United Nations S/2012/679*
31 August 2012
Ninth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1886 (2009), 1941 (2010) and 2005 (2011), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to submit a report every six months on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). The report covers the period from 1 March to 31 August 2012.
II. Major developments
2. During the reporting period, the presidential, parliamentary and local council elections, scheduled to be held on 17 November 2012, continued to be the main focus of political activities in Sierra Leone. In a spirit of constructive dialogue and national ownership of the political process, the country’s major stakeholders, including the 10 registered political parties, signed a “Declaration on the 2012 elections” on 18 May 2012, committing themselves to peaceful, free and fair elections. Preparations for the elections have reached a critical final stage with the completion of the biometric voter registration exercise and the announcement by the National Electoral Commission of a timetable for the key phases of the electoral process, including the nomination of candidates and the beginning of the period of electoral campaigning.
A. Political developments
3. The overall political situation in the country has been dominated by preparations for the forthcoming elections, with political parties, particularly the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), intensifying their electoral activities throughout the country.
While no incidents of political violence were reported during the period under review, the relationship between the ruling party and the major opposition party has continued to be characterized by mutual mistrust and intense rivalry. The Political Parties Registration Commission has so far authorized 10 political parties to contest the elections.
4. On 23 March, the Government released a white paper on the report of the Shears-Moses Commission of Inquiry, which had investigated incidents of political violence that occurred in Freetown, Bo and Kenema in March 2009. The Government accepted a number of recommendations made by the Commission, including the need to encourage political tolerance in educational institutions and to ensure the application of principles of impartiality in the country’s security-sector agencies. It also agreed with the Commission’s recommendation that the Independent Media Commission improve its monitoring procedures. However, the Government has yet to take steps to comply with the Commission’s recommendation that the public officials who were implicated in the violence be banned from holding office.
5. The Government has also taken initial steps towards the establishment of an independent police complaints committee, as agreed upon by the ruling party and the major opposition parties in a joint communiqué signed on 2 April 2009. However, efforts need to be accelerated to finalize the development of the terms of reference and draft legislation governing the complaints mechanism.
6. Following the expression of concern by various stakeholders, including SLPP, over the Government’s purchase of heavy weapons for the Sierra Leone Police, on 3 April the Government transferred those weapons to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) to be used for military operations, both domestically and in international peace operations.
7. During the reporting period, the criminal prosecution of APC and SLPP members charged with offences related to the political violence in Bo and Kono in September 2011 continued. Also, on 21 May 2012, two members of SLPP were convicted by the High Court in Freetown for public order offences committed during a local council election in Freetown in January 2012. They were each sentenced to a five-year jail term or alternatively to pay a fine of 25 million leones.
8. On 18 May, a national conference focusing on the need for political tolerance and the peaceful conduct of the November 2012 elections was jointly organized by the Political Parties Registration Commission and UNIPSIL, with the support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. The conference was attended by the senior leadership of the 10 registered political parties, as well as by representatives of the Sierra Leone Police, the National Electoral Commission, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Guild of Editors, the National Human Rights Commission, paramount chiefs and traditional authorities, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the National Commission for Democracy, and women’s and youth groups. At the conclusion of the conference, participants adopted a declaration underscoring their willingness to discharge their responsibilities effectively in the 2012 elections and reaffirmed their commitment to political tolerance and non-violence. Under the auspices of the Political Parties Registration Commission, a follow-up mechanism was created to ensure the implementation of the declaration. Meanwhile, the National Commission for Democracy continues to disseminate the declaration at the regional level.
9. On 23 May, a Security Council mission, led jointly by the Permanent Representatives of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of South Africa, visited Freetown. The main objectives of the mission were to assess the progress achieved by the national authorities and the people of Sierra Leone in the peacebuilding process, and to become acquainted with the preparations for the 2012 elections. The delegation met with the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, who gave assurances that the 2012 elections would be held in a free, fair and peaceful environment. The delegation also met with representatives of various political parties, who pledged their commitment to the peaceful conduct of the elections. The Council delegation was briefed by the senior leadership of the security-sector agencies, the National Electoral Commission, the Political Parties Registration Commission and the Independent Media Commission on preparations for the elections and on the readiness of the various national institutions to discharge their responsibilities to ensure successful elections.
10. The Sierra Leone Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission organized a meeting on 22 June in New York that was attended by the Chair of the National Electoral Commission, to discuss the status of preparations for the November elections. Briefings were delivered by my Executive Representative, the Sierra Leone Inspector General of Police, a representative of the Political Parties Registration Commission, and other senior Government officials. The Peacebuilding Commission commended the various actors on the ongoing technical preparations and on their efforts towards the prevention and management of election-related violence. It also reiterated its call to national actors, particularly political parties, to do their utmost to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.
