Sierra Leone

UNAMSIL Press Briefing 31 Jan 2003

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

Good afternoon. Welcome to this week's briefing. I am pleased to inform you that we have with us today Mr. Desmond Molloy, from the DDR Coordination Section.

Masimba Tafirenyika: ANNAN WELCOMES BUSH'S $15 BILLION PLEDGE FOR GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on Wednesday, 29 January, welcomed the announcement by United States President George W. Bush of a total of $15 billion in funding to help in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

Referring to Mr. Bush's pledge, made Tuesday, 28 January, in his State of the Union address, the Secretary-General congratulated the US President on his promise to provide stronger US leadership in combating the devastating impact of the global AIDS epidemic.

"An additional $10 billion - making a total of $15 billion over the next five years, with a new emphasis on access to life-saving treatment and care for millions of people - will make a vital impact, not only in saving lives but also in staving off the very real threat to stability that AIDS represents in the worst affected regions," the Secretary-General said in a statement released in New York.

Mr. Annan also expressed appreciation that $1 billion will initially to go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which he described as a "key instrument for the international community in giving strategic direction to the global struggle against HIV/AIDS."

The Secretary-General stressed that while experiences on every continent have shown it possible to prevent infection and treat and care for those infected, too often the lack of resources has prevented projects from growing into the full-scale national strategies required for success.

"President Bush has confirmed his belief that AIDS can be defeated," Mr. Annan said. "I hope the US Congress will accept the President's challenge and ensure that the needed funding is made available as quickly as possible, in keeping with the urgency of this crisis. And I hope that this example will encourage other governments to follow suit."

Echoing that theme was Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who said that Mr. Bush's announcement challenges every other member of the Group of Seven most industrialized nations - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada - to follow suit before its next summit in June in France.

"Between now and then, every single member must announce its contribution to the struggle against AIDS overall, and to the Global Fund in particular," he said. "The summit itself should initiate the most far-reaching, imaginative plan of action to confront this communicable scourge that the world has ever seen."

Mr. Lewis also warned that imminent war in Iraq could overshadow any efforts to fight the scourge. "And with the best will in the world, wars have a way of distorting, however unintentionally, every intended human priority," he said. "Wars have their own dynamic, in the wake of which hopes can be strangled and dreams can be suffocated.

"We cannot allow HIV/AIDS to become collateral damage."

PRESIDENT KABBAH FORMALLY RECOGNIZES NEWLY-ELECTED PARAMOUNT CHIEFS

Sierra Leone's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on Monday, 27 January, "acknowledged and formally recognized" 19 of the 60 newly-elected paramount chiefs at a function held in the eastern district town of Kenema.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, who also attended the ceremony, was crowned honorary Paramount Chief of the Eastern Province by the Sierra Leonean Head of State in recognition of his contribution to peace in the country.

In his 15-page statement to thousands of people who had gathered to witness the ceremony marking the official "recognition" of the newly-elected paramount chiefs, President Kabbah announced the formation of a Council of Paramount Chiefs to serve as an advisory body on paramount chieftaincy matters. While the Council will not have any legislative or executive authority, it will provide a forum for paramount chiefs to discuss chiefdom issues and "to encourage, foster and maintain national cohesion through upholding law and order, as well as traditional norms and values."

Among other things, the Council is also expected to advise the Government on the land tenure system, which the president said, should be discussed "openly" to assist his Government in formulating a definitive policy position.

Acknowledging the contribution made by the international community to the conduct of paramount chieftaincy elections, particularly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the British Department for International Development (DFID), President Kabbah appealed for resources in terms of equipment, logistics and finance in holding local Government elections, which he described as "a vital benchmark in the restoration of decentralized democratic governance."

The ceremony in Kenema to officially recognize the new paramount chiefs was the first in a series of such events, with others scheduled to take place this week in the towns of Bo in the south as well as Makeni and Port Loko in the north.

Major Galadima Shekari:

The Force Commander was in Lungi, Bonthe, and Moyamba yesterday. He went there to assess the general security situation of our troops in those areas following the recent redeployment of the Nepalese Battalion. The commanding officer of Moyamba confirmed to the Force Commander that the security situation is calm, stable and very peaceful. This was buttressed by the fact that both the local and national government authority have fully been established in those areas. The district officers are functioning. local administration is functioning. All levels of authority are functioning. People go about their normal lives without hitch or hindrance. He stopped by Lungi to bid farewell to troops of the Kenyan contingent who are living the mission area having completed their tour of duty in the mission. He commended them for their contribution to the peace process in this country recalling the sacrifices made by their colleagues who were here prior to this time and implored them to go back home with a sense of fulfillment having participated in the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in this country.

Before the security was withdrawn from VIPs that UNAMSIL provided personal security for, the Force Headquarters communicated to them stating the reasons why that was done. My duty here is to inform you that it was not deliberate; it was planned and a well-informed arrangement between Force HQs and those VIPs that we were going to withdraw the security. They were duly informed of that arrangement, I hope.

