Sierra Leone

Short calls for International political commitment to Sierra Leone and announces additional funding for long-lasting peace

Today Clare Short called on key international partners to strengthen political commitment and increase funding to support the peace process and development in Sierra Leone.

The Secretary of State for International Development was speaking at a high level donors conference in London, which she joint hosted with Louise Frechette, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and Mats Karlsson of the World Bank. It was attended by President Kabbah of Sierra Leone and high level representatives from the United Nations, World Bank, European Commission, World Food Programme, IMF and other donor countries.

Clare Short said "This is a crucial time for the peace process in Sierra Leone. It is a test case for the international community and its willingness to deal with conflict in Africa. The UK is deeply committed to the peace process in Sierra Leone and supports those dedicated to free and fair elections next year.

"It is clear that with the biggest deployment of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force anywhere, the world is watching Sierra Leone. All involved must comply with the Lome Peace Accord if the peace process is to succeed. This needs to be supported by the international community."

The conference concluded that speeding up disarmament was essential, combined with increased security and rapid support to the population. Delegations pledged additional resources and to speed up the delivery of assistance.

Clare Short also announced an additional £17.5 million from the Department for International Development toward recovery and in support of the peace process in the run up to next years crucial elections. She said "This £17.5 million brings the total UK assistance to over £65 million. We will do more, and quickly, including support to help establish an accountable and effective police service."

Clare Short went on to say that the Prime Minister was to meet President Kabbah later in the day. He would announce that Britain was to send a Military Advisory Training Team (MATT), funded by the FCO, to assist the Government of Sierra Leone with training and advice to re-build an effective and accountable army for Sierra Leone. The team will be a UK lead international team.

Clare Short said "Creating new democratically accountable Armed Forces in Sierra Leone is vital to the long term success of the Lome Peace Agreement ands restoring public confidence in the role of the military. The restructured Armed Forces will be representative of all the people of Sierra Leone."

Notes to editors

Today's announcement of £17.5 million brings total UK assistance to over £65 million since March 1998 including the funding of disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration camps that have seen 17,500 ex-combatants disarm.

Sierra Leone is the world's poorest nation and also has the world's lowest Human Development Index (HDI). Civil war has inflicted tremendous suffering and destroyed much of the country's social and economic infrastructure. The Lome Peace Agreement signed in July 1999 has led to the cessation of fighting in most areas. A government of national unity was formed on 20 October 1999, and a programme of disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration (DDR) launched. While still very fragile, the prospects for peace and growth are better than for many years.

Clare Short was the first UK Cabinet Minister to visit Sierra Leone since rebels occupied Freetown in 1997. She has just returned from her latest visit when she met with President Kabbah, Chairman Sankoh, Chairman Koroma, UNAMSIL Commander General Jetley, UNSGR HE Olu Adeniji, and Paramount Chiefs. Clare Short also launched the DFID funded Microcredit Marketwomen scheme in Freetown.

For further information please call the DFID press office on 0171 917 0600. For further information of the Prime Minister's meeting with President Kabbah please call the Prime Minister's press office on 0171 930 4433