Preparations for the 2012 elections
1. Voter registration and other processes
11. The data capture phase of biometric registration was successfully concluded on 26 March. This was followed by the consolidation of data; deduplication analysis; the printing of voter cards; the production and display of the provisional voter register and the distribution of voter cards.
12. The provisional voter register was displayed in all 2,998 voter registration and registration exhibition centres from 30 June to 16 July. During the period from 30 June to 4 July, registered voters were able to check their details on the register and collect their voter cards. On 19 and 20 July, the National Electoral Commission conducted an inquiry into cases of objection, rejection and inclusion in relation to the voter register. In accordance with the electoral laws, the Commission included and reregistered approximately 106,000 individuals on the register. It also made 33,000 corrections to the details of those already registered. As of 30 July, 2,425,027 of the 2,663,746 provisionally registered voters had received their voter cards and the Commission has made arrangements for the distribution of the remaining cards.
13. The National Electoral Commission has also taken steps to address cases of multiple voter registrations, which resulted in 794 cases being referred to the police for further action, of which 70 persons were charged. Criminal prosecutions were also launched by the police against minors suspected of attempting to register during the data capture phase of the biometric registration exercise. Following the arrest of these minors, the National Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone expressed concern over the police handling of these cases and urged the authorities to respect and protect the rights of children. It also called on all political actors to refrain from manipulating children to register to vote in the elections for their own political gain.
14. Meanwhile, the National Electoral Commission, in particular through its Political Parties Liaison Committee, continued to engage with political parties, including SLPP, in order to increase the confidence of key stakeholders in the electoral process. In an effort to ensure transparency and credibility throughout the electoral process, the National Electoral Commission allowed political party representatives to observe both the deduplication phase in regard to data captured during voter registration and the Commission’s administrative inquiry into cases in which objections had been lodged following the display of the provisional voter register, which identified cases of fraudulent registration revealed during the deduplication analysis of data captured in the registration process.
15. On 30 July, the National Electoral Commission announced increases in the candidate nomination fees for the November 2012 elections, which, however, were widely criticized by almost all the political parties. The increases, which will only be confirmed following parliamentary approval, required presidential candidates to pay 100 million leones, compared to 1 million leones in the 2007 elections; parliamentary aspirants, including ordinary and paramount chieftaincy candidates, to pay 25 million leones, compared to 100,000 leones in the 2007 elections; and local council chairs and mayoral candidates to pay 5 million leones. The National Electoral Commission justified the increase on a number of grounds, including the high cost of the elections. Nevertheless, civil society organizations objected to the proposed increases, stressing that they were too high and would adversely impact the participation of youth and women, as well as persons with disabilities in the electoral process. The National Human Rights Commission characterized the increases as disproportionate and inconsistent with several international human rights instruments to which Sierra Leone is a party. SLPP and several other political parties alleged that they would only benefit the ruling party and on 3 August issued a joint communiqué calling on Parliament to reject the National Electoral Commission’s proposal and maintain the existing nomination fees.
16. The ruling APC did not sign the communiqué, while the United Democratic Movement agreed to the communiqué, but limited its objection to the increase in nomination fees prescribed for parliamentary and local council candidates. In response to those developments, the Commission consulted further with the political parties and issued a press release on 10 August announcing a reduction in the nomination fees for parliamentary candidates, including ordinary and paramount chieftaincy candidates, from 25 million to 10 million leones, and in local councillors’ fees from 2 million to 1 million leones. However, the fees for presidential candidates remained unchanged. On 13 August, during a meeting with my Executive Representative, SLPP and five other political parties reiterated their objections to the revised fees and questioned the neutrality of the National Electoral Commission. They cited concerns that the new fees would not create a level playing field for the coming elections and that they would have insufficient time to raise funds. My Executive Representative encouraged the parties to utilize the democratic processes and work closely with the Political Parties Registration Commission to resolve the issue. In the meantime, on 10 August, the National Electoral Commission released the timetable for the submission of approved political party candidates.
2. Dispute resolution mechanisms
17. On 19 July, the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone inaugurated the Electoral Offences Courts, an important dispute resolution mechanism for the elections. There will be six such courts: three in Freetown and one in each of the regional headquarter towns of Makeni, Bo and Kenema. On 3 and 4 August, UNIPSIL and the Government of Sierra Leone conducted training for judges, prosecutors, police investigators and other paralegal staff.
