UN SC approves 'modified status quo' option for drawdown of Sierra Leone force, culminating in complete withdrawal by end of 2004: resolution 1492 (2003) adopted
4789th Meeting (AM)
The Security Council this morning approved the Secretary-General's recommendation that the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) should proceed according to the "modified status quo" option, by which four stages of troop reduction would culminate in complete withdrawal by December 2004.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1492 (2003), the Council also welcomed the Secretary-General's intention to submit to it additional recommendations in early 2004 regarding a residual United Nations presence.
In addition, it decided to closely monitor the key benchmarks for drawdown, and requested that the Secretary-General report to it at the end of each phase and at regular intervals to highlight progress and make any necessary recommendations regarding subsequent phases of withdrawal.
The Security Council established UNAMSIL on 22 October 1999, to cooperate with the Government of Sierra Leone and other parties in implementing the Lome Peace Agreement and to assist in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan.
The report finds that the gradual and carefully calibrated approach to the drawdown of UNAMSIL is "yielding the desired benefits". The extended presence of the Mission has assured a stable security environment and enabled the Government to make steady progress in consolidating peace, and in promoting national reconciliation, justice and national reconstruction.
Currently, due to the effects of the Liberian conflict on Sierra Leone's security and stability, the drawdown will proceed with the recognition that the capacity of Sierra Leone's police and armed forces to independently maintain order, must be further strengthened.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 10:17 a.m.
The complete text of resolution 1492 (2003) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President concerning the situation in Sierra Leone,
"Recognizing the continuing fragile security situation in the Mano River region, particularly the conflict in Liberia and the need to strengthen further the capacity of the Sierra Leone police and armed forces to enable them to maintain security and stability independently,
"Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General of 23 June 2003 (document S/2003/663), particularly the options for drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) described in paragraphs 32 to 40,
"1. Approves the recommendation of the Secretary-General, in paragraph 68 of his report, that the drawdown of UNAMSIL should proceed according to the "modified status quo" option towards withdrawal by December 2004, and welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to submit additional recommendations to the Council in early 2004 concerning a residual presence of the United Nations;
"2. Decides to monitor closely the key benchmarks for drawdown and requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council at the end of each phase, and at regular intervals, on the progress made with respect to the benchmarks, and to make any necessary recommendations on the planning of subsequent phases of the withdrawal;
"3. Requests the Secretary-General to proceed accordingly;
"4. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
For the Security Council's consideration this morning of the situation in Sierra Leone, it had before it the eighteenth report of the Secretary-General on the Mission there (UNAMSIL), dated 23 June (document S/2003/663).
The report outlines the options for the remaining phases of the drawdown of the Mission, and indicates that attainment of the key security benchmark, as well as other secondary benchmarks identified in the Secretary-General's fifteenth report (document S/2002/987), gives no cause for optimism that any accelerated implementation of the drawdown plan would be advisable.
In addition to providing an assessment of the prevailing security situation in that country and progress made on the benchmarks that have guided the drawdown of UNAMSIL, the report also describes ongoing efforts to consolidate peace in Sierra Leone, including the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the efforts to facilitate national recovery.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that it is gratifying to note that the drawdown of the Mission has so far proceeded "without hitches". As requested by the Council, the present report provides the options for the remaining phases of the drawdown. Having carefully considered the options, he recommends that the Council approve option (c) -- the modified status quo option.
As required under paragraph 5 of Security Council resolution 1470 (2003), this recommendation is based on a thorough assessment of the prevailing security situation and an evaluation of the capacity and ability of the Sierra Leone sector to take responsibility for internal and external security. That assessment is outlined in sections II and III of the report.
Should the Council approve the Secretary-General's recommendation to proceed with the modified status quo drawdown option (c), it would be his intention to submit to the Council additional recommendations on matters concerning the residual presence of UNAMSIL in early 2004, in order to allow sufficient time for the requisite planning process. In the meantime, it is important for international partners to continue to assist the Government of Sierra Leone to achieve greater progress in the critical areas of security and governance.
Overall, the report finds that the gradual and carefully calibrated approach to the drawdown of UNAMSIL, as approved by the Security Council, is "yielding the desired benefits". The extended presence of the Mission has assured a stable security environment and enabled the Government to make steady progress in consolidating peace, and in promoting national reconciliation, justice and national reconstruction.
In addition, tangible progress has been made to consolidate peace, including the integration of some 48,000 out of the 57,000 disarmed ex-combatants, the completion of the resettlement of internally displaced persons, the acceleration of the repatriation and resettlement of Sierra Leonean refugees, until the disruption by recent events in Liberia, and the restoration of the Government's authority.
Much more remains to be done, however, to enhance the Government's capacity to deliver public services to the population in the provinces, the report states. The human rights situation in the country continues to improve, while the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court has progressed satisfactorily, despite the financial difficulties that continue to plague both bodies.
Although illegal diamond mining continues to pose serious challenges and remains a potential source of instability, the Government has taken commendable measures to curb these activities, the report says. However, the absence of effective policing in the mining areas creates a vacuum that could constitute a serious security challenge in these strategically important areas.
Furthermore, the report finds that although a significant increase in licensed mining and in official exports of diamonds has been reported during the reporting period, the industry is not yet generating sufficient revenue to guarantee sustained economic recovery.
The report concludes that the Government, therefore, needs to ensure a firm grip on this strategic industry, not only for security reasons, but also with a view to ensuring that this important sector contributes to the accelerated growth of the economy.
The impact of the conflict in Liberia on Sierra Leone's stability remains a source of serious concern, as does the new dimension added to the instability in the subregion by the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, the report further finds. It is inconceivable to contemplate sustained peace in Sierra Leone in an unstable neighbourhood. The international community, therefore, must provide the necessary support for the ongoing peace negotiations on Liberia and the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement in Côte d'Ivoire, which promise to pave the way for the return of stability to the subregion.
In the long term, says the report, the destabilizing impact of the circulation of "freelance" fighters and small arms among the countries of West Africa underlines the need for an effective, concerted approach by governments and all stakeholders towards promoting peace and development in the subregion.
As indicated in section III of the report, neither the Sierra Leone police nor the armed forces are expected to have made such rapid progress in enhancing their capacities to see them totally assuming internal and external security responsibilities by mid-2004, without UNAMSIL's support. Much still needs to be done to strengthen the capacities of both the police and army, and to facilitate their effective presence in the areas being vacated by UNAMSIL.
The report states further that the delayed withdrawal of UNAMSIL, under option (b) would be desirable only in the event that either the internal security situation or the conflict in Liberia deteriorates to a level that would require a prolonged presence of UNAMSIL to protect the Sierra Leone Government and the territorial integrity of the country. A delayed withdrawal might also be appropriate if Sierra Leone's security forces encounter serious difficulties in assuming responsibilities in the areas vacated by UNAMSIL.
The report says that, at the appropriate time before the final withdrawal of the Mission, the Council will need to take careful stock of the key security benchmarks, with a view to determining whether a continued residual presence of UNAMSIL would be needed to complete the training of the Sierra Leone police. The police development plan does not envisage the completion of the training of new cadets until the end of 2005. At that time also, should the Council consider it necessary, the security needs of the Special Court vis-à-vis the capacity of Sierra Leone's security sector would be assessed.