Global Policy Forum

Sierra Leone




Since 1991, the civil war between the Sierra Leone government and the Liberia- backed rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has crippled the country. In July 1999 the warring parties signed the Lomé Peace Agreement. The UN Security Council established the Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in October 1999 to help implement the Lomé Agreement but despite UNAMSIL's presence fighting continued. In May 2000 the crisis peaked as the RUF took 500 UN peacekeepers hostages.

The civil war in neighboring Liberia complicates the Sierra Leone conflict. In 2000 the UN officially accused President Charles Taylor of Liberia of being involved in RUF's illegal trade of diamonds, arms, and timber. In May 2001, the Security Council imposed "smart" sanctions on Liberia. France's interests shaped the sanctions in a way that allowed Taylor to continue the timber exports, which finance his regime and the RUF.

In January 2001 the Guinea-backed rebel group LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) invaded the north of Liberia. The expansion of the conflict thus engulfed all three state-parties to the 1980 Manu River Union treaty. Taylor's government continues to fight the LURD without a real desire to enter into a peace process.

The May 2002 democratic elections brought only a relative political stability to Sierra Leone. Occasional RUF incursions and flows of refugees, fleeing the civil war in Liberia, pose a threat to the peace in Sierra Leone and undermine UNAMSIL's efforts to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate the RUF.

UN Documents

Report of the Secretary General on Sierra Leone (April 29, 2008)

Ban Ki-moon commends UN peacekeepers (UNIOSIL) for the significant progress made towards consolidating peace in Sierra Leone. UNIOSIL helped the government of Sierra Leone to professionalize the army, train national police officers and build the capacity of the National Electoral Commission. Due to the success of the mission, Ban recommends that the peacekeepers withdraw from Sierra Leone in September 2008, and that the Security Council mandate a smaller UN Peacebuilding office within the country.

Security Council Resolution 1620 (August 31, 2005)

This resolution adopted by the Security Council authorizes the establishment of the UN Integrated Office for Sierra Leone (UNIOSL) following the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) at the end of 2005. The new follow-on UN presence will help achieve long-term stability and development in the country.

Security Council Resolution 1537 (March 30, 2004)

This resolution adopted by the Security Council extends the mandate of UNAMSIL for six months until September 30, 2004.

Sanctions and Related Documents


Sandline Report - UK Select Committee on Foreign Affairs (January 1999)

A UK government report on the 'Sandline Affair', which saw the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office implicated in a Sierra Leone arms trafficking scandal.

UN Resolution 1343 Imposing Sanctions Against Liberia (March 7, 2001)

This resolution condemns Liberia's support of the RUF in Sierra Leone. The sanctions will come into effect on May 7, 2001 if Liberia does not fulfill its requirements.


Report and Proposals for the Implementation of Reparations in Sierra Leone (December 2009)

In 2008 the UN Peace Building Fund provided $3million for a one year reparation project in Sierra Leone. One year on, this report documents the achievements and the shortcomings of the program.   It reveals a discrepancy between the estimated and actual number of victims registered by the program: figures show over 25, 000 victims were left out of the reparation process. The report proposes that the efforts be continued beyond the year-long time frame - so there may be more extensive outreach to victims and greater concentration on the provision of healthcare, pensions and education. (International Centre for Transitional Justice.)

Diamond Industry Annual Review - Sierra Leone 2006 (February 2006)

Diamonds fuelled Sierra Leone's rebel war between 1991 and 2002, and many hoped after the war that diamonds might help the country's recovery. Despite the new Kimberley Process diamond certification system, the diamond industry in Sierra Leone remains extraordinarily difficult to manage and control. Rebels continue to smuggle illicit gems across Sierra Leone's porous borders into Liberia. This report by Partnership Africa Canada shows that virtually all of Sierra Leone's 120,000 diamond miners earn less than a dollar a day, putting them in the category of absolute poverty. Working conditions are unhealthy and unsafe. As a result, the country remains unstable and violence threatens anew.

Rebuilding Failed States (December 8, 2004)

This International Crisis Group (ICG) report calls for a "fresh strategy" for peacebuilding missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. ICG says the two nations risk renewed conflict because peacekeeping interventions "treat peacebuilding as implementing an operational checklist, involving fixes to various institutions and processes, without tackling underlying political dynamics." ICG recommendations envisage a long-term commitment from the international community that promotes the rule of law, civil society and civil rights.



Picture Credit: Associated Press


For now, Peace in Sierra Leone (December 11, 2009)

With a death toll of around 50, 000, the civil war in Sierra Leone was one of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century. Though the violence has ended, other circumstances remain unchanged. The country is still as poor as it was during the war and is still listed amongst the world's most corrupt countries.  This report urges Sierra Leone's government to address these domestic problems in order to rule out the possibility of a return to war.


Sierra Leone: Activists Cry Foul over Mining Policy (August 26, 2008)

This Inter Press Service article states that mining deals between the government of Sierra Leone and diamond exporters are disadvantageous to local mining areas since the exporters only pay 0,75 percent of their profit to the local population. Sierra Leone set up a presidential task force in 2008 to review the country's mining policies, but local civil society organizations argue that the task force fails to hold diamond exporters accountable for the exploitive contracts they force upon the government.

