IV. Main risks for the consolidation of peace
A. Transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking
35. The risk of illicit drug trafficking remains, although there has not been any major interdiction since the seizure of a planeload of over 700 kilograms of illicit drugs in July 2008. UNIPSIL, jointly with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), continued to provide support to the Sierra Leone Transnational Organized Crime Unit in combating illegal drug trafficking, within the framework of the West Africa Coast Initiative. During the reporting period, two vehicles and one patrol boat were donated to the Unit by UNODC.
36. In the period under review, a large quantity of cannabis sativa in Kambia district in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, was destroyed by the Transnational Organized Crime Unit with the support of the Government of Ireland. Meanwhile, discussions were under way to hasten the release of funds from international partners for the continuation of the Unit’s operations. Funding is required for the construction of premises for the Unit and for the provision of support to the RSLAF Maritime Wing to assist it in its efforts to reduce illegal activities in the territorial waters of Sierra Leone. The Unit is currently investigating a case of human trafficking, which allegedly involved the smuggling of some 50 Sierra Leoneans out of the country, between April and May, on board a trawler that was apprehended by the Guinean authorities.
37. In May, UNODC, with the support of UNIPSIL, undertook an assessment of the criminal justice system, including prisons, in the framework of the West Africa Coast Initiative. The main objectives were to assess the needs of the system and support the Transnational Organized Crime Unit with the prosecution of criminal cases and in ensuring international cooperation concerning criminal matters. In this regard, a number of recommendations were formulated, inter alia, encouraging Sierra Leone to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to enact legislation to criminalize organized crime in line with the Convention, and to improve prison overcrowding and management.
38. In June, UNODC commenced an assessment of drug demand in Sierra Leone under its global project entitled “Treating drug dependence and its health consequences”. The assessment is expected to be completed in August and will enable the adoption of appropriate action and intervention for drug prevention, treatment and care, as well as supporting the development of rapid national responses. On 26 June, UNIPSIL, in collaboration with UNODC, commemorated the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking by advocating for a halt in drug-related violence, including during the 2012 election.
39. To address the challenges posed by unemployment among young people, as well as to harness the potential of Sierra Leonean youth, the Government, in addition to establishing the National Youth Commission, created a new Ministry of Youth, Employment and Sports. As requested in the Act establishing the Commission, an annual report on the situation of the youth of the country has been submitted to relevant stakeholders for validation. The report, which was prepared with technical and financial assistance from UNDP, addresses a range of issues, including youth in governance, and will form the basis for policy formulation on youth matters.
40. Other efforts to address the challenge of youth unemployment were undertaken in the reporting period. Five business support centres, managed by the National Youth Commission and financed by UNDP, began operations in July 2012. It is expected that they will provide assistance to at least 2,000 young people to establish and grow their businesses. A graduate internship programme was also launched in the period under review and will help 150 young people bolster their employment credentials through the acquisition of valuable and monitored work experience in selected institutions. In the meantime, UNDP continued the financing of career advisory and placement centres that provide job search assistance and soft skills training to at least 5,000 young people per year. Three additional centres will be opened by the end of 2012.
41. In the reporting period, the Anti-Corruption Commission continued its three-pronged approach to combating corruption based on prevention, investigation and prosecution. Through its outreach activities, the Commission noted that weak service delivery of Government departments, ministries and agencies has contributed to corrupt practices. On 7 August, the Commission reported that 552 billion leones had been recovered from corrupt individuals and corporate entities in the first six months of 2012. Regarding prosecutions by the Commission, as of 26 July, 17 cases had been submitted to the High Court in Freetown and eight to the Court of Appeal. On 10 August, the High Court convicted the Mayor of Freetown, from the ruling party, for corruption and a breach of procurement regulations. The Mayor was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence or alternatively a fine of 170 million leones. During the first session of the Implementation Review Group convened under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sierra Leone was selected to be reviewed for compliance with the Convention.
