Sierra Leone

UNAMSIL Press Briefing 14 Mar 2003

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News and Press Release
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Posted
Originally published
(Near Verbatim)
YOUSEF HAMDAN, CHIEF OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

Masimba Tafirenyika: ENSURING PEACE IN AFRICA ALSO MEANS TACKLING BROADER SOCIAL ISSUES - SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN

Ensuring peace in Africa not only means resolving the continent's many conflicts, and preventing fighting from erupting, but also includes tackling broader social challenges, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday, 12 March, in a message delivered in Japan.

"The consolidation of peace is not just a matter of disarmament and de-mining, truth commissions and reconciliation, reconstruction and the repatriation of refugees," Mr. Annan said in a message delivered by his Special Adviser on Africa, Ibrahim Gambari, to a conference on the consolidation of peace in Africa.

"It also means strengthening democracy further, so that people have a vote and a voice in the decisions affecting their lives," Mr. Annan said. "It means good governance - transparent, and accountable. It means respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and it means coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic."

Mr. Annan noted that African leaders have indeed "taken important steps towards helping the continent to consolidate peace and realize its full potential. They have joined their destinies in an African Union. They have agreed on a far-reaching New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)."

The Secretary-General also pointed to the progress made to resolve conflict in Africa. "Angola is now consolidating peace after three decades of war," he said. "In Burundi, Sierra Leone, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africans are showing real determination to settle their conflicts, with tangible results."

However, "such progress merely sets the stage for the hard work ahead," he said, noting that the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire has "provoked tragic rifts along ethnic and religious lines, and caused hundreds of deaths and large-scale displacements of people."

Mr. Annan stressed the importance of international support to the continent's peacekeeping and peacemaking mechanisms and institutions, adding that, "Africa cannot afford further turmoil - but if it erupts, Africa must have the capacity to respond."

The conference entitled, "In Search of Consolidation of Peace in Africa," was co-hosted by the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

ANNAN STRONGLY CONDEMNS BRUTAL KILLING OF 3 AID WORKERS IN LIBERIA

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday, 11 March, strongly condemned the brutal killing in Liberia of three humanitarian workers and called on the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In a statement issued by a UN spokesman in New York, Mr. Annan demanded that the Government determine the exact circumstances under which the incident took place. He also called on "all parties to the conflict in Liberia to reinforce measures taken to ensure the protection of civilian, including relief workers."

The Secretary-General extended his deepest sympathy to the families and colleagues of Emmanuel Sharpolu and Musa Kita, Liberian nationals, and Kaare Lund of Norway.

The three workers for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) were on their way to a Norwegian-funded ADRA project in the highly volatile border region of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire when they were caught-up in a rebel attack on Toe Town.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), ADRA's partner in the construction of campsites for Ivoirian refugees in Liberia, said it learned of Mr. Lund's killing with "shock and sadness." He had originally been reported as missing. The agency added that the 28 February attacks on Toe Town have disrupted humanitarian activities in Liberia's eastern border regions.

UKRAINIAN DELEGATION PAYS COURTESY CALL ON UNAMSIL ACTING FORCE COMMANDER

A visiting team of equipment inspectors from the Ukrainian defence ministry on Wednesday, 12 March, paid a courtesy call on the Acting Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Maj. Gen. Syed Athar Ali, at his offices at UNAMSIL Headquarters in Freetown. The team, led by Mr. Mazurenko Mykola, is in the country to familiarize its members with the operations of UNAMSIL and to visit Ukrainian peacekeepers serving with the Mission.

In his remarks to the delegation, the Acting Force Commander gave a brief background of UNAMSIL's achievements to date which he said included the disarmament of ex-combatants, the community arms collection and destruction programme and the successful holding of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections in May last year.

Maj. Gen. Athar commended the Ukrainian Aviation Unit for its "wonderful job" with UNAMSIL, which had made it possible for the Mission to score meaningful progress in peacekeeping, recalling that UNAMSIL had come a long way in bringing peace in Sierra Leone. He noted with satisfaction the technical expertise and training on the use of major equipment, such as armoured personnel carriers, that the Unit is offering to other peacekeepers, and praised the troops for their "high sense of discipline."

The Acting Force Commander said that the Ukrainian Training and Maintenance Battalion is a unique unit which is operating throughout the country to perform various tasks including the training of drivers and technicians. He also briefed the delegation on UNAMSIL's drawdown plans which he said was being aided to a very large extent by the Ukrainian units through the provision of road and air transportation.

The visiting delegation is also expected to visit various locations where Ukrainian peacekeepers are deployed and other UNAMSIL units using Ukrainian equipment.

In another development, Maj. Gen. Athar paid a quick visit to UNAMSIL Sector West Headquarters in Freetown to assess the overall security situation in the Western Area in the wake of recent indictments by the Special Court of Sierra Leone. The Sector Commander, Brig Gen. Steve Guar, briefed him on the contingency plans the sector has prepared to deal with any threats to peace particularly in Freetown. The plans rely on close cooperation between UNAMSIL and Sierra Leone's security agencies including the police and the national army.

Mr. David Hecht: I don't have major news, nothing like what happened earlier this week. Just two bits of information that you might be interested in. As you may know, the Special Court is doing a conference here on Tuesday, the 18th. The registry is responsible for those accused now, for the defence, and for the proper handling of their trials, the initial appearances which will be happening this Saturday. The other bit of information is that we now have an official website, www.sc-sl.org. On that website we've already got basic documents - history of our press releases, photos, basic information on how the court works, and links to other related sites. As the Court progresses, we'll be having a lot more for you on that, the cases and where they stand. Do go to that site and follow it. If you can't find the information you want, just contact my office.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Q: With regards to the indictment of the minister of internal affairs, Hinga Norman, do you see that situation as any threat? To Mr. Hecht, where are the indictees going to be arraigned on Saturday?

Mr. Hamdan: The initial state of indictments, as you all have seen, is successful. There are no major threats to security and those indictees are in the custody of the Special Court and everything is working as it should be.

Major Ali Yusuf: As you are aware, the acting Force Commander visited Sector West. He was briefed and everything is normal. UNAMSIL is working hand-in-hand with Sierra Leone police and Sierra Leone armed forces to ensure that any threat will be combated anytime, any day.

Mr. Hecht: The trial will be conducted outside of Freetown at an undisclosed location. It won't be at the Special Court because the detention centre is not completed yet. The location will be disclosed after the hearings have taken place. It's a very small location and it's very difficult to get people there. Very few press had been invited. All those invited are aware of it. Unfortunately I tried to get as many journalists as possible but we could only have very few.

Q: Mr. Hecht, apart of the five indictees already in custody, are there going to be new arrests?

Mr. Hecht: There are five people being presently detained by the Special Court. There are two indictments, the arrest warrants are out for them. That makes a total of seven indictments. There are no other indictments I'm aware of beside those seven people.

Q: For Maj. Yusuf, on New Year's eve, NIBATT 13 arrested a soldier around Pademba Road prison and he was caught with a camera. Upon investigation, they found out he was insane. What is the development of that investigation?

Maj. Yusuf: I have no information on that.

UNAMSIL Headquarters, Mammy Yoko, P. O. Box 5, Freetown, Sierra Leone Tel: 232-22-273-183/4/5 Fax: 232-22-273-189