For information only - not an official document.
  16 October 2000
 Security Council Mission Greatly Disturbed by Suffering in Sierra Leone,
But also Sees Signs of Hope

NEW YORK, 13 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement made to the media yesterday in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by the head of the Security Council Mission to West Africa, Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom):

We had all, before we arrived, been moved and appalled by what has happened in Sierra Leone.  We continue to be greatly disturbed by the suffering in this country; but we also take away a different impression.  We have all been struck by the signs of hope in Sierra Leone; of the vibrancy and the energy of the people, of the enormous efforts being made by the Government, civil society, the United Nations, and the international community as a whole, to rise above the tiny minority insisting on violence and put this country back on its feet.

The message we are taking on with us and back to New York is one of a renewed, two-fold commitment.  First, a commitment to continue to help the people of Sierra Leone rebuild their future.  And second, a renewed commitment to United Nations peacekeeping.  This Mission will be considering its conclusions and recommendations very carefully over the next few days before we return to New York.  But there are a number of observations that we would like to share before we leave Sierra Leone today.

First, on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).  This Mission has been through a traumatic period of pressures and challenges this year.  It has come through that crisis and moved on.  We have seen first-hand very impressive peacekeeping and peace-building work by each and every one of the units we visited.  This is one of the most important messages we will be taking back with us.  The Security Council has some important decisions coming up on the future shape, mandate and structure of UNAMSIL, and our determination to make this operation as effective, capable and robust as possible has been reinforced by this visit, even if there is much work still to be done.

Second, we recognize more than ever after our time here, the depth, range and complexity of the problems facing this country.  These can only be addressed by a comprehensive strategy requiring substantive long-term assistance from the international community, with the United Nations in a leading role.  At the same time, we all feel strongly the need and great potential for the Government to do its part.  This is a country that has suffered enormously, but it is one whose people is its greatest resource.  We would like to see Sierra Leoneans, under their Government, increasingly taking the lead in stabilizing and regenerating their country, and believe they can do it.  We hope the support from the outside world which this Mission, as the largest mission to Africa from the Security Council, represents will encourage and galvanize such leadership.

A few words about the special court.  We have heard a wide range of views here from the Government, judiciary civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  The Security Council will want to consider the Secretary-General's recommendations before taking action.  But it is not premature for us to send one clear message:  we remain determined that fair, speedy and effective justice is delivered by this court, on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone.  We expect that only those bearing the greatest responsibility for the crimes perpetrated should be indicted.  We heard a strong plea from the children themselves, and from civil society, non-governmental organizations and agencies, that those under 18 should not be subject to the court's jurisdiction.  We firmly believe that the special court's justice can work hand in hand with the reconciliation process.

We are now leaving Sierra Leone, but our mission continues on in the region.  One of the clearest messages we have heard over the last few days is that the crisis in Sierra Leone is a regional crisis, both in terms of its causes and effects, but also in terms of the solutions.  Rebuilding peace, stability and prosperity in Sierra Leone means rebuilding it in the region as well.  We look to the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, individually and collectively, to take up that responsibility and act on it.  They will find the United Nations and the international community fully supportive.

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