For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SC/1224
Release Date:    12 May 2000
Secretary-General Pleads with Council Not to Fail 
People of Sierra Leone, Africa

Late-Night Session, Convened at Request of African Group,
 Hears Range of Views on Saving Lomé Agreement, Reinforcing Peacekeepers

 NEW YORK, 11 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council was tonight urged to review the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to give it a peace-enforcement role with more resources and equipment to deal with the crisis in that country.

 Secretary-General Kofi Annan said UNAMSIL was configured as a peacekeeping force, and not designed or equipped for an enforcement operation.  It was attacked by one of the parties that had pledged cooperation, before it was properly deployed.  Given that situation, he said that UNAMSIL troops must be consolidated and reinforced, so that they could defend themselves and their mandate effectively.

 He demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all United Nations personnel, warning that the leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) would be held accountable for their actions and for the safety and well-being of all those detained.  The United Nations had made a commitment to the people of Sierra Leone, and he pleaded with the Council not to fail them, and Africa.

 The representative of Algeria said the Council must review the mandate of UNAMSIL to make it a peace-enforcement mission.  It should give it the necessary mandate to protect itself, ensure the monitoring of compliance with the Lomé Peace Agreement and to protect the people of Sierra Leone from renewed violence.  West African Economic Community member States were willing to make troops available to the United Nations.  Africa was willing to shoulder its part of the responsibility, and the Council should do the same, he said.

 The United Nations response to the crisis in Sierra Leone held the key to its future solution, the United Kingdom representative said.  The Council had a grave responsibility, and must keep its eye firmly on the immediate objective – to reinforce UNAMSIL and get it up to strength.  It must send a clear message of political support for UNAMSIL, and it must be ready to do anything necessary to assist UNAMSIL’s reinforcement.

 The representative of Sierra Leone said his Government welcomed current initiatives to strengthen UNAMSIL through the rapid deployment of additional troops.  He appealed to the Security Council to take the lead in ensuring the safety and security of the people of Sierra Leone.  While acknowledging that the RUF had seriously violated the provisions of the Lomé Agreement, the Government still believed that the Agreement was generally implementable.

 India's representative strongly urged the Council not to consider withdrawal as an option, saying that even though India had troops on the ground, it had no intention of pulling out.  It was, in fact, sending a second battalion urgently, together with reinforcements, to bolster UNAMSIL’s strength.  “We must stay there for two reasons.  First, because to leave now would be to abandon the people of Sierra Leone to a terrible fate, and second, because the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.”  The UNAMSIL did not have the troops, equipment or the logistics to mount a peace-enforcement mission under Chapter VII of the Charter, he said.  “Giving UNAMSIL a mandate which it cannot implement will not help it.”

 The representative of Djibouti, speaking as Coordinator of the Eastern Africa Subregion, said the stand-off in Sierra Leone represented an all-too-familiar test of will between the United Nations and yet another warlord.  Warning that Sierra Leone was in serious danger of being turned into another Somalia, he said Africa was prepared to undertake a regional response to the crisis there, but lacked the resources to do so.  Africa must rely upon collective security, as enshrined in the Charter.

 Other statements were made by the representatives of Mali, Canada, Malaysia, United States, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Namibia, Argentina, Russian Federation, Jamaica, Ukraine, France, Tunisia, China, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Japan, Pakistan and Jordan.

Council Work Programme

 The Security Council met tonight, at the urgent request of the African Group of States, to review the situation in Sierra Leone.

Statement by Secretary-General

 Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN commended the Council for the sense of urgency it was showing in dealing with the grave crisis in Sierra Leone.  That was entirely appropriate, given the very serious challenge the situation posed for the international community.  At the moment, several hundred United Nations peacekeepers were still being detained against their will.  They were soldiers who went to Sierra Leone not as enemies, but friends and peacemakers.  Their mission was to manage the disarmament process called for under the peace agreement signed by both parties, including Foday Sankoh on behalf of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).  It was deplorable and unacceptable that the same RUF should not only interfere in the peace process, but arbitrarily detain members of the Mission.

 “Once again I would like to remind Mr. Sankoh that he is responsible for the actions of forces under his command”, he said.  “He will be held accountable for their actions and for the safety and well-being of all those who have been detained.  I demand the immediate and unconditional release of all United Nations personnel.

 “It is vital that the world should not now abandon the people of Sierra Leone in their hour of greatest need”, he continued.  They were entitled to expect not only humanitarian assistance, but also protection.  One must recall that the Mission was configured as a peacekeeping force.  It was neither designed nor equipped for an enforcement operation.  It was attacked by one of the parties that had pledged cooperation, before it was properly deployed.  Given that situation, the troops must be consolidated and reinforced, so they can defend themselves and their mandate effectively.”

 He was pleased to say that additional troops were on the way.  He thanked the troop-contributing countries for making those units and equipment available more rapidly and in greater numbers than anticipated.  In fact, when all the troops had arrived, the military component of United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) would likely exceed the maximum authorized by the Council.  He hoped that, in the circumstances, the Council would be willing to set a new limit.  That said, the logistical difficulties should not be underestimated.  The logistics staff was working hard, arranging some 120 to 150 flights into Freetown’s Lungi airport on short notice.  He was grateful to Member States for their assistance in that effort, as well as for the United Kingdom’s invaluable contribution in securing the airport.

