First Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Sierra Leone

I. INTRODUCTION

1. By paragraph 19 of its resolution 1181 (1998) of 13 July 1998, the Security Council requested me to submit an initial report within 30 days of the adoption of the resolution and every 60 days thereafter on the deployment of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) and its progress in carrying out its mandate, and also to inform the Council on plans for the later phases of the deployment of UNOMSIL when security conditions permit these to be implemented. The present report, which is submitted pursuant to that request, describes developments since my fifth report on the situation in Sierra Leone (S/1998/486) dated 9 June 1998.

2. The present report is also submitted in accordance with paragraph 10 of resolution 1162 (1998) of 17 April 1998 and paragraph 8 of resolution 1171 (1998) of 5 June 1998.

II. SITUATION IN SIERRA LEONE

Activities of the Government of Sierra Leone

3. Since my last report, the Government of Sierra Leone has continued to strengthen its authority and improve its organization and functioning, including through the adoption, following a wide-ranging parliamentary debate, of a budget for the remainder of 1998. On 7 August, President Kabbah visited the provincial towns of Bo, Kenema and Makenie. Some 45 of the 52 paramount chiefs have returned to their districts in the south of the country.

4. Significant improvements have occurred in relations between Sierra Leone and Liberia. On 22 and 23 June, a Liberian delegation led by Senator Kekura Kpoto visited Freetown to deliver a special message from President Taylor to President Kabbah concerning ways to promote peace between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Mano River Union countries. The delegation also denied allegations that the Liberian Government was supporting the remnants of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and expressed concern that some Liberian dissidents were reported to be planning to use Sierra Leone as a base from which to attack Liberia. At the conclusion of the meeting, President Kabbah issued a statement reaffirming his commitment to subregional peace and security and calling for strict adherence to the existing non-aggression pact and good neighbourliness treaty contained in the Mano River Union Agreement.

5. On 1 July 1998, during my visit to Abuja, together with the President of Nigeria, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, I jointly convened a meeting between President Taylor and President Kabbah, the Heads of State of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The two Heads of State reached agreement at that meeting on a number of confidence-building measures to improve relations between their countries. The Presidents, inter alia, strongly condemned the continued rebel activities in Sierra Leone, as well as the horrendous atrocities committed there, and agreed to exchange official visits. The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting was circulated as document S/1998/629.

6. On 20 July 1998, President Kabbah paid a one-day visit to Monrovia at the written invitation of President Taylor to attend the Liberian National Reconciliation Conference. The meeting of the two Presidents was held in the presence of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Special Envoy of the President of the United States of America to Africa. In a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, President Taylor and President Kabbah again condemned all atrocities and violations of human rights committed by combatants in Sierra Leone against civilians, as well as the continued rebel activities in that country. They reaffirmed their commitment to non-aggression against the territorial integrity of each other's country and pledged to continue their cooperation towards peace and security in the subregion. Both leaders renewed their call to the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to deploy observer units on the Liberia/Sierra Leone border and agreed to coordinate border security activities. President Taylor accepted an invitation from President Kabbah to visit Sierra Leone at a date to be announced.

7. In a later development, the Government of Sierra Leone has denied any involvement in an alleged plot to overthrow the Government of Liberia, which has been widely reported in Monrovia.

8. On 25 July 1998, the Nigerian Government released the leader of RUF, Corporal Foday Sankoh, to Sierra Leonean custody in Freetown. The Government of Sierra Leone has now detained Corporal Sankoh and issued a public statement calling on his supporters, who are still fighting, to surrender to ECOMOG, to my Special Representative or to any religious organization by 8 August 1998. The Government statement called for an end to fighting and urged Sierra Leoneans to turn their attention and energies to the elimination of poverty, disease and illiteracy. In a television appearance with the Sierra Leonean Minister of Information, Corporal Sankoh appealed to the remnants of RUF to halt atrocities against the people of Sierra Leone and to surrender to United Nations observers or to the Military Observer Group of ECOWAS (ECOMOG). A subsequent Government statement issued on 3 August reiterated the 8 August deadline for the amnesty. There has been no significant response to the Government's call.

