Fourth Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Sierra Leone


1. The present report is submitted pursuant to the presidential statement issued by the Security Council on 26 February 1998 (S/PRST/1998/5), by which the Council requested me to submit detailed proposals concerning the role of the United Nations and its future presence in Sierra Leone. It covers the developments in Sierra Leone since the issuance of my third report on 5 February 1998 (S/1998/103).


Action taken by the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group

2. On 5 February 1998, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Five on Sierra Leone came to New York to brief the members of the Security Council and myself on the situation in Sierra Leone. The Chairman of the Committee of Five, the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Chief Tom Ikimi, said an impasse had been reached in the implementation of the Conakry Agreement. He pointed out that the junta had raised three issues which, in its view, stood in the way of the implementation of the Agreement, namely, the release of Corporal Foday Sankoh, the proposed exemption of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces from the disarmament process and the composition of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which consisted primarily of Nigerian troops.

3. Minister Ikimi noted that because of this impasse, ECOMOG had been unable to deploy in Sierra Leone to carry out the disarmament and demobilization of the Sierra Leonean combatants, and it had therefore not been possible to deploy United Nations military observers alongside ECOMOG.

4. Minister Ikimi requested my support in launching a high-level effort to support ECOWAS through the establishment of a group of friends of Sierra Leone, and expressed the view that the Security Council should endorse the 22 April 1998 deadline for the restoration of constitutional authority and the full implementation of the Conakry Agreement of 23 October 1997.

5. I reaffirmed to the Committee of Five the desire of the United Nations for close cooperation between the United Nations and ECOWAS, and stated that ECOMOG needed to develop a concept of operations on the basis of which the United Nations could finalize its own deployment plan. ECOMOG should also compile a statement of its own logistical requirements in order to attract the necessary support from potential donors.

6. On the same day, responding to an attack by junta forces on their position at Lungi, ECOMOG launched a military attack on the junta, which culminated approximately one week later in the collapse of the junta and its expulsion by force from Freetown after heavy fighting. The fall of the city on 13 February, which was accompanied by widespread looting and some reprisal killings, led to the flight or capture of many soldiers and leaders of the junta. ECOWAS has assured me that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been allowed to visit prisoners detained by ECOMOG in Freetown. However, some of the former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), including its Chairman, Johnny Paul Koroma, are believed to be still at large. Acting in concert with the local Kamajors and other traditional hunter militia (known as the Civil Defence Unit), ECOMOG has subsequently taken control of the towns of Bo, Kenema and Zimmi in the south of the country, and Lunsar, Makeni and Kabala in the north. ECOMOG has also reported the capture of Daru, which would mean that the remnants of the junta have now been dislodged from every major town except for Kailahun. Following scattered fighting in the latter part of February, the country now appears to be quiet. A number of foreign aid workers and missionaries taken hostage by armed elements in February were later released unharmed. However, press reports in mid-March indicated that Revolutionary United Front (RUF) members in Kono had murdered civilians and taken 200 hostages, reportedly including foreign nationals.

7. On 18 February, accompanied by the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Mr. Lansana Kouyaté, Minister Ikimi visited Sierra Leone to assess the situation on the ground. They interviewed some former junta soldiers now detained by ECOMOG and visited the State House complex and the Parliament buildings. Many of the government buildings were found to have been looted and were in poor condition, and a number of unexploded bombs were scattered about. However, the ECOWAS team, which was enthusiastically greeted by crowds, found that in many respects life had returned to normal in the capital. As noted below, my Special Envoy also visited Freetown on the same day.

8. From 25 to 27 February 1998, the Committee of Five met in the margins of the meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers held in Addis Ababa to review the situation in Sierra Leone. The Committee issued a communiqué, which was subsequently circulated as document S/1998/170.

9. On 4 March 1998, the members of the Committee of Five returned to New York and met again with members of the Security Council and with me. Chief Ikimi briefed me on his visit to Freetown on 18 February and his subsequent meeting with President Tejan Kabbah in Conakry. Following this meeting, it was announced that President Kabbah would return to his country on 10 March 1998.

10. ECOMOG has also prepared a detailed list of logistical requirements for its operations in Sierra Leone. During the visit to New York of the Committee of Five, Chief Ikimi requested the assistance of the United Nations and the international community in ensuring that these requirements could be met. That request was reaffirmed by the Chairman of ECOWAS, General Sani Abacha, in his statement at the ceremony held to mark the return of President Kabbah to Freetown on 10 March.