 He was also greatly encouraged by the willingness of subregional leaders to contribute more troops to Sierra Leone, he said.  The new troops could perhaps form the nucleus of a rapid reaction force, which he remained convinced would be the best way to provide UNAMSIL with the needed combat capability.  He knew that West African leaders had also called for a revision of UNAMSIL’s mandate, to give it a clear enforcement role.  He was not necessarily opposed, but the first priority for the Council must be to ensure that the Mission had the capacity to carry out the tasks its mandate implied.  

The offer of troops by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was important, but it was contingent on financial and logistical support from other Member States, he said.  He hoped that support would now be forthcoming.  A degree of regional responsibility in handling security issues was quite natural, but it could not be seen as a substitute for the overall responsibility of the United Nations, and the Council in particular.  Africans were courageously facing up to the appalling problems of their continent.  They rightly looked for help to the rest of the world, especially to its more powerful and prosperous States, and most especially to the Council.

The Organization had made a commitment to the people of Sierra Leone, he said.  It now faced a test of its resolve to abide by that commitment.  “I plead with you”, he said.  “Let us not fail Sierra Leone.  Let us not fail Africa.  This time, in this crisis, let us back words with deeds, and mandates with the resources needed to make them work.”

Other Statements

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), whose President is Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), conveyed the condolences of the organization to the families of those who had lost their lives in Sierra Leone.  He said that over the last few days the world had witnessed unprecedented violence in Sierra Leone, which was the work of the RUF.  According to information received, more than 300 United Nations troops were still being held captive by the RUF.  The people of Sierra Leone had suffered in the last few years, and once again faced similar problems.  The situation posed a challenge to the United Nations.  He demanded the unconditional release of all United Nations personnel, adding that the leader of the RUF must be held responsible.

Africans saw the work of the RUF as a setback to peace in Africa, he said.  It was a serious affront to the concept of peace and security.  He praised the Secretary-General for his efforts to seek a solution to the problem through his appeal for the deployment of a rapid reaction force in Sierra Leone.  He added that the Secretary-General had been in touch with the President of Algeria in his capacity as the Chairman of the OAU.  President Bouteflika, on his part, had acted to seek the release of the peacekeepers.  He had condemned their detention in a message to the meeting of the ECOWAS leaders in Abuja.

He said that what was happening in Sierra Leone was one of the most serious crises to face the United Nations.  Its credibility was being seriously challenged.  It was a signal to the enemies of peace that the United Nations was not an organization that must be feared.

He solemnly appealed to the Security Council to review the mandate of UNAMSIL to make it a peace-enforcement mission.  The UNAMSIL, he said, should be given the necessary mandate to protect itself, to ensure the monitoring of compliance with the peace agreement, and to protect the people of Sierra Leone from renewed violence.  He informed the Council of the statement of the ECOWAS summit that its members were willing to make troops available to the United Nations, adding that countries with the means to do so should make resources available.  Africa was willing to shoulder its part of the responsibility, and the Council should do the same, he said.

 CHEICKNA KEITA (Mali), as coordinator of the ECOWAS and in his national capacity, said that the African continent, especially the Western region, was deeply concerned by the recent events in Sierra Leone.  The hostage-taking by the RUF was an act that defied the international community and must not be tolerated.  He called for the immediate release of the hostages.  That turn of events had threatened not only peace and security in the region but also the credibility of United Nations peacekeeping.  In light of the flagrant violations of the Lomé Agreement, he made the following points.  

First, he emphasized that RUF leader Foday Sankoh was the responsible party for the resumed civil war.  If the lives of hostages were taken, the RUF leader would lose his amnesty under the Lomé Agreement and be prosecuted as a war criminal.  Second, the hostage taking was a challenge to the international community, one which must be met.  He called on the Council to review the current mandate of the peacekeeping force.  Then it would become a peace enforcement mission.  That new legal framework should not imperil the Lomé Agreement -- the appropriate context with which to end the civil war.

Third, he said that ECOWAS stood ready to offer trained forces to strengthen the peace mission and restore peace to Sierra Leone.  He was deeply concerned by the fate of the civilian population and displaced persons.  Immediate steps must be taken to ensure their safety.  The Council must act quickly and must not fail the hopes of the people who put their trust in the United Nations.  

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said everyone had followed the events of the last few days in Sierra Leone with a sense of foreboding.  The current tragic breakdown could have dire consequences.  If the response of the United Nations and the international community did not meet the challenge, the consequences would be far-reaching –- not just for Sierra Leone, but for Africa, United Nations peacekeeping and the United Nations itself.

The focus now must be on the immediate crisis, he continued.  There was no doubt at whose door the principal responsibility lay.  Foday Sankoh and his RUF supporters had flagrantly violated the Peace Agreement and he stood condemned before the international community.  He and his supporters must be held accountable.  Now, the international community must ensure that he and his supporters did not succeed in breaking the peace, for which the ordinary people of Sierra Leone yearned.  The cornerstone of those efforts must be UNAMSIL.

The United Kingdom had taken a number of important steps to support UNAMSIL, he said, among them the deployment of a British battalion to Freetown, which secured the Lungi airport.  Today, his Government had confirmed that the British forces would continue their mission, while the United Nations force built up over the next month.  A United Kingdom military advisory team was also in Freetown and his Government would continue to offer technical and logistical support to help strengthen the mission.  UNAMSIL had borne the brunt of Mr. Sankohs’s actions and suffered the consequences.  He paid tribute to the way in which its Commander had dealt with the present difficult situation.  His thoughts were also with those UNAMSIL personnel who had been detained.  “They must be released -– and quickly”, he said.