9. Following the visit to Sierra Leone of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara A. Otunnu, in May, the Government has accorded special attention, and has welcomed efforts by United Nations agencies, to promoting the welfare, rights and protection of children and to addressing challenges posed by the "youth crisis" and the high growth rate of the population. In July, Vice-President Albert Joe Demby publicized the 1998 edition of the UNICEF report, The Progress of Nations, while the Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning, Mr. James Jonah, delivered a radio address on World Population Day, in which he highlighted the Government's intention to rehabilitate and reconstruct all war-affected areas, increase the rate of economic growth faster than population growth and reduce poverty.

Activities of the Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States and the military and security situation in Sierra Leone

10. Since the end of June, the military and security situation in Sierra Leone has improved somewhat as reports of atrocities committed by elements of the former junta have markedly declined. Despite the onset of the rainy season, ECOMOG, has maintained its pressure on Kailahun district, the remaining stronghold of the former junta in the eastern part of the country. At the same time, ECOMOG positions in Koidu, also in eastern Sierra Leone, have repeatedly come under mortar attack during the last few weeks and the situation in the north-east remains volatile and unpredictable, as was shown by the rebels' capture and brief occupation of Kabala.

11. Security in Freetown has generally been good. However, on 19 July 1998, a gun battle lasting approximately one hour broke out in Freetown between ECOMOG and a band of 15 men described as robbers. The men were all captured the same day without bloodshed.

12. In the countryside, elements of the former junta are concentrated around Kailahun and Koidu in relatively large numbers, while smaller groups have been operating in northern and central Sierra Leone. Sometimes these groups have harassed ECOMOG units and the civilian population, perpetrating atrocities and destroying property, but on a much smaller scale than was the case in June. Attacks by ECOMOG, including air strikes, are thought to have inflicted significant casualties on the rebels and broken them up into smaller groups, curtailing their activities. Reported shortages of food and ammunition among the rebels have increased the risk that they could attack ECOMOG convoys and isolated settlements in order to resupply themselves. The southern part of the country and the area around Freetown in the west have been calm, except for the incident described above.

13. On 27 July 1998, apparently after seizing weapons and ammunition in an attack on ECOMOG units at Bendugu in north-eastern Sierra Leone, junta supporters attacked ECOMOG troops in the town of Kabala. The attack, which was preceded by a feigned offer to surrender, was well-coordinated and launched from three sides. The rebels succeeded in taking the town and temporarily driving out the ECOMOG defenders. At about the same time, the rebels attacked a civilian bus about 10 kilometres south of Kabala, killing seven passengers.

14. By 31 July, ECOMOG troops moved back in force into Kabala as rebel forces withdrew. The rebels caused extensive property damage, including the destruction of some 200 houses, plundered the town and extorted money from the civilian population, whom they threatened to use as human shields in the event of a counter-attack. No mutilations have been reported.

15. During the past few weeks, ECOMOG has inducted fresh troops into the Kenema sector in south-eastern Sierra Leone, with a view to reinforcing its presence near Kailahun. The deployment of an additional brigade, comprising three battalions, has enabled ECOMOG to mount more aggressive patrols, at times in conjunction with the Sierra Leonean Civil Defence Force. ECOMOG has also reinducted former Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSMLF) personnel, amounting to approximately three battalions, or 2,500 men, alongside its own troops to assist with the protection of supply lines and, in some cases, in combat duties. The provision of logistical assistance to ECOMOG, thanks to the bilateral contribution of the United States of America, has helped to improve operational capacity. ECOMOG has also been withdrawing exhausted troops with a view to rotating them. Nonetheless, ECOMOG, with an estimated 10,000 troops in theatre, is still overstretched and in need of significant additional logistical support, in order to contain the rebels and restore and maintain order in the eastern and northern parts of the country.

