What's In Blue

Posted Mon 10 Sep 2012

Sierra Leone Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (11 September), the Council will receive a briefing from Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). Toyberg-Frandzen will present the Secretary-General’s ninth report on UNIPSIL of 31 August (S/2012/679). Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) country-specific configuration for Sierra Leone, will also likely brief the Council. Ambassador Shekou M. Touray (Sierra Leone) is expected to make a statement as well. (Foreign Minister Joseph B. Dauda had initially been scheduled to represent Sierra Leone.)

The briefing will be followed by consultations among Council members on a draft resolution to renew the mandate of UNIPSIL. (Following initial discussions on the resolution by the P5 early last week, the resolution was circulated to the wider membership over the weekend and will likely be adopted on Wednesday.)

It appears that the draft extends the mandate of the mission by six months. (The Secretary-General in his report had recommended a mandate extension of about eight to nine months.) This would allow UNIPSIL to perform a number of tasks, including “the preparation of a transition plan and exit strategy” following the national elections slated for 17 November. It appears that the UK had wanted an eight- to nine-month extension in view of the apparent fragility and controversies still looming over some of the national institutions. However, other Council members stressed that it was important to send a strong message about national ownership. There was also a sense that in any case there would likely be a continuing role for the PBC when UNIPSIL transitions to a UN country office.

Council members see the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in November as the key milestone in this transition. The draft resolution underlined the importance of the polls and the wide acceptance of the results as a key benchmark for consolidation of peace in the country.

It seems the draft resolution gives UNIPSIL’s leadership a strong political mandate in view of several contentious issues that have beset the electoral process for months. It apparently requests UNIPSIL, in conjunction with the UN Country Team, to provide assistance to the government and its electoral and security institutions in the preparation and conduct of the elections. The resolution is also expected to request UNIPSIL to provide assistance to conflict prevention and mitigation efforts, including through promoting the role of women in conflict prevention and supporting genuine and inclusive dialogue among political parties, the Government and all relevant stakeholders. Once the elections are held, the draft requests the Secretary-General to provide a briefing to the Council on the conduct and outcome of the elections.

The Secretary-General’s report highlighted a number of contentious issues, including the recent decision by National Electoral Commission (NEC) to increase nomination fees for presidential, parliamentary and local council elections and the failure to announce a definitive voter registration figure months after registration was completed. Other contentious issues include the failure by the government to implement the recommendations of the Shears-Moses Commission of Inquiry (which recommended the prosecution of key government figures, including the Minister of Internal Affairs, for prosecution for involvement in electoral violence) or to set up an Independent Police Complaints Commission, which was recommended by the May 2009 Joint Communiqué, signed by the ruling party and the main opposition with the UN acting as moral guarantor. (In this regard, the resolution would likely call on the government to accelerate efforts to establish the Independent Police Complaints Commission and to address the recommendations of the Shears-Moses Inquiry report.)

Council members had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues during their visit to Sierra Leone on 23 May. During the trip they met with President Ernest Bai Koroma and other cabinet members, as well as with political party representatives, the NEC, and members of civil society. Reporting on the trip to the Council on 31 May, Ambassador Baso Sangqu (South Africa) – who with Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant (UK) co-led the mission – noted that the Council delegation got “a clear and welcome commitment to a free, fair and transparent [electoral] process” from President Koroma. Sangqu said 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. He 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 People’s Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

It appears that the draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to deploy an inter-agency technical assessment mission to Sierra Leone to conduct a review of progress made in the implementation of UNIPSIL’s mandate. This would be in order for the Secretary-General to provide a report containing detailed proposals for an exit strategy of UNIPSIL for the Council’s consideration by 15 February 2013.

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