Accessed 287 May 2000

UN Security Council

Date: 19 May 2000

Fourth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone

Part I

Part II

Political Developments

Security situation before 1 May 2000

Progress towards major objectives in the peace process

Human rights

Humanitarian aspects

Attacks on and detention of United Nations personnel

Recommendations for immediate measures


Annex: United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone: contributions as at 19 May 2000

I. Introduction

1. By paragraph 22 of resolution 1289 (2000) of 7 February 2000, the Security Council requested me to continue to report to the Council every 45 days to provide, inter alia, assessments of security conditions on the ground so that troop levels and the tasks to be performed by the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) can be kept under review. The present report is submitted in accordance with that request and covers developments since my third report on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone issued on 7 March 2000 (S/2000/186). The present report also contains short-term recommendations for the stabilization of the current situation in Sierra Leone, including for an expansion of the capacity of UNAMSIL, beyond the level of 13,000 military personnel authorized by the Security Council in its resolution 1299 (2000) of 19 May 2000.

II. Political developments

2. During the reporting period, the peace process suffered a very serious setback as the result of the recent unprovoked armed attacks on United Nations peacekeepers, the detention of several hundred United Nations personnel, and the destruction of disarmament and demobilization camps by fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Regrettably, those developments in May 2000, which are described in section VII of this report, overshadowed the limited progress achieved in the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement through a series of meetings of the parties and international stakeholders.

3. Prior to those events, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah convened on 9 March a special meeting of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration attended by the leader of RUF, Foday Sankoh, the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council/ex-Sierra Leone Army (AFRC/ ex-SLA), Johnny Paul Koroma, the Deputy Defence Minister and Civil Defence Force Coordinator, Chief Hinga Norman, UNAMSIL and the Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At that meeting, all faction leaders agreed to grant unhindered access to all parts of the country to UNAMSIL, the humanitarian community and the entire population; to relinquish the territory they occupied and allow the Government to have full control over every part of the country; and to allow disarmament to take place in selected areas in the Eastern and Northern Provinces where disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) facilities were already in place, and thereafter in the rest of the country as facilities were made available. As a result of these efforts, the number of checkpoints maintained by the factions was reduced, and UNAMSIL was able to deploy to the RUF stronghold of Kailahun on 16 March. However, RUF fighters continued to obstruct UNAMSIL deployment to Koidu in the Kono District and the number of RUF ex-combatants reporting for disarmament remained very low. In addition, some checkpoints manned by the factions remained in place and continued to hinder movement by the humanitarian community and the general population.

4. On 20 March, at Freetown, ECOWAS convened a verification meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Principal Parties to the Lomé Agreement to follow up on the decisions reached at the special meeting on Sierra Leone held at Bamako on 1 March, which was covered in my third report. At the meeting in Freetown, the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, stated that he accepted that UNAMSIL was the "neutral peacekeeping force" provided for in the Lomé Peace Agreement (S/1999/777, annex). This was considered a positive development, since RUF had previously questioned the presence of UNAMSIL peacekeepers in Sierra Leone.

5. The meeting on 20 March of the principal parties also set up a committee, headed by my Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, to carry out an investigation into the seizure in January of weapons and equipment from Kenyan and Guinean troops by RUF and from the Kenyan contingent by AFRC/ex-SLA. The investigation committee held its first meeting on 31 March, but RUF failed to attend on the pretext that it was not involved in the seizure of the Guinean weapons, despite evidence to the contrary. The three seized Guinean armoured personnel carriers have been recovered, but the other weapons and equipment have yet to be returned.

6. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations visited Sierra Leone from 19 to 21 March to assess the operations of UNAMSIL and to convey to the parties the strong commitment of the United Nations to assist them in implementing the Lomé Agreement. He held meetings with UNAMSIL senior staff, President Kabbah and other government officials, Mr. Koroma, Mr. Sankoh, United Nations agencies and representatives of civil society. The Under-Secretary-General also visited Port Loko and Makeni, where he inspected UNAMSIL troops, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps and centres for former child combatants. He also visited Bamako, where he met with the President of Mali, Alpha Oumar Konaré, current Chairman of ECOWAS.