16. While the Civil Defence Force is nominally under the command and control of ECOMOG, reports continue to be received of unruly or criminal behaviour on the part of some members of the Force outside their own home districts. Strains that developed between ECOMOG and the Civil Defence Force in some places appear to have been successfully resolved or contained through the intervention of senior commanders. Some members of the Force have also been accused of human rights violations and criminal acts, including looting, confiscation of vehicles and civil disturbances, although allegations of summary killings and the torture of prisoners have dropped sharply since the end of May, apparently as a result of intervention by the Government and ECOMOG. The Civil Defence Force has made a commitment to end its practice of recruiting and initiating child soldiers, who comprise a high proportion of their ranks and who have been sent into combat.

III. ACTIVITIES OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Deployment of UNOMSIL

17. Pursuant to the creation of UNOMSIL by the Security Council by resolution 1181 (1998), I wrote to the President of the Council on 16 July 1998 to inform him of the countries that were contributing observers to the mission (see S/1998/673 and S/1998/674) and of the appointment of Brigadier-General Subhash C. Joshi (India) as Chief Military Observer. In accordance with paragraph 9 of resolution 1181 (1998), I took advantage of the presence of President Kabbah at the special conference on Sierra Leone, held at Headquarters on 30 July 1998, to propose to him the terms of a status of mission agreement. As I informed the President of the Security Council in my letter of 3 August 1998 (S/1998/714), the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, Mr. Sama Banya, at once replied indicating his Government's acceptance. As I also mentioned in my 3 August letter, on the basis of the Government of Sierra Leone's programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, issued to participants at the special conference, I have written to the Chairman of ECOWAS proposing arrangements by which ECOMOG would be responsible for the security of United Nations personnel in Sierra Leone.

18. In accordance with resolution 1181 (1998), the eight military liaison personnel already deployed in Sierra Leone since May 1998 pursuant to resolution 1162 (1998) have now been redesignated United Nations military observers. The additional 32 officers who are in the process of being deployed, including those in the first phase, are from China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Zambia. As of 10 August 1998, a total of 26 officers have been deployed in Sierra Leone, with more to come over the next few days (see annex). The medical unit is expected to arrive in the country by 20 August.

19. As indicated in my report of 9 June and as outlined in the Government plan mentioned in paragraph 17 above, one of the priority tasks of the military observers, in accordance with the mandate set out in resolution 1181 (1998), is to monitor the demobilization of former combatants already disarmed by ECOMOG and concentrated in secure areas of the country, primarily at Lungi. In addition, in order to continue to monitor and report on the military and security situation, two observers are already deployed at Bo and two at Makeni, with the headquarters of ECOMOG brigades based there.

20. The Chief Military Observer and his staff will continue to be based at Freetown and an observer team will cover the area around the capital, including Hastings. The largest deployment outside Freetown will be at Lungi, with smaller teams deployed to the ECOMOG brigade headquarters at Bo, Kenema and Makeni, as the security situation permits and as the Government makes progress in the implementation of its disarmament and demobilization plan. Further deployments are planned in due course to cover locations in the north, south and centre of the country, co-deployed with ECOMOG units, including in Sumbuya, Sulima, Zimmi, Joru and Kabala. Eventually, as order is restored to the parts of the country where fighting has been taking place and subsequent phases of deployment take place, it is envisaged that United Nations observers would also be co-deployed with ECOMOG units at Kailahun and Koidu.

21. As I informed the Council in my report of 9 June (S/1998/486, paras. 78-79), I have pursued with President Taylor the possibility of an eventual co-deployment of United Nations military observers with ECOMOG troops at the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone. This proposal was reiterated in the communiqués following the meetings between President Taylor and President Kabbah at Abuja on 1 July 1998 and at Monrovia on 20 July 1998. My Special Representative will, at the appropriate time, dispatch a small team of observers from Freetown to examine the feasibility of such a deployment and I will revert to the Council accordingly.

22. In accordance with resolution 1162 (1998), a civilian police adviser, Deputy Commissioner Maritz du Toit (Namibia), was deployed in Sierra Leone in July. Following the adoption of resolution 1181 (1998), four more advisers will be deployed as soon as possible. Their role will be to assist in restoring the confidence of the Government and people of Sierra Leone in the police force, which incurred widespread public contempt for its role in supporting the junta, and to advise the Government on training and re-equipment needs. The United Nations civilian police will work closely with a team of police advisers deployed at the request of the Government from Commonwealth countries.

