(Rapaport…December 19, 2001) In his latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan said that the mission has helped secure the nation, freed refugees and created an economic resurgence, but he also warned that additional steps toward peace were lagging. Annan mentioned that more than 36,000 combatants had disarmed in the country since May 18, exceeding initial estimates, but he pointed to a slowdown in disarmament in Sierra Leone’s eastern diamond fields brought about by a Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel demand that their imprisoned leader, Foday Sankoh, be released. Annan did say, however, that he expects disarmament in the region to be completed by the end of December.
The report also discussed elections in the country, currently scheduled for May 14, warning that tensions could rise if the public perceives that the process is not transparent and credible.
“The prevailing situation therefore calls for continued vigilance, as well as the concerted efforts of all concerned, to ensure that the elections are a success,” Annan said.
In late November, a member of Sierra Leone’s parliament questioned whether the disarming of the eastern diamond field of Tongo before next May’s elections is even plausible.
“I don’t think the timetable is even going to be correct as far as Tongo is concerned,” People’s Democratic Party representative Kemoh Sesay told the BBC. “There are no indications that they are moving in accordance with what they’ve set as a pace for disarmament. It is still at a snail’s pace, and I think by May they may not even be able to disarm Tongo.”