Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), which expires on 15 September. Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen (Denmark), the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone and head of UNIPSIL, as well as Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s configuration for Sierra Leone, will likely brief the Council. Joseph B. Dauda, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister, is also expected to make a statement.
Key Recent Developments
On 23 May, Council members, led by Ambassadors Sir Mark Lyall Grant (UK) and Baso Sangqu (South Africa), visited Sierra Leone as part of a three-country visit to West Africa. The Sierra Leone leg was intended to “encourage continued efforts to consolidate peace and national reconciliation.”
During the trip, Council members met with President Ernest Bai Koroma and other cabinet members, as well as with representatives from all registered political parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and members of civil society. Reporting on the trip to the Council on 31 May Ambassador Sangqu noted that the Council delegation got “a clear and welcome commitment to a free, fair and transparent [electoral] process” from President Koroma. He also felt reassured after discussions with all political parties and the NEC that “good progress was being made in preparing” for the elections on 17 November.
Sangqu mentioned, however, that the “political environment in the country continues to be dominated by intense rivalry and mistrust between the two major political parties”—the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP)—though he felt “encouraged by the signing, by all the political parties, of a declaration agreeing to contest the elections fairly and not to resort to violence.” On the contentious issue of the purchase of weapons worth millions of dollars for the paramilitary police, which was raised in the Council by outgoing UNIPSIL head Michael von der Schulenburg on 22 March, Sangqu reported that President Koroma “reassured us that those weapons were transferred to the armed forces of Sierra Leone in the presence of international observers.”
The forthcoming elections in November remain the Council’s key interest in Sierra Leone. Council resolution 2005 had underlined the “importance of the government and the international community in continuing efforts to foster an environment that is conducive to the holding of peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections by strengthening the national electoral and democratic institutions, providing security, ensuring political access by the contestants to all regions of the country, making available forums for mediation and dialogue and assuring the credibility of the electoral process, and in doing so, contribute to the institutional development and continued stability of the country.”
The electoral process, however, remains contentious. On 31 July, the chair of the NEC, Christiana Thorpe, announced significant increases in nomination fees for presidential and parliamentary elections. The fee for presidential candidates was increased from 1 million leones (about $230) to 100 million leones ($23,057.40) and for parliamentary candidates from 100,000 leones ($23) to 25 million leones (about $5,764.35). Thorpe argued that the increases were to constitute about 23.5 percent of the cost of the elections.
Eight opposition parties condemned the increases, which are far above the regional average, in a joint statement issued on 3 August. On 10 August, Thorpe announced that the fees for parliamentary candidates had been reduced to 10 million leones (about $2,300) but that those for presidential candidates will remain unchanged. On 14 August, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) issued a statement condemning the increases, including the lowered figure for parliamentary candidates, noting that they constitute “a potential ground for discrimination against low income earners and vulnerable groups […] as only the rich and affluent will be able to contest.” HRCSL rejected Thorpe’s argument that candidates should contribute to meeting the overall cost of conducting the elections as “untenable” because funding elections is the constitutional responsibility of the government.
Earlier, on 29 March, the NEC announced voter registration figures. It used the biometric voter registration system to eliminate or minimise fraud. But the 2,701,299 voters it registered is only slightly higher than the figure for 2007 (2,621,313), and there was a decrease in voter numbers in the stronghold of the SLPP in southern and eastern Sierra Leone, prompting the opposition to assert that the NEC neglected some areas to give the governing party and President Koroma an undue advantage.
