Sierra Leone

Security Council briefed on Annan's request for increased troops, broadened mandate for Sierra Leone mission

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The Security Council met today to hear a briefing on a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the current situation in Sierra Leone, urging a strengthening of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) "as soon as possible."
In the report, Mr. Annan recommends the expansion of UNAMSIL and a broadening of its mandate in response to the withdrawal of Nigerian troops serving with ECOMOG, the Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States.

The Council was briefed on the report and the background to it by the Assistant-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi.

Mr. Annan requests an increase in the strength of the peacekeeping force of the UNAMSIL from 6,000 to 11,100, enabling the UN force to carry out additional tasks currently assigned to ECOMOG. These tasks, which the Secretary-General stresses would not fundamentally change the nature of UNAMSIL's mandate, would include the provision of security at Lungi airport, some other key installations, disarmament camps and weapons storage sites, the report says.

The UN peacekeepers would also conduct mobile patrols and provide armed escorts to ensure the free flow of people and goods and of humanitarian assistance.

The Secretary-General says: "The rapid expansion of UNAMSIL will be indispensable to maintaining the necessary security conditions for the implementation of the Lomé Agreement, in particular the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, the extension of state administration throughout the provinces and, in due course, the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone."

A senior UN official said he was reasonably hopeful the extra troops requested by Mr. Annan would be forthcoming. The official said the withdrawal of the Nigerian ECOMOG troops was being coordinated with the UN force to avoid a possible "security gap" in Sierra Leone.