Desmond Molloy:

Good afternoon. I am the reintegration coordination officer with the DDR coordination section of UNAMSIL. This section was formed in June 2001 with the original Chief of Section, Kenji Isezaki. The purpose of this section was that as UNAMSIL came to the close of the demobilization and demilitarization (DD) process and we moved into reintegration, it was realized that there was a need for civilian coordination to what is primarily a military function, the reintegration of former combatants. While the Force and military observers (MILOBS) had hands-on engagement in the DD process, we were formed to drive the reintegration process supporting the Government of Sierra Leone through NCDDR (National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration).

Our section is made up of a management team with our chief Mitonga Zongwe and myself as reintegration coordinator. We have a newly arrived field coordinator to provide additional support to our field teams. Other than the management team, our staff is made up of international UN Volunteers, soon to include national UN Volunteers. Currently, we have a staff of 16 UNVs, we will go to 20 hopefully within the next six to eight weeks. Of those 16, four provide the programme support team and 12 are deployed in the regions. I intend to just give you an overview of our tasks, say what are our achievements last year and the challenges ahead, then allow you questions.

The major task we have is to support NCDDR in the delivery of the reintegration opportunity programmes. This is the skills training programme that you hear so much about. This was the commitment of the Lomé Agreement which encouraged disarmament and demobilization. That opportunity is to provide a six-month training vocational educational entrepreneurial support with the subsistence allowance that you heard so many problems about. Tool kits are then issued at the end of this training to help people build up their livelihoods. That's our primary task. I'll talk about the challenges of that a little later.

In supporting the delivery of this programme and in supporting social reintegration working with the UNDP, we have brought $3 million from the Japanese Human Security Fund to Sierra Leone and we have prioritized delivery of NCDDR opportunity programmes in Koinadugu, Kailahun and Kono. Koinadugu is nearly completed at this stage so our concentration or at least $2 million of this fund over the next year will be on Kono and Kailahun. The biggest number of remaining ex-combatants to be included in the programme are in Kailahun where there was a total caseload in excess of 8,000.

While we support the government of Sierra Leone in the delivery of reintegration opportunities, we also identify where we can, gaps, and the primary gap right from the beginning in the reintegration programme has been the fact that there has been a long time-lag between the delivery of the reinsertion benefit. There was a 300,000 leones fund that was given for demobilization to allow ex-combatants to return to their chiefdoms of origin or of choice, settle down with their families and wait for their reintegration opportunity. Some ex-combatants at this stage are waiting 18 months for that reintegration opportunity. We came in with funds from DFID, UNDP. We developed quick-impact projects, labor-intensive community infrastructural projects to engage them and to try to take some of the burden of their weight, some of their anger in particular. We focused on the main volatile areas where there are large concentration of ex-combatants and we used these to try to stabilize the peace process and to contribute towards social reintegration. I'll mention a little more about that in a few minutes.

We worked very closely with the government of Sierra Leone particularly through the Technical Coordination Committee for Reintegration which is chaired by Dr Francis Kaikai of NCDDR. We are part of that, along with the other working partners in reintegration. In addition to the activity on the TCC, we also work as well as we can to assist in sensitizing the community, particularly the ex-combatants, on what they can expect from the reintegration process, what they can expect after the reintegration process, what the payment dates are, and the benefits for the various programmes areas. These are the facts that have caused most of the problems.

Most of the ex-combatants are waiting for inclusion into the process or are already working in projects and feel they are not getting the benefits. They don't actually know what they're entitled to, when they're going to get paid their subsistence allowances. We've had great assistance from Radio UNAMSIL in particular where we have a slot every Wednesday morning. We give out whatever information we can on that slot. We also work with NCDDR in their traveling roadshows that they've had in the north and which they're about to develop in the east and the south. Our staff on the ground work very closely in developing this. We also have great support in all our sensitization and in our work in stopgaps and the reintegration opportunity programmes from the MILOB teams, 260 professional officers around the country. These are a huge support to our small professional team.

Last Monday in Bonthe the UN Volunteer head office approved funding of $700,000 towards a programme to contribute to the empowerment of youth and social reintegration and peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. This is a project we had been developing with the UNV office here in UNAMSIL and with UNDP over the past 18 months. This money will be seen as seed capital to draw in additional co-funding for small projects that assist and empower youth, things such as the training of youth leaders, maybe assistance to youth organization who wish to involve themselves in the national youth strategy, community mass activities such sports events and cultural events and one national sports event associated with the National Olympic Council. This money should come on stream around mid-February. The focal point for implementation are the UNVs of the substantive units of UNAMSIL, one in the DDR Section, Human Rights and Civil Affairs. We're working with a broad range of collaborating partners including the UN family and NACSA, the Network for Collaboration and Peacebuilding, various CBOs (community-based organizations), NGOs like Conciliation Resources in Kenema, and various other agencies like world vision, perhaps plan international, agencies working in the area of youth empowerment and peacebuilding. This is a good news story for us and it's a new area we are beginning over the next year. That's in fact the two year-funded programme similar to that which was setup three or four years ago in Georgia where they got seed capital for a two-year period. They have been running for the last two or three years and they spent a lot more than the initial seed capital.

