March 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 March 2010
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AFRICA

Sierra Leone

Expected Council Action 

In March the Council is expected to hold a debate on the Secretary-General’s next report on the work of UNIPSIL. The Council will be briefed by its Head, Michael von der Schulenburg. The mandate of UNIPSIL expires on 30 September.

Key Recent Developments
On 15 September 2009 the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1886 extending the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) until 30 September 2010. The resolution also:

  • emphasised the importance for UNIPSIL of achieving jointly with the UN country team the objectives of the Joint Vision for Sierra Leone within their respective mandates;
  • called “upon the Secretary-General to develop a set of benchmarks for the transition of UNIPSIL into a UN Country Team presence, taking into account those already agreed upon by the government and the UN in the Joint Vision for Sierra Leone, and the particular challenges involved in preparing for the 2012 elections, to keep these under active review, and regularly report on progress to the Security Council;” and
  • requested that the Secretary-General keep the Council informed every six months of progress made in the implementation of the mandate of UNIPSIL and this resolution.

Peacebuilding Commission Developments
The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, visited Sierra Leone from 22 to 23 October 2009. She met with several UN officials and civil society groups. (Sierra Leone was the first nation placed on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC).)

The chairman of the PBC’s country-specific configuration for Guinea Bissau, Canadian Ambassador John McNee, is expected to lead a PBC delegation on a visit to Freetown from 7 to 12 March to assess progress towards achieving the PBC’s priorities in Sierra Leone (i.e. addressing the issues of youth unemployment, drug trafficking and transnational crime and good governance), as well as consult with local stakeholders on the future contribution of the PBC in Sierra Leone.

In October 2009 the UN-mandated Special Court for Sierra Leone held its final hearing in Freetown, with judges upholding the convictions of three former rebel Revolutionary United Front leaders. In November 2009 the eight people convicted by the court were transferred to Rwanda to be housed in a facility constructed to hold people convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda because prison facilities in Sierra Leone do not meet international standards for housing people convicted by international tribunals. The only remaining case for the court is the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which continues in the defence phase at The Hague.

On 27 January Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma condemned the corrupt conduct in virtually all the ministries and state institutions in charge of law enforcement in the country at a special emergency meeting. Speaking to the related ministers and heads of agencies (e.g. justice, internal affairs, mineral resources, marine resources, standards bureau, births and deaths, immigration, national revenue authority, etc.), he pointed out malpractices undermining national development, challenged them to take responsibility of ensuring due diligence in their various offices and warned that those found wanting would be sacked, and possibly subjected to legal prosecution.

Key Issues
A key issue, given the relatively quiet period Sierra Leone has been experiencing in terms of political and military risks, is whether the Council is adding value to the sustainable consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone and whether the Council should move to a more technical oversight role leaving the PBC to take the lead on substantive matters.

Underlying Problems
It seems that the real problems in Sierra Leone now are socioeconomic coupled with weaknesses in state institutions relating to democracy and the rule of law, youth unemployment of more than 70 percent and illicit drug trafficking.

Options
Taking no formal action is the most likely option at the moment. But one possible option is to issue a statement signalling the Council’s intention to take a lower key role in the absence of adverse developments involving threats to peace and security.

Council Dynamics
The Council’s request for only two progress reports in 2010 (down from the quarterly reports of 2009) is indicative of the prevailing view among its members that the security situation in Sierra Leone has improved. Some Council members seem interested in highlighting the current peacebuilding focus. Others remain interested in monitoring progress in the security sector reform efforts and cite the prompt and innovative response by both national and international peacebuilding partners to violent clashes in March 2009 between supporters of Sierra Leone’s two major political parties as confirmation of the importance of the Council continuing to take an ongoing interest. (Please see our June 2009 Monthly Forecast for further details.) It seems the Council is more comfortable with a lighter approach to following developments in the country compared to other conflict theatres but it remains to be seen what this will mean in practice.

Thus the presence of the new members of the Council—Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria—is not expected to significantly alter the existing dynamics of the Council regarding the situation in Sierra Leone.

The UK is the lead country on this issue in the Council.
 

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1886 (15 September 2009) extended the mandate of UNIPSIL until 30 September 2010.
  • S/RES/1829 (4 August 2008) authorised the creation of UNIPSIL to replace UNIOSIL for one year commencing 1 October.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Other

  • S/PV.6187 (14 September 2009) was the verbatim record of the open meeting by the Council on UNIPSIL.
  • A/HRC/10/52 (4 March 2009) was the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sierra Leone.
  • S/PV.6080 (9 February 2009) was the open debate by the Council to consider the first report of the Secretary-General on UNIPSIL.
  • S/2008/63 (31 January 2008) was the letter from the Secretary-General conveying the completion strategy for UNIOSIL.

PBC

  • PBC/3/SLE/6 (10 June 2009) was the outcome of the PBC High-level Special Session on Sierra Leone.
  • PBC/3/SLE/L.2 (10 June 2009) was the PBC’s latest conclusions and recommendations on Sierra Leone.
  • PBC/3/SLE/4 (6 April 2009) was the PBC statement welcoming the joint communiqué between the two leading political parties in Sierra Leone.
  • PBC/2/SLE/1 (3 December 2007) was the Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework.
  • PBC/OC/1/2 (21 June 2006) was a letter from the Council president to the Secretary-General referring Sierra Leone to the PBC.


Other Relevant Facts

UNIPSIL Executive Representative of the Secretary-General

Michael von der Schulenburg (Germany)

Size and Composition of Mission

Staff strength (as of 31 December 2009): 29 international civilians and 29 local civilians.

Duration

1 October 2008 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2010

Full forecast