Action taken by the United Nations

11. On 18 February 1998, a few days after ECOMOG had established control over most of the city of Freetown, my Special Envoy, Mr. Francis G. Okelo, led a security and humanitarian assessment mission to the capital and to Lungi comprising United Nations and non-governmental organization officials. The mission determined the most immediate needs of the population. Mr. Okelo handed over a quantity of medicines donated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to local hospitals and began preparations for the re-establishment of a United Nations presence in Freetown. A few days later, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered 857 metric tons of food to Freetown by ship.

12. Early in February, pursuant to a request by members of the Security Council for a technical assessment of the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone since the coup d'état of 25 May 1997, an inter-agency mission travelled to the subregion. Its report is contained in document S/1998/155. Further information on the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone can be found in section III of the present report.

13. Pursuant to the statement issued by the President of the Security Council on 26 February, I have initiated the necessary action to establish a Trust Fund for Sierra Leone. Contributions would help finance logistical assistance to ECOMOG, rehabilitation assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone and activities, including disarmament, demobilization and human rights.

14. On 7 March 1998, my Special Envoy reopened the United Nations office in Freetown, which had been closed shortly after the 25 May 1997 coup d'état and was temporarily relocated in Conakry, Guinea. The office is now being strengthened to comprise civilian political and humanitarian officers, a military adviser and, in due course, human rights and civilian police advisers and public information personnel. The function of the office is to liaise with the Government of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS, ECOMOG and the United Nations and its agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, and to act as the overall authority for all United Nations activities in the country. My proposals for deploying military liaison personnel as part of the United Nations presence on the ground can be found in section IV of the present report. My Special Envoy will also temporarily retain a small office in Conakry, but he expects to be fully established in Freetown by the end of March, thus paving the way for the return of all United Nations agencies to Sierra Leone.

Action taken by the Government of Sierra Leone

15. On 13 February 1998, President Kabbah called a meeting in Conakry of potential donors, including the European Union, Germany, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United Nations, to discuss his Government's priorities; the nature of the assistance the international community could provide; and the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance. The President announced that he had created a task force to prepare the ground for the resumption of work by his Government, to assess damage to the infrastructure and to prepare for the resumption of education. President Kabbah identified the immediate priorities of his Government as the provision of humanitarian supplies and petroleum products, the reactivation of international aid programmes and the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants. Three other areas that required special attention have been identified as the training and restructuring of the police force, the creation of job opportunities for young people and the construction of low-cost housing. President Kabbah also indicated that he intended to streamline his administration and appoint technical experts to cabinet positions.

16. Following the removal by ECOMOG of the military junta from power, President Kabbah issued a statement announcing his intention to submit proposals to Parliament concerning the rebuilding of his country. The President also spoke out against the reprisal killings, which, in some cases, had accompanied the seizure of control from the junta.

17. On 10 March 1998, accompanied by General Sani Abacha, Chairman of ECOWAS and Head of State of Nigeria, as well as the Heads of State of Guinea, Mali and Niger, President Lansana Conteh, President Alpha Oumar Konare and President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, and the Vice-President of Gambia, President Tejan Kabbah returned to Freetown to resume his office as Head of State of Sierra Leone. He was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds. Mr. Ibrahima Fall, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivered on my behalf a message of congratulations to the President stating that his return represented the accomplishment of a major objective not only of the people of Sierra Leone, but also of ECOWAS, OAU, the United Nations and the entire international community. I expressed my deep regret at the violence, loss of life and property and immense suffering undergone by the people of Sierra Leone since the coup d'état and extended my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in opposing it. Furthermore, I informed the President that the United Nations looked forward to working closely with him in helping his Government to reassert its authority and strengthen its capacity throughout the country.

18. In a statement made at the ceremony marking his return to Sierra Leone, President Kabbah declared his intention to embark on the process of national reconciliation and reconstruction of the country, to form a broad-based Government and to appoint a policy advisory committee. In his first meeting with my Special Envoy after his return, President Kabbah stressed the need for an early deployment of United Nations military personnel, the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance and the prompt establishment of the Trust Fund for Sierra Leone.

Military and security situation in Sierra Leone

19. Freetown is now fully under the control of ECOMOG and is increasingly secure. Some unexploded ordnance and landmines have been found, but these are not a threat to security. The peninsula on which the capital stands has also been secured. With the capture of almost every other major town in the country, and through its deployment further into the countryside in the north, south and east, ECOMOG has established itself successfully across most of the country.