7. At the initiative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a high-level donors conference on Sierra Leone was convened in London on 27 March, to affirm political support for the peace process and mobilize additional resources. The conference was co-chaired by the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the United Nations, which was represented by the Deputy Secretary-General. New pledges totalling some US$ 70 million were made, to support the peace process, in particular the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as humanitarian assistance. The conference reaffirmed the international community's continued and strong support for the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement and sent a strong message to the factions to fulfil their obligations under the Agreement. In particular, the rebels were called upon to put an end to the continuing human rights abuses, to disarm their combatants immediately, to release women and children still detained, and to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to all areas of the country. The participants also discussed the issue of elections and undertook to help to organize free and fair elections in Sierra Leone, as provided for under the Lomé Peace Agreement, on the clear understanding that elections would not be possible without significant progress on disarmament. I commend the Government of the United Kingdom for taking this important initiative.

8. During the reporting period, some progress has also been made with regard to the functioning of the various institutions envisaged in the Lomé Agreement. However, this continued to be hampered by a lack of resources. The Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development, chaired by Mr. Sankoh, did not produce a plan of action and there also appeared to be a lack of political consensus on its role vis-à-vis existing ministries. The Commission for the Consolidation of Peace led by Mr. Koroma, however, made a good beginning and organized several meetings of the parties and other stakeholders to promote reconciliation and discuss ways of moving the peace process forward. From 18 to 23 April, the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace convened a commanders peace conference at Bo to facilitate face-to-face meetings among the commanders of the factions and to build confidence and promote peace. The conference was well attended by all factions.

9. Mr. Sankoh appeared before the Parliament of Sierra Leone on 15 March to answer questions on issues impeding the peace process. All political parties represented in Parliament strongly criticized Mr. Sankoh for impeding the peace process. In his response, Mr. Sankoh asserted that he was committed to the peace process and attributed the current obstacles to progress, in particular the slow pace of disarmament, to the weakness of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration; the lack of transportation facilities, inadequate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration facilities; and to unattractive incentives for the ex-combatants. However, Mr. Sankoh claimed that he was ready to work with Parliament.

10. At various bilateral and multilateral meetings during the reporting period, Mr. Sankoh and other RUF leaders complained about certain aspects of the Lomé Agreement that had not been implemented. Specifically, they mentioned the fact that no RUF members had been appointed to positions in parastatal enterprises, the diplomatic service and any other public sector, under article IV of the Lomé Agreement. They also complained that too much attention was being focused on the disarmament provisions to the neglect of the political provisions of the Agreement. While there can be little doubt that the lack of cooperation on the part of RUF and Mr. Sankoh in particular was the main obstacle to the effective implementation of the Lomé Agreement, it is also true that the situation was not helped by the slow pace of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, as well as various political, administrative and other problems.

11. During the reporting period, there were unconfirmed reports of the formation of a new faction by a former RUF commander, Sam Bockarie, who was said to be engaged in the recruitment and training of rebels in Liberia. The Government of Liberia has denied these reports. On 22 March, the Government of Sierra Leone arrested 16 persons suspected of organizing a group of dissidents to invade Liberia. The arrests were carried out in the area of the Gola Forest, close to the Liberian border.

12. During consultations of the heads of State of the Mano River Union held at Bamako on 2 March, the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was requested to become personally involved in resolving the obstacles confronting the Sierra Leone peace process. Pursuant to that decision, President Taylor extended an invitation to Mr. Sankoh to visit Monrovia on 12 March for consultations on the peace process. However, Mr. Sankoh insisted that he would not travel until the Security Council lifted the travel ban imposed on him by its resolution 1171 (1998) of 5 June 1998.

13. On 18 March, in a welcome development a ministerial meeting of the Mano River Union member States was held at Monrovia. The meeting was followed up by a meeting of the Ministers responsible for Security, Internal Affairs, Defence and Justice in Freetown on 17 April. At that meeting, agreement was reached to set up a Joint Security Committee of the Mano River Union, which would include a technical committee to advise the Joint Security Committee and joint border security and confidence-building units. The recommendations were submitted for consideration by the Union at its summit meeting, which was held at Conakry on 8 May. At that meeting, which was also attended by President Konaré, the situation in Sierra Leone was also discussed (see para. 76 below).

III. Security situation before 1 May 2000

14. Prior to the serious attacks on United nations peacekeepers, which erupted on 1 May 2000 and which are described in section VII below, the overall security situation had improved gradually as UNAMSIL troops stepped up their patrols and deployed to new locations in the provinces. However, in the areas still under the control of rebel groups, particularly the RUF and AFRC/ex-SLA strongholds, the security situation remained precarious and there were several serious incidents, some involving United Nations peacekeepers.