The United Nations response to the crisis held the key to its future solution, he said.  The Council had a grave responsibility.  It must keep its eye firmly on the immediate objective –- to reinforce UNAMSIL and get it up to strength.  He was grateful to the Governments of India, Bangladesh and Jordan for expediting the deployment of their battalions.  That deployment must take place as quickly as possible.  He also welcomed the willingness of the ECOWAS leaders to consider the practical means of further regional involvement.  Any new troops should be “blue-hatted,” properly equipped for the job they have to do, under a single United Nations chain of command and with the same rules of engagement.

Progress was being made, he said.  For the moment, UNAMSIL’s mandate was sufficient.  It was already a strong one.  It contained elements that allowed for the use of force in self-defence and, where possible, in defence of the civilian population.  Clearly, as the situation evolved, the tasks expected of UNAMSIL must be examined.  The decision on the mandate would depend on those tasks.  Once the situation had stabilized, the Council would be better placed to look at those issues.  But it should not be done hastily.  Changing UNAMSIL’s mandate would not of itself change it into an effective peace enforcement mission; and moving to peace enforcement would be a radical change of approach.  “We should think carefully about whether this is right or practicable.”

“This Council must send a clear message of political support for UNAMSIL”, he concluded.  “And it must be ready to do anything necessary to assist UNAMSIL’s reinforcement.”

 ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said that as UNAMSIL consolidated its position, the international community must resume its efforts to support the Mission.  It must be firm in its commitment not to abandon Sierra Leone or the troops that the Council had put in a dangerous situation.  Yesterday, Canada had offered an airlift for the troops to be sent by India and Bangladesh.  It was currently considering increasing its support to UNAMSIL troops, who were low on equipment.  It had also made a significant contribution to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme and was ready to renew its support once the situation stabilized.  He hoped that conditions would be met for the resumption of the peace process.  

It was imperative, he said, that the peacekeeping effort in Sierra Leone be truly multilateral, under the United Nations flag and that the burden associated with fielding and deploying that force be shared among Member States.  He encouraged Member States to work towards the creation of a strong, united and cohesive force to restore a climate of confidence and order in Sierra Leone.  That force should take the form of an expanded UNAMSIL, and should respect the fundamental military principle of unity of command.  The Council should be prepared to revisit UNAMSIL’s mandate in light of the fundamental changes in the situation on the ground and to re-examining, on a regular basis, UNAMSIL’s requirements in personnel and capabilities.  

 The threat of sliding back into civil war demonstrated yet again the need for a rapidly improved capacity for United Nations rapid reaction, he said.  He encouraged Member States to commit themselves to improving the capability of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the areas of military planning services, Headquarters oversight, access to reliable field-level intelligence, effective communications and longer-term contingency planning.  

 In addition to condemning in the strongest terms the illegal detention of UNAMSIL civilian and military personnel, he said that the Council must undertake to hold accountable the parties responsible for those breaches of the Lomé Agreement, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh.  The Council should examine all avenues at its disposal for ensuring that the violence perpetrated in the name of greed in Sierra Leone did not go unpunished.  He stressed that the United Nations was not bound by the Lomé amnesty provisions as they applied to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.  

 HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) condemned the armed attacks perpetrated against United Nations personnel by the RUF.  In his view, Foday Sankoh must be held directly responsible for those actions.  He expressed support for the dispatch of a rapid reaction force to Sierra Leone in order to stabilize the situation.  He issued an urgent appeal to States with the requisite resources to make deployment of such a force possible.  A United Nations withdrawal from Sierra Leone was not an option, because it would send the wrong message to the people.

 Nevertheless, Malaysia believed that UNAMSIL's mandate was no longer adequate.  The Council must, therefore, proceed to a new evaluation of the political and military situation.  The RUF had challenged not only the peace process, but also the biggest peacekeeping force ever deployed.  The question that must be asked tonight was whether the UNAMSIL mandate, currently restricted to Chapter VII of the Charter, was truly sufficient.  

 It must now be acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and the Council must adapt its response anew.  Malaysia looked favourably on the rapid deployment of additional ECOWAS troops.  He added, however, that countries deploying troops in Sierra Leone must ensure that they operated under the United Nations flag.

 JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that his Government and the American people had viewed the unfolding crisis in Sierra Leone with shock and dismay.  Despite the presence of more than 8,500 United Nations peacekeepers, those who did not seek peace in Sierra Leone -- especially the RUF rebels -- had initiated new attacks and detained almost 500 United Nations and other international personnel.  Such actions were totally unacceptable, he said.  That threat to peace and security must be brought to an end.

The United States commended the Secretary-General and his staff.  The fault for the tragedy in Sierra Leone lay exclusively with the RUF and its leader, Foday Sankoh, for their betrayal of the commitments in the Lomé Agreement.  The United States strongly supported the United Nations peacekeepers.  They were organized and sent to Sierra Leone not to impose a settlement, not to enforce the peace, but to assist in the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement, an accord which the RUF, signed, then ignored, and finally subverted by launching their recent attacks.  The RUF actions against the members of UNAMSIL were outrageous, criminal and in direct violation of the Lomé Peace Agreement.