20. Nevertheless, the fact that many of the senior junta leaders, including the former Chairman of the AFRC, Johnny Paul Koroma, have not thus far been apprehended, as well as the continuing violence inflicted on civilians during their retreat from ECOMOG forces by RUF and other armed elements, indicate that the security situation in Sierra Leone is still a source of concern. Though ECOMOG has begun to collect weapons in Freetown, a major disarmament, demobilization and reintegration exercise will be needed to ensure security.

21. ECOMOG has also developed a concept of operations for its deployment throughout Sierra Leone that sets out the preliminary planning for the disarmament and demobilization of Sierra Leonean combatants. In summary, the tasks ECOMOG has set for itself include:

(a) Deployment throughout Sierra Leone;

(b) Manning of selected entry points by land, sea or air in order to ensure that no arms, ammunition or war matériel are brought into the country;

(c) Disarmament of ex-combatants at designated sites;

(d) Establishment of road blocks to check the movement of arms and ammunition and to assist in extending protection to refugees and internally displaced persons;

(e) Conducting patrols to create an atmosphere conducive to freedom of movement and the restoration of established authority;

(f) Providing security for key individuals, United Nations personnel, including military personnel, and non-governmental organizations.

22. The plan calls for the deployment of 15,000 troops in four sectors: western, northern, southern and eastern. The western sector, comprising Freetown and the airports of Lungi and Hastings, is further subdivided, and would support the deployment of seven battalions, an air force detachment and an artillery brigade. This appears to be an ample level of force for the protection of the capital and its airport.

23. In the northern sector, ECOMOG would deploy a brigade headquartered at Makeni, with battalions located at Port Loko, Magburaka and Kabala. In the south, ECOMOG will locate its brigade headquarters at Bo and deploy battalions at Moyamba, Pujehun and Kenema. Naval assets would also be required. The eastern sector is described as strategic in view of its mineral resources, the presence of heavy RUF and Kamajor concentration, and the border with Liberia. ECOMOG therefore considers that operations in the east could prove difficult and risky and demand a robust approach, alertness and deployment in strength. Battalions would be located at Yengema, Zimmi and Kailahun.

24. ECOMOG would also establish a disarmament committee which would be charged, inter alia, with selecting disarmament sites; setting standards and guidelines for disarmament; conducting the disarmament, coordination of resources and cooperation with other organizations; classifying and transporting recovered weapons and ammunition; disseminating information about the process and providing security for all participants. A ceasefire violations committee and a humanitarian services committee would also be created.

25. My Special Envoy and his staff are actively discussing with the Government and with ECOMOG the further elaboration and implementation of its concept of operations, which provides a suitable basis for the possible subsequent deployment of United Nations military personnel, subject to the authorization of the Security Council. I will revert to the Council with further recommendations on such deployment following a further assessment by my Special Envoy.

Other action taken pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997)

26. Since my previous report, a number of States have written to me, in compliance with paragraph 13 of resolution 1132 (1997), concerning the steps they have taken to give effect to the provisions contained in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the resolution relating to the sanctions imposed by the Council on Sierra Leone. The latest list of those States can be found in a separate report to the Security Council contained in document S/1998/112.

27. In a letter dated 9 March 1998 addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/1998/215), the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations conveyed a request from his Government for the convening of an urgent meeting of the Security Council to consider the lifting of the sanctions imposed on the importation of petroleum and petroleum products into the country in paragraph 6 of resolution 1132 (1997). On 16 March, the Council adopted resolution 1156 (1998) terminating, with immediate effect, the prohibitions on the sale or supply to Sierra Leone of petroleum and petroleum products referred to in resolution 1132 (1997).


28. A number of United Nations humanitarian assessment missions have now been undertaken to Freetown, Kambia, Bo, Kenema and Makeni. These missions determined that the current humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone remains serious. The primary health care system has been devastated by lack of supplies, looting and the exodus of medical personnel at all levels. Widespread neglect of water and sanitation facilities has increased the exposure of hundreds of thousands to disease. The normal distribution of food to vulnerable groups has been disrupted, affecting children in particular. Many children have also suffered exposure to acts of violence by being sent into battle as combatants. The public education system has collapsed; all schools have been closed since the coup d'état last May. The combination of fighting and looting has led to extensive damage to housing and infrastructure in the provincial towns. The number of internally displaced people has increased, and the welfare of some 14,000 Liberian refugees remains a matter of concern, as many fled from their camps during the recent fighting. The majority of Sierra Leoneans who took refuge in Conakry during the fighting in Freetown have returned. However, some 24,000 Sierra Leoneans have arrived in Liberia since mid-February and the influx continues, albeit at a reduced rate. A further influx of 3,000 refugees from the Kailahun area, still not under ECOMOG control, has been registered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at its camp in Kissidougou, Guinea.