15. On 21 March, a serious violation of the ceasefire occurred in the Bafodia-Kabala area, where fighting erupted between elements of RUF and AFRC/ex-SLA. UNAMSIL deployed military observers and two platoons from the Kenyan battalion to the area to calm the situation. Intermittent fighting continued until 30 March when the AFRC/ex-SLA commander agreed to the UNAMSIL proposal to disarm. To avert tension, a total of 292 AFRC/ex-SLA combatants were disarmed on 30 March and transported to the Lungi disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camp together with their dependants. A further 139 were disarmed on 2 and 3 April and also transferred to that camp. Altogether, some 900 persons were moved. A company from the Kenyan battalion and a team of military observers were subsequently deployed at Kabala, but had to be moved back to Makeni to strengthen UNAMSIL positions there after the RUF attacks in early May. In another incident on 8 April, unidentified persons fired several rounds at Ghanaian UNAMSIL troops at Kenema. The troops returned fire and the attack ceased.

16. On 22 April, RUF staged a demonstration against the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme at Makeni, in which about 40 armed RUF fighters participated. That group also set up a checkpoint close to the entrance of the reception centre of the Makeni disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camp. The RUF checkpoint was removed the same day under pressure from UNAMSIL. At that time, RUF fighters did not hinder the movement of UNAMSIL or personnel of the United Kingdom Department for International Development, which is providing the logistic support to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. However, RUF did harass local Sierra Leonean disarmament, demobilization and reintegration personnel and forced them to leave the camp.

17. Also on 22 April, a group of some 20 RUF fighters prevented UNAMSIL military observers from entering the premises of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration reception centre of Magburaka. They also alleged that UNAMSIL soldiers, who were providing security at that location, had taken some ammunition belonging to RUF. A small-scale scuffle ensued, after which UNAMSIL troops at the site decided to withdraw temporarily to avoid escalation. The Makeni/Magburaka area remained very tense and subsequently became the scene of the first attacks by RUF on UNAMSIL troops.

18. On 28 April, a scuffle between ECOMOG troops and ex-SLA members over a stolen vehicle led to several shots being fired, with one ex-SLA fighter killed and another seriously wounded. Several ex-SLA members immediately took to the streets to protest about this incident. The situation caused considerable tension in Freetown, but was brought under control by UNAMSIL. Mr. Koroma helped to restore calm. Mr. Sankoh, however, gave a press conference on 1 May during which he stated that UNAMSIL had shot the ex-combatants on 28 April in Freetown. This inciting statement led to an increase of tension between RUF and UNAMSIL throughout the country.

19. A serious incident occurred on 30 April, during which a soldier of the Nigerian contingent in UNAMSIL was shot and seriously wounded when he refused to surrender his weapon to a large group of armed men (presumably ex-SLA) in the Occra Hills area. His unit of five men was outnumbered and ultimately forced to surrender their weapons. The injured soldier was evacuated to Nigeria. A protest about the incident has been made to Mr. Koroma.

20. Other ceasefire violations during the reporting period included serious abuses against civilians in the Port Loko and Occra Hills areas, the maintenance of illegal roadblocks by all factions, and other obstruction of peacekeeping operations, particularly by RUF elements. Tension in the Occra Hills area subsided somewhat after the Government announced that AFRC/ex-SLA combatants would be able to join the restructured army, if they met certain criteria. Another contributing factor to the decrease in tension was the payment by the Government of transitional safety allowances to ex-combatants who had disarmed under the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.

21. The Joint Monitoring Commission continued to hold its weekly meetings under the chairmanship of UNAMSIL to address ceasefire violations. The Commission continued to press the factions to comply with article XIX of the Lomé Peace Agreement which requires them to disclose the number and location of their combatants. While the Civil Defence Forces and AFRC/ex-SLA have furnished this information, RUF provided only partial information on 25 April. United Nations military observers convened several meetings of the district-level ceasefire monitoring committees in areas where UNAMSIL is deployed.

22. During the period under review, UNAMSIL contingents destroyed unstable ammunition found in various areas, as well as that collected during the disarmament process, the latter in close coordination with the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. Some damaged bridges in the Eastern Province have been replaced or repaired by UNAMSIL troops deployed in the area.

23. Since my last report, UNAMSIL troops have deployed to new areas, including the RUF stronghold of Kailahun, as well as to Zimmi, Joru, Kambia, Mange and Kabala (see the attached map). Although the deployment of UNAMSIL troops to Kono district was obstructed by RUF, military observers and a Kenyan platoon from Magburaka sent frequent patrols to Koidu. The deployment of UNAMSIL was subsequently adjusted in view of the RUF attacks. The strength of the military component of UNAMSIL as at 15 May had reached 9,251 military personnel, including 260 military observers (see annex).

