Sierra Leone ceasefire review meeting concludes in Abuja
Freetown - The second meeting of the Committee of Six of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, the United Nations, the Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL), and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on advancing the Peace Process in Sierra Leone was held yesterday, 2 May, in Abuja, Nigeria. The meeting, chaired by Mali's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Modibo Sidibe, who is also chairman of the Mediation and Security Council, reviewed the implementation of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement of 10 November 2000 and examined ways to advance the peace process in Sierra Leone.
The meeting heard reports from the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Sierra Leone, the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF on the status of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. Agreement was reached on the following specific elements:
1. Ceasefire: The ceasefire has been maintained since 10 November 2000 to the extent that fighting has virtually come to a halt. The meeting expressed regret, however, at the slow implementation of the elements of the ceasefire agreement by both parties.
2. Violations of the ceasefire and the monitoring and surveillance role of UNAMSIL: The meeting took note of the UNAMSIL report on violation of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement in relation to incidents of fighting in the Kono District and Tongo, which, from UNAMSIL investigations was provoked by perceived menacing forward movements of the Civil Defence Force (CDF). The meeting urged the Government of Sierra Leone to exert the necessary control on the CDF to avert all future attacks that if unchecked will pose a serious threat to the sustainability of the ceasefire and can lead to increased hostilities between the parties.
3. Deployment of UNAMSIL and extension of state authority: The meeting took note of UNAMSIL's recent deployments to Makeni, Magburaka, Lunsar and Mano Junction, as well as obstacles to a more extensive deployment, reiterated the need to have the extension of GOSL authority throughout Sierra Leone as a corollary to such deployment and appealed to the RUF to commit itself to the permanent presence of government structures throughout the country, as well as unfettered access by the civilian population to all facilities provided by Government.
4. Free movement of persons, goods and humanitarian agencies: Both parties renewed their pledges to remove all roadblocks in their zones of influence to ensure free movement of persons and goods.
5. Return of equipment: The meeting reiterated the necessity by the RUF to return all arms, ammunition and equipment seized from the UN and ECOMOG, as a demonstration of RUF commitment to the peace process. The RUF pledged to fully return the weapons and equipment by 30 May 2001.
6. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR): The meeting reaffirmed the need for an immediate recommencement of the DDR programme. The GOSL reiterated the readiness of the CDF to disarm. The meeting urged that there be simultaneous disarmament of CDF and RUF combatants. It also agreed that reintegration of the ex-combatants would be into all identifiable activities in Sierra Leone and not merely into the army. A joint committee of UNAMSIL, the GOSL and RUF has been established and will meet on 15 May in Freetown to discuss a fixed timetable and modalities for disarmament.
After extensive deliberations on what were considered additional elements to the peace process outside the framework of the Abuja Agreement, decisions were taken on the following issues:
7. Cross-border attacks in Kambia: The meeting agreed on the withdrawal of RUF combatants from Kambia district, the deployment of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) to the border area with Guinea, increased patrol of UNAMSIL in Kambia with a monitoring team including RUF unarmed observers, and immediate involvement of RUF elements in the DDR programme with a view to absorption into the SLA after screening.
8. Release of RUF detainees: The meeting noted the RUF's request for its detained personnel to be urgently released and the GOSL's intention to consider such a request in the light of the need for confidence-building measures.
9. Transformation of the RUF into a political party: The meeting recalled the provisions of the Lomé Peace Accord of 7 July 1999 that provided for the transformation of the RUF into a political party, and which had mandated the GOSL to remove all legal impediments to such transformation. It was agreed that the GOSL will facilitate the complete certification of the RUF as a political party.
In that regard, it will undertake to allocate land or office property to the RUF in Freetown and in the provinces to enable the RUF to meet that important condition for acquiring certification which would help transform it into a political party. It noted the RUF request for funding to enable its desired political transformation and renewed ECOWAS appeal to the international community for financial support for that purpose.
The GOSL pledged to intercede with the international community to lift the travel ban on the RUF whenever appreciable progress has been made in the peace process.
10. Presence of foreign troops: The meeting noted the RUF's concern over the presence of foreign troops in Sierra Leone, specifically British troops, who are operating outside the authority of UNAMSIL. The GOSL reiterated its right to enter into bilateral agreements with foreign partners that may involve the presence of foreign troops in Sierra Leonean territory. The meeting urged both parties to constantly adopt measures that would promote mutual trust and confidence and ultimately advance the peace process.
11. Return of refugees/abductees: All parties were urged to create an atmosphere of confidence to enable Sierra Leonean refugees and displaced persons to return to their motherland. The RUF was urged to release all abductees, particularly children.
The Abuja meeting began at 9.00 a.m. yesterday, concluding at midnight. The GOSL was represented by Mr. Solomon Ekuma Berewa, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General; the RUF by Mr. Omrie Golley, Chairman of the Political and Peace Council; the United Nations by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji; and ECOWAS, by Mr. Sidibe, Malian Foreign Minister.
Minister Sidibe, in his role as chairman, expressed appreciation to all participants for maintaining an atmosphere of sincerity and cordiality throughout the deliberations, and urged that decisions taken should be courageously defended and implemented. The chairman noted that the interest of the citizens of Sierra Leone would be best served if the momentum of the peace process is sustained.
For additional information, contact UNAMSIL Public Information Office: UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko, P. O. Box 5, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Tel: 232-22-273-183/4/5 Fax: 232-22-273-189
Not an official document of the United
Maintained by the Peace and Security Section of the Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
(c) United Nations 2001