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
Diplomatic and political efforts
72. Immediately following the outbreak of hostilities, I contacted leaders in the region and subregion to seek their assistance in bringing the situation to a rapid and peaceful resolution. I am grateful for the strong efforts made in this regard by African leaders, in particular the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, current chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, the Leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, the President of Mali, Alpha Oumar Konare, the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the President of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema. Representatives of several Governments have been in touch with Mr. Sankoh to secure the immediate release of the detainees and to find ways to salvage the peace process in Sierra Leone. I am grateful for their efforts and, in particular, to the heads of State of Liberia, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Mali and Nigeria, who sent their personal envoys to meet with Mr. Sankoh in the period from 3 to 7 May.
73. On 5 and 6 May, my Special Representative met in Freetown with Mr. Sankoh, who accused UNAMSIL troops of having precipitated the crisis by forcing RUF combatants to disarm. The Special Representative responded that no UNAMSIL troops had ever attempted to disarm RUF combatants by force and that, in fact, RUF combatants had in subsequent days escalated events by attacking UNAMSIL; and demanded the immediate release of all detained UNAMSIL troops and their weapons and equipment. In the evening of 6 May, the Special Representative and the Libyan Special Envoy, Ali Treiki, met jointly with Mr. Sankoh. They pressed him to reduce the tension by ordering the immediate release of the detainees and to issue a statement that RUF would cease its attacks. Mr. Sankoh agreed to issue a statement to that effect, which was read out that evening on national television by the Special Representative. Mr. Adeniji and Mr. Treiki also spoke to President Kabbah and urged him to reduce tension and, in particular, to call on the organizers of the planned demonstration on 8 May to avoid approaching Mr. Sankoh's house.
74. However, on 8 May, an estimated crowd of 30,000 went to Mr. Sankoh's house to protest against the RUF attacks on UNAMSIL. When the crowd tried to approach the house, armed members of RUF fired into the crowd from Mr. Sankoh's residence and killed several people and injured dozens more. The UNAMSIL troops stationed at Mr. Sankoh's home were overwhelmed by the huge crowd. In the panic and confusion, Foday Sankoh disappeared with some of his body guards. Several members of RUF were shot and killed by armed elements within the crowd; the house was ransacked and looted. The whereabouts of Foday Sankoh remained unknown until 17 May, when he was apprehended as he returned to his residence by elements of AFRC/ex-SLA who turned him over to the custody of the Government.
75. In the same period, Mr. Koroma, the Chairman of the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace and leader of AFRC/ex-SLA, made several public statements in which he urged his followers and other to take up arms and defend Freetown. Armed elements of the Sierra Leone Army, ex-SLA and the Civil Defence Forces started patrolling the town and arresting members of RUF, actions which contributed to an increase in tension in Freetown and beyond.
76. On 8 May, at the summit meeting of the Mano River Union held at Conakry, the Presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone were joined by President Konaré of Mali as Chairman of ECOWAS and my Special Representative in Sierra Leone in a special discussion on Sierra Leone. The summit condemned the attacks on and detention of United Nations personnel and mandated President Taylor to involve himself personally to ensure the release of the detainees and the resumption of the peace process.
77. On 9 May, a summit meeting of the ECOWAS Committee on Sierra Leone, consisting of Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Togo, met at Abuja. The meeting strongly condemned RUF and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the detainees. In this regard, the meeting approved the mandate given to President Taylor (see para. 76). The summit also warned the leadership of RUF that their amnesty under the Lomé Peace Agreement could be revoked and that they could be tried for war crimes if they continued to flout the Lomé Peace Agreement. Participants reaffirmed their total support for the peace process in Sierra Leone as set out in the Lomé Peace Agreement, which remains the most appropriate framework for the resolution of the conflict. They also expressed their determination to use all means at their disposal, including the military option, to foil any attempt to take over power through the use of force, and to defend democratic institutions in Sierra Leone. The ECOWAS Executive Secretary was directed to convene a meeting of Ministers of Defence and Chiefs of Staff on 17 May at Abuja to consider, in the event of new involvement of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone, the practical modalities of such involvement.
78. A meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee was held at Freetown on 13 May, chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali and attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia and representatives of Ghana, Guinea, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Sierra Leone, as well as of Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, OAU and UNAMSIL. Mr. Koroma also attended the meeting; RUF was not represented. The meeting agreed that a dual approach should be pursued to resolve the current crisis, namely, exerting strong diplomatic pressure on RUF and displaying military strength by enhancing the operational capabilities of UNAMSIL to enable it to perform its functions more efficiently.