24. In accordance with the understanding reached with the Government of Nigeria, two Nigerian battalions and a tank company serving with ECOMOG were brought under United Nations command and deployed in Freetown for a 90-day period. On 2 May, the remaining ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone were repatriated after handing over their security functions to UNAMSIL peacekeepers, in particular in Freetown.

IV. Progress towards major objectives in the peace process

25. In my last report (S/2000/186), I outlined a number of important objectives or "steps ahead" to help define priorities and the responsibilities of all concerned and to provide the international community with benchmarks by which to measure progress. These main steps were endorsed by the Security Council at its 4111th meeting. This section describes the progress made during the reporting period towards these objectives.

Early disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants

26. The disarmament and demobilization process, which was making slow but steady progress, came to a virtual standstill after hostilities erupted early in May. As at 15 May, a total of 24,042 ex-combatants had been disarmed: 4,949 from RUF; 10,055 from AFRC/ex-SLA; and 9,038 from the Civil Defence Forces. The total figure of ex-combatants includes 1,701 child combatants who surrendered without weapons. The number and quality of weapons surrendered remain an issue of concern. To date, 10,840 weapons have been surrendered.

27. Following the attacks by RUF on UNAMSIL and its movements in the direction of Freetown, many ex-Sierra Leone Army and Civil Defence Force scombatants have taken up arms and are likely to remain armed at least for as long as RUF continues its attacks. While these actions on the part of the ex-SLA and the Civil Defence Forces would be understandable in the present context, it is clear that this development, together with the destruction of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration facilities by RUF, could seriously complicate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, which remains a crucial element of the peace process in Sierra Leone. There is also concern about the fate of those combatants, especially children, who had voluntarily joined the programme and would now be vulnerable to re-recruitment and possible punishment for desertion by RUF.

28. In view of the slow pace of disarmament, the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration held an emergency meeting on 7 April of all stakeholders in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, chaired by President Kabbah, and agreed on a fast-track approach to disarmament. This approach included the shortening of the period of encampment of disarmed combatants at the demobilization centres from the initial six to eight weeks to a period of three weeks, and the use of mobile disarmament teams. The process would take the same time for all the RUF, AFRC/ex-SLA and Civil Defence Forces combatants, and was expected to result in a quicker flow of ex-combatants through the programme.

29. At that meeting, the National Commission also decided that the disarmament of RUF combatants in the Kailahun District would start in the Eastern Province. As a result, on 10 April, representatives from UNAMSIL, ECOMOG, a group of Parliamentarians and the press accompanied Mr. Sankoh to a ceremonial start of this exercise in Segbwema. However, only 89 combatants, including 56 RUF, 28 ex-SLA and 5 Civil Defence Forces, reported for disarmament and were subsequently transported to the Daru demobilization centre.

30. On 17 April, the four disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps at Bo, Moyamba, Makeni and Magburaka became operational. Civil Defence Forces combatants have since then disarmed at Bo and Moyamba. RUF, however, did not participate in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process at Makeni and Magburaka and the overall number of RUF combatants disarmed remained well below expectations.

31. At the same time, many ex-SLA soldiers as well as combatants from other factions were reluctant to disarm for fear that they would not get the chance to join the new army if they left the demobilization centres. To allay this fear, the Government clarified that all former combatants would be eligible to join Sierra Leone's restructured army, provided that candidates met the criteria of the Military Reintegration Plan.

32. Delays in the payment of allowances for the combatants encamped at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres caused some disturbances in the camps as well as demonstrations in Freetown. UNAMSIL took steps to reinforce security at the camps and, in conjunction with the National Commission, to expedite the registration and documentation process for timely preparation of demobilization activities and payment of allowances.

33. The delays in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme led to additional costs and therefore increased the need for financial assistance from donor countries. Before May, there was an important shortfall in contributions to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, which is administered by the World Bank, of $19 million for the year 2000 disarmament, demobilization and reintegration budget. However, it is likely that a resumption in due course of the programme may require additional resources.

34. An additional concern arising in the context of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was the lack of guidelines for the care and protection of so-called camp followers, or dependants of ex-combatants. UNAMSIL has initiated policy discussions and made recommendations on this issue, including the provision of adequate humanitarian assistance to this sector of the population, in cooperation with the Government and relevant humanitarian agencies.

Extension of State authority

35. During the period under review, the Government's Task Force for the restoration of civil authority throughout the country, which is chaired by Vice-President Joe Albert Demby, started discussions on plans and strategies for the return of Government officials and other public officials to the provinces, districts and chiefdoms.

36. In April, the Government of Sierra Leone decided to postpone the return of its officials to Makeni because of security concerns, as most parts of the Northern Province remain under RUF control. There was also a lack of basic amenities, including suitable residence and office accommodation.

National reconciliation and democratization

37. With a view to advancing democratization and national institution-building, UNAMSIL worked closely with the Attorney-General, the Minister of Justice and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in preparing draft legislation for the establishment of the national Human Rights Commission as foreseen in the Lomé Peace Agreement.

38. The National Electoral Commission was sworn into office on 20 March and has commenced work. The Government was also exploring the possibility of conducting phased local elections for Paramount Chiefs, beginning with rebel-free areas.

39. Obviously, the process of national reconciliation has become even more difficult in the light of the recent attacks by RUF, which have seriously undermined the peace process and have further exacerbated the lack of trust between the signatories of the Lomé Agreement.

Rebuilding Sierra Leone's security forces

40. There has been some improvement in the functioning of the Sierra Leone police force, which receives assistance from the United Kingdom and UNAMSIL. However, the restructuring process is proceeding slowly and is hampered by the lack of funding as well as the outbreak of hostilities. Changes have been made in the management structure, crime prevention methods, and rank structure of the police force. A Complaints and Discipline Department has been established to look into corrupt practices, criminal activities, sexual abuse and violent crimes by the police. UNAMSIL has also continued to regularly provide human rights training to the Sierra Leone police forces. Personnel of the armed Special Security Division of the Sierra Leonean police have now been deployed to Moyamba, Kenema, Bo and Lungi.

41. Efforts were also made to implement the Military Reintegration Plan, which was agreed upon by all parties. The first phase of the plan would involve an assessment of Sierra Leone Army officers to ensure that they, after fast-track training, could be involved in the training of their own army. I wish to express my appreciation for the crucial assistance provided by the United Kingdom in this regard.

42. Regrettably, a key figure in the national security system, General Mitikishe Maxwell Khobe, Chief of Defence Staff of the Sierra Leone Army, died on 18 April. The Government of Sierra Leone declared seven days of mourning.

V. Human rights

43. The human rights situation in some parts of the country, especially those areas not under the control of the Government, remained an issue of very serious concern. Abductions of civilians for specific tasks such as hard labour on palm oil plantations continued to be perpetrated by RUF and AFRC/ex-SLA elements from the Occra Hills area.

44. In the Northern Province, international non-governmental organizations seriously curtailed their humanitarian operations in RUF-held territories following the detention of some of their international and national aid workers by armed RUF combatants near Alikalia on 7 March. In Kabala, there were reports of the harassment of civilians and looting of villages by elements of the ex-SLA.

45. The large number of dependants of the AFRC/ex-SLA combatants who emerged from the bush at Kabala on 3 April (see para. 15 above) drew attention to the need to take special measures to protect dependants of ex-combatants, the majority of whom are women and children. The majority of "wives" of the combatants are in fact abductees and, if not interviewed separately from their "husbands", would most likely not feel free to express their wish to return to their original families.

46. The protection of internally displaced persons remains a source of concern, which needs to be urgently addressed in a coordinated manner. In the Port Loko area, internally displaced persons who move beyond the confines of relatively safe areas to meet their daily needs often become victims of abduction, rape and forced labour.

47. The deployment of United Nations human rights monitors to key locations in the country had to be curtailed as a result of the recent hostilities. However, their deployment will proceed as a matter of priority as soon as security conditions allow.

48. Recent reports of serious human rights abuses, summary executions and violations of international humanitarian law, committed during the recent fighting by RUF as well as by the Sierra Leone Army and AFRC/ex-SLA, are a cause of grave concern. I call on all parties and their leadership to refrain from such acts and restore respect for the rule of law.

Child protection

49. Preliminary reports suggest that child combatants have been used extensively during the current conflict. UNAMSIL human rights officers who undertook a mission to Masiaka on 15 May observed several armed child combatants, mostly boys, with the Civil Defence Forces, AFRC/ex-SLA and the Sierra Leone Army. About 25 per cent of the combatants were under 18 years and some freely admitted that their ages were between 7 and 14 years. Almost all of them were armed. Other reports indicate that RUF is using a similar proportion of child combatants in the front lines.