29. United Nations agencies prepared a consolidated inter-agency flash appeal, which was launched on 3 March 1998. Through this appeal, I am seeking financial contributions from Member States in the amount of $11.2 million to meet priority humanitarian needs in Sierra Leone over the next three months. Priority needs include support to agriculture through the provision of seeds and tools, the re-establishment of basic health and education services, the resumption of food aid distributions and the provision of assistance and protection to the most vulnerable groups affected by the current conflict. The flash appeal complements the 90-day programme of the Government of Sierra Leone, which serves as a framework for action following the restoration of democratic civilian rule in the country.

30. The full deployment of ECOMOG and the restoration of the legitimate Government is expected to provide increased opportunities for the humanitarian community to accelerate its activities in response to the humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone, and will also encourage the return to their homes of internally displaced persons. It is hoped that the international community will contribute generously to the humanitarian programme outlined in the flash appeal, in order to provide the crucial assistance needed to sustain lives and to promote stability in Sierra Leone.

31. Medium-term tasks, such as the assisted repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees and reintegration of ex-combatants, are not covered in the flash appeal. However, United Nations agencies are already re-establishing their offices in Freetown and are eager to restart their social and economic development programmes, important components of which must be the re-building of the capacity of the Government of Sierra Leone to deliver services, stimulate economic recovery and promote national reconciliation and reconstruction.

Commencement of the repatriation of refugees

32. At the request of President Kabbah, and with the help of a donation of $120,000 from the Government of Japan, UNHCR has begun to prepare for the repatriation from Conakry of up to 5,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, including 200 civil servants who fled Freetown after the May coup d'état and who will be engaged in the administration of the country.

33. ECOMOG control of major towns in southern Sierra Leone is also likely to encourage the early repatriation by road of Sierra Leonean refugees from Liberia. It is further expected that the removal of the junta could lead to the repatriation of the 400,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in the West African subregion.

34. Of the total caseload of Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone, some 2,800 have thus far been re-registered with UNHCR, about half of them requesting repatriation. UNHCR has begun making arrangements for them to be repatriated by sea.

United Nations Development Programme mission to Sierra Leone

35. A multi-unit mission to Sierra Leone dispatched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has proposed four projects for immediate implementation following their approval by the Government. These are:

(a) A start-up project for the demobilization of various categories of combatants;

(b) Support for national institutions to enable a rapid return to normal functioning;

(c) Resettlement with emphasis on quick-impact micro-projects, reconciliation and youth development;

(d) Awareness-raising in order to help the country come to terms with the problems it faces and to promote national reconciliation and peace-building.

36. The mission is also assisting the Government to prepare a document for a donors' consultation proposed to be held in Brussels on 31 March 1998. UNDP plans to close its Coordination Office in Conakry by the end of March if the security situation continues to stabilize, and to return the staff of its Country Office to Freetown.


37. The developments that have taken place in Sierra Leone since the submission of my last report should be seen as positive in the context of the wider situation in which they transpired. The removal of the junta by the action of ECOMOG has opened the way for the re-establishment not just of the legitimate Government, but also of civil order, the democratic process and the beginnings of economic and social development. The return of President Kabbah to Freetown on 10 March therefore presents the people of Sierra Leone and the international community with a challenge and an opportunity which must be grasped with a sense of urgency. We must not let slip the chance to restore Sierra Leone to the ranks of democratic nations and to help strengthen the stability of the subregion.

38. I commend the consistent diplomacy of ECOWAS and, in particular, its Committee of Five on Sierra Leone, and the contribution made by ECOMOG officers and men to the removal of the military junta. I call on ECOWAS and ECOMOG to continue their efforts to bring peace to Sierra Leone in accordance with the relevant provisions of resolution 1132 (1997) and of the Charter of the United Nations. Sierra Leoneans committed to the democratic system also played their part in maintaining a stubborn resistance to the illegal regime. These included not only the members of the Civil Defence Forces, but also countless unarmed civilians who persistently withheld their cooperation from the regime and denied it legitimacy. I salute the courage of the Sierra Leonean people and honour the memory of those who died opposing the junta.