V. Support to democratic institutions
A. National Electoral Commission
42. The National Electoral Commission continued to play a lead role in the preparation and management of the forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone. The Commission also continued to receive technical and financial support from the UNDP-managed Elections Basket Fund, which enabled the establishment of a central data centre in Freetown. In addition, regional results and tallying centres will be established in Makeni, Bo, Kenema and Freetown in October. Finally, capacity development of staff was also undertaken, including through a BRIDGE training programme on election security.
B. Political Parties Registration Commission
43. The former Chair of the Political Parties Registration Commission, Justice Samuel Ademusu, died in April 2012 and Justice Tolla Thompson, was appointed by President Koroma as his replacement. The appointment was approved by Parliament on 9 August. The Commission continued, with the support of UNIPSIL, to discharge its mandate of promoting inter-party dialogue, including through the implementation of the declaration on the 2012 elections signed on 18 May by the major elections stakeholders in Sierra Leone. The Commission also continued to implement programmes supporting the activities of the All Political Party Youth Association and the All Political Women’s Association and the efforts of the District Code of Conduct Monitoring Committees to promote conflict resolution as well as political tolerance and non-violence. During the period under review, the mediated disputes between political parties and monitored the conduct of the voter registration process. Parliament has yet to approve a bill granting authority to the Commission to penalize political parties for any infraction of the Political Parties’ Code of Conduct.
C. Independent Media Commission
44. The Sierra Leone media should play an indispensable role in contributing to peaceful elections through accurate and balanced reporting that avoids exploiting ethnic or other divisions in the country. While concerns remain with regard to regulating the conduct of the media, the Independent Media Commission issued, in July, a media code of practice, as part of the authority granted to it under the Independent Media Commission Act of 2000. The new code of practice was validated by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, as well as several other media organizations, which signed the code as a demonstration of their commitment. Additionally, media monitoring mechanisms were set in place, including through the procurement of electronic media software to assist in tracking radio stations, and the issuance of the IMC magazine entitled Media Watch. The Commission continued to examine ways of ensuring political neutrality on the part of media practitioners. In the same vein, the Guild of Editors was enhancing professional standards through a peer review of some Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation radio programmes.
D. Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation
45. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation is also expected to play a vital role in advancing political pluralism by ensuring that it provides all political parties with equitable broadcasting access, particularly during the forthcoming elections. In the reporting period, with financial support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and with technical advice provided by UNIPSIL, the Corporation issued draft elections guidelines that were formally adopted on 9 August by political parties. The Corporation has also expressed its commitment to establishing an elections unit.
46. UNDP and UNIPSIL engaged with the Corporation on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Presidential Task Force, as well as on external audits focused on improving the administration of the Corporation. During the reporting period, there was an improvement in the revenue collection and financial management of the Corporation, as well as in news production and management. The Corporation has also reactivated its regional stations. Nevertheless, challenges remain for the formulation and implementation of a well-articulated business strategy that guarantees steady revenue to the Corporation and thus secures its independence. The United Nations continued to assist it in this area and in promoting the Corporation’s adherence to media best practices in the subregion as part of a South-South approach.
47. With assistance from international development partners, including the United Nations, progress has been made towards improving the capacity of Parliament through the provision of support to the Parliamentary Assistance Coordination Office. Additionally, the Hansard Section has been provided with transcription and docking equipment to enable it to document parliamentary proceedings, while consultants and trainers have been recruited to train staff of the various departments of the Parliamentary Service. They included a dedicated Technical Advisor to Parliament for capacity-building and resource mobilization. Parliament has assessed its strategic plan for the period from 2009 to 2013, and has presented a draft outline programme of support to potential donors. In the reporting period, Parliament approved the Public Elections Act.
48. On 6 June, the European Union announced that it would co-finance with the World Bank the second phase of the decentralized service delivery programme, the cost of which is estimated at US$ 32 million. The programme, which will continue until December 2015, is aimed at strengthening the capacity of central and local government to manage decentralized services and improve the availability of central government funding to the councils. On 10 July, the Vice-President, Samuel Sam-Sumana, launched the local economic development programme, which is part of the Government’s decentralization policy. Its objective is to assist the economic development of local governments through partnerships with the private sector, as well as with civil society and community-based organizations.