We hope that this is going to help to approach the empowerment of youth in a national way. Many NGOs have been working very well in focused areas. We're going to try and spread this benefit throughout the community. It's good news for the proliferation of youth organizations in the country now. This has a huge impact on reintegration. When we send the message to all the ex-combatants to complete all their reintegration programmes, they can forget about this term ex-combatant on the 31st of December 2003 when we are obliged, the NCDDR is obliged, to have completed the delivery of reintegration opportunity programmes; they become part of the youth so any benefits we put in for the youth include the ex-combatants and contributes to a broader social reintegration.

One of the area my section is involved in is working with UNDP in the second phase of the community arms collection and destruction process. This is a process being driven by UNDP now to develop the legislation for the control of license of weapons in the country and also for the movement of arms and also working with the Manu River Union for regional legislation in relation with the movement of arms. One of the pilot projects associated with this community arms collection and destruction project is that there will be a development incentive for the declaration of arms-free chiefdoms. This is going to be tested in several chiefdoms. The idea is to find what the residue of arms in the community might be, what might be buried, what's on their beds, attics, get it out, continue to develop the mindset of an arms-free community.

Our achievements in the reintegration field. NCDDR, Dr Francis Kaikai gets a lot of stick about the delivery of reintegration opportunity programmes. Of the 56,000 ex-combatants registered in the programme, to date more than 70 percent have received their opportunity or are currently in progress. It's a fact to say that primarily in the north, western area, the remaining 30 percent are in the east in Kailahun, and in the south in Bo, Pujehun and Moyamba. Kailahun, Kono, Pujehun, Bo are very challenging. However, we are working with NCDDR in developing strategies to ensure that all opportunities are delivered by December 31st 2003. The project has to be closed down as far as the delivery of reintegration opportunity programmes is concerned.

I mentioned stop-gap programmes; these are the quick impact programmes we use during the interim while people are waiting to engage ex-combatants. We committed more than $702,000 to this in the last year, 56 projects spread well around the country, many in the east, north, some in the south. We haven't got one in the west yet, but we look at this in the next round of funding. UNDP has committed an additional $150,000 to these projects in the last two weeks, and we expect to have our project appraisals committee that will review about 10 projects next Tuesday.

These projects, in addition to engaging the ex-combatants, have had very broad social impact. We're very happy with them. The feedback we get from the community is that these are working. It's a very flexible tool where we can get money to a community that's in trouble, get a particular project on for a community infrastructure working quickly, get people paid a certain amount of money. The first one we ran was in Kono in January last year just a few weeks after that terrible incident in Kono when 13 people lost their lives. The first one was the rehabilitation of the marketplace in Kono which was a swamp inhabited by frogs. Now it's a dry space; it's not operating as a marketplace but it's going to be shortly. This brought RUF, CDF people together, working together, dining together, playing football together instead of killing one another.

I mentioned already the challenge of the reintegration opportunity programme with NCDDR. Of the remaining caseloads of 23,000, there are about 5,000 that will be covered by parallel funding. That's like the Japanese money I mentioned, great assistance from DFID and CRP programme, GTZ, ICRC. The remainder funded through the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund, whose manager is in town and who's working with us for the strategy for delivery. That's the big challenge ahead.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Q: Is UNAMSIL is worried about this Johnny Paul Koroma issue?And what is the total strength of the military now in Sierra Leone?

Maj Galadima Shekari: The issue of Johnny Paul Koroma is a national issue. To the best of my knowledge it is adequately being handled by the national security agencies in the interest of the state. UNAMSIL has peacekeepers, UNAMSIL Force continue to monitor developments as they unfold. On the second question, for now, we have a troop strength of about 16,500 in the mission area.

Q: There are still some ex-combatants in the Tongolili District who received part of their entitlement but who haven't been given any sort of training up to now.

Mr. Desmond Molloy: The NCDDR has delivered 70 percent. This wasn't a one-year programme. There's always somebody who's going to be at the backend of the delivery.

Q: Regarding youth police, how are you going to embark on that. Are you going to cover the entire country?

Mr. Molloy: This programme for the empowerment of youth is going to cover the entire country working with all agencies, working in the area of the empowerment of youth and peacebuilding. We are in a position to work with umbrella youth organizations, particularly those working in concert with the national youth policy. We are also working closely with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Q: Can you talk about this $3 million from Japan, and this $700,000, which country did it come from?

Mr. Molloy: The Human Security Fund was provided by the Government of Japan to the reintegration programme in Sierra Leone working through UNDP and UNAMSIL. The $704,000 provided by UNV came from the special volunteer fund of UNV Headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

Yousef Hamdan: Thank you all very much and see you next week.

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