On 18 September 2013, Mr. Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) and Mr. Momodu Koroma, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sierra Leone, presented to the Security Council the latest developments in the country.
The speakers pointed out that the process of revision of the Constitution, initiated on 30 December, should be transparent and inclusive in order to promote the rule of law and achieve a truly democratic system of governance. They called on the population to overcome the various ongoing political divisions and to work together for national reconciliation. They added that the withdrawal of UNIPSIL was on good track and that all employees would be recalled by 30 March 2014. Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen also welcomed the “zero tolerance” policy led by Mr. Koroma, to fight corruption in the country.
During closed consultations that followed, the representative of France welcomed the post-election stability in Sierra Leone, which he described as exemplary, and the well-coordinated activities between UNIPSIL and various UN agencies, allowing a smooth transition process. He added that special attention should be given to the fight against drug trafficking in the country, in order to ensure a national and regional stability.
On 26 March 2013, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2097 extending for one final year the mandate of UNIPSIL and preparing its draw-down by 31 March 2014.
The complete timeline of events here.
I. The conflit
The civil war broke up when Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF), funded by Charles Taylor, seized diamond mines in Sierra Leone. During the first stage of the conflict, the Sierra Leonean army defended the government, backed by ECOMOG (the armed wing of ECOWAS) forces. It then overthrew it while the RUF continued its progression on the ground.
The United Nations have been involved in Sierra Leone since 1996, when they helped organizing the elections. A new coup bringing the RUF to power prevented the country to rebuild democratic institutions. International sanctions were taken against Foday Sankoh’s junta, especially through an embargo on diamonds.
In 1998, the Security Council adopted the resolution 1181 creating the United Nations Observation Mission in Somalia (UNOMSIL, which became UNAMSIL one year later), backed by the ECOMOG.
Resolution 1270, authorising the deployment of 6000 blue helmets, was adopted on 22 October 1999 to implement the Lome Peace Agreement providing for the disarmament of rebel groups and the integration of the RUF within the transition government.
Even though UNAMSIL was coping with a difficult situation on the ground because the RUF kept on denouncing the Peace Agreement, UNAMSIL brought back the institutional order in 2000 with the help of Great-Britain (Palliser operation). At the same time, the Security Council created a Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) with the aim of judging the main perpetrators of human rights abuses committed since 30 November 1996.
Sierra Leone finally emerged from civil war in 2002. After 11 years of war and more than 50 000 deaths, the country remains fragile and its environment agitated.
Since the proclamation of the end of the civil war in 2002, the UN continued to strengthen the peace in the country through the transformation of UNAMSIL into a peacekeeping operation in 2009.
II. The United Nations involvement, from the Observer Mission to Active Peacekeeping • The United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone
UNAMSIL disappeared in 2005, three years after the end of the war. The United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), created by the January 2006 resolution 1620, has been implemented to follow the UN’s action in Sierra Leona. It had a staff of 300 people and 4 objectives: the promotion of human rights, the development of the country, the fight against corruption and an electoral support. Resolution 1793 of 21 December 2007, extended UNAMSIL’s mandate for 9 months with the gradual reduction of its personnel.
Resolution 1829, adopted on 4 August 2008 replaced UNIOSIL by a United Nations Integrated Office for the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) for a period of one year (until October 2009). This office, created to support the Sierra Leonean authorities on political, rule of law and governance issues, to help revise the Constitution of 1991 and to work on decentralization policies, is the first integrated office with a clear mandate to support the work of the [Peacebuilding Commission]. Its mandate has been successively renewed by resolutions 1886 (15 September 2009), 1941 (29 September 2010) and 2005 (15 September 2011). On 12 September 2012, the Security Council adopted resolution 2065 renewing the mandate of UNIPSIL for six months and a half, until 31 March 2013. The aim of the international community is now to end this political mission in 2013, given the clear progresses of the country in consolidating peace.