39. I also congratulate President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on his resumption of his responsibilities as Head of State of Sierra Leone following his return. The United Nations should give his Government every possible assistance in its efforts to promote national reconciliation among his people and to strengthen the authority and capacity of his Government.

40. As I stated in my message to the annual summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity at Harare, and in the special message which was delivered by my Special Envoy, Mr. Ibrahima Fall, on the occasion of President Kabbah's return, Africa can no longer tolerate or accept as faits accomplis coups d'état against elected Governments or the illegal seizure of power by military cliques.

Strengthening the office of the Special Envoy

41. In order to take full and prompt advantage of the changed situation, I wish to propose a comprehensive set of measures to assist the Government and people of Sierra Leone in both their immediate and longer-term needs. As a first step, I intend to strengthen the office of my Special Envoy in Freetown. In order to contribute to the restoration of respect for the rule of law, civil order and human rights in Sierra Leone, I have consulted with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the possible deployment of human rights observers. In the meantime, a human rights officer will be attached to the office of my Special Envoy at an early date.

42. I am also considering attaching to the office two civilian police officials to advise the Government on police training and procedures in a democratic society. An additional political officer and a military adviser would assist my Special Envoy in his consultations with ECOMOG on the development of planning for disarmament and demobilization, while a humanitarian officer would facilitate the coordination of activities of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in Sierra Leone and advise my Special Envoy on all issues involving non-governmental organizations. The office will also require a public information programme to disseminate information among the population about its activities, in particular in connection with the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants and their reintegration into society.

Deployment of military liaison personnel

43. I also recommend the deployment to Sierra Leone of up to 10 United Nations military liaison officers, whose functions would be as follows:

(a) To liaise closely with ECOMOG and to report on the military situation in the country;

(b) To ascertain the state of and to assist in the finalization of planning by ECOMOG for future tasks such as the identification of the former combatant elements to be disarmed and the design of a disarmament plan.

44. Should the Security Council decide to authorize the deployment of these military liaison officers, as well as the military and civilian police advisers, as indicated in my third report (S/1998/103, para. 35), the costs relating thereto should be considered an expense of the Organization to be borne by Member States in accordance with Article 17, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations and the assessments to be levied on Member States should be credited to the special account to be established for Sierra Leone. The related cost estimates will be issued shortly as an addendum to the present report.

45. The military liaison team would complement the role of the military advisers who will, under the authority of my Special Envoy, continue to assist the Government of Sierra Leone to resolve issues related to the disarmament process. The military advisers will also be instrumental in assisting the Government of Sierra Leone in the development of planning for bilateral programmes to restructure and rebuild appropriate security forces for Sierra Leone in the future. In view of the importance of such retraining, I appeal to potential donors to show generosity in providing bilateral assistance.

46. The presence of United Nations military liaison officers, perhaps later supplemented by human rights observers, could also assist in the process of national reconciliation in Sierra Leone. Their close cooperation with ECOMOG in the countryside and their impartial reporting to my Special Envoy would reassure former combatants that they can surrender their weapons in safety.

Provision of humanitarian assistance

47. The provision of humanitarian assistance must also proceed expeditiously. The plight of Sierra Leoneans deprived of food, medical care and shelter by the recent fighting and the abuses of junta rule is acute, and it must be addressed as a matter of urgency with all the resources available to the aid agencies. While I remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in many parts of the country, I am encouraged by news that humanitarian needs are beginning to be addressed. Food aid and emergency medical supplies have entered the country through the port of Freetown and have been delivered to some provinces by plane, helicopter and overland in a prompt and coordinated manner.

Contributions to the Trust Fund

48. I call on Member States to display generosity in contributing to the Trust Fund for Sierra Leone which, with the encouragement of the Security Council, I have established. My appreciation goes to the Government of the United Kingdom, which has already announced its readiness to contribute 2 million, and has been actively assisting in the provision of aid to Sierra Leoneans. I also urge all Member States to provide generous assistance to ECOMOG to enable it to meet its logistical requirements and to fulfil its mandate in Sierra Leone.

49. The events that have taken place in Sierra Leone over the past year carry a warning that similar crises may arise and challenge the international community to consider how it should respond to them. Democracy in Sierra Leone may have deep roots, but it is a fragile plant and must be nurtured. The international community must maintain its vigilance and support, not least in the prompt provision of emergency bilateral and multilateral aid. Assistance for the laudable efforts of ECOWAS and the logistical requirements of ECOMOG as it continues its deployment through the countryside will also be required. I trust that such support will be forthcoming.


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