23. Since his arrival, Deputy Commissioner du Toit has established close relations with the Government and with his counterparts and has paid extensive visits to Sierra Leonean police stations within and outside the capital. He has also met with the Commonwealth police advisers to discuss cooperation between the Commonwealth and the United Nations in the conduct of their respective mandates.

Special Conference on Sierra Leone

24. As outlined in my report of 9 June 1998 (S/1998/486, para. 64), on 30 July 1998 I convened a high-level conference at Headquarters to mobilize assistance for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan, for the provision of logistical support to ECOMOG, for immediate humanitarian needs and for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Sierra Leone. The conference was preceded by an organizational meeting on 24 June.

25. President Kabbah, accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning, Mr. James Jonah, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sama Banya, made a statement before the Conference, setting forth his plans for national reconciliation and rehabilitation, including improvements in internal security and the Government's plan for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Sierra Leonean former combatants. Representatives of some 55 countries, including the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, Guinea and Liberia, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and the Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration of the United States of America attended the Conference. Other participants included the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, as well as the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS. United Nations specialized agencies and the relevant departments also sent representatives. The ECOMOG Force Commander, General Timothy Shelpidi, addressed the Conference on ECOMOG's needs.

26. Participants agreed on the need to establish an international contact group to mobilize and coordinate further support for Sierra Leone. I am presently reporting in greater detail on the conference, directly to the President of the Security Council, in a letter to be circulated as a document of the Council.

IV. DISARMAMENT AND DEMOBILIZATION

27. In a letter dated 11 August 1998 (S/1998/741), the Government of Sierra Leone conveyed to the President of the Security Council the programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants adopted by the Government of Sierra Leone. The programme describes in detail the institutional structures established by the Government to carry out its provisions, the financial management arrangements, the implementation schedule and the roles of UNOMSIL and ECOMOG in the reinsertion and reintegration of former combatants. The disarmament process will be carried out by ECOMOG, with the monitoring of UNOMSIL, in accordance with its mandate as set out in resolution 1181 (1998).

28. The essentials of the Government's disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan were described in my report of 9 June (S/1998/486, paras. 53-62). The objective of the exercise is to consolidate the security of the State through the disarming, demobilization and reintegration into society of an estimated total of 33,000 former combatants (8,000 RSLMF and RUF and 25,000 CDF) in three phases between July 1998 and June 2001, at an estimated cost of $33.6 million, of which $17.3 million would be required for phase one. It is anticipated that the first phase would comprise the demobilization of the disarmed former RSLMF and RUF personnel now in detention and an estimated 5,000 CDF combatants. Particular emphasis will be devoted to the psychosocial reintegration of former child combatants from all sides.

29. The programme will be implemented under the guidance of the National Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, under the chairmanship of President Kabbah and comprising representatives of the Government, ECOMOG, donors and my Special Representative on behalf of the United Nations community. The Committee will operate, in collaboration with other Government departments, donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), through an Executive secretariat responsible for overall programme planning and implementation, as well as the transparent and accountable administration of the programme and the monitoring and evaluation of its progress.

30. Following the formal adoption by the Government of the programme, the National Committee has commenced work and the members of the Executive secretariat, which will be assisted by a technical adviser, have been nominated. On 16 July 1998, a team representing the Committee, including the Ministers of the Interior and Information, the National Security Adviser and my Special Representative, visited the camp site at Lungi where more than 4,000 disarmed former members of RSLMF are currently detained by ECOMOG, awaiting demobilization and reintegration. The object of the visit was to explain the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process to the disarmed men and to the local community. Similar visits to other locations are planned for the future.

31. RSLMF has effectively been disbanded and is in a state of disgrace as a result of its participation in the illegal military coup of May 1997 and the subsequent junta rule. Though consideration is being given to reconstituting the Sierra Leone armed forces, it is considered unlikely that many of the ex-RSLMF personnel will be accepted for membership in it. The men detained at Lungi appeared to be well-treated, disciplined and receptive to the prospect of demobilization and rehabilitation. They were also aware of the intense hostility felt towards them by the general public and none have attempted to escape. Recently, some of the former RSLMF personnel have been reinducted into the ECOMOG force to assist in military operations.

