Calling preparations for the upcoming national elections in Sierra Leone a "remarkable success," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the international community to remain engaged in helping the West African country continue its recovery from a brutal civil war.
"The fact that 91 per cent of the eligible voters have registered for the July 2007 elections is both a demonstration of the civic maturity of the people of Sierra Leone and an important indication of the increased capacity of the National Electoral Commission," Mr. Ban said in his latest report on the work of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL).
Among other notable accomplishments of the Commission, as assisted by UNIOSIL, Mr. Ban noted the recruitment and training of election workers, the drafting of election petition rules and the installation of technical advisers.
The deployment of state authority across the country, however, continues to lag behind and efforts to combat corruption and promote accountability have been painfully slow to yield results, he said.
"In this regard, the country clearly needs the support of the international community," he maintained, urging the Government to work closely with the UN's Peacebuilding Commission following the agreement reached on a framework for further consolidation of the peace.
In October 2006, the Commission declared Sierra Leone eligible to benefit from the recently set-up multi-million dollar Peacebuilding Fund, which is aimed at assisting countries emerging from conflict to rebuild and prevent them falling back into bloodshed. Sierra Leone's 10-year conflict began in 1991 and left thousands dead and many more mutilated.
In order to further advance peace consolidation, Mr. Ban said the national armed forces and the police needed "significant additional support" in the areas of equipment and accommodation.
In addition, he pointed out that a solid private sector in the country was still lacking. "Without a vibrant economy based on free-market principles and clean practices, the country will not be able to achieve the much-needed acceleration of the growth rate," he said.
Finally, he advocated that the Government and its partners should step up efforts to reform the judiciary and promote human rights, especially those of women and children.
UNIOSIL, the first integrated UN office established to support a peace-consolidation process, was established following the completion of peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone that ended on 31 December 2005. It is made up of almost 300 people, comprising 82 international staff, 192 local staff and 24 UN Volunteers.