March 2011 Monthly Forecast

AFRICA

Sierra Leone

Expected Council Action
The head of the UNIPSIL, Michael von der Schulenburg, is expected to brief the Council in March on UNIPSIL’s work over the past six months. The report of the Secretary-General will be published in mid-March. The briefing is likely to be followed by closed consultations. The chair of the country-specific configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), John McNee of Canada, is also expected to brief the Council.

The mandate of UNIPSIL expires 15 September.

Key Recent Developments
The political situation in Sierra Leone remains tense. On 13 November 2010 there were a series of disturbing incidents in which the offices of the main opposition party—the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)—in Koidu City, Kono District and the residence of an SLPP youth leader were splashed with human excrement. The Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) dispatched staff to monitor the rising political tensions, ascertain the facts and determine if there was a political dimension to the incidents. SLPP staff accused the ruling party—the All People’s Congress (APC)—of being behind the incidents.

On 15 November 2010 the houses of two leaders of the APC in Kono and a school run by a relative of an APC politician were also splashed with human excrement. The series of incidents have contributed a new level of unease to an increasingly poisonous political environment, with national elections still 18 months away. The PPRC issued a report in which it concluded that there was no evidence that the incidents were prompted by the leadership of either party. There is a history of violence between the two major parties. (In March 2009 SLPP headquarters were set on fire, with allegations the attackers sexually assaulted SLPP staff.)

On 12 November 2010 in The Hague, the defence phase of the trial of Charles Taylor concluded after calling twenty witnesses, including Taylor. The trial chamber was expected to conclude the case on 11 February and adjourn to make the final judgement. However, Taylor and his defence lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, walked out of the court on 8 February over the judges’ refusal to accept a written brief twenty days after the court deadline. The court directed Griffiths to attend court on 11 February to apologise. The prosecution delivered its closing oral argument on 8 February without Griffiths or Taylor present. On 11 February the court granted the defence leave to appeal the rejection of the late trial brief. A trial judgement is expected in mid-2011.

Schulenburg last briefed the Council on developments in Sierra Leone on 28 September 2010.

Also on 28 September, the Sierra Leone configuration of the PBC reviewed the outcome of the high-level special session of the PBC on Sierra Leone that was held 10 June 2009. The PBC reiterated its decision to focus its engagement in Sierra Leone on good governance and the rule of law, illicit drug trafficking and youth employment, as well as greater subregional cooperation and the promotion of gender equality and human rights.

On 29 September the Council lifted the sanctions that it had imposed on Sierra Leone in response to the civil war in the 1990’s and extended the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) for another year.

On 2 to 3 December, UNIPSIL hosted a seminar in Freetown on “strategies and lessons learned on sustainable reintegration and job creation: what works best in West Africa?” The seminar brought together UN representatives and government representatives from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as officials from UN headquarters and other interested states. The seminar recognised that the issue of unemployment, particularly among youths, was a common threat to the stability of countries in the region and that there was value discussing the problem and different solutions sub-regionally.

On 23 December the General Assembly decided to fund the remaining costs of the Special Court for Sierra Leone out of regular UN-assessed contributions, following a request by the Secretary-General. 

Key PBC Developments
On 3 December 2010 the Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone configurations of the PBC held a joint meeting in Freetown following the UNIPSIL seminar on employment, with participants briefing the PBC configurations on the findings of the seminar and on the way forward. The joint meeting represents an innovation that the PBC is keen on exploring further when tackling threats to peacebuilding that are common to more than one country and that require a regional perspective (very much in line with the recommendations emerging from the 2010 review of the PBC). The most natural candidate for future joint discussions within the PBC is transnational crime and drug trafficking, which is presently posing a threat to peace in several West African countries.

 

Human Rights-Related Developments
Sierra Leone’s human rights record will be scrutinised on 5 May under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the Human Rights Council. Relevant inputs to the UPR will be the report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sierra Leone for 2010, which noted a number of positive developments. The National Human Rights Commission carried out its mandate to investigate and report on abuses and generally operated without government interference. Progress was observed in addressing endemic corruption and improving access to justice and key economic rights, notably health care and education. And the efforts of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone made further steps towards achieving accountability for war crimes committed during the armed conflict. However, persistent weaknesses in the performance of the police and judiciary and increased political tension in advance of the 2012 elections slowed the consolidation of the rule of law. HRW also criticised the lack of implementation of the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, submitted in 2008.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is gauging the progress of UNIPSIL’s work in order to decide on the eventual transition from UNIPSIL to a UN country team.

A related issue is the stability of Sierra Leone in the context of preparations for the 2012 elections, given the increasingly volatile political environment. The two major parties have distinct geographic constituencies, but tend not to be divided along ethnic lines.

Another key issue is the impact of the large natural resources contracts entered into by the Government of Sierra Leone and management of the resulting revenues, given the role that natural resources played in Sierra Leone’s war.

A procedural issue continues to be the appropriate format for involving Chairs of the PBC configurations.

Underlying Issues
There is significant youth unemployment, which is exacerbated by a large “lost generation” who received no education or opportunities during the war.

There are concerns over the high level of corruption in Sierra Leone and the particular risks for this in the resource sector.

Options
In discussions the Council members could:

Council Dynamics
Council members seem to consider Sierra Leone as a success story, given it has maintained stability whilst graduating from a large peacekeeping operation to a peacebuilding support mission. Most Council members seem to recognise that UNIPSIL is a small mission and its withdrawal should be related to the needs on the ground rather than budgetary pressures.

As UNIPSIL is a peacebuilding support mission, many on the Council attach strong weight to the advisory role of the PBC with regard to the conduct and outcomes of UNIPSIL.

By lifting the sanctions regime in September 2010, the Council was consciously recognising that the threats to Sierra Leone’s security from the conflicts in the 1990s had passed. Most Council members recognise that the current risks to stability—such as tensions around the 2012 elections and the impact of the management of extractive industries—are unrelated to the former conflict.

The UK is the lead country in the Council on Sierra Leone.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1941 (29 September 2010) extended the mandate of UNIPSIL until 15 September 2011.
  • S/RES/1940 (29 September 2010) lifted the sanctions on Sierra Leone.
  • S/RES/1829 (4 August 2008) authorised the creation of UNIPSIL to replace UNIOSIL.
  • S/RES/1688 (16 June 2006) 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.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2010/471 (17 September 2010) covers the period 1 March 2010 to 31 August 2010.

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/560 (29 October 2010) was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council on the budget of the SCSL and recommending the remaining costs be covered by assessed contributions.
  • S/2008/63 (31 January 2008) was from the Secretary-General conveying the completion strategy for UNIOSIL.

Other

  • S/PRST/2011/4 (11 February 2011) was a presidential statement on the interdependence between security and development that highlighted the value of helping governments in post-conflict situations effectively manage their natural resources.
  • S/PV.6391 (28 September 2010) was the open meeting by the Council on UNIPSIL.

Peacebuilding Commission

  • PBC/4/SLE/3 (1 October 2010) was the review of the outcome of the high-level special session of the PBC on Sierra Leone.
  • PBC/3/SLE/6 (12 June 2009) was the outcome of the PBC high-level special session 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 2010): 33 international civilians, 33 local civilians and six UN volunteers

Duration

1 October 2008 to present; mandate expires 15 September 2011

Chair of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the PBC

John McNee (Canada)

Full forecast