32. One aspect of the reintegration process that has given cause for concern is the hostile attitude of the general public to former RSLMF personnel. Resentment at the atrocities inflicted by the junta and its supporters is so widespread as to pose a threat to the physical safety of anyone associated with the junta. As I have reported earlier, a number of revenge killings have been reported throughout the country since the recapture of Freetown in February. My Special Representative will assist the Government in carrying out a vigorous sensitization and education campaign to increase public acceptance of former army personnel undergoing reintegration, an effort that could also be supported by donor contributions.

V. HUMAN RIGHTS

Abuses committed during and since the junta period

33. The human rights adviser working with my Special Representative for Sierra Leone has continued to compile accounts of atrocities committed both during and after the period of junta rule. Though some of these have yet to be rigorously examined, there is strong evidence of the systematic and widespread perpetration of multiple forms of human rights abuse against the civilian population, including rape. In recent weeks, elements of the former junta have continued to shell population centres such as Koidu and Daru and have used civilians as human shields in their military operations. There have been numerous instances of arbitrary execution, including of women and children, followed in some cases by mutilation of the bodies.

34. Though incidents of mutilation appear to have greatly declined since the end of June, it is feared that for each of the 600 or so persons attacked since March 1998 who survived and sought medical attention, at least 4 others are either dead or unaccounted for. The victims of these attacks are still making their way in small numbers to medical centres.

35. A survey of 9 of Sierra Leone's 150 chiefdoms indicates that some 700 civilian war-related deaths have occurred since February, including 200 in one village, Yifin, in late April. About 1,600 people have suffered war-related injuries in these chiefdoms since February, of whom 30 per cent are children. In Koidu, a reliable source has stated that 663 bodies were buried following the fighting in the area in mid-June. A significant percentage of the dead were women and children. At the same time, the killing of some 44 of the 144 paramount chiefs during that period indicates a deliberate attempt to target them.

36. The rebels are estimated to hold several thousand civilian captives, including women and children. They are used as porters, human shields and for forced sexual activity. Abductions continue to be reported in the north. It is believed that many RUF/AFRC fighters were themselves abducted as children and subjected to brutal initiation ceremonies.

37. Rebel forces tend to destroy property and homes in the villages they attack. Though no precise figures are available, there are indications of extensive damage to the housing stock in all areas that they have ravaged. The study of the 9 chiefdoms referred to above found that 1,619 homes had been destroyed. A survey of 3 other chiefdoms identified 600 destroyed houses and, on 12 July alone, in a village near Masingbi, some 40 houses were destroyed. As noted above, the rebels also destroyed property in Kabala at the end of July.

38. The rebel campaign of terror and their military activities have resulted in the displacement of at least 350,000 people since February. Some 250,000 of these are now in Guinea and Liberia and the remainder are internally displaced in Sierra Leone. The persistence of the rebellion not only prevents their return, but also causes grave humanitarian problems for a significant element of the displaced population, as described in more detail below.

Treason trials and the administration of justice

39. The State is prosecuting 58 persons in the regular courts on a range of charges including treason, murder and arson, and two further trials are scheduled to begin soon. All defendants, if found guilty, face the possibility of the death penalty. The trials are proceeding against a background of widespread public anger and a desire for quick justice.

40. The court martial of 38 soldiers has begun before a judicial panel comprising Sierra Leonean army officers and presided over by a Judge Advocate who is an ECOMOG officer. Early concerns regarding procedure were speedily rectified by the Government after they had been raised by UNOMSIL, which continues to monitor both the courts martial and the proceedings in the regular courts. UNOMSIL is also continuing to persuade the Government to establish a channel for judicial appeals from court martial findings.

41. The Government concedes that the judicial system in Sierra Leone is entirely inadequate. Outside Freetown, the courts are not functioning at all and the traditional court system has collapsed. Sustained support will be needed to restore the judicial system in keeping with Sierra Leone's distinguished legal traditions.