79. As at 15 May, there have been few indications that the leaders of RUF are willing to change their course of action, although some individual members of RUF have conveyed their willingness to disarm. At the same time, RUF continued to detain hundreds of UNAMSIL personnel and also to attack UNAMSIL and Sierra Leonean troops at various locations in the country. It would therefore be important to continue to bring strong pressure to bear on the RUF leadership.
VIII. Recommendations for immediate measures
80. I very much welcome the efforts made at the subregional, regional and international levels to express the international community's condemnation of the attacks perpetrated by RUF and to seek the immediate release of the peacekeepers detained by RUF, which remains the Organization's highest priority. At the same time, it would be important that political pressure be supported by a strong military posture, including on the part of the United Nations, to deter RUF from pursuing the military option.
81. To this end, UNAMSIL should be reinforced immediately to enhance its capability to defend its positions at Lungi airport, on the Freetown peninsula and at other strategic locations in the western and southern parts of the country. This immediate reinforcement, which is currently under way, would bring the military strength of UNAMSIL from its present strength of 9,250 to a level of up to 13,000, including 260 military observers. Once this key objective has been attained, UNAMSIL should be further expanded, which would enable it to gradually increase its presence, with sufficient military strength, and to stabilize the situation in Sierra Leone.
82. From the beginning of the crisis, the Secretariat has been working closely with those Member States that had agreed to contribute military units to UNAMSIL, in order to expedite the preparations for their deployment. With airlift support provided by the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States and with financial support provided by the Government of Germany, it is expected that up to 3,600 additional military personnel will arrive by the end of May or early June. It is also envisaged that the fourth Nigerian UNAMSIL battalion, which was due to be repatriated by the end of May, would be retained.
83. As I stressed in my previous reports on UNAMSIL, the troop strength authorized under Security Council resolution 1289 (2000) was predicated on the cooperation of the parties and a generally permissive environment. Clearly, this crucial condition for any progress towards the Mission's key objective of assisting the parties in the implementation of the Lomé Agreement is now lacking. All efforts should therefore be aimed at the restoration of conditions conducive to a resumption of the peace process. The first priority in this regard is the consolidation of UNAMSIL units, both those currently on the ground and those scheduled to arrive shortly, at strong positions at Lungi airport, on the Freetown peninsula, and at other strategic locations on the main access roads to the capital. The main objective of this consolidation is to ensure the protection of the civilian population in Freetown and the security of Government institutions, as well as maintaining a sufficient strength in the areas under Government control to deter and, if necessary, repel further attacks by RUF.
84. Once these initial objectives have been attained, UNAMSIL will then seek to stabilize the situation in the country and assist the Government to restore law and order in the areas outside the control of RUF. To this end, UNAMSIL would be further strengthened and would begin to gradually deploy forward. It would do so in strength and with adequate equipment, in order to secure strategic locations in the western and southern parts of the country, including Port Loko, Rogberi Junction, Masiaka, Mile 91, Moyamba, Kenema and Daru. Such a deployment would make a significant contribution to the restoration of a measure of normalcy in the areas outside RUF control, the resumption of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, and the extension of Government authority to the provinces. This deployment would also allow the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community to reassess the necessary steps that will be required to promote a durable peace in Sierra Leone.
85. In determining the military strength needed to reach these objectives, it should be borne in mind that RUF elements may continue to employ guerrilla tactics. As the recent history of Sierra Leone has shown, the topography of the country lends itself well to such a modus operandi, especially during the rainy season. To counter the threat posed by RUF and to attain the objectives described above, it would therefore be necessary to deploy with due care and preparation, in sufficient numbers and backed up by adequate military means to deter attacks and, if necessary, respond decisively to any hostile action or intent.
86. However, after receiving the reinforcements currently under way, UNAMSIL would not have the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate in the present hostile environment in Sierra Leone and would need additional troops as well as the necessary force multipliers to do this. In this context, it is estimated that UNAMSIL would require, in addition to the immediate reinforcements described above, two infantry battalions (a mechanized battalion and one air transportable battalion for rapid reinforcement), a logistic battalion, a light artillery unit, additional air transportation assets and armed helicopters, and a maritime unit of six armed patrol boats, as well as the necessary medical, communications, intelligence and command personnel. The total military strength of an expanded UNAMSIL would be up to 16,500 military personnel, including 260 military observers.