• Peacebuilding Commission (PCB)
The Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was created in 2005 as an advisory intergovernmental body supporting a country’s efforts to sustain peace after a conflict. This is the case of Sierra Leone after the civil war (1991-2002). The three main objectives of the PCB are the assessment of needs on the ground in cooperation with the local authorities, a lasting political support from the international community as well as a long-term coordination with people operating in the country. Sierra Leone has been the first country to be signed up to the agenda of the PCB.
• Lifting of sanctions
Under resolution 1940 of 29 September 2010, the Security Council lifted the sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone since 1997 (arms embargo, freezing of assets, travel bans) and dissolved the Sanctions Committee established by resolution 1132.
Even though war ended officially in January 2002, the Lome Peace Accords were not sufficient: without the trial of war criminals, peace could not be lasting.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was set up by the United Nations in January 2002 (resolution 1315) in agreement with the new government. It is responsible for the prosecution of the main perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed since November 1996.
To date, eight people have been prosecuted: three officers from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), the military junta that overturned civilian rule in 1997 and joined the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), two former leaders of the pro-Government militia of the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) and three officers from the RUF. The activities of the Special Court will cease in September 2013. The last fugitive, Johnny Paul Koroma, chief of the AFRC, has deceased in Liberia while he was escaping in March 2003.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone functions thanks to voluntary contributions from donors, including the United Nations, the United States, the EU Commission and several European countries. France contributed 2 million euros between 2005 and 2008.
• The trial of Charles Taylor
Under a warrant of arrest of the Special Court since 2003, former Liberia President Charles Taylor has been taken to the UNMIL authorities in 2006, which transferred him to the Special Court to be judged for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
His case was the first trial of a head of State being brought to an international Court while he was still in office. For reasons of regional security, the trial was brought to the Hague (resolution 1688, June 2006) after the UK agreed to receive him in case he was convicted. The International Criminal Court therefore made his offices available to the Court. Opened in 2004, the trial progressed with the Charles Taylor appearing to the Court for his defence in July, 2009.
On 26 April 2012, the three-judge panel issued a unanimous decision that Charles Taylor was guilty on all 11 counts of the indictment against him. The judges found him guilty of aiding and abetting rebel forces in a campaign of terror that involved murder, rape, sexual slavery, and conscripting children younger than 15 and mining diamonds to pay for guns. It was the first war crimes conviction of a former head of state by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.
Learn more on the international criminal jurisdictions.
9 October 2012 - Security Council - Special Court for Sierra Leone - Statement by Mr Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
16 July 2009 - Security Council - Sierra Leone - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Political Counsellor
All French Statements in New York here.
26 March 2013 - Security Council - Resolution 2097 renewing the mandate of the UNIPSIL until 31 March 2014
30 November 2012 - Security Council - Sierra Leone - Presidential statement
9 October 2012 - Security Council - Special Court for Sierra Leone - Presidential statement
12 September 2012 - Resolution 2065 renewing the mandate of the UNIPSIL until 31 March 2012
11 April 2012 - Security Council - Sierra Leone - Presidential statement
14 September 2011 - Resolution 2005 renewing the mandate of the UN mission in Sierra Leone for 12 months
29 September 2010 - Resolution 1941 - Extending the mandate of UNIPSIL until 15 September 2010
29 September 2010 - resolution 1940 - Lifting the sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone
15 September 2009 - Resolution 1886
4 August 2008 - Resolution 1829 - Creating the the Integrated Office of the UN Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone (BINUCSIL)
21 December 2007 - Resolution 1793 - Extending the mandate of the Integrated Office of the UN in Sierra Leone
28 June 2007 - Statement by the President of the Security Council
22 December 2006 - Resolution 1734 - Extending the mandate of the Integrated Office of the UN in Sierra Leone
16 June 2006 - Resolution 1688
20 December 2005 - Statement by the President of the Security Council
19 September 2005 - Resolution 1626 - Authorizing a deployment of UNMIL in Sierra Leone to secure the Special Court for Sierra Leone
30 August 2005 - Resolution 1620