The United States called upon the RUF immediately to release all detainees, cease all military operations, comply with their commitments under the Lomé Peace Agreement, and respect all applicable norms of international human rights and humanitarian law.  The United States concurred with the condemnation of the RUF action issued by ECOWAS leaders at their summit at Abuja.  It welcomed their decision to convey a meeting of their defence ministers on 17 May.

He said his Government was seized with the issue at the highest levels.  Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had been in regular contact with the Secretary-General.  President Bill Clinton had also reviewed the situation with  Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning.  The President had asked the Reverend Jesse Jackson, his Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa, to return to the region to work with leaders there for a resolution of the crisis.  Reverend Jackson had been actively involved in diplomatic efforts to help the people of Sierra Leone to realize their peaceful aspirations, he said.

He added that the United States had intensified its continuing collaboration at the highest levels with the Government of Sierra Leone, with other regional leaders and with British colleagues.  The United States Ambassador in Sierra Leone remained in Freetown and was in constant communication with the Government of Sierra Leone and other key officials.

The focus continued to be on finding the best possible practical measures to seek the release of all United Nations and other international personnel who remained detained, to protect civilians, to restore stability and to reinforce the international presence in Sierra Leone.  The United States would assist the deployment of additional troops for UNAMSIL, and it was working hard with other interested States to find ways to accelerate the deployment of the remaining battalions.  It was examining the possibilities of providing equipment support for the international force in Sierra Leone.  United States military officials were now determining what assistance might be needed.

 PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that the Secretary-General had stated that Mr. Sankoh must be held responsible for the situation in Sierra Leone, and that had been echoed by other speakers.  Last year, the signing of the Lomé Agreement was welcomed with a sense of relief.  It was a last hope for peace in Sierra Leone.  However, parts of the Lomé Agreement clearly did not bode well for future peace.  Important government posts were set aside for perpetrators of serious crimes and a blanket amnesty was provided for criminals.  That had conveyed a dangerous message.  At that time, he had proposed the inclusion of a reference to such concerns in the relevant resolutions, but was prevailed upon not to insist because any mention of accountability would prolong the war.

The Council had to wonder to what extent that had contributed to Mr. Sankoh’s behaviour, he said.  Anyone who flouted the Lomé Agreement could not invoke that Agreement for amnesty.  The Council could not deviate from what it had repeatedly stated, regarding the need to bring to justice in an appropriate manner those who perpetrated violence against civilians and violated international humanitarian law.  He continued to believe that, without full accountability for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone, there could be no lasting peace.

 ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said he strongly believed that the United Nations could not, and must not, abandon Sierra Leone.  First, UNAMSIL must be bolstered by bringing it up to its mandated strength at the earliest, as additional numbers on the ground would make a difference.  He informed the Council that the battalion Bangladesh promised to UNAMSIL would be ready for airlifting along with all its equipment by 20 May.  Secondly, the possibility of mobilizing troops in excess of the mandated strength must be considered.  He was encouraged that ECOWAS countries would be providing forces to bring stability to Sierra Leone.  All international military presence there should be under an integrated United Nations command.  There must be one international mandate provided by the Council.  

 He said that concerns had been voiced in some quarters that United Nations peacekeeping was dysfunctional, because the troops the United Nations deployed –- troops mostly from developing countries -– were often ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-prepared to address the situation at hand.  The unfortunate reality was that if developing countries would stop responding to the frantic calls of the United Nations today, there would be no peacekeeping tomorrow, barring a few choicest areas in the world of strategic interest to major Powers.  Blaming the failure on the peacekeepers was the easy way out of meeting the Organization’s collective responsibility.

 He said that, thirdly, a comprehensive assessment must be made of the situation and all the options weighed.  Fourthly, the UNAMSIL mandate must be revisited in order to strengthen it.  Clearly, a more robust mandate for a long-term solution of the problem in Sierra Leone was required.  A full Chapter VII mandate for UNAMSIL was needed to make it effective.  Finally, the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone was a matter of concern to his delegation.  Ways to address the needs of the innocent victims of violence in Sierra Leone must be looked into.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that after the continuous, long and most brutal and barbaric atrocities of the RUF unleashed upon the people of Sierra Leone, not to mention children and even infants, the Government and people of Sierra Leone who needed peace more than anything had accepted the Lomé Agreement.  “Indeed, we all have hoped that given what the people of Sierra Leone were subjected to, the way to peace was not to isolate those who stood in the way of peace but to include them.”  Today, the RUF had clearly demonstrated that it was never interested in peace. 

The events in Sierra Leone should galvanize the international community to take effective measures to address the unfolding crisis, he said.  “We must do so because the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone is a collective undertaking.  If it fails, it will be collective failure.  When it succeeds, we all would have succeeded.”  Stating that UNAMSIL did not have the necessary deterrent capacity, he said the first test by the rebels confirmed the extreme vulnerability of the Mission.  The mandate of UNAMSIL was inadequate for the task at hand.  The international community had hesitated to set itself clear and realistic goals.

The political realities on the ground and the continued detention of the United Nations personnel demanded that the Council review the mandate of UNAMSIL.  Its strength must be boosted and its mandate changed to a full Chapter VII operation without modifications.  Namibia welcomed the decision of ECOWAS to put immediately at the disposal of UNAMSIL, Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) troops to be integrated into UNAMSIL.  Noting that many troop-contributing countries did not have the equipment that would make a Chapter VII mandate meaningful, he appealed to those in a position to contribute equipment to UNAMSIL to come to the rescue of humanity and peace in Sierra Leone.

