What's In Blue

Sierra Leone Mission on Pace with Drawdown

The Security Council is scheduled to have a briefing on Sierra Leone this afternoon (18 September), followed by consultations. Briefers will be Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), and Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski (Canada), the chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). Foreign Minister Samura Kamara of Sierra Leone is also expected to address the Council.

The Security Council last met on Sierra Leone on 26 March when it adopted resolution 2097 renewing the mandate of UNIPSIL. As that resolution decided that UNIPSIL should “be fully drawn down by 31 March 2014”, Council members are likely to be looking for signs of progress on the drawdown.

The latest report of the Secretary-General on Sierra Leone, published on 12 September, provides an update on the planned drawdown of the UN mission and the transfer of its functions to the UN Country Team (S/2013/547). It seems Council members see the report as being generally positive. The timetable for the drawdown appears to be on pace and Sierra Leone has not experienced any significant setbacks. There may be interest among some Council members in getting more information on the establishment of the Constitutional Review Committee, inaugurated on 30 July, which includes wide participation of non-state actors. While this Committee appears to have been given a sufficient timeframe of 24 months to complete the constitutional review, Council members may want to hear Toyberg-Frandzen’s assessment of possible challenges to the review process.

While overall both developments in the country and plans for UNIPSIL’s drawdown appear to be on track, many Council members are conscious that Sierra Leone faces numerous challenges, which they will likely raise during consultations. Members seem concerned about youth unemployment, economic exclusion and poverty, the long-term prospects of the political process, corruption, management of natural resources, land rights issues and transnational organised crime. Many of these are common challenges of peacebuilding, while others represent the drivers of the country’s civil war that ended over a decade ago.

In this regard, Council members appear to view positively and may want more information on “The Agenda for Prosperity”. the government’s poverty reduction strategy, which is highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report. Some members might highlight the positive role that the PBC could play in advocating for resources for the poverty reduction plan.

In addition, while Sierra Leone is usually a consensual issue among Council members, the negotiations over resolution 2097 saw some difference of views among members on whether to also set a specific date for concluding the PBC’s engagement with the country. No specific date was set, but resolution 2097 requested the PBC to consider reviewing its engagement with a view to scaling down its role. In light of the challenges faced by Sierra Leone, some members might question if this remains a good idea. Towards the end of the year, Rishchynski, in his role as chair of the country-specific-configuration for Sierra Leone, plans to visit the country as part of the process to assess the form of a future PBC relationship. Council members may be interested in hearing more about preparations for this upcoming trip, along with plans for an initial review of peacebuilding in Sierra Leone set for October, and a technical assessment mission scheduled for later this year.

Finally, it is possible that some Council members will raise the issue of Ibrahim Bah. Bah is subject to a travel ban under the 1521 Liberia sanctions regime for brokering arms transfers and diamond deals during the civil war in Sierra Leone. In addition he faces charges of kidnapping and assault from an incident in 2000. When an arrest warrant was issued in August by a Sierra Leone court for failing to appear at his trial in July over this incident, it was discovered that Sierra Leone had “deported” him to Senegal on 27 July, in violation of the travel ban. Members that might be concerned that this case is indicative of wider problems of rule of law in the country may seek clarification on why the government chose to let Bah leave the country.

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