3. Electoral legislation
18. During the reporting period, President Koroma assented to the Public Elections Law, which consolidates all electoral legislation into a single text. Prior to its passage in Parliament on 1 May, SLPP had raised a motion that the draft bill be submitted to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny. However, that motion was defeated. On 25 May, the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone refused an application made by SLPP for an extension of time to serve a notice of appeal against the High Court judgement that affirmed the results of the 2007 presidential elections.
4. Election security
19. The implementation of the Integrated Security-Sector Strategy for the 2012 elections, which was developed with the support of UNIPSIL, continued during the reporting period. With assistance from the Elections Basket Fund, 10,500 general duty police and 2,224 personnel of the Operations Support Division of the Sierra Leone Police have been trained on election-specific issues and public order management, with technical support provided by UNIPSIL. Moreover, communication equipment and vehicles for the security of the elections have been procured and mitigation measures have been put in place to address security threats identified by the security-sector agencies. In addition, the Government has committed an estimated US$ 4 million to the security sector for the elections.
5. Election Steering Committee
20. The Election Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), met in April and June. During those meetings, the Committee, which is comprised of electoral management bodies, security-sector agencies, the National Election Watch — a coalition of civil society organizations — and international development partners, emphasized the need for robust and sustained voter information and education programmes, as well as careful budgetary planning by the National Electoral Commission.
6. Support to civil society and non-State actors
21. Supported by UNIPSIL through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, the Political Parties Registration Commission, the National Commission for Democracy, the Independent Media Commission and civil society organizations have continued to implement projects aimed at promoting political participation, political tolerance, non-violence and national cohesion among non-State actors. As part of those projects, intra-party retreats for senior party executives of APC and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) were held in April and May on the theme of strengthening democracy and political tolerance. Training on conflict resolution was conducted by civil society organizations for the National Council of Paramount Chiefs and the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone. The National Commission for Democracy carried out sensitization programmes in the country’s 112 parliamentary constituencies, conveying messages of tolerance and the need for increased female participation in the political process. In addition, higher education institutions engaged students and politicians on issues of regionalism and national cohesion. In line with the recommendations of the Shears-Moses Commission of Inquiry, peace clubs were formed in 20 secondary schools in Freetown to encourage issue-oriented politics and non-violence, mainly targeting first-time voters. Ex-combatants also acted as messengers of peace to young people in short film sketches produced by UNIPSIL in April. Further engagement with young people has continued through peace messages from presidential candidates, which are being given prominence by popular music artists in the country.
B. Security developments
22. The overall security situation remained calm. On 25 July, Parliament ratified the appointment by President Koroma of Major-General Samuel Williams as Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. He replaced Major-General Robert Koroma, who retired on medical grounds.
23. The Arms and Ammunition Bill 2012, which was passed during the period under review, is awaiting the assent of President Koroma. The Bill provides a framework for the regulation of gun ownership in the country and for ensuring that Sierra Leone complies with its commitments under Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conventions to regulate the use of small arms. It also makes provisions for the destruction of arms, which will facilitate the destruction of arms collected under the UNDP arms for development programme that was completed in 2005.
24. In the reporting period, the Government appointed coroners to investigate the circumstances that had resulted in the death of six persons in separate incidents involving the use of live ammunition by the Sierra Leone Police. On 16 April, during a strike by workers in Bumbuna, Tonkolili district, one woman was killed and several other persons were injured during attempts by the police to contain the ensuing disturbances. Two youths were shot dead by the police in Freetown on 5 June. A bike rider died on 15 June after an encounter with the police in the Goderich area of Freetown. Four youths suffered gunshot wounds in central Freetown on 9 July while the police were making arrests. In order to ensure that such incidents do not create challenges for the management of the elections, the Sierra Leone Police, with support from the United Nations, commenced a review of its Rules of Engagement in parallel with the development of a strategy on governance mechanisms in the force.
C. Economic and social developments and activities of the United Nations country team
25. The Sierra Leone economy continued to expand, with the prospects for 2012 and the medium term remaining favourable to the emergence of new economic opportunities. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6 per cent in 2011, partially as a result of increased agricultural production, mining and services. Additionally, economic growth was projected to make a one-time jump to 33 per cent in 2012, mainly on account of increased iron ore production, and will average 6 per cent in the period from 2013 to 2015. In the meantime, consumer price inflation continued to moderate as the leone stabilized and food inflation slackened. Inflation has declined from 16.9 per cent at the end of December 2011 to 14.1 per cent at the end of June 2012. It is likely that this downward trend will continue in the second half of 2012, with the exception of the anticipated risk of higher food prices at the peak of the rainy season.
