25 January 2000

Secretary-General Says Sierra Leone Peace Process at Crucial Stage in Message to Second Meeting of
Joint Implementation Committee

NEW YORK, 24 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee of the Lomé Peace Agreement, which was delivered on his behalf by his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Oluyemi Adeniji, in Freetown on 24 January:

I welcome the convening of the second session of the Joint Implementation Committee established by the Lomé Peace Agreement, which is a further testimony to the importance which you personally and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) attach to the peace process in Sierra Leone. Meetings of the Committee are essential to providing the necessary direction and encouragement for the active continuation of this progress.

Since the last meeting of the Committee in August 1999, the United Nations Security Council has in October 1999 adopted resolution 1270 (1999) establishing the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), in keeping with a request of the signatories of the Lomé Peace Agreement. With an initial military component of 6,000 troops and 260 military observers, UNAMSIL has gone a long way in deploying throughout the country. Following the decision of the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) contributors to repatriate their troops from Sierra Leone, I have taken immediate steps to avoid a security vacuum. To that end, I have recommended that the Security Council authorize an urgent expansion of the military and civilian police components of UNAMSIL, with a commensurate broadening of the Mission’s mandate to enable it to assume some of the functions currently performed by ECOMOG. It is hoped that the Security Council will soon adopt a resolution to that effect.

The recommendation to expand UNAMSIL has enjoyed the support of the Government of Sierra Leone, and been welcomed in the subregion. In the meantime, it is gratifying that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Obassanjo, has offered to extend the presence of troops in the Nigerian contingent of ECOMOG, pending the full deployment of the expanded UNAMSIL. The United Nations will be discussing with Nigeria the modalities in this regard.

In the meantime, our deep appreciation goes to ECOWAS and ECOMOG, which have played a vital role in restoring peace to Sierra Leone. The international community owes a debt of gratitude to the West African States and their troops who, at high cost and considerable sacrifice, came to the assistance of the people of Sierra Leone at their hour of greatest need. The withdrawal of ECOMOG from Sierra Leone would in no way lessen the continued support of ECOWAS for the country. The peace process in Sierra Leone will remain both a regional and international initiative.

This second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee takes place at a crucial stage of the peace process. While some progress has been made in the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement, causes for serious concern remain. The security situation is still precarious; lawlessness and banditry still persist in some parts of the country; human rights violations have continued; and humanitarian agencies are unable to access many parts of the country. Indeed, even the deployment of UNAMSIL forces is sometimes subjected to impediments. In addition, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme continues to encounter delays and the Government has yet to extend its authority to the countryside. In the meantime, it is also imperative to proceed to the establishment of the national armed forces and police as pillars for lasting settlement in the country.

It is imperative that urgent steps be taken to bring forward these crucial issues in the interest of the peace process. The United Nations, for its part, is committed to playing its part fully and without delay. Ultimately, the primary responsibility for success lies with the people and leadership in Sierra Leone. The international community is expecting them, without exception, to demonstrate full commitment to peace.

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