42. There are six functioning prisons in Sierra Leone, but prisoners are also held in an unverifiable number of other facilities, including military camps. Most detainees in civilian facilities are being held pursuant to the emergency powers legislation introduced by the Government shortly after its restoration in March 1998. Conditions in many facilities are overcrowded and unsanitary and the food and medical care are inadequate. About 2,000 prisoners are being held in Freetown.

43. Reliable reports are being regularly received of poor discipline within the Civil Defence Force. In various locations throughout the country they have been accused of harassing the local population and engaging in extortion. It has also been reported that the initiation of new members, including children between the ages of 15 and 17, occurred near Magburaka during the third week of July. ECOMOG has established a complaints procedure to investigate any allegations of harassment of the local population by ECOMOG troops.

44. UNOMSIL has commenced a human rights technical cooperation needs assessment and has already identified widespread requirements, many of which should be addressed as a matter of urgency. These include the need for human rights education for government officials, traditional leaders, police officers, teachers of civic education, lawyers, journalists and NGO personnel. It is also necessary to provide technical support to the Government and the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights to facilitate the application of human rights principles to State policy and practice. United Nations military observers will also receive training in aspects of international humanitarian law relevant to their duties.

VI. HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

45. The humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone continues to give cause for concern, especially in the light of the poor response to the Inter-Agency Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance to Sierra Leone. To date, only 5 per cent of the $20.5 million requested has been received. Humanitarian organizations in Sierra Leone continue to face fundamental questions on the modalities for the delivery of relief assistance in an environment characterized by unpredictable hostilities and systematic human rights abuses. The effort to balance the rights of civilians in need of assistance with the requisite level of operational security has required the constant review and modification of the United Nations and NGO codes of conduct and protocols for humanitarian agencies operating in Sierra Leone, in order to reflect the current situation.

46. Despite the ongoing debate, humanitarian assistance continues to have a significant impact on the dire health and nutritional status of hundreds of thousands of war-affected Sierra Leoneans. The most significant humanitarian activities since my last report include efforts to address the serious humanitarian crisis at Masingbi in north central Sierra Leone, the influx of spontaneous returnees from Liberia and the repatriation by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees. The United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit in Freetown now estimates that the number of internally displaced persons since the ECOMOG intervention in February 1998 has grown to more than 166,000. The recent clashes between rebel forces and ECOMOG around Kabala have provoked further displacements.

47. A rapid nutritional assessment carried out in Masingbi by the NGO, Action Contre la Faim, for children under the age of five revealed a global malnutrition rate of 39 per cent. Owing to insecurity in the Masingbi area during July, humanitarian organizations were forced to suspend operations and withdraw to Makeni. However, the United States NGO, CARE, succeeded in distributing assistance to more than 16,000 beneficiaries. Internally displaced persons continue to flow into Masingbi at a rate estimated at between 50 and 100 persons a day.

48. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the health care delivery system in Masingbi as well as in western Kono district, where they are providing drugs and basic medical equipment. The latest data on morbidity from Masingbi and Kono district have shown that the measles outbreak that was prevalent in the area is now under control as a result of the vaccination campaign carried out by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF.

49. Masingbi remains a critical focus for humanitarian intervention in terms of shelter for the current rainy season and coordination of other sectoral activities. The NGO, Concern Worldwide, has recently agreed to support shelter activities, while UNICEF and Action Contre la Faim will collaborate on water and sanitation matters. Food distributions by CARE and health activities by UNICEF, NGOs and the Government have had a significant impact in contributing to reducing the death rate in Masingbi and its environs from 899 deaths during June to 29 in July.

50. A joint Government, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) mission to Pujehun district in southern Sierra Leone has confirmed that there has been an influx of returnees from Liberia, who are thought to be crossing the border at the rate of some 90 per day. The most urgent needs of the returnees are food, health and shelter, which are to some extent being met by WFP and by NGOs.

51. UNHCR has continued to repatriate Sierra Leonean refugees to Freetown. A total of some 7,500 Sierra Leoneans, mainly from Guinea and Gambia, have been assisted in returning home. Furthermore, it is planned to bring 3,000 Sierra Leoneans home by air from Guinea during the month of August. UNHCR has also repatriated some 440 Liberian refugees from Sierra Leone.

