The Sierra Leone Web



15 DECEMBER 2000


Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of my colleagues and on my own behalf as leader of the Sierra Leone delegation, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to you, and to the Government and friendly people of Mali, for the warm welcome and wonderful hospitality extended to us since our arrival in this historic country.

Mr. Chairman, you assumed the chairmanship of our sub-regional organisation at a critical time, a time of renewed tensions and anxiety. Despite our efforts to restore peace and stability, there have been fresh skirmishes and renewed threats to the peace within and between Member States. You, Mr. Chairman, have used your good offices effectively to contain the situation. You initiated consultations, encouraged dialogue, and emphasized caution and restraints to ensure that threats to the peace do not escalate into serious armed conflicts. You continue to perform beyond the call of duty. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

Please allow me, in my own personal capacity, to pay special tribute to our colleague and brother, President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for his wise counsel and guidance in the search for peace in my own country, Sierra Leone. In addition to the enormous contribution in human and financial resources of his country to ECOMOG, he has personally and skillfully facilitated the peace process in what has become, unfortunately, the longest and perhaps the most complex conflict in the sub-region.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, notwithstanding the commendable efforts of our organisation and its leaders, the current situation in the sub-region is such that we cannot afford to be complacent. To use the description of one of our former colleagues, the situation in our sub-region today is volatile. However, I firmly believe that ECOWAS does have the ability to devise ways and means of meeting the challenges of peace and security among its Member States.

The United Nations and the entire international community can attest to the fact that in spite of its limited resources, ECOWAS, through its monitoring group ECOMOG, has played a major role in the maintenance of international peace and security in our sub-region, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Three years ago the Security Council, acting under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, had authorized ECOWAS to enforce an arms and oil embargo imposed by the Council against a military/rebel junta in Sierra Leone.

You will also recall that but for the timely intervention of ECOMOG, my own democratically elected government would not have survived the onslaught of the rebel forces. Indeed, ECOMOG was instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans over the past few years.

While we are grateful for the support that our organisation has received from the international community, we must confess that the level of assistance has not been commensurate with the actual needs of our organisation in its effort to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. As we all know, much of the expenses of ECOWAS peace missions have been borne by its Member States.

Mr. Chairman, if regional organisations such ECOWAS are to continue to play any significant role in the management and resolution of conflicts, the United Nations Security Council should look seriously into the possibility of perhaps devising new special arrangements under which adequate resources, especially logistics, could be made available in support of our peace operations. The Council has often commended ECOWAS for its indispensable role in the maintenance of security and stability, and has called upon all states to continue to provide technical, logistical and financial support to ECOWAS. I refer for example to UN Security Council resolution 1260 (1999). Such requests are still valid, and should be backed by appropriate arrangements for implementation.

Now, in the face of the current volatile situation in the sub-region, there is an urgent need for more and timely international assistance to strengthen the ability and capacity of our organisation to do the job. One inference that one can draw from the Brahimi report on United Nations Peace Operations, is the need for the United Nations to become more innovative in meeting the challenges of executing its peacekeeping and peace-building tasks. The role of regional organisations such as ECOWAS, should be taken into consideration in effecting some of the recommendations for change contained in the Brahimi report.

ECOWAS needs financial, technical and logistical support of the United Nations in responding as rapidly as possible to the growing threats to peace and security in the sub-region. Such support should be seen as a kind of preventive measure. As the Brahimi report rightly suggests, prevention is a less costly option for the international community than military action, complex humanitarian relief, or reconstruction after a war has run its course.

Let us hope that at this crucial time in our sub-region, United Nations and international support for ECOWAS peace operations will be forthcoming in order to avert a conflagration with serious human and material consequences for us all.

While I have the floor, Mr. Chairman, I would like to raise an issue that is of serious concern to my Government, namely the security of the State of Sierra Leone, and the safety of its people.

After the bitter experience of a nine-year brutal rebel war, waged against the people of Sierra Leone, this concern should come as no surprise to anyone. It is the duty of my Government to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of the people. As President I will be remise in my constitutional duty if I do not make provisions for the security of the nation, including the acquisition of essential military capability for its legitimate defence.

Furthermore, I should also emphasise that in spite of our present difficulties Sierra Leone is still an independent sovereign state will all the rights and obligations pertaining to sovereignty under international law. I will fail in my constitutional duty as Head of State if I do not react to repeated attempts or actions in certain quarters to undermine that sovereignty.

Mr. Chairman, while we recognise the inalienable right of every individual to free speech, the Government and people of Sierra Leone will not tolerate, I repeat, will not tolerate outbursts from any source, aimed at challenging the right of my Government to take decisions or to enter into arrangements on matters of safety and security of the state of Sierra Leone and its people.

Mr. Chairman, Colleagues, Excellencies, in closing, I would like to commend our Executive Secretary and his staff for the efficient manner in which they have carried out their functions under difficult financial and physical constraints. We congratulate them and express the hope that they will continue to serve with the same degree of commitment to the ideals and objectives of our organisation.

I thank you for your attention.