United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice said the U.N. and the government of Sierra Leone have made remarkable progress since the end of more than a decade of civil war in January 2002.
Ambassador Rice spoke with reporters following a briefing on February 9th, to the U.N. Security Council by Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General's Executive Representative for the U.N. Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.
"We've come a long way in the United Nations' ability to help countries and regions resolve, recover from and rebuild after conflict," said Ms. Rice. She commended the Sierra Leonean government for confronting corruption, enhancing respect for human rights and strengthening the rule of law.
The success of the peacebuilding mission, said Ambassador Rice, makes it "a new instrument for the United Nations to assist post-conflict countries as they make the critical transition from insecurity and violence to lasting peace."
Between 1991 and 2002, fighting between the Revolutionary United Front and the Sierra Leone government forces took the lives of thousands, including many civilians. Thousands more were maimed, their limbs amputated by the insurgents. More than 2 million Sierra Leoneans - one third of the population - fled the violence and were displaced during the conflict. Both sides committed serious human rights abuses, including the use of child soldiers.
A peace agreement between the parties to the conflict was signed in Lome, Togo on July 7, 1999. The accord called for a peacekeeping force run initially by the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group.
On January 18, 2002 President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah declared the civil conflict officially over. U.N. peacekeepers continued to operate in Sierra Leone until 2006. Today, the U.N. Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone works with the U.N. Peacekeeping Commission and the U.N. Security Council to help consolidate the peace and restore democracy in Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Rice urged other nations to join the United States in supporting U.N. peace building efforts in Sierra Leone. "Sierra Leone," she said, "reminds us not only of the difficulties of post-conflict transitions but also of the promise of the United Nations and the broader international community to assist a country and its people to build a better future."