VI. Human rights and the rule of law
A. National Human Rights Commission
49. The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) began public hearings in July into an incident in Bumbuna, Tonkolili district, in which one person was killed by the police in April during a strike by workers of the African Minerals company. The Commission will determine if any human rights violations occurred, including the use of excessive force by the police. The hearings are the second exercise of the Commission’s quasi-judicial capacity. The first public hearing took place in 2011 to consider the case of ex-RSLAF personnel who challenged their discharge on the grounds of mental imbalance that had resulted in a reduction in their separation entitlements. The Commission found in their favour and ordered the Government to pay their full benefits.
50. On 30 and 31 May, the Human Rights Commission organized a National Consultative Conference on Human Rights and Elections, on the theme “Making human rights real in the 2012 elections”. Over 200 participants and key stakeholders, including political party representatives, attended the conference, which concluded with the adoption of a resolution highlighting the freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement, and other human rights. On 24 July, Parliament ratified the appointment of three members of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone nominated by President Koroma to replace three former commissioners whose tenure had expired in December 2011. The vacancies for the position had been advertised in the national media and civil society representatives had had an opportunity to provide input to the selection process.
B. Rights of persons with disabilities
51. Sierra Leone has taken important steps towards ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010 and enacting the Disability Act in 2011, which was followed by the development of a road map for the creation of a national commission on persons with disabilities in 2012. Additionally, on 15 June, President Koroma appointed the Chairman of the Commission on the basis of nominations provided by all ministries and organizations dealing with disabled persons.
52. On 7 June, the Freedom of Information Bill, which was one of the recommendations made during the 2011 universal periodic review process of the Human Rights Council, was submitted to Parliament by the Minister of Information and Communications. The bill is aimed at promoting transparency, accountability and good governance. However, some parliamentarians have raised concerns about the absence of appropriate structures needed for the bill’s implementation.
C. International treaty reporting
53. The Government of Sierra Leone, with the support of UNIPSIL, submitted its first report on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Draft reports on the country’s compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights are under review by the Attorney General.
D. Technical cooperation and capacity-building
54. Pursuant to the Mission’s mandate to build national capacity for the protection and promotion of human rights, several activities were undertaken in the reporting period, including supporting the Government in the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the universal periodic review process. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, continued providing assistance to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.
55. UNIPSIL supported the third National Consultative Conference of District Human Rights Committees in Kenema, which covered election monitoring. It also supported radio broadcasts in the northern and eastern regions of the country to raise awareness of the rights of disabled persons. Additionally, it conducted several human rights training programmes for prison and police officers, as well as civil society organizations and traditional leaders, on the administration of justice and the rule of law; economic, social and cultural rights; political participation by persons with disabilities; and sexual and gender-based violence.
VII. Gender issues
56. During the reporting period, the United Nations continued its collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders on women’s empowerment and the achievement of the 30 per cent quota for women’s participation. The efforts of the United Nations were also focused on the implementation of the National Gender Strategic Plan and the Sierra Leone National Action Plan, which are based on Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). To that end, assistance was provided for the establishment of a technical committee of the “M30 Task Force”, a coalition of civil society organizations, to ensure strategic support for the draft gender equality bill. The bill has undergone a critical review by the committee and is expected to be submitted shortly for printing, prior to the commencement of the pre-legislative process. The United Nations has also provided support to the sensitization and advocacy initiatives of civil society organizations and parliamentary groups on the proposed bill.
57. Working with the All Political Parties Women’s Association, the Council of Women Councillors and other groups, the United Nations has supported the identification and putting forward of female electoral candidates and the building of their capacity. The All Political Parties Women’s Association, which is also a forum for conflict resolution and mitigation, conducted its convention for national delegates from 15 to 17 July. During the reporting period, the United Nations and its partners conducted two training programmes on media coverage for female electoral candidates, which were attended by over 70 participants.
