Expected Council Action
In September, the Council will be briefed on the report of the Secretary-General regarding the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), most likely by Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNIPSIL. As with past Council practice, Guillermo Rishchynski, chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), will also likely brief. The briefing will be followed by consultations. The mandate of UNIPSIL expires on 31 March 2014, by which date the mission should be fully drawn down.
Key Recent Developments
The Council last addressed Sierra Leone on 26 March when it adopted resolution 2097, extending UNIPSIL’s mandate for the last time (S/PV.6942). The resolution further asked the Executive Representative to submit a Transition Plan by no later than 30 May and requested the Secretary-General to include an update on its implementation in his next report. Previously, on 13 March, Toyberg-Frandzen briefed the Council regarding the Secretary-General’s 27 February report on UNIPSIL (S/2013/118); Rishchynski and Samura M.W. Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, addressed the Council as well (S/PV.6933). While recognising that the mandate of UNIPSIL had nearly been fulfilled, the report identified “residual tasks” in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation and democratisation.
There have been security incidents on the Sierra Leone–Liberia border, as documented in the 23 May report of the Panel of Experts (PoE) of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee (S/2013/316). The PoE found evidence of widespread gold mining by Liberian ex-combatants in the Gola Forest, which covers about 2,000 square kilometres of territory. According to Sierra Leone, these ex-combatants were engaged in a range of illegal activities, such as hunting game, drug-trafficking and illicit mining. On 2 February, about 50 Liberian militia members crossed the border to attack forest rangers from Sierra Leone, who managed to flee unharmed. Sierra Leone identified the attackers as former members of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia and agreed with Liberia on 14 March to undertake joint border-security patrols.
The PoE report also noted the presence in Freetown, Sierra Leone, of Ibrahim Bah, a close ally of former President Charles Taylor of Liberia who had brokered arms transfers and diamond deals with the Revolutionary United Front rebel group during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Bah has been subject to a travel ban since 2004 under the Liberia sanctions regime. Bah failed to appear in court for a 19 July trial initiated by a domestic human rights organisation on behalf of Tamba Emmanuel, who claims he was kidnapped and assaulted by Bah in 2000. When a court in Freetown issued an arrest warrant on 5 August for non-appearance, it then became known that the government had already secretly “deported” Bah to Senegal on 27 July, in violation of the travel ban. Senegal has denied being contacted by Sierra Leone, and Bah’s current whereabouts are unknown.
On 30 July, President Ernest Bai Koroma officially launched the Constitutional Review Committee. The 80-member committee—which will be chaired by Justice Edmond Cowan, the current ombudsman and a former speaker of Parliament—has two years to propose a draft constitution, which will then be subject to a national referendum. Review of the existing 1991 constitution, was a provision of the Lomé Peace Agreement of 7 July 1999 as well as a recommendation of the final report of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in October 2004. Speaking at the ceremony, Toyberg-Frandzen welcomed the political commitment to an inclusive and transparent constitutional review process.
In July, Action for Large-Scale Land Acquisition Transparency, a coalition of more than a dozen domestic NGOs, released a report entitled Who is Benefitting?, which assessed the social and economic impacts of three major land investments in Sierra Leone. The report analysed the leases for sugar cane and palm oil production on the three tracts totalling 92,320 hectares (227,337 acres). The report claimed that the agricultural developments have had negative social and economic consequences for local populations; benefit from corporate tax breaks depriving the government of as much as $18.8 million per year in revenue; and were approved without adequate environmental, social and health impact assessments. It suggested that rapid top-down agrarian reform could pose risks for food security, rural livelihoods, social cohesion and peace in Sierra Leone.
The principal focus for the Council is progress in the drawdown of UNIPSIL, including how tasks are being shifted to the PBC and the UN country team during the transition.
UNIPSIL activity toward accomplishing the “residual” tasks outlined in the Secretary-General’s 27 February report—conflict prevention, mediation and supporting democratic institutions—are another set of significant issues.
The status of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), whose mandate expires on 30 September, and measures taken toward the transition to a Residual Special Court will also likely be of interest to the Council.
Council members may wish to seek clarification from the government of Sierra Leone regarding the deportation to Senegal of Ibrahim Bah, who remains subject to a UN travel ban under the Liberia sanctions regime.
The Council may also request further details regarding the drawdown of UNIPSIL, coordination between the UN country team and UNIPSIL, plans for the country specific configuration in the PBC and the transition to the Residual Special Court.
Council and Wider Dynamics
With the unanimous adoption of resolution 2097, Council members signalled their unity regarding the drawdown of UNIPSIL and the transformation of UN peacebuilding activities in Sierra Leone.
The secret deportation of Bah to Senegal could damage relations between the UN and Sierra Leone. It also potentially calls into question why the SCSL, whose case against Taylor had revealed substantial evidence of Bah’s complicity in war crimes, had not issued an indictment once his whereabouts in Freetown were publicly known. The US, which through its ambassador to Sierra Leone had communicated its interest in legal action against Bah, may choose to pursue the issue (as may other Council members).
The UK is the penholder on Sierra Leone, and Canada chairs the PBC Sierra Leone configuration.
UN Documents on Sierra Leone
|Security Council Resolution|
|26 March 2013 S/RES/2097||This resolution renewed UNIPSIL for 12 months.|
|27 February 2013 S/2013/118||This was a report on UNIPSIL.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|26 March 2013 S/PV.6942||The Council adopted resolution 2097 extending UNIPSIL’s mandate for the last time.|
|13 March 2013 S/PV.6933||This was a briefing by Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the head of UNIPSIL, and Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), chair of the PBC configuration for Sierra Leone.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|23 May 2013 S/2013/316||This was the midterm report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.|
Other Relevant Facts
Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNIPSIL
Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen (Denmark)
UNIPSIL Size and Composition
31 international civilians, 24 local civilians, six police, seven UN volunteers (as of 31 May 2013)
Chair of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the PBC
Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada)
President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Justice George Gelagaking (Sierra Leone)
Useful Additional Resources
“Koroma helps warlord escape trial”, Africa Confidential, 8 August 2013.
Who is Benefitting?: The social and economic impact of three large-scale land investments in Sierra Leone, Action for Large-Scale Land Acquisition Transparency in Sierra Leone, July 2013.