50. Prior to the events of May, a total of about 1,700 child combatants, out of an estimated 5,000, had entered the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. UNICEF estimates that, at the time of the current crisis, about 800 of the demobilized child soldiers had been reunified with their families or placed in foster care, or had run away, leaving about 900 in interim care centres. These children remain vulnerable to re-abduction as a result of the collapse of the programme. Further, there have been no more releases of children from their commanders since the start of the crisis. UNICEF and its implementing partners, with significant support from key donors, are working to ensure that adequate protections are in place for these children.

51. Obviously, the delay in the disarmament process and the renewed hostilities also impacted negatively on the release of abducted children and women. The Government of Sierra Leone has agreed to establish a National Commission for War-Affected Children to ensure that children's concerns are addressed at the highest political levels. This agreement was reached during the recent visit to Freetown, on 29 and 30 April, of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy. Mr. Otunnu and Mr. Axworthy also held separate meetings with President Kabbah, Mr. Koroma and Mr. Sankoh to stress the need for special measures to address the plight of the war-affected children of Sierra Leone and to assess progress in implementation of the Lomé Agreement.

VI. Humanitarian aspects

52. During the reporting period, humanitarian access gradually improved in some areas owing to the wider deployment of UNAMSIL and the subsequent improvement of security conditions. Rehabilitation and reintegration activities continued to operate without serious difficulties in the relatively stable Southern Province. However, during the attacks on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres in the first week of May, international humanitarian staff were surrounded and harassed by rebel elements in Makeni. All staff were able to leave the area, but several assets belonging to humanitarian organizations were looted. The drastic deterioration of the security situation in May forced the curtailing of humanitarian operations in this and other areas of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, reversing gains made in the past few months. Food, health, water, sanitation and child protection programmes continue in Freetown and accessible areas of the Southern and lower Eastern Provinces, such as Bo, Kenema, Pujehun and Bonthe, despite limited staffing because of a drawdown in international humanitarian staff.

53. About 20,000 new internally displaced persons moved into Freetown following the fighting outside the peninsula. However, in view of improving security conditions, many of them are now returning to their homes in the Waterloo area, where they will receive assistance. Additionally, plans are under way to provide assistance to about 9,000 new internally displaced persons at Lungi. The World Food Programme, in collaboration with the Government, will also continue food distributions to about 59,000 internally displaced persons who were already in Freetown before the start of the current crisis. Further internal displacements have been reported in areas that cannot yet be reached, particularly around Masiaka and Port Loko. Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is providing assistance to more than 1,000 new refugees who have arrived in Guinea, which already hosts about 450,000 Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees.

54. Another area of concern is the apparently high rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Sierra Leone. Preliminary data suggest that the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone is increasing exponentially, indicating that the country is in the early stages of a major HIV/AIDS outbreak. The Government and their United Nations and non-governmental organization partners continue to support HIV testing, counselling and programmes for the control of sexually transmitted diseases, but much remains to be done in the areas of sexual education and health programmes. UNAMSIL has taken measures to sensitize its personnel to the risks of infection.

55. In order to cope with the current emergency, United Nations agencies have been forced to divert resources, such as food support for agricultural programmes, from activities designed to ensure the nation's long-term recovery. Further, the recent events have had a grave impact on the ability of humanitarian agencies to meet the needs of large segments of the population. Should these conditions persist, humanitarian priorities and needs will have to be re-evaluated and prioritized to reflect a new operating environment. To that end, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in cooperation with the agencies, is currently in the process of updating the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal to reflect the current situation. The Appeal, which requests $71 million in humanitarian assistance, is at present only about 37 per cent funded. However, a more robust response is required to meet the urgent humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of the country.

VII. Attacks on and detention of United Nations personnel

Military developments

56. The present crisis commenced on 1 May, when RUF ex-combatants approached the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration reception centre at Makeni in a threatening manner and started firing in the air. It should be noted that the RUF commander in Makeni obstructed the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in that area ever since the camps there, which were constructed to meet the RUF demands for better facilities, had become operational on 17 April. Only 10 RUF ex-combatants voluntarily came forward to disarm. They were demobilized in the morning of 1 May at the Makeni reception centre. There have also been incidents at various locations of RUF forcibly preventing its fighters from disarming. At the same time, UNAMSIL was about to deploy its forces to the area of Koidu, which is the centre of diamond mining operations conducted by RUF. This planned deployment may also have contributed to the decision of RUF to attack UNAMSIL in a possible test of its resolve.