VIII. Special Court for Sierra Leone
58. On 26 April, the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting at The Hague convicted the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, of crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone from 30 November 1996 to 18 January 2002. The judgement was welcomed in Sierra Leone, where the court proceedings were transmitted via video link to Freetown and broadcast on local radio stations to enable the victims and the public to follow the trial. At a hearing on 30 May, Mr. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment. However, on 18 June, the Defence indicated that it would appeal the judgement. As a result, a revised Special Court of Sierra Leone completion strategy was issued, projecting the delivery of an appeals judgement in the Taylor case in September 2013. Meanwhile, the Court is hearing three contempt of court cases arising from attempts to interfere with witnesses in the Taylor trial. On 15 June, a guilty verdict was delivered in one of the cases, while the other two cases remain pending.
IX. Regional cooperation
59. In the reporting period, Sierra Leone continued to maintain good relationships with its neighbours, including through the Manu River Union and the Economic Community for West African States, with President Koroma attending meetings of both organizations.
60. Concerning the Yenga border issue between Guinea and Sierra Leone, President Koroma and the President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, reaffirmed, at a meeting in June, their intention to resolve the matter peacefully. In a joint declaration signed by the two Governments in Freetown on 27 July, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to demilitarizing the Yenga border area and to ensuring that their respective armed forces implemented the joint declaration. On 16 August, the Government announced that the Yenga border area had been demilitarized and reiterated its strong support for the Joint Technical Committee established by both countries to ensure a final resolution of the dispute.
61. Further to those developments, and with assistance from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, UNIPSIL and the Manu River Union Secretariat have commenced discussions on possible projects and activities to be undertaken in the border areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The main objective of the projects will be to strengthen linkages and peaceful coexistence among communities in the border areas and to address common cross-border challenges. A conference of the electoral management bodies of the four Manu River Union member States, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is scheduled to take place in Freetown in mid-September for the exchange of experience and best practices in the management of elections.
X. Observations and recommendations
62. Sierra Leone has continued to make significant progress in consolidating its hard-won peace and building democratic foundations. Nonetheless, a number of challenges remain and concerted efforts need to continue in order to tackle issues identified by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These include: addressing unemployment, in particular among young people; consolidating and strengthening the country’s democratic institutions; promoting national reconciliation and national cohesion and a culture of political tolerance among the country’s political actors; managing the exploitation of the nation’s natural resources, including newly found vast mineral riches, for the benefit of the country and its people; and combating corruption. In addition, addressing the threats posed by transnational organized crime, such as illicit drug trafficking, will remain an important priority for the country. As focus shifts towards the elections, continuing attention also needs to be given to ensuring that the post-election period will be peaceful, as well as tackling effectively the root causes of the conflict, which if left unaddressed will have the potential to reverse the important gains the country has made in the past decade.
63. Progress in the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources, including potentially commercially viable oil reserves, and its proper management would help to improve the Government’s finances and enable it to sustain the requisite level of economic growth to address its socioeconomic challenges. However, in the short to medium term, the assistance of the country’s international partners will continue to be required to address the remaining key challenges as Sierra Leone transitions from a post-conflict to a development phase. In particular, resources will be required from international partners for the full implementation of the Government’s planned Agenda for Prosperity, as well as other major national economic programmes. The work of the Anti-Corruption Commission in combating corruption will also continue to be crucial for promoting the confidence of the citizenry in governance.
64. The main political development in the coming months will be the November 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. The elections, the third since the end of the conflict, will be an important determinant of how much progress has been made in consolidating peace in the country. Of the utmost importance is the need to ensure that the elections are conducted peacefully, without recourse to political violence. I commend the stakeholders in Sierra Leone, including the country’s political parties, for the commitments they have made in signing the Declaration of 18 May 2012, and call upon them to adhere to those commitments as they enter the crucial phases of the electoral process.