He added that there had been already mass population displacements, and unless action was taken, there was going to be a humanitarian crisis, given that many humanitarian workers had already been evacuated to neighbouring countries for safety. 

 ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) reiterated his total condemnation of the events taking place in Sierra Leone.  A rebel movement was once again flouting the authority of the United Nations.  Despite the terrible agony it had unleashed on its people, the RUF had joined the Lomé Agreement.  The need to pacify the country had led to tolerance being shown to the RUF.  All of those efforts had been in vain.  The violations being committed by the RUF and the taking of hostages were intolerable and should not go unchallenged.  Mr. Sankoh must be held personally responsible for the atrocities committed.  The Council could not let the situation persist and must meet the challenge presented to it. 

He expressed his support to President Kabbah, his democratically elected Government and the people of Sierra Leone.  The final solution to the conflict must be political and not military.  The situation made it more necessary to reinforce UNAMSIL and speed up the deployment of more personnel.  The Council should wait until Mr. Miyet was able to give his impressions and present his conclusions.  He supported the increase of UNAMSIL troops, as stipulated.  It was necessary to change UNAMSIL’s mandate in the context of a new resolution.  It might be a good idea to review its mandate, and he would not oppose any change if it was deemed necessary.  At this time, however, the mandate of UNAMSIL was sufficiently strong to serve under the current circumstances.  

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that he shared the concerns over the situation in Sierra Leone.  The peace process had been brought to the brink of collapse by the actions of the RUF.  He called on the leadership of the RUF to change its mind, stop violating the Lomé Agreement and, together with other political forces, overcome the consequences of the conflict.  He reminded the RUF that the amnesty provided for in the Lomé Agreement did not extend to crimes committed after it was signed.  The recent events had presented a challenge to United Nations peacekeeping operations, and UNAMSIL had suffered losses.  He conveyed his condolences to the families of all those who had given their lives for peace, and demanded the release of all detained personnel.  

The mandate given to UNAMSIL had provided an avenue for strong measures to be taken to ensure the safety of the Government and its civilians, he continued.  He attached great importance to swiftly building up the numbers of UNAMSIL to the figure approved in the resolution.  UNAMSIL, once fully deployed, would be able to stabilize the situation in Sierra Leone.  Then the Council could calmly consider how to overcome the situation in that country.  No peacekeeping operation could be a substitute for the political settlement of a conflict.  

 M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the statements of the Secretary-General and the representative of Algeria underlined the seriousness of the crisis in Sierra Leone. It was only last February that UNAMSIL was mandated to undertake DDR operations and, above all, to monitor implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement.  She commended the troops who had gone to Sierra Leone in the cause of peace, and offered condolences for those who had died there.  She condemned the RUF for scuttling the peace accord.  She joined those who had called for the release of the peacekeepers, adding that Jamaica held RUF leader Foday Sankoh accountable for the situation.

 The present priority should be securing the release of the detainees, she said.  Her Government strongly supported the call of ECOWAS leaders for UNAMSIL to be given a new mandate of enforcement, and to be equipped to carry out that mandate.  She commended troop-contributing countries, such as Bangladesh and India, and fully endorsed the options proposed by ECOWAS, including the provision of resources and equipment for ECOMOG to join UNAMSIL.  It should not be forgotten that it was ECOMOG that had stabilized the situation in Sierra Leone.

There was one option that could not be forgotten.  The international humanitarian organizations had had to curtail their activities.  She said that in the next few days the international community must show its resolve.  She paid tribute to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and all those serving with UNAMSIL.

VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said that there was an urgent need to take rapid, well-considered, resolute and adequate action in response to the dangerous developments in Sierra Leone.  Today's discussion should not be limited to the situation on the ground.  The larger context should underscore the overall credibility and authority of the United Nations and its role in conflict resolution.

Ukraine was gravely concerned over the current crisis in Sierra Leone, he continued, the responsibility for which lay entirely with the RUF and its leadership.  The hostile actions against United Nations peacekeepers were absolutely unacceptable.  All those responsible should be held accountable for their criminal acts.  In its official declaration of 6 May, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine had demanded an immediate and unharmed release of all detained United Nations personnel.  Today, his delegation strongly reiterated that demand.

Another urgent task facing the United Nations was to prevent the crisis from growing into a new war in that country, he said.  It was incumbent on the Security Council to take all appropriate steps at its disposal to put the peace process in Sierra Leone back on track.  Immediate attention should be focused on the priorities of freeing all UNAMSIL and other international staff, stabilizing the situation on the ground and reinforcing the United Nations troops.  His delegation wanted to express its high appreciation to the United Kingdom for its quick and prompt decision to dispatch its military contingent to secure strategic Lungi airport.

Today the membership of the United Nations unanimously agreed that political measures alone were likely to fail, he continued.  The Security Council should take tougher measures, in other words, peace enforcement.  His delegation favoured substantive reinforcement of the current UNAMSIL by increasing its combat capabilities.  For that purpose, it would be necessary to reconsider the current mandate of the Mission, which should be brought entirely under Chapter VII of the Charter.  At the same time, UNAMSIL should be adequately equipped to be able to act accordingly.  All forces to be involved in the operation should perform their functions under the United Nations chain of command.  

In conclusion, he said that substantial strengthening of UNAMSIL would demonstrate to the RUF that there would be no other option but to fulfil its obligations under the Lomé Agreement.  It would also deter rebels from further humiliating actions against peacekeepers.  Ukraine was ready to make its own contribution to United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone, specifically by providing additional airlift support for the needs of UNAMSIL. 

 JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said that the international community must demand that Mr. Sankoh release the detained personnel.  “Tonight was the time for solidarity.  Tonight was the time to say no.”  France would support any proposal of the Secretary-General to reinforce UNAMSIL as he deemed appropriate.  He welcomed the speedy intervention of the United Kingdom and stood ready to review UNAMSIL’s mandate.  Tonight, Mr. Sankoh and all the members of the RUF must understand that they had no other option than respecting and implementing the Lomé Agreement.  It must not be forgotten that in Sierra Leone, as in other areas, the illegal exploitation of resources abetted the forces of war.  In Sierra Leone, as in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations must react by taking stern measures.  

He called on the Council to act decisively in that connection.  Above and beyond its immediate reaction, both the Council and the Secretary-General must think about the long-term lessons of the current situation.  First, there was no way to restore peace if all parties to the conflict were not resolved to keep the peace.  International pressure at all levels must be maintained.  Second, there must be true cohesiveness between the mandate of the force and its size, training and the equipment available to it.  It must be acknowledged that that was not the case with UNAMSIL.  

The Council should refrain from any hasty analogies, he added.  Each crisis had its own characteristics.  The situation in Sierra Leone must not prevent United Nations action in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or any other situation.  The United Nations as a whole stood with Africa to overcome its crises, fully taking into account the characteristics of each situation.   

 ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) welcomed the holding of tonight's meeting, as the situation in Sierra Leone might deteriorate further beyond control.  He commended the Secretary-General’s efforts in the crisis.  He conveyed the condolences of his Government for those who had died there.  He strongly condemned the actions of the RUF and its leader, Foday Sankoh, for violating the Lomé Agreement.  The amnesty granted Sankoh under the Agreement must now be questioned, given the actions of the RUF.

 He reiterated Tunisia’s support for the Lomé Agreement.  Tunisia fully endorsed the recommendations of the Abuja summit of ECOWAS leaders which were a proper response to the crisis.  The Council must support their call.  It must face the crisis and emerge with its credibility intact.  It must proceed without delay in strengthening the mandate of UNAMSIL.  Appropriate resources and equipment should be given to UNAMSIL to permit it to continue its role.

 The crisis in Sierra Leone brought sad memories, and the lessons learned must be applied.  The current situation was causing too much suffering for the people of Sierra Leone.  The international community must not abandon them.

 WANG YINGFAN (China), speaking in his national capacity, said that he was deeply concerned over the deteriorating situation in Sierra Leone.  He supported the international community, particularly regional countries and organizations, in its efforts to defuse the situation.  He appealed to the international community to continue to provide various forms of emergency assistance to UNAMSIL.  The Council should adopt appropriate measures, including the review of UNAMSIL’s mandate and taking steps to ensure its full deployment.

 IBRAHIM M. KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said his President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, had conveyed to the Secretary-General and heads of State of affected troop-contributing countries the sympathy and concern of his Government and his people for the tragic and criminal acts perpetrated by the RUF on UNAMSIL personnel.  His Government was ready to provide all the necessary assistance to ensure that the peacekeepers who were still illegally detained by armed rebel elements were released immediately and unharmed.

He said much had been said about "failures".  Much had also been said about the impact that the latest events could have on the future of United Nations peacekeeping in Africa and other parts of the world.  "We have also heard and read a lot about who should or should not be blamed", he noted.  It was, however, time to move ahead because the situation in Sierra Leone was a threat to international peace and security, and one that the Council must address as a matter of urgency.  He appealed to that body to take the lead in ensuring the safety and security of his people and those whom it deployed to give effect to its mandatory decisions on Sierra Leone. 

That UNAMSIL must be allowed to operate freely throughout the territory of his country without hindrance was a fact that was also reaffirmed by the heads of State of ECOWAS in Abuja, Nigeria, last Tuesday, he said.  His Government welcomed current initiatives to strengthen the Mission through the rapid deployment of additional troops.  He hoped the process would be expedited to avoid any deterioration of a situation which was now improving so steadily that civilians could go about their business without hindrance.  

He said that in a communiqué issued today his Government "wishes to reiterate its continued commitment to the Lomé Peace Agreement which it views as a key step in achieving sustainable peace in Sierra Leone.  The continued involvement of the international community in the country is contingent upon the implementation of the Agreement.  While acknowledging that the RUF has seriously violated the provisions of the Lomé Agreement, the Government still believes that the Agreement is generally implementable.  The Government is also aware that a large proportion of the members of the RUF did not support the abductions of UNAMSIL personnel and the refusal by Foday Sankoh to voluntarily disarm his combatants.  They are fed up with war and want the country to move ahead".  

He added that "the Government, therefore, urges all those RUF members interested in sustainable peace in Sierra Leone to take advantage of the amnesty granted to them under the Lomé Agreement, and cooperate in the continued implementation of the DDR programme.  Failure to do so will result in the amnesty being forfeited.  That will result in them being declared war criminals, with all the consequences flowing from that, including being hunted around the world.  That was in line with the position taken in Abuja on 9 May by the ECOWAS heads of State".

 ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, strongly condemned the attacks and actions taken by the RUF in Sierra Leone in direct violation of the Lomé Peace Agreement, and expressed grave concern about the reports of continuing military movements by the RUF.  The Union also firmly condemned the reported killing of UNAMSIL personnel, and continued to be deeply disturbed by the unacceptable detention of hundreds of its military and civilian personnel.  It also deplored the fact that the ongoing crisis had brought more suffering to the already beleaguered civilian population.  All those responsible for such actions should be held accountable.  

 Continuing, he said that the European Union called on the RUF, and in particular Foday Sankoh, to cease immediately all attacks, to release all detainees safely and unconditionally and to recommit themselves to the full implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement.  Welcoming the Secretary-General's mission to Sierra Leone, headed by Under-Secretary-General Bernard Miyet, to access the situation in the field, he also stated his support for efforts to solve the current crisis.  

 UNAMSIL was facing a serious emergency, he said, and the European Union strongly encouraged all States to assist it and to provide the means deemed necessary for the accomplishment of its mandate.  UNAMSIL had authority, under Chapter VII of the Charter, to use force to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and to protect civilians, where possible.  In that context, the Union paid tribute to all troop contributors and supported efforts to speed up the deployment of the remaining three battalions from India, Jordan and Bangladesh.  One of the European Union Member States, the United Kingdom, had made an important military contribution, particularly at Lungi airport.  

 In conclusion, he said that the United Nations was once again facing a major challenge in Africa and should not fail.  Firm and sustained action by UNAMSIL and the international community as a whole was needed to bring the peace process back on track.  Active involvement of regional leaders was especially critical for bringing the crisis to an end and restoring stability in Sierra Leone.  In that regard, he saluted the Summit of ECOWAS Heads of States in Abuja on 9 May, which had reaffirmed their total support for the peace process in Sierra Leone.

HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway), in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of UNAMSIL personnel, said those responsible for their detention, including RUF leader Foday Sankoh, must be held accountable. Noting that a Norwegian military observer was among the captives, he said the United Nations should give the highest priority to the release of the detainees. He welcomed the establishment of a special team within UNAMSIL headquarters to work towards that end.  He expressed support for the regional and international efforts underway to resolve the crisis, including those by ECOWAS.

Norway deplored the blatant violations of the Lomé Peace Agreement by the RUF.  Although Norway had allocated $5 million for development and reconstruction in Sierra Leone, the future of the projects was uncertain in the present situation as Norway had been forced to withdraw its humanitarian aid workers in Sierra Leone. 

In the search for a long-term solution, he said high priority should be given to curbing arms supplies and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. He also underscored the importance of regulating sources of income that fuels civil strife in Africa, such as the trade in diamonds and other precious minerals.

 KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said it now appeared from recent events that the leadership of the RUF had no intention of honouring their commitments under the Lomé Agreement.  The tension which, from the actions of their cadres, started to build up from late last month, had now erupted into a full-scale crisis, whose immediate brunt was being borne by the people of Sierra Leone and UNAMSIL’s peacekeepers, but which would have far wider repercussions.  There were unconfirmed reports that Mr. Sankoh had received sanctuary.  “If so, we trust that those to whom he is beholden, or who have influence upon him, will also persuade him to call off immediately the military action he has started, to release the UNAMSIL personnel he has taken hostage and commit himself again to the Lomé Agreement”, he said.  He also expected the Council to pronounce itself forcefully on the matter, making it clear to the RUF that the international community was united in its condemnation of their actions.

 He strongly urged the Council not to consider withdrawing as an option, saying that even though India had troops on the ground, it had no intention of pulling out, and was in fact sending a second battalion urgently, together with reinforcements, to bolster UNAMSIL’s strength.  As to the option of changing UMAMSIL’s mandate to one of peace enforcement under a Chapter VII operation, he said that at the moment, UNAMSIL did not have the troops, the equipment or the logistics needed to mount such an operation.  “Giving UNAMSIL a mandate which it cannot implement will not help it.” 

 There were some who believed that the United Nations could not do what needed to be done now in Sierra Leone, and that force should be deployed and used by others, with the blessings of the Security Council.  “As long as UNAMSIL is in place, we cannot warn too strongly against this.  Somalia showed us the dangers inherent in forces outside United Nations command taking military action in a theatre where peacekeepers are deployed.  The backlash and the blame for failure both fall on the United Nations and its Blue Helmets.” 

 UNAMSIL needed to consolidate, he said.  Soldiers were dispersed in penny packets, trying to do a job that presently could not be done.  With the professional and well-equipped reinforcements that were coming in, UNAMSIL should concentrate on measures that would make it impossible for power, or the institutions of Government in Freetown, to be seized by force.  He added that it was not an easy matter to answer the question why the lives of Indian soldiers should be put at risk in an operation which had some serious weaknesses and imponderables.  “We must stay there for two reasons.  First, because to leave now would be to abandon the people of Sierra Leone to a terrible fate, and second, because the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.” 

 YUKIO SATOH (Japan) demanded that the RUF stop its hostile actions and release unharmed the hundreds of peacekeepers it had taken hostage.  The danger that hostilities could escalate once again into a full-blown civil war was very real.  Japan’s concern was further compounded by the fact that the situation in Sierra Leone could have grave implications for the future of United Nations peacekeeping operations as a whole, and particularly for those in Africa.  It was therefore imperative for the international community to respond quickly and effectively.  The actions it took must be determined by decisions of the Council as prescribed by the United Nations Charter. 