87. It is envisaged that this force would comprise a total of 15 infantry battalions, which would tentatively be deployed to the following areas: the Freetown peninsula; Lungi airport and peninsula; Port Loko, Rogberi Junction and Lunsar; Masiaka, Moyamba and Mile 91; Bo, Kenema and Daru. UNAMSIL would also maintain a sizeable force reserve, which would provide it with the capacity to react rapidly to serious military threats throughout the country. It is understood that the deployment of troops and their modus operandi would need to be revised in the light of the situation on the ground and the time of arrival of the additional troops.
88. The envisaged expansion of the force up to a level of 16,500 military personnel would also require a commensurate increase in the civilian administrative and logistical support staff of the Mission. The financial implications of the envisaged increase in strength will be submitted to the Security Council in an addendum to the present report.
89. For the time being, I believe that the mandate entrusted to UNAMSIL under resolution 1289 (2000) provides the force with sufficient authority to conduct the necessary operations in support of the aims described above. In that resolution, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, authorized UNAMSIL, within its capabilities and areas of deployment and in the light of conditions on the ground, to take the necessary action to (a) provide security at key locations and Government buildings, in particular in Freetown, important intersections and major airports, including Lungi airport; (b) facilitate the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance along specified thoroughfares; (c) provide security in and at all sites of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme; (d) coordinate with and assist, in common areas of deployment, the Sierra Leone law enforcement authorities in the discharge of their responsibilities; (e) guard weapons, ammunition and other military equipment collected from ex-combatants and assist in their subsequent disposal or destruction. In that resolution, the Security Council also authorized UNAMSIL to take the necessary action, in the discharge of its mandate, to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, taking into account the responsibilities of the Government of Sierra Leone. On the basis of that mandate, the present robust rules of engagement of UNAMSIL enable it to use force, including deadly force, in self-defence against any hostile act or intent. In the present circumstances, it is obvious that the use of force against all elements that continue to display a hostile intent towards the United Nations would be warranted and justified. At the same time, UNAMSIL would be ready to enter into discussion with all those who would be willing and ready to pursue a peaceful solution.
90. To ensure proper control and unity of command, I believe that all international forces in Sierra Leone, with the exception of those sent for a brief period for strictly national purposes, should be integrated into UNAMSIL. It is also of the utmost importance that the United Nations forces coordinate closely with the Sierra Leonean Army and other elements allied with the Government, in particular the Civil Defence Forces and AFRC/ex-SLA, to avoid any misunderstandings which could lead to incidents. To this end, it is envisaged that UNAMSIL will place military liaison officers with the military command of the groups and units involved. UNAMSIL would also ensure close coordination with the British force while it remains in Sierra Leone.
91. As was noted in my third report, it would be necessary for UNAMSIL to set up a countrywide public information campaign. In that connection, the Department of Public Information conducted an assessment, from 13 to 20 March 2000, of public information needs. On the basis of the team's recommendations, efforts are currently under way to significantly increase the capacity of the UNAMSIL public information office as a matter of priority.
92. It is clear that UNAMSIL will face a significant challenge in disseminating information on the peace process in a country where the infrastructure has been damaged by years of warfare. In order to reach all parts of the country, UNAMSIL intends to set up its own radio station. The necessary equipment, donated to the United Nations in 1998 by the Government of Denmark, has been transferred to UNAMSIL. Radio UNAMSIL is expected to play a significant role in the Mission's efforts to inform the people of Sierra Leone, independent of any party or affiliation. The UNAMSIL public information office would also include units for liaison with the media, video and print production and community outreach.
93. The overall situation in Sierra Leone remains tense and critical. The deliberate and unprovoked attacks by RUF fighters on United Nations peacekeepers and the detention of large numbers of United Nations personnel are unacceptable acts which have been unequivocally condemned by the international community. Given the suffering the country has endured during the past decade, it would be unforgiveable to thwart the hopes of the Sierra Leonean people who had just begun to see some modest improvement in their situation. The international community should not allow any group, and in particular the RUF leadership, to deny to the people of Sierra Leone their legitimate aspirations to live in peace and rebuild their country.
