UN votes to end Sierra Leone peacebuilding mission

The Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to wrap up the United Nations peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone in September next year, praising this year’s peaceful and democratic elections in the West African nation and efforts to professionalise its armed forces.

A UN peacekeeping force helped put Sierra Leone back on the path to stability after a bloody 11-year civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002. But poverty continues to plague the country, which has one of the world’s lowest life expectancy and literacy rates.

The peacekeeping force was replaced in January last year by a small peacebuilding mission of about 350 people—mainly civilians—along with 14 military observers and 26 international police.

The resolution adopted unanimously by the council extends the mandate of the peacebuilding mission until September 30, well beyond local elections scheduled for June 21.

It calls for a staff reduction of at least 20% by March 31, the continuation of the mission at 80% of the current strength until June 30, and the termination of its mandate by September 30.

The council said the mission should be replaced by a UN political office “to focus on carrying forward the peacebuilding process, mobilising international donor support”, promoting national reconciliation and constitutional reform, and supporting the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission.

World leaders decided at a summit in September 2005 to establish the Peacebuilding Commission to bring together all the key international players involved in ending conflicts and promoting reconstruction and economic development of countries emerging from war. Sierra Leone and Burundi were the first countries it chose to assist.

The council emphasised the importance of continued UN and international support “for the long-term peace, security and development of Sierra Leone, particularly through strengthening the capacity of the government”.

It welcomed “the holding of peaceful and democratic parliamentary and presidential elections in August and September 2007”.
It also stressed that “the wide acceptance of the local elections in June 2008 will be another important milestone in consolidating a sustainable peace in Sierra Leone”.

The council urged the current UN mission to provide assistance for the June elections, and to help national commissions and institutions promote good governance and human rights.

While welcoming “the progress made in reforming the security sector ... and, in particular, the developing professionalism of the Sierra Leone armed forces and police”, the council also urged further action to strengthen and reform the police and army.—Sapa-AP

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