52. A United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit database has been established to detail the condition of more than 166,000 internally displaced persons, the number of people displaced since the ECOMOG intervention in February 1998. However, this figure represents only a portion of the total number of internally displaced persons in the country. UNHCR estimates that, during the same period, more than 250,000 Sierra Leoneans have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

53. A mission to Kabala, undertaken only days before the 27 July attack, estimated that some 18,000 civilians were residing in the town, including a large number of internally displaced persons from Kono district. As a result of the hostilities, unconfirmed reports indicate that the majority of the civilians were displaced to villages to the north and north-west of Kabala. It has been reported that large numbers of civilians were abducted from Kabala, as has been the practice of the RUF in the past. Furthermore, all reports indicate that all relief goods, medical supplies and logistics for humanitarian efforts were looted or destroyed during the brief occupation. Now that the situation has calmed, the humanitarian community is assessing the damage and making efforts to meet the needs.

VII. OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

54. The decision by the Security Council to create UNOMSIL and to expand its functions has been warmly welcomed by the Government and people of Sierra Leone, and the early signing of the status of mission agreement between the Government and UNOMSIL has also been of great assistance in providing a firm basis for our activities there. The adoption by the Government of Sierra Leone of a comprehensive programme for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, containing clearly defined roles for ECOMOG and the United Nations, has set the tone for UNOMSIL's future efforts.

55. The deployment of the first phase of UNOMSIL's 70 military observers and their equipment is also well under way. I am grateful to the troop-contributing countries for the dispatch with which they have acted in making these personnel available.

56. In my report of 9 June (para. 69), I identified three criteria which would govern subsequent deployments of military observers: the security situation, the progress of implementation of the Government's disarmament and demobilization plan and the availability of the necessary logistical equipment and resources. As I indicated then, I am keeping all three criteria under very close review and will keep the Council informed of all relevant developments while preparing for the next phase of the deployment. I am heartened by the progress made by ECOMOG in improving the security situation in the countryside, especially in eastern Sierra Leone, and renew my call to donors to contribute to ECOMOG's logistical requirements.

57. In this context, I am gratified by the success of the special conference on Sierra Leone, held at Headquarters on 30 July 1998, and look forward to working closely with the international contact group to be established to coordinate further support for Sierra Leone. In the meantime, I reiterate my call to donors to contribute to the Inter-Agency Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance to Sierra Leone in order to assist Sierra Leoneans in meeting their most basic and urgent needs.

58. The sharp reduction in human rights violations perpetrated by elements of the former junta since the end of June is to be welcomed, but I remain deeply concerned about the plight of innocent civilians in the country, who may still be suffering from the depredations of the rebel forces or at risk from future attacks. In parallel with the efforts being made by ECOMOG to restore law and order throughout the countryside, I continue to believe that every effort should be made to end the threat posed by the rebels.

59. For this reason, I believe that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan adopted by the Government, and to be implemented with the assistance of ECOMOG and UNOMSIL, represents the best hope in the immediate future for consolidating the stability of the country and bolstering the authority of the Government throughout the territory of Sierra Leone. I therefore reiterate the plea I made on 30 July at the special conference for the donor community to lend every possible assistance to the Government in carrying out its plan. I welcome the commitment of the Government and the Civil Defence Force not to recruit children under the age of 18 as soldiers or to send them into combat, and urge them to implement their undertaking to demobilize any children currently under arms as soon as possible.

60. The development of technical capacity by the Government in the field of human rights deserves support. The results of a technical cooperation needs assessment performed by the office of my Special Representative reveal training needs. I encourage donors to assist the Government in meeting these needs.

61. Pursuant to resolution 1181 (1998), I will continue to keep the situation in Sierra Leone under close review and report to the Council on developments there and on the progress made by UNOMSIL.

62. I would like to express my appreciation to my Special Representative, Mr. Francis G. Okelo, to the Chief Military Observer, Brigadier Subhash C. Joshi, and to the civilian and military personnel of UNOMSIL for the efforts they are continuing to make to deploy the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council.

Disclaimer:

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.