Security Council Asks Secretary General to Establish Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (August 4, 2008)

The Security Council requested that the Secretary General establish a Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) to support the government in post-conflict peace and institution building. Sierra Leone will be the UN's first official 'experiment' in peacebuilding under the auspices of the Peacebuilding Commission. UNIOSIL will work to neutralize potential conflicts and security threats, monitor human rights and the rule of law, and work towards the decentralization of government in accordance with Sierra Leone's 1991 Constitution. (ReliefWeb)

'Craft Guns' Fuel West Africa Crime Epidemic (July 8, 2008)

Despite the UN restriction on international arms trade in West Africa, the number of illegal weapons circulating in the region has soared. Locally made "craft guns" are replacing the unattainable industrial weapons, fueling the trade of small arms and increasing crime rates in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This Independent article urges the region's governments to implement social programs to change the entrenched gun culture in the region, and provide incentives for gun manufacturers to seek alternative work.

Sierra Leone's Special Courts Narrow Focus (March 26, 2008)

After Sierra Leone's civil war, the UN established the Special Court for Sierra Leone to end impunity, advance reconciliation and create a public account of the atrocities committed. The Court's actual impact remains uncertain. Set to end operations in 2010, the US$212 million-Court has indicted 13 alleged war criminals, and convicted five. Sierra Leoneans are critical of the massive cost and are puzzled at the Court's tendency to prosecute high-level officials like Charles Taylor instead of the soldiers who conducted the widespread killings and amputations. (Washington Post)


Peacebuilding Efforts in Sierra Leone Must Address Natural Resource Governance (October 10, 2007)

In 2006, the UN Security Council requested that the Peacebuilding Commission help Sierra Leone devise a strategy for reconstruction and poverty reduction. Although this country has a long history of natural resource exploitation, a June 2007 PBS draft does not refer to this issue. In response, Global Witness submitted a report to the PBC indicating the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the root causes of Sierra Leone's civil war. It also recommended that the Commission include natural resources post-conflict management, in countries where exploitation funds conflicts.

"A Time for Cautious Optimism" (September 13, 2007)

After a decade of civil war, Sierra Leone held its first round of presidential elections in August 2007. Seen earlier as a failed state, "credible and transparent" elections demonstrate the country's progress. Observers fear a violent response to the election results from the losing party. However the biggest challenge will come after the elections, when the wining party will have to live up to the expectations of the people and the international community. (International Herald Tribune)

Sierra Leone: August 11, 2007 Elections- Challenges of a Transition & Beyond (July 19, 2007)

This West Africa Network for Peacebuilding report highlights how election-threatening incidents, such as the violent July 15, 2007 clashes between ruling Sierra Leone People's Party and opposition People's Movement for Democratic Change, could threaten peace in the whole of the Mano River Basin region. To secure respect for election results and peaceful transfer of power within Sierra Leone and the region, the UN Peacebuilding Commission's project in Sierra Leone should increase its visibility and reconciliation efforts there.



Peacekeepers Prepare to Leave Sierra Leone (October 4, 2005)

Even though Sierra Leone has come a long way from its 1991-2002 civil war, the situation in the country remains fragile. According to Daudi Mwakawago, the UN representative in Sierra Leone, the country needs $1.7 billion from donors and development partners to help alleviate poverty, eradicate corruption and build good government institutions. "We have kept the peace. We can't continue with the peacekeeping. We need peacebuilding." (Associated Press)

UN Mission in Sierra Leone Helps Start New Political Talks (September 22, 2005)

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) brought together for the first time the country's three leading political parties at a meeting of party representatives. UNAMSIL chief Daudi Mwakawago encouraged the parties to forge an all-party national alliance, to cultivate a culture of tolerance and to work conjunctly with the follow-on mission, the UN Integrated Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), towards peace and stability. (UN News)

UN Approves Assistance Team to Move in After Peacekeeper Exit (September 1, 2005)

The Security Council agreed to establish a UN Integrated Office for Sierra Leone (UNIOSL) to replace the UN Mission in Sierra Leone when its mandate expires at the end of 2005, reports Integrated Regional Information Networks. This assistance team will help the Government of Sierra Leone to consolidate peace by enhancing political and economic governance, building the national capacity for conflict prevention, and preparing for elections in 2007.

Sierra Leone: UN Troops to Leave by the End of the Year (July 1, 2005)

Though Sierra Leone's army has not needed UN peacekeepers' support in security matters since the UN handed over responsibility for security in September 2004, the Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMSIL) until the end of 2005. Secretary General Kofi Annan cited instability in the region - particularly Ivory Coast and Liberia, where elections are scheduled for October 2005 - as a primary reason for the extension. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Annan Wants UN Mission in Sierra Leone Phased Out (May 6, 2005)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for pulling the UN's 3,400-strong peacekeeping mission out of Sierra Leone. In a report to the Security Council, Annan emphasized that the country will still need international assistance to improve the security situation. In the run-up to full troop withdrawal in December 2005, Annan urged the government to strengthen Sierra Leone's military and police forces with the help of the UN mission. (AlertNet)

Diamonds Shine Brighter, But Remain Dull (February 24, 2005)

The Ottawa-based Partnership Africa Canada has released the second edition of its Diamond Industry Annual Review for Sierra Leone, which praises the increased transparency of the country's gold and diamonds department but warns that diamond trade earnings don't benefit the country's impoverished population. With the Revolutionary United Front no longer in control of the main mining areas, legal diamond exports have almost doubled. The report notes, however, that the improvements mainly result from external factors such as the introduction of the Kimberley process rather than internal curbs on diamond mining and smuggling. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)


Sierra Leone Web - news, documents, links, country information.
Diamond News, a sub-site of World News which provides links and up to date, multi-national news coverage on issues and d controversies surrounding diamonds.
BBC in depth coverage of Sierra Leone - The UK troops are playing a major part in Sierra Leone - at one time a former colony of Britain. These pages analyze the conflict as well as the UK's role.
The - a newsmagazine published by the Liberian Democratic Future group. The site has links and information on Liberia and the conflict.



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