65. I welcome the release by the Government of the white paper on the Shears Moses Commission of Inquiry and have taken note of the ongoing prosecution of political party supporters implicated in acts of political violence, which will assist in deterring such activities. I encourage the Government to continue to expedite efforts aimed at establishing an independent police complaints committee and at implementing other recommendations of the white paper. I reiterate my call to the political parties to take national ownership of the political process and to set aside their differences in the larger national interest of ensuring that the elections are conducted peacefully.
66. The success of those elections and the country’s continued progress towards achieving the aspirations of its people can only be realized if all Sierra Leoneans work together, respecting the rule of law and the country’s Constitution in a peaceful political process. The discharge of their respective duties by the democratic institutions of Sierra Leone will give the elections credibility and legitimacy. I encourage the Sierra Leonean security agencies, which have the primary responsibility for maintaining law and order during the elections, to exercise their responsibilities in a professional and impartial manner.
67. In the same vein, other national stakeholders, including the political parties, civil society and, indeed, individual citizens have the duty to act within the limits of the law, and to work with the law enforcement agencies to create a peaceful environment for the elections. The Political Parties Registration Commission has a key responsibility for furthering dialogue with the political parties. In this context, I urge the Commission to work towards securing the full adherence of all the political parties to the Declaration of 18 May 2012. I also call on Parliament to enact the legislation for the reform of the Political Parties Registration Commission, which includes giving the Code of Conduct the necessary legal authority, thus improving the Commission’s oversight of the political parties.
68. I welcome the ongoing arrangements for the elections and encourage the National Electoral Commission to continue to engage in constructive dialogue with national stakeholders, particularly through the Political Parties Liaison Committee, as a forum for consultations and the exchange of vital information on the electoral process.
69. The media in Sierra Leone should play a constructive role to ensure the success of the elections by disseminating accurate information, educating the public and promoting dialogue. The media should refrain from spreading messages of hate, division and national discord. I urge the Independent Media Commission to play a more proactive role in discharging its regulatory functions by enforcing its Code of Media Practice. I also call on the media and professional associations in the country, in particular the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and the Guild of Editors, to cooperate with the Independent Media Commission in the discharge of its responsibilities.
70. Enhancing the participation of women in the political process in the 2012 elections is a key objective, which the United Nations fully supports. In this regard, I welcome the increased commitment of the Government of Sierra Leone to promoting gender equality, and the proactive role played by various stakeholders, including political parties and civil society groups, in ensuring the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
71. The international community has been instrumental in bringing peace to Sierra Leone and consolidating peace in the country. I therefore urge international partners to remain seized of the peacebuilding process in the country, particularly in the runup to the November elections. The Peacebuilding Commission has a critical role to play at this stage. I wish to express my appreciation to the Sierra Leone Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, through its Chair, Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski, for its strong support in furthering the consolidation of peace in Sierra Leone and for its critical engagement with national and international stakeholders in connection with the 2012 elections.
72. In view of the importance of the forthcoming elections and the need to assist the Government and key stakeholders in the electoral process, and taking into account critical tasks to be accomplished after the elections, including the provision of support for the resolution of any post-election concerns, facilitating the smooth transition into office of any newly elected Government, supporting efforts aimed at building national cohesion and reconciliation, and enabling the preparation of a transition plan and an exit strategy for UNIPSIL, I recommend a renewal of the mission’s mandate for a further eight to nine months, during which period I intend to dispatch a United Nations inter-agency technical assessment mission to Sierra Leone to conduct a review of progress made in the implementation of the Mission’s mandate and to advise me in that regard.
73. I wish to thank President Koroma and his Government for their continued cooperation with the United Nations. I am also grateful to the international development partners of Sierra Leone for their generous support of the country’s peacebuilding process. Finally, I thank my Executive Representative, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, and the staff of UNIPSIL, the United Nations agencies and programmes, as well as other international partners for their continued collaboration with UNIPSIL in the discharge of its mandate.