94. Of immediate concern is the safe return of all those United Nations personnel currently being detained by RUF, an end to the hostile acts of the RUF fighters, and their full cooperation in retrieving the dead, wounded and missing. In this regard, I should like to acknowledge the efforts made by regional leaders, including President Taylor of Liberia, whose personal involvement led to the release of a significant number of detainees. However, I demand that the leadership of the RUF take urgent steps to ensure that all remaining United Nations personnel in their hands be released immediately and unconditionally. I also call upon those with influence on RUF to continue to work towards this end. In addition, the Security Council may also wish to consider a strengthening of the sanctions regime, including measures which would prevent RUF commanders from reaping the benefits of their illegal exploitation of mineral resources, in particular diamonds.
95. While part of the responsibility for some of the recent events may lie with local commanders of RUF, it is clear that Mr. Sankoh has failed to take any action to prevent, curb or stop the actions of his troops. On the contrary, there is some evidence that he may well have encouraged, if not planned, some of these acts. The international community should hold Mr. Sankoh accountable for his actions and those of RUF, and for the safety and well-being of all those who have been detained.
96. At the same time, the international community should not lose sight of the overarching objective of helping the people and Government of Sierra Leone to establish a durable peace in their country and rekindling their hope. Their plight has become a crucial test of the solidarity of the international community, rising above race and geography, which is a basic guiding principle of this Organization. The United Nations has not abandoned and will not abandon Sierra Leone. It should continue to provide humanitarian aid and the required assistance in taking the many steps needed on the path to peace, national reconciliation and development.
97. In this regard, I believe that active political efforts to assist the people of Sierra Leone to change the course of events in their country must, in the present circumstances, be supplemented by credible military force. At the outset of the crisis, I called upon those Member States with the capacity to deploy well-trained and well-equipped troops to constitute a rapid reaction force to provide UNAMSIL with the necessary deterrent capacity. In this regard, I very much welcome the decision made by the United Kingdom to deploy a spearhead battalion and other assets which, although sent for national reasons, was instrumental in restoring calm in Freetown and helping UNAMSIL by ensuring the defence of Lungi airport.
98. I also deeply appreciate the commendable efforts made by troop contributors, other Member States, and United Nations logistical personnel to accelerate the arrival of the troops which had already been committed to serve with UNAMSIL, as well as the arrival of additional units made available by Member States. This will enhance the capability of UNAMSIL to defend the Freetown peninsula, Lungi airport and other strategic locations on the main access roads to the capital.
99. However, in the present circumstances this will not be enough to create conditions which would be conducive to the establishment of a lasting peace. I therefore recommend an increase of the Force's strength up to a level of 16,500 military personnel, as outlined in paragraphs 80 to 90 above, for the purpose of stabilizing the situation in Sierra Leone under the present mandate of UNAMSIL. Once these additional forces have arrived in Sierra Leone and countered the threat posed by RUF to the peace process, it would be appropriate to consider additional steps which I will present to the Security Council after a thorough assessment of the political and military situation in Sierra Leone. Such steps may involve a strengthening of UNAMSIL, above the proposed strength of 16,500, which could be necessary to establish the security conditions throughout the country required for the successful implementation of aspects of the peace process, including disarmament and the holding of democratic elections.
100. At the 4139th meeting of the Security Council on 11 May 2000, many Member States advocated that UNAMSIL should be given a strong peace-enforcement mandate under Chapter VII of the Charter. As I indicated in my statement at that meeting, I am not opposed to such a mandate in principle, as long as the United Nations is able to obtain, from Member States with ready capacity, the necessary resources to carry out the tasks that such a mandate implies. In addition, it would be essential for the international community to demonstrate the necessary will and resolve to sustain such a commitment to impose peace in Sierra Leone. If such conditions cannot be met, any effort to strengthen the mandate of UNAMSIL would unduly raise expectations, increase the risk of loss of life, and undermine the credibility of the Organization.
101. Some West African Governments have, in principle, offered to make troops available in an effort to restore peace in their region. I naturally welcome these offers. They have however indicated that their offers would be contingent on strong financial and logistical support from other Member States.
102. Looking ahead, it is clear that the Government of Sierra Leone, other parties to the Lomé Agreement and the international community will need to reflect on the future of the peace process. The recent events raise serious questions about the role of RUF and of Foday Sankoh in particular. ECOWAS, during its meeting of 9 May 2000, reaffirmed its support for the peace process in Sierra Leone as set out in the Lomé Peace Agreement, which remains the most appropriate framework for the resolution of the conflict. I too believe that the Lomé Agreement contains many elements which contribute to a durable peace, in particular the disarmament of all factions, national reconciliation, the holding of democratic elections, and the creation of an effective national army and police force. In this regard, I call upon the leaders of those factions fighting on the side of the Government to exercise restraint, to respect the rule of law, and to refrain from any acts of harassment or revenge against RUF members of sympathizers, which could complicate efforts at reconciliation and restoring confidence. At all times, there should be full respect for the rule of law and human rights.