On the wider socioeconomic front, developments were largely positive. Two British companies—African Minerals (AML) and London Mining—began exporting iron ore from recently opened mines early in the year; one of these mines is believed to have one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world. This, coupled with reports of significant offshore oil finds, led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to project an extraordinary growth of 35.9 percent in gross domestic product in 2012. On 2 April, a Chinese company, Shandong Iron and Steel, announced it would invest $1.5 billion in AML’s Tonkolili mines.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)
On 22 June, the chair of the PBC country-specific configuration on Sierra-Leone, Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), chaired an informal meeting of the PBC on Sierra Leone in New York to discuss preparations for the forthcoming elections. The NEC chair, Christiana Thorpe, attended the meeting. Toyberg-Frandzen and Sierra Leone government officials—including the Inspector-General of Police, the head of the Political Parties Registration Commission, and several representatives from civil society—participated in the meeting from Freetown via video link. Participants noted progress that had been made in the electoral process, including the completion of voter registration, and Rishchynski announced that the basket fund set up by the UN Development Programme has been fully subscribed. The Inspector-General of Police announced that 6,500 police officers would be trained in crowd control for the elections. Thorpe called attention to the logistical constraints of fully servicing 3,000 polling stations across the country, noting that the NEC needed more vehicles.
Rishchynski briefed the Security Council on 22 March (S/PV.6739) on his visit to Sierra Leone from 21-31 January. “There is a clear need to encourage more open dialogue, both among the political parties and with the national electoral institutions,” he told Council members. “As electoral campaigning begins in earnest, all parties must redouble their efforts to implement their commitments under the joint communiqué of 2009.” Resolution 2005 encouraged the PBC to “provide support to the government of Sierra Leone and UNIPSIL in preparation for the 2012 elections, including the potential to mobilise support from international partners, and in the implementation of the government’s Agenda for Change and the UN Joint Vision Strategy and in that regard to advise and keep the Council updated, including on progress made in meeting core peacebuilding objectives, as necessary.”
The key issue for the Council is to ensure a smooth transition of UNIPSIL to a UN country team in 2013.
A closely related critical issue is to ensure that the November elections are conducted peacefully, and that the results are broadly accepted and seen as legitimate.
A further related issue is to ensure a reasonably even field during the electoral period, with the opposition being able to access the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), which was jointly inaugurated by the Secretary-General and President Koroma in June 2010.
Another important issue is the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints Commission, which was recommended by the April 2009 Joint Communiqué, signed by the APC and the SLPP with the UN acting as moral guarantor.
The Council could:
- renew the mandate of UNIPSIL for another year, without modifications;
- adopt a resolution extending the mandate of UNIPSIL by six months with a strong political message on the need for fair and free elections and a mandate to provide electoral assistance; or
- adopt a resolution extending UNIPSIL’s mandate by one year and making UNIPSIL transition to a UN country team contingent on the free and fair conduct of the November polls and overall peace and security after.
Council members appear united in their resolve to assist Sierra Leone through the elections, and there is a general feeling among Council members that once the elections are over, UNIPSIL should transition to a UN country team in early 2013.
The UK is the lead country in the Council on Sierra Leone.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 September 2011 S/RES/2005||This resolution renewed the mandate of the UNIPSIL for a period of 12 months.|
|29 September 2010 S/RES/1941||This resolution extended the mandate of UNIPSIL for until 15 Septemner 2010.|
|16 June 2006 S/RES/1688||This resolution requested the Secretary-General to assist in the transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the Special Court’s special outpost in the Netherlands.|
|2 November 2011 S/2011/554||This was the seventh report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.|
|9 March 2011 S/2011/119||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNIPSIL.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|31 May 2012 S/PV.6777||This was the briefing on the Council’s visit to West Africa from 18 to 24 May.|
|22 March 2012 S/PV.6739||This was a briefing by Michael von der Schulenburg, who was withdrawn from Sierra Leone on 6 February as the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for UNIPSIL.|
|12 September 2011 S/PV.6609||The Council was briefed on developments in Sierra Leone by Executive Representative for the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the PBC country specific configuration for Sierra Leone.|
|30 January 2012 S/2012/70||This was the PBC’s fifth annual report.|
Other Relevant Facts
Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNIPSIL
Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen (Denmark)
Size and Composition of Mission
Staff strength (as of 31 March 2011): 34 international civilians, 29 local civilians and 6 UN volunteers.
4 August 2008 to present
Chair of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the PBC
Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada)