption of the agreement “has renewed hope in Sierra Leone’s journey toward peace and prosperity.”

The UN is ready to help the parties fulfil their commitments under the agreement, he noted, including through the provision of emergency resources from the Peacebuilding Fund, which recently approved $1.8 million to support inter-party dialogue and strengthen the capacity of Sierra Leone’s police.

Sierra Leone, along with Burundi, was one of the first countries to receive support from the Commission, established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face.

While congratulating the people of Sierra Leone, its Government and the Commission on their collaborative efforts over the past three years, he said that the people “expect to see tangible improvements in their lives and in their country’s welfare.”

The Secretary-General stressed that the people “want peace, prosperity and a brighter future for their children” in Sierra Leone, whose 11-year civil war ended in 2002.

He told the high-level gathering that together “we must make further progress in addressing the root causes of conflict, strengthening democratic institutions and promoting economic and social development,” noting that the Peacebuilding Commission was created specifically to help meet such challenges.

Mr. Ban welcomed the development of a joint strategy called the “UN Family’s Joint Vision for Sierra Leone,” which brings together the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) and all 17 UN development and humanitarian agencies, programmes and funds that operate in Sierra Leone.

Yesterday, Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for UNIPSIL, told reporters in New York that the peaceful resolution of recent violence in the West African nation could set an example for other countries.

“I think the Joint Communiqué is of great significance for the country and may be an example for other countries which go through similar periods… on how to intervene very quickly to stop the violence,” Mr. von der Schulenburg, who briefed the Security Council on Monday, said.

Last August, the Security Council authorized the creation of UNIPSIL to replace the UN political office in the country, known as UNIOSIL, in a unanimously adopted resolution, which also gave the new structure an initial mandate of 12 months.

UNIPSIL, which works closely with the Peacebuilding Commission, is tasked with providing political support to national and local efforts for identifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflict, whatever the source. It also monitors and promotes human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, including efforts to counter transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.