103. The process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, which is the cornerstone of the peace process, has come to a virtual standstill. Many of the ex-combatants belonging to AFRC/ex-SLA and the Civil Defence Forces have taken up arms again in defence of their country, which will seriously complicate their disarmament. Obviously, this aspect of the peace process requires a re-evaluation of its assumptions, organization and implementation mechanisms, which is to be undertaken in full coordination with national and international stakeholders.
104. Ultimately, a lasting resolution of the crisis can only be found through political means; it cannot be imposed by military force alone. Nor can a solution be the result of international involvement alone. The Government of Sierra Leone has a particular responsibility to actively design and implement the necessary steps towards peace in consultation with its regional and international partners. Of special importance in this regard would be the continuation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, together with the restructuring of Sierra Leone's armed forces. As I have stated in previous reports, the assistance of the international community to Sierra Leone cannot be open-ended and the Government should do its utmost to ensure that it can maintain a stable democracy and guarantee the security of its territory and institutions.
105. Looking back on recent events, it is obvious that the United Nations will have to draw lessons from its experiences in Sierra Leone. The force, which had been designed, equipped and deployed as a peacekeeping force, was quickly forced into actual combat with one of the parties that had pledged to cooperate with it. In the course of these events, many problems emerged within the Mission, including with regard to command and control, cohesiveness of the force, the flow of information, equipment and preparedness of troops, and coordination between and within the various components in UNAMSIL. In this respect, the Secretariat is taking urgent steps to assess these problems and to address recognized equipment shortfalls, in close coordination with the troop-contributing countries. This is no reflection on the leadership of the Mission. My Special Representative has handled a very difficult situation effectively. I also wish to acknowledge the Force Commander's quick reaction, personal courage and military professionalism. Nor does this imply criticism of the troops on the ground, many of which displayed considerable courage and professionalism in defending themselves and their mandate. At the same time, I am deeply saddened by the casualties inflicted on UNAMSIL troops, who had come to assist a peace process, but were attacked and forced to engage in combat to defend themselves in a situation that resembles war. I pay tribute to those who have died or were injured while performing their duties to serve the cause of peace in Sierra Leone.
106. In our focus on Sierra Leone, it would be important not to lose sight of the regional dimensions of the peace process, in particular in respect of the neighbouring countries, Guinea and Liberia. In this regard, I very much welcome the efforts taken by the States Members of the Mano River Union to enhance their cooperation. I should also like to encourage further efforts by ECOWAS and regional leaders to bring their influence to bear on the parties to the Lomé Agreement, in particular the Revolutionary United Front, and convince them that a durable peace in Sierra Leone requires their full cooperation and respect for the provisions of the Lomé Agreement.
107. I should like to express my gratitude to all Member States contributing troops, military observers, civilian police or other assistance to UNAMSIL for their unwavering support, resolve and commitment in the face of a very difficult situation. Their willingness to stay the course and to strengthen UNAMSIL, despite the adverse conditions on the ground, are an example to the international community. At no point during the crisis did the city and population of Freetown suffer casualties and destruction, which was not the case in January 1999. United Nations contingents have stood firm throughout in defence of the capital.
108. I should also like to express gratitude for the invaluable role played by ECOWAS and, in particular, by ECOMOG, which has now left the country after years of sacrifice and service to the people and Government of Sierra Leone. I pay tribute to the brave men and women in ECOMOG and their Governments for their defence of a democratically elected Government. Troops from ECOWAS continue, of course, to play an essential role as part of UNAMSIL.
109. I also take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to my Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, the UNAMSIL Force Commander, Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley, and the military and civilian personnel of UNAMSIL, as well as of United Nations programmes and agencies, the World Bank and other institutions working in the country, for their perseverance, courage and dedication in their work to fashion a better future for the people of Sierra Leone.
United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone: contributions as at 19 May 2000
Civilian police deployed (28): Bangladesh (2), Gambia (2), Ghana (3), India (1), Jordan (3), Kenya (1), Malaysia (3), Mali (2), Norway (2), Senegal (2), Namibia (1), Nepal (4), Zimbabwe (2).