 Whether to expand the mandate of UNAMSIL to include the task of peace-enforcement by incorporating ECOMOG into the Mission, or whether to entrust peace-enforcement to ECOMOG itself, was up to the Council to decide.  What was important was for the Council to respond promptly, before the situation deteriorated further.  Japan would continue to support the decisions of the Council on the issue. 

 ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti), speaking as Coordinator of the Eastern Africa Subregion, said the standoff in Sierra Leone represented an all too familiar test of will between the United Nations and yet another warlord.  It was to be seen whether the United Nations could contain rebels who seemed determined to unravel any peace agreement they had accepted.  Given the recent increase in peacekeeping commitments to Africa, the outcome had significant meaning for the continent. 

 The peace pact in Sierra Leone must not rest only on good intentions and trust, but on force, as well, he continued.  Sierra Leone was in serious danger of being mired in violence again, with the looming possibility of being turned into another Somalia, a State now being run by bands of warlords.  To abandon Sierra Leone would send the wrong signal.  For a myriad of reasons, Africa was currently plagued with an infestation of criminal-minded warlords, rogues for whom peace, human rights and lawful government were viewed as an illogical obstruction to their self-interest. 

With its limited resources, the Government of Sierra Leone, at the behest of other influential parties, had had little choice but to agree to a peace accord, he said.  Despite years of crimes against humanity, a legacy of atrocities that would characterize Sierra Leone in the minds of the rest of the world for ages, and the virtual destruction of the country’s youth, the rebels were absolved of punishment, given key ministerial posts in Government and a lifestyle for them previously unimaginable.  The only trade-off for the rebels was to abide by the terms of the accord and to disarm under the supervision of United Nations peacekeepers.  Unfortunately, the peacekeepers were lightly armed, ill-equipped, poorly coordinated and outmanned, a reflection of an attempt at peacekeeping on the cheap that was tragically laughable when taken against the mammoth efforts in manpower, arms and resources seen in Kosovo, East Timor or Bosnia. 

Likening the situation of Sierra Leone to that of Somalia, he said there was a promising peace conference on Somalia under way in Djibouti.  The international community must warn the warlords to accept the peace which Somali civil society clearly desired or else face consequences, and must take to task those who continued to assist them in their unending adventures.  Their ill-gotten economic gain in a lawless environment, no doubt, exceeded what they perceived was possible in a stable situation.  The lawless environment had to be made much worse than the prospects for a peaceful one.

Africa was prepared to undertake a regional response to the crisis in Sierra Leone, but lacked the resources to complete the task. At the same time, rebel units there had the advantage of controlling the lucrative diamond mines through which they were able to finance their hostilities.  He called for making the arms embargo more effective.  “In the absence of Africa imposing an ‘overwhelming strength’ on its rebels who oppose democratic governance, it must rely upon collective security as enshrined in the Charter, to bring about lasting peace.” 

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said he was extremely disturbed at the unfortunate turn of events in Sierra Leone.  It raised questions as to the effectiveness of the United Nations and the determination of the international community.  There was a need to demonstrate wisdom and commitment in dealing with the evolving situation.  The only recourse to a viable peace was to implement the Lomé Peace Agreement.  Security Council resolution 1289 clearly described ways and means of dealing with the challenges that had now emerged in Freetown and in other parts of the country.  Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Council had authorized UNAMSIL to take on some “additional tasks” in light of the conditions on the ground.

In the discharge of those tasks, he said the Mission was mandated to “take necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence”.  The question now arose as to whether the Mission had taken those necessary measures.  The answer was no.  It seemed that while an adequate mandate had been given to UNAMSIL to address situations like hostage-taking, the peacekeepers deployed on the ground were not adequately equipped to act as per the mandate.  There had to be a balance and linkage between the mandate, composition of forces and operational posture adopted in the field.

He said the lightly armed infantry battalions deployed in Sierra Leone could not possibly be expected to implement such robust mandates while maintaining the right posture.  The Secretariat needed to assess what went wrong in the planning and deployment of peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, including configuration of the force.  It was all the more important to ensure that, in the future, the security component of a mission served as an asset rather as a liability.  “We would like to emphasize the need to avoid repeating similar mistakes in other missions, including the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

He said Pakistan had always emphasized the point that the international community’s commitment to the promotion of peace in Africa would be judged by its seriousness in translating rhetoric into reality.  “We cannot allow the peace process in Sierra Leone to fail”, he said.  There could not be different types of Chapter VII missions in different regions.  If Chapter VII missions in other regions had successfully helped in establishing peace, that had to be the case in Sierra Leone, as well.

 ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that, while the situation in Sierra Leone remained critical, he believed the position of the United Nations would improve in the near future.  Jordan was now in the process of reinforcing UNAMSIL with two extra companies drawn from Jordan’s special forces, and would be sending another battalion within a few days.  It was not wise for the Council to consider new initiatives while those troops were being deployed.  A reconsideration of the UNAMSIL mandate now might well lead to no agreement between the troop contributors, weakening the United Nations position in Sierra Leone.  The present mandate should, for the time being, remain the way it was, under Chapter VII, until the situation stabilized. 

 The RUF, under Mr. Sankoh, must heed the condemnation of the Council and the international community, he said.  His troops must not take further hostile action and must abide by the terms of the Lomé Agreement and Council resolutions.  Also, they must give up their weapons immediately so the people of Sierra Leone could have the peace they so richly deserved.  He expressed his condolences to the families of those United Nations personnel who lost their lives while fulfilling their duties.

* * * * *