Global Policy Forum

Oxfam: Sierra Leone Advocacy Aims

Oxfam International
June 14, 2000

The international community's policy towards Sierra Leone continues to be a shameful sign of its lack of commitment to peace in Africa. The UN Security Council spends 60% of its time talking about Africa. But its effective actions, and those of Western governments, do far too little to help protect civilians in Africa, or tackle the underlying roots of conflict including the flow of arms, the illegal trade in diamonds, and long-term poverty.

Despite signing the Lome peace agreement on 7 July 1999, there has been a continuous lack of trust between all the parties in Sierra Leone, resulting in the failure to properly implement the agreement, and continued violence even before the most recent and serious escalation. The UN operation, UNAMSIL, has failed to provide the presence necessary to give Sierra Leone's people, and the various factions, confidence in implementing Lome; and this has been compounded by the lack of transparency in reforming the country's security sector. In this climate, all parties have been able to speedily rearm and remobilise.

The international community must act with far greater speed and commitment to:

- protect civilians from brutal violence throughout Sierra Leone
- ensure humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands dependent on the relief which has been limited by the current upsurge of violence
- secure the sources of illegal extraction of diamonds in Sierra Leone - and put pressure on those involved across West Africa - to prevent this illegal trade further fueling the conflict
- swiftly and generously fund disarmament and reintegration of former fighters in contrast to the slow and mean response since the Lome peace agreement Specific Recommendations

  • UNAMSIL immediately should be more robust in implementing its mandate to protect civilians in its "areas of deployment..under imminent threat of physical violence" There have been numerous examples, even before may, of UNSAMSIL failing to take sufficient action to implement this.

  • The UN Security Council should urgently strengthen UNSAMSIL's mandate and credibility by authorising it, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to take action as may be necessary to:
  • protect civilians throughout Sierra Leone
  • enforce the disarmament provisions of the Lome agreement
  • secure the sources of illegal extraction of diamonds

  • West African and other governments must rapidly augment the current 8000 UNAMSIL troops, with the necessary troops and first-rate equipment, so that it can effectively achieve those goals. The UN Security Council should urgently consider whether UNAMSIL's total strength needs to be increased beyond the 11,100 authorized in February.

  • UNAMSL must deploy throughout Sierra Leone, including Kono and other strategic diamond-rich areas. Securing Freetown and areas around it is below what even the current UNAMSIL mandate demands, leaves very large numbers of civilians exposed to violence and without access to humanitarian assistance, and enables continued arms trafficking.

  • Major Western governments must demonstrate their real commitment to effectively halting the conflict in Sierra Leone. Those, including the UK, which have the military capacity to augment UNAMSIL must do so.

  • All foreign forces in Sierra Leone should be under the command of UNAMSIL. For Sierra Leone and for other conflicts where the UN could play a constructive future role, it is vital that UNSAMSIL succeeds.

  • UNAMSIL must be made capable of securing the illegal diamond extraction sources, and once and for all preventing such income fuelling further violence.

  • The UN Security Council should agree all necessary sanctions to ensure that Sierra Leone's factions, and other parties in West Africa, are no longer able to profit from the illegal extraction of diamonds in Sierra Leone, and use this profit for arms. This must include pressure on nations in the region that supply support in any form to factions in Sierra Leone. In this, the Security Council will wish to learn lessons from its relative success so far in using targeted sanctions in Angola.

  • Disarmament and the reintegration of former combatants will be even more urgent when this immediate crisis is over. The failure of donor governments to swiftly fund those vital aspects of implementing the Lome agreement must be replaced with an urgent and generous response. All parties must ensure that the future disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration arrangements are transparently and impartially managed, and adequately resourced, to ensure that all parties have confidence in them.

  • There must be no amnesty for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights committed since the Lome deal of July 1999. It is difficult to see precisely how the 1999 peace agreement will be carried on after the events of May 2000. It was based on an amnesty for crimes committed up until them, accepted as the least worst option to bring peace after years of atrocities. What is at last certain is that all violations committed since July 1999 must be prosecuted. This, already UN Security Council policy* , must not be compromised in any future political arrangement. *Resolution 1289 of 7 February 2000, item 5.
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