Sierra Leone

Peace process under threat in Sierra Leone

The Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) has raised concerns about the fragile peace in Sierra Leone following attempts by factions of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) and the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) to derail the disarmament process.
The IRCSL, comprising Christian and Muslim organisations such as the Christian Aid-backed Council of Churches of Sierra Leone (CCSL), condemned the events of the past six weeks which saw arms and ammunition taken from the Guinean and Kenyan contingent of UN peacekeepers.

Rebel forces belonging to the RUFP seized armoured cars and rifles from Guinean troops on their way to join the UN mission in Sierra Leone on 11 January . The RUFP also seized arms from the Kenyan peacekeeping troops on 14 January and 1 February. Some weapons were returned following intervention by the UN Special Representative in Sierra Leone, but around 565 rifles remain with the RUFP.

The IRCSL appeal follows a motion unanimously adopted by the Sierra Leone parliament which expressed grave concern about the obstacles put in the path of peace by rebel forces.

Mr Alimamy Koroma, Co-Secretary of the IRCSL and General Secretary of CCSL, said: "I am deeply concerned about the developing lethargy from all sides to fully commit themselves to the peace process."

The IRCSL is particularly concerned with the slow implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme, believing military leaders are more interested in soliciting political support than encouraging combatants to come out and disarm. Out of 45,000 combatants, only 16,500 have so far been disarmed.

The IRCSL is now appealing for:

The immediate and unconditional return of all arms and ammunition seized from UN peacekeepers.

The hindrances to the work of all peacekeepers to be ceased forthwith.

The release of all abductees, child soldiers and all others held against their wish.

All combatants still holding onto their weapons and ammunition to come out and join the DDR programme.

The United Nations to speed up the deployment of UN peacekeepers all over the country.

Christian Aid supports the IRCSL's concerns. A recent Christian Aid report, Sierra Leone: what price peace?, states that the immediate and substantial financial support of the international community is vital if further conflict is to be avoided.