Expected Council Action
Council members are expected to follow developments related to Sierra Leone’s run-off presidential elections, which are scheduled for 8 September. There will be heightened concern because outbreaks of political violence in both the capital, Freetown, and in the east of Sierra Leone. A further presidential statement on the elections is a possibility.
It remains unclear when the Council will take up the anticipated report from the Secretary-General on the role of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL). While resolution 1734 last December asked for this report to be submitted to the Council “closer to the election date” to assist it in defining an exit strategy for UNIOSIL (the mandate of UNIOSIL expires on 31 December), in his May report the Secretary-General said that he was planning to submit the report before October.
Key Recent Developments
Sierra Leone’s first nationally organised elections since the civil war ended in 2001 took place on 11 August without any major disruptions. (The previous poll in 2002 was organised by the UN which then had peacekeepers in the country.) The opposition All People’s Congress (APC) won a majority of 59 seats in parliament, followed by the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with 43 seats, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) with ten seats and the rest being won by the other four contesting political parties.
Seven candidates ran for president with three forerunners: Vice President Solomon Berewa of SLPP, parliamentarian Ernest Koroma of the APC, and former cabinet minister Charles Margai, who broke away from the SLPP to form the PMDC. None won the minimum 55 percent to be confirmed winner of the presidential election. Koroma had the highest percentage of presidential votes, with 44 percent while Berewa received 38 percent. With no candidate winning the absolute majority of votes, a run-off election is required and has been scheduled for 8 September. Margai who came in third with 14 percent has declared his support for Koroma and could play an influential role in the run-off.
On 8 August, the Special Court for Sierra Leone postponed the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor until 7 January. The deferment was granted in response to a request by Taylor’s defence team to be given more time to examine new evidence at its disposal.
On 27 August, the Council was briefed on the first round of elections by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Following the meeting the Council issued a press statement welcoming the results of the elections and commending the work of the Sierra Leonean National Electoral Commission as well as security arrangements put in place by the national authorities. It also congratulated the citizenry for their exemplary conduct of the 11 August elections and called on them to similarly ensure the success of the run-off presidential elections. The Council called on all parties to respect the results of the elections and resolve any differences through legal and peaceful means.
But on 27 August, a worrying development occurred in the east of Sierra Leone. Police were obliged to declare a curfew after dispersing more than a thousand demonstrators from rival political groups in the eastern mining town of Bono (a region bordering Liberia and a hub of the illegal diamond trade which fuelled Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war).
On 28 August, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah threatened to impose a state of emergency across the country if the violence escalated. The unrest was reported to have spilled over to parts of Freetown that day, with supporters of SLPP and APC having reportedly taken to the streets armed with machetes. One person was killed during the violence in Freetown.
the security environment before and after the run-off elections;
the future of UNIOSIL after the elections;
effective consolidation of peace and stability, now largely in the hands of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), by tackling the root causes of the past conflict, enhancing good governance, supporting economic recovery as well as requisite security sector reforms, and promoting access to justice and human rights; and
ensuring proper handling of the residual issues from the Special Court.
In the absence of any adverse developments, it appears that the Council was intending to await the outcome of the presidential election to inform its next move. Developments at the end of August change that equation. At time of writing, it was unclear how Council members intended to respond.
Recently, Council members have generally been less engaged in developments regarding Sierra Leone due to a relatively more stable situation over the past year and the emerging leading role of the PBC. However, the recent elections have reignited more interest because of their implications for stability and democratisation in the country and the sub-region. The UK and Ghana are the leading countries on this issue, and are likely to lead a drive to come up with a Council response either in the form of a presidential or press statement.
It seems likely at this stage that the assessment report by the Secretary-General on the role of UNIOSIL will be made available for the Council’s consideration after the elections even though the Council seemed to have initially anticipated it would receive the report before the election date.
The underlying problems remain issues relating to threats to the fragile security situation in the country including youth unemployment, poor living standards, lack of vital local institutional capacity and inadequate resources.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statement|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
|UNIOSIL Executive Representative of the Secretary-General|
|Victor da Silva Ângelo (Portugal, also serves as UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
|Total budgeted staff of 298, comprising 82 international staff, 192 local staff and 24 UN volunteers|
|1 January 2006 to present; current manadte expires 31 December 2007|