57. On 1 May, the local RUF commander and some of his fighters approached the reception centre at Makeni, which was manned by UNAMSIL military observers, in an assertive manner and demanded that the United Nations hand over five of the disarmed ex-combatants with their weapons as well as the UNAMSIL military observer who had demobilized them. The likely motive of RUF was to punish those ex-combatants for joining the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. However, UNAMSIL prevented the RUF combatants from entering the UNAMSIL facilities and tried to discuss the situation with them. In the course of these discussions, the RUF combatants detained three UNAMSIL military observers as well as four UNAMSIL peacekeepers of the Kenyan battalion who were providing security at that location. The RUF combatants then proceeded to destroy part of the camp at Makeni and also started looting in the town. At Magburaka, a group of armed RUF ex-combatants surrounded the UNAMSIL team site, which was protected by a section of the Kenyan battalion.

58. In response to this incident, the Force Commander met the same day with President Kabbah to express his deep concern and discuss possible measures. The Force Commander also spoke with Mr. Sankoh by telephone to demand the immediate release of all UNAMSIL personnel. The RUF leader did not offer any help and accused UNAMSIL of trying to start a war by forcibly disarming RUF ex-combatants. President Kabbah then requested Mr. Lamin, the RUF-designated Minister for Trade and Industry, to try to convince Mr. Sankoh to give orders to defuse the situation. According to Mr. Lamin, this was agreed to by Mr. Sankoh, who, however, remained unavailable to UNAMSIL during the rest of that day.

59. On 2 May, which date coincided with the departure of the last ECOMOG troops from the country, the situation at Magburaka deteriorated sharply when RUF tried to disarm UNAMSIL troops. The United Nations troops resisted and an exchange of fire ensued which continued throughout the day. RUF used small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Three soldiers of the Kenyan battalion were injured as a result of the fighting. RUF also destroyed and looted the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration facilities at Magburaka and Makeni. At Makeni, RUF attacked UNAMSIL troops, who returned fire. Two soldiers of the Kenyan battalion were wounded at that location. RUF also attacked and overran a 60-man strong unit of the Kenyan battalion located at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camp in Makeni. On 3 May, fighting in Makeni and Magburaka stopped, with the exception of some sporadic firing. A large group of the Kenyan unit, which had not been heard from since the attack at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camp, arrived at Mile 91 on 4 May after walking from Makeni, carrying three wounded. Smaller groups of this unit managed to join their company headquarters at Makeni.

60. The events at Makeni and Magburaka had immediate repercussions in other areas under RUF control where UNAMSIL had deployed its troops. On 2 May, a UNAMSIL helicopter and its crew and passengers were detained by RUF combatants at Kailahun. There were four crew members and two civilian staff members of UNAMSIL. In addition, RUF set up a roadblock to restrict UNAMSIL traffic in that area and detained 30 UNAMSIL military and civilian personnel and a helicopter. A 23-man unit of the Indian battalion, which was deployed from Daru to join the company deployed at Kailahun, was intercepted and detained by RUF at Kuiva, near Kailahun.

61. Also, late in the evening of 3 May, a company of the Nigerian contingent in Kambia came under fire from RUF. That company was then briefly detained by RUF and released on 4 May without their weapons and uniforms. A platoon of the Nigerian contingent at Mange also came under fire and was surrounded by RUF.

62. The Force Commander, Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley, took immediate measures to reinforce the UNAMSIL positions at Makeni and Magburaka. The company of the Kenyan battalion which had been deployed at Kabala moved to Makeni, while a 100-man unit of the Indian quick reaction company reinforced Magburaka. The Zambian battalion was then instructed to move from Lungi to Makeni, but was stopped at a strong roadblock erected by RUF, presumably ambushed and detained by a large group of RUF fighters. Some 400 United Nations troops, as well as elements of the Kenyan sector headquarters which accompanied them, are believed to have fallen into the hands of RUF, which reportedly moved 200 of them to its stronghold in the Kono district. At that time, the Force Commander also began to redeploy United Nations troops to consolidate the UNAMSIL presence around Freetown as well as at Port Loko and Masiaka. The UNAMSIL units at the latter location were later forced to withdraw for lack of ammunition.

63. From 2 May onwards, there were several clashes between RUF and UNAMSIL troops, as well as elements of the Sierra Leone Army and the Civil Defence Forces at several locations in the northern and western parts of the country, including Makeni, Magburaka, Lunsar, Rogberi Junction, Port Loko, Mile 91, Masiaka, Songo, Mange and Kambia. At times, the Government-operated helicopter gunship engaged the rebel forces. During this period of fighting, UNAMSIL experienced serious difficulties in obtaining accurate information about the situation on the ground, which were exacerbated by a continuous stream of unconfirmed rumours and reports from the field. There were also unconfirmed reports about movements of RUF fighters from neighbouring countries into Sierra Leone. UNAMSL was forced to conduct frequent aerial reconnaissance missions to gather information about the movements of hostile RUF elements.

64. On 9 May, the Indian quick reaction company and a Kenyan company, which had been surrounded at Magburaka, broke successfully through RUF lines and managed to reach United Nations positions at Mile 91. On the same day, the remaining troops of the Kenyan battalion broke out of Makeni and managed to reach areas controlled by the ex-SLA at Kabala and Bumbuna. Before their breakout, these units stood their ground and did not surrender in spite of continuing threats and attacks by RUF, which had encircled their positions. I wish to convey to the United Nations troops concerned my admiration for this display of military courage and determination.

65. It should also be noted that, although RUF elements at Kailahun have surrounded and detained United Nations peacekeepers, they have so far refrained from hostilities against UNAMSIL and have reportedly been under considerable pressure from the local population to release United Nations personnel.

66. On 14 May, 18 detainees were moved from Geima, where they were being held by RUF, to the compound of the Indian battalion at Kailahun. This group includes 11 military observers and seven members of the Indian battalion. Although their location is surrounded by RUF, the former detainees are considered to be safe and under the protection of the Indian battalion, which did not yield to RUF. Negations continue with the RUF leadership to obtain their agreement to airlift the 11 military observers to Freetown.

67. On 15 May, 139 detainees, all members of the Zambian battalion, were moved to the Liberian border town of Foya, and 15 of them were transported onwards to Monrovia. Their release was the result of the commendable personal involvement of President Taylor of Liberia, whose efforts are to be commended by the international community. UNAMSIL is currently making arrangements to airlift the released detainees from Foya to Freetown with a stopover in Monrovia.

68. As at 15 May, the total number of UNAMSIL personnel presumed to be in the hands of RUF stands at 352, comprising 297 soldiers of the Zambian battalion, 29 soldiers of the Kenyan battalion, 23 soldiers of the Indian battalion and 3 military observers. They are believed to be held in Kuiva (near Kailahun) and in the Kono district. As a result of the fighting, a total of 25 UNAMSIL soldiers have been wounded. Fifteen United Nations soldiers remain missing, and it is feared that some of them may have lost their lives. RUF casualties are unknown, although reports indicate that RUF may have suffered a relatively high number of casualties.

69. At the time of preparation of this report, the situation in and around Freetown appeared to have stabilized, with no significant RUF movements reported towards the capital. The Government has mobilized forces which support it, including the Sierra Leone Army and Civil Defence Forces, to defend Freetown. A pivotal factor in restoring stability was the arrival of United Kingdom troops on 7 May and of a substantial British naval presence offshore a week later. The deployment of British troops at Lungi airport and in the western part of Freetown had as its objective the safe evacuation of nationals of the United Kingdom and others for whom it was responsible. Nevertheless, this presence boosted the confidence of the Sierra Leoneans, and enabled UNAMSIL to redeploy much- needed troops to areas east of Freetown. It is hoped that the United Kingdom will be able to maintain a military presence in the country until UNAMSIL has received the necessary reinforcements. An additional stabilizing factor was the arrival on 12 May of 300 well-trained and well-equipped troops from Jordan to reinforce its contingent in UNAMSIL. The Government of India too made additional troops available for UNAMSIL, which will be airlifted soon. I applaud these countries for their immediate and resolute decisions to strengthen the international community's presence in Sierra Leone and their continued support since the beginning of the crisis.

70. As these events were unfolding, UNAMSIL received strong indications that Mr. Sankoh had given no instructions to his troops to stop the fighting or to seek the release of the detainees. On the contrary, Mr. Sankoh appeared initially to encourage his troops to take an assertive stand vis-à-vis the United Nations and later, when hostility against him increased in Freetown, called on his troops to march on Freetown.

71. On 9 May, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations arrived in Freetown as my special envoy to boost the morale of UNAMSIL and to consult with my Special Representative and the Force Commander on their assessment of the situation and to prepare recommendations for the United Nations response.

Part II

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 06/06/2000
©S D Stein
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