26. Notwithstanding the challenges for fiscal performance in 2011, there was some improvement in the first half of 2012, during which budget execution was consistent with the Extended Credit Facility programme. As a result, with the exception of outstanding commitments, the challenges to fiscal execution in 2012 have been minimized. Domestic borrowing has also been contained within the programme target and the treasury bill rate has stabilized at between 23 and 28 per cent.
27. The overall current account deficit deteriorated to 50.6 per cent of GDP in 2011 on account of large imports of machinery for iron ore projects. However, it is projected to improve significantly to around 15 per cent of GDP in 2012 with an increase in iron ore exports. The external debt position remained at a reassuring debt-to-GDP ratio of 30 per cent at the end of 2011, while gross international reserves are projected to reach US$ 410 million.
28. The significant expansion of the extractive industries is expected to sustain increased economic growth and generate significant Government revenue in the medium to long term. However, policies need to be developed to help generate employment opportunities for the growing population. In addition, diversification of growth sources is necessary, as well as an improvement of the business environment for the private sector. It will also be important for the Government to put in place a well-targeted social safety net that supports vulnerable households. Deepening the democratic process, including through credible elections, would help achieve sustainable longer-term and inclusive economic growth.
29. On 16 August, the Government of Sierra Leone stated that a presidential task force had been established to deal with the cholera outbreak in the country, which was gravitating towards an epidemic. As of 19 August, 216 persons had died from cholera and since January 2012, 11,654 cases of cholera had been reported. In the interim, emergency financial assistance was obtained from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to assist in combating the outbreak. The Government, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society and civil society continued efforts aimed at cholera surveillance and medical treatment, water chlorination and the provision of safe drinking water. They are also promoting proper hygienic practices through the local media channels. In addition to supporting the response efforts of the Government in regard to the cholera outbreak, WHO assisted the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in planning, monitoring and implementing supplementary immunization campaigns for children under 5 with the objective of reducing infant mortality and morbidity. WHO also supported the Ministry in carrying out district- and central-level performance reviews, as well as in formulating a policy and strategic plan that focus on human resource needs in the health sector. In July, the Minister of Health and Sanitation launched blood transfusion centres equipped by WHO in Kenema and Bo.
30. Efforts to strengthen the delivery of essential medical supplies have continued under the Government’s free health-care initiative. Moreover, UNICEF and other partners have supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in forecasting requirements for purchasing and distributing essential medical supplies. Further progress was made in the area of the procurement of medical supplies through the passage of a parliamentary act which establishes an autonomous National Pharmaceutical Procurement Unit. The country’s development partners have been supporting efforts to build up the capacity of such national institutions.
31. Ensuring access to justice and assistance for victims of conflict is integral to the peace consolidation process and a precondition for preventing future conflict. In that regard, on 25 June, the National Commission for Social Action, with assistance from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and technical support from the International Organization for Migration, commenced a new round of cash payments to the remaining victims of the civil war who have yet to receive any reparations for gross human rights violations suffered during the conflict.
32. Further to its invocation in June 2012 of the “ceased circumstances” clause of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees with reference to Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began making arrangements for the voluntary repatriation of 800 Liberians to their country of origin.
III. Advancing peacebuilding
33. The second joint progress report on the implementation of the Agenda for Change, which was prepared by the Government of Sierra Leone in consultation with international partners, was published in August. The report focuses on the status of implementation of the Agenda for Change and outstanding targets and remaining challenges. The report will be discussed by the Peacebuilding Commission in September and will form the basis of the Commission’s engagement with Sierra Leone over the coming months.
34. Preparations for the Agenda for Prosperity, the successor programme to the Agenda for Change, have already started. The Government has prepared the outline of the new programme, which envisages the following eight pillars:
(i) economic diversification to promote inclusive growth;
(ii) managing mineral resources;
(iii) accelerating progress on the Millennium Development Goals for human
(iv) international competitiveness;
(v) employment and labour strategy;
(vi) social protection;
(vii) governance and public sector reforms; and
There will also be a chapter on cross-cutting issues, including environment and climate change, financing, monitoring and evaluation, the results framework and the poverty profile. In addition, the Government has established a technical team to coordinate this process with UNDP, representing the international development partners. Pillar working groups, with representation from United Nations agencies and programmes, are also in place to deliberate on development strategies and policies relating to the pillar thematic areas, as well as cross-cutting issues. The development strategies and an